Every time Lance said ‘yes’
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Armstrong's performance on Oprah's show was hamfisted. But public capacity to forgive celebrities is enormous
Lance Armstrong said "yes."
It still hurt, seeing him say it. I've been a Tour de France fan since I was a young child — which was unusual for a kid from Southern California with no way of seeing the spectacle on television — and I've followed it very closely since then.
And like other serious cycling fans, I've long known about the accusations against Armstrong. Not only that he doped, but that he retaliated against anyone who questioned his version of the truth with lawsuits and intimidation.
I knew he was a bully, but I still couldn't help feeling grateful that because he was winning, American fans of the Tour finally, beginning in 2001, got to see the race we love broadcast live.
I wanted to believe in Lance's story, that after surviving cancer he had cleanly won seven Tours while dopers all around him were being caught out. The forcefulness of his denials made me want to believe him. And even as the more recent investigations of him grew in credibility, I couldn't help wanting Lance to demolish them like he was riding away from a competitor up the side of a mountain.
But he didn't. He gave up, saying he was no longer going to fight the accusations, and went on
Oprah Winfrey's OWN network to admit that he'd doped during all seven of his Tour victories. And every time Oprah asked him about another allegation, and he said, "yes", it sunk into me like a knife.
My reaction actually surprised me. After all this time, having known for years, on an intellectual level, that the accusations against Armstrong were too substantial to dismiss, apparently I still had some emotional investment in the man.