The Armstrong Lie

November 4, 2013 0 By Fans
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A documentary chronicling sports legend Lance Armstrong's improbable rise and ultimate fall from grace.

Release Year: 2013

Rating: 7.1/10 (74 voted)

Director: Alex Gibney


A documentary chronicling sports legend Lance Armstrong's improbable rise and ultimate fall from grace.


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Filmmaker Alex Gibney followed Lance Armstrong for four years with the intent of chronicling his return to cycling after retirement as Armstrong tried to win his eighth Tour de France. Unexpectedly, Gibney was also there when Armstrong admitted to doping, which resulted in the film being retitled from “The Road Back” to “The Armstrong Lie.” See more »

User Review


Rating: 7/10

It is an unexpected honor to be the first reviewer of The Armstrong

Yesterday, I went to the London Film Festival and saw The Armstrong Lie
directed by Alex Gibney. When it comes to documentaries, a world-
renowned film festival is the perfect venue. There's nothing quite like
a roomful of film critics, cycling writers and enthusiasts being given
the opportunity to ask questions directly to a film director who had
unprecedented access to his subject.

Alex Gibney is firmly established among the very elite of documentary
filmmakers. He is responsible for Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the
House of God (2012), Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room (2005) and
Catching Hell (2011) for ESPN's 30 for 30 series which are among some
of my favorites of the genre. He also won an Academy Award for Taxi to
the Dark Side (2007). Having already investigated scapegoating and
bullying via a frightening episode in baseball's history when a fan
interfered with a foul ball during Game 6 of the 2003 National League
Championship Series at Wrigley Field, he was well prepared to deal with
Lance Armstrong from deification, to dirty politics and the long
purgatory faced by some of sport's fallen heroes.

The Armstrong Lie, Mr. Gibney told us, was five years in the making.
Lance Armstrong's return to competitive cycling in 2009 culminating
with his first Tour de France in four years – after winning seven
between 1999 and 2005 – was the original theme. The storyline begged
for a Hollywood ending and it was hard not to root for it.

Instead, we saw what needed to be done to rescue Alex Gibney's project
once Lance Armstrong lost the power to intimidate whistle-blowers and
trample journalists. His return from retirement suddenly looked more
like that of Roger Clemens than Michael Jordan. This makes The
Armstrong Lie a somewhat bipolar movie stretched between the myth we
embraced and Lance Armstrong's unblinking manufacturing of the truth.
It is also a vivid summary of the conflicting interests within cycling
from the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) which appears to have more
in common with the financial sector than clean sport, to its ongoing
disputes with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the US
Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

What The Armstrong Lie does exceedingly well is show the 'Armstrong
Cover-up'. To anyone who has read about systematic doping within
cycling, it is about much more than a two-faced one-time ambassador-at-
large of the sport. Johan Bruyneel – a former Director of the US Postal
Service team and until recently, of the RadioShack team – does not
stand to gain from the added exposure this film gives him when for
example he is shown attempting to influence a key race result. There is
nothing in the Armstrong Lie that will be new to anyone who has
followed the sport with passion. Still it remains an important film and
I am thankful it was completed. One day, we may come to view it as an
essential document of one of cycling's darkest eras.

It is also enlightening to contrast Lance Armstrong's interview by
Oprah Winfrey with new material to decide for ourselves on the depth of
duplicity involved, the predicament faced by anyone whose talent
happens to be riding a bike for 3 weeks over total distances exceeding
3,000 kilometers, and whether it is an easy decision to fight an entire
peer group and lose one's income.

The Armstrong Lie emphatically answers 'Why?' when it comes to Lance
Armstrong. How someone who almost died from cancer could renew with a
dangerous high-stakes game of chemicals remains a mystery. Oprah
Winfrey did not directly ask Lance Armstrong that question. Neither
does Alex Gibney. Why a number of exceptional athletes appear
unconcerned with their own mortality is left for us to ponder on. The
speculation that doping could have caused Lance Armstrong's cancer in
the first place is not discussed. The Armstrong Lie follows the money.
Lots of it.

A member of the audience asked Alex Gibney if Lance Armstrong had seen
the movie and if so, what he thought of it. We were told that he does
not like the title.