‘How to vilify a woman’ by Lance Armstrong

As you’ve probably heard by now, the celebrated hero of the cycling world has finally come crashing from his (metaphorical) bike of lies and deceit.  Taking enhancing drugs seems to have been part of the course as t’were in the cycling world as since 1980 with 17 of the 33 wins of the Tour De France have been tainted by doping. However, let’s also take note that out of those 17, there were only 7 different riders responsible for the doped wins and Armstrong took the glory for 7 of those.  In the last 22 years Lance Armstrong was 41% of what we now know was a very open and very large drugs issue.

And now the character assassination begins, the stories of bullying, intimidation and manipulation that went on in US Postal during the mid 90’s and early 2000’s, all headed up by Armstrong.  In the centre of these stories two figures have stood out, both telling the world of Armstrong et al’s fraudulent victories a long time before the UCI and US Anti-Doping agency began putting pressure on those involved to tell the truth.

Emma O’Reilly and Betsy Andreu are two very different women from very different backgrounds and with very different stories to tell, however they will always have in common  the fact they told the truth and both suffered at the hands of Armstrong for it.  O’Reilly came to the team as one of US Postal’s soigneur, a role that seems to be half masseuse, half PA.  As The Observer (14.10.12) puts it, discretion and loyalty were part of the job and O’Reilly was rapidly plunged into the world of doping regimes, often being sent on drug runs to different European countries to pick up and deliver the banned substances to the cyclists.  In one account she recalls how she had to use her concealer and makeup to cover up the bruises caused by injections on Armstrong’s body. However, it was her job and with such a relaxed attitude to drug taking within the team -and the whole sport it seems – she soon found herself desensitised to the full scale of what was going on.  Even when she finally told her story and knew the world deserved to know the truth, she felt nothing guilt for betraying her team.

Betsy Andreu on the other hand is the wife of one of Armstrong’s then teammates, Frankie Andreu.  After hearing Armstrong admit openly to a doctor, right in front of her, all the way back in 1996, that he was on a wide range of performance enhancing drugs (“EOP, testosterone, growth hormone, cortisone and steroids”) she first warned her husband that if he was doing the same she was getting a divorce and then thought about what to do with the matter-of-fact confession she had just heard.  Armstrong was a good friend of hers, however, possessed with a very strong moral compass Betsy knew the truth was more important.  The man was being celebrated as the greatest cyclist of all time, yet all the while two women knew that it was all based on lies.

Both women described what they’d seen in 2004’s book  ‘La Confidentiel, les secrets de Lance Armstrong’, the tipping point that brought the wrath of Armstrong down on them like a lead weight.  When asked about O’Reilly’s comments in a press conference shortly after the book was released Armstrong discredited the information by discrediting the source, insinuating nothing less than his ex-masseuse being an alcoholic whore with a whole range of issues.  He alluded to problems with alcohol, to inappropriate relationships with other team members and although the press at the time didn’t publish the full extent of his comments, they also didn’t stand up to him.  Andreu’s reputation was also left in tatters, this time with Armstrong tarnishing her with the  ‘bitter, jealous wife’ brush, making her out to be a woman attacking an icon because her own husband’s career wasn’t as successful.  In both cases Armstrong worked round the clock to vilify his accusers, attempting to turn their experiences and evidence into nothing but the crazed and hysterical rantings of unhinged women.

Armstrong’s chosen vices for each woman are as old as time, the whore and the jealous wife.  You pick up any book of mythology, folklore or legend and you will find the same villains in each tale.  These are also only actions that can be used to tarnish a woman’s character.  I’m not suggesting  O’Reilly did sleep around with the cycling team mates, but if she did, how would this possibly make her incapable of telling the truth about something she lived through everyday?  How on earth are your sex life and your capacity for truth linked in any possible way? Why would sleeping with a US Postal team rider make you want to come out in public and lie about Lance Armstrong?  And would Lance have used this tactic to smash his opposition if O’Reilly had been a man?  No of course he wouldn’t.  A man can sleep around and he’s a hero, but a woman does it and is still, even in today’s society, seen as untrustworthy and unstable.  Especially if she’s a woman in what is overall a man’s world, as O’Reilly was at US Postal.  Great.

Andreu fared no better, being made out to be unstable and driven to lie and scheme against Armstrong by the jealousy felt at his success in comparison to her husband’s.  He originally asked Frankie Andreu to make his wife retract her confession, however she refused and was instantly slapped with watching her husband’s career shatter around him whilst being demonised herself.  She was threatened with violence in a series of voicemails and emails from Armstrong’s friends and associates but yet refused to be silent.  Andreu commented in The Sunday Times that she feared Lance’s lies about her being half-crazed and bitter would be seen as the truth, which she knew in turn would destroy all the evidence she had against him.  In the public eye at the time Andreu and O’Reilly were the wicked women to Armstrong’s golden prince and who are you going to trust more?

Of course now O’Reilly and Andreu are being praised for their courage and for standing by their story despite Armstrong’s attacks and threats.  With the support of the current on-going anti-doping report being put together on US Postal and Armstrong particularly, both women are beginning to see the light at the end of a very harsh tunnel, whilst Armstrong feels the effects of his own tactics as his character and reputation come crashing down around his ears.  Cheat.


p.s I just found this article on the Guardian from 2008.  Knowing what we all know now this will make your skin crawl.

Image from http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk (thanks)


One comment

  1. An interesting angle on a story which has far from run its course. What is significant is how easily these dissenting voices were suppressed at the time. How seriously did the media regard their claims? I hope their vindication will inspire others to show similar courage.

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