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Planned comeback chronicle turned into dissection of deception

In 2009 Oscar-wining director Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the RoomTaxi to the Dark Side) set out to make a documentary about Lance Armstrong’s comeback. The story didn’t quite unfold as expected and now Sony Pictures Classics has announced that it will release the resulting movie, The Armstrong Lie, later this year.

When Armstrong embarked on the comeback that would eventually lead to his downfall, he granted Gibney what producers Frank Marshall and Matt Tolmach call “unlimited and unprecedented access to Armstrong and the inner-workings of the Tour de France.”

That access meant Gibney was there in 2012 when Armstrong admitted to doping, following a federal criminal investigation, public accusations of doping by his ex-teammates, and an investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency. USADA’s CEO, Travis Tygart, famously concluded that Armstrong’s team had run “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

After winning the Tour de France seven times in succession from 1999 to 2005, Lance Armstrong retired. In 2009 he returned to racing to attempt to win an eighth Tour de France title. But Armstrong’s previous mastery of concealment had deserted him, and where the testing and monitoring regime of the early 2000s had been easy to circumvent, tighter monitoring of blood values, and an investigation into his teams by a US federal grand jury, brought his doping history to light.

Gibney describes making the film as a “long-distance ride, full of unpredictable twists and turns.

“I learned a lot about one spectacular sport - cycling - as well as the ethic of winning at all costs that pervades most sports and society-at-large. I’m very proud of the final film, grateful for the support and skill of my fellow producers and the legendary distribution team at Sony Pictures Classic.”

The film transformed as it was made from the chronicle of a comeback to an examination of the anatomy of a lie. Gibney was able to speak to Armstrong’s former teammates, doctors, and professionals, many of whom have never before spoken to the media about Armstrong and his doping admission, and had unequalled access to Armstrong himself.

“We set out to make a movie about a comeback,” said producers Frank Marshall and Matt Tolmach. “We ended up chronicling the collapse of one of the greatest myths and legends of our time.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

26 comments

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pmr [196 posts] 2 years ago
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 44

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workhard [397 posts] 2 years ago
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LIESTRONG

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bigmel [106 posts] 2 years ago
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Does LA get any royalties from this film? Hope not

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lycra vs lager [20 posts] 2 years ago
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"Long-awaited" really? what possible additional insight can be gained from this pointless enterprise?

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Roberj4 [214 posts] 2 years ago
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that will go straight to DVD

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aslongasicycle [380 posts] 2 years ago
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LANCE DOPED????

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crazy-legs [703 posts] 2 years ago
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Oh this could be entertaining!

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notfastenough [3661 posts] 2 years ago
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Wonder how many will watch it - I'd be sort inclined to in a train-wreck kind of way.

That said, if he does get any royalties, I'd be inclined to find it for free somehow. That's a shame really, because I'm sure the makers have put a lot of effort into it.

Then again, who feels sorry for Sony these days?!

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arrieredupeleton [574 posts] 2 years ago
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'....one of the greatest myths and legends of our time...'

Really? I know the producer has to sell a film which has no obvious market or demographic (who's going to watch it? those who never liked him or those who feel cheated and lied to be their once-hero?) but come on?

I really hope Larry doesn't get a dime from this.

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cat1commuter [1418 posts] 2 years ago
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Looking forward to this. I've seen some of his other documentaries, and they're great.

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Ghedebrav [1098 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm quite looking forward to this, actually, should be really interesting. Don't really care either way if he gets money out of it (ditto Tyler and his book/movie), but I imagine he won't.

There is also a superb book to be written, at some point in the future (probably give it a few years distance) about the Armstrong affair, his journey from poster boy to whipping boy and how it was emblamatic of an era that has hopefully now ended (bearing in mind that most of the world outside of the UK assume that Froome and Wiggins both doped).

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 2 years ago
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The problem is he will get royalties from this unneccesary movie.

If you see other news about Armstrong elsewhere it seems he is hell bent on blaming everybody else but himself. Now he is blaming the US Government for overlooking allegations of drug-taking at the time because his team were sponsored by the US Postal Service.

Brass neck is only the half of it.

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andyp [1436 posts] 2 years ago
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'"Long-awaited" really? what possible additional insight can be gained from this pointless enterprise?'

aw...is it too soon? still hurts?

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graphite [63 posts] 2 years ago
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Do we really need to know any more about this lying cheat?

Let's have an in depth documentary about people who, you know, actually won the TdF, people who actually deserve some exposure. There's no shortage of sports heroes there - Hinault, LeMonde, Merckx, Induran, Wiggins, Froome. You might even call them real legends.

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sam_bennett [57 posts] 2 years ago
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I agree with cat1commuter, the director's previous work has been exceptional. Smartest guys in the room isn't just 'Bankers are evil, look this is what they did'.

I have enough faith that he'll have more to say than just what we know and isn't just,'hey look isn't armstrong a douche'

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RussFar66 [14 posts] 2 years ago
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Will they mention all the other users from back in the day, like Miller the hypocrite and alike.
This will be a nice end to the era, all they need to do now is give life bans and we will be sorted although there is still a great deal of hypocrisy in the sport as seen in the Tour's end presentations, true legends but did they dope of course they did, but they got to get on the podium but not Armstrong!!!!!!

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Leviathan [1778 posts] 2 years ago
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This is not the movie we have all been waiting for. We are waiting for the dramatic movie with Joseph Gordon-Three-Names or Bradley Cooper skinnying it up and being all angsty, evasive and aggressive. Oscar nom stuff that, chew the furniture. Oh irony if they won the gold statue whilst Armstrong looses all his.

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cycle_physio [37 posts] 2 years ago
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lance won the tour from 99-2005 not 2006 as in article  3

with regard to the movie, i'm looking forward to someone who can make movies put their spin on cycling, and what better subject than lance, a microcosm of the corruption/deceit/cheating that unfortunately pervades pro cycling and most other pro sports

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Leviathan [1778 posts] 2 years ago
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*Pedantic correction: Lance only finished the tour course in the fastest time, that is a documented fact. 'Won' is a subjective term.

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andyp [1436 posts] 2 years ago
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*pedantic correction to a pedantic correction: Armstrong only finished the tour course in the fastest time in six of those seven years. One year he took a shortcut across a field and thus covered less distance than the official route.  3

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jaylamont [17 posts] 2 years ago
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I'd like to agree with you but the media circus that has been running on this a-hole has kind of got the worlds interest. The director is lucky he admitted to doping half way through production as it's probably going to be a more compelling watch to the average Joe than a doc that is simply about some "amazing cyclist who just keeps winning".

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Ghostie [93 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm another person who has been waiting for a proper Lance Armstrong movie. Thought this was it, until I saw the word "documentary". Meh, I want actors, fights, glamorous babes in bikinis, big explosions and terrifying skyscraper-sized monsters in USPS/Discovery kits.

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Leviathan [1778 posts] 2 years ago
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andyp wrote:

*pedantic correction to a pedantic correction: Armstrong only finished the tour course in the fastest time in six of those seven years. One year he took a shortcut across a field and thus covered less distance than the official route.  3

This remains his greatest achievement. Alberto wishes he was that nimble.

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dp24 [201 posts] 2 years ago
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Alex Gibney is a top director, so i'll probably watch this purely from that angle. Smartest Guys In The Room is an excellent piece of work.

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John Stevenson [249 posts] 2 years ago
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cycle_physio wrote:

lance won the tour from 99-2005 not 2006 as in article  3

Quite right, my typo, now fixed

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smernicki [28 posts] 2 years ago
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notfastenough wrote:

That said, if he does get any royalties, I'd be inclined to find it for free somehow. That's a shame really, because I'm sure the makers have put a lot of effort into it.

That would be a nice thing to do for Alex Gibney and his crew who have probably spent the last 2 years of their lives working on it. If you don't want to watch it, don't watch it. If you want to watch it, do it in a way that means those guys are getting paid.