'Yeah, he won the Tour de France seven times,' are the last words spoken in the much hyped documentary The Armstrong Lie. The words are spoken by Lance Armstrong himself. Lance Armstrong the self-confessed drugs cheat, fraud, liar and bully.
If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that Lance Armstrong certainly didn't win the Tour de France seven times.
For director Alex Gibney, that one closing quote exposes his film more brutally than an under-trained rider attempting a breakaway on Mont Ventoux.
It exposes what this film really is; the biggest love letter ever written to Armstrong. It is a film which lovers of clean cycling will hate, but never-the-less feel compelled to watch.
When 'Le Texan' finally admitted to Oprah Winfrey what everyone already knew it was a moment for reflection on a period of professional cycling. But that same interview also blew apart Gibney's pet project - to follow Armstrong's remarkable comeback to professional sport.
Gibney had hoped to show how the veteran cancer survivor (and then holder of seven yellow jerseys) could battle back once again, against all the odds. That is a story which now holds no credibility.
Yet The Armstrong Lie begins a process for Lance which many feared would start after the Oprah interview. It provides Armstrong with an international mouthpiece to start his fightback. He is given a two hour window to paint himself as a victim and rightful winner of seven Tours de France.
Here's seven deadly sins of The Armstrong Lie documentary:
- LA is allowed to constantly make the argument that he is the rightful winner of his seven titles.
- Alberto Contador, the team mate who beat him to the Tour de France win in 2009, is painted as the ultimate bad guy who betrays Armstrong and his Astana team.
- He's treated as a troubled character who is not yet ready to deal with his cheating. Poor Lance.
- He's basically portrayed as a hero and despite everything else, he's a battler; a winner.
- He has been treated unfairly by doping authorities and his life ban is a conspiracy.
- Everyone else was doping too and Lance was just doing what he had to do'
- It comes across as Armstrong was just having a bit of a doss, and getting away with it was fun while it lasted.
Even Michele Ferrari, the most dodgy of dodgy doctors comes across as a decent chap. A man with a good strategy, but who tampered at the edges of doping to keep up with the rest.
For fans of cycling's combative nature there are some genuine gems in this film. The new pieces of behind the scenes footage are brilliant. The moment Armstrong is in the team coach watching Contador being interviewed after a stage of the 2009 tour is mouthwatering.
This film should have probably stuck to its original aim - to chart Armstrong's bizarre comeback and his battle with team rival Contador.
Six months ago, or so, when the Armstrong/Oprah interview was first screened I actually sided a bit with Lance. I was fully up for the truth and reconciliation path. Weed out the problem, talk about it and deal with doping. I've since changed my mind.
What this film proves, for me, is that Armstrong is probably not massively interested in dealing with doping. What's important to him - and what The Armstrong Lie enabled him to do - was to rebuild his own reputation.
For those still starstruck by Armstrong, this is a great watch. It's a beautifully made documentary with a mix of archive and original footage which will pull cycling fans in and make them talk.
But take a closer look.
That closer look will reveal what this film wanted to stand for. It wanted to be an advert for Armstrong. Unfortunately for Gibney, that's how it comes across.
It papers over the real issues and extent of Armstrong's disgraceful lies, and that is the most deadly sin.
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