It's the worst kept secret in the sports-entertainment world that today in an interview with Oprah Winfrey you will be admitting that you cheated — that you used performance-enhancing drugs and turned your home and body into a chemical lab for the purpose of becoming the best cyclist in the world. You achieved that goal, winning seven Tour de France titles and countless other awards, endorsements and global accolades in the process.
Good for you for coming clean. According to Oprah, your 2?-hour interview was "mesmerizing." We're sure it will be good, or at least well-watched, television — all three segments of it. But let us come clean with something of our own. Your confession sounds pretty hollow.
That is to say, we would have a lot more sympathy for you and more regard for your public admission if it weren't for the fact that you had denied doping, often aggressively so, on so many occasions before now.
The Associated Press sent out a list of many — certainly not all — of the denials you have issued in interviews, new conferences and books you authored and profited handsomely from over the years. These include telling Larry King in 2005, "I have never doped," testifying in a lawsuit that "I've never taken drugs" and telling a journalist who raised questions about doping at a news conference in 2009 that "You are not worth the chair that you're sitting on."
We would have a lot more sympathy if it weren't for the fact that your vigorous defense of your innocence had included tearing apart the lives of those — including former friends and teammates — who had the temerity to suggest that you were not playing by the rules. In this group we include Frankie Andreu, a former U.S. Postal Service teammate of yours whose cycling career was left in shambles when he dared offer what you now acknowledge as truth. The same was true of Greg LeMond and his wife, Kathy, who, according to allegations in a long-standing lawsuit, you maligned and attacked in business dealings after he raised questions about your pharmaceutical habits. The list goes on.
Furthermore, we would have much more sympathy if it weren't for the fact that this public confession comes only after there's really nothing more to be said. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report released in October said it all. It's comprehensive and incontrovertible. It's why you were stripped of your Tour de France titles and banned from cycling and Olympic sports for life.
Finally, we would have more sympathy if it weren't for the fact that your confession apparently has a purpose, to get the U.S. Justice Department off your back and to attain enough public forgiveness that you may yet salvage some kind of career in triathlons.
You ask too much and offer too little. Your riches and fame were based on a lie. And now the redemption you seek is based on the goodwill you hope to attain from confessing that lie — a confession that comes too late.
We would have more sympathy. But we don't.