Lance Armstrong didn’t turn to Oprah Winfrey because of her reputation for hard-hitting interviews. Lance needed a sympathetic ear; Oprah, a ratings boost for her struggling TV channel.
So a win-win for both celebrities when, after years of speculation, the cycling champion finally admitted that he used illegal steroids in all seven of his Tour de France victories. Was he sorry? Not so much. Only trying to “level the playing field” in a sport where doping was the norm.
Shame and recrimination have poured in from across the globe. Latitude News has scoured the global press for the most interesting foreign reactions to the downfall of an American icon.
Once a racer, always a racer
In South Africa’s Daily Maverick, journalist Sipho Hlongwane argues that Armstrong’s confession was nothing but a “cynical ploy,” a public rehabilitation campaign meant to ensure he regains his eligibility to compete in professional triathlons. Armstrong took up triathlons after retiring from cycling in 2011. Hlongwane writes:
We all knew that Lance Armstrong was going to confess to doping. The question was far more about the nature of his admission; to confirm widespread suspicion that his moment of television redemption was actually part of a greater game. For whatever reason, the seven times former Tour de France champion still wants to cycle – even if he is 50 years old when he is once again allowed to compete in some races.
He notes that Armstrong was careful not to admit he had led a doping ring within his cycling team, a team sponsored by the United States Postal Service. Such an admission could open him up to further legal trouble, as the Justice Department considers joining a lawsuit filed by a former teammate who claims Armstrong’s steroid use constitutes fraud against the U.S. government.
Told ya so
None of Armstrong’s legion of attackers have more authenticity than David Walsh of England’s Sunday Times.
Thirteen years ago, as Armstrong won his first Tour de France, Walsh became the first journalist to accuse him of cheating. His stories were widely ridiculed. Armstrong was a cancer survivor, a hero, an inspiration. But unlike some prominent American sportswriters, Walsh didn’t take the athlete at his word. In a recent story about a long drama that ultimately ended with his vindication, Walsh writes:
The thing about the Armstrong scandal was that, even in 1999, the year of his first victory, you didn’t need to be Woodward or Bernstein to get it. On the afternoon the American delivered his first great performance in the Alps, the stage to Sestriere, many journalists in the salle de presse laughed at the ease with which Armstrong ascended. He climbed with the nonchalance of the well-doped.
On Wednesday the International Olympic Committee took away Armstrong’s bronze medal from the Sydney games in 2000. He’d already been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last August after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said it had proof he used steroids. Now, to add insult to injury, the Sunday Times is asking Armstrong to return the $500,000 verdict it was forced to pay him after a libel suit in 2006 and an additional $1 million in damages.
Even though Armstrong’s triumphs brought global attention to the Tour, many French journalists also suspected he was a cheater. In an interview with L’Express, Pierre Ballester (author of L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong) says he was impressed only by one aspect of Oprah’s interview: the ability of both stars to monetize the event to the maximum.
I heard two lies in the interview. The first when he said that he didn’t help his teammates get drugs. There are after all 11 witnesses who say the contrary. The second is about his 2009 comeback. He says he wasn’t using drugs during this period, but the USADA report was damning on this point.
Ballester’s conclusion? “The story isn’t over yet. Lance Armstrong is not in checkmate.”
And in England the Daily Telegraph‘s headline pretty much summed up the foreign reaction: “Lance Armstrong’s cold contempt for cycling remains as significant as ever. He is beyond redemption.”
If you want the full back story on Armstrong’s history of malfeasance, check out this impressive two-part series from the German news magazine Der Spiegel: “The Fraud.” The second part of the interview airs tonight at 9 PM EST on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Don’t get your hopes up. No matter how hard Oprah pushes him, Armstrong probably won’t tell us anything we don’t already know.