WASHINGTON, Jan 18, 2013 (AFP) – Lance Armstrong didn’t just come clean to
Oprah Winfrey about doping on Thursday. He also tried to reinvent himself.
Will the public accept his globally televised mea culpa after more than a
decade of lies? Only time will tell. But judging from initial reaction on
Twitter, he has a long way to go to convince people he regrets his actions.
The 41-year-old disgraced cyclist clearly had carefully rehearsed his
answers as he acknowledged, after years of strident denials, that his
victories had been fueled by banned performance-enhancing drugs.
“I was used to controlling everything in my life,” Armstrong told Winfrey,
television’s queen of talk, in his first interview since he was stripped of
his record-setting seven Tour de France titles.
Armstrong described himself as a “bully” and an “arrogant prick,” saying:
“I tried to control the narrative… I will spend the rest of my life trying
to earn back trust and apologize to people.”
It was Winfrey, eager to land a blockbuster interview for her upstart OWN
cable channel, who approached Armstrong after the US Anti-Doping Agency put
him at the heart of cycling’s biggest doping conspiracy.
Their conversation was pre-recorded Monday at a hotel in his hometown
Austin, Texas. The second half of the interview will be aired on Friday.
Armstrong turned up in a blue blazer, open-neck shirt and slightly worn
Chelsea boots, and sat for much of the interview with one foot resting on his
other knee. (Winfrey opted for a seafoam dress and oxblood heels.)
On his right wrist, he wore the iconic yellow armband of Livestrong, the
cancer charity that he founded.
On the table was a glass of water with a straw that was close to full one
minute, then close to empty, then full again — evidence of the editing
Spliced into the program for the benefit of viewers not up to speed on
doping were background segments including clips of some of Armstrong’s long
string of public doping denials.
Behavioral analyst Joe Navarro, who during 25 years with the FBI assisted
in the questioning of hundreds of suspected criminals, faulted Winfrey for not
going hard on Armstrong to unearth precise details about the doping racket.
“A lot of people out there will think this is a good interview,” said
Navarro, author of “What Every Body is Saying.” “It was a long interview…
but no one should assume it was a forensic interview.”
“By not getting into the details, you (the interviewee) are in a way
letting other people fill in that (missing) information — and you hope that
somewhere along the line, someone will be forgiving,” he told AFP.
In that instant court of public opinion called Twitter, where witty
trending hashtags included #doprah, #LiveWrong and #LieStrong, the jurors of
cyberspace turned thumbs down.
“I’ve watched enough. That was depressing. I’ve rarely seen such a soulless
psychopath,” tweeted @leighsales.
“If Lance Armstrong was trying to gain sympathy with this interview it’s
not working,” echoed @newyscruggs. “Damn sad day when #Oprah can’t even make
him look good.”
“It’s pretty clear the most powerful drug Lance Armstrong abused was
narcissism,” agreed @SeanGrandePBP.
But the Texan had his supporters as well, not least for his work for cancer
survivors through the Livestrong charity he founded in 1997 after his own
brush with testicular cancer.
“The fact the he lied and brought people down won’t change the fact HE
helped people with cancer,” tweeted one fan going by the handle @hoooligan.
“No matter what, I respect. #lancearmstrong”