In the first of his two-part interview with Oprah, Lance Armstrong confessed to a lot of nasty things, from the obvious–that he took performance enhancing drugs, including EPOs and testosterone–to the emotional–that he was basically a controlling jerk, and that he bullied the people around him into lying and even doing drugs themselves. Most of the interview was surprisingly boring; he didn’t appear incredibly emotional (especially not by Oprah standards), and Oprah didn’t give away free cars, bikes, or steroids (joking, joking). But there was one part of the interview that kind of stopped me in my tracks: When he talked about Betsy Andreu, who he publicly attacked for accusing him of drug use back in 2007.
Oprah laid out the background pretty well, but in case you didn’t watch, we’ll summarize: Betsy, the wife of Lance’s former teammate, Frankie Andreu, testified in a court hearing in 2006 alongside her husband in 2006; both said they’d heard Armstrong tell his doctors that he had used EPO (Erythropoietin), growth hormone and steroids while he was in treatment for cancer. Their testimony was part of a litigation that was eventually settled in Armstrong’s favor, but when the court documents were released, both Frankie and Betsy Andreu stood by their statements, and later testified in the USADA investigation.
Throughout the process, Armstrong engaged in a smear campaign that was especially harsh against Betsy Andreu, attacking her character and even her looks. She also received threatening phone messages from Armstrong’s friends and associates, including one that said “I hope somebody breaks a baseball bat over your head.”
When Oprah questioned Armstrong about the Andreus, who he has apologized to since the USADA investigation, he mostly stayed mum about the details. When she prodded him about the extent of his bullying and harassment of Betsy, he made one exception: to explain, in his defense, that he’d never called her “fat.”
I think she’d be ok with me saying this… I called you crazy, I called you a bitch, but I never called you fat.
That might have been the craziest moment of the interview.
Oprah pressed on, bless her, and asked him about some of the other language he used to attack women who dared to claim that he was lying about drug use. She brought up Emma O’Reilly, the masseuse who tried to expose Armstrong’s doping in 2003, saying “you implied the hoar word.” When she asked how he felt, he awkwardly responded “ah, not good.”
“You were trying to put her down, or shut her up…?” Oprah pushed a little more. “I was just on the attack,” he said. “Territory being threatened, team being threatened, reputation being threatened, I’m gonna attack.”
Armstrong’s deadpan confessions, apologies, and remorse were all a little hard to believe, which he himself admitted would be the case. But his weird focus on clearing the record over whether he’d called a woman–who his friends all but threatened to physically injure–”fat” just shows how off-kilter his judgement was and probably still is.
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