Ben Johnson (left) and Jose Canseco (right) were both involved in separete steroids scandals. (Getty Images)Everyone has their own opinion on how Lance Armstrong should handle his steroid confession just months after being erased from the history books and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. But very few have been through what Armstrong is going through now.
Jose Canseco and Ben Johnson are two former high-performance athletes who know what it’s like. Not to the extent of where Armstrong ranked among cyclists but both have been near or at the top of their respective sport, – Canseco as an MLB player and Johnson as an Olympic sprinter – both have been caught for using performance-enhancing substances and both, though first denying allegations of cheating eventually admitted to it.
Interestingly enough they had different pieces of advice for Armstrong and how he should approach his steroid confession, albeit neither knows how he handled his one-on-one interview with Oprah on Monday other than reports that have leaked stating that Armstrong did in fact admit to using performance-enhancing drugs during his professional cycling career. The interview will air on Oprah’s television network OWN Thursday night.
Canseco gave his advice to Armsrong in a Toronto Star story Wednesday:
Tell the truth, but make excuses and deflect responsibility.
Most of all, don’t expect to be forgiven.
“I admitted it from the very beginning — I wrote the book! — and I got more condemned than anybody.”
Armstrong may not be seeking Canseco’s counsel, but the poster boy for baseball’s steroid era — who publicly confessed his own performance-enhancing drug use in a tell-all book — says Armstrong would do well to heed the lessons he’s already learned.
Fresh off his recent dabbling in Toronto municipal politics, Canseco suggested to the Star on Tuesday that Armstrong could explain his years of vehement denial by pointing out how Canseco was “blackballed” by Major League Baseball following his confession.
“People are saying he should have admitted it earlier, but he should say, ‘Look what happened to Jose Canseco,’” Canseco said. “That might work, that might actually be a way out.”
Unlike Canseco Johnson didn’t admit to using steroids in a tell-all book rather he confessed it at a government inquiry into drug abuse by athletes in 1989, one year after he was stripped of his 100-metre gold medal at the Seoul Olympics for using PEDs.
Johnson didn’t tell the Star that Armstrong should deflect any of the responsibility, but he did say, “It’s only cheating if you’re the only one doing it.” Whether that’s a jab at the Seoul Olympics or professional cycling, which for a long time has been said to be a sport infested with cheaters is hard to say, but his advice for Armstrong didn’t end there.
From the Toronto Star:
“Confess it all, get it out of the way and move on,” said Johnson. “People don’t like liars — once you tell the truth, you can move on.”
Johnson said that after Armstrong’s interview with Winfrey airs in two parts on Thursday and Friday, his battle against shame is only going to ramp up.
“They just leave us in the middle of a lake and say swim,” said Johnson. “And if you can’t, you drown.”
To stay afloat, Johnson advises that Armstrong learn what it took him too long to realize: “There is no redemption for athletes in these cases.”
Rather, Johnson said Armstrong must find peace in his own mind knowing he cheated against cheaters.
“Look people in the face, go where you want to go and don’t be ashamed,” said Johnson.
In the end it will be Armstrong’s decision as to how he approaches his confession beyond the interview with Oprah, but if earning back the public's respect is his goal than he’s got one hell of an up-hill climb ahead.