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Lance Armstrong Must Face His Toughest Ride on Oprah

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LANCE ARMSTRONG
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There's a Simpsons episode from the series' good ol' days when Bart skips school and witnesses Mayor Quimby's nephew apparently assault a waiter. Everyone thinks Quimby's guilty but Bart saw something else, only he is afraid to testify because it would mean him confirming he did skip school.

Lance Armstrong did worse than bunk off a day's learning during his career as a professional cyclist and now, like Bart, he must mull over whether to tell the truth or prolong the whitest of lies. Whereas Bart answered to Judge Snyder, Armstrong has Oprah Winfrey. Only Oprah is not the hardline interviewer Armstrong deserves.

Think Oprah and there is a good chance that tabloid term 'sob story' will have popped into your head. She is a cathartic presence for the A-listers and LA is next to nestle on her couch for a 90-minute chat. Preferably, Armstrong would be subjected to a sit down with David Walsh or Paul Kimmage or, more feasibly, David Frost. Oprah has indulged a former drugs cheat in Marion Jones six months after she was released from prison. Heck, she even had George W Bush on as a guest.

But the Jones interview, more pertinently, is a window into what viewers might expect next week. The disgraced US sprinter played the role of victim rather than offender and capitalized on the Oprah opportunity with some typical schmaltz.

"I truly believe that the reason I made the awful mistake and a few thereafter was because I didn't love myself enough to tell the truth," she stated in a letter to her children which she read on Oprah's programme.

The top comments for the above video are:

"She is probably on some sort of lie enhancing drugs judging from this video."

And...

"She's still in denial. She reminds me of Michelle Phillips. She should know that nobody believes her, and she can stop the performance."

This format is tailor-made for Armstrong, a cancer survivor. Tears are inevitable whether he confesses or protests his innocence again. Sweepstakes are being set up on Twitter as to which minute the first tear will be shed. But Armstrong cannot hide behind the Cancer Jesus façade he adopted during his Tour 'wins' or when he campaigned on behalf of Livestrong, before the charity dropped his name.

Armstrong's reputation is in ruins yet and he has sullied himself again ahead of opening up with Oprah. He has gutlessly chosen one of the softest interviewers in the world and someone who knows nothing about cycling for a supposed tell-all.

Big Tex (or should that be Small Tex)'s credibility is morally bankrupt but the tête-à-tête is a seminal one for Winfrey. For all her influence and power, should she handle Armstrong with kid gloves she can expect a universal backlash.

Oprah's audience is predominantly female, over the age of 55 as well as predominantly white, with 5.9 million white viewers compared to an estimated 1.4m black viewers. It sounds very much like a glorified Loose Women and Armstrong, although hardly a housewives favourite, has a good chance of generating some feminine sympathy.

And isn't it convenient Discovery, the network behind the show, were a major team sponsor of Armstrong's seventh Tour 'win' in 2005? Armstrong never ducked out of a confrontation during his career yet so depressed must he be at his downfall he can't even challenge himself to a worthy verbal duel. A rep for the show has already clarified Armstrong will have "no editorial control" and "no question is off limits" in a bid to quell the cynicism.

Oprah is diplomatically "looking forward to this conversation".

Exposed as an arrogant, bullying sociopath over the last year, Armstrong warrants a grilling which is probing and cold for all the clean cyclists he cheated out of a career, bereft of sympathy.

Bart, incidentally, did tell the truth and accepted his four-month detention from Principal Skinner. It's time Armstrong came clean and accepted whatever reprimand(s) he may face.

Around the Web

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