The Oprah interview
Credits roll: “Oprah’s Next Chapter”
Video montage of Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France.
Speaking over the video Winfrey describes Armstrong’s accomplishments in a serious tone: world champion, fighting cancer, returns from near death to professional cycling and winning seven straight Tours. Reminds the audience the hardships he endured coming from a single parent home.
Scene opens to Armstrong seated on a sofa inside his Austin, Texas home with Winfrey positioned in front of him.
Let the redemption begin…
As we’re all aware Lance Armstrong is going to sit down with Oprah Winfrey for a 90 minute interview. It will be conducted in Armstrong’s home in Austin, Texas, broadcast on OWN and streamed on her website Oprah.com. However, the interview will not be live but pre-recorded before the 17th.
Questions were immediately raised – will Oprah ask the tough questions that need asking? Remember, the talk show host is not cut from the same cloth as a David Walsh. She isn’t on par with any reporter from a real news program. Her former show “Oprah” was early afternoon light television fodder. While no longer on the air “Oprah” is still widely known (or perhaps infamously known) to the general public as where Tom Cruise lost his shit and bounced up and down on the sofa proclaiming his love for Katie Holmes. “Meet the Press” this show is not.
As someone on Twitter said, you go on Oprah to get redemption, not apologize. The truth isn’t too far from that. Armstrong will use Oprah’s show as his venue to admit to doping. There’s too much evidence for him not too. The head of United States Anti Doping Agency Travis Tygart said representatives of Armstrong approached him to discuss some kind of agreement of admission. In return USADA would allow the disgraced rider to return to real competition, something he has been banned from for life.
With the interview taking place in the comfortable setting of his home he’ll admit to doping, but lay the blame on everyone but himself. The excuses will be, “everyone was doing it,” “UCI was complicit,” “how did you expect us to race like that?”, etc, etc, etc…
At no time will Armstrong state that it was his fault. He’s just not programed that way. There will be no apologies to anyone he’s tried to ruin or has ruined. For many people that will leave a bitter taste in their mouth because once the interview is over the public will collectively shrug their shoulders and think, “Yeah everyone was doping so what’s the big deal.” And move on. Time will pass and Armstrong will continue to bleed millions of dollars ranging from lawyers fees to the loss of endorsement deals. But that’s the short term. At this point in the game Armstrong and his advisors are looking long term.
Long term the Oprah interview will be his path back to a “normal life.” He’ll have a book written about his experiences and soon he’ll sit down with Matt Lauer of the Today Show. There will be speaking engagements and if he gets his lifetime ban reduced to just years, you’ll see him in a Speedo at the Ironman. Sponsors will clamor to have him use their equipment or have a logo plastered onto a jersey. That’s just the way business works. Bottom line is if that person can push their product they’ll sponsor them. The sporting world is filled with examples – one of the more egregious being Michael Vick. Upon his return to professional football Vicks was again part of the Nike family.
I say to those who are expecting that cathartic moment when Armstrong admits to doping and starts to tear-up about the people he’s wronged – it’s not going to happen. This is all a well calculated kabuki with the end game being a return to eventual normalcy.
Some people will continue to push and examine Armstrong, but the takeaway from all of this is to not expect much from the Oprah interview. Realize that the 90 minutes of sofa time with Oprah will be a disappointment for some.
But let’s not focus on the disappointment that will be the interview. Let’s not focus on the pound of flesh we think we’re deserved. Let’s focus on the fact that cycling is at a turning point where institutionalized team doping is no longer the norm. I’m not going to say there’s not going to be another doping case, because that’s simply not true. However, here’s a new generation of riders who won’t have to feel compelled to dope and take huge risks with their health. I’m also not naïve enough to think that Armstrong is the top of the food chain. He had a lot of support coming from fellow riders, people in management positions, all the way to the top of the UCI. Eventually it will all tumble. But for now be happy that the sport is a bit cleaner for this.