Editorial: Drug cheat's confession has no merit

Disgraced cyclist Armstrong's wrongdoing is no less significant now he has conceded in a television interview that he erred

Sometimes, a confession dressed up with an apology is worthless. If the activity for which it is being made is both serious and sustained, it can have no merit.

So it is for Lance Armstrong and his utterances during a self-serving interview with Oprah Winfrey.

His was not the sort of spontaneous apology uttered after a one-off incident or momentary error, which can be uplifting for both the giver and the recipient. It was the work of a man whose standing should for ever be blighted by many years of cheating, bullying and lying.

That history not only vindicates the United States Anti-Doping Agency's decision to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles but should invalidate any hope he has for public rehabilitation.

Not, of course, that it may work out that way. This is the age of the public apology. Everything is set up for ritual remorse and everybody plays along.

In the US, in particular, the penny often fails to drop.

Even Richard Nixon eventually gained public acceptance. He was granted a presidential pardon for his role in the Watergate scandal, and four former Presidents attended his funeral.

More recently, Martha Stewart, the queen of American domestic perfection, has rehabilitated herself to the point that little mention is made of her imprisonment for her part in an insider trading case.

Yet again, a chat with Oprah Winfrey worked wonders.

It could be that Americans are more susceptible to all this because they place greater stead in the idea of regeneration.

This makes them more ready to forgive Armstrong for what the US Anti-Doping Agency said was the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that cycling had ever seen.

And to excuse his vehement denials that he had ever taken drugs, his attacks on other riders who criticised him, and his legal battles against some of his accusers.

They should think again. Armstrong has left cycling in a sickly state.

The odium of those who chose not to cheat is particularly telling. Before the interview with Oprah Winfrey, British cyclist Nicole Cooke, the 2008 Beijing Olympics road race winner, offered a particularly stinging judgment.

"When Lance cries on Oprah ... and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward, just shattered dreams."

Armstrong's wrongdoing is no less significant now that he has conceded the error of his ways. His confession does not change the enormity of what occurred. Indeed, it is simply too easy and too convenient for someone who has painted himself into a corner.

The Oprah Winfrey interview was every bit as controlling and calculating as the approach Armstrong brought to cycling.

Confessing to doping and shedding light on the extent and workings of his programme is the only way he can hope to reduce his lifetime ban and find redemption in other sporting challenges, notably triathlons, and to salvage his own brand and that of his cancer charity.

There was nothing remotely uplifting about this public relations exercise. Obligatory it may have been; heartfelt it was not.

The seriousness and extent of Armstrong's transgressions meant it served no purpose other than to him. It should be viewed as such.

- NZ Herald

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