12 months ago the Lance Armstrong myth came crashing down when the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) found the Texan guilty of being the centrepiece of the most “sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.”
He lost all his results from 1998 onwards, was banned from the sport for life, and was told publicly by then UCI President Pat McQuaid that he had “no place in cycling.”
One year on, Armstrong has begun to make his first attempts at resuscitating his career and reputation. But can Lance be forgiven? And should Lance be forgiven?
“It’s certainly possible for him to rehabilitate his image, and he’s definitely planning that,” says Reed Albergotti, reporter with the Wall Street Journal and co-author of Wheelmen, a book released last week charting the Armstrong story.
“Before [the USADA report] there had always been some reasonable doubt in the minds of most Americans and they were willing to give Lance the benefit of the doubt no matter what.
“Even after the report there were still people saying, ‘I don’t think he did it.’ That gives you some sense of how willing people were to ignore all the facts. That tells you something. “Even now I don’t think he’s considered the ultimate villain, but I think he has to start accepting the reality.
“The thing that he doesn’t have, which [disgraced] athletes like Tiger Woods have, is that he can’t get out there and start competing again. So it has to be all about his personality, and that needs to change, and that will be difficult for him.”
“I think it’s not good,” says David Epstein, journalist for Pro Publica and former investigative reporter for Sports Illustrated. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him being quiet when there’s a fight coming up, so I don’t think there is going to be any attempt at a public image change for quite a while.
“For a while I thought he was going to do anything he could to get back to competing again. From my experience talking to people around him, he truly, truly really badly wanted to continue competing in triathlon. I thought he was going to do whatever it took.
“Then when USADA asked him to come to the table [and give evidence] he didn’t do it. I think that’s over and I think he’s a bit of a pariah.
“I think the only thing that could make a difference with the public is if he, in some very public way, goes to Emma O’Reilly [former US Postal soigneur] and Betsy Andreu [wife of former US Postal rider Frankie Andreu], those people specifically, and makes some sort of display of contrition to each individual.”
“From all accounts of the teammates around him I’ve spoken to, he doesn’t feel pressure the same way most people do. I think he’s ok to deal with criticism.
“Yet he used to be on bike rides and people would join him everywhere, just wanting to be around him. That has really fallen off, that’s a big dip in the positive attention and reinforcement you get. I do think he’s going to want that again.”
One Year On
The October 24 issue of Cycling Weekly includes a full report on Lance Armstrong one year on, featuring interviews, analysis, reviews and more
The Armstrong Lie Film