LANCE Armstrong lived a lie in disgrace, trading his integrity for medals, fame and cash. The belated truth is costing him heavily.
Five years after the Oprah interview, in which the world-class cyclist admitted his years of deceit, the truth being that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs to help him win numerous Tours de France, Armstrong briefly looked back at what the cost has been in order for him to sleep at night.
“In excess of 100 mil,” Armstrong recently said in an email to USA Today Sports as part of a look inside the hell of his own making.
Before the January 17, 2013, airing of his coming clean — a simple “yes” to a question of if he had taken banned substances in his career — Armstrong attacked at every mention that his medals weren’t honestly won, suing and fighting and publicly accosting, doing anything to try to keep the pure image of a cancer survivor who bravely and fairly fought back to capture seven Tour titles.
His detractors haven’t forgotten the sham Armstrong kept up for so long, and the truth has given them further incentive.
Within four months of saying “yes” to Oprah, Armstrong had five lawsuits on his hands, the newspaper reported. Personally, friends have become enemies, a public and private apology tour being shredded.
Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond had accused Armstrong of doping and said Armstrong then tried to ruin him, with LeMond’s brand of bike suffering as a distribution company pulled out of its agreement over the Armstrong allegation. LeMond’s wife, Kathy, said Armstrong’s apology wasn’t much of one.
“I wouldn’t say it was a heartfelt apology,” Kathy LeMond told USA Today. “It was a meeting, and I think he hoped to defuse us continuing this.”
Armstrong had said he would apologise to David Walsh, an Irish journalist who printed a 2004 story that contained doping allegations against Armstrong. Armstrong responded to the article by successfully suing the Sunday Times of London for a million pounds.
Armstrong and the newspaper settled another suit with a payout in 2013 following his confession. But Walsh said a “sorry” never came.
“My feeling is that Lance believed this was enough,” Walsh said of the cash settlement. “I never wanted an apology and never expected one — so I wasn’t disappointed. But I thought his telling Oprah Winfrey that he would apologise to me was very funny from the interview because he was almost coerced into saying something he never wanted to say.”
But the biggest legal threat is still not settled. The US government is suing him for $100 million on behalf of the US Postal Service, which paid $32.3 million to sponsor Armstrong’s team from 2000 to 2004. Former teammate Floyd Landis is acting as a whistleblower who reportedly could get 25 percent of the damages if the government wins the case.
“We already had him dead to rights when he confessed,” Landis’ attorney, Paul Scott, told the newspaper, saying Armstrong’s confession “was a tactical decision on his part, made with full knowledge of the possibility that he would someday be in front of a jury in our case. Trying to sell a jury on the idea he wasn’t doping, when there was overwhelming evidence to the contrary, would have hurt him more than helped him.”
USA Today asked Armstrong if he had any comment about the people he has wronged and the apologies that some felt haven’t come.
“No comment,” he said. “And no need to ever contact me again.”