Admission out at last

16:00, Jan 18 2013

Okay, it's out there now. And while there's a second part to Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey to be broadcast this afternoon, there's a pretty good chance we won't be surprised by anything that comes up in part two.

I said I was cynical earlier this week, and I still am. But there's a rider to that (no pun intended), which is that Armstrong was more forthcoming than I expected, and Oprah was somewhat more forceful. Between the two of them, I think we probably got a little further into the psyche of the disgraced Armstrong than I'd expected.

By opening up with several yes or no questions about the bald facts of Armstrong's doping history, Oprah put some kind of line in the sand early. Two minutes in, Armstrong had admitted doping to win his seven Tour de France titles in a way that could not possibly be twisted or misconstrued by him further down the track.

Allowing a rambling discourse that would have left viewers wondering whether or not they'd actually heard a confession would have been disastrous. There's no backing out of his initial answers, and they cut to the heart of the accusations against Armstrong.

Plainly, that doesn't change much for a lot of people. Mike Anderson, who now runs a Hutt Valley bike shop but was once Armstrong's personal assistant, refused to watch the interview. He said on TV news Armstrong was a "fraud" and that jail was where he belonged. Which is a view that will likely be widely held. After all, the doping offences of sprinter Marion Jones, a multiple Olympic medallist, saw her serve time. It could be argued that, because of the number of major titles he won, Armstrong's offences are more serious.

The duration of yesterday's telecast was marked by an uninterrupted stream of cynical posts on Twitter from all over the globe, making clear that in the eyes of many sports followers, there is no redemption for the fallen idol. Many plainly viewed the interview as a PR stunt, an exercise in damage limitation, and it's tough to quibble with that view.

But there must be a degree of satisfaction, particularly for those tasked with ridding sport of doping, in Armstrong's public, global humbling.

It's somewhat to his credit that he said he was beginning to understand just what a big deal his offending was "because I see the anger in people", though the fact that he claims not to have hitherto realised its seriousness is, to use his own word, "scary".

"I'll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust," he said. He's right, and he understands that won't be long enough for many. At least in that regard he's finally facing reality.


The Timaru Herald