Lance Armstrong has finally admitted to being a cheater.
And in a lengthy television interview that aired Thursday and Friday nights, he also told Oprah Winfrey how he rationalized using blood doping and performance enhancing drugs to help him win the Tour de France — bicycling’s most prestigious prize — seven times:
“The definition of cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe that they don’t have. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”
But regardless of how much of an edge Mr. Armstrong did or didn’t gain on his rivals in cycling, long rife with blood doping and PEDs, his scorched-earth attacks on the reputations of honest people — some of them former employees — were not made on “a level playing field.”
He routinely bolstered his vehement denials of cheating with lawsuits against and character assassinations of those who dared to tell the truth about him.
Mr. Armstrong conceded to Ms. Winfrey that he had “bullied” many of his honest accusers: “Territory being threatened, team being threatened, reputation being threatened, I’m going to attack.”
He added that he is trying to make amends to those he hurt: “I have started that process to speak to those people directly.”
Yet in the case of Mr. Armstrong, as in the case of so many others before him, you have to wonder if he’s really sorry for the wrong he did or merely sorry that he got caught.
Three months ago, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, citing the abundant evidence against him, stripped him of his Tour de France titles. Also in October, the World Anti-Doping Agency erased his results from every event it sanctions.
Adding to the depressing nature of this story: The Livestrong Foundation created by Mr. Armstrong, who is himself a cancer survivor, will suffer from the association despite the fact that it has helped many people cope with that dread disease.
Mr. Armstrong, realizing his disgrace, resigned from its board in November.
Now, though, he faces the financial challenge of paying back the millions he reaped while cheating. For instance, the U.S. Postal Service paid roughly $30 million to be his cycling team’s title sponsor from 2001-05.
And with the U.S. Justice Department reportedly primed to take legal action against him, Mr. Armstrong should soon find out what it’s like to be in a court fight without a major competitive advantage.
Three familiar morals from this troubling story:
Just because other people cheat doesn’t mean you should.
Just because you do some good things doesn’t excuse you for doing a lot of bad things.
And pick on someone your own size.