Thursday, 17 January 2013

Lance Armstrong, Oprah And The End Game

Today, cycling fans and non cycling fans alike will gather in front of their television sets for Lance Armstrong's confession on Oprah Winfrey. You may or may not have noticed that I haven't really delved into this subject on the blog since the news broke, it's been covered widely elsewhere. I will not be staying up to 2am to watch it live, and by the time I wake up in the morning most cycling blogs across the land will have already covered it in depth. I can stomach Eastenders, but this soap opera will be a bitter pill to swallow...
The Oprah interview went into such depth during filming that editors decided they couldn't cut it into a single show so the confession will run into a two part series. This in itself causes me concern - one of the biggest confessionals in the sport being run as a 'billed' exclusive - but we wouldn't expect any less from Armstrong and his team of strong-arm lawyers and advisers. He wasn't going to do anything quietly, or with dignity. Rather than go through the correct channels, Armstrong knows by opening up on TV he can at least attempt to win back some of the fans he lost, and garner sympathy from those outside of the sport as he plays the victim with his 'I only did it because everybody else was at it' line.
Much has been done to present this as a 'no holds barred, no question off limits' interview but anyone who falls for this is likely to have always been on the Armstrong Gravy train. The truth is that it is a rehearsed, manipulated and constructed confession that has been run through Armstrong legal team to tighten up any holes and designed to present Armstrong in the best possible light. His career has been ordered, orchestrated and borderline obsessive - he's spent much of it controlling the public perception of himself to every finite detail, why would this interview be conducted in any other way?
Simeoni took a lot of stick from both
Armstrong and his allies in the bunch.
An apology is one thing, but what is it going to be an apology for? For cheating? For doping? Lying? After all these could all be forgivable, we are only human, these are errors of judgement we are all likely to make somewhere along the line (maybe not the doping). But will their be an apology for attacking Simeoni? For Belittling Kimmage in that now infamous interview? For suing the Sunday Times for hundreds of thousands of dollars? There is a case for lying and being sorry about it. Going out of your way to sue somebody as an extension of your lie is a different matter. It's audacious, arrogant and not exactly remorseful. There can be no reasoned explanation for this, other than greed, bullishness, power.
I am between a rock and a hard place, because as part of the cycling 'press' (look, I can pretend can't I?) I'm going to have to review the interview or at very least read up on what was said - It's relevant to the blog, to the story, to the end game. But it isn't something I feel comfortable doing. There is of course one reason above others why I may be interested in what is said between Lance and Oprah - The Whistle Blowing. How ironic that Armstrong has become the very thing he has been fighting against for a decade, with his announcement that he will be taking others down with him, most notably, representatives of the UCI. With Pat and Hein in the firing line it would be very difficult for me to ignore the interview, though whether he goes so far as to name names on the TV is yet to be seen, and Travis Tygart says he can only act on such information if Armstrong talks to him directly - a confession on the television isn't going to cut it for Travis either. So why do I feel uncomfortable about tuning in to watch Armstrong play the victim?
Well, because that makes me part of his circus. By tuning in I'm giving Armstrong the time of day he wants, the credibility he craves, but doesn't deserve. I'm firmly on the Nicole Cooke side of the fence, my view of Armstrong will not change no matter what happens in the interview - but there will be others, many others who will fall for his good PR, his crocodile tears, his 'only trying to keep up' excuses. The best thing that anybody could do for the sport, for the saga right now, would be to just not tune in at all. Give the man time to work his pr spin, and we run the risk of letting him back in, to our lives and the sport.

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