‘Arm­strong Lie’ deals with truth

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PEOPLE -

LON­DON: When Alex Gib­ney set out to make a movie about cy­clist Lance Arm­strong’s 2009 Tour de France come­back, the doc­u­men­tar­ian ad­mits he bought into the hype: The man who’d cheated death was com­ing back to reign supreme – and clean.

“All of us fans wanted to be­lieve,” said Gib­ney, who di­rected this sum­mer’s well­re­ceived doc­u­men­tary We Steal Se­crets: The Story of Wik­iLeaks. “You want to root for peo­ple. That is what sports are all about.”

In fact, it was such a pos­i­tive project, Arm­strong him­self had a “fi­nan­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion” in the film, Gib­ney said.

Then in 2011, things changed. The “feel- good movie,” as Gib­ney called the orig­i­nal ver­sion, was nearly fin­ished when Arm­strong’s ex­team­mates, Tyler Hamil­ton and Floyd Lan­dis, be­gan go­ing pub­lic about Arm­strong’s dop­ing.

That same year, Arm­strong faced a US govern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion into dop­ing al­le­ga­tions.

Then last year, a fed­eral Anti- Dop­ing Agency re­port al­leged Arm­strong and his US Postal Ser­vice-spon­sored team used per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs.

It had be­come all too clear – Gib­ney needed to change the fab­ric of his film. What had been ti­tled The Road Back be­came The Arm­strong Lie, which opened in Europe this week.

“It was a lie that was hid­ing in plain sight,” said Gib­ney. Sus­pi­cions about Arm­strong’s drug use ac­tu­ally be­gan to sur­face in 2005, af­ter for­mer Arm­strong team­mate Frankie An­dreu and his wife, Betsy, tes­ti­fied in a law­suit about a drug con­fes­sion they heard Arm­strong make while hos­pi­talised in 1996 dur­ing his bout with can­cer.

( Arm­strong later did his best to os­tracise Frankie An­dreu from the cy­cling world.)

“Most of the facts had been re­vealed a long time ago,” said Gib­ney. “The ques­tion was if they had been re­vealed, then how did Lance main­tain that they weren’t true? That is what the film is about.”

Sit­ting with Oprah Win­frey in Jan­uary of this year, Arm­strong ad­mit­ted to us­ing per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs to win the Tour de France seven times, ti­tles that have since been re­voked. Gib­ney was there as the in­ter­view was shot and in­sisted that Arm­strong come clean in front of his cam­era, too.

“A long in­ter­view was hard to get in the wake of Oprah be­cause that in­ter­view hadn’t done for him what he wanted it to do,” said Gib­ney. “He wanted his fans back. It didn’t work out that way. But I was mov­ing for­ward with other peo­ple like Betsy (An­dreu, who ap­pears in the film). I think that was the rea­son he ul­ti­mately agreed to sit down: He wanted to feel a sense of con­trol over his story and he knew that with­out his voice, things might go worse.”

“You have to call a fraud a fraud,” said Betsy An­dreu in a phone in­ter­view. “Lance tried to use can­cer to shield him­self, but in my opin­ion, that is how he got the can­cer – us­ing all of those drugs. Growth hor­mones fuel can­cer” –a the­ory sup­ported by med­i­cal re­search.

Has Arm­strong tainted the cy­cling world for­ever? “That’s the hard part,” said Gib­ney. “We want (ath­letes) to be su­per­hu­man, but we are sur­prised when they dope. That, to some ex­tent, is where it falls on us.”

Though Arm­strong has no plans to see the film – he sent his rep­re­sen­ta­tives in­stead – the dis­graced cy­clist will re­ceive a small por­tion of the film’s prof­its.

“When the orig­i­nal deal was made, Lance had a fi­nan­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion,” Gib­ney ex­plained, thus en­ti­tling Arm­strong to a back-end deal with the new film. The film’s pro­duc­ers said the orig­i­nal deal with Arm­strong was partly to se­cure his co-op­er­a­tion in mak­ing The Road Back, but that he was not an in­vestor in the film.

Will Arm­strong ever con­firm what the An­dreus said they heard in the hos­pi­tal room in 1996? When did Arm­strong ac­tu­ally start dop­ing? “He wouldn’t tell me,” said Gib­ney.

“Lots of peo­ple were dop­ing,” he said, “but the lie is what was re­ally prob­lem­atic with Lance’s story.” – Sapa-AP

PIC­TURE: AP

CON­FES­SION: The in­ter­view with Oprah Win­frey dur­ing which Lance Arm­strong ad­mit­ted us­ing per­for­mance en­hanc­ing drugs.

TES­TI­MONY: Betsy An­dreu ap­pears in the film.

FILM: Direc­tor Alex Gib­ney had to change tac­tics.

ROCKED: Alec Bald­win re­ported stalk­ing to po­lice.

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