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For those that paid the price, an Armstrong apology will never be enough

  • By Neal Rogers
  • Published Jan. 17, 2013
  • Updated 21 hours ago
Lance Armstrong's character attacks have been as ruthless as his Alpine blitzes, but like his seven stripped Tour titles, he is losing status in the arena of public opinion. Photo: Franck Fife | AFP

BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — On Thursday evening, after years of vigorous denials, Lance Armstrong will deliver a televised confession to doping throughout his storied career, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that was recorded over two-and-a-half hours on Monday in Armstrong’s hometown of Austin, Texas.

An apology (of sorts) is also expected, though several reports, always citing unnamed sources, have speculated that, at least on Winfrey’s show, an Armstrong apology won’t be tied to any specific individuals or events.

Instead, Armstrong took to the phones this week, reaching out to several of his longtime critics and adversaries; he also stopped by the Austin office of the Livestrong Foundation on Monday, prior to his interview with Winfrey, to apologize — not for lying, but for any “stress” he had caused the organization’s employees.

Yet to those who were once close to Armstrong but refused to cover his lies, and to those that suffered from exposing his secret, an apology of any sort, televised or personally addressed, is likely to fall on deaf ears.

On Wednesday, Betsy Andreu, wife of Armstrong’s longtime teammate and former friend Frankie Andreu, declined to comment on whether or not she had heard from Armstrong this week, in the wake of his reckoning, saying only, “Even something as simple as saying ‘I’m sorry’ can go a long way. Although if he’s reaching out to people now, well, it should have been long before he was doing a TV program.”

Irish journalist David Walsh, Armstrong’s longest-running naysayer — whose employer settled an Armstrong defamation lawsuit in 2006 and is now seeking to reclaim that money — wrote on Twitter Tuesday that he had not heard from the disgraced former world champion.

“[Armstrong] did not contact me,” Walsh wrote. “Perhaps there are lengths to which he will not go. Perhaps he’s mindful of [The Sunday Times’] lawsuit and aim to recoup money… Those who wonder if I’m disappointed [Armstrong] didn’t contact me, please don’t. It’s not something I want and definitely not something I need.”

Questions surround Armstrong’s decision to confess now — following his lifetime ban, lost endorsements, stripped results and ruined reputation — just as questions swirl around the sincerity of any apology for his iron-fisted, tyrannical treatment of detractors, which disrupted lives and ruined careers.

For the moment, this much is certain: What Armstrong will confess on Winfrey’s show will validate Walsh’s years of brave reporting, as well as claims made under oath by those such as Betsy Andreu and Mike Anderson, Armstrong’s former friend and personal bike mechanic. And Armstrong’s confessions will directly contradict statements he made under oath about his doping in separate litigation matters that involved both Anderson and Andreu.

In addition to facing the court of public opinion, Armstrong could also be forced to answer in courts of law. His admission will likely see him hemorrhaging much of the personal wealth he amassed over the past 15 years, via both civil lawsuits filed by SCA Promotions and The Sunday Times, as well as the federal whistleblower lawsuit filed by another former friend and teammate, Floyd Landis, which may soon be backed by the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s possible Armstrong could face criminal charges, for fraud, over millions of dollars of public sponsorship, and for perjury, after his denials under oath.

However, whether any of that will amount to justice to those who suffered from years of Armstrong’s lying, bullying, and intimidation, is unlikely.

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Neal Rogers

Neal Rogers

Neal Rogers is editor in chief of Velo magazine and VeloNews.com. An interest in all things rock 'n' roll led him into music journalism while attending UC Santa Cruz, on the central coast of California. After several post-grad years spent waiting tables, surfing, and mountain biking, he moved to San Francisco, working as a bike messenger, and at a software startup. He moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 2001, taking an editorial internship at VeloNews. He never left. When not traveling the world covering races, he can be found riding his bike, skiing, or attending a concert.

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