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Lance Armstrong’s appearance on Oprah: breakdown and instant analysis

The Turnstile

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Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey. (AP)



On Monday, Lance Armstrong sat down with Oprah Winfrey to discuss his career, allegations of cheating, and his future now that he's been stripped of his Tour de France victories and other medals. Here, Yahoo! Sports will discuss in detail the interview as it happens.

• "Yes or no: did you ever take banned substances?" "Yes." Armstrong also admits to blood doping, human growth hormones, and other substances, and says he did so during all seven of his Tour de France victories. Clever use of yes-or-no questions to lay the groundwork.

• "I viewed it as very simple." Lance Armstrong speaks truth. He did anything necessary to win. Anything.

• Armstrong pinpoints his 2009 comeback as the reason why everything broke wide open. "We wouldn't be sitting here if I didn't come back." He evades Winfrey's question about whether he would have "gotten away with it" by saying we can't know what would have happened.

• In sum, the interview has been a mix of hard facts (admitting to drug use) and dodging of opportunities for empathy (as with those Armstrong hurt). This likely will do little to move the needle in Armstrong's favor.

• Armstrong disputes Tyler Hamilton's contention that he failed a test during the Tour de Suisse in 2001. "I'm gonna tell you what's true and not true," he said. "That story is not true. No positive test, no paying off the lab, no secret meeting with the lab director." He further added that not only did he not pay UCI to make the issue go away, UCI approached him for a donation.

• Armstrong has sued so many people he CANNOT REMEMBER EVERYONE HE SUED. Think about that for a second.

• Winfrey zeroes in on this element, the idea that Armstrong owes apologies to specific people whom he sued, even though they were telling the truth. "It's a major flaw and it's a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted and to control every outcome. It's inexcusable," Armstrong says. He almost sounds as if he's talking of someone else, not himself. And he says he understands that some people will never forgive him.

• This is Armstrong's justification for his behavior: "I was just on the attack, Oprah. Territory being threatened, team being threatened, reputation being threatened, I'm going to attack." Even if the "threat" was actually the truth.

• Another damning quote: "I didn't invent the [drug-taking] culture [in cycling], but I didn't try to stop the culture."

• And another: "Did you feel in any way that you were cheating?" "No."

• Winfrey pins him down on being a bully, and Armstrong agrees: "I was a bully. I tried to control the narrative."

• Winfrey shows tape of Armstrong lying during depositions. This is the kind of thing could end up screwing Armstrong to the wall, lying under oath. He says now that he was an "arrogant prick" during testimony in 2005. During that case, Armstrong sued SCA Promotions for unpaid prize money and bonuses. He said during that deposition that he did not use drugs. (SCA had insured the bonuses but refused to pay.)

• "And Lance, if you'll look under your seat ... it's a fistful of subpoenas!" (Note: this is satire and was not actually said.)

• Armstrong claims that the final time that he doped was in 2005, and that his Tour competitions in 2009 and 2010 were drug-free. In 2009, he placed third; in 2010, he placed 23rd.

• First instance of differing takes on an incident: Armstrong says it is "not true" that Christian Vande Velde alleged Armstrong expected his team to dope up.

• Armstrong acknowledges that he is too late in apologizing, and admits that he does not have a good answer as to why he was defiant and impugned the truthfulness of others.

• When Oprah leaves the realm of lying and delves into the world of perception and the burdens of fame, the interview slows to a crawl. This is not where the focus should be.

• Armstrong deems his drug conspiracy "conservative" and "risk-averse," not as bad as the East German programs of the '70s and '80s. That's not exactly the comparison you want to make if you're trying to lower expectations.

• Former teammate Hamilton may have something to say about Armstrong's assertion that nobody was "forced or pressured or encouraged" to participate in the program.

• Armstrong has pledged to answer questions "directly, honestly and candidly." We shall see.

• The broadcast begins with numerous on-camera denials of drug use by Armstrong. Setting the stage.

• Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel has a list of questions Winfrey should have asked Armstrong. Chief among them: Is he willing to take responsibility for those whose lives and financial situations he ruined by challenging them for speaking what turned out to be the truth? Will he take others down with him as he falls? And most importantly, why now and why with Winfrey herself?

• Winfrey and her producers have to be rethinking their decision to hold the tape for more than 72 hours. Obviously, in that time Armstrong has been pushed aside by the Manti Te'o revelations, and this interview doesn't carry the weight it would have earlier. Also, the decision to air the second half on a Friday night is a curious one.

The interview continues on Friday night.

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-

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