A convenient confession

TV TIMES

GORDON BROWN
Last updated 08:44 26/01/2013

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One event dominated our screens for much of the week.

It was the 'confession' of disgraced drug cheat, cyclist Lance Armstrong. Last Friday the interview was to be screened live at 3pm, but the problem was, where to find it?

As has happened so often in my life, Mrs Brown came to the rescue. At the time it was to start I was down town on business before going to my regular networking meeting at a sports bar in Fitzroy where the very nature of the patrons ensures the truth is still important.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, and her mastery of it, Mrs B texted me that she had found the interview with Oprah Winfrey, the High Priestess of the Confessional, on Animal Planet, channel 75 on Sky.

It wasn't such a bad fit. After keeping his silence for so long, multi-millionaire Lance was going to reveal all in a two-part special. Oprah, as you may know, is so rich she has her own television network in the land of the God-damns - the good old US of A, where it is their right to bear arms, we are continually told. Last week it was Oprah's turn to bare Armstrong. At least that was the plan.

To be honest it was about as convincing as the mad men who suggested soon after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that teachers should be armed. Usually, when we are being manipulated on TV it is called advertising. This confession was little different and could just as equally have been called the Redemption of Lance.

It was a marketing exercise in many ways. Oprah had an exclusive, and you could tell that a deal had been done. The interview was done in a hotel room, away from any prying eyes or a studio crew. Oprah then spent the next few days ensuring she was on almost every network in the world by confirming that Lance had confirmed that he had cheated, but if you wanted to know more, you had to tune into her exclusive interview, on her network, or any others she had on- sold it to.

The three days in between filming the interview and showing it would have been invaluable for her sales and advertising people to make her (another) fortune. The unmistakeable odour of big money changing hands hung in the air during the entire interview.

The interview started promisingly enough, with Oprah making it clear that there were no deals, and she could ask whatever questions she wanted. She started with some tough questions that she insisted Lance answer with a "yes" or a "no".

Yes he admitted he was a drug cheat and had lied all those years, when he was adamant that he was a 'clean' athlete. He wasn't, he was very dirty, in fact. It was simply a case of his chemists being better than the ones doing the testing.

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For a man who knew his very soul was going to be stripped away, he was very composed. Mrs B, an astute judge of character if ever there was one, was quite angry about Lance. She'd read his book, which went into great detail about how clean he was, and was moved by the account of his battle with cancer. It would not be putting it too strongly to say she felt betrayed.

Anyway there was Lance, in his open neck shirt, looking every inch the all-American champion athlete he was, except it was an illusion. When he admitted taking drugs, cynical critics worked out later that he'd only admitted to doing that for the years when the Statute of Limitations had run out. Conveniently, Oprah didn't even ask him if he took them during his comeback on the Tour De France in 2009-10, because to do so would leave him liable for prosecution.

That omission destroyed any credibility in the admissions. The time when he seemed most contrite was when he admitted that he'd told his son "to stop defending me".

"That must have been hard," purred Oprah. "It was," he confirmed.

Apart from the odd misty-eyed look he gave, Mrs B reckoned his body language was far too comfortable for someone who was supposedly going to be grilled. As an aside, has anybody else heard the otherwise excellent golf commentators on the PGA Tour continually talk about Body English? I'm sure people who don't speak English actually have body language as well.

As for Lance Armstrong, (he should have been called Legstrong) the best thing we could all do now would be to ignore him. Maybe he could be made the US ambassador to Belarus. And Oprah? She may regret the interview, because her credibility took almost as big a hit as Lance's.

- Taranaki Daily News

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