Hold the backpage
Compiled by MARY HANNIGAN
Walsh's book should be must-read for Oprah
So then, it’s Oprah Winfrey who has been bestowed with the honour of an audience with Lance Armstrong, the man Travis Tygart, chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency, ‘credited’, before snaring him, as the chap who “pulled off the greatest heist sport has ever seen”.
Since the announcement, there’s almost been as much speculation about how Winfrey will handle the chat as there has been about what Armstrong might actually say, the Guardian’s Barney Ronay not sounding overly hopeful in his list of ‘Ten questions Winfrey probably will ask’. For example: “Would you like to see an uplifting montage of slow-motion footage of you looking triumphant and sad, soundtracked by Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong?”
Ronay is not, it has to be said, alone in fearing that’s as probing as the questions will get, former professional cyclist Matt DeCanio declaring that “Oprah Winfrey appeals to the general American public who shops at Wal-Mart, doesn’t know up from down or left from right and just wants to hear a feelgood story”.
Others, though, sense that Winfrey, in light of the somewhat overwhelming evidence against Armstrong, might feel just a little bit obliged to do more than offer a shoulder to weep on. American writer Henry Blodget, for example, a long-time supporter of Armstrong, until it dawned on him that his hero was, in fact, a vindictive fraud, reckoned that “Oprah certainly isn’t going to fly all the way to Armstrong’s house in Texas just to sit there and ask him how he’s feeling – at least I hope she’s not.” We’ll see.
Offered a list
Ronay’s Guardian colleague William Fotheringham offered a list of 10 questions Winfrey should ask, among them “What would you say now if you were alone in a room with any of the whistleblowers . . . who you threatened when they attempted to expose you?’. And, “In the light of the overwhelming evidence of doping against you in the 1999 Tour, have you any words for Christophe Bassons, whom you intimidated during that race over his anti-doping stance?”
Those who have read David Walsh’s Seven Deadly Sins – My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong will be more than familiar with this cast of courageous characters, among them Bassons, Emma O’Reilly, Greg LeMond, Betsy Andreu and L’Equipe writer Pierre Ballester who, ultimately, lost his job because of his pesky doubts about ‘Saint Lance’.
In the closing pages of the book, Walsh asked several of the people who’d had the guts to speak up over the years, regardless of the personal consequences – and, in some cases, they were brutal – to share their feelings after the Armstrong myth had, finally, been destroyed.
There was a wide range of emotions, the majority just weary from it all, but some, who had suffered more than most, couldn’t help but feel relief. Among them Kathy LeMond, wife of Greg: “Greg’s reputation, our business, our children’s teenage years, were all consumed by a vicious vendetta against Greg and our family because we wouldn’t go along with the lies . . . I imagine that maybe I could feel sorry for Lance, but not after so many years of interfering in our life. No way.