The disgraced star’s recent interview on the BBC demonstrates, again, why the world needs to stop taking notice

Lance Armstrong was the most engaging pro cyclist of recent times. Such was his appeal that, like Muhammad Ali, he transcended his sport and became an international superstar. An intelligent, charismatic man with a lot to say. There are few top sports people who look you straight in the eye and hold your gaze when talking to you. He’d even do it when answering the most banal question.

Armstrong never shied away from a question either. In fact he seemed to enjoy a battle in a press conference — just look at the YouTube clip of him verbally attacking Paul Kimmage at the 2009 Tour of California. As in this case he was sometimes too confrontational and aggressive in his replies, but other times his charm, mixed with a little intimidation, meant he could get away with it.

But we need to cut the ties that bind and stop listening to him.

Investigations can listen to him if they think it will help (though they need to take everything he says with a fistful of salt), but everyone else has to learn to turn the other cheek.

But is that even possible? Putting him on the cover of Cycling Weekly magazine during and after his career always resulted in increased copy sales (yes, that’s why we did it for so many years!), and any web story we publish gets massive hits. Just look at the Monday’s story, which has now been shared more than 8,000 times on social media . He still has box office appeal.

So if even we can’t stop writing about him (Armstrong first blacklisted Cycle Sport and Cycling Weekly in 2002 after Cycle Sport published a piece by David Walsh when few others had any appetite for an anti-Armstrong story), how can you, dear reader, avoid it?

And yes, I do realise the very fact I’m writing an article about Armstrong in which I suggest you don’t read articles about Armstrong is utterly absurd.

If we can’t avoid Armstrong then our next option is to not believe what he says, because he always has an agenda. For him that agenda comes before a truthful answer.

Whenever Armstrong appears in the press, be it with Oprah or the BBC, he has a reason to do it and a plan of attack. The timing of the interview and his answers will be calculated and rehearsed. Armstrong was, and still is, a class A manipulator. Every time we listen, every time we read, we’re allowing him to do it.

His powers have waned since being outed, but there’s no doubt he’s up to the same old tricks. With court cases looming he needs to get his message out there, put doubt in people’s mind and attack his opponents.

But that’s fair enough, some might say. He’s got his side of the story after all.

But any story that he puts across is there to serve a purpose, which is why it is impossible to believe him. Look at his quotes linking his Tour de France wins with the expansion of cycling and the increased sales of Trek bikes. He’s laying the seed in people’s minds that he is partly responsible for the cycling boom. The aim? To counter the Whistleblower case that is based on him discrediting the US Postal Service. ‘Discredit? I grew the sport! They profited from me!’ is the message.

Armstrong says his actions contributed to Trek's rise "from $100m in sales, to $1bn in sales"

Armstrong says his actions contributed to Trek’s rise “from $100m in sales, to $1bn in sales”

What about his claim that he’d probably dope again? What purpose does that serve? It’s all part of his (false) claim that doping was a part of the sport and that everyone was doing it.

This, as any intelligent person will know, is complete nonsense. Yes, most of his rivals in the top ten at the Tour were doping, but what about places 11 to 20? Those riders who struggled to get in to the top 50? Those riders who never made their team’s final selection for the Tour de France? Those riders who never got a pro contract because dopers were taking so many places?

There was an awful lot of it going on during the 1990s but not everyone was doing it. Lots of riders made the decision to say no. Those riders were cheated out of a career and will never know how good they could have been.

But he’s apologised, some will still say. That must mean something? Well, no, not really. Not if you take a look at the latest story from the New York Daily News.

Armstrong is talking about forgiveness, moving on, and perhaps one day again competing — at some level, in some sport — but at the same time he’s fighting the Whistleblower case tooth and nail.

Now his legal team has sent subpoenas to the people that a few months ago he was visiting in person in order to say sorry. The subpoenas are first and foremost to unearth evidence gathered by the (Jeff Novitzky) Food and Drug Administration case and USADA.

But it could also see the people he apologised to dragged back in to the court room and cross examined. The aim for Armstrong’s defence team is to exploit the tiniest crack in an argument to throw out the whole case. As before, he won’t worry about who he tramples on in the process. So how sorry is he really?

It’s classic Armstrong tactics. Threatening, bullying while at the same time manipulating. He hasn’t changed a bit. But sadly neither has the appeal of his name in a headline.

  • Ric

    “…a few months ago he was visiting in person in order to say sorry” I wonder how insistent he was at doing this. With people who prone to bullying, controlling behaviour, gaining access to a victim’s personal space can be as much about being a display of power – to themselves as well as the victims – even if it is dressed up as remorse.

  • M.Armstrong

    And There you go, yet another profiteering user just like everyone that has ever written so called truth, what about the other drug takers that confessed after scamming monies to defend themselves then suddenly coming clean then profiteering with interviews/articles/books.. if you truly believe what you have written then we wouldn`t be reading the non existent article would we, it is here for one reason, you like everyone else profiteers from it..how dare Lance Armstrong do likewise

  • Simon Kristiansen

    Pantani is not the same era as Armstrong. Armstrong was after the Festina scandal in 1998, where a clear line was drawn. Before 1998 doping was accepted by nearly the whole peloton. In that period doping was organized by the teams, so riders didn’t have much choice it they wanted a job.

    After 1998 the teams no longer organized doping in fear of being exposed, scandalized and losing sponsorships. Riders were no longer pressured into doping by their employers. Doping was no longer accepted by the large majority of the peloton, like it had been, because of the pressure from the public.

    But Armstrong arrived on US Postal at the same time. A team that previously didn’t have an organized doping program. The first thing Armstrong did at US Postal was organizing a doping program for the whole team with the help of the worlds best doping doctor, Michele Ferrari.

    So while the rest of the teams abandoned their doping programs, Armstrong massively increased his program on US Postal. That’s why Armstrong is in a different era from Pantani.

  • John Rocker

    “He’s laying the seed in people’s minds that he is partly responsible for the cycling boom.”

    You would have to be a dullard to not realize that he’s the key player in the cycling boom in the US and Trek’s bicycle sales.

  • Roy

    In light of the recent Geert Leinders revelations, I’m packing in listening to Brailsford. Claiming he was unaware the Dutchman was masterminding Rabobanks doping/marginal gains regime is laughable.

  • durgadas

    Yeah, it’s a linkbait and switch. What ever is the modern journo to do? I sure wish SOMEONE in the media would do a nice, long look into the nature of narcissism. The media is a narcissist’s long-abused wife, and this writer is one this dysfunctional marriage’s children. All journalists (including this article) ever do is take a nice, short, not-too-close look at themselves and their subject matter. What is the REAL story matters little. What story can be MADE is what is the ubiquitous answer, even here. Even the partial nod at insight noted by the author here cannot save this article from being trapped by Armstrong’s own (and better) understanding of the nature of the enterprise in which he is in engaged. Into the gap between the author’s understanding (and thus his audience’s) and reality is where Armstrong made literally MILLIONS of dollars. Wake up media!

  • Ed

    I think it’s time to stop listening to Simon Richardson and Cycling WeeklyT

  • Mark

    Would you not defend yourself with everything at your disposal if you could be wiped out?
    Yes you would, and if you deny that, you, are a liar.

    Then stop writing articles about Pantani… Same era, same drugs, plus recreational use, he was a great advert for the sport!! But, he was Italien and a diva and had ‘Panache’ so we can excuse his doping. What a load of hypocritical Bollox.
    Trek, US postal, Nike, Oakley etc, should be giving all their profits made on the back of LA to charity, if we are trying to bring Integrity back to the sport, but that won’t happen, that’s why they have all gone quiet. Yes we should listen to him, so it can’t happen again.
    But it will, it’s human nature.

  • Nice article Mr Richardson but I just want to get this straight Cycling Weekly is never going to print another story about Lance Armstrong again, is that right ?

    I think that would be a great stance to take not talking or writing about Lance plus you’ll all be able to move on by writing about the needs for our sport and other sports to put into place life time bans for men and women who cheat with performance enhancing drugs etc.

    Enough of the slap on the hand by the UCI with short bans, which only project to the young cycling fans and society in general that cheating is the way to win and the way to get on. Cheating should not mean great rewards but should be seen as cheating or in some cases as simple breaking the law and prison sentences should be the order of the day for fraud and other violations.

  • ghh

    Actually he wasn’t good to watch. He added nothing to the Tour. I, along with most people, couldn’t care less about Trek. Ditto the funds based on a lie that USADA put an end to (how inconsiderate of them). If you think the entertainment of the Tour has gone, poor you.

  • abikerider

    Cut the propaganda and let people make up their own minds. Some of us don’t need to be told what to think or do.

  • elan

    But of course its okay that Landis and co.profit from his drugs busts.The problem cycling magazines have is that it always comes back to Lance.If he wants to protect himself,he has the right to do so.Will Nike,Oakley and the rest give any money back,i doubt it.Had the drugs culture stopped after he was busted,then I would agree,but it has not stopped.And as some of the readers point out,there is a load who escaped the net.I for one am only interested in his cycling busts,and not because someone does not like him

  • okyeasure3

    So your criteria to back up this snivvling, is a video from 2009. I wonder about the guy asking Lance the question because that answer is obvious…they made a mistake and like everyone, they should be forgiven. Here’s some advice for you…just because you can write about a topic, doesn’t mean you should. Slow time for you? Must be.

  • FearUncertaintyDoubt

    Armstrong is a dangerous sociopath. Yet the world should be grateful he became a cyclist rather than a mafia boss, African warlord, bank CEO, etc. Imagine how much damage he could have done if he put his vicious temperament into those pursuits.

  • Peter Marlow

    Excellent article. And perhaps now you might understand my cynicism towards the BBC for even giving the prat a few minutes airtime.

  • peter buchanan

    Loved the entertainment during the seven wins loved the comeback Why? The entertainment .
    He added millions of euros to the tour. He got thousands of unfit people on bikes. He helped all those companies like trek etc to sell product
    More importantly he gave hope to people suffering from an illness that kills
    Unfortunately usada burst the bubble so all the good stuff has come to a stop ridiculously stopping him raising charity funds
    He is a flawed individual but who isn’t
    I don’t watch the tour etc now the entertainment value has gone
    I still love cycling and raise money for cancer and I don’t hate lance

  • cahern1968

    What I was trying to say was that he is not worried about all the bans etc, but now that are going after his money he is really starting to use every route possible to protect it.

  • turbocrank

    The media is addicted to Armstrong. Just like a drug.

  • Norfolk_n_Chance

    I’ll try again…..
    Stop dividing cyclists into good nice likeable approachable cheats and bad cheats.
    It’s boring!

    Pot Belg Cortisone, Belgium mix, blood trannies, Roids, CERA & EPO have
    been used for decades. The general public and sportive cyclist haven’t a clue
    with what’s involved. They don’t know how or why the Top Fuel TdF years (i.e.
    from 1995-2006) were the best!

    The good nice likeable approachable dopers are: Millar, Merckx, Legeay, Theunisse,
    Fignon, Kelly, Chiappucci, Zabel, Abdu, O’Grady, Mayo, Andreu, Simoni, AleJet,
    Vandenbroucke, Vino, The Lion of Flanders, Tommy ‘Cheat’ Simpson, The Pirate,
    Basso, Tornado Tom (recreational drug, so doesn’t count!), Ullrich, Durand,
    Savoldelli.

    Bad cheats: The Boss, The Cobra, The Killer

    Over the last ~30 years I’ve enjoyed watching the Pros fight it out in Classics and Tours knowing full well that the 95% of the peloton’s dirty. If sportive types don’t understand the history then don’t bother writing dull stories.

    So… what I’m saying is if you’re going to hate on Armstrong then make sure you hate all cheats equally. Yep I’m an equal opportunities kinda guy!

  • Guest

    Bad cheats: The Boss, The Cobra, The Killer

    Over the last ~30 years I’ve enjoyed watching the Pros fight it out in Classics and Tours knowing full well that the 95% of the peloton’s dirty. If sportive types don’t understand the history then don’t bother writing dull stories.

    So… what I’m saying is if you’re going to hate on Armstrong then make sure you hate all cheats equally. Yep I’m an equal opportunities kinda guy!

  • dourscot

    No, in fact DO go after his money because it’s not his. It was taken on false pretences.

  • dourscot

    Not sure what this has to do with the point the author is making – whatever the failures of the past (including not banning people for long enough) at some point cycling has to put a full stop after Armstrong’s name and move on.

    As for drug taking in cycling, he was not the first. But something changed under his domination. The fame, the money, the power. He abused them all and trashed the image of cycling no matter how many hangers-on made a dime too.

  • cahern1968

    Everything Lance does is done for a reason. I watched the first few minutes of the Oprah Winfrey interview and it was, as most people rightly expected, carefully scripted well in advance.
    But this new case is different from all that came before, all USADA could do was ban him from the sport, but now he stands to lose all his money. You can say what you want about Lance Armstrong, he doesn’t really care, but DON’T go after his money.

  • cahern1968

    Dopers dope to win races and make more money, pure and simple. As I have stated in other posts a financial penalty should also be imposed in doping cases. Poor Lance, who is now trying to portray himself as a victim (with a little help from Pat McQuaid and others), still has all the money. Athletes can dope, make millions in prize money, endorsements, appearance fees etc, when or if they get caught and suspended they do 2 years of a ban, but still have all the money. So if they get to keep their ill gotten gains the rewards far exceed the punishment.

    It is a bit like robbing a bank, getting caught and going to prison, but being allowed to keep all the money you robbed.

  • David Bassett

    Yes Lance did wrong, yes he was a bully and many other
    things, but get real most bosses are. That is how they get the job. But I have
    never read such a load of rubbish in my life, everyone who fails a drug test
    should be banned for life.
    That is from their sport, the sport they
    cheated in. But unless that becomes a law in every sport, and adhered to by
    everyone it will still be a waste of time. The system that has been around for
    many years does not work. You get a ban, and your country will not put it in
    place, so you carry on racing for eighteen months or so until the UCI have the balls to say stop. You
    then serve the last six months and start again. This
    thing about there only being drug taking since Lance Armstrong is just wrong.
    Cyclists (and all other sports) have been taking drugs and generally cheating
    since they were riding penny-farthings. If it could be possible to get life
    time bans for all, keep Lance out of bike racing. But until that time comes he
    should have only been banned for two years, and only from cycling.

  • I agree, we do need to stop, so the best things is to stop reporting on him, don’t give him the air time.