independent

Friday 24 October 2014

Sorry is the easiest word

Published 17/01/2013 | 08:56

WHO knew what when? That's the big question about Lance Armstrong. It's all very nice that he went on Oprah, the queen confessor of modern America, and told us what we already know – that he engaged in doping and did so from an early stage of his career.

It'll be interesting to hear his rationale, it'll be interesting to see exactly how contrite he is, but really the big stuff, the who knew what when stuff, is going to come out eventually and in a courtroom most likely.

The single biggest revelation to come out of the Oprah interview is said to be, according to a New

York Times report on Tuesday, Armstrong's willingness to testify against officials at the International Cycling Union (the UCI) about their knowledge of doping in cycling. That's the ball game right there.

For tears and hankies tune into Oprah on Thursday night. For the meat and drink of this sordid little affair let's wait a little longer.

Maybe Oprah will surprise us all. Maybe she'll have asked the hard questions and followed up and put his back to the wall. Then again I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you. There's a reason he's talking to an afternoon talkshow host and not a serious journalist. This will be no Frost / Nixon interview. Richard Nixon, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this week were he still alive incidentally, revealed more than he intended to in that interview when he boldly declared: "When the President does it, that means it is not illegal."

There won't be any such moment of unexpected candor from Armstrong. He agreed to that interview, well trained and well rehearsed, to reveal what he wanted to, in the manner in which he wanted, with America's most trusted woman making her customary sympathetic noises towards him. Hey if Oprah can forgive him, if Oprah doesn't think he's that bad a guy then how bad a guy can he be?

Are we being cynical here? Absolutely. It's hard not to be when discussing a man who ran what the US Anti-doping Agency described as "the most sophisticated, organized and professional doping scheme in the history of sports". A man who went on the warpath to squash any suggestions – notably by the Sunday Times and its journalists – that he doped up until very recently.

A man who was so arrogant, so entitled, that having won a remarkable (precisely how remarkable we now know) seven Tour de France titles and gotten away with it he attempted a comeback having previously retired. So forgive us our cynicism if you will. By the way the phrase 'who knew what when' originated during the Watergate scandal.

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