Any child knows how a small deceit can compound quickly into a huge lie.
As an up and coming cyclist in the 1990s, when the banned drug EPO was undetectable and widely used, Lance Armstrong eventually would have been asked if he was riding clean. A simple denial to that unknown journalist would have sufficed – that first time.
But over the years, as his career took off and the shadow of allegations darkened, his denials became ever more vociferous.
He was vehement. He insisted under oath he had never doped. He attacked his critics as liars, people who were jealous or vindictive or unhinged. He sued for libel. He touted a grossly inflated number of drug tests he had supposedly taken and ignored allegations some had come up positive. And he used his cancer history and advocacy as a shield, as a crutch to buttress his supposed honesty.
As his interview with Oprah, scheduled to run Thursday and Friday evening, approaches, here are some of the statements that he may be required to explain:
Presentation with Bob Schieffer, Aspen Ideas Festival, 2007
“You have to ask the question, why do we fight doping? Do we fight doping to catch cheaters or do we fight doping, you know, to prevent health problems for the athletes. And I think that both are the right answer. But hopefully, you know. You have to educate the athletes, especially the younger ones, that, listen, you know, 10 years of steroid abuse is just not good for you. I mean, there are examples out there of what that does to you. My case, I mean, I came out of a life-threatening disease, I was on my death-bed. Do you think I’m going to come back into a sport and say ‘okay, okay doctor, give me everything you got, I just want to go fast.’ No way. Would never do that.”
Sworn testimony in a 2005 legal fight over performance bonuses
-“How many times do I have to say it?” Mr. Armstrong asked lawyer Jeff Tillotson. “… It can’t be any clearer than ‘I’ve never taken drugs’.”
- “If you test positive, it goes without saying that you’re fired, from all of the contracts. Not just the team, but there’s numerous contracts that I have. It would all go away … all of it,” Mr. Armstrong said in another exchange with Mr. Tillotson. “And, the faith of all the cancer survivors around the world. So everything I do off of the bike would go away too. And don’t think for a second I don’t understand that. It’s not about money for me, everything, it’s also about the faith that people have put in me over the years. So all of that would be erased. So I don’t need it to say in a contract ‘you’re fired if you test positive.’ That’s not as important as losing the support of hundreds of millions of people.”
CNN interview with Larry King, 2005
"I have never doped. I can say it again, but I’ve said it for seven years, it doesn’t help. But the fact of the matter is I haven’t."
Nike ad, 2001
“Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass, six hours a day. What are you on?”
Statement conceding his fight with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, August, 2012
- “Regardless of what [USADA head] Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colors.”
- “I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours.”
Finish line speech after winning 7 Tour de France, 2005
“And finally the last thing I’ll say for the people who don’t believe in cycling. The cynics, the skeptics. I’m sorry for you, I’m sorry that you can’t dream big, and I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.”