Armstrong’s opportunity lost

Written by Chrsitian Newbold

This article first appeared in the Mar/Apr 2013 issue of World Gaming magazine.

If you didn’t hear about the Lance Armstrong “tell-all, no holds barred” interview with Oprah Winfrey in mid-January you must have been living on a different planet. Since then there has been all sorts of discussion and analysis of the conversation. But did we learn anything new?

Image: AP. Photo: courtesy of Harpo Studos, Inc., George Burns

\Image: AP. Photo: courtesy of Harpo Studos, Inc., George Burns

Image: AP. Photo: courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc., George Burns[/caption]I am not going to recount what was said in the interview. It is all over the internet, and a quick Google search will have you watching the video clips and reading the key points in no time. What was most striking to me about the interview was the lack of information, leaving the real issues conspicuous by their absence.

Sure, we heard a very long overdue confession from the man himself, but the information he presented as a whole gave us nothing that would rock the sport of cycling out of the rut it is in. No doubt this was the result of contractual agreements between the Armstrong and Winfrey camps. Apparently there were plenty of holds barred – there’s that red tape again!

For all intents and purposes, the two acted out an utterly predictable script. Agreeing to an interview with Oprah Winfrey was always going to guarantee Armstrong two things he needs right now – money, and a sentimental, sympathetic representation of a highly contrived version of the truth.

The use of Oprah Winfrey to conduct a “celebrity confession” style interview in seeking redemption was surely no accident. The Wall Street Journal coined the term “Oprahfication” to describe Oprah’s ability to sway public opinion. Her apparent power is well known and definitely recognized by disgraced former greats.

Lance needs the Oprah touch if he is to spare himself millions of dollars worth of payments for damages. As each day passes, the law suits mount, and the possibility still remains of him being prosecuted for perjury after previously testifying under oath that he had not taken drugs.

Armstrong’s so-called “tell-all” resulted in more questions than answers

Armstrong’s so-called “tell-all” resulted in more questions than answers

In other ways, his choice of interviewer didn’t serve him well. Oprah’s lack of sharpness to Armstrong’s replies begged for follow-up questions, and allowed sport’s worst cheat ever to wriggle free. Armstrong wants to achieve some semblence of an improved public perception and/or for his life ban from competition (his “death sentence” as he puts it) to be reconsidered. To have any hope of achieving either of these goals, he needed someone with more grit to really drag him over the coals and extract some genuine answers from him.

For example, when Oprah asked Armstrong, “Was there anybody who knew the whole truth?” and Armstrong replied with a “Yeah”, there was no follow-up question! Who, perhaps? The UCI, international cycling’s governing body?

Johan Bruyneel

Johan Bruyneel

Dr Michele Ferrari

Dr Michele Ferrari

Similarly, there was no grilling of Armstrong about his alleged co-conspirators Johan Bruyneel and Dr Michele Ferrari – in more than 150 minutes of broadcast! How about the current crop of top riders? Who is hiding behind the smoke of the burning Lance Armstrong? The Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), organisers of the world’s biggest grand-tour style cycling races? They certainly cashed in on the years of drug-enhanced performances by Armstrong (and undoubtedly many others). There are many more people and organizations, governing bodies and cycling team managers who assisted in the cover-ups and “… knew the whole truth.”

These were the kind of truths I was compelling him to divulge in my “Cycling in Crisis” article in the Jan/Feb issue of World Gaming, which you can read at by typing “Cycling in Crisis” (including the quotes) in the website’s search bar. In that article I asked for Lance Armstrong to “please stand up”, and in doing so assist “… in the greater fight to save cycling, his own name, and the faith of those whose lives he has helped.” As far as I am concerned, Lance has yet to do so, and clearly remains stuck in his own ego.

It is obvious Armstrong’s only quest is to pick up the shattered pieces of both his credibility and reputation. If he had the guts to go all the way and clean the slate properly, only then would he win back a bit of respect from me, other fans and possibly even the sport of cycling that he has damaged so horribly.