Watchdog

Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

+-

Trautwig thought Armstrong was a 'jerk' . . . in 1992

Years of speculation is about to end as

Years of speculation is about to end as the first part of Lance Armstrong's television interview with Oprah Winfrey is aired on Thursday night. Any admission of drug use by Armstrong will end more than a decade of denials. (Jan. 17)

Nice job by Oprah Winfrey in her sitdown with Lance Armstrong. She should consider a career in TV interviewing! Best of all for Ms. Winfrey: I and millions of other people now know what channel OWN is on.

Anyway, I have not spoken to Oprah or Lance in ages, but I did have access the other day to MSG's Al Trautwig, who has hosted the Tour de France and has known Armstrong for two decades. Your original impression, sir?

"In 1992 he was getting ready for the Barcelona Olympics. So was I, and so was my crew. And so 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.

"And that feeling came to change over time. I was seeing the incarnation of a superhero who had overcome the most dire of emergencies in life, and even while I was watching that there were rumors swirling around about this guy's doing this and this guy's doing that. But there was always this feeling among all of us who were covering the race in my little group that they were out of their minds.

"When Greg LeMond spoke out it was, oh, he's a grouchy old champion who can't race anymore. I was working with Frankie Andreu, whose wife was in the middle of this thing. And he would always just look at me and say, 'Dude,' and I didn't know what to make of that.

"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.

"That's why, now, when I found out the truth about Floyd and I found out the truth about Tyler Hamilton and I found out the truth about Ivan Basso and I found out the truth about Jan Ullrich and I found out the truth about all these guys, Lance was on his own little island.

"I guess it was because of the testing and the adamancy and the cancer and the Livestrong. He's up on the horse holding a flag, and then when the whole house of cards came down, the little guy in me just felt really, really betrayed and stupid and bad and then multiply that exponentially for the millions of people who were in even deeper than I ever was.

"You know, I heard Stuart Scott on the radio today, saying that the cheating doesn't take away the good that he did with the Livestrong Foundation. And listen, I don't have cancer right now, so Stuart Scott is Stuart Scott and I want him to feel better and I want him to believe in whatever he believes in.

"But I just want to know what everybody who bought one of those yellow bands thinks of when they look at it. Mark Messier used to always say the best thing about a championship ring is every time I look at it I see a different movie. I want to know what they see when they look at that yellow bracelet.

"Does everyone have to cheat? Really? My son [Alex], he was with me for all those Tours. He was 14, 15, 16, I can't tell you what he thought about Lance Armstrong. Took pictures of him. Watched him do all these great things.

"And now, at the age of 22, his hero is a cheater. I don't know what to say to him about that."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Neil Best on Twitter

advertisement | advertise on newsday