Lance Armstrong knows a thing or two about the PR machine. And so it's not surprising that the embattled cyclist is beginning an attempt to get back into the good graces of the public by sitting down with one of America's most influential and sympathetic people, Oprah Winfrey.
The interview, which will air next Thursday on Winfrey's network, will give Armstrong a chance to finally succumb to the pressure and admit that he was lying for years about using performance-enhancing drugs on the road from cancer recovery to seven Tour de France victories.
Americans have been forgiven for a lot worse, and an appearance with Oprah is definitely the route to take here if Armstrong's looking to gain some love from sour fans. But if he continues to deny, deny, deny with Winfrey, he's only going to further piss off those who feel they were duped by a doper.
Some figure it's doubtful Oprah would agree to fly out to Texas to chat with Armstrong if he didn't have anything new to offer, but the hype surrounding his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour victories might have been enough to lure Oprah to do the interview.
The thing is, I think most of us are more annoyed with Armstrong for his stubborn denials despite the evidence than we are with him for doping. There's an extremely slim chance he's innocent, but those of us with common sense have already drawn conclusions from all of the evidence that has been compiled implicating him. Why else did a man with all of that power and money and free time give up his fight to clear his name?
If indeed Armstrong is guilty — and a recent report in the New York Times suggests he's contemplated coming clean — then his most heinous crime was the ferocious way in which he kept up the lie for several years. Not just the way he denied claims of doping, but the way he oppressed, bullied, and intimidated anyone who would dare to come close to the truth. The New York Daily News went so far as to label Armstrong's actions as ones that bordered on "gangsterism" and "Machiavellian."
Armstrong used his victory over cancer in his testicles, his lungs, his abdomen and his brain as a way to dodge allegations that he cheated. He inspired millions and helped countless lives, yes, but I can't fathom how frustrating it must be for those who took inspiration from Armstrong and now have to cringe when they see his face. Then there are the ones whose lives Armstrong tried to ruin. Are they worth any more or less than the lives Armstrong inspired?
Many will cringe next Thursday, including me. If he confesses, I'll feel slightly better. If he doesn't, he may lose whatever integrity he has left. That's how crucial this interview is to Armstrong's life and the lives of the many that have looked up to him over the last 15 years.