Lance Armstrong OWNed Oprah

I was all ready to get back to talking about wine today in some incoherent way, I really was. Last night, however, was the airing of the Oprah Winfrey ‘interview’ of Lance Armstrong on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). As soon as I learned that Oprah was conducting the interview, I knew it was not going to be as far-reaching as I would hope, but I had no idea that I would be as disappointed as I am. I did crack open a nice 2007 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir for the show, so the night was not a total loss, but there were several areas of disappointment:


We did not learn anything new—I feel like I could have handled both sides of the ‘interview’ by myself. I pretty much knew what Lance was going to say, and I knew Oprah would ask some pretty lame questions, never following up on the inevitable holes in the story. What I don’t know is how he was able to get away with it for seven straight years while others were getting nailed right and left (of the 14 riders that finished second and third in his seven tour wins, all but one has been busted or implicated in doping). That question is pretty much the start and end of what I want to know and Oprah came nowhere close to getting into it.

‘No holds barred’—What a complete load of crap this was.  While I never expected a hard-driving Oprah with a list of tough questions, she did bill the show as ’no holds barred’ so I guess I expected just that. She should have said: “No holds barred except talking about anything you don’t really feel like talking about, of course, Lancey-poo (like any other people or what you said on your death bed back in ’96).” I understand that he does not want to answer certain questions for legal reasons, but you at least have to ask the question and make him refuse to answer. Then you say: ’I guess we just ‘barred’ another ‘hold’, eh?’ I mean come on, the guy was said to have run the most extensive doping rings in the history of professional sports and all you ask him is what drugs he used? That’s like asking Marco Polo on his return from exploration, to only see his maps.

Oprah was horrible—About ten minutes into the interview, I realized I should have been counting the number of times she used the word ‘feel’ or ‘feelings’. It had to be way over 100. I know Oprah has made her billions by playing off of feelings, but come on. Did she really think that anybody but the most loyal of Lance’s minions gave a crap about how Lance ‘feels’? I sure as heck don’t. What use is asking a question when you don’t care about the answer? Have some ‘journalistic integrity’ while you are counting your calories billions, Opie.

Oprah did not do her homework—At one point, Oprah asked if he was supplied ‘pills’. Pills? Pills? Perhaps I am showing my ignorance here, but these guys don’t use pills! Pills take far too long to get into your system and likely stay there far too long (pills? come on!). It also was fairly clear that she had little to know clue about how cyclists dope (or even what ‘doping’ means for that matter). I was also shocked that there were no questions about Greg Lemond. Lance basically tried to ruin the guy for mentioning that the emperor had no clothes and the guy is financially much worse off thanks solely to the influence of good old Lance. But not a word. [Holding out hope it will come up tonight.]

Lance is one smart, calculating douche that still does not get it—I think there are very few people that would not agree that Lance is a smart guy–especially in a calculating, long term strategy kind of way. Lance was smart in choosing Oprah since he knew that he could manipulate the whole process (I assume he knew that Oprah would not do her homework and that she would ask the lamest questions imaginable). He used this as his ‘Coming to Jesus’ type of moment–admit your sins, say you’re not perfect over and over, wish you could have done things differently, hint that everybody was doing it (but provide no proof for why you feel that way), blah, blah, blah and all the while appear sincere and contrite. Brilliant. If anybody was fooled by it, that is. It was abundantly clear that he still did not get it, though, when he shared the ‘joke’ about Betsy Andreu: “She said I called her ‘a crazy fat lying bitch’ and I said to her ‘I never called you fat!'” He tried to explain this twice to Oprah, who still did not understand that he was trying to inject a little humor into the conversation. What an awkward, pointless exchange about a conversation that he refused to talk about (another hold barred).

Commercials–Clearly this was just a huge money-making attempt by Oprah and by the sheer number and frequency of the advertisements, she was looking to maximize those Benjamins. How much did Lance make out of this? Don’t tell me “nothing” since I won’t believe you for a second.

‘Follow the money’In ‘All the President’s Men’ Deep Throat famously told Woodward (or was it Bernstein?) to “Follow the Money” and that is exactly what should be going on here. Sure, Lance was becoming rich. Very rich. But that is but a drop in the bucket. There were a lot of people making a sh*tload of money off of Lance winning those Tours. With the increased exposure and interest in cycling in the US a huge untapped (and wealthy) market was suddenly wide open. ESPN started showing 6-10 hours of coverage every day (as opposed to about an hour a week during Lemond’s wins a decade earlier). They were giving someone a boatload of cash for that (and then making more for themselves). The number of Americans that were now traveling to France to watch the Tour (and spending more cash along the way) had to make the French government happy. That does not even begin to scratch the surface. There were all the sponsors: Trek, Nike, Oakley, etc. They were all very interested to see Lance continue to win, no doubt. I have not even mentioned Livestrong (there are two Livestrongs, by the way–one is a ‘charity’ for ‘cancer awareness’ [research isa very small part of the operation] and the other is for profit organization [yup, they are/were making boatloads of cash, too]). Look folks, if you think this all begins and ends with Lance, you are sorely mistaken.

Will I watch Part 2 tonight? Sure, but I certainly don’t expect to ‘learn’ anything that I don’t already pretty much know. The only real question is how good of a bottle of Pinot to I pull?

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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34 Responses to Lance Armstrong OWNed Oprah

  1. talkavino says:

    Perfect write-up, Jeff. I have to definitely admit that I’m as far away from the cycling world as someone can only be, so after reading your post and hearing about “they all doing it”, may be all those “performance enhancing” things should be made legal in cycling? Well, just a dumb thought…
    By the way, when you will post about Part 2 tonight, can you add the same comments to the picture as during the presidential debate – I was trying to figure out if I’m looking at your left foot or right foot, and was not entirely sure…


    • There has been talk about just making everything legal, but in my opinion since the sport is truly international you would need the agreement of so many different governments that it becomes impossible (particularly since French law enforcement has been largely at the forefront of investigations). I will be sure and annotate any photos from tonight….


  2. JohnnyD says:

    Good post, very much agree. Unfortunately, I fell asleep after “yes”, “yes”, and “yes”. Good point about all the other organizations, corporations, and individuals making money off the “Lance deal” whom all knew from the very beginning what was going on. This whole piece of news is not really about Lance, it’s really a lesson about what happens in a culture of “win at all costs” which is endemic in many areas of our American culture. I’m going to try to awake for episode #2 tonight. Perhaps I should try taking a nap this afternoon…


  3. Didn’t see it, only brief snippets this morning. I had really low expectations in terms of what was going to get answered. I was thinking it would be a lot like Nathan Thurm, Martin Short’s hilarious corporate lawyer on SNL who would get super defensive on every question, not answer anything, and attack the questioner. I think from a layperson’s perspective, these were major confessions and Oprah won big. Remember, most people only know the following about Lance – he bikes, he dated Sheryl Crow, he beat cancer, he had those little yellow bracelets. I’m probably in that group, so it’s great to hear your perspective.

    The one thing I’d like to hear, even if it’s all about feelings, is asking him what he thinks about all those peoples lives/careers he ruined. He won’t answer, but would love to see him confronted with it


    • He certainly has trampled quite a few. I know for a fact that some of the statements he made last night were at best half-truths so I doubt he really gives a crap about those he has squashed (unless they have a case against him–then he will try and appear truly repentant).


  4. Stefano says:

    Very good, well-written and “feisty” post, Jeff.
    I have not watched the show, but you really conveyed a vivid image of what it must have looked like and I loved reading about your “behind the scene” comments that added color to the story.
    Sorry you were disappointed – at least you had some nice Pinot Noir by your side!


    • Yeah, I am the first to admit that I was a big Lance fan when he started winning his tours. I then became pretty good friends with a former teammate of his who started telling me some of the stories of who he really was. Even though I jumped off the Lance bandwagon several years ago, I was still holding out hope….


  5. ALO2071 says:

    Excellent write-up! You’ll need a really good Pinot for tonight’s “episode”!


  6. PSsquared says:

    I had to record it, and will watch some of it tonight. I’m not normally very cynical, but I almost think Lance and Oprah made a deal that benefitted both of them. Her network is floundering, so a ‘get’ like this interview will help her tremendously. I can see her offering to go easy on him, in return for the interview. Maybe not. But for her to be that in the dark? That’s not the style of someone who built a multi-billion dollar business.


  7. curtisbuck says:

    You absolutely nailed it…follow the money. The business of sports is massive…and international sports…wow. That is what I really want to learn about, who paid whom, how much, how, who all was in on it, etc.


  8. Pinot is a nice accompaniment to most media circuses I find. Cheers!


  9. I must’ve missed the “sincere and contrite” part, he seemed anything but. He spoke in third person or passive voice when the topic was the people he’d fucked over. What a twisted dude.

    He wouldn’t, couldn’t, have gone on air with anyone who would’ve, could’ve asked the hard questions. Of COURSE it’s about the money, and the fame and egoism. For both of them.


  10. Ezra says:

    Watching round II right now, not sure what to expect, but I’ve popped a bottle to make sure it all goes down smooth. So far, you’re right this all a bunch of bulls**t, and I just don’t even know what to think about this whole thing anymore.


  11. Irene says:

    Great summary of the interview. I had the interview on in the background because it was not intriguing enough to have my full attention. I was expecting more from him, more apologetic, but surely disappointed. But the 2nd part of the interview showed a bit of his emotion, which he lacks as a human being, seemed a bit more sincere. As Oprah quoted, “The truth will set you free”. I hope he will learn his lesson and be a better person for his kids, who might still look up to him.


  12. I didn’t bother watching it because I was just plain disgusted by him for doing the interview in the first place. I figured he was only confessing so he could get back into competing somehow and not because he was actually sorry! I know he wants to stay in the triathlon scene and is hoping that this confession exonerates him from his ban – I hope it doesn’t for all sides.
    I used to be a competitive Olympic weightlifter in a former life and drugs and doping were pretty common. It drove me crazy because I stayed ‘clean’ and then was beaten by women who I knew for a fact were on drugs but had been able to avoid being caught, so I have no sympathy for anyone who does get caught – in fact I will laugh at them. Suck it up and serve the time princess!
    I will get off my high horse now, sorry!


  13. It was Woodward, so you are on the mark with everything you said. The show was lame. Oprah lost any journalist skills she may have ever had, and functions more like a middle-school councelor in these interviews. Lance is such a disapointment. How was the wine?


  14. Jeanette says:

    You might enjoy this post: I’m also very irritated by the whole nonsense “confession”. Thankfully, Obrah’s interview wasn’t broadcasted in West Africa (as far as I know) 🙂


  15. Ron Scubadiver says:

    The news media agrees with you. I can’t be too hard on Lance because he is from Texas and for what he has done to fight cancer.


  16. Pingback: Lance and Oprah Part 2–Thank goodness it was 30 minutes shorter. | the drunken cyclist

  17. runcolbyrun says:

    Spot on. Thank you for writing the post I was too disgusted and irritated to write. And ps…the wine sounds fabulous! 🙂


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