In 2009 Oscar-wining director Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi 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.”
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.