Lance Armstrong once cycled through life as a success story that pushed the limits of believability. He invaded France and turned a venerable race into a big American party. And, or so the story went, he was the clean cyclist who defeated doping, cheating cyclists.
A small circle knew the truth. Those who inhabited this circle knew Armstrong was a phony, a man who was lying when he called others liars.
Betsy Andreu was a member of this tiny circle. She knew Armstrong was a doper and a liar and a phony. She spoke the truth, at enormous cost. She endured Armstrong's public attacks. He called her names we can't use in this newspaper.
Armstrong's athletic reputation has tumbled more than any athlete in American history. Sure, other athletes transformed from famous to infamous, but Pete Rose's and O.J. Simpson's sins had nothing to do with their mastery on the athletic field.
Andreu has watched, with tremendous interest, while Armstrong battled to repair his bombed-out image. Armstrong used his matchless will to push his drug-filled body to seven Tour de France victories.
His will remains on display as he seeks to make America love and respect him again. He's failed in this quest. Utterly failed.
"I know Lance is desperate to sway public opinion and to rewrite history," Andreu says in a phone call.
But there's no swaying. America's ultimate winner has become America's ultimate sports pariah.
"Because he's not genuine," Andreu says.
She believes in second chances, she says. Everyone deserves a chance to cleanse the past, but the repentance must be sincere and complete.
"Redemption doesn't come for free," Andreu says. "When you look at his actions, they speak louder than his words."
Listen, I find no joy in watching Armstrong free-fall in the public's regard, but there is solace to be found in his troubles. As he falls, there's an encouraging, uplifting rise.
The crusaders who spoke the truth about him are now vindicated.
Betsy and her husband, Frankie, a former professional racer and teammate of Armstrong's, were present at a 1996 hospital discussion. At the time, Armstrong was recovering from cancer, and he told his physician he had enhanced his training with human growth hormone and steroids.
When asked under oath, Betsy told the truth about this hospital conversation. This inspired Armstrong to respond with years of furious attacks.
After Armstrong confessed to Oprah of his cycling sins, he said he would meet with Betsy to offer a face-to-face apology. Andreu still waits for Armstrong to say he's sorry in person.
She's also bothered by his refusal to come fully clean. He needs, she says, to reveal everything he knows about past doping to the Colorado Springs-based U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
"Words need to be followed by actions," she says.
She feels no pity for Armstrong. Cheaters and liars deserve no honor.
"Bernie Madoff said he was sorry," Andreu says, referring to one of the most successful, and disgusting, swindlers in American history.
"He said so in court. Should we let him be in charge of people's money because he said he was sorry?"
Her point is obvious. Bernie can't be trusted or embraced ever again.
Neither can Lance.