By threatening to confess all to Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong shows us what we sorely miss in Britain

The disgraced former cycling champion is on a long and winding road - but to what exactly we cannot know. Oprah might help us find out, through a very American ritual

Share
Related Topics

The road to redemption can be long and painful, and is usually strewn with honest admissions, frank confessions, self-sacrifice, humility, and genuine expressions of regret. It doesn't usually involve talking to Oprah Winfrey.

But on Thursday, Lance Armstrong, the defenestrated former cycling champion, who won the Tour de France seven years in succession, appears on The Oprah Show, and, if the advance publicity is accurate, he will give some sort of tacit admission for the first time that he took performance-enhancing drugs while competing.

Hero to zero

Given that Armstrong has a number of legal cases pending, and that any such admission may open himself up to a charge of perjury - he made a sworn admission in court in 2005 that he had never taken drugs - this would seem to be a high-risk strategy on his behalf.

Thus far, Armstrong has maintained his innocence in the face of an official report which said he had “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”. He was stripped of his Tour de France title, dropped by his sponsors, banned from all competitive sport, and has journey from hero to zero was quicker than if he'd free-wheeled down Mont Ventoux. He even had the key to the city of Adelaide taken away from him.

Leaving aside the wider implications of any confession he may make on Oprah, it will surely make for gripping television. Jodie Foster may have thought she had captured the nation's attention with her seven minutes of freestyle soul-baring at the Golden Globes, but that will be nothing alongside Armstrong's encounter with the queen of the chat show.

It will be a news event in its own right, and will be broadcast in two parts on Winfrey's very own cable TV channel, giving the network a huge boost in viewing figures and ensuring that, whatever the fall-out, Oprah will end up a winner.

We do things differently in Britain, partly because we no longer have a television interviewer of stature, reach and seriousness of purpose like Oprah. Ever since Michael Parkinson disappeared from regular view, we've lacked a chat show host who was capable of tackling real issues. Do you remember, for instance, the sensitive, honest and dignified way in which Parky dealt with George Michael when the singer made his first, post-scandal, appearance?

Going the distance

We still have great news interviewers - Paxman, Humphrys, Eddie Mair - but, in light entertainment, we are just... well, light. Can you imagine a set of circumstances in which a disgraced public figure would choose to make a serious admission to Jonathan Ross, or on the Graham Norton Show? Yes, we know you've cheated your way to a world title, but let's look at this picture of you as a child wearing a cowboy outfit.

Whatever we may think about a man accused of grave misdemeanours choosing a chat show to come clean, we can be pretty sure that Oprah will ask the right questions, even if she won't have Paxman-like doggedness in seeking the answers.

The future for Lance Armstrong is uncertain, to say the least. For him, redemption may be some way in the distance. He is still, I fear, on the road to perdition.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Fighters from Islamic State group sit on their tank during a parade in Raqqa, Syria  

Islamic State: Assad lures Obama into his web

Robert Fisk
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week