Lance Armstrong   Frankie and Betsie Andreu   Michele Ferrari   George Hincapie   Oprah Winfrey


    Alex Gibney, the award-winning documentarian, presents a neutral history of Lance Armstrong’s career as a Tour de France champion for seven consecutive years.  Gibney began filming during what was to be Armstrong’s comeback race in 2005, but suspended production for several years until Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2013, when he acknowledged that he had indeed been using performance-enhancing drugs all along.  As well publicized, he was stripped of all his medals, banned from competitive sports, and dropped by his sponsors, all of which has cost him millions of dollars.

 Towards the beginning of the film, Armstrong is assertive—as is his wont—in stating that we haven’t heard the true story about his competitions yet, and that he is the only one who can tell it.  By the time filming is resumed, which is soon after his frankness on the Oprah Winfrey Show, he acknowledges using around five or six performance-enhancing drugs specifically, along with blood transfusions with blood collected from him after steep mountain climbs when it has a greater number of red blood cells containing oxygen.  

 Although many doubt his sincerity, Armstrong says that he is sorry for “a lot of lies” and especially the “big one”—meaning the lie that he lived for so many years.  He talks openly about himself in terms of his competitive, fighting spirit, which served him as well during cancer treatment as it did during bicycle races.  Most impressive, though, was his ability to convince himself that he wasn’t lying or doing anything wrong all those years, despite the numerous charges against him, and his vindictiveness toward those whom he perceived as disloyal to him.  

 The documentary interviews a host of people around Armstrong during his cycling years:  former team members Frankie Andreu and his wife Betsy, George Hincapie, and Jonathan Vaughters; team director Johan Bruyneel; Italian supplier and trainer Dr. Michele Ferrari; sports announcer Phil Liggett; Attorney Emile Vrijman; and writers and reporters Reed Albergotti, David Walsh, Daniel Coyle, Steve Madden, and Bill Strickland.  Some of these believed in Armstrong’s innocence all along; whereas most were skeptical, and some frankly knew the truth from their own observations.

 Armstrong has been a reluctant confessor, expressing little emotionally about what he has done, mostly, I think, because that is his personality, but also perhaps because legal proceedings are still in the works.  The film does a fine job in giving us an articulate picture of this complex man who seems to stand proud despite his giant comeuppance.

 Cycling fans are sure to find The Armstrong Lie informative and interesting.  

Grade:  A

By:  Donna R. Copeland