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The Armstrong Lie is a Brilliantly Executed “Myth-Buster”

Once, in the middle of the 2004 Tour de France cycling race, the nine-man American team, led by Lance Armstrong, pretended that their bus had broken down en route to their hotel. As fans and the international press stood outside, cheering and taking pictures, the team, hidden behind high, tinted windows, received blood transfusions that “enhanced” their subsequent performance in the race. In the new, unauthorized documentary, The Armstrong Lie, which was initially sanctioned by its subject, director and narrator Alex Gibney relates such events with a reticence that matches the larger world’s reluctance to accept the truth about Armstrong and his use of performance-enhancing drugs and transfusions. As the director freely admits, Gibney, too, wanted to believe in the fatherless guy from Plano, Texas, who beat cancer at 25, established a $300 million cancer support foundation, and, oh, by the way, won the Tour de France seven times in a row.

Winning those races was either miraculous or bogus, and for well over a decade, Armstrong and a seemingly complicit International Cycling Union (UCI) — whose officials knew that doping was rampant in the sport — nurtured a hero narrative that encouraged the world to believe in the miracle. Belief is good for business. To use a phrase from the film, The Armstrong Lie is a “myth-buster.” It’s wholly necessary, brilliantly executed, and a complete bummer. Armstrong’s lie, our belief — which is sadder?

Many say that Armstrong sealed his doom by coming out of retirement for the 2009 Tour, thereby angering his enemies, but you have to wonder why he then also granted full access to a filmmaker as penetrating as Gibney. In the past decade, the Oscar-winner has made a dazzling array of hyper-smart docs, including Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) and the devastating Catholic Church sexual abuse exposé Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012). Their common denominator is the filmmaker’s moral outrage at powerful men who tell lies. Nonetheless, Armstrong clearly got off on tempting fate, and besides, life was still glorious in 2009 when Gibney accepted an offer from Armstrong’s friend, Hollywood producer Frank Marshall (E.T., the Indiana Jones films, the Bourne series), to make an “inspirational” film about the cyclist’s latest attempt to defy the odds. Lance Armstrong: The Road Back was to be narrated by Matt Damon.

But Armstrong didn’t win. “It fucked up your documentary,” he tells Gibney with a satisfied grin, and indeed, Gibney moved on. Three years later, prompted by a growing chorus of allegations initiated by Armstrong’s embittered former teammate Floyd Landis, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency concluded that Armstrong had engaged in “the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” UCI officials, suddenly blustering with outrage, promptly stripped Armstrong of his seven titles. The Armstrong Lie opens with an interview Gibney conducted three hours after the cyclist confessed his sins to Oprah Winfrey on OWN this past January. Interestingly, that moment, post-Oprah, is the one time that Armstrong seems truly humbled.

Armstrong’s rise and fall is a dizzying whirl of teammate names, scientific “doping” jargon, and the incessant drone of his own denials. It would all be exhausting if Gibney didn’t understand one key thing: Everyone loves a race. The Armstrong Lie swings back and forth in time, but its fulcrum is the extraordinary footage Gibney and ace cinematographer Maryse Alberti shot at the 2009 Tour. A never-ending stream of archival footage depicts Armstrong’s glory days and their attendant controversies, but Gibney always turns back to that race, which looks both insane and beautiful.

Was Armstrong doping in 2009? He swears not, and with his drawn face and sunken body, struggling up horribly steep mountain terrain, he certainly appears to have become the one thing he never wanted to be: a mere mortal. Yet, there does come a day when he rallies, brilliantly and improbably, and Gibney, armed with the wisdom of hindsight, begins to doubt that Armstrong was “clean.” He doubts, and yet, like those of us watching, then and now, he hopes, just a little. You can hear it in his voice.

Lance Armstrong says that he sleeps soundly. In this regard, the fallen icon is probably telling an absolute truth. He told Winfrey and later, Gibney, that he’s sorry (sort of) for cheating, sorry for lying about it, and sorry for viciously defaming friends and teammates in order to protect the lie. (He was a sports-world version of The Godfather‘s Michael Corleone, baby-faced and ruthless.) Maybe he means every word, but what’s missing in Armstrong’s present-day demeanor is the one thing that often keeps people with more modest sins tossing and turning at night: regret.

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Feds’ Last Chance Is Andy Pettitte’s Last Chance, Too

In case you’re wondering why the U.S. Government is still pressing a case against Roger Clemens, think about it this way: years of work and millions upon millions of dollars have gone into investigations that have so far resulted in Barry Bonds being confined to his home for six months – and even that sentence is on appeal – and Lance Armstrong’s case being discontinued (when that happens, the only explanation is that the prosecution knows it has nothing).

What it comes down to is Roger Clemens being the Feds’ last chance to justify all the time — and taxpayers’ money — that has gone into this ridiculous investigation. As Alan Dershowitz put it two nights ago on CNN, “Having gone this far after all that has happened, the government has to win the Clemens case. But they have to win fairly.” Which means no more dirty tricks like the one they tried last summer when prosecutors played a tape, in which Democratic Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings made comments about Andy Pettitte’s credibility, and reading an affidavit from Pettitte’s wife, Laura, in which she said that her husband had told her that Clemens had confided in him about his use of human growth hormone.

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The second part of that, as any pre-law student can tell you, is hearsay, and the first part, as anyone who watches Law and Order can tell you, is irrelevant.

Judge Reggie Walton already had ruled the tape as inadmissible
evidence, and the arrogance and clumsiness of the Feds in defying the
judge’s order resulted in a mistrial — and that doesn’t bode well for
the Feds’ chances of nailing Clemens this time around.

Nor, in fact, does any so-called evidence that involves Andy Pettitte.

Back in 2008, Pettitte gave testimony, behind closed doors, to the
House Committee on Oversight and Reform, but his disposition was thought
to be so vague and confusing that it was not mentioned again during the
proceedings. Does anyone really think that in the four years since then
Pettitte has remembered some new and interesting things to say about
Clemens’ alleged drug use?

If there’s one person who probably wishes he’d stayed out of all
this, it’s Andy Pettitte. If the federal prosecutors had called on him
during the first trial last summer – which they didn’t, which tells you
something about what the prosecution lawyers think of Pettitte’s
effectiveness as a witness – he would have no better place to be. Now
he’s working in Tampa to make a comeback, and anything that interrupts
his training, conditioning and throwing stands a good chance of ending
his comeback bid this year, thus putting a permanent end to Pettitte’s
career.

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Barack Obama is Golden, Rush Limbaugh is Screwed — Predictions for the Year of the Tiger!

By Fatimah Surjani Ortega

Yes, Tiger, this could be your year
Yes, Tiger, this could be your year

Sunday ushers in the Year of Metal Tiger, which sounds like a golf club. That’s actually appropriate, because things look auspicious for Tiger Woods — as long as he can keep his dick in his pants.

Just in time for Chinese New Year, the Voice offers up this celebrity-centered translation of what’s in store for all you furry animals. We’re basing it on the teachings of none other than the Feng Shui Grand Master himself, Singapore-born Tan Khoon Yong.

Let’s start at the beginning, with those of you born in the Year of the Rat (1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008): Your advice for 2010? Pray hard, and pray often.

Governor, you're screwed
Governor, you’re screwed

You have a rough road ahead. Being a rodent, you tend to run and hide from big things. That’s not the game plan for this year. You need to find some courage and bluff your way through this year’s maze. Only through sheer self-confidence, and, well, assholery are you going to find your way to the cheese. Be brave, be a jerk, stay supremely self-assured, and you won’t end up some pussycat’s lunch. If people bitch and moan about you, put on earphones and turn up the volume.
In for a bumpy ride: Ben Affleck, Cameron Diaz, David Duchovny, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford

Year of the Ox (1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009)

The future is bright, Barry
The future is bright, Barry

Barack Obama, an Ox, won the presidency in the Year of the Rat, which was a very lucky year for him. He took office in his own year, 2009’s Year of the Ox, which sounds just perfect, doesn’t it? Actually, it predicted disaster: when you meet your own year, Tan Khoon Yong tells us, you challenge the Grand Duke Jupiter God, and although we aren’t really sure what that means, it sure doesn’t sound good, does it? Well, that’s all over with now, and the GOP can really start sweating. Tiger and Ox get along just fine, and Obama should have a monster year. For all you Oxen out there, just keep this in mind: Don’t mix work with pleasure. You tend to work too hard, you lose focus, and your health suffers. Find time to chill. And men, treat your wives well and keep your eyes off the cute cows at the office.
Ready for a bull market: Susan Boyle, George Clooney, Mos Def, Heidi Klum, Barack Obama, Meg Ryan

Year of the Tiger (1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998)

It's not Rush's year
It’s not Rush’s year

Sorry, Tigers, but you’re fucked. The Feng Shui masters say you’ll be offering up a challenge to Tai Sui, the Grand Duke Jupiter, or God of the Year, and with every freaking thing you do, you’ll have to watch your back. This is not a year to take chances, and if things aren’t going your way you’re going to feel like crap. All the time. But don’t lose hope entirely. This is a year to count on yourself, because you won’t find help from others. Create your own opportunities through careful, logical planning, and count on your imagination for ideas. Be cautious and wise, and you can give Grand Duke Jupiter — and everyone else — the finger.
Who’s in deep shit: Tom Cruise, Jenna Jameson, Jay Leno, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Sanchez

Year of the Rabbit (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999)

Get tanned and rested, and then make them pay, Conan!
Get tanned and rested, and then make them pay, Conan!

The lovable hare. Your charm makes you popular, and you feel good, but you might be looking for trouble. The new year should start with a plan to fix some lingering problems. Why? Hare men tend to cheat. And when you’re both rabbits — we’re looking at you, Brangelina — well, the tabloids may be in for a banner year. It won’t surprise anyone to learn that Tiger Woods is a randy rabbit, but if he’s really determined to change his ways, this year is on his side. Rabbits, stop trying to charm the rest of the world and use your powers instead to improve things at home and at work. And get some sun. Vitamin D can be the difference between a gloomy or glorious year.
Who needs some beach time: Angelina Jolie, Michelle Obama, Conan O’Brien, Sarah Palin, Brad Pitt, Alex Rodriguez, Tiger Woods

Year of the Dragon (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000)

Keep the change, Fiddy
Keep the change, Fiddy

You self-obsessed lizard, you thought everyone was having a shitty 2009. Well, there has been a recession on, but things were tougher on you than others. And you aren’t getting a break any time soon. Yes, it’s another tough year for the dragons, and watch out for unpleasant surprises, all related to your usual shortcomings (you know what they are). But fuck it, don’t listen to this prediction. You did survive the worst recession in a generation, and if you did that, you’ll be fine. Cheer up, Smaug.
Keep your wings tucked and your head down: 50 Cent, Courtney Cox, Bret Easton Ellis, Courtney Love, Liam Neeson, Reese Witherspoon

Year of the Snake (1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001)

John, you ignorant slut
John, you ignorant slut

Things look good for snakes, but don’t get pleased with yourself just yet. Serpents tend to celebrate success with sexual adventure, and some of you will be determined to turn this into the Year of the Slut. Down, boy! Try to redirect that energy into your career or something, because giving in to your impulses is not a good idea this year.
Who’s champing to whore around: Mike Bloomberg, Tina Brown, John Edwards, Maggie Gyllenhaal, John Mayer, Sarah Jessica Parker, Taylor Swift, Oprah Winfrey

Year of the Horse (1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002)

Stay warm-blooded, Kristen!
Stay warm-blooded, Kristen!

Healthy as a horse? Tell that to Barbaro. Yes, it’s going to be that kind of year, Seabiscuit, and you better watch it. Trouble is looking for you, and it’s your health that’s likely to suffer. Avoid disputes, particularly anything involving documents that have your name on them, and gallop away from a deal that isn’t guaranteed. That said, a modest investment in real estate might be wise, and whatever you do, donate some charity or at least some blood while your health still holds.
Constitutionally challenged: Halle Berry, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Cynthia Nixon, Gov. David Paterson, Kristen Stewart

Year of the Goat (1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003)

Everyone loves you, Steve
Everyone loves you, Steve

So long, bad luck, here comes good fortune. If Steve Jobs knew what was good for him, he’d have delayed introducing the iPad until after Chinese New Year (and given it a better name!). At least he’ll have a good chance to gain some weight this year. Goats are in luck: other people will favor them this year, and they’ll find assistance from places they didn’t expect it. But Billy, don’t be a show off. Play things right, and you’ll gain back more than you lost last year.
Not scapegoats this year: Anderson Cooper, Benicio Del Toro, Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Musto, Liev Schreiber

Year of the Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004)

Jen knows from bad luck
Jen knows from bad luck

Monkey, your cycle of good luck has run out. Like the Tigers, you’re also offending the grand god of the year, and 2010 looks like twelve months of suckage. But monkeys often find ways to outsmart their misfortunes — except that they’re also accident prone. So figure things out with that nimble and creative mind, but don’t take risks or you’re likely to slip on a banana peel.
In the jungle this year: Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Aniston, Daniel Craig, Salma Hayek, Jason Schwartzman, Will Smith

Year of the Cock (1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005)

Time to make the big move, Jay-Z!
Time to make the big move, Jay-Z!

We know, we know, it’s always the year of the cock, at least in the Village. But this year, seriously, you roosters have much to crow about. The stars have all aligned, and you need to make your big moves RIGHT NOW. Andrew Cuomo? Nothing can stop you, certainly not the likes of David Paterson and Rick Lazio. The feng shui masters say that this is the year for cocks to lay the foundation for a brighter future (and yes, they really do talk like that, so stop giggling). Don’t mess up this opportunity. Be smart, but be bold.
Who wins: Beyonce, Gerard Butler, Andrew Cuomo, Jay-Z, Spike Lee, Taylor Momsen, Gwen Stefani, Tila Tequila

Year of the Dog (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006)

These dogs won't hunt
These dogs won’t hunt

Sorry, puppies, you’re in the doghouse this year. Not only is your luck poor, other people are going to shit on you all year long (and not pick up after themselves!). But look, there’s only one way to deal with it: Don’t complain, don’t whimper, take your losses in stride, and stay out of other people’s business. Don’t drive yourself insane waiting for your luck to turn. There’s an end to this, and it’s just twelve months away. Until then, just take it like a mindless, happy puppy.
Bad dog, no biscuit: George W. Bush, Kelly Clarkson, Bill Clinton, Joseph Fiennes, Queen Latifah, Anna Paquin

Year of the Boar (1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007)

No one needs to tell Dave this is his moment
No one needs to tell Dave this is his moment

Boars have had it tough. Hard work didn’t pay off for political pigs Eliot Spitzer and Hillary Clinton in 2008. Last year, 2009, was also supposed to be a lousy one for porkers, but somehow David Letterman watched it happen to the other guys. For the rest of you pigs, 2010 might just be your year. Shrug off the uncertainty and make this a year you take a chance. Sure, others think you’ve been beaten — but now is the time to surprise them with your resilience. Spitzer wants to run again? Do it, man, and not just in your socks.
Who gets a break: Lance Armstrong, Hillary Clinton, Nicky Hilton, Mila Kunis, David Letterman, Ewan McGregor, Eliot Spitzer

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‘Margaret Cho: The Assassin Tour’

Bisexual Korean American comedian Margaret Cho continues to damage the struggle of bisexual Korean American comedians fighting for the right to be gay and funny, gay married and funny, or straight, funny, and just a li’l bit gay, primarily by being mostly unfunny. Assassin is the listless signature on her career-long comedic suicide note. The Notorious one sure is a fierce competitor, though. Endurance? Commitment? Please, homegirl makes Lance Armstrong look like a pussy. LIVESTRONG? Try standing in front of a crowd for 80 minutes with her material and we’ll see who deserves their own rubber bracelet. Cho does just that in Assassin, pandering to her LGBT audience with tired leads like “The last true diva was Cher [wait for rapturous applause].” Surely queers worldwide don’t even “Believe” in life after love anymore. Her embrace of controversial political topics might be welcome if her jokes weren’t so predictable. Except for the one about Laura Bush’s coochie (speculatively) tasting like Lysol. Nope, didn’t see that one coming.

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Tune in to Discover the Unlikely Superstars of the New Games

The networks may have commitment problems when it comes to doling out time to political conventions, but boy is NBC getting cozy with the Olympics: 1,210 hours of round-the-clock coverage smeared across most of its subsidiary networks including MSNBC, Telemundo—even Bravo (presumably trying to head off its burgeoning reputation as the queer-eyed metrosexual network). This much more democratic approach opens the games up for fans of less iconic events like water polo or handball—everything but Scrabble, as far as I can see—though crowd-pleasers like gymnastics and swimming still get plum prime-time spots. And it gives us a chance to pretend the rest of the world still likes us, while trumpeting the triumph of American will until our heads explode.

No matter that stars like Lance Armstrong and Kobe Bryant won’t be competing: The Olympics always generates new icons, celebrating the sappy human tale behind even the most seemingly drab athletes. The latest product from the Olymp-pimp machine is Tela O’Donnell, a petite female wrestler from Alaska who sings folk songs just like her former babysitter, Jewel. And it worked: I’m so totally hooked by Tela’s story that I intend to root for her, even though the women’s wrestling competition is scheduled to air on CNBC in the middle of the night on August 22 and 23. And if I haven’t keeled over from the agony of victory and the thrill of defeat, just try to keep me away from the synchronized swimming event.