So the Pot Called the Kettle… Opportunistic and Insincere

Lance Armstrong
(Photo: Laurent Rebours, AP)

The United States Justice Department has announced that it will join a federal whistle-blower lawsuit against Lance Armstrong brought by Floyd Landis, his former teammate on the US Postal Service cycling team.

Former team director Johan Bruyneel and Tailwind Sports were also named as defendants in the suit.

The complaint states:

“Riders on the USPS-sponsored team, including Armstrong, knowingly caused material violations of the sponsorship agreements by regularly and systematically employing banned substances and methods to enhance their performance… Defendants were unjustly enriched to the extent of the payments and other benefits they received from the USPS, either directly or indirectly.”

This wasn’t exactly a surprise, since today (April 23) was the deadline for joining the suit.  And as anyone who likes to receive mail on Saturdays knows, the USPS is financially strapped and could really use a big injection right now.

Of cash, that is.  A big injection of cash.

Lance Armstrong’s lawyer’s response to the government’s action was classic.  He called the lawsuit “opportunistic and insincere”.

For a moment, I thought he might have been describing his client.


Too much?

Lance Armstrong, Git On Yer Bike!

Lance Armstsrong
Photo: Getty Images

Lance Armstrong has confessed.  Do you think it was his 2013 resolution to finally cop to years of using illegal substances just because it’s a new year, and all?

Oprah Winfrey’s two-part interview with Armstrong was fascinating. At times he was forthright, direct and truthful – especially at the start, when Oprah posed only yes/no questions.

Oprah Winfrey: Did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling

Lance Armstrong: “Yes.”

OW: Was one of those banned substances EPO?

LA: “Yes.”

OW: Did you ever blood dope or use blood transfusions to enhance your cycling performance?

LA: “Yes.”

OW: Did you ever use any other banned substances such as testosterone, cortisone or Human Growth Hormone?

LA: “Yes.”

OW: In all seven of your Tour de France victories, did you ever take banned substances or blood dope?

LA: “Yes.”

OK, then.

Things got murkier, however, when Oprah’s questions turned open-ended.  It seems Lance’s definition of a “no holds barred” interview is different from mine.  (He’d told the Associated Press that Oprah could “go wherever she wants, I will answer directly, honestly and candidly.”)

In fact, Armstrong often hid behind a vow not to accuse or talk about anyone else – even when he hadn’t been asked to do so. He also frequently took the Sarah Palin tack of answering a different question than he was asked.  For example:

OW: Have you called Betsy Andreu? Did she take your call? Was she telling the truth about the Indiana hospital, overhearing you in 1996 [during your cancer treatment, admitting to doping]? Was Betsy lying?

LA: “I’m not going to take that on. I’m laying down on that one. I’m going to put that one down. She asked me, and I asked her not to talk about it.”

Betsy Andreu spoke on NPR today — she was disappointed in this answer and clearly wished Lance would have responded candidly and admitted that her story had been true.  But in this case, I guess a simple yes or no did not come so easily.

In short, he avoided most embarrassing details and as a result, Armstrong remains as enigmatic as ever.  He admitted to using illegal substances, but evaded requests for details about the doping program and the doping culture.  He claimed he didn’t recall stashing syringes in soda cans after he and fellow riders injected EPO, while fans congregated outside – a claim made by Tyler Hamilton in his book The Secret Race. Seriously?

The most riveting exchange between Winfrey and Armstrong was on the subject of bullying, and accusations that Armstrong threatened teammates who didn’t want to use EPO. Hats off to Oprah who reacted with healthy skepticism as he bobbed, weaved and split hairs about whether the expectations he set for winning as team captain could have been interpreted as ultimatums by his riders.  He claimed he never gave a directive or made a threat, but was this just a matter of semantics?  He didn’t back down, but he wasn’t making a whole lot of sense either.

I think he was lying.

Speaking of semantics:

OW: You said dozens of times in interviews you never failed a test. Do you have a different answer today?

LA: “No I didn’t fail a test. Retroactively, I failed one. The hundreds of tests I took, I passed them.”

But the problem is, he did fail a test during the 1999 Tour de France.  Or at least, any reasonable person would say he failed it.  He tested positive for corticosteroids, and needed a bogus, back-dated prescription for saddle sores to get a pass.

I keep thinking of the UPS commercial about logistics, with the jingle take off of “That’s Amore”…

When you’re caught in a lie, and you try to be sly… that’s semantics.

After segment one of Oprah’s two-part interview, I was left unsatisfied.  I still had no clue why Armstrong chose to come clean NOW.  Even he couldn’t explain it at the start of their conversation.  (How could one of the world’s biggest control freaks, who is obsessed with driving his own narrative, come to an interview to be seen by millions unprepared for that question?)

If you watched segment two, though, you know the answer:  He’s doing it to have his lifetime ban on competing in sanctioned sports lifted.  I was blown away when he told Oprah, “I think I DESERVE IT.”  Excuse me? How on earth do you figure?

It’s true, Lance Armstrong took most of the responsibility for his own bad actions.  He repeatedly said “I deserve this”, referring to the lost endorsements, and public disgrace.  So how can he rationalize also deserving to be readmitted to sports, after just a hand-slap suspension?

He talked about other cyclists, and their more lenient penalties for doping.  But as Oprah pointed out, he was different.  “You knew that you were held to a higher standard. You’re LANCE ARMSTRONG.”

He thumbed his nose at the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and the US Anti-Doping Agency, by “brazenly and defiantly” denying doping for 13 years, so he was the big fish they wanted to catch.

Either Lance Armstrong still just doesn’t get it, or I don’t.

I say it’s Lance.

Lance Comes Clean, and So Do I

Lance Armstrong 2010
Timothy A. Clary /AFP/Getty Images

It’s been quite a week.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to complete a “Real Food” cleanse:  No refined grains, refined or artificial sweeteners, or store-bought food items containing more than five ingredients for 10 days.

Oh, and no alcohol or caffeine either.

I’ve just completed day three, and so far the cleanse hasn’t been too terrible.  I am not much of a dessert eater, so giving up refined sugar in sweets hasn’t been too taxing.  Hidden sugar can be tricky, though.  For example, mustard contains sugar.  Mustard!  Who knew?  I love my fancy mustards, and can tell you firsthand that without them, a lunch of roast beef on whole grain bread – three days in a row — is pretty bland, especially when you can’t chase it down with a bag of Cheetos or a side of curly fries.

Forgoing caffeine… Well, that’s been really rough.  I am only now regaining most of my faculties after the most brutal caffeine withdrawal I’ve ever experienced:  Blinding headache, chills and overwhelming nausea that nearly sent me running for the Red Bull.  I don’t even LIKE Red Bull.

Thankfully, I am clawing my way back to the land of the living, just in time to take in two riveting sports stories: The wheels blowing off the Lance Armstrong P.R. bus, and Manti Te’o whodunit saga.

Armstrong’s decision to come clean (pun intended) tomorrow on Oprah’s Next Chapter is fascinating, and I will be watching it, recording it, and hopefully blogging about it.  Does he really think he’s still in control of the narrative?  How far will he go with his admissions of doping, and will anyone believe him?

The story of Manti Te’o’s dead-girlfriend-who-wasn’t just emerged today.  Wow.  It’s going to take a lot more than an Oprah Winfrey interview to sort that one out. Is Te’o just a dumb, gullible jock who fell for a cruel hoax, and if so who was behind it?  Or is he an opportunistic publicity seeker who helped fabricate “Lennay Kekua”, to boost his image leading up to the NFL draft?

So much sporting news to keep track of, and react to — all without the benefit of performance enhancing caffeine.  Can I do it?  In seven days, all will be revealed.  Stay tuned!