Chapeau Ms. Winfrey!
For non-cycling fans, that's parlance for "tip of the hat" for an extraordinary effort. Oprah succeeded in extracting more truthfulness and humanity from Lance Armstrong than any interrogator that has ever come before her.
Unlike the talking heads and media pundits who feel it is their duty to dissect Oprah's interview as if we had just witnessed Frost-Nixon or viewed Mel Gibson's drunk driving arrest video, I will refrain from playing armchair therapist. Lance's level of honesty and contrition really only matters to Emma O'Reilly, Betsy Andreu, Mike Anderson, Greg Le Mond, David Walsh, Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, and all the other individuals Armstrong ever publicly or privately maligned as he fought to conceal his big lie. Forgiveness belongs to all of those individuals who had a personal stake in Lance the cyclist, the cancer advocate, the brand, and the man.
Cycling, however, belongs to me. And you. And everyone who loves it.
We need to keep the pressure on Lance Armstrong to reveal the extent of corruption that existed (and may still exist) in the sport of professional bicycle racing.
While Oprah seemed to cover nearly all of David Walsh's suggested questions, she didn't scratch the surface when it comes to the questions that matter most to cycling fans. She touched on the alleged bribe to UCI and the influence of Dr. Ferrari, but not once did she question Lance about his long-time team director, Johan Bruyneel, or Thomas Weisel, the financial backer of the US Postal team. I realize that the inner workings of the sport holds no interest to the drama junkies who actually located OWN on their TVs and tuned in for two consecutive nights to see Lance squirm, but it is of utmost importance in reforming cycling.
Lance stated in a very nonchalant manner that a clandestine, regimented, and scheduled doping program was as integral to winning as keeping his tires inflated and his water bottles full. He believed that he was competing on a level playing field and had the same access to banned substances as every other rider. Sadly, the record of every top-tier rider that was ever popped and sanctioned appears to back up his contention.
So here's the 75 million dollar question; will Armstrong reveal everything he knows and help reform professional cycling? Will he truly be, in his own words, "the first guy through the door"?
It has become increasingly clear to cycling fans that any meaningful reform is being obstructed by Pat Mc Quaid at UCI. WADA and USADA doubt that the handcuffs placed on UCI's self-appointed, "independent" investigation committee will reveal the extent of doping during the Armstrong Era, let alone today. The UCI, likewise, is blaming WADA, USADA, and all the other NADOs for failing to catch Armstrong and his teammates with in-competition doping controls.
WADA and USADA have no jurisdiction over UCI and UCI has no real desire to investigate itself.
In fact, UCI has already publicly proclaimed that Armstrong's statements during the Oprah interview have absolved the governing body of any complicity in his cover-up. As Ryan Newill points out in his Velonews article Will Lance Armstrong help clean up the mess he's made? Stay tuned, Lance is predicating any future testimony on the actual convening of a truth and reconciliation commission. It's a pretty safe bet that UCI won't let any such commission see the light of day. With no means to influence a reduced competition ban with sworn testimony, Armstrong has no motivation to reveal any further details to USADA, WADA, or UCI.
Fortunately for Lance, I have the ultimate solution.
This pragmatic approach will certainly speed him along his path to public redemption. It will pacify even his harshest critics. It will compensate all those that he has ever wronged. It will keep Livestrong funded. It might even lead to a groundswell of support to dethrone Pat Mc Quaid and reform UCI.
Lance needs to dictate a tell-all book to Paul Kimmage and David Walsh. In it, he'll start at the beginning of his career and list every single person who has ever helped him obtain, administer, and mask banned substances. He'll tell who knew what and who benefited from not coming forward and revealing the truth.
The proceeds of this book will go to a fund to be divided among the individuals whose personal reputations he destroyed. He can't take a penny for himself.
If Lance is honest, this expose will indict everyone with knowledge of his deceit. He can even shame his corporate co-conspirators into making large donations to Livestrong as a form of penance for betraying the public trust. At the end of it all, he'll have done everything in his power to make amends to anyone he has ever betrayed.
As Oprah told him, "the truth will set you free." It will also lead to his comeback - not as a cyclist or elite athlete - but as an actual human being.
Even though Lance feels he "deserves" to compete again, his ultimate act of contrition will be to drop his appeal for a reduced competition ban. He needs to accept that his window of opportunity for telling the truth in exchange for leniency has closed and any plea bargain attempted or granted is not fair to all the athletes who compete fairly. That's his punishment for "spitting in the soup", as Newill put it.
Cycling deserves the truth.
If Lance loves it, reveres it, and respects it, he'll put all of his selfish needs aside and give back to cycling what it has given to him.
I'm not holding out any hope that the glimpses of Lance, the humbled, flawed, mortal man that were revealed in moments during the Oprah interview, are here to stay. His army of sycophants, attorneys, advisers, and handlers may be brainstorming schemes for monetizing his new narrative as we speak. A best-selling expose and a little extortion of those he could bring down is what his entourage requires to stay employed for another decade...
I'm done with Brandstrong.
Here's hoping that Lance Armstrong, the person, continues to do the right thing...
Full Lance Armstrong Series: Public Perception and the Cost of Keeping Cycling Clean, Lance Armstrong Seeks Day in Actual Court, Lance Armstrong Seeks GOP Congressman's Assistance, Defending Cycling: Lance Armstrong Edition, Lance Armstrong Will Not Fight Sanctions, Will Amnesty Save Lance Armstrong, Entire Era of US Cycling Erased from History, Time for Lance Armstrong to Come Clean, Lance Armstrong, Mitt Romney, and the Piftalls of Trusting a Winner, Lance Armstrong Goes Down, Greg LeMond Steps Up, Greg LeMond Wants to Take Over International Cycling, Last Chance for Lance Armstrong, Will It Really Matter If Lance Armstrong Confesses, Lance Armstrong to Confess All to Oprah, Lance Armstrong's path to redemption starts with Oprah, It's not about the bike - it's only about Lance Armstrong, Lance and Oprah part one; candid but not truthful
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Keep riding and be safe!