One of the fascinating things about the Armstrong saga is what we can learn about the world from how information about him, when brought to light, is received.
I’m amazed when people, sometimes unknowingly, cite Armstrong’s take as truth. The easy example is how the “500 tests” claim got passed around. It always came across as a Goldilocks number to me, yet others were swayed. I briefly tried to figure out how many it was. Someone else did the work and the number is 236.
Sports Illustrated just ran another such article. It’s a teaser for a print article, both written by Michael McCann. I don’t know what the print article has, but based on what he wrote online, I see little reason to buy in issue of Sports Illustrated. He starts off by telling us “Much of the interview was off the record, and when Armstrong went on the record he didn’t want to be quoted, but was OK with being paraphrased.” I fail to see the point of doing an interview when the subject stipulates that most of it is off the record, especially someone who has a long record of trying to wriggle out of anything that doesn’t serve his purposes.
McCann dutifully acts as a stenographer for Armstrong. He writes, “Armstrong also said that every top rider doped during the prime of his career and that his doping techniques were unexceptional, if not conservative.” Armstrong has said this before, several times now. I fail to see why this is newsworthy.
It’s easy to blame McCann, but he’s following Lance’s mind trick.
Armstrong and his people have been doing this for years. Here’s Lance’s attorney, Tim Herman, quoted in the New York Times the other week regarding why Lance won’t cooperate with USADA.
“Armstrong would cooperate only with ‘an international tribunal formed to comprehensively address pro cycling, an almost exclusively European sport.’
‘We remain hopeful that an international effort will be mounted, and we will do everything we can to facilitate that result,” Herman said in the statement. “In the meantime, for several reasons, Lance will not participate in Usada’s efforts to selectively conduct American prosecutions that only demonize selected individuals while failing to address the 95 percent of the sport over which Usada has no jurisdiction.'”
Oh yeah, pro cycling is almost exclusively European. And you know how they are about doping.
While it is true that about 75% of the professional cyclists in the world are citizens of European nations, and the sport’s biggest races are there, it overlooks the 25% of the non-European cyclists and that UCI racing takes place on every continent save Antarctica.
More importantly, it overlooks reality. Several European nations take the issue of doping far more seriously than we do in the United States. For example, France has had longitudinal testing of professional cyclists since 1999. The German broadcaster of the Tour de France ended television coverage of the event over doping. Italy has had several doping scandals (Men in Black, Oil for Drugs, the Ferrara raids) that have involved many top cyclists. They even stripped Giro d’Italia winner Danilo Di Luca for doping, and suspended him as well. The Italian Cycling Federation has been after Lance’s doping doctor, Michele Ferrari, since the 1990s. In Spain, the Operacion Puerto scandal that first came to light in 2006 has finally come to trial. Spain also suspended Vuelta d’Espana winners Roberto Heras and Alejandro Valverde, as well as the most successful Grand Tour rider of this era, Alberto Contador. In the Netherlands, longtime cycling sponsor Rabobank cut most of their cycling sponsorship efforts over doping; they’re even offering amnestyfor riders who come forth before April 1, 2013. And in Great Britain, the Sky team purged all employees associated with any known doping past. The list goes on and on.
It also overlooks the fact that USADA has been able to get, thusfar, lifetime bans for a number of Armstrong’s accomplices: Johan Bruyneel, Pedro Celaya, Luis Del Moral, Michele Ferrari, and Pepe Marti.
Sure, USADA has no control over any other anti-doping federation, but they have proven more effective than the UCI, much to Armstrong’s chagrin. And since it is pretty clear that the UCI is leading up the rear when it comes to reforming the sport and taking doping seriously, USADA is perhaps the best venue for Armstrong to speak up: they’ve shown thusfar they are unlikely to hide any wrongdoing.
Even if Armstrong is right and USADA can’t do everything, he could help at home. Apparently, helping his sport in his home country is not good enough for him. Or he doesn’t want to be asked questions about his early days with the US National Team, when there was some organized doping going on. Perhaps he’s playing us with this comment. He’d probably figure out a way not to help any worldwide anti-doping effort, too. Expect him blame it on some people, probably French, out to get him.
Armstrong has played this game countless times in the past. Here is Lance in 2009 discussing why he took the drug tests he promised to keep public down “It just takes one person to say – it could be a guy who graduated last in his class – you know what they call a guy who graduated last in his class at medical school? That’s right, Doctor! So it could be a guy who just got out of college and has one journalist who listens and says these are suspicious.”
Yes, ha HA! A doctor. This from a guy who barely graduated high school. He’s telling us a doctor is untrustworthy and can’t read the results of drug tests, but he is and he can.
I don’t know when he started this game, but early on, his supporters would wax angry and patriotic about how the French were out to get Armstrong. Where was the proof? Didn’t matter; he was playing on anti-French sentiment, thinking he could claim that he was being persecuted over nation’s insecurity. Here’s one of Lance’s flacks, Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated, telling us about how much Armstrong is disliked in France in 2005, “When you’re an American who specializes in breaking French hearts, you bring all the friends you can…The French have tried to stop him. Mon dieu, have they tried. For two years the French government dragged out a weak drug investigation into Armstrong’s team…Now the French are trying to fry him a new way: taxes…He has tried to make the French like him. He moved to Europe. He conducts interviews in French. ‘Nothing works,’ he says. ‘They told me to speak French. Told me to smile, sign autographs. Didn’t work. It’s just not gonna happen.'”
I don’t see any original reporting. I see a stenographer at work. I was in France for the Tour in 2005. I saw plenty of Lance fans, very few haters.
So you want to know how Lance does it? It’s easy. He plays to people’s prejudices and ignorance and hopes they are easily moved by his confidence. They do the rest: fill in the blanks, add spin and righteous indignation. That’s the magic of his Jedi mind trick.