Until Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Lance Armstrong airs this week, the most disappointing news could be Armstrong did not show up to the "confession" session alone. On “CBS This Morning,” Winfrey said this morning he had “a team of people” with him in the room.
There’s no doubt Armstrong was coached and advised before the chat. But declining to go into it alone has one questioning how staged and practiced his answers were -- how much he was looking to advance his interests rather than speak from the heart.
Armstrong doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. Years of denying doping so ferociously has one questioning whether he engaged in more legerdemain with Winfrey.
“I feel that he answered the questions in a way that he was ready,” Winfrey said.
It would have been more heartening to hear her say: “I felt he was confronted with some issues he hadn’t thought through before.”
(Winfrey said she wouldn’t allow lawyers in the interview room. Apparently, they were watching elsewhere since they were told to raise any issues afterward. None did.)
The interview was to air on the OWN network for 90 minutes on Thursday. But credit the network (though it has self-interest involved) for turning it into a two-night event and adding a second part Friday. The interview lasted two and a half hours and the decision was made to air as much as possible. It will also be streamed globally live on Oprah.com both nights.
Winfrey, who said she found Armstrong “forthcoming,” noted she had 112 questions prepared and got to as many as possible. Hopefully not too many focused on why the former Tour de France winner – yes, former, he's been stripped of the crowns -- cheated or didn’t come clean sooner.
There’s no need for an answer about how a modest childhood and being raised by a single mother made the money and fame hard to turn away from. And, once that train left the station, it became too hard to come clean.
There’s no need for an answer about how Armstrong didn’t want to disappoint cancer patients he had inspired with his own recovery from the disease. And, he didn’t want to negatively impact contributions to his cancer-fighting Livestrong foundation. As well-intentioned as it was, the charity became a money-maker for Armstrong as it boosted his image as a sort of unselfish hero.
What would be interesting is to know how someone could deny and deny and not feel the need to confess until he had run out of defenses and become ostracized by so many. Is he immune to guilt? How did he sleep the nights after he told reporters he was clean?
And has he ever heard the expression “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up”? In his case, that doesn’t exactly hold because the doping is inexcusable. But, the years-long deception seems more pernicious. It’s more insulting to fans.
Winfrey said she and her team “were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers.” That’s not exactly comforting with Armstrong. He’s cast a successful, mendacious spell on many before.