Lance Armstrong always wanted to show us. A poor kid raised by a single mom in Plano, Texas, he was made to feel like trash at an early age, and he wanted to wipe the fat smile off everyone’s face. In Alex Gibney’s “The Armstrong Lie,” there’s a local-news video of Armstrong as a teenage cyclist in which you feel the intensity — the furious will to outrace us all — come off the kid in waves of Texas heat. From the start, one senses, anything but winning was failure.
Is that how frauds are born? Gibney’s documentary acknowledges that Armstrong was also a great athlete, is a great athlete. No one attempts the Tour de France — three weeks of cycling up to 150 miles a day, up and down Europe’s tallest peaks — let alone finishes it, let alone wins it seven times, without possessing outrageous stamina, banned substances or not. Was he the best racer? Or, in a sport as rotten as this one, was he just the best cheater?