The documentary Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney started to make in 2009 about Lance Armstrong ended up being something else entirely. Called The Armstrong Lie, the film contains footage that was shot as recently as May 2013, including the minutes following Armstrong’s confessional but smug and non-contrite interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Did he dope? Yes, he did. Did he lie ad nauseam about doping for years and years, including to Gibney’s camera? Yes. As a metaphor, an Armstrong lie would be something as flaky as mica and slippery as salad dressing yet easily held aloft on the strength of hero worship.
Having believed the thousands of denials of doping Armstrong issued over the years (despite eyewitness accounts), Gibney intended to document Armstrong’s return to cycling after a four-year hiatus from the Tour de France. Having won seven of them since 1999, Armstrong had spent his time on his successful “Live Strong” charity and relationship with Missouri native Sheryl Crow. But he couldn’t resist being spotlighted by glory and began training intensely, even with the odds of having to swallow his own philosophy that “losing equals death.”
The drama of such a comeback is inherently compelling (if a bit creepy, given what we know now) and no doubt Armstrong is charismatic. But what Gibney’s movie reveals is that he’s burned a lot of friends and more bridges and seems to have little remorse about it. The only shreds of regret seem to be wrapped around his reputation with his children – honorable enough – and the loss of his self-appointed awesomeness.