Like most of us I have followed the âLance Armstrong is a Massive Cheat â storyline which has been kicked around the news and back pages for the last couple of years. I have been fascinated by the rumours, accusations, denials and litigations that have fuelled the tale. It seemed like everyone knew the truth but officially nothing would or could be done.
Eventually the net tightened and people came forward and Armstrong, stripped of his titles and sponsorship deals, couldn’t deny his culpability any longer. So he went on Oprah.
Oprah has long been the chat show host of choice for the worldâs biggest celebrities to spill their guts too. After all, she is exactly that a chat show host; a light weight pedlar of fluff to generations of unquestioning and unsophisticated TV watchers. You go on there to tell your side of the story and then leave, hopefully with the unthinking majority a little bit more on your side.
Unless you are Tom Cruise of course, in which case, you just expose yourself as creepy and insincere (which is the first thing most actors learn to keep to themselves).
This was the right place to put forward his side of the story; to try and pry from the public feelings of empathy and understanding. In essence he was doing what he has always done and that is to try and control events. We all do of course but Lance works on to a much higher standard than you or I.
He states quite happily in his interview that along with his desire to win he has an equal desire to control outcomes. He cites how his greatest pleasure in his seven Tour de France wins was not the moment of crossing the line and winning but the build-up and planning needed to guarantee that win. Which is exactly what he does here.
The Oprah of 2013 is even more likely to pander to the whims of the celeb in the box than she was in her heyday. When she was the biggest thing on TV, the celebrity needed the platform she provided but now with OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) struggling to succeed, the tables have turned and she needs them as much as they need her.
Which works out perfectly for Lance, his credibility is so low any other TV show would have been able to, if not drag him over the coals, at least of given him a bit of a hard time. Not Oprah though. Hungry for the viewers that the Armstrong exclusive would bring (and it did get 28 million) she bent over backwards to make everything as easy as possible for the disgraced cyclist.
I felt a little sordid watching the interview, as though I was somehow complicit in the white wash that was happening before me.
I donât know who came up with the questions. Whether they were devised by Winfrey’s people and then handed to the cheatâs people so he could prepare. Or if it was the other way round or maybe they were developed together. However Lance was thoroughly prepared and had answers for every question, with an appropriate caveat or excuse that made him appear less responsible for his own actions.
And Oprah let him, not only in the way questions were asked and blatant contradictions not followed up but the way she laughed during more the uncomfortable moments.
Of course, these were not full on belly laughs, more along the lines of âWow, what a cheeky fellow you areâ. This though, is just not good enough.
The argument proposed by the people who stick up for Armstrong seems to just be âwell everybody else did it,â? or âHe has come clean nowâ? or “itâs no big deal itâs only a sportâ?.
This is missing the point. When Thierry Henry handled the ball and scored in the World Cup qualifier against Ireland, he was acting on impulse. It was a spur of the moment naughty act which was distasteful, unsporting and Henry did not come out of it well. But, most of us can probably relate to that level of gamesmanship.
Armstrong went a lot further than just cheating. The allegations of bullying and rampant litigation against his accusers suggest an almost pathological need to control, dominate and win. This scant disregard for the lives of others and the careers he ruined is as much of a crime as the blood doping.
These issues were raised but not really dealt with; Oprah let him give his reasons as to why he did these things but did not question any answer once given (frankly I donât care what his reasons were, he is just a manipulative, megalomaniacal arse). It was all his way and he was even able to duck out of one question completely. Piers Morgan, would have done a better job.
One of the most absurd things she let him get away with was his insistence that he did not dope in his comeback. I am not saying he did cheat in 2009, 10 and 11, he may well have not done. Yet every reason of circumstance and personality that he said made him cheat in previous competitions, were still very much apsects of his make up during this period.
He said himself, âthat personâ? still exists and it is only since he has admitted to his crimes, has he begun to change and grow as a person.
Over all though I think the whole thing was a pointless exercise, Armstrong did not appear overly upset by the whole thing and his single crocodile tear when speaking of his children would not have been enough to win over the members of the public who buy that sort of thing.
Come to think of it, if he had turned on the full water works and balled his eyes out, this PR exercise might well have worked.