For years, cyclist Lance Armstrong deflected accusations of drug use. Even when it was widely-known and well documented, he vehemently denied that he ever doped. This week, Armstrong finally confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs according to the Associated Press. Armstrong apologized to the goddess of forgiveness - Oprah Winfrey in an interview recorded Monday and scheduled for broadcast January 17th on the OWN network.
When Armstrong won his first Tour de France in 1999, the world lauded his astonishing exploits - he definitively won the race just three years after successfully battling cancer. Fans continued their fascination with the super athlete as he won half a dozen more Tour titles. But 13 years later, Armstrong was ordered to remove the words “7-time Tour de France winner” from his CV (and anywhere else it appeared, including his Twitter profile). He was stripped of his titles in the wake of a United States Anti-Doping Association investigation that compiled over 1000 pages of evidence against the Armstrong and his associates. His major sponsors ended their relationships with him, and he resigned as chairman of his foundation - Livestrong - in a bid to protect the cancer awareness charity from the fallout.
Winfrey's interview with Armstrong is the first since he was banned from professional cycling for life. Called “emotional at times” the interview followed an apology to staff at the Livestrong Foundation that apparently left several staff members in tears. It was anticipated that Armstrong would use the Winfrey interview to come clean on allegations following the damning USADA report. The agency's chief executive, Travis Tygart, labeled the doping regimen allegedly carried out by the U.S. Postal Service team that Armstrong once led, “The most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
Winfrey confirmed to CBS's This Morning that Armstrong confessed, but she said he did "not come clean in the manner I had expected." However, Winfrey said she was "satisfied" with Armstrong's answers during her interview and she was often "mesmerised and riveted" by his reponses.
The problem isn't so much the cheating that Armstrong finally confessed to. Frankly, the sort of cheating he engaged in wasn't the worst kind, since nearly every top cyclist cheated, too. And while dishonorable, the cheating wasn’t nearly as morally reprehensible as the cover-up. Confessing on TV does not atone for the wreckage Armstrong caused. Before fans can accept his act of contrition, Armstrong must needs to make amends with the people and entities he took vicious aim at for accusing him of using PEDs. His sense of entitlement and belief that he could bully his way out of trouble has not been overlooked. Admitting he cheated does not excuse what he did to others or start the process of seeking forgiveness.
Right now, Armstrong is just another story of cheating and lying and doping and bullying. But before history is written, he has a chance to make a difference. He needs to acknowledge the fraud against supporters of his charity, return sponsorship earnings and apologize not only to his fans, but to his victims. Until then, all we hear is blah, blah,blah.
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