By now you probably heard or saw Lance Armstrong make his official cheating declaration to Oprah Winfrey. Armstrong, a cancer survivor, was the most decorated cyclist ever with a record seven Tour de France victories. With his admission last night of taking performance enhancing drugs throughout his career, those yellow jackets have all been taken away and the monumental sporting achievement was all but erased from memory.
Al Trautwig offered a unique perspective into the one-time superhero’s persona. Trautwig, who called the Tour De France during the “Armstrong Era,” spoke to Newsday about the first time he saw the future champion. It was 1992, in preparation for the Barcelona Olympics on NBC.
“… We went to interview him at the house that he was living in. And the only way I can describe it is for what Lance Armstrong was in 1992, he was an overly cocky, arrogant jerk. He just was. That’s what I came away feeling,” Trautwig tells Newsday’s Neil Best.
Trautwig, the MSG Network host, acknowledged that those feelings would change in time as the titles piled on, and the his battle with testicular cancer made his endearing, if not endestructable.
Rumors intensified that Armstrong was involved in PEDs. Then as a broadcaster, Trautwig had a “line in the sand” moment.
“And then Lance leaves and Floyd Landis has one of the greatest days in the history of the Tour. Every corpuscle in my body should have said: You can’t do that! You can’t do what he did!’ And I didn’t have the same respect for him that I had for Lance. But for some reason, I didn’t think it. Maybe it’s because I didn’t want to believe it,” Trautwig says.
Finding it even more incredulous was Trautwig’s son, Alex, a teenager at the time, who idolized the on-track exploits of Armstrong.
“And now, at the age of 22, his hero is a cheater,” Trautwig says. “I don’t know what to say to him about that.”
AP Photo courtesy of Harpo Studios Inc., George Burns