Friday, January 18, 2013

Why I'm Glad Lance Armstrong Was the One Who Won Those Tours

For those of you who didn't have a chance to see it, the first part of Oprah's Lance Armstrong interview was aired last night, in which Lance openly admitted to doping throughout the majority of his cycling career, including during each of his 7 Tour de France wins. Now, as neither a fan nor a foe of Lance himself, or of the sport of cycling, I like to think that I have a fairly objective viewpoint on the matter. These are my thoughts (for those of you who care).

Lance Armstrong did bad things, many, many times. That goes without question and Lance openly admitted this last night. He even went on the offensive at some points, accusing and even suing those who had come out and spoken the truth about Lance's actions. A lot of people feel very betrayed because of these actions and lies. And people have every right to feel this way. Lance deserves to feel that bitterness and hatred for a while.

However, the man showed genuine regret and remorse in the interview. He apologized (rightly) multiple times, admitted that he will spend his lifetime apologizing for his actions, and has even privately made steps to try to right his wrongs with those he specifically hurt. And I believed that he was genuine in all of this.

Now, obviously, things aren't just going to get better overnight for him. Like he said himself, this is something he'll deal with for the rest of his life. But this morning I heard on the radio several djs talking about the interview and how they still feel that everything he said was a load of crap. I completely disagree. As a person who studied nonverbal communication as part of my major in college, I was watching his every move last night, and I believe that he was telling the truth. Why would he lie at this point? Here's some of the nonverbal clues I picked up on:

- at the very beginning of the interview, he kept touching his lips and holding his chin with this hand. To me, this showed that he was feeling vulnerable and trying to hide himself a little bit. (Not an indication of lying or not, just an indication of his emotional status)

- When you watched the clips from the tapes in the past where he admitted he was lying, he raised his eyebrows a lot, and looked up and to the side a lot. This wasn't the case last night. Granted, he did raise his eyebrows a few times, but one isolated gesture doesn't mean much. It's when you put them together and notice patterns and rhythms that they become indicators of lying. But his eyes were focused on Oprah, not wandering.

- In the past clips where he was testifying, he got heated and even went on the offensive a little bit, saying things like, "I've already answered that question," "I can't make it any clearer to you," and "Why would I do that?" as if building up a wall to protect himself. His body language was also closed in on itself as if creating a shield and he leaned forward a bit, almost as if he was pointing the blame back to his accuser with his body. That was not the case last night. He was very humble last night, accepting every bit of blame Oprah could throw at him. His voice was calm and collected, he sat upright in his chair, with his body open. He did have his hands clasped together in his lap; this is often a sign of confidence or a way to keep your nervousness from showing (you jittery hands will be more stable if they can support each other).

- when he used hand signals (such as listing items and using each finger to signify a new item on the list), the beat of the words he was saying matched up with the rhythm in which he was using the gesture. When lying, usually one's nonverbal gestures won't happen on the same rhythm as the words that are coming out of the mouth because there is a discord and the gestures are having to be manufactured at the same time the words are being formulated.

This is just what I noticed as someone who was actually paying attention. By no means am I an expert, but I do know some of the key things to look for. So, I believe him.

Now, after all that being said, I'm glad Lance had as much success as he did. Lance said himself in the interview, that he didn't think it was possible to win the 7 Tours in a row without doping. This was to imply that doping is such a big part of the cycling culture, that in order to keep up, you have to dope. Those who don't start out greatly disadvantaged (this is not to say that some don't). So it seems to me that the winner of the Tour was inevitably going to be a doper, no matter if it was Lance or some other guy. The fact that Lance had gone through cancer allowed him to raise a lot of support for the Livestrong foundation with his cycling success. So, heck yes I would rather it have been him than some other doper. No, I don't agree with what he did. Yes, it was wrong. Yes, the sport needs to change. But it seems that doping is the unwritten standard in cycling and the only person it physically hurts is the actual dopers themselves. I can see how he felt like he had to do it. To me, Lance is the lesser of two evils and I'm glad that some good could come out of such an ugly situation.

That said, the man seems to be trying. I don't think that he should be allowed to cycle any more, and I don't think that he should be forgiven overnight, but as long as he's trying to right things, as long as he's saying he's willing to support the anti-doping cause if they would allow him, I think the man deserves a little slack and some time to build up a more positive reputation for himself. We all make mistakes. Lance's was a big one, magnified to be even bigger under public scrutiny. But I'm willing to forgive someone who's willing to try to do better. And I believe him when he says he will try. I know a lot of you won't agree, but those are my thoughts.


  1. Posting anonymously because I can't comment on your Facebook profile. Mark Hartmann....
    Here's my comment:
    I've seen firsthand the effects of chemotherapy. Doping simply evened out the playing field for Lance.

    1. I can understand that. Thanks for the comment. - Cara