James Lawton: Final chance for Lance Armstrong to tear down wall of denial and tell the truth

It's far too late for the great deceiver to resort to the evasions and self-pity that characterised Marion Jones' appearance on Oprah Winfrey

There is only one certainty when Oprah Winfrey's interview with Lance Armstrong is beamed across the world next week. It is that it cannot possibly provoke even a wisp of the anguished doubt that, according to fable, went into the cry of a Chicago street kid when another fallen American hero, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, was arraigned in the Black Sox World Series baseball scandal 94 years ago.

"Say it ain't so, Joe," the boy was said to have shouted.

The difference now is that we know that Armstrong is guilty. We know the evidence is as heavy as any avalanche in the Pyrenees where he worked and controlled arguably the greatest deceit sport has ever known.

This does not mean, however, that anyone who cares about the future not just of cycling but of all high-level competitive sport can afford to miss a collision in which, Winfrey's organisation claims, "Armstrong will address the alleged doping scandal, years of accusations of cheating and charges of lying about the use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout his storied career".

Will he, though? Here is the dark fascination and one that can only be heightened by the fact that when the Olympic "superwoman" Marion Jones appeared on the show after doing time for perjury in the wake of her conviction for using performance-enhancing drugs, she put in a performance of such self-serving evasions that it didn't so much clear the air as further poison some extremely stagnant water.

Armstrong will be making his final, self-destroying mistake if he even flirts with such a manoeuvre.

As the man who once owned the astonishing distinction of seven Tour de France titles, who convinced millions that if you worked hard enough, had sufficient courage and spirit, you could reach every peak and on the way lick cancer, the 41-year-old Texan is shorn of everything he worked for but one last solemn duty, to his family, to those of his followers who remain loyal to the legend fuelled by so many lies, to his sport and, most of all, to himself.

The man from the Lone Star state has the huge, if ultimately lonely, capacity not only to explain his own actions but also every nuance of the sports culture he deemed it necessary to subvert.

A prevailing theory is that Armstrong is finally prepared to tear down the curtain of denial behind which he created a monstrous success. The motivation is plain enough. He has lost everything that he amassed so cynically and so ruthlessly, and now he has one last plea bargain.

It is to exchange for the most forensic examination of his extraordinary journey to power and success and his relentless shaping of the morality of almost every rider who shared his colours, the chance to draw some kind of line between the unremitting lies of his past and the possibility of some kind of different future.

His confession has to be purged of any colour but black and white. There are no grey areas left for the man who only this week was accused by the chief executive of Usada (the American anti-doping agency) of offering the organisation a "donation" of £150,000 "sometime after 2004" – when suspicion of Armstrong was gathering force. "I was stunned," said Travis Tygart. "It was a clear conflict of interest for Usada and we had no hesitation in rejecting that offer."

Armstrong can talk about his relations with the rather less stringent ruling authority of cycling, UCI, whose president Pat McQuaid categorised the "whistle-blowers" as scumbags and could see no reason to turn down a $100,000 donation from the man who was so masterfully manipulating the great events under its supervision. Why, he wondered, shouldn't the UCI benefit from the riches of the sport's most successful performers?

We need to know from Armstrong's own lips the workings of his supply lines. Was it really true that he casually directed a fellow rider visiting his home to the fridge where supplies of EPO were lined up in neat little packages? Did he really play god with the careers of riders who might just, on their own, have elected to ride clean?

Maybe he will insist that such innocents are a figment of somebody's imagination. He might say that everyone knew there was only one way, at least in the climate of the sport at that time, to win the great prizes and that any other version of reality is still another blurring of the issue.

Many years ago, the great Jacques Anquetil, who won the Tour de France five times in eight years, said that the wonder to him was not that the "boys" took chemical assistance but that anyone imagined they could complete such a physically draining course without a helping hand. The implication was plain enough: if, for reasons of spectacle and commercial exploitation, you make inhuman demands, then do not be surprised by the inevitable consequences.

We can only hope that Armstrong has indeed been flushed, utterly, from the foxhole of his denial. It is, he may have grasped, a little late for the evasions and the self-pity of a Marion Jones.

Of course, there is small potential for the old heroism in the wide-open confessional box of Oprah Winfrey. But there is one last opportunity for him to display some of that courage which so many believed was the most basic strength of his character.

He can do the best thing he ever did. He can tell the truth.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz