This photo released by courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics shows Lance Armstrong in the documentary film, “The Armstrong Lie.”
Of the top three finishers in each of his seven Tour de France victories, only one man who stood on the podium with Lance Armstrong was never implicated in a doping scandal. The first cyclist booted from an event for drugs dates back over 100 years. So why is Armstrong the problem child in a universally dirty sport?
Why is there The Armstrong Lie and not, say, The Alberto Contador Lie?
The short-ish answer is this: Armstrong never proved he could win cycling’s most prestigious event before coming back from cancer, then won it an unprecedented seven straight times. He did so while the rest of the field played dirty and Armstrong defiantly claimed his own innocence.
He’s an enormous asshole.
And, relative to salaries in cycling compared to other sports, he likely profited more off performance enhancing drugs than any other athlete ever.
Director Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) endeavored to chronicle Armstong’s gritty comeback story in 2009. Having last been in the Tour de France four years earlier, Armstrong was on the bike again. This documentary was shelved for a few years once Armstrong was stripped of every Tour de France title and banned from the sport forever.
But then this year, Lance confessed and Gibney had a new angle.
Armstrong admits how much he hurt people and propelled himself to temporarily legendary status but offers no good reason why. He didn’t think he was doing anything wrong “at the time.” Gibney knows how to get a good story out of his subjects, and he coaxes Armstrong to look alternately like a sympathetic figure and a wildly intense athlete.
But Armstrong never looks honest.
The Armstrong Lie is a fascinating journey through compulsion and narcissism. The world fell for it because they wanted to believe in someone who only believed in himself.
Now they all pay a price for it.
THE ARMSTRONG LIE, Lance Armstrong. Directed by Alex Gibney. Rated R, 122 minutes.