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My Take on Lance Armstrong


RUSH: Lance Armstrong was on the Oprah show last night on the OWN network.  I tell you, I hope you found this interview and network on your cable system in time, 'cause she got right into it.  She got in, got it, and got out.  You coulda' wrapped this thing up in the first 10 or 15 minutes.  That's when he admitted everything and then after that it became kind of aimless wandering. 

Everybody's been asking me, "Why do you think he's doing this now?"  The New York Times says that the reason is that Lance Armstrong wants to compete in triathlons and running events, but right now he can't under the World Anti-Doping Code that typically governs competitions like those.  So confessing to a media figure might get his lifetime ban lifted.  That's what the thinking is.  Well, that's what they think.  A media figure with a quasi-religious following might get his lifetime ban lifted.  That's just what the New York Times says. 

All kinds of other reasons abound: Therapeutic, doesn't want the pressure of living a lie anymore, just wants it all out there, clean slate, doesn't have to worry about who he told what lie to anymore.  But even some of the other people involved still say he couldn't come clean enough. Betsy Andreu (paraphrasing), "He didn't come clean. He didn't apologize for lying to us. He's still narcissistic."  So there's still some people out there that are not happy.  Of course, the sportswriter media, these paragons of moral virtue, these guys that have never had any moral slipup in their lives -- you ever notice that about reading the sports media?  In fact, there's an interesting piece from one of the founders at Deadspin that I have here today. 

I thought this piece was filled with potential when it started, and it just didn't quite get where I would have taken had I written it.  Basically this guy, the cofounder at Deadspin, writes a damn good indictment of the Drive-Bys and how this kind of thing can happen, particularly in sports media.  And he raises a fascinating question, and it's something that I've thought about a long time. Going back to my days -- well, back to a kid, teenager, baseball fan and reading newspaper about athletes.  But when I was working for the Kansas City Royals, one day it just hit me. 

For the most part, every media story about athletes, these people are put up on pedestals because of their athletic ability. This is not a role model complaint or argument about that.  They get treated in the media in a special, almost indescribable way that nobody else other than entertainers, Hollywood types, also get.  This indictment of the sports media by the Deadspin, which broke the story on the hoax of Manti Te'o, that's who Deadspin is, soon to be the new AP, in competition with TMZ for that.  They basically talk about how it happens.  How the narratives get started and how it is that not one person in four months of the story can recognize that they're being hoaxed, in the media, because the story's too important.  The story's too valuable. The story fits what they already believe about sports, that everybody in it is special, everybody in it is a cut above, better than everybody else.

Narratives in stories like this generate a lot of hits on websites, generate a lot of attention.  In other words, there's a lot of investment in the hoax.  It's kind of like the way the news media covers Democrats.  It's impossible for a Democrat to be a failure.  It's impossible for a Democrat to be a reprobate.  It's impossible for a Democrat to be a mess.  It simply doesn't compute.  It's not possible for a Democrat president, a Democrat senator, a Democrat president that got Lewinskys in the Oval Office and was disbarred lying under oath, it's not possible for those people to be less than superstars.  It just isn't possible, as far as the mind-set of the media is concerned.  And thus, this guy's point is that sometimes they are genuinely shocked when these people that they put way up on these pedestals turn out to be just average, common, ordinary everyday people with foibles just like everybody else. 

So we've got that to discuss and dissect, and media analysis is a very popular thing these days.  Everybody's engaging in it.  So I'll take my turn.


RUSH: Lance Armstrong was on Oprah's OWN network last night. By the way, the New York Times says that Oprah's network is now poised to take off. Oprah's network is on the verge here of now exploding according to plan, and everybody's gonna be watching Oprah's network inside of five days. Yeah. She might sell some advertising! She might get some audience now. It's on the verge. (interruption)

Well, that's just it. People will tune to Oprah's network to watch Armstrong, and they'll be so intrigued that they'll continue to watch Oprah's network after Armstrong's finished. (interruption) Well, because it's Oprah's network. They're there, they're lazy, and they will go watch whatever else Oprah is offering and say, "Wow, look at what we've been missing by not tuning into Oprah's network!"

Then they're going to realize, "Wait a minute, this is the reason I wasn't watching in the first place. I don't like this stuff now just because it follows Lance Armstrong," but that doesn't matter. The New York Times is the verge here of taking off. Here's Oprah, and we just have three sound bites. We're not gonna go cover to cover with this thing. But here's Oprah and one of the early-on questions, observations.

WINFREY: This is what doesn't make any sense. When people were saying things -- David Walsh, Sunday Times, Emma O'Reilly, Betsy Andreu, many others were saying things --


WINFREY: -- you would then go on the attack for them. You were suing people, and you knew that they're telling the truth. What is that?

RUSH: Answer? It's what Bill Clinton did. That's the way James Carville played it. I don't know what Armstrong said. I didn't watch. I've just got these two sound bites. But if I woulda been Lance, I'd just say, "Well, that's what Bill Clinton did. Did you see what they did to Ken Starr, Oprah? In fact, didn't you help out in that regard? Wasn't Ken Starr this big sex pervert? Wasn't everybody else lying?

"Wasn't Bill Clinton telling the truth? Weren't all these people being critical of Bill Clinton just a bunch of people trying to take down this greatest, most moral president we've ever had? Oprah, your heroes, Bill and Hillary Clinton, wrote the blueprint: Deny, deny, deny, and attack the accuser! They wrote the blueprint, and it's been used by Democrats ever since." The Democrats to this day use the Lance Armstrong tactic.

In fact, every Obama campaign is oriented toward destroying the opposition however you have to. If you have to lie, if you have to run ads that are not truthful at all, you just do it. That's all Lance was doing. He was just practicing the theories that have been shown to work by Bill and Hillary. "Vast right-wing conspiracy." I can't believe Oprah doesn't know this. See the different standards?

"Lance, how could you do that to Andreu?" Bill Clinton has yet to be asked, "How could you do that to Monica Lewinsky? How could you do that to Kathleen Willey? How could do that to Juanita Broaddrick?" and he never will be. Because when the left got people that get in trouble, they circle the wagons around them and protect them, and they elevate them even higher. Here's Armstrong's answer.

ARMSTRONG: It's a major flaw, and it's a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted and to control every outcome. And, um, it's inexcusable, and that's... When I say that there are people that will hear this that will never forgive me, I understand that. I -- I do. And I have started that process. I think all of this was a process for me. One of the steps of that process is to speak to those people directly and just say to them that I'm sorry and, uh, I was wrong; you were right.

RUSH: And Oprah said, "You didn't feel that you were cheating, taking banned substances and drugs?"

ARMSTRONG: At the time, no.

WINFREY: (whispering) "At the time, no."

ARMSTRONG: And I look up... I have this exercise where, you know, 'cause I kept hearing, you know, I'm a -- I'm a -- I'm a --

WINFREY: That you were cheat!

ARMSTRONG: I'm a drug cheat. I'm a cheat.


ARMSTRONG: I'm a cheater. And I went and looked up... I just looked up the definition of "cheat."


ARMSTRONG: And the definition of cheat is "to gain an advantage on a rival or foe," you know, that they don't have" or, you know? I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as -- as a level playing field.

RUSH: Well, that doesn't sound contrite to me. He says (paraphrased), "At the time, I don't think I was cheating. Everybody else was doping," which, by the way, he does have a point. He's got a point on that, and a lot of people in baseball who were juicing said, "Hey, look, if I got pitchers out there like [and they name names] who are throwing the ball harder at age 40 than they ever did, I'm gonna have to juice up just to keep up with them!

"You know, I gotta keep my job. I mean, if my competitors are juicing up and they're juicing their performance, I gotta keep up." So Armstrong was saying (paraphrased), "No, at the time I wasn't cheating. Everybody else was doing the same thing." In fact, as I mentioned the other day, he's got seven Tour de France titles that have now been vacated, but none of the second place finishers are being awarded the yellow jacket because they were also juicing!


Yes? I have a question from the program observer. What's the question?


Well, Snerdley has asked, "Do we care if they juice up?" Now, if you go to Major League Baseball, you will find attendance at the ballpark was skyrocketing when these guys were juicing. Now, in the early days, I don't think fans were really aware of it, but it didn't take long before the allegations and the evidence made it clear something was going on. And the fans showed up in great numbers.

I remember during the whole baseball thing, there wasn't a lot of enmity against Mark McGwire or Clemens. The people that were really getting mad at it was the media. The media were positioning themselves as these morally perfect people that were judging everybody else. They probably could not have withstood a similar investigation into them themselves, but here they were passing judgment.

There were a lot of people that got sick and tired of reading about the cheaters, especially from the media standpoint of holier-than-thou. Because everybody knows that nobody's perfect, and yet the sports media guys were writing about all these people as though they are the final arbiters on what's good and decent. (chuckles) A sports journalist. That offended people. The whole notion here of cheating, you'd have to say that on balance -- ballpark attendance, TV ratings -- it didn't seem to bother people.

Well, Snerdley said, "What happened to choice?  It's my body."  Remember, by the way, at certain periods of time here there were no rules. In the NFL in the seventies, steroids were not illegal.  There was no proscription against steroids in the seventies in the NFL.  But there are rules now, Snerdley, and you're breaking the rules, even though it's your body.  That only applies to women who are pregnant.  No, an athlete's body is not his to do with what he wants to do.  It's not between a man and his doctor, or his trainer, or his friend with the syringe, whoever's doing it. A man does not have that right. 

Jim Gray, who's worked at ESPN and NBC, was on Fox this morning. Martha MacCallum spoke to him and she said, "Lance Armstrong has an opportunity here.  He could say, 'You know what? The whole thing stinks to high heaven across the board with all of these sports.  And I have an opportunity now as one of the most well-known athletes in the world to go out there and to talk to kids, to talk to college students and say, "You know what, we got to rethink this."' Or are we just going to keep going and going like this with everybody cheating and all of it being fake?"

GRAY:  The money is so great, and all of these guys have now given up on the pursuit of excellence.  It's no longer the pursuit of being great.  It's the pursuit of money, the pursuit of power, the pursuit of all of these things that really never came into mind back in the days of Jesse Owens and Babe Ruth and all of these others.  Now, all these people are flawed and we're all flawed.  It's just not endemic to these athletes.  Everybody wants to be number one and be remembered.  And so that's really, at the end of the day, what's driving all of this, and it's for all the wrong reasons.

RUSH:  So Jim Gray's theory is these guys are pursuing fame and fortune and riches and money. They're not trying to be the best they can be in their sport.  Why are you juicing?  I think you are trying to up your performance if you're juicing.  But, again, here we have this romantic notion of the good old days.  Babe Ruth and Jesse Owens, they were clean and pure as the wind-driven snow.  Why, they never did anything comparable to what's happening today. 

How about this.  Throw this little thought out.  Forget the HGH and the steroids and the drugs.  How about the workout fanatics as opposed to those guys, athletes, who don't work out?  You think the guy who's working out all the time might have a competitive advantage over the guy who doesn't?  Well, is that fair?  Is that fair?  Should we maybe stop the guy who's working out or maybe make the guy who's not working out work out?  No, no, no.  My point is that no two people are ever the same and you're always gonna be able to find different levels of devotion, different levels of desire. You're gonna find different character, degrees of integrity and honesty from athlete to athlete, just like you will person to person.

People are going to be who they are.  Some are gonna have year-long relationships with girlfriends that never existed. Some of them are gonna, you know, blood dope like Armstrong did.  I mean, you just never know.  Some are gonna be in nightclubs when murders take place.  No, it's not a slam on anybody.  I'm just saying that every athlete's like everybody else.  Everybody's different.  That takes me, though, to this interesting piece.  As I say, this piece really has a lot of potential. I don't think it quite gets there, but it's close.  It's by a guy named Will Leitch, and I hope I'm pronouncing that right, L-e-i-t-c-h.  SportsonEarth.com.  He founded Deadspin, and he has a piece titled "Won't Get Fooled Again." 

His observations are about how did the media get fooled about Manti Te'o?  How did Manti Te'o pull it off?  Who's involved here?  How does the mainstream media, thousands of people all looking at the same story, all miss it?  He's got his theories, and of course we've explored these.  How is it that thousands of people all end up describing one event the same way.  Dick Cheney's choice to be vice president in the year 2000 by George W. Bush.  It brings "gravitas" to the ticket.  How does that happen?  They're all of the same mind, for one thing.


RUSH: Lance Armstrong, by the way, I'm told -- I didn't see the whole thing -- did not cry. Is that right?  He did not cry, at least not in last night's episode.  Part two is tonight.  He did not cry.  He's gotta cry tonight if he wants forgiveness.  I think one of the problems he's having today -- I mean, he got ripped in the New York media, ripped everywhere today for this performance last night.  That's 'cause he didn't cry.  It could be why he's not being completely forgiven.  You go on Oprah, you gotta cry.  She's gonna cry.  You can't let her cry alone.  You have to cry, too.  I mean, everybody doing Oprah knows that you don't do Oprah if you're not gonna cry. 


RUSH: I think if the Oprah network fails, she'll just sell it to Al Jazeera for five times what it's worth and be done with it. So I think she's in a win-win either way.


RUSH: Here's John in Edgewater, New Jersey. Great to have you on the EIB Network. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Rush. Thank you very much for taking my call.

RUSH: You bet. You sound just like Piers Morgan.

CALLER: (laughing) Laughing I should be so lucky!

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: I just to put let you know that I have an -- I had at one time an -- intimate relationship with Lance as far as his cycling career went.

RUSH: Wait, wait, wait. Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho a minute. You had "an intimate relationship" with Lance Armstrong as far as cycling is concerned?

CALLER: As far as cycling is concerned. That's correct.

RUSH: You mean in the biblical sense here?

CALLER: Definitely not. (laughing) Definitely, no, no. We were just... I was the manager, and he was the rider on the teams.

RUSH: Really? I've never seen that position.

CALLER: Well, each team, each cycling team has a manager, especially when we go to the world championships. Each team has a manager and a coach. In 1992, when the United States Cycling Federation was split in two, the US Pro was the cycling organization that handled pro cyclists at that particular time before they became united, when both federations united after '92.

RUSH: Right.

CALLER: And what happened was, in '92, after Lance rode in Barcelona, he returned to the United States. He immediately turned pro, and me being the team manager, he signed up to turn pro and we turn around and he and he brought him right back to Spain again for the world championships that year.

RUSH: As a pro?

CALLER: As a pro. This was his first major race.

RUSH: Kind of like Tiger at the Masters in '97.

CALLER: (laughing)

RUSH: That was his first time as a pro, right.

CALLER: That's correct. That's correct. We went back to Spain and, you know, I was riding pretty good. He didn't get the results he wanted in Barcelona, but we figured he might be doing a lot better once he turned pro and he fit pretty well.

RUSH: So what is it? You're the guy that put Lance Armstrong on the world championships scene? Is that the point here?

CALLER: I was a member of the team that selected the riders for the world championship team.

RUSH: Well, was there doping then, is that why you're calling?

CALLER: No, no. The reason why I'm calling was that since it's become worldwide, worldly known and everything has come about, there was one rider in the United States that never, ever failed to recognize Lance's overachievement, so to speak, and --

RUSH: I've gotta take a break here, John. I'm still not sure where we're going. 


RUSH: I don't know, Snerdley. I have no clue whether Sheryl Crow knew anything. She was just out trying to have a good time. But Lance was supposedly the ringleader here. You know, the sponsor of his team is the United States Postal Service, and they're getting all this flack for using FedEx and occasionally UPS. If you read some of the stories about this, the things that they had to do, this was a really intricate, involved, logistically challenged, coordinated thing.

To have the transfused blood flown to the right location, to be kept fresh and be ready for the transfusion after a race, and make sure that none of the old bags were thrown away that traces of blood in them? I mean, it was a massive operation. The blood copying was, because that was transfusions. When you're riding up the Pyrenees... I don't know if you people know, the Tour de France, pedaling uphill in the Pyrenees and in the Alps, what these guys were doing was replacing their blood as often as possible to keep it highly oxygenated for energy.

The pace at which these guys are riding uphill is inhuman, and that was one of the reasons why there was all the suspicion about doping, 'cause they were doing things that don't look possible, that you just couldn't do with proper nutrition and working out and sleeping right and so forth. There had to be something else going on to enable this, this practically superhuman stuff. I mean, there are stages of the Tour de France that are over 80% uphill the whole route.

We're talking multiple miles, multiple kilometers here. To have all of that blood -- their own blood, taken during rest, highly oxygenated -- flown ahead of them so it was there to be transfused in private? There was no way to keep the secret. Everybody in the world knew this. That's why when Lance is out there denying it all, and then attacking everybody and suing them when they were simply telling the truth about it...

That's what got people really curious about this. It wasn't just that he was denying it. I mean, he really did do the Clinton technique. After the denial, he just went out and attacked everybody making allegations about him, including suing them. It was right out of the Bill Clinton playbook and the way they did with Ken Starr. Here's John back in Edgewater, New Jersey. I think I know where you're going here. You want to tell us about one guy who was clean and a legitimate champion, right?

CALLER: Yes, that's correct, Rush. There was one rider in the United States that knew from the get-go when he started to see Lance's performance that he was suspect, and he stayed, and he fought against Armstrong all those years. That was the great American champion Greg LeMond, who still happens to be the only true American to win the Tour de France. Greg went head-to-head with Lance, and Lance fought him tooth and nail. I think now that Greg and his wife, Kathy, are exceptionally satisfied with what has now taken place.

RUSH: Are you still in touch with LeMond?

CALLER: Oh, yes. Yes.

RUSH: Now, he lived in Sacramento for a time, and it coincided with the same years I was there, and I think -- I'm not sure, I think -- I met him once very casually. Where does he live? Is he still live in Sacramento?

CALLER: No, no. He's now located in the Midwest now.

RUSH: Okay. Well, I remember there was a reporterette, an infobabe for KCRA Channel 3. Her name was Beth something, and she was almost the Greg LeMond expert. She did profiles of LeMond constantly and his training, you know, riding up the Sierra Nevada range, Highway 50 up to Reno and Tahoe and so forth. I'll never forget those. He was portrayed the way everybody thought of Lance Armstrong, actually. He was portrayed as a genuine hero, clean and pure as the wind-driven snow and so forth. I'll never forget. I do think I met him once. But, anyway, John, I appreciate the call. Thanks much. I knew where he was heading. I knew he was going somewhere to name somebody, and I had a feeling it was LeMond. We got that tightened down during the break.

Joe in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, it's your shot now. Open Line Friday. Go for it.

CALLER: Well, it's a real privilege to speak with the mayor of Realville.

RUSH: Thank you, sir, very much.

CALLER: Going to gun control. Say you have a victim of a violent crime, and they suffer a traumatic brain injury. Would that person be allowed to possess guns in their home. Knowing the extent of their injuries, what is their doctor's liability as far as preventing that to government officials?

RUSH: Now, wait. A victim of violent crime, they suffer a traumatic brain injury, would that person be allowed to possess guns in their home?


RUSH: You mean now, or with future legislation?

CALLER: Well, right now. That is the law.

RUSH: Oh, right now they can? You're saying they can? You're not asking?

CALLER: Well, they can right now. Will they be allowed to keep those guns in the future?

RUSH: Well, I don't see any moves being made against the mentally disabled. I mean, they're almost untouchable here.

CALLER: But that is a mental you health issue, isn't it?

RUSH: Oh, it is. It most certainly is. The Sandy Hook Elementary thing is most clearly a mental health issue. That poor mother apparently was unable to do anything. She was unable to get her child institutionalized. There are a lot of people who have kids like that who worry their kid could be the next Sandy Hook shooter, and they're writing, and they're telling stories about how difficult it is because of the steps that have been taken to make sure that the mentally ill have every right that anybody else has.

CALLER: Okay. Without sounding totally heartless where would, say, a James Brady or a Gabby Giffords fit into this scenario?

RUSH: In terms of being permitted to own a gun?

CALLER: Correct.

RUSH: You're asking the wrong guy. I don't know that anything would stand in the way of it.

CALLER: (silence) That is a real problem, then.

RUSH: Well, you're focusing on the mental health aspect. I know what you're doing. You're trying to get people focused on it. Even with what you think is a cold, heartless, cruel, insensitive question, you're trying to get people focused on what the real problem here is, and it's who has access to and is grabbing guns. Once we learn who they are, why can't we do anything about it? It's a legitimate question. You may have an impolitic way of asking it but that just tells us that you're a conservative and a mean-spirited extremist, but it doesn't mean... (laughing) No, I'm just kidding. It is one of the focal points of all this that's not being looked at, of course, in any sensible way at all.

Brief time-out. Open Line Friday rolls on. We'll be back and continue. I think we're doing pretty well today taking calls and -- and we're doing pretty well taking Open Line Friday calls. We've had our share of nothings, we've had our share of doesn't make any sense, we've had our share of genuine curiosity about things other than politics. We've had plenty of what the hell are they talking about, I don't know yet calls. And we stuck with it and it's all working out. 



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