Those in the cycling community who watched part one of the Armstrong-Winfrey show with tired eyes early this morning were at first startled by his positive answers to yes-or-no questions about doping: yes, yes, yes. After 15 years of denials, bullying and manipulation, he had finally said it.
"I've interviewed this man many times," Ned Boulting, an ITV cycling presenter, tweeted seconds later. "I find his words, despite everything, breathtaking."
But then, after the shock of the new, Armstrong reverted to type, dodging questions with a chilling lack of emotion and those familiar, cold eyes. After 90 minutes, an audience of cycling enthusiasts and those he had duped went to bed angry.
"I don't want to waste any more of my time with Lance Armstrong," said Mike Anderson, a former mechanic and assistant, who faced legal action after accusing the rider of doping. "He's an incredible actor and that's what you saw today."
Christophe Bassons, the French cyclist who accused Armstrong of ending his career because he would not dope, said: "He stayed the way I thought he would: cold, hard... he's not totally honest even in his so-called confession. I think he admits some of it to avoid saying the rest."
Bonnie D Ford, a US sports journalist, noted the characteristic control the rider exerted over Oprah. "It was a typical Lance event," she wrote on the ESPN website. "It was about spectacle and managed production and trying to craft another chapter in a punctured epic that has... sunk to earth."
According to the Armstrong narrative, he was more "flawed" than genuinely sorry, more evasive than contrite, and selective in the apologies he promised to those who suffered the worst effects of his defiant bullying.
Most contentious was his address to Betsy Andreu, the wife of Lance Armstrong's former teammate Frankie Andreu, who says she heard Armstrong admit to doping while receiving cancer treatment in hospital in 1996.
Armstrong conceded that he had called Andreu "crazy" and "a bitch", before adding with a smirk that infuriated the early whistleblower, "but not fat".
He also declined to apologise and refused to be drawn on the accuracy of her claims.
"I'm really disappointed. You owed it to me, Lance, and you dropped the ball," Andreu told CNN minutes later. "After what you've done to me, what you've done to my family, and you couldn't own up to it. And now we're supposed to believe you?" Professional cyclists still in competition were generally less forthcoming, but the Australian rider Stuart O'Grady said: "Lance deceived everybody on the planet, us included. Now it's all come out, [I am] deceived, annoyed, frustrated."
David Walsh, the Sunday Times writer who accused Armstrong from the start, welcomed the early admission but added later: "The more I think about the interview, the more conscious I become of the evasions and non-answers. His truth will come dropping slowly."Reuse content