Until now, I’ve resisted writing anything about Lance Armstrong. As the scandal unfolded, I thought — everyone knows this guy is a douchebag, right? Has anyone ever thought he was anything BUT a douchebag? Even if you believed his narrative, that he overcame cancer to win seven Tour de France titles — you had to be struck by his sheer arrogant douchebaggery. Cheating on his wife, dumping Sheryl Crow because she was past her sell by date, selling dopey yellow bracelets. I don’t know, the guy didn’t inspire any great outrage in me, other than gee he’s an ass, probably because I don’t follow international cycling or the Austin, Texas celebrity circuit.
The part of the story I did follow, that disgusted me greatly, was Floyd Landis. I used to live in Lancaster County, Pa. and Landis was the local hero. His folks are traditional Mennonites, plain religious people. It’s a tight community and when Landis was disgraced for doping, he wrote a book and began flogging it around the county to protest his innocence. His parents and their church held legal fundraisers for him. I felt so sorry for them. It seemed obvious the guy was a charlatan, preying on their kind-heartedness. Then several years later, Landis sold them all out and admitted to the doping and fingered Armstrong. For which Landis was lauded as a whistleblower. I still think of him as a super creep.
Well apparently, Landis learned at the feet of a master manipulator — Lance Armstrong. Watching that Oprah interview did anyone have any doubt that the guy is a sociopath? I’ve met ice cube trays with more humanity. The passive voice, the non-apology apologies, the arrogant yeah-whatever-ishness when asked about his victims. I started making a venn diagram of Lance Armstrong utterances and Stupid Shit Cheaters Say — so much overlap! How is Lance Armstrong just like your run of the mill cheater?
1. He admits it, but only after the truth is already out. Just like a cheater who cops to what you have evidence of, Armstrong only now comes “clean” after he’s lost everything, his titles have been stripped, and an enormous report has cataloged his crimes. You have the sense that he’s not admitting to anything so much as he’s trying to polish the narrative and win a new game at impression management.
2. His “remorse” is anything but. The hallmark of the sociopath — the non-remorse remorse. The dead fish eyes, the flat affect, how he refers to his victims with the sort of abstraction reserved for algebraic equations — nothing about his performance is convincing. Including the obvious lack of regret, that he hasn’t DONE anything to show he’s sorry. As we say here at Chump Lady, sorry is as sorry does. Has Armstrong given the money back? Is he going to work with investigators to tell them exactly how he perpetuated his fraud? Apparently not.
3. He’s fine with character assassination. Armstrong SUED his detractors! He bullied and threatened people who refused to perpetuate the myth. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
Reminded that he had not only sued team masseuse Emma O’Reilly but also called her a “whore” after she disclosed he had gotten a cortisone prescription backdated to explain away his improper use of the performance enhancer, Armstrong said, “She is one of the people that got run over and got bullied,” neglecting to point out that he was the one driving the steamroller.
Like a cheater who vilifies you after the divorce and alienates you from your kids, who tells people — no you’re the monster, you’re the cheater, they’re the victim — Armstrong excelled at playing the indignant soul who’s been hard done.
4. He wants you to feel sorry for him. “They are my mistakes, and I’m sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I’m sorry for that. The culture was what it was.” Well, if he cheated, it’s only because the culture drove him to it.
5. He chumped people because they wanted to believe. In the end, Armstrong was able to sucker so many people because he had a narrative they wanted to believe — he was a plucky cancer survivor who rose above the odds to win seven Tour de France titles. On the face of it, well, it seems pretty implausible. But hey, I wanted to believe my serial cheating husband was really sleeping in a car in Vermont in January and that’s why he wasn’t answering his phone. It’s a better narrative than… fuck, he’s a cheater.
Armstrong chumped a lot of people. I’m glad he’s gotten his comeuppance. When I think of Lance in years to come, I imagine a paunchy old man in yellow lycra doing ribbon cuttings for a new Sports Authority in Muncie, Indiana. Or him shoveling shit, cleaning the dairy stalls on the Landis family farm. Karma’s a bitch… and she’s out there waiting. Live strong, Lance.