Some have argued that it was too little, too late.
Others have suggested that it was motivated purely by the specter of a subpoena in which he’d be sworn to tell the truth making him criminally liable if he lied; or, that he was motivated by the hope that in the wake of a confession, he’d have an opportunity to compete again in at least a few events. These skeptics believe that were there no compelling external reason, Armstrong would continue to be Armstrong intoning the same mantra he has for years, i.e. people have it in for him, he’s never failed a test, and so on. Armstrong, say these critics, would not have confessed unless he believed that a confession would benefit Lance Armstrong, and that denials were ultimately hurting Lance Armstrong. And, it’s all about Lance Armstrong.
A few have reflected on the bifurcated nature of the human being—i.e. we do good, we do bad. Clearly, Armstrong’s battle with cancer, his LiveStrong organization have provided inspiration for many people. Don’t we all, say these commentators, have our strengths and weaknesses? Doesn’t the good come with the bad?
Some have lamented the general lack of integrity in our culture. Of these Politicians, Preachers, and Performers are the biggest sinners. Politicians—do you want a list?—begin by denying—then admitting—to wrongdoing, usually some kind of illicit sexual behavior. Preachers: same story. And Performers, whether McGuire, Sosa, Armstrong and a host of others, also seem unwilling to take responsibility.
Can you think of a politician, preacher or performer who did wrong, and before the media got a whiff of it, came right out at confessed it and pledged to change his or her ways? No, you can’t.
So, we have a right to bemoan a culture in which there seems to be no integrity (—although, there are thousands in each of these categories, who are good, decent and upstanding people, people of integrity. These are people who do not face the problem of whether to confess now or later. ) This in turn makes us, the public, rightly cynical. When suspicious events are reported, we’re more likely now to believe that a person is guilty, rather than innocent, and that’s really too bad.
What I found curious about the Armstrong matter is Armstrong’s choice of a confessor, i.e. Oprah Winfrey. He chose to confess in a highly publicized media event. He chose to confess to an entertainment maven. Seems odd to me. Did he think that if he’d gathered a group of the people against whom he had sinned, that the world would not have known about it? Did he think that if he written a letter to the governing bodies in his sport outlining the nature and extent of his transgressions that no one would know? And, for that matter, is it important that anyone beyond the parties involved, know about it? Why didn’t he simply call for a press conference, go to the podium, read a statement, take some questions and call it good?
What was it about confessing to Oprah that was so attractive? Why was it important for him to use that particular medium to air his smelly laundry?
The Bible says that we should confess our sins one to another, and to God—the human and divine dimension in play. By “one another,” the Bible means that we should confess to those most affected by our behavior. If we live in a community of faith in which certain covenantal relationships have been embraced either implicitly or explicitly, then it is to that community that confession should be made.
Armstrong didn’t need to confess to me (I guess he could argue that he needed to confess to his “fans”)—he needed to confess to his rivals, people like Floyd Landis, et al., the people he wronged; people like the organizers of the Tour de France and other governing bodies.
As for God, he won’t be confessing to God, because Armstrong does not believe in God. This is a matter of public record. So, he went on television to tell the truth, “So help me, Oprah.”
It was probably hard for him to say what he said, even to Oprah. But it should have been harder.
It would have been harder if—after his first doping transgression, he’d come clean and said, “You know what—I crossed the line. Here’s what I did.” But he chose the easy way, and stayed silent.
It would have been harder if he’d gone on Oprah with Landis and some of his rivals and laid it out for them, and expressed his remorse.
Sometimes, it’s hard to do the right thing. And I’m not sure Armstrong has done the right thing, even now.