This month found us in the rare position of going back to a cover subject we had treated just two issues ago. As most readers know, Lance Armstrong was our Bum Steer of the Year in January. But we made that decision and put together that issue well before he appeared on Oprah to confess to using performance enhancing drugs, which is to say, well before the biggest, most aggressively maintained lie in the history of sports was finally and definitively unmasked. And that’s why we decided to return to the story. Back in January, with Lance himself still vehemently denying the allegations of doping, we settled for poking fun at him with the Bum Steer issue. Now that the truth had come out, we wanted to tell the story.
From the beginning I was unsure he’d agree to talk to us. After all, we were submitting our request at the very moment that he was the butt of our jokes. And the writer working on the story, Michael Hall, had written tough stories about Lance over the years, including the first major article, back in 2001, to suggest that the doping allegations might have merit, and a more recent critical piece urging Lance to confess. Not exactly the sort of thing that wins you friends. But Lance surprised us by agreeing to sit for an interview. It was short but revealing, held at his house in West Austin. Mike found a man who seemed to go to great pains to show that he was doing just fine, who insisted that he was unconcerned with the “road to redemption.” In short, a predictably fierce competitor.
Just as revealing were the interviews with other players in the story—local supporters who felt betrayed, member of the Livestrong Foundation board, cyclists, and former friends. Mike wove all this together to tell a story about what happens next. And in particular: what happens next in Lance’s hometown, where he has lived for two decades, where his foundation is based, and where he was, until recently, the most famous and most venerated guy in town. Now what? How do you come back from something like this? And what does it feel like to be a pariah in your own hometown?
It’s an amazing story, told with Mike’s customary toughness and customary fairness, about the man who fell to earth.