A year after he confessed on Oprah, Lance Armstrong welcomed a visitor to hell. In February, Esquire’s John H. Richardson stood before the front door of Armstrong’s Austin mansion — a downsized version of the biker’s former Texas abode. Richardson called Armstrong’s cell phone. Armstrong appeared at the door in workout clothes. He welcomed Richardson inside.
Armstrong no longer has the PR deflector shield provided by the Livestrong Foundation, Nike’s Wieden + Kennedy image contrivers, and the U.S. Postal Service team. Armstrong has a buddy who takes calls from the media. The buddy had told Richardson that Armstrong might be ready to talk more openly about his life in hell to Esquire. And, sure, send a photographer.
The buddy was there to meet Richardson, but vanished after a while. Richardson had Armstrong more or less to himself. The bet Armstrong was making was extraordinary.
As Armstrong gave a tour of the house, Richardson began to hoover up the details of life in exile. “I love crushed ice,” Armstrong would remark. It was crucial to his favorite cocktail, the “Lancerita.” He gulped down a few drinks, and over dinner Armstrong began “slurring his words,” Richardson wrote later in Esquire.
Armstrong maintains a big wine cellar. He plays golf with the fury of a Sunbelt dad. One of his five kids hops on his lap and asks to have a sleepover.