JordonCooper Rotating Header Image

Rick Reilly

The Liar that is Lance Armstrong

Rick Reilly got an apology email from Lance Armstrong.  He wasn’t happy about it.

Lance Armstrong in 2010

Among my emails Wednesday morning, out of the blue, was one from Lance Armstrong.

Riles, I’m sorry.

All I can say for now but also the most heartfelt thing too. Two very important words.

And my first thought was … “Two words? That’s it?”

Two words? For 14 years of defending a man? And in the end, being made to look like a chump?

Wrote it, said it, tweeted it: “He’s clean.” Put it in columns, said it on radio, said it on TV. Staked my reputation on it.

“Never failed a drug test,” I’d always point out. “Most tested athlete in the world. Tested maybe 500 times. Never flunked one.”

Why? Because Armstrong always told me he was clean.

On the record. Off the record. Every kind of record. In Colorado. In Texas. In France. On team buses. In cars. On cell phones.

I’d sit there with him, in some Tour de France hotel room while he was getting his daily postrace massage. And we’d talk through the hole in the table about how he stared down this guy or that guy, how he’d fooled Jan Ullrich on the torturous Alpe d’Huez into thinking he was gassed and then suddenly sprinted away to win. How he ordered chase packs from the center of the peloton and reeled in all the pretenders.

And then I’d bring up whatever latest charge was levied against him. “There’s this former teammate who says he heard you tell doctors you doped.” “There’s this former assistant back in Austin who says you cheated.” “There’s this assistant they say they caught disposing of your drug paraphernalia.”

And every time — every single time — he’d push himself up on his elbows and his face would be red and he’d stare at me like I’d just shot his dog and give me some very well-delivered explanation involving a few dozen F words, a painting of the accuser as a wronged employee seeking revenge, and how lawsuits were forthcoming.

And when my own reporting would produce no proof, I’d be convinced. I’d go out there and continue polishing a legend that turned out to be plated in fool’s gold.

Even after he retired, the hits just kept coming. A London Times report. A Daniel Coyne book. A U.S. federal investigation. All liars and thieves, he’d snarl.

I remember one time we talked on the phone for half an hour, all off the record, at his insistence, and I asked him three times, “Just tell me. Straight up. Did you do any of this stuff?”

“No! I didn’t do s—!”

And the whole time he was lying. Right in my earpiece. Knowing that I’d hang up and go back out there and spread the fertilizer around some more.

And now, just like that, it’s all flipped. Thursday and Friday night we’ll see him look right into the face of Oprah Winfrey and tell her just the opposite. He’ll tell her, she says, that he doped to win.

I get it. He’s ruined. He’s lost every single sponsor. Nearly every close teammate has turned on him. All seven Tour de France titles have been stripped. He could owe millions. He might be in a hot kettle with the feds. Even the future he planned for himself — triathlons and mountain biking — have been snatched away. He’s banned from those for life.

So I get it. The road to redemption goes through Oprah, where he’ll finally say those two very important words, “I’m sorry,” and hope the USADA will cut the ban from lifetime to the minimum eight years.

But here’s the thing. When he says he’s sorry now, how do we know he’s not still lying? How do we know it’s not just another great performance by the all-time leader in them?

The IOC has a comment on their own.

It’s not your choice if you want to be a role model

Rick Reilly has an excellent article in ESPN about taking a grieving nephew to meet John Elway

John-Elway-Photograph-C12192603 As locals, Cynthia and I took them to lunch at one of Elway’s restaurants so Jake could see all the jerseys and photos. The kid was so excited he hardly ate. And that was before a certain Hall of Fame QB walked in, all keg-chested and pigeon-toed. Immediately, Jake turned into an ice sculpture.

We introduced them, and it took a few seconds before Jake could even stick out his hand. Apparently, 13-year-olds are not used to meeting gods.

Elway took the time to sign Jake’s football and pose for a picture. He even made us all go outside, where the light was better. Then, as we said goodbye — Jake’s feet floating a foot off the ground — Elway turned and said, out of nowhere, "Hey, why don’t you guys come by the box today?"

And the next thing Jake knew, he was in John Elway’s luxury box at the game, asking him any question he wanted, all with a grin that threatened to split his happy head in half.

Then Elway said, "Comin’ to dinner?"

And suddenly Jake was having his lettuce wedge cut for him by the legend, who tousled the kid’s cowlick. Like a dad might.

Halfway through the night, a guy came out of the bathroom and said, "Are you guys with that kid? Because he’s in there talking to his mom on the phone, crying. Is he OK?"

Yes, Jake would be OK.

He finishes with this

A lot of athletes don’t want the burden that comes with being a role model. But what I want to tell them is: You don’t get to choose. You don’t get to tell 13-year-old boys with holes in their hearts who can help them heal.

I know it’s a hassle, but it matters. Because you never know when you might just lead a kid out to where the light is better.

Kind of makes me feel good about being a life long fan of a certain John Elway.