Lance Armstrong went on the Today show Thursday to lament how hard life has been since he admitted to being one of the biggest frauds in sports history, whining how unfair it is that other cheats aren’t the pariah he is.
“I do think there’s a double standard,” Armstrong said. “But I’m OK with it.”
Sure he is.
The blind ego and arrogance that seeped through his interview Thursday is exactly why Armstrong remains so reviled.
That he doped his way to seven Tour de France titles was bad, of course. Sports is supposed to be about the purity of competition and athleticism. As Armstrong has rightly pointed out, though, he wasn’t some rogue cheater in a pristine sport. Everyone in cycling at the time was pumped full of PEDs and EPO.
Had Armstrong only been a cheater, though, he’d have been forgiven long ago. But the cheating was never the worst of his sins.
Armstrong was ruthless in his charade, ruining the lives of others to protect his. Former teammates, support staff, competitors, reporters — anyone who threatened to expose the Myth of Lance was bullied, discredited and defamed.
He called Emma O’Reilly, a masseuse for the U.S. Postal team who was one of the first in his inner circle to acknowledge his doping, an alcoholic and a whore. He accosted Tyler Hamilton in a bar after his former teammate said on 60 Minutes that he’d seen Armstrong dope. He sued The Sunday Times of London and reporter David Walsh for libel after a story suggesting Armstrong was cheating.
Even Thursday, he threw Alex Rodriguez under the bus, saying he doesn’t understand why the New York Yankees third baseman has been able to rehabilitate his image and he can’t. Rodriguez was banned by Major League Baseball for an entire season after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
“Alex Rodriguez didn’t raise half a billion dollars and try to save a bunch of people’s lives. That’s kind of the irony of this,” Armstrong said. “Look, it’s great when somebody hits home runs and maybe does an event here and there for the Girls and Boys Club. This story held a place in peoples’ hearts and minds that was way beyond those guys.”
Ah, yes. The cancer card.
What made Armstrong so popular, one of the most revered people in the world at one point, was that his cycling triumphs came after he recovered from testicular cancer. Cancer so advanced it nearly killed him.
His Livestrong foundation raised millions for research and provided hope to cancer patients and their families. But it went beyond that. The ubiquitous yellow Livestrong bracelets became a communal bond, a way to proclaim that, different as we all might be, we were all in this together.
And it was all based on lies.
That Armstrong thought he could cheat his way to success, debase and destroy his critics, yet get a pass because of the good he did for cancer patients was the height of hubris. That is why so many people can’t forgive him.
Six years after his grand confession, Armstrong still doesn’t get it. It’s not about the cheating.
It’s about him.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.