It’s not just Armstrong in the spotlight

More surprising than Lance Armstrong’s confessional on Oprah is the UCI’s inability to tackle the scandal.

“Thank you all for watching”.

Oprah Winfrey got what she wanted from her televised exclusive, but did Lance Armstrong get what he wanted?

None of us should be surprised disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong agreed to speak to the queen of the confessional. Having manipulated a sport and all the people in it for two decades, why wouldn’t he have a go at manipulating the agenda one last time while he’s cornered? And what better than the tactical, careful, legal ‘confessional’.

Armstrong couldn’t be silent forever – he had to say his piece sooner or later to have any shot at redemption and salvaging his career.

We may have been surprised by the initial pace of the admissions to Oprah, including a one-word ‘yes’ answer to the question he’d dodged for 20 years: have you doped?  

But what was inevitable was a subsequent attempt to tug at the heart strings. I felt desperately sorry for his family and children and that’s what made his emotions finally break through. But the public will need more convincing of his genuine regret that lives were ruined by his cheating and bullying. After all, he would still be getting away with it now if it wasn’t for the relentless investigations by the anti-doping authorities and tireless journalism from the likes of David Walsh.

Armstrong went further than expected with Oprah. One of his biggest critics, Jaimie Fuller of Change Cycling Now, told me he believed 60 per cent of it rather than the 20 he was expecting.

That’s wise analysis. You can read his full attack hereBut the long-awaited admittance of guilt did not actually provide the most shocking quote of the past two days.

That came from cycling’s governing body, the UCI in Aigle, Switzerland, from where I have been reacting for Al Jazeera to the Armstrong interview and the fallout for the sport.

Having pushed them for a response it became clear President Pat McQuaid – whose failure to get a grip on the scandal is jaw-dropping – was not even present at the UCI headquarters.

He’d better have a very, very good reason for not being inside HQ on this darkest of days for his sport.

I was handed a statement which I read live on air and one paragraph jumped out that was sad, laughable and utterly bizarre all at the same time.

Lance Armstrong has confirmed there was no collusion or conspiracy between the UCI and Lance Armstrong. There were no positive tests which were covered up and he has confirmed that the donations made to the UCI were to assist in the fight against doping.

To assist in the fight against doping!

So this is the most notorious doper in sports history ‘assisting’ the fight against doping, effectively against himself?

How could the UCI have known about doping? Perhaps they should have opened their eyes and ears because the level of suspicion was as high as the peaks of the Alps that surround their HQ.

The UCI will make an attempt to stop their tailspin and get some kind of grip when they meet their own independent commission in London on Tuesday. But the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) are not impressed with any of this – and they have also sent a clear message to Armstrong: Tell us what you know under oath in the proper manner. Never mind Oprah.

As I type in the freezing sub-zero temperatures in Switzerland it is clear to me that the man who doesn’t want to be frozen out has broken the ice too late.

Perhaps if Armstrong had told the truth to Oprah Winfrey a decade ago we really would have had cause to thank Oprah, rather than her thanking us for watching…

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