Jim Carroll

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It’s showtime for Lance

It’s time for Lance Armstrong to spit in the soup. Tonight – well, tomorrow morning in this part of the world – the Texan cyclist and doper will tell all about his real life on the bike to Opray Winfrey. …

Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 09:28


It’s time for Lance Armstrong to spit in the soup. Tonight – well, tomorrow morning in this part of the world – the Texan cyclist and doper will tell all about his real life on the bike to Opray Winfrey. Obviously, David Walsh and Paul Kimmage must have been otherwise engaged when Team LA started planning this one and looked for someone to handle the confession of the century. But, to be fair to the US TV superstar, Winfrey has done her homework. She had over 100 questions for Armstrong and the interview went on for hours. It means we’ll now have a two-part special to watch the disgraced former Tour de France star and Livestrong charity main mover admit to doping and blow his whistle like no-one has blown their whistle about others in the game facilitating the doping campaign. In a nutshell: big man on bike goes large on other big men on bikes to try to save his ass.

They really should have done the interview on bikes

The problem is that it’s too little too late. During his career, Armstrong was arrogant and steadfast in both denying the doping charges and attacking those who spoke against him. Those of us who have followed this story’s twists and turns over the years will know names like Irishwoman Emma O’Reilly, the amazing Betsy Andreu and her husband Frankie, Filippo Simeoni (the Italian cylist was seriously hassled by Armstrong for speaking out), Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and Greg and Kathy LeMond. There are others too. All of them expressed their doubts about Armstrong; all were vilified, insulted and derided by Armstrong and, it should not be forgotten, Team LA. It’s Team LA, that coterie of helpers, enablers and liathroidi behind the scenes who kept the Armstrong show on the road, who should also be in the dock.

But really, it comes down to Armstrong. He’s the one behind all of this, past and present and, yes, future. The decision to engage in this bout of contrition is down entirely to him, a chance to redeem some of his reputation and paint him as not really a bad aul’ bollox. It might work for some of Winfrey’s audience – many sports fans love this kind of drama where a fallen hero gulps, admits his failings and begs for forgiveness (apparently, Armstrong weeps like a baby at one stage – yes, the onions worked) – but it will inevitably raise more questions when the show ends.

Case in point for some of those questions: David Walsh’s Seven Deadly Sins, the Sunday Times’ sportswriter’s recently published book about his pursuit of Armstrong. Along with the likes of Paul Kimmage (if you haven’t read Kimmage’s Rough Ride about his days in the saddle, make amends immediately) and Pierre Ballester, Walsh was one of those who followed this story when no-one else was following it.

At one stage in Seven Deadly Sins, he talks about how he had the story to himself because few others were prepared to do the same legwork or even admit that the story existed. He would probably have welcomed some company on the doping beat, but it wasn’t forthcoming. So Walsh persisted and got on with it. He might have started out as a fan of Armstrong, seeing something in the young Yank in the early days which resonated with the romantic view all sportswriters like to project on their subjects, but he quickly came to the conclusion that something was up, something was wrong, something was very rotten in the state of LA.

13 long years later, 13 years of being derided by Armstrong (“fucking troll” was how the cyclist charmingly refered to Walsh) and Team LA, and Walsh and others were proved 100 per cent right. The story was right all the way along. The obsession and persistence were justified. The denials from Armstrong and his entourage were lies.

As we watch Armstrong singing like a canary to Winfrey tonight to save his skin, we should also wonder about the current state of the sport. Can we really believe that cycling is completely doping-free now as all involved preach? That all the bad apples like Armstrong have been removed from the barrel? Armstrong’s allegations and charges will inevitable mean uncomfortable days ahead for many administrators, but what about those in the peloton out on the road? What’s their take on all of this? Is there more digging to be done and more heroes to be unmasked? After all, remember that Armstrong’s reign as yellow jersey king happened after other purges in the sport. Can cycling ever recover from this?