By Ann Liguori
» More Columns
Lance Armstrong’s selfish “admission” to Oprah Winfrey is almost as disturbing as his career-long lie itself.
It’s amazing and disturbing to observe what lengths some individuals go to win at all costs.
To cheat. To hurt others. To bully. To cover up. To lie.
The lengths to which Armstrong went to live a lie, to cover up, to accuse others, to attempt to protect himself for so many years is mind-boggling!
And for someone who was smart enough to mastermind such a cover-up that lasted so long, didn’t he ever feel that he would ultimately get caught? Particularly knowing that his own teammates and other insiders would talk?
Last October, longtime sportswriter George Vecsey — who has covered his share of Tour de France races — shared tremendous insight into the cycling world when he was a guest on my radio show.
He told me that Armstrong would call him every so often to chat. Was Armstrong calling Vecsey to possibly take the temperature of the media? It led me to believe that if Armstrong smelled trouble he would be in front of it. He was very proactive in staying one step ahead of what he thought the media was thinking, and may perhaps write. This gives one a bit of insight into what lengths Armstrong went his entire career, to twist the facts, deny and to perhaps keep American media from believing that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
Vecsey told me: “It’s an odd relationship. Lance will occasionally call and give a modest critique of what I’ve written and babble on, off the record, without ever saying much. But it’s interesting … I’ve not heard from him (recently). He seems to have the need to talk about it and yet, of course, the denial has been constant … rebutting the motives of people who are ratting on him, saying ‘they all have reasons to cut deals and get off.'”
“He’s as wired in as anybody I’ve ever met for knowing who’s talking to whom,” Vecsey said. “He used to claim to people, not to me — but I’ve kept it in mind — ‘I can get into your emails, I can get into your phones, I know what you’re doing at all times.’ It’s kind of spooky when he said that, but I think I believe the people who told me that.”
I said on that show that I always thought Armstrong was guilty — that where there is smoke, there is usually fire. So I asked Vecsey why he thought it took so long for all of this to come out.
Vecsey answered: “The culture of cycling did not want this to come out. Europeans have a different view of morality. You can go back to the Clinton-Lewinsky stuff. My Italian friends say, ‘What’s the problem?’ We see it differently over here.
“The French have seen … and European cycling fans have understood, and there are massive quotes from great riders who say that ‘anybody who thinks that we can do this over three weeks at this kind of pace is crazy’… That you need stimulants just to keep going. It’s not part of the American reportage on cycling. You couldn’t pick this up. It’s not part of the daily understanding as we have come to understand doping in amateur sports.
“It’s taken a lot longer for it to come out in cycling because the whole core of cycling was to shrug and say, ‘Ca va,’ everyone understands.”
At that point in the interview, I said that I had heard years ago from insiders that doping has been a big part of the sport for years, and I had heard that you can’t compete unless you do this kind of thing. Vecsey responded: “You can compete, but you can’t win.”
He continued: “Greg LeMond, whom I’ve known since the 80s, he’s been very disappointed in me because (at the time) I wouldn’t outright say ‘Armstrong is a cheater.’ But LeMond said that when he was retired, he was looking up at the TV, watching Armstrong attacking a hill, and he was never that good of a climber. And suddenly he is going up a hill at a rate … to watch Armstrong go up … ‘It’s impossible’ … No one can go that hard unless they are very close to the legal limits on blood level and other stimulants.’”
I checked back with Vecsey this morning and we continued our interesting chat. And Vecsey joked, “Lance Armstrong had a chance to tell it all to me and he chose Oprah!”
Is Lance’s legacy forever tarnished? Sound off with your thoughts and comments in the section below…