Back-pedalling a way to a wholenew identity and career
How do you know when a liar isn't lying? It is Brian Cookson, the president of British Cycling, who has produced the most apposite summary to the first part of Lance Armstrong's supposed confessional to Oprah Winfrey when he stated simply: "What do we believe?"
Mr Cookson was addressing the subject of Armstrong's supposed positive test on the 2001 Tour of Switzerland. The comprehensive and damning US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) report – that stands as the point of reference for this entire story regardless of what Armstrong, and others, may say – detailed payments to cycling's governing body, the UCI, and raised the prospect of a cover-up.
It is potentially the most damaging part of the entire case, suggesting a link to the governing body, that it might have been complicit.
When asked about it, Armstrong denied it all. There was no cover up, the donation of more than $100,000 (€75,000) to the UCI had nothing to do with any pay-off, he said.
"He says he didn't bribe anybody at UCI over the Tour de Suisse test," said Mr Cookson. "On the other hand, he has admitted to being a liar, cheat and a doper."
The UCI is the happiest party. It believes its reputation remains untarnished but it stands alone on that – the words of a liar do not absolve it.
Pat McQuaid, the UCI president, called it an "important step forward on the long road to repairing the damage that has been caused to cycling".
This was no road to redemption, rather we are on the road to nowhere.
Armstrong's minimal mea culpa – for he still refused to admit doping in his comeback Tours in 2009 and 2010 despite evidence to the contrary – may well prove a costly one for him. The lawyers behind one of the largest demands for financial recompense, a $12m (€9m) claim on behalf of SCA Promotions for the return of bonuses paid for his Tour de France wins, insisted before the interview that their case was watertight.
As Armstrong sat there, occasionally looking uncomfortable, occasionally smirking like a bully caught red-handed, he offered answers that barely dipped his big toe into the torrent of allegations that surround his time in the sport.
Watching it all, it was difficult to fathom Armstrong's motives. Why did he do it? There is one simple explanation, and one that held weight in some informed circles – this obsessive athlete wants to compete again.
Armstrong has switched to triathlon, but his life ban covers all sports that sign up to the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) code. If he were to confess, there are means for that ban to be reduced to perhaps four years.
But what he has said comes nowhere close to earning even a consideration of a reduction. According to John Fahey, head of Wada, he rejected a recent invitation from Usada to talk to them and confess properly. "Usada invited him to come clean," said Mr Fahey. "But he never came back, he went to Oprah instead."
Armstrong said in the interview: "I tried to control the narrative", as he sought to explain his actions. This is what this was – another attempt to control the narrative. Only this time, the world is finally wise to him. (© Independent News Service)