Sport Lance Armstrong documentary on ESPN ends with moral contrast to his son, martyr-like speech

06:50  01 june  2020
06:50  01 june  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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Or he goes to his son ’s college football game and gives a meandering, lost motivational speech that It’s in moments like those, or like his flashing, bitter anger at the whistleblower who brought his world Production: ( Documentary ) An ESPN Films release and presentation of a DLP Media Group

ESPN ’s acclaimed documentary series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls attracted 5.6 The answer is a two-part film on Lance Armstrong , which might be even more captivating in at least one Entitled “ LANCE ,” the new film about his life will air the next two Sundays in the same prime-time

The son of Lance Armstrong apparently has developed a different moral viewpoint than his father about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

Lance Armstrong wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Lance Armstrong’s rise was as dramatic as his fall. © ESPN Lance Armstrong’s rise was as dramatic as his fall.

In the new ESPN film about the disgraced cyclist, Luke Armstrong is asked if he’d consider using such illicit drugs, much like his dad did to boost himself in races. Luke Armstrong currently is a college football player at Rice University in Houston.

“I’ve always felt like grinding for something, and really working for a specific goal has always been so much more worth it than taking the shortcut,” Luke Armstrong said in Part 2 of the film, which aired Sunday night. “I also feel that, like, If I ever did that and got caught, for random people, they would be like, `He’s just like his dad.’”

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His father then is asked by Marina Zenovich, the film’s director, how he would feel if his son wanted to dope. He says it would be a “bad idea” in college but suggests his mind could change if his son made it to the NFL, even though such substances are banned in that league. The NFL regularly tests its players for such drugs and suspends them if caught.

“It might be a different conversation if you’re in the NFL,” Lance said he’d tell his son. “But at this point in life, in your career, not worth it.”

The sequence demonstrates how the film uses the words of Armstrong, his family and others to show who he is in a character study of one of the most controversial athletes of the past 20 years. After Part 1 last week focused on Armstrong’s rise to fame, Part 2 of the two-part film largely focused on the dismantling of his empire of lies.

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Here are a few other takeaways from Part 2 of the film, which originally was scheduled to air in the fall but was moved up to help ESPN fill the sports void during the COVID-19 pandemic:

No apology tour stop for Landis

In January 2013, Lance Armstrong made a big public show about how he owed certain people apologies after he bullied them and cast aspersions on them for trying to tell the truth about his doping. This came during his television interview with Oprah Winfrey, when he finally confessed to doping after years of lying about it. He named a list of people, including his former teammate Floyd Landis.

"I owe them apologies, and whenever they’re ready I will give them," Armstrong told Winfrey then. 

More than seven years later, Armstrong hasn’t apologized to Landis. In the film, he mocks him as badly as he did during the height of their feud.

“Could be worse,” Armstrong says in the film. “I could be Floyd Landis… waking up a piece of (expletive) every day.”

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Zenovich then asks him if that’s what he thinks.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s what I know,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think it. I know it.”

From there, the film moves to an interview with Landis in Leadville, Colorado.

“I hope he’s changed, and I hope he finds some peace,” Landis says of Armstrong. “I don’t know why people can’t move on, but here we are.”

Their conflict goes back more than 10 years and includes the bombshell in 2010 when Landis himself confessed to doping and said Armstrong was guilty of it as well. That same year, Landis also filed a federal fraud lawsuit against Armstrong that was settled in 2018, with Armstrong owing $6.65 million to Landis, his attorneys and the U.S. government.

Martyr-like speech

Armstrong portrays himself as a victim of sorts near the end of the film when he suggests that he and two other cyclists paid far more for their sins than others even though doping was rampant in the sport. 

He essentially compares himself to 1998 Tour de France winner Marco Pantani, the Italian who was dogged by doping allegations before dying of a cocaine overdose in 2004. He also sympathizes with 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich, who confessed to doping and later was admitted to a psychiatric hospital amid personal problems.

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By comparison, others such as Ivan Basso, an Italian rider, and George Hincapie, Armstrong’s American teammate, did not suffer such harsh public downfalls after serving doping suspensions.

In Italy, Armstrong said Basso is “no different than any of us, yet they disgraced Marco Pantani. They destroy him in the press. They kick him out of the sport, and he’s dead. He’s (expletive) dead.”

Armstrong also said, “The country of America idolizes, worships, glorifies George Hincapie, invites him to races, gives him jobs, buys his (expletive). And they disgrace and destroy me.”

He called it “(expletive) bull (expletive).”

Armstrong is excluding the fact that none of these other cyclists were nearly as big of a star as he was and therefore didn't endure nearly as steep of a downfall. Other factors also put Armstrong in a class by himself among dopers:

► Unlike Armstrong, other dopers didn’t bully or sue those who dared to tell or seek the truth.

► Armstrong benefited from having friends in high places who had incentive to protect him for the sake of the sport, unlike cyclists with lower profiles.

►U.S Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart also told USA TODAY in 2012 that Armstrong might have been able to retain five of his seven Tour de France titles if he had cooperated with USADA'S investigation then, as other cyclists did. Armstrong fought USADA instead and says in the film he "wouldn't change a thing" about that.

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'Thousands of babies born'

The film makes the case that Armstrong’s advocacy for fellow cancer survivors can be separated from his misdeeds while also showing that he used cancer as a “shield” to falsely deny his doping. After surviving testicular cancer and brain surgery, Armstrong won the Tour de France seven straight times from 1999 to 2005 – titles that were stripped in 2012. Armstrong previously has said he doesn’t know if his doping caused his cancer.

His impact on cancer “doesn’t excuse the doping,” cancer survivor Lindsay Beck says in the film. “Equally as important, doping doesn’t erase his impact on the world of cancer. And I feel like everyone wants to flump them together and throw them all out, because everyone wants it to be black and white. The truth is, it’s gray. I truly believe if you were diagnosed with cancer in America today, your experience is better than it was pre-Lance.”

Livestrong, the charity Armstrong founded, has helped cancer survivors preserve their fertility by providing them with resources and support when they were at risk of losing it. Though Armstrong was ousted from Livestrong amid scandal in 2012, Beck said he helped remove the stigma of being a young adult with cancer and made the fertility risks of cancer patients less of a taboo subject by speaking up about it.

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“There have been thousands of babies born, because of Lance and Livestrong’s work around cancer survivorship,” she said.

Pulling the levers of power

When the doping cops were in hot pursuit of Armstrong in 2012, Armstrong went to great lengths to save his reputation. He even tried to get the people in charge of the doping cops – Congress – to call off the dogs.

In the film, political advisor Mark McKinnon said Armstrong also wanted to enlist the help of the late Sen. John McCain.

“When things started closing in on him, he wanted me to call John McCain,” said McKinnon, a former Livestrong board member who worked with McCain and former President George W. Bush. “Lance asking McCain to do something knowing that he was actually guilty? Yikes. I’m so glad I didn’t.”

McKinnon said he never would have lived that down if McCain had been drawn into the muck of concealing Armstrong’s misconduct.

By contrast, Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner did go to bat for Armstrong against USADA in summer 2012. He wrote a letter to the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy saying USADA seeks to “strip Armstrong of his achievements and the substantial winnings that accompanied them without offering him even basic due process."

He asserted that USADA's authority over Armstrong "is strained at best." Not long after that, USADA did strip Armstrong of his titles in the Tour de France and released a huge file of evidence against him. Armstrong then confessed to doping in January 2013.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: bschrotenb@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lance Armstrong documentary on ESPN ends with moral contrast to his son, martyr-like speech

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