Having publicly declared that &Bike would become a Lance-free zone on 23 October, we’ve been true to our word. Until now, that is.
As the professional cycling world begins the first steps in a new chapter of its history, it was probably naive to think that Armstrong would simply melt into history. It’s not his style; he’s a fighter, and he would always come back following USADA’s damning report from last year.
So it was that on 4 January the New York Times published a story claiming that Armstrong was about to confess to his drug use; then, four days later, we learn that he will be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. Believe it or not, on 17 January, at 4pm GMT, we can look forward to a sufferfest of empathy and understanding; of stories of heroics and hard choices. Oprah’s going to Austin, Texas.
The interview is to take place at Armstrong’s home, and it would be in his style to insist on the cameras to be set up in his very own ‘Church of Lance’ – the room in his house where he relaxes, with seven yellow jerseys looking down on him; reminding him of his achievements.
It was a tweet from November that reminded us of the arrogance, the “fuck-you” attitude and the sheer self belief that runs so deep in Armstrong. “Back in Austin, just layin’ around…” he wrote, with a link to a picture of him relaxing in the ‘Church of Lance’.
The point here is that Lance isn’t just “layin’ around”, he’s put together an elaborate scene to make it look like he’s just “layin’ around”. It’s carefully choreographed, with drapes carefully pulled to one side to ensure all seven yellow jerseys are displayed, and taken with a wide-angle lens. It’s obsessive and professional. In this we shouldn’t be surprised, and we should expect no more from the Oprah interview.
The main question being asked is whether Armstrong will confess during the interview. But the point being missed is that whether he does or not is irrelevant, because the body of evidence against him is now so exhaustive that no right-minded individual would argue that he won his yellow jerseys clean.
If, like some claim, he wanted to confess and be allowed to compete once more, there are easier ways to go about it than a 90-minute Oprah interview. A letter would suffice.
Instead, what Oprah can provide Armstrong is the opportunity to launch the next chapter in his life. He will be able to spread the blame for doping across several years and countless riders and will work hard to undermine the theory that he was the ringleader of a systemic doping programme. And all in front of half a billion people.
So, less than a week before the UCI’s first stage race of the year gets underway in Australia, which would have given the sport an opportunity to move on, Armstrong once again steals the show.
We should expect no less and neither should we have much expectation for Oprah’s interrogation techniques.
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