Adam Rippon Says Lance Armstrong Made Him "Wildly Uncomfortable" on Reality Show
The winner of Stars on Mars claimed that the cyclist wouldn't let a heated conversation end.
On the reality show Stars on Mars, celebrities from different fields were put into an environment that simulates life on the red planet and had to complete challenges until only one famous astronaut remained. But, despite the focus on their outer space missions, the contestants also got into conversations about life on Earth. Cyclist Lance Armstrong famously brought up the debate about transgender athletes competing in sports, a conversation that ultimately led to him quitting the show early. Now, his Stars on Mars castmate, Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, has revealed that viewers didn't see just how long Armstrong extended the heated discussion and that it made Rippon "wildly uncomfortable" that he wouldn't drop the subject.
Read on to see what Armstrong said to upset some of his co-stars and what Rippon claims didn't make it to air.
Armstrong questioned trans athletes' participation in sports.
On the July 10 episode of Stars on Mars, Armstrong started a conversation with professional wrestler Ronda Rousey about when he was asked about "transgender stuff in sports" as a guest on a podcast.
"You want to transition, let's do it. You have your own category. We're gonna have a whole new division. We'll celebrate you just like we celebrate everybody else. Let's go," the 51-year-old cyclist told Rousey he said in the interview. He added, "What's unfair about that?"
At this point, singer Tinashe approached her two co-stars and said, "To me, I think we just have to care about if you otherize people. It's not good for their mental health." Armstrong asked what "otherize" meant, and she replied, "Kind of, like, exclude them from the same spaces and places that everyone else is."
"Actually, no, we're not excluding anybody," Armstrong said. "And, by the way, I sound like a right-wing lunatic. I'm not. I'm the most liberal person, but from a sporting perspective…"
In her confessional, Tinashe said, "I wasn't really shocked to hear his opinions, but I didn't really think that he should be the spokesperson for that."
Other contestants pushed back against his comments.
Modern Family star Ariel Winter also spoke up during the conversation, saying, "You're ostracizing the people who don't fit in the categories."
When they were sitting alone, Rippon told Winter that Armstrong's comments were "so disheartening." In his confessional, the skater said, "Those comments here in this experiment have completely shifted the energy and have completely shifted the focus, and I will not ever forget them."
As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Real Housewives of Atlanta star Porsha Williams tried to discourage Armstrong from continuing to speak on the topic. "That's not the conversation you need to be having here," she said. "You're not at your kitchen table."
For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Rippon said Armstrong wouldn't drop it.
Rippon ended up winning Stars on Mars; Armstrong self-eliminated during Episode 9, meaning he effectively came in eighth place. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly following the Aug. 28 finale, Rippon said that the argument Armstrong started about transgender athletes lasted much longer than what was shown in the episode. For him, it soured the entire experience.
"That's when everything changed, when Lance brought up his opinions on trans athletes and sports," Rippon said. "In the show, it's a few minutes, but in reality, that was a long-winded conversation and it really shifted the focus. It changed my experience totally. It was not the same after that."
Rippon said that he and Armstrong talked about the topic for 15 or 20 minutes on their own. "It just wouldn't end," the 33-year-old said. "Every time I'm saying something, I'm lilting, like it's over, let's just stop. He couldn't let it go. And it made me wildly uncomfortable."
He also claimed that Armstrong made transphobic remarks.
Rippon, who publicly came out as gay in 2015, said he felt compelled to address Armstrong's opinions.
"I wanted to be a representation of the LGBTQ+ community and that was a moment where I wanted to say something, but I don't know everything about being a trans person," the skater said. "I do know that a lot of the things that were said that were not on the show were very transphobic and I'm glad that trans people didn't need to watch what was said. It was not nice and it was not good in any sort of way."
Rippon told Entertainment Weekly that Armstrong argued that more research needs to be done into transgender athletes participating in sports. In response, he said that "obviously there's a conversation to be had that is totally legitimate, but if you want the research, if you want the studies, [trans athletes] have to be allowed in these spaces." Rippon added, "The person talking about this is the most recognized cheater in all of sports. So it's just not the right time, it's not the right person."
Armstrong was famously stripped of his seven Tour de France wins in 2012 and his bronze medal from the 2000 Olympics in 2013 after it was discovered that he had used performance enhancing drugs during his career.
Armstrong launched a podcast on the subject.
In June, Armstrong announced that he was launching a special series on his podcast, The Forward, focused on transgender athletes. His first guest was Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete, who came out as transgender in 2015. Jenner is a controversial figure within the trans community and has spoken out against transgender women competing in women's sports.
Announcing the podcast, Armstrong tweeted, "Have we really come to a time and place where spirited debate is not only frowned upon, but feared? Where people's greatest concern is being fired, shamed or cancelled? As someone all too familiar with this phenomenon, I feel I'm uniquely positioned to have these conversations."
As noted by EW, cyclist Veronica Ivy, who is a trans woman, wrote a response to Armstrong for MSNBC. "No, being banned for doping with performance-enhancing drugs doesn't mean you know a thing about trans women's physiology or the level of hate we have to put up with," she said.
Rippon told EW he wasn't surprised to hear about Armstrong's podcast. "It just made total sense because he couldn't let it go when it was happening," the sports star said. "Everybody was like, 'Stop talking, please stop talking about this. Let's just focus on the mission. We're just filming a show here about pretending to be on Mars, just focus on that.' … He was obsessed with not being able to get the last word."
Best Life has reached out to Armstrong for comment on Rippon's interview.