UPDATE: Commentary on part one of Oprah's interview of Lance Armstrong here.
Oprah Winfrey's two and a half hour interview with Lance Armstrong wrapped up yesterday. The cycling world must now wait until 9pm EST Thursday to hear just how full a confession Lance was willing to offer.
"I didn't get all the questions asked, but I think the most important questions and the answers that people around the world have been waiting to hear were answered. I can only say I was satisfied by the answers." - Oprah Winfrey, 1/15/13
Just in - the interview is so extensive it is being broadcast in two parts on consecutive nights.
Speculation is running rampant.
Did Lance cut a deal with his arch-nemesis, USADA's Travis Tygart, to reduce his lifetime ban? Will he join Floyd Landis' federal whistleblower suit against the owners of the US Postal Service Team? Does he have incriminating evidence against cycling's governing body?
You can read a comprehensive summary of all the speculation regarding Lance's "scorched earth" approach on Velonews.
Those of us that have been following this case closely, have more than privately wondered just how forthcoming, truthful, and contrite his confession will actually be. Most are skeptical that Lance will fail to offer a sincere apology to those he maligned in his efforts to cover up his doping.
The Sunday Times of London - forced to settle an expensive libel claim for a story that alleged PED use by Armstrong prior to 2005 - went so far as to publish a list of questions for Oprah to ask Armstrong in advance of their interview;
• Did you tell doctors at the Indiana University Hospital on Oct. 27, 1996, that you had taken EPO, human growth hormone, cortisone, steroids and testosterone?
• After returning from cancer how did you justify putting banned drugs in your body?
• Did you have any sympathy for those rivals determined to race clean?
• Do you regret how you treated Betsy Andreu, your former masseuse Emma O’Reilly and Greg LeMond?
• Do you admit that your friend Dr. Michele Ferrari fully supported your team’s doping?
• Is it your intention to return the prize money you earned from Sept. 1998 to July 2010?
• Did you sue the Sunday Times to shut us up?
• Was your failure to understand Floyd Landis the key to your downfall?
• Do you accept your lying to the cancer community was the greatest deception of all?
• Why have you chosen Oprah Winfrey for your first interview as a banned athlete?
We all must wait until Thursday and Friday to see if this line of questioning was pursued, let alone whether any of these concerns were even addressed.
As someone who has been covering this story for nearly a year, I was most stunned by something I read yesterday on Cycling News. It was a citation from a Wall Street Journal article detailing the recent meeting between Armstrong and Travis Tygart of USADA.
Tygart had given Lance every opportunity to meet with him and admit his doping prior to issuing the sanction that stripped Armstrong of his 7 Tour de France championships. Tygart even alluded that a prior meeting may have resulted in Lance retaining 5 of those 7 wins. Ever defiant, Armstrong took these parting shots at the man he blamed for his disgrace:
"You don't hold the keys to my redemption," he said. "There's one person who holds the keys to my redemption," he went on, pointing at himself, "and that's me."
The Oprah interview is clearing the path for Armstrong's public redemption. She is serving as Lance's lead-out rider - being used to launch Lance's new narrative, propel his rationalized message over the line, and return him to the top step of the podium where he believes that he belongs.
Like most cycling fans, I would like to see the extent of corruption in cycling laid bare by Armstrong. Unfortunately, I don't hold out any hope that Lance will be doing this to save the sport he loves or improve the experience for those that follow him.
He's doing it all for the benefit of Lance - the brand.
I expect him to paint a picture of a naive young athlete who made a deal with the devil to win. He'll tell the sad story of a scared cancer patient who vowed to God to repay all those that stood by him during his darkest hours. He'll try to convince us that everything that transpired from that point forward - cheating, lying, covering up, denying, intimidating, slandering, harassing, obfuscating, litigating - was never intended.
If he apologizes for his poor decisions and acknowledges his regret for the consequences, we have no choice but to forgive him, right?
Be prepared to hear that there were a lot worse guys than Lance and he's more than willing to name names. Don't hate the player - hate the game. Everyone was doing it. Yada yada yada...
So as Lance earns brownie points for apologizing to the employees of Livestrong and possibly brings tears to Oprah's eyes, remember that this has all been carefully orchestrated by a master manipulator.
Thankfully, it's not about the bike. It's not even about the rider.
Enjoy the drama that's about to enfold...
Chronological Perspective on Lance Armstrong: Lance Armstrong Cleared, Controversy Remains, 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, It's not about the bike, it's only about Lance Armstrong
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Keep riding and be safe!