The Armstrong Lie


As if you haven’t heard enough about America’s favourite cycling villain - Lance makes another appearance, this time on the big screen, in a full length documentary.

The writer, director and producer Alex Gibney sought to cover Lance’s 2009 ‘comeback’ at the Tour de France-a seemingly feel good story as Lance was then the winningest cyclist at the Grand Boucle. *Spoiler Alert* These wins weren’t exactly ‘pane e acqua’ as the Italians say, and in 2013 he was stripped of his tours, banished from the results sheets, with a lifetime competition ban from all WADA sanctioned events. A historic implosion of arguably one of the most recognizable sports figures to ever make the leap from saddle to celebrity, a feat likely no other cyclist will replicate.

The stage for the documentary is set with the infamous Oprah interview, and then hits the rewind button as the viewer is taken backwards to learn more about Lance from his early years. It’s a thorough, if not a needlessly exhaustive trip down memory lane for the well read, and at times, drag on. There are a series of original interviews with cyclists and cycling kingpins from the "bad old days" like Hamilton, Landis, Hincapie, the Andreu’s, the man in the car - Johan Bruyneel and arguably the architect of the USPS doping program - Michele Ferrari. And what cycling documentary wouldn’t be complete without the snappy dressing and plain speaking Jonathan Vaughters? There isn’t anything new or groundbreaking if you’ve followed the story over the years, but certainly it brings everyone up to speed and fills in any gaps along the way.

Gibney is candid about how he, like most, was caught up in the cult of personality that was Armstrong, and how he (and many others) understood, first hand, how Lance is a master of dialogue control, bullying and winning at all costs. The interviews of the brash Lance are enough to make anyone squirm, especially his famous 2005 Tour de France victory speech or his run-in with Paul Kimmage.

Certainly, this is a documentary well worth seeing, especially for the hilarious historical footage from early tours when competitors slammed beers mid race - but in the end, after 122 minutes in the chair, the viewer is left a bit empty and unfulfilled. It’s impossible to know the whole story and Gibney has made the best with what’s available, we all want to know more or perhaps even the truth regarding Lance, USPS and the EPO days- a story that certainly hasn’t reached its denouement yet. Overall, the story is probably a bit too complex and over the top for the casual observer, and too casual for the enthusiast - leaving all a bit unsatisfied. The star and the goat of the show is Lance being Lance and after the credits roll, you feel as if you need a shower after being up close and and personal for too long with Big Tex.