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In this Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 photo provided by Harpo Studios Inc., cyclist Lance Armstrong listens to a question from Oprah Winfrey during taping for the show "Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive" in Austin, Texas.

George Burns, Associated Press

Armstrong's answers leave plenty of questions

  • Article by: LIZ CLARKE
  • Washington Post
  • January 19, 2013 - 5:40 PM

Midway through the first installment of his televised confessional, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey: "One of the steps of this process is to say, 'Sorry. I was wrong; you were right.'"

But as the interview unspooled, it became increasingly unclear what Armstrong regretted: that he cheated his way to seven Tour de France titles, lied about and vilified his accusers, or that he got caught.

It also was unclear whether Armstrong was uttering carefully scripted lines, speaking from the heart or doing a bit of both.

Almost from the moment the first installment ended, the global cycling community and rank-and-file sports fans started weighing in. Was Armstrong's highly publicized confession an act of contrition or was it performance art?

At one extreme was the visceral disgust of those who have heard and seen enough of the cancer survivor turned sporting champion who mocked skeptics whom he said "can't believe in miracles."

"A sniveling, lying, cheating little wretch" is how CNN's Piers Morgan characterized Armstrong on Twitter, adding, "I hope he now just disappears."

Others were supportive, including former teammate Tyler Hamilton, whom Armstrong vowed to ruin after he provided the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency with firsthand accounts of Armstrong's doping activity. Hamilton hailed the confession as "a huge, huge first step" on NBC's "Today" show.

The clarity provided by Armstrong's itemized acknowledgment of the banned drugs and blood-doping practices he relied on was followed by more equivocal responses.

As in: "All the fault and all the blame here falls on me. But behind that picture and behind that story is momentum." Armstrong's point was that as a cancer survivor who went on to win cycling's most grueling race, he found himself trapped in a narrative perpetuated by fans and the media.

At another point, he said: "They are my mistakes, and I'm sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I'm sorry for that. The culture was what it was." The point was that doping was endemic during the era in which he competed; he only did what other top riders did.

Richard Pound, a former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he sensed Armstrong was more chagrined by his fall from grace than contrite over the doping that led to it. That said, Pound likened the cyclist's confession to the first step of a recovering alcoholic. "Unless you get them to acknowledge there is a problem, there's no possibility of a cure. He has now come forward and acknowledged what everybody knew."

But if Armstrong wants to compete again, he'll have to testify under oath -- a point Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, made clear last week.

Pound elaborated: "We want to know how you did it. Who was involved? How was it protected? How was it that you had so many drug tests -- he says 600; it was half that, at most -- throughout a period you were using and none of the tests were positive? Who helped? Who was involved? How did the money flow?

"For him to say, 'I'm taking personal responsibility,' be our guest. But, by the way, don't show up anywhere in the future."

© 2014 Star Tribune