Spotlight on Armstrong

SO LANCE Armstrong has a date with Oprah Winfrey. And so great is the level of interest and analysis even before the interview takes to the air that the questioner is under as much scrutiny as the subject of her cross-examination.

It is understandable that if Armstrong has reached the point where he has something new to say, he would wish to tell it to someone who has provided a supportive ear in the past.

But unless he is going to tell all, Winfrey will almost certainly stand accused of going easy on the disgraced former Tour de France champion.

This is potentially a massive moment in sport media. If Armstrong decides that he should engage in either apology or confession or perhaps both, he stands on the precipice of even greater ruin than now.

It was presumably Armstrong's people who put the feelers out through unconfirmed media reports last week that he was considering some form of public admission of guilt. It was not an unreasonable strategy to ascertain how the media and the public might react to some sort of deal by which he might be able to resume his sporting career, albeit now in triathlons and marathons.

But it will have to be one hell of a deal as there are a myriad parties involved who have every reason to still be upset with a repentant Armstrong. Just how all of them would be bound to any agreement seems way too complex to even contemplate.

The easy part would be concluding a deal with his primary pursuers, the US Anti- Doping Agency. Co-operation with his destroyers by assisting them with their further inquiries might ease off a lifetime ban and allow Armstrong in two, three or four years to enter official sporting competition once again.

But given what USADA has found out in its quest to hunt Armstrong down, is there anything that he could tell it that it doesn't already know?

And given that he has had countless opportunities to come clean over a long period of time, would he be entitled to such concessions in any case, even if he were able to come up with something new?

Then there is the question of how his own sports world governing body, the UCI, might react, given that it has banned him for life and stripped him of all his former glories. Already into its own wide-reaching inquiry and under enormous pressure to do something more about the darker periods of the past, why would it cut any slack to its most infamous bad boy?

Unless it reduces his penalty, its fellow international bodies will be expected to respect the lifetime ban, irrespective of what USADA might be inclined to do.

But the biggest issues for a confessing Armstrong are a potential jail term for lying under oath - the fate that befell Marion Jones - and the likelihood of financial ruin as the US government and a wide range of sponsors seek recovery of the dollars that they would consider him to have defrauded.

And waiting at the end of the line are the millions of people around the world who were inspired by his story and who will now simply want to know why.

It is doubtful that many of them will accept any simple excuse that he had no choice because that was the way of the peloton of the time.

They will want something much more because Armstrong set himself apart and challenged each of them to believe that he was different.

Such are the implications of his potential revelations that there is every chance that Armstrong's chat with Oprah will be a massive fizzer.

If it's not, it will be one of the great ratings winners of all time.

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