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It’s been 18 months since Lance Armstrong‘s poorly received TV confession to Oprah Winfrey of his repeated doping, lying and bullying of adversaries over the course of his epic cycling career.
In the latest issue of Esquire, John H. Richardson checks in with the disgraced athlete and cancer survivor for a lengthy interview. The piece, titled “Lance Armstrong in Purgatory: The Afterlife” reveals a downsized but still defiant Armstrong ego — a man adjusting to and still coping with his remarkable fall from the apex of athletics to widespread derision and infamy.
Here are six of the most surprising revelations from the interview.
1) He plays golf now and rarely cycles
Armstrong reveals that he always hated golf, but now that he’s essentially unemployed, he’s taken to playing the game five times a week. Writes Richardson: “The game isn’t natural to him. You have to swivel your hips and his legs were all about up and down. Now he takes lessons, plays eighteen holes, then goes home to watch golf on TV. … Armstrong just shrugs. “What else am I gonna do?”
More striking, given his renowned training regimens during the glory days, he seldom cycles now.
“It’s like, I don’t really care,” he says, a little mystified. “It’s weird.”
2) He regrets the lying and bullying, but remains defiant about doping
“To this day, in any forum available to him, Armstrong refuses to repent on the main charge against him. He seems sincere in his regret for lying so insistently and suing people who tried to expose him, but on the charge of doping he simply cannot form his lips around the pious apology the public expects.”
Armstrong insists he had a simple choice: He could either do what it took to win (cheat) or go back to work at a bike shop in Austin. He cites Michael Irvin, the Dallas Cowboys star receiver of the 1990s, as a sort of inspiration: “I mean, he was getting busted with strippers and cocaine and shit. All the Cowboys, they were fucking nuts. And he had this one great line: ‘I’m gonna catch a touchdown this weekend and it’s all good.'”
3) He actually calls his margaritas ‘Lanceritas’
Throughout the series of interviews that make up the article, Armstrong orders, sips and whips up his signature “Lanceritas.” Richardson declines to supply the cyclists’ signature recipe, although he appears to prefer lime and insists on crushed ice. Ordering a second round at a restaurant, Armstrong tells a waiter: “Keep the same ice, bro. I love crushed ice.”
4) He gets eviscerated on Facebook even when he’s doing something nice
Although exiled from the influential charitable organization he self-financed and founded, Livestrong, Armstrong is still actively in touch with the cancer survivor community. He keeps his profile and communications mostly private now, however. When he does pop his head up publicly on social media, it tends to get bludgeoned.
After a cancer victim Armstrong was close with passed away, he posted a small heartfelt Facebook tribute: “RIP Jimmy Fowkes,” it read. “You have forever touched my life as well as millions of others. I will miss you. Jimmystrong….”
Despite the solemn subject, Armstrong was instantly blasted: “I’ll bet he didn’t cheat,” read one comment.
5) His megalomania remains intact (at least occasionally)
Did Nelson Mandela really forgive the people who put him in prison for 27 years, he asks at one point in the interview, or did he just say that for public consumption?
He also compares himself to Bill Clinton so many times he eventually concedes he shouldn’t compare himself to Bill Clinton, since it might sound “vainglorious.” So he shifts gears and likens himself to other legendary sports stars. “People are fine that Michael Jordan was a jerk, they’re fine if Wayne Gretzky was a jerk, but they weren’t fine with me being an asshole. They expected that perfect story.”
6) He still means a great deal to many cancer survivors
The article is peppered with anecdotes from cancer survivors about the personal video messages they received from Armstrong and the pivotal role he played in their recovery. Richardson’s reporting also reveals that Armstrong has discreetly hosted a fundraiser for a camp for sick kids and hopes to reconcile with Livestrong. While open or combative on most issues, Armstrong seems to have acquired a new sense of discretion when it comes to discussing his activities in the cancer survivor community. “He will not talk about any of this, because he considers it unseemly,” Richardson writes.
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