Disgraced former cyclist Lance Armstrong, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that was taped on Monday but first aired on Thursday, admitted what many have accused him of being–a vindictive bully.
“I was a bully,” Armstrong said. “I was a bully in the sense that I tried to control the narrative, and if I didn’t like what somebody said, and for whatever reasons in my own head whether I viewed that as somebody being disloyal or a friend turning on you or whatever, I tried to control that.”
To put it simply, Armstrong aggressively and vindictively used his power to bully and ruin the lives of people whose only crime was telling the truth, especially when forced to under oath, about Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong finally admitted to Oprah that he had used performance-enhancing drugs to win all seven of his Tour de France titles. When asked for specifics on some of the lawsuits he filed against people who have now been proven to have told the truth, Armstrong replied he filed so many lawsuits he cannot remember the specifics of any.
Two of Armstrong’s victims–Betsy Andreu, the wife of one of Armstrong’s former teammates, and Emma O’Reilly, a young woman Armstrong’s cycling team hired to be a masseuse–are worth mentioning.
As Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! Sports wrote, Emma O’Reilly, a young Dublin native who was hired by Armstrong’s team to give massages to the riders after races,”told stories of rampant doping and how she was used to transport the drugs across international borders.” In the USADA report, she testified Armstrong tried to “make my life hell.”
As Wetzel wrote:
Her story was true, Lance, wasn’t it? And you knew it was true. Yet despite knowing it was true, you, a famous multimillionaire superstar, used high-priced lawyers to sue this simple woman for more money than she was worth in England, where slander laws favor the famous. She had no chance to fight it.
She testified that you tried to ruin her by spreading word that she was a prostitute with a heavy drinking problem.
“The traumatizing part,” she once told the New York Times, “was dealing with telling the truth.”
When Oprah asked about O’Reilly, whose life Armstrong destroyed and whose money he took knowing she was telling the truth, Armstrong said O’Reilly was telling the truth and that she got “run over.”
“She’s one of these people that I have to apologize to,” Armstrong said. “She’s one of these people that got run over, got bullied. But I have reached out to her, and tried to make those amends on my own.”
And consider Betsy Andreu, the wife of Armstrong’s former teammate who Wetzel notes “testified under oath that they were in a hospital room in 1996” when Armstrong had “admitted to a doctor to using EPO, HGH and steroids” before he got testicular cancer. Armstrong responded by calling them “vindictive, bitter, vengeful and jealous.”
One of Armstrong’s goons left Betsy a voicemail threatening to bash her head with a baseball bat:
“I hope somebody breaks a baseball bat over your head. I also hope that one day you have adversity in your life and you have some type of tragedy that will … definitely make an impact on you.”
Why, Wetzel asked, did Armstrong not call Betsy and apologize for this threatening voicemail?
When Oprah asked if Betsy had been lying that Armstrong confessed to a doctor that he had doped before he got testicular cancer, Armstrong said:
“I’m just not … I’m going to put that one down. She asked me, and I asked her not to talk about it.”
Armstrong punted on this question because an admission that Betsy was being truthful could put Armstrong in more legal trouble. Armstrong had testified under oath that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.