Initially following Lance Armstong’s return to compete in the 2009 Tour de France, The Armstrong Lie redresses the man at the heart of the scandal following his eventual confession to blood-doping.
Armstrong became a symbol of Americana: winning the Tour De France a record 7 times after being diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his abdomen and lungs. Through chemotherapy and brain surgery he was a true underdog turned champion. A mythic character.
It’s hard to lose sight of the accomplishments of Armstrong, as an athlete and also as founder of the Livestrong Foundation, which has raised over $300 million toward cancer research and supporting cancer survivors. However, opening with his confession in an interview with Oprah Winfrey early last year, the film is careful to not to be sympathetic as it revisits his history of competitive cycling alongside his extensive involvement with performance enhancing drugs.
Interestingly the film seems to ground Armstrong’s actions as understandable – viewed within the context of drug use in the sport – focussing instead on his ability to lie and the sheer audacity with which he does it. This audacity, that dovetails with Armstrong’s characteristic arrogance, shines out from archived footage and interviews that take a very different tone with the knowledge of what was happening behind closed doors. At one point we see Armstrong and the team as they board their bus to receive blood transfusions that would aid their recovery – surrounded by fans and press.
The Armstrong Lie is a fascinating reexamination of a man – looking at the capabilities endowed by ego. Shown adamantly denying accusations, so convincingly in fact that all sense of sincerity is lost. His unbelievable competitiveness and uncompromising nature blend into a fabric of deception and mistrust.
Perhaps he was lying for so long that he began to believe it, or as with cycling – he just got good at it.