After Lance Armstrong confessed to doping in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey on Thursday night, VeloNews caught up with Frankie Andreu on Friday morning to discuss his reactions to the much-anticipated confession by his former friend and teammate. Andreu also discussed what the admission meant for his wife, Betsy, who along with Andreu has played a pivotal role in the rise and fall of America’s most famous cyclist.
VeloNews: What was your reaction to the interview and Armstrong’s admission of doping during his seven Tour de France victories?
Frankie Andreu: I was shocked. It was a day I thought would never come. At the same time, extremely sad, you know, watching him. He admitted to cheating for all of his Tour victories and even before that. I’m not surprised at the doping — that was the culture. I was there; I knew how that was. But I was really surprised at the courage that it took for him to actually come out and just say, ‘Yes, I did this; yes, I did this,’ and took responsibility for it.
VN: Beyond Armstrong’s long-awaited admission of doping, what else struck you during the interview?
FA: Obviously Betsy was extremely upset that he did not come out and just say the hospital room happened [Armstrong has attacked Andreu in the press for years after she testified under oath that he had listed a number of performance enhancing drugs when doctors asked him about medications he was taking when he began his cancer treatment in 1996]. I would have liked that too. You know, put it out there publicly that we didn’t lie, that we didn’t make all this stuff up, that it happened. I think it’s a bit more complicated and there are some underlying reasons that I don’t really know why perhaps he couldn’t come out and say that.
But overall it’s a huge step. People are saying this is a little step and it’s not worth a whole lot, but for him to come forward and admit that he doped and admit to all this is a massive step. I mean, it’s something nobody ever thought would happen. And it’s incredible. And it took a lot of courage because people don’t understand. The first time you’ve got to talk about what you did in the past, how you cheated, how you lied, it’s hard, it’s really hard. And he’s got a ton to lose. I mean, he put it all out there on the line. I’ve got to give him respect for doing that.
Now, do I think he told the truth for everything throughout the interview? No. I think there are parts that he might have skipped over or he might not have told the whole truth. I even think there were parts that he was still lying about. But I think he’s receiving some criticism for not being more open and divulging more, but Oprah is not the forum for that, you know? I mean, he took responsibility and talked about himself, and I think that is what he should have done. I don’t think calling out names and specific instances on Oprah is the right way to do it. So you can talk about it being a small step, and the next step him conducting a meeting with the proper authorities to continue him speaking out, and bringing to light how he got away with everything and who helped him and how they were able to accomplish what he did.
It was a riveting interview, though. I thought Oprah did a great job. I’ll tell you, at the start my heart was racing a million miles an hour about what was going to happen. It’s crazy. My emotions were going up and down with what he was saying but also what he was going through with the questions. Those were some tough questions that he answered.
VN: Would those authorities you alluded to be the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and World Anti-Doping Agency?
FA: Yeah, or whoever else. The feds. I don’t know. Somebody. But for sure I would say USADA, who obviously was the one who investigated this and having Lance’s house crash down. They know a lot of information. If he cares for the sport, then yeah, he should definitely contact USADA and WADA, and that would be the correct forum for him to bring forward information that sheds a light on what happened in the past. Oprah’s not the right place to do that. And I don’t blame him for not mentioning names [on Oprah].
VN: Where, exactly, during the interview did you think that Armstrong was still lying?
FA: Well, the hospital room, one, because he didn’t admit to it. Secondly, I have a hard time believing that he didn’t have help from the UCI. I mean, he denies meeting with the laboratory when the guy from the lab said that they did meet. So it gets back into that lying mode of he said, she said. And it just seems weird to me that he had no involvement helping to shut down the federal investigation. Maybe it’s just a play on words, like maybe he himself personally didn’t have anything to do with it, but I would bet that his people and the extension of his people probably had something to do with trying to get that shut down. After reading that USADA report, it’s like everything that is in there — how could [the feds] not have moved forward? What in there didn’t raise red flags about him?
VN: What did the interview do for you in terms of your understanding of Armstrong and your relationship with him?
FA: Nothing. It doesn’t change anything. I mean, there were times when it was pretty emotional watching, for me watching what was going on there. There were times where I felt for him. Partly because I know how painful and hard it is to come out and talk about the past and what went on back then. Again, I think it took a lot of courage, and I think he took responsibility on himself, saying, ‘look, this is what I did.’ I respect that, but does it change anything between us? No. I’m not saying it won’t in the future, but it’s going to take a while.
VN: Your wife, Betsy, was in New York City appearing on “Anderson Cooper 360″ after the interview. What was that like for you?
FA: You know, it’s kind of still personal. Even for you watching, knowing the sport of cycling, compared to my wife, it’s so personal for her that she could watch that whole thing … You know, he took some responsibility and maybe some things were wishy-washy, but really, she was waiting for one thing. And the one thing that counted for her was being vindicated and having her credibility back and saying that that hospital room happened. And when that didn’t happen, obviously she wasn’t pleased about that.
I think it’s harder for both me and her to look at it from a bigger picture because it’s a different story for us, than, you know, just being about him doping and the Tour de France. There’s all the slander and cut-throat. He talked about bullying, and we went through all of that. We experienced it all.
VN: It must have been difficult seeing Betsy so upset on TV then.
FA: It was difficult. And we didn’t get a chance to talk at all. I didn’t talk to her at all last night. She can get emotional and get pinpoint-focused. This morning I had a chance to talk to her a little bit about the bigger picture. The guy came out about cheating and doping for his whole career. That’s a big step. I thought she did a great job. And her final sentence at the end was spot on, about Lance having a chance at redemption, to say the truth, but that he has to got to tell it to USADA and WADA. I think that was perfect.
This is a story for a lot people, but it hits home for her.
You know, he started out as a cool bike rider and a good friend, and as things evolved he became more and more powerful, more of an asshole, more of a bully and arrogant. You can say it spiraled out of control.
VN: Did you feel that he was being sincere?
FA: I’m not sure how sorry he is or sincere he is. But I’ll say this: When he called me before the interview, I hadn’t talked to Lance in a long time and the things he told me, which was an apology, that voice I heard on the other line was very sincere and was very apologetic and was a side of Lance that I thought was forever gone.
And so it was very surprising. We may not have seen that on Oprah, and I don’t know if it will come out later on, but I think you have to give it some time. This is the first time he talked about this. You talk to any of the other guys who talked to USADA, who talked to Travis [Tygart], about how they lied and cheated, it’s not easy. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do. And sometimes it does take baby steps where you can’t get the whole truth out at once because it’s too big. The other parts of the truth have to come out later on.
VN: How does this admission by Armstrong help move cycling forward, or does it?
FA: I think a truth and reconciliation committee would be a good thing. What people need to realize is that we’re talking about 15 years ago. The sport is different now. Pat McQuaid? I’m disappointed in him, with his comments after the Armstrong interview, about his comments and protecting the UCI and his own ass — he doesn’t even see the bigger picture. Anybody else who’s ever come out or gotten busted, usually Pat McQuaid ripped into them. Lance Armstrong comes out with the biggest admission in the entire history of the sport and McQuaid is like, ‘well, this is good because the UCI shows they weren’t involved in anything.’ It’s like he’s just worrying about his own house. He’s not worried about the sport. I’m just tired of this guy.
Lance’s admission was a first step. But there is more that can be done. It should not be over with now.