Tuesday, January 15, 2013

lance armstrong confesses.

It's official in all but the most limited capacities now: Oprah Winfrey has confirmed that Lance Armstrong confessed to her that he used performance-enhancing drugs, and the interview was so intense - or she wants the ratings so badly - that it's going to be split into two parts. The first half will air on Thursday night, as originally planned, but the second half will be shown on Friday, extending Lance's confession into movie-length territory. This is appropriate because Armstrong has always been a spectacle. When he was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently told that there was a significant chance he wouldn't live, he beat the odds. After that, he went on to win an unprecedented seven Tour de France races in a row. After retiring from the sport in 2004, he made a comeback that went better than anyone had a right to expect. He maintained his innocence all that time, despite the cloud of PEDs hanging over cycling in general, and the prevalence of other winners being stripped of their titles. He continuously flaunted his 100% pass rate of the United States Anti-Doping Agency's tests, despite claims from others that this wasn't so.

But last year, when news broke that the World Anti-Doping Agency and its US-based affiliate had finally accumulated enough evidence against Armstrong, he retreated. He said he wouldn't be hounded anymore. He said he wouldn't legitimize their witch hunt against him. And the general public started to doubt. They started to waver in their commitment to the man who made cycling a topic at all in America. And most of all, there were some who felt duped. Not just in the sporting accomplishments of Armstrong, but in arguably the biggest category of his life, the one thing conspicuously missing from his bio thus far: his super-successful charity, Livestrong.

It's hard to separate the story of Lance Armstrong, world-renowned cyclist and recently-admitted doper, from the story of Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor and advocate. Some argue that it's impossible. Because of the amazing work that Armstrong did in raising awareness of the disease and the incredible funds his foundation has raised in fighting its spread, his doping case doesn't seem to be as clear cut as the baseball Hall of Fame voters seem to think their era's cloud is. There were claims, after the news broke last year about Armstrong's doping, that Livestrong donations increased. There were also individuals who said they felt cheated and they wanted their donations back.

And therein lies the rub in the case of Lance Armstrong. Some feel "hoodwinked" and others feel like his inspirational message trumps all else. Why is he confessing to Oprah now? We won't know until everything's out, and the show doesn't air its first part until Thursday. But as contrite as Armstrong may be, as much as he may want to focus on moving forward with triathlons or re-focusing on the good the Livestrong foundation does in its fight against cancer, there will be some who never forget or forgive. Armstrong himself doesn't always put his best foot forward and it will be interesting, to say the least, to see where he goes from here.

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