The Armstrong Interview: What is more important – his honesty or his information?

The sporting domain is holding its breath, as the Mayan’s did waiting for December 21st, as they predict the words to come from one of their fallen heroes – Lance Armstrong. On Thursday, the former seven time Tour de France winner will be judged by the world, as he is anticipated to confess to taking performance enhancing drugs as the allegations within the 2012 report by the US Anti-Doping Agency claim he has done.

Throughout his long and prosperous career, 41-year old Armstrong battled ruthlessly against the persistent attack of media, team-mates and public that accused him of illegitimately becoming a World Champion cyclist. His tenacity at maintaining such an unblemished public persona, even leading him to take organisations to court over their contentions, has allowed him to found Livestrong, a Cancer charity and appear as an honest, decent and anti-doping role model. Of course, since his retirement in 2011 from cycling whilst under a US federal doping investigation, the debate over Armstrong has been almost omnipresent.

With an affirmation imminent, it must be considered what the best outcome of the approaching interview is. Are we, as fans of cycling and as individuals within society holding our own distinctive morale’s and opinions, satisfied with simply a confession? Is an emotional apology, highlighting motives and personal regret, revealing Armstrong as a humble and contrite character enough for many of us who were fans of the Armstrong brand, and who backed him when others doubted him? No, I do not believe it is. The real significance of this interview should not be simply the truth, but the details of the truth. A brief apology to restore Armstrong as a public icon is not necessary, or suffice. With cycling consistently plagued with negative connotations of doping, deception and disloyalty, this interview could be a vital progression towards the turning point in public approval cycling has so long wanted to right. The world needs details. Details of why he felt the needs to opt towards performance enhancing drugs? Who approached him about taking them? How did he obtain them? Where was his supplier based? At what times prior to competition did he take the drugs? What did he take? The list is seemingly endless. And yet each question will act as a signpost along the road towards morality in sport.

As the central focus of the most prolific and well executed doping scandal ever in sport, it is vital that Armstrong is honest and thorough in his answers. But, of course, that cannot be guaranteed, or even expected. The motives for Armstrong to partake in the forthcoming interview are paramount. Is he aimlessly hoping to redeem his previously pure public image?  Is he hoping to restore his brand(s)? Is he simply wanting to clear a guilty conscious? It must be remembered that Armstrong is opting to be interviewed; it is not necessary or directly forced upon him. It also must be remembered that ‘Big Tex’ has opted for Oprah; A glamorous interviewer, free from the rugged, candid and cynical qualities, that a journalist who deserves the opportunity to interrogate Armstrong, possesses. Claiming he has told the 58-year old talk-show host she has complete ownership and freedom of the questions she asks, does not actually support Armstrong in anyway. A woman with little knowledge of cycling, and holding a tabloid style approach to interviewing, suits the former athlete. Being interviewed by a figure who the nation, if not world, sympathise with and acknowledge as a highly influential woman, allows Armstrong to constructively build an interview on emotion, and not facts. Predominantly, Oprah’s audience consists of sympathetic, middle-aged women, a majority of which will be unfamiliar of the extent of fiction that Armstrong has portrayed to the world, possibly since 1992.  We cannot be sure that Oprah will be unable to draw from him anything more than a limited declaration.

In all honesty, the problem for me, is not the cheating. If I trained every single day since I was a child, sacrificing everything that defined me as an adolescent and more so as an adult, to be the best at something which I knew I would always be second best without a slight aid, I can not say I would not do the same. We have all cheated at something, and it is almost ingrained in competitive athletes to do anything to be the best and to win. It is hard on an individual not to feel inadequate and ashamed for their family and fans commitment that they are unable to win, and so the desire to take a performance enhancing drug is extremely tempting. That’s just my opinion of course and despite this, Armstrong built a fictional world, where his words, his character, his actions, his motives and his story plot were all immoral and corrupt. Building a perfect image, a dogged backbone of support and a pristine public charm all whilst knowing that he was founding each day upon lie after lie, is shocking.

For me, Armstrong deserves his ban and he deserves the detriments to his sponsorships and businesses. It is not the cheating as such that penetrates my morale’s, but the treachery and pretence that accompanied it. If any good is to come of the impeding interview, it is that progress is made towards cleaner cycling, cleaner athletes and cleaner sport.

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