A day before his famous confession in January, Lance Armstrong called the home of Frankie and Betsy Andreu.
Both were victims of Armstrong, people he bullied and smeared in pursuit of fame and fortune in professional cycling.
He tried to apologize.
"He told me in that phone call he wanted to meet with us, sooner rather than later," Betsy Andreu told USA TODAY Sports. "I don't know how Lance expresses his contrition, but 'sorry' is just a word unless it's acted on. Meeting would've done wonders."
She arranged to meet him in April but said he canceled at the 11th hour, telling her he didn't trust her.
Four months after he admitted in a lengthy televised interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had doped, lied and bullied for more than 10 years, Armstrong has, for one reason or another, failed to apologize to almost all of the people he promised he would. In some cases, he has tried to reach some who, after years of being attacked by Armstrong, haven't returned his messages.
Though he had hoped the truth would set him free, Armstrong also has found it potentially could be expensive. The federal government, two insurance companies and others have filed suit against him, saying Armstrong's confession proved he defrauded them. The potential liability in those cases is more than $135 million for the former cyclist, whose legal argument is essentially that his confession isn't relevant to the money he collected from them.
Armstrong said he would spend the rest of his life making amends. His critics say it's the same old self-serving Armstrong, even in contrition. A person close to Armstrong says that's not the case, though he acknowledged the legal issues.
"It's way too soon to assess Lance's post-Oprah conduct and how this will all turn out," said the person, who didn't want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation. The person said, "Lance is committed to participating in real dialogues and constructive change" but that his attorneys are not going to put him in "positions where he just becomes a punching bag for other people who have their own agendas."
The person also said Armstrong tried to reach several of the people he bullied over the last several years, but his messages were not returned, including a text and e-mail he sent to former teammate Tyler Hamilton.
"Lance hasn't contacted him," Hamilton's spokeswoman, Melinda Travis, told USA TODAY Sports.
In Andreu's case, the person said Armstrong corresponded regularly with her even after she blasted him on TV this year. Armstrong canceled their planned meeting, the person said, when he became spooked by her e-mails and text messages to him. "She begged to meet him for just five minutes - a strange request that set off a lot of alarm bells," the person said.
Andreu disputed that account. She said she asked for five minutes with Armstrong only after he canceled their meeting. She said she planned to give him a gift - an old family photograph - as a possible token of forgiveness.
She now questions whether Armstrong only called that day in January to meet a TV deadline. If Oprah were to ask him the next day if he had apologized, perhaps he didn't want to look bad by saying no, she says.
"I get asked a lot what he's done to make amends," Andreu said. "And the answer is nothing. â?¦ I merely wanted to look him in the eyes and he look me in the eyes. That's it. A show of humanity. After his decade-long tirade on me, I felt he owed me that. I wasn't asking for a lot."
Armstrong, 41, told the world in January that he would earn back trust and apologize to people for his sins. He appeared to give himself a head start when he apologized to the staff at Livestrong, the anti-cancer foundation he founded.
"I will spend and be committed to spending as long as I have to to make amends," he told Winfrey.
He also said he wanted to help clean up cycling. But in February, Armstrong's attorney, Tim Herman, announced that his client would not cooperate with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Armstrong's longtime nemesis. Herman said it would be more appropriate for Armstrong to work with an independent international tribunal, a forum that does not exist.
In a statement last week, USADA CEO Travis Tygart told USA TODAY Sports that his agency would "continue to do our job on behalf of clean athletes, regardless of Mr. Armstrong's refusal so far to assist in cleaning up the sport."
Meanwhile, Armstrong has employed a legion of attorneys in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Texas and London to fight several lawsuits from plaintiffs who accuse him of defrauding them out of millions.
Their evidence? His confession.
The litigation left Armstrong with a choice. He could demonstrate his remorse by paying back those who can show they were swindled by his lies and doping in cycling. Or he could fight in court to try to protect his fortune but risk being viewed as the same old Armstrong.
He has chosen to fight. And his reputation is at an all-time low, according to The Q Scores Company, a firm that measures the popularity of celebrities and brands. Sixty-five percent of the general public said they view Armstrong negatively or fair at best, the firm said.
"That exposure (with Winfrey) did not help him whatsoever," said Henry Schafer, the firm's executive vice president.
Armstrong's attorneys have made arguments that give him a good chance to preserve his assets. The downside is that his legal strategy seems to run counter to his apology and stated remorse. In response to one lawsuit, his lawyers argue that any false or misleading statements in his autobiographies are protected by his right to free speech. Regarding another suit, a civil fraud case filed by the federal government, his legal team argues that his cycling team's sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service, was not defrauded because the USPS should have known about cycling's rampant doping problem.
"Everything he's done has had a tin ear for a public antenna," said Michael Gordon, CEO of Group Gordon, a corporate public relations firm in New York. "His words were by and large sincere when he confessed to Oprah, but he has completely failed in corresponding actions."
Gordon said Armstrong probably wouldn't be able to make a public recovery until the lawsuits go away, which could take several years. Armstrong has attempted to resolve cases through settlements, but the person close to the situation also said his legal team thinks some of the claims to be baseless.
Andreu says Armstrong should do the right thing and pay back those he "swindled." In particular, she cites the case of SCA Promotions, a sports insurance company that seeks the return of more than $12 million in bonuses and fees it paid Armstrong and his management company for his Tour de France wins from 2002 to 2004.
The company says Armstrong defrauded it twice - by cheating to win the race and again when Armstrong successfully sued the company in 2004. In that suit, Armstrong forced SCA to pay him the bonus after it withheld the money based on suspicions of his doping. As part of that suit, Armstrong falsely testified under oath in 2005 that he never doped, testimony that was videotaped and replayed by Winfrey in January.
Watching his false denials in the video, Armstrong told Winfrey his behavior in that testimony was "sick."
"I don't like that guy," he said of himself.
Winfrey asked him if his responses to SCA's questions would be different now. "My responses on most of these things are going to be different today," Armstrong said.
Instead, he is trying to have SCA's case dismissed by arguing the matter cannot be revisited under terms of their settlement agreement from 2006. Herman told USA TODAY Sports that Armstrong shouldn't have to pay back the bonuses to SCA, adding, "No athlete ever, to my understanding, has ever gone back and paid back his compensation," he said.
Andreu said she thinks Armstrong "isn't willing to risk losing his empire" by making amends. She also said she fears that his numerous attorneys have too great a stake in persuading Armstrong to keep fighting.
Armstrong has not done much better in his personal reparations. He admitted to Winfrey he had trampled people who had told the truth or refused to bend to his will. He named some of the smeared - the Andreus, Hamilton, his former masseuse Emma O'Reilly, journalist David Walsh and former cyclists Greg LeMond and Floyd Landis. Among other things, he called Betsy Andreu ugly and tried to ruin the career of her husband. He called O'Reilly a prostitute and Walsh a troll.
"I owe them apologies," Armstrong told Winfrey in January. "Whenever they're ready, I will give them."
In a new afterword in the paperback edition of his recent book The Secret Race, Hamilton wrote, "I was told he sent me an apologetic e-mail, but I never received it."
The person close to Armstrong said, "Emma and Lance have traded messages but (have) yet to connect. LeMond refused to take Lance's calls."
The person said there has been no apology to Landis or Walsh because Armstrong is involved in litigation against both. O'Reilly declined to comment through a spokeswoman. LeMond and Walsh didn't return messages seeking comment.
Armstrong's camp told USA TODAY Sports in January that the confession was part of a comeback and atonement plan that might take several years.
Meanwhile, Winfrey isn't commenting on Armstrong's showing.
"Unfortunately, Ms. Winfrey is not participating in any further interviews about the interview," said Chelsea Hettrick, a spokeswoman for Winfrey's TV network.
Contributing: Christine Brennan
Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: For Lance Armstrong, sorry has been the hardest word