ON JANUARY 17, US time, world sport’s worst serial cheat, Lance Armstrong, will make a confession of sorts to the world’s best known chat show host, Oprah Winfrey. Not surprisingly, both are Americans.
Armstrong was indicted by the US Anti-Doping Administration and the level of proof that the agency gathered would have put anyone behind bars. It was a dream case, one where the evidence was so startling that even a serial liar and cheat like Armstrong kept silent.
Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999 onwards, with every possible chemical helping him to the podium.
He has bullied, threatened and bribed his way to the top and gained a massive financial fortune, not to say a reputation that is unmatched in sport worldwide.
But he is a sad human being, a cheat, a liar, and a brazen one at that. He has ruined many lives, he has spoilt the sport of cycling forever, and he has made crooks out of many with his bribes.
Winfrey is known for soft, weepy programmes; she has built up a reputation as someone who empathises with her guests and never puts them offside.
She is no journalist.
In her early days, Winfrey was tried out as a news reporter on TV stations. But her bosses noticed that she had a tendency to come down on the side of the underdog every time, even if that individual was a convicted child molester.
She moved on to chat shows and there she found her real metier. A legend was born.
Armstrong will not be put on any rack on Winfrey’s programme. He will be treated with kid gloves and it will be akin to the Boston strangler being given a back rub.
Armstrong has already extracted about $US16 million from Winfrey for giving the interview – which will be very helpful in paying legal costs which are expected to mount when people start suing him for his lies, and sponsors start demanding their money back.
Hence this is not anything to do with journalism. It is fraud from the word go, cash for comment. But it is a big story to be covered with all the cynicism and sarcasm it deserves.
Armstrong is doing the interview because he wants to take part in sport again. Not cycling, other sports like athletics.
But given the fact that his entire sporting life has been a lie, he does not deserve a second chance. This is one case where one must lock the door and throw away the key.