With no self-understanding, Lance Armstrong tries to talk his way out of something he’s behaved himself into

Armstrong videos on Oprah
I wasn’t able to watch Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey but I’ve read enough and watched those video clips. This analysis piece in today’s NY Times, Amid Tears, Armstrong Leaves Unanswered Questions, does a good job of summing up the problems with it:

He personally chose Winfrey for his big reveal, and it went predictably. Winfrey allowed him to share his thoughts and elicited emotions from him, but she consistently failed to ask critical follow-up questions that would have addressed the most vexing aspects of Armstrong’s deception.

She did not press him on who helped him dope or cover up his drug use for more than a decade. Nor did she ask him why he chose to take banned performance-enhancing substances even after cancer had threatened his life…

At times, Winfrey’s interview seemed more like a therapy session than an inquisition, with Armstrong admitting that he was narcissistic and had been in therapy — and that he should be in therapy regularly because his life was so complicated.

I wasn’t so bothered by her lack of critical follow-up questions on who helped him. She’s not an investigative journalist like Mike Wallace. But she wasn’t a very good talk-show interviewer either, and certainly not a good therapist.

It’s clear to me that Armstrong doesn’t have much self-understanding.  He’ll need that if his verbal apologies are going to mean anything. You can’t just apologize and say admit to being a ruthless bully and jerk.  You have to be willing to reveal the mistaken thinking that led to your behavior.

He also needs to make amends to those he harmed (see #8 of the AA’s Twelve Steps). I first heard the phrase “You can’t talk your way out of something you’ve behaved yourself into” from a recovering alcoholic who was speaking about Step 8. It’s pretty clear to me that so far, Armstrong is hoping that admission of guilt and a little show of emotion will be enough.


  1. Curt Benson said:

    Griff, you may find this of interest. When Arthur Caplan was at the U of MN, he was a frequent guest on MPR, speaking about ethical matters. He’s since gone on to Penn and NYU. Back in August, Caplan wrote a column “Pillorying Armstrong complete nonsense”.


    Now that Armstrong’s been Oprahcized, Caplan has began pillorying Armstrong:


    January 20, 2013
  2. john george said:

    Does Armsrrong perhaps hope that his cycling career can be re-cycled?

    January 20, 2013
  3. David Henson said:

    John, I never tire of your puns

    January 20, 2013
  4. Bill Metz said:

    This is my only comment on LA anywhere…I thought one thing he said that was particularly revealing was that after saying that he thinks one of the reasons the lies blew up in his face was due to his comeback in 2009, Oprah asked ‘if he could do it over would he have made a comeback?’ Lance said and I paraphrase… Yes, we wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t…
    In otherwords, he would have continued the lies so long as he was not busted.

    Kinda says it all.

    January 21, 2013
  5. I dunno, I think sometimes they’re just retreads, which kind of throws a spoke in the wheel.

    January 21, 2013
  6. john george said:

    Peter- Perhaps that claim is inflated!

    January 21, 2013
  7. Bright Spencer said:

    there seemed to be a chain of people who were aware and participated in the doping besides lance and his group, armstrong indicated that people who ran the governing body of racers also condoned and promoted the use of drugs, it’s like what many people in the entertainment field do to garner public interest for the drama; the faster speeds and the eventual rise and fall of the players. why do we act so surprised that anyone would do this when this is what our greedy appetites demand?

    January 21, 2013
  8. Andy Kornkven said:

    Not to defend Armstrong, but….

    …what if it was the case that in the 90s when he became a professional, doping was prevalent among all pro cyclists, and in fact absolutely necessary for one to be able to compete? In other words, to use the phrase used by so many teenagers, what if everyone else was doing it?

    Let’s say that Lance would have been the best in the business without doping, but only in an environment where everyone else was being equally honest– an environment which perhaps didn’t exist. Lance would have then had the choice: quietly exit the sport he was born for, or play the same cynical game as everyone else.

    I think for certain sports, like NFL football, some use of performance enhancing drugs is practically necessary for success. It is in that light that we have to judge those like Armstrong who chose to do the wrong thing.

    January 23, 2013
  9. kiffi summa said:

    Your quote: ” In other words, to use the phrase used by so many teenagers, what if everyone else was doing it?”

    So that’s an OK excuse ???
    I don’t think so…..

    January 23, 2013
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    Andy, yeah, I used to think the same. But once it became clear that Armstrong was the one to orchestrate the doping on his team, using a variety of intimidation tactics to get others to comply, that makes a big difference, don’t you think?

    January 23, 2013

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