Oprah’s Next Chapter Recap: Lance Armstrong Bullied People to Protect Fairy-Tale Story

The broadcast of Oprah Winfrey’s highly anticipated pre-taped interview with Lance Armstrong is finally on. Tonight’s airing is the first of a two-part series, the second of which will be released tomorrow night at 9p.m. ET.

Although it has been in the news for years, it’s chilling to finally hear from THE Lance Armstrong, straight from his mouth, to finally say one powerful word that tells it all: YES. He took banned substances, took EPO, took them in all seven Tour de France wins and did nothing to stop it. The only thing that came close to an unobjectionable NO is when he said that it’s “not likely” to win the greatest race in the world seven times in a row in a “humanly possible” way.

Armstrong admitted to spreading the myth of his stellar career because “it was perfect for so long” even if he was well aware that not an inch of it was true. Whether it is guilt or just the immense pressure to tell the truth, he took all the blame particularly for getting lost in all the glory and not knowing right from wrong. In fact, throughout the entire interview, the cyclist consistently said that he didn’t feel that what he was doing was wrong.

Much of Oprah’s questions were anchored on the contents of the US Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) report and final decision. He agreed that the culture of doping in his sport is pervasive but he didn’t invent such. He described his years of using performance-enhancing drugs (or “oxygen-boosting” drugs as he calls them), including the system of how it was done, as nothing sophisticated and “risk averse”. He maintained, however, that talking about this topic is difficult especially since he couldn’t ascertain whether everybody was doing what he did.

Being the leader of his team, Armstrong admitted to controlling everything, much like he controlled his life. He denied forcing his drug system on his teammates but didn’t openly do so (yes, no denying) when asked whether it was within his power to remove anyone from the team if they didn’t adhere to what was already in place. All Armstrong could say was that there was no “directive” to do so. He adds that he and his teammates were “all grown men” in a competitive time so there they all understood what winning meant for the team. In short, Armstrong cannot directly respond to the accusation that he threatened team members who didn’t agree with him. Oprah ended up asking whether his answers were all semantics.

Oprah delivered questions with regard to two women who have been downplayed and largely ridiculed for telling the truth on Armstrong’s doping. On Betsy Andreu, the wife of former friend and teammate Frankie, the cyclist revealed that he has already contacted her but the prospect of a reconciliation remains dark after all the public humiliation he has caused to her (and her husband). Armstrong declined to react on whether Betsy lied, merely saying that both agreed (in their 40-minute phone conversation) not to discuss it in public. One thing that he was sure of is that he never called Betsy “fat”. Really, so this is how he makes matters light?

Armstrong’s response on the topic of Emma O’Reilly was more indifferent, and I just had to think that this man remains lost in his own world. He admits that O’Reilly’s claim on the issue of the cortisone cover-up is true and went on to say that she’s one of the people he needs to apologize to but he has a vague idea on whether she’s one of the people he and his agents sued. What? The woman was flat-broke and out of her mind when she was charged an amount that she’ll never be able to earn in her entire lifetime! I recall in one interview on Rock Center with Brian Williams, Armstrong destroyed O’Reilly’s reputation so much (to the extent of calling her a whore) that even she started doubting herself.

So why did Armstrong go through this cycle of vindictiveness and ruthlessness? He claims that this was his means of protecting his territory, because he has been a fighter all his life and he was a bully. For these reasons, he went after the people (including friends) that he thought were turning on him. Having said that, Armstrong now feels remorse and pins it on his “deeply-flawed” character.

When asked whether he saw himself eventually reversing his previous statements (including the deposition he gave in 2005) and admitting guilt, Armstrong noted that he only saw the issue hovering for a long time. This certainty was cemented after the Department of Justice dropped the case against him without any reason. He sounded a little irritated when Oprah asked if he had anything to do with the dismissal of the case and tried to recover by saying that it’s difficult to influence the DoJ. Unfortunately, the USADA picked it up which eventually led to incriminating proofs of his doping activities, stripped him of his titles (and name) from the Tour de France history and a lifetime ban on competing.

Armstrong may have been upfront with his personal drug use but there were some areas where he chose to keep his silence including that of Dr. Michele Ferrari, Tyler Hamilton’s claims on dumping drugs and the names of people he knew who were part and parcel of his “not so sophisticated” drug system.

Is tonight very much a revelation? Not much on the drug use, since so much has been said about it in official reports and public interviews but more on the kind of person Armstrong is. He claims to be a controlling (verging on manipulative) person: does this mean that his interview with Oprah is another calculated move (including his reiteration that he’s a flawed man) to get the public’s empathy that he’s just a human being that makes mistakes like everybody else? We’ll see tomorrow how this move progresses in the second part of the interview.

That’s our recap of Oprah’s Next Chapter Interview with Lance Armstrong today, 1/17/13. We’ll have another recap tomorrow.

Image credit: Oprah’s Next Chapter