Arrogant, angry, vindictive white men who lie and manipulate. There are far too many of those in the world.
Why did Lance Armstrong agree to do this documentary? Well, honestly the documentary started with his comeback in 2009 but evolved into a documentary about his lies.
Why did he agree to continue with the documentary when it turned into a movie about his deception on doping? I’m not sure except perhaps because of hubris. Perhaps due to the assumption that he could manipulate and control the story.
Lance won the Tour de France seven times each time he raced it from 1999 to 2005. During that entire time, he was dogged with doping allegations. He associated with a doctor who, in addition to advising on best practices for diet and training, was well-known as a doctor who helped athletes dope, either with performance-enhancing drugs or through performance-enhancing techniques (such as removing a pint of blood before a race and then reintroducing it during a race to boost the oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body).
However, none of the umpteen tests given to him by different anti-doping organizations turned up evidence of doping. Well, actually, they did detect traces of banned substances from time to time but with a wink and a nod an explanation for them was given, such as steroid cream use leading to a positive test.
Ultimately, it was in everyone’s interest that the doping continue. Armstrong brought interest to racing. This interest brought in money for all of the sponsors and companies connected with bicycling. The doctors, the drugs, the apparatus for doping—money was everywhere.
And everyone doped. It was an open secret in the bicycling world. Because everyone doped, to be able to compete on a level playing field, you had to dope too. Or at least this was what everyone told themselves.
Eventually this would be one of the reasons that Lance gave when he finally confessed to doping in 2013. But before then, before his 2013 interview with Oprah, he vehemently denied the allegations. Armstrong, as the documentary portrays, focused on winning at any cost. If that meant destroying others, such as former team members, who testified against him, then so be it. He destroyed friendships, relationships, and lives.
To confess was an impossibility. As he mentioned in an interview, if he doped, he would lose everything—his racing victories and career, his sponsorships, the cancer survivor empire that he created. The lie had to continue.
He managed to evade it all and retire in 2005 at the top of his game and with a solid reputation. Then he decided in 2009 to come back. Why? Maybe hubris. Perhaps he thought that everyone bought the lie so completely that he was safe. He would come back and win the race “clean”, showing everyone that their allegations that he had won before only due to drugs were false.
Only he didn’t win. And possibly he didn’t do it clean. He struggled through most of the race, only winning on the last mountain, which he never performed well on before. His blood samples showed a spike in red blood cells between the time before this mountain climb and the end of it. That should not have been the case.
Then lawsuits and investigations started. Armstrong, who used lawsuits against his accusers, was suddenly the object himself. A judge found in favor of the federal government’s $100 million lawsuit. (Lance raced as a member of the US Postal Service team from 1998 to 2005. The federal government would like to recoup some costs from the fraud that Armstrong perpetrated.) He is banned from participating in any sports that involve an anti-doping committee.
The Armstrong Lie is a strong documentary made with the full cooperation of Lance. Interviews with Lance and video of his racing fill the documentary. The documentary also contains interviews with others around Lance—former teammates, his convicted Italian doping doctor, team directors, and cycling industry people. The mythology of Armstrong as a cancer survivor who came back to dominant a sport was one that the public and others bought into. Even the producer of the documentary admits getting swept up into the story and struggling to maintain objectivity.
The lie is hard to take. The cycling enthusiasts and cancer survivors wanted to believe for so long that anything is possible. Eventually with the lawsuits, in 2013 Lance was forced to confess to the lies. But he didn’t fully admit to everything. He wouldn’t comment on a former teammate’s and wife’s recollection about a conversation in a hospital room during his battle with cancer—a conversation where Lance admitted to the doctor the list of performance-enhancing drugs he took. That conversation took place in 1996.
The story covered in the documentary is well-known. The documentary provides a good cohesive view of Armstrong’s career and lie with all of the gory details. What emerges is an image of an arrogant, angry, vindictive white man who lied and manipulated. There are far too many of those men in the world.