When first approached about taking part in ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 sports documentary on Lance Armstrong entitled Lance, Betsy Andreu knew she was screwed.
Having given sworn testimony about Armstrong’s doping back in 2005, information she heard direct from the jackass’ mouth, she knew that if she agreed to do the interview she might be perceived as “the bitch who won’t let it go” as she posted on Facebook in mid May, and if she passed on it, possibly fall victim to being smeared yet again.
“It was damned if I do, damned if I don’t,” says Andreu, about the documentary a day after the second and final episode aired Sunday. “It was like OK, if he smears me then I can’t whine and complain about it because they gave me the opportunity to respond and I didn’t.”
In the end, Andreu decided to take part. It was better to shape the narrative than have someone shape it for me with their lies, she thought. “We would shape it with the truth, he would shape it with the lies,” she says.
If there’s anyone that knows what it’s like to face the wrath of a Lance Armstrong smear campaign, and that of his sycophants, as she likes to call them, it’s Betsy Andreu. The wife of retired cyclist and former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, Betsy was in the Indiana University hospital room, visiting Armstrong back in 1996, around the time he was diagnosed with cancer, when a doctor walked in and asked him if he’d ever taken any performance enhancing drugs.
In videotaped sworn testimony, which the documentary shows, Betsy Andreu details a litany of PEDs Armstrong told the doctor he’d taken, including the red blood cell producing Erythropoietin, better known as EPO, steroids and Human Growth Hormone.
This was back when Armstrong was in full-blown scorched earth-mode about anyone who tried to expose him. He unleashed a stream of bullshit that Andreu was out of her mind.
And as was the case with anyone who tried to tell the truth about Lance Armstrong and his doping or doubted his being a clean racer — as 3-time Tour de France Greg LeMond did — there were repercussions, both personal and financial.
Things were no different for the Andreus.
While the documentary spends ample time telling you that everyone was cheating back in the late ’90s, and that, in order to be competitive, Armstrong had to do the same, as well as about the many lives Armstrong’s foundation Livestrong saved and the cancer patients he inspired, which should clearly be celebrated — and even that has issues — it didn’t go into too much detail into all the lives he tried to ruin and the lengths he and others would go to achieve that.
What was it like to be in Lance Armstrong’s crosshairs?
Says Andreu, “It was not feeling safe in your own home.
“It was having his sycophants just go after us mercilessly, and I’m not just talking about people calling me names, that’s the least of it, though some of the comments were really really nasty.
“It was a financial drain, the emotional drain. That was tough.
“Being afraid, not wanting the kids to go outside because we had received a couple of death threats.
“And [Armstrong] never denounced any of them. I’m not being glib when I say people would have killed themselves over a smidgen of what he had done to me.
“It’s going up against a machine, and dealing with the ramifications for doing so.”
Beyond the name-calling and death threats the Andreus received, Armstrong used his influence to help deny Frankie Andreu work as he transitioned to broadcasting.
To be clear, Lance Armstrong didn’t ruin Betsy and Frankie Andreu’s lives, she’s quick to correct. He tried to.
“I don’t want to come across as just still harboring some angst or hard feelings about what he did, because that’s over and done with. I don’t want it to sound like I’m whining or bitching about what he did,” says Andreu.
All of these abuses Betsy Andreu says were brought up in her interview for the documentary, but most didn’t make the cut.
“You can’t tell it all,” she says, “because then it would just be a documentary about that, and who wants to hear that again?”
Clearly not Lance, as what hasn’t been widely publicized was the fact that one individual in the documentary, identified as a friend of Armstrong’s, who says in the doc that he traveled to Hawaii to be with him after his doping was fully exposed, has the same name as an executive producer of the film: Chad Mountain. Curious.
“That should have been disclosed don’t you think? Not surprising I suppose,” says Andreu.
It obviously brings into question how much control Armstrong and his people had over the making of this documentary. Andreu says she asked the filmmaker’s director Marina Zenovich if ESPN had approached Armstrong or if Armstrong had approached ESPN, and was told by Zenovich that she didn’t know.
Something else left out of the documentary, something Betsy Andreu really wanted left in, was Zenovich telling her that Armstrong’s people said Andreu’s issue with Armstrong is because she “wants” him and can’t have him.
“I do have standards you know,” she wrote on Facebook. “I can’t remember if I then asked on or off-camera, “Have you seen my husband?” I told her off-camera, “Frankie’s a good looking guy. Lance looks like Pee Wee Herman. Please put that on film, it shows his narcissism.”
Didn’t make the cut.
The Andreus are fine now, having the last laugh, finding Armstrong’s trite apologies without reconciliation a joke.
“Lying about doping is bad, absolutely, then lying about being sorry about how you ruined people’s reputations and ruined their livelihood, tried to destroy their lives is to me worse. How dare you,” says Andreu. “Forgiveness is something that’s sacred.
“I don’t know how he holds his head [up] and has shame follow wherever he goes. That shadow of shame.
“Just because I won’t be a doormat when he pops his head to lie about me, or the hospital incident, doesn’t mean I wish to reconcile with him,” she adds. “He didn’t want to reconcile with us; it is what it is. I do wish Lance peace, though”
There are plenty of failures in the documentary, according to Andreu, including the complicity of UCI, the governing body of cycling, in covering up Armstrong’s doping, an issue that was never brought up to then-president Pat McQuaid who appeared in the doc.
“But [Zenovich] didn’t press him on it,” says Andreu. Or on the fact that after McQuaid, when tipped off by one of Armstrong’s former teammates that USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) had Armstrong cold, called Armstrong personally to alert him.
“This is the president of the governing body? Are you kidding,” says Andreu. “Where’s the shame? There is no shame.”
But the part of the documentary that is really still troubling is Armstrong’s inability to admit what was said in that Indiana University Hospital room 24 years ago. When asked again what was said that day, Armstrong, who had denied Andreu’s account for decades, now says he doesn’t remember what he’d said.
“The hospital room is a litmus test. If he’s going to lie about the hospital room after having denied it vehemently for years and years and years,” says Andreu. “Now all of sudden he does not remember. If he’s going to lie about the hospital room, why should we trust anything else he’s saying?”
So why is he still lying about this? When he appeared with Oprah Winfrey and put his cheating and lying on the table, he still refused to concede that he lied about that visit.
“It’s me,” she says. “He equates losing to death. And that means if he loses, I win.
“If he admits that I was right, then I win and he loses.
“The irony is, by not wanting to lose, he’s the biggest loser of all.”