Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Armstrong Comes Clean to Oprah and Gets More Publicity for Himself

So Lance Armstrong has come clean to Oprah. I use the word ‘clean’ with reservation since I haven’t seen the interview yet. Oprah made a cryptic comment about it, saying he came prepared (her emphasis), that his confession was not what she had expected, and that it was riveting at times. Her interview will be streamed globally tomorrow. South Africans can watch it at 4:00 am.
CNN ran an article about public reaction being mixed prior to the interview being aired. Reaction to the article was mixed, with most people being angry and disillusioned, although some believed he shouldn’t be judged for the doping because its importance is way overshadowed by the good he’s done with his Foundation. One reader said people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and that it was up to God to judge – and created a storm, like disturbed hornet’s nest. 

Everybody loves a hero, and it’s not surprising that so many myths have gathered around Armstrong. Especially since he’s so good at marketing himself. He did survive testicular cancer, which had allegedly spread to his lungs, stomach and brain though, and that he did is amazing and admirable. He made much of not being the hero, saying that modern medicine should take that prize, but his self-effacement simply added to his image of the hero. Maybe it wasn’t consciously intentional, but in the light of what the world knows now, it seems part and parcel of a neurotic need to self-aggrandize.

In October, Sporting News Fanhouse  reported that the reality about the Foundation – which is what all his admirers pin their adulation on now – is that it has spent millions on marketing which actually focuses on Armstrong more than it does on cancer survival, that Armstrong has used it to pump himself up and that the Foundation hasn’t actually donated as much to cancer research as everybody believes (it hasn’t donated anything since 2010).

The extent to which Armstrong intimidated and threatened members of his team who either didn’t want to take PED’s or wanted to speak out once they had, is horrifying, and shows a psychopathic aspect to his personality that isn’t going to be erased by a confession. Therapy, maybe, and not just one session with Dr. Phil.

Armstrong was raised by a teenage mother; his father left when he was a couple of years old. He’s reported to have said that she taught him the value of hard work and never quitting, which sounds lovely and utterly heroic.

But it’s the stuff of Hollywood. In reality what his childhood clearly left him with is a pretty pathological need to be the hero no matter what the cost. It taught him how to get what you want, how to manipulate everybody’s emotions, how to use the vulnerable, how to intimidate those who want to be honest. How to con the world and consequences to anybody else be damned. 

That he chose to reveal all on Oprah, who is known for her need to see people on the road to healing emotionally and is most likely to want to find a reason to forgive him, is just more evidence that he hasn’t stopped trying to con the world. I’m a big fan of Oprah’s but this one turns me off a little. I can’t help wondering why, if the truth was really all she cared about, she didn’t encourage him to quietly tell all, make reparation and be done with it. 

Instead his confession has turned into a huge publicity stunt at a time that he’s desperate to restart his career in some way. Last month Armstrong met with US anti-doping officials to discuss what he’d have to do to mitigate his lifelong ban. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about truth. It’s not about remorse. It’s not about the value of hard work and being a hero. It’s sure not about cancer survivors. 

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if something like “they made me do it” doesn’t hit the headlines. This story isn’t over, not by far. Somebody's going to investigate the finances of that Foundation, if it isn't already happening.