Our View: Prodigious liar

Posted: January 20, 2013

Earlier this month on this page, we reminded readers of the late Earl Warren’s fascination with the sports pages of the newspaper because they recorded “people’s accomplishments,” noting that was not so much the case anymore.

The focus that day was the failure of the baseball writers to elect a living candidate to the Hall of Fame, passing over on-the-field greats like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa, among others, because of their association with the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Fast forward to this past week, and one of the greatest supposed champions of all time, cyclist Lance Armstrong, finally came clean about how he won seven Tour de France races in a row from 1999-2005.

He cheated.

The only surprise was how long it took him to admit the truth.

After years of public denials (lies), Mr. Armstrong took to the confessional chair across from Oprah Winfrey and acknowledged what few doubted. Yes, he used about every performance-enhancing drug in the book and worked to carefully conceal his cheating.

As The Washington Post reported Friday, Mr. Armstrong told Oprah that “winning cycling’s most grueling race multiple times would have been impossible without the help of banned substances.”

He is likely right on that point, and history proves that almost every other cycling champion in the past 15 years has already been revealed as a cheater. But Mr. Armstrong took his deception to perhaps the highest level of them all.

Repeatedly and publicly, Lance Armstrong vehemently denied that he was the cheater he finally admitted himself to be. He was not just silent on the issue when asked. No, he attacked his critics on every level.

Consider the following selection of Lance Armstrong quotes over the years, courtesy of BBC News, as shared by The Post’s Glenn Kessler:

 “I have never doped, I can say it again, but I have said it for seven years — it doesn’t help” — in 2005 on CNN’s Larry King show

 “I have never doped and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests, and never failed one” —in July 2012.

In addition to a multitude of statements such as those above made in the most public of settings, Mr. Kessler notes Mr. Armstrong’s denials over the years turned to action and led to his winning a libel settlement from the Sunday Times of London and “winning $7.5 million from a company that had refused to pay a bonus because it had accused him of cheating in the Tour de France.”

That type of behavior takes righteous indignation to a new level, and quite frankly, an ever-forgiving public ought to pay close attention to how viciously Lance the liar treated those who spoke the truth.

Whether the mea culpa tour that began on Oprah can rehabilitate Mr. Armstrong’s image remains to be seen. But, his place in sports history is forever cemented as perhaps its most prodigious liar instead of one of its greatest champions.