SBD/January 18, 2013/Media

Armstrong Seen As Having "Little Emotion" In Doping Confession With Oprah Winfrey

Armstrong displayed a mostly stoic demeanor during the 90-minute special
After 15 years of "defiant denials and denunciations," Lance Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey "he had used performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France victories," according to Philip Hersh of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE.  The primary "take away ... is of an Armstrong who will not shake his years of being a calculated liar." Armstrong's admissions in many areas "were incomplete, and that failure to tell the whole truth for whatever reasons -- legal protection or more defiance -- will continue to impugn his credibility." His "failure to make a public apology for the lies he told about other people also undermined Armstrong's attempt to turn the interview to his benefit" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/18). In Austin, Kirk Bohls writes Armstrong "came clean. Kinda. Sorta. Now and then." Bohls: "Transparency was lacking. So was sincerity. He was glib at inappropriate times, downright evasive at others and disingenuous most of the time" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/18). In N.Y., Alessandra Stanley writes Armstrong "may have been nervous, but he didn’t look uncomfortable." He appeared as "reasoned and dispassionate telling the truth as he did all those years that he so fluently and convincingly spun a lie." The interview was "strangely low on energy and emotion" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).

NOT WINNING THEM OVER: FOXSPORTS.com's Sam Gardner writes Armstrong "was never particularly contrite, and his outward emotion never really changed throughout the 90-minute special" (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/18). In DC, Liz Clarke writes Armstrong had "no tears and little emotion" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/18). ESPN.com's Bonnie Ford writes the interview was "desperate." Ford: "Huge chunks of it ranged from disingenuous to unbelievable. There was far too much defiance and contradiction." Armstrong is "a toppled despot," but by "force of habit, he's still trying to shape his own narrative" (ESPN.com, 1/18). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes, "If it was possible to like Lance Armstrong even less, his 90-minute interview with Winfrey on Thursday night went a long way to accomplishing that fact." If he was "hoping to win over some supporters," it is "hard to imagine how he might have accomplished that" (USA TODAY, 1/18). USA TODAY's Kelly Whiteside writes Armstrong's "performance didn't impress" (USATODAY.com, 1/18). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes with a "chance to show actual contrition, he discussed what he did as if he was taking you through the stages of one of his Tour wins." After the "long wait for the truth from this guy, it was pathetic watching him try to tell it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/18). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes the interview "felt over before it even got started." Armstrong appeared "shrunken in that hotel room chair, aged, graying." He did "not break down, he did not cry." He managed a "smile here and there, some scatterings of rueful laughter." His jokes "were mostly gallows humor or bad" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/18).

REPUTATION RESTORED? An L.A. TIMES editorial states, "Armstrong's come-to-Oprah moment, unfortunately, probably won't do much to reduce doping, even if it helps restore his reputation." And if the "fall of the mighty Armstrong won't get athletes off the juice, what will?" More enforcement and better detection methods "are the mundane, but seemingly only, answers" (L.A. TIMES, 1/18). In N.Y., Juliet Macur writes while "looking nervous and swallowing hard several times," Armstrong at times "seemed genuinely humble." But when "asked about the people he had tried to crush ... he showed little contrition."  Armstrong "failed to do the one thing many people had been waiting for: he failed to apologize directly to all the people who believed in him, all the cancer survivors and cycling fans who thought his fairy-tale story was true" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).  YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel writes under the header, "Lance Armstrong, Arrogant And Unaware, Did Little To Repair His Image In Mea Culpa With Oprah" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/18).

PASSING OUT GRADES: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's John Kador writes Armstrong displayed a "constant need to have the last word for himself." It is "clear that he is not quite ready to do the heavy lifting of apology." His apology "gets no more than a D+" (WSJ.com, 1/18).  In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote Armstrong sounded "dispassionate, a little arrogant, and totally defeated." He "failed this interview because there was no way to win." He appeared to be "totally busted and exhausted by his own deception" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 1/17). In Cleveland, Mark Dawidziak writes with "much of the air having been let out of this particular bicycle tire, the Winfrey-Armstrong encounter offered far too little, far too late to make for compelling, memorable or even all that dramatic television." There was much "parsing of words as Armstrong did his best to maneuver around Winfrey's carefully prepared questions." This gave the "program a stilted quality, never allowing it to enter the realm of candid, heartfelt discussion" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/18). In Baltimore, David Zurawik writes anyone who watched interview "and didn't walk away understanding they were listening to a sociopath who still thinks he's the smartest guy in the culture wasn't paying attention." This is "one sick dude, and Winfrey was surgical in peeling back the flesh" (Baltimore SUN, 1/18). In Detroit, Jeff Seidel writes on the "great totem pole of public confessions, Armstrong came off closer to a robotic Tiger Woods than an emotional President Bill Clinton." He took "all the blame. He admitted to doping, but he didn't bare all his dirty needles." He showed "little emotion" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/18). But in Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton writes it would be "difficult ... to top the riveting 90 minutes that were shown Thursday." The interview was a "good start." Armstrong can be "a compelling, disarming personality" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/18).

SPIN CYCLE: In San Antonio, Buck Harvey writes there was a "sense, even as he admitted his flaws, that this was just the end game of a failed plan" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS NEWS, 1/18). In Newark, Kathleen O'Brien writes it was a "curiously bloodless confession. No tears. No sighs. Barely a grimace" (NJ.com, 1/18). The GUARDIAN's William Fotheringham writes most "insidiously of all, he made doping seem banal." The "problem all through was one he outlined himself: what to believe from a man who has lied so comprehensively, so determinedly, for so long?" (GUARDIAN, 1/18). SI.com's Richard Deitsch writes Armstrong "did paint a character sketch of at best a flawed man, and at worst, one who lacks remorse." Armstrong "fell well short of full confession. Winfrey's performance was far better than expected" (SI.com, 1/18). In London, Brendan Gallagher writes Armstrong was "controlled, distant and emotionless." He could have been "talking about another rider on the Oprah Winfrey show" (London TELEGRAPH, 1/18). The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur writes there was "truth here, cherry-picked and carefully selected, but there was no empathy, no contrition, nothing much that qualified as real" (NATIONAL POST, 1/18). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes, "With a calculated stare and occasional nervous laugh, Armstrong stayed in character with his body language and held strong to what he wanted to get out in public." He was "mostly evasive" while Winfrey was "not sympathetic and going soft" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/18). SPORTS ON EARTH's Matt Brown writes it is "hard to believe" anyone could watch the interview and come away thinking Armstrong "had somehow improved his reputation" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 1/18).

THE IMPLICATIONS: After the interview, the Livestrong Foundation said that it was "misled" by Armstrong. However, it is "still grateful to him for his work building the charity and helping cancer patients" (USATODAY.com, 1/18). In N.Y., Susanne Craig noted a whistleblower suit filed by former teammate Floyd Landis claims that former U.S. Postal Service team Owner Thomas Weisel "engaged in a systematic program of doping." Weisel in his first public comments on the matter said, "I did not know until very recently that Lance Armstrong had engaged in doping while riding for the team. Any allegation that I was aware of or condoned or supported doping by any team rider is false" (NYTIMES.com, 1/17). USADA has asked Armstrong to testify under oath. USADA CEO Travis Tygart said, "His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction. But if he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities" (REUTERS, 1/18). SI.com's Michael McCann notes the "legal implications of Armstrong's comments to Winfrey are extensive" (SI.com, 1/18). Sponsors could sue Armstrong to try to get back endorsement fees. IEG Senior VP/Editorial Dir Jim Andrews said, "No mainstream brand with any credibility is going to want to associate with (Armstrong) at this point. The only exception might be a company on the fringe looking to generate some crazy publicity" (ADAGE.com, 1/17).  
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