The Armstrong act

If a talk show host has the last word on a sports scandal, it must have assumed the proportions of a universal human story. Indeed, the life of Lance Armstrong is a cautionary tale about an unhealthy symptom of the age of individualism ó the compelling need for everyone to be in complete control of their lives and environment, and to secure personal success at all costs. In the interview with Oprah, Armstrong declares that he was in danger of losing control only twice. The first unpredictable was cancer. The second was his dope-fuelled career, which was a bit like riding the tiger. The scary thing is that he freely admits to not having suffered any remorse until he fell off its back.

Armstrong is clearly relieved to have got out of denial mode, but perhaps he would have been even happier to keep on riding. He was caught out only because of the "bio passport", a newly instituted blood and urine profile which is like a fingerprint. Frozen samples from earlier races failed to tally with his profile, leading to the very strong suspicion that he had been doping. Without the passport, he would not have been caught and Oprah would probably have interviewed him as an inspirational figure, a win-win cancer survivor. Coincidentally, he was stripped of an Olympic medal the very day he confessed.

Armstrong's desire to come clean is laudable, but he could always have gone to the sports authorities, whose charges he had steadfastly denied. Instead, he chose to bare all to Oprah in a hard-sold exclusive aired globally. Banned from competitive sport, Armstrong still has to keep winning, even if it's the TV confessional prize.

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