In the first two and a half minutes of new ESPN film about his life, Lance Armstrong tells a story that includes 13 F bombs, two other bad words and four obscene gestures.
And then it really goes.
► He talks about his adolescence, when he used a forged birth certificate to circumvent the minimum age requirements to enter the triathlon.
"Forging the birth certificate, competing illegally and winning everyone," he said of his formula.
► He talks about his “10,000 lies” – not in terms of regret, but as a best practice to protect his empire and hide his doping in cycling.
"Nobody dope and is honest," he said. "You are not. The only way to get high and be honest is if nobody asks you, which is not realistic. The second someone asks, you lie. It may be a lie, because you answer it once. Or, in my case, it can be 10,000 lies, because you answer 10,000 times.
Lance Armstrong's rise and fall as a sports icon is explored in a two-part documentary to be broadcast on ESPN. (Photo: Elizabeth Kreutz, ESPN)
► He also talks about grudges. He still has them, particularly against his former cycling teammate turned cool enemy.
"It could be worse," he said. "I could be Floyd Landis … waking up a piece of (expletive) every day."
OK, so why is ESPN giving this guy another big stage – this time showing a two-part prime-time movie about him this Sunday and the next?
"He is absolutely fascinating, friendly, light and fun," film director Marina Zenovich told USA TODAY. "But he also did horrible things to people, so it's like you're trying to understand someone. It's like a perfect documentary subject. For me, having access to him to try to figure it all out was like a dream job.”
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The general description of the narrative is now infamous. He is that Texas boy who became an American superhero, having survived a near-death battle with cancer to win the Tour de France seven times in a row from 1999 to 2005. But he is also an American villain, dishonored and exposed as cheater, liar and bully – aided and encouraged by performance-enhancing drugs and friends in high places.
Each of these separate stories has been qualified as an attractive television in previous decades. ESPN now brings it all together with part one (the rise) and part two (the fall) through the broader lens of time, more than other books and films that documented the Armstrong saga, one of the greatest sports stories of the 21st century.
In this case, the film does so mainly in Armstrong's own words, past and present. Armstrong, now 48, dominates the program and is given so much time to explain himself by director Zenovich that he reveals himself in a big and small way, from the lack of skill in the kitchen at home to seeing himself as a martyr. figure at the end.
But their answers and explanations are not exactly redemptive. Zenovich said he had no editorial control over the film and apparently was not satisfied with that after seeing you in December.
An edited version of the film for the language will also be shown simultaneously on ESPN2, in case any parent wants their children to learn from Armstrong about how to rationalize rampant dishonesty and deception, but does not want them to hear desecration.
"This film is not just a relaunch of what we know about what happened, but an exploration of who, how, why, expertly composed by an esteemed storyteller," said Libby Geist, vice president and executive producer at ESPN Films. and original content.
After watching, viewers are likely to come to different and subtle conclusions about him, which is another reason why this character study in a film can become food for college psychology courses. The film also details his heroic stature among cancer survivors and his work in Livestrong, the charity he built to help them before his expulsion amid scandals.
"Another surprising thing was to see how different people reacted to him in different ways," said Zenovich.
Some people hate him. Some stayed with him. Some still don't make up their mind.
"Thirty years of meeting someone, you either love or hate them," said Armstrong's former colleague Bobby Julich in the film. "I still haven't decided where I am after all of this."
The first part will air at 9pm. ET on Sunday, followed by part two at the same time on May 31.
Follow Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email: email@example.com