Washington – Lance Armstrong didn't just come clean to Oprah Winfrey about doping on Thursday. He also tried to reinvent himself.
Will the public accept his globally televised mea culpa after more than a decade of lies? Only time will tell. But judging from initial reaction on twitter, he has a long way to go to convince people he regrets his actions.
The 41-year-old disgraced cyclist clearly had carefully rehearsed his answers as he acknowledged, after years of strident denials, that his victories had been fueled by banned performance-enhancing drugs.
“I was used to controlling everything in my life,” Armstrong told Winfrey, television's queen of talk, in his first interview since he was stripped of his record-setting seven Tour de France titles.
Armstrong described himself as a “bully” and an “arrogant prick,” saying: “I tried to control the narrative... I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologise to people.”
It was Winfrey, eager to land a blockbuster interview for her upstart OWN cable channel, who approached Armstrong after the US Anti-Doping Agency put him at the heart of cycling's biggest doping conspiracy.
Their conversation was pre-recorded Monday at a hotel in his hometown Austin, Texas. The second half of the interview will be aired on Friday.
Armstrong turned up in a blue blazer, open-neck shirt and slightly worn Chelsea boots, and sat for much of the interview with one foot resting on his other knee.
On his right wrist, he wore the iconic yellow armband of Livestrong, the cancer charity that he founded.
On the table was a glass of water with a straw that was close to full one minute, then close to empty, then full again – evidence of the editing process.
Spliced into the program for the benefit of viewers not up to speed on doping were background segments including clips of some of Armstrong's long string of public doping denials.
Behavioral analyst Joe Navarro, who during 25 years with the FBI assisted in the questioning of hundreds of suspected criminals, faulted Winfrey for not going hard on Armstrong to unearth precise details about the doping racket.
“A lot of people out there will think this is a good interview,” said Navarro, author of “What Every Body is Saying.” “It was a long interview... but no one should assume it was a forensic interview.”
“By not getting into the details, you (the interviewee) are in a way letting other people fill in that (missing) information – and you hope that somewhere along the line, someone will be forgiving,” he told AFP.
In that instant court of public opinion called twitter, where witty trending hashtags included #doprah, #LiveWrong and #LieStrong, the jurors of cyberspace turned thumbs down.
“I've watched enough. That was depressing. I've rarely seen such a soulless psychopath,” tweeted @leighsales.
“If Lance Armstrong was trying to gain sympathy with this interview it's not working,” echoed @newyscruggs. “Damn sad day when #Oprah can't even make him look good.”
“It's pretty clear the most powerful drug Lance Armstrong abused was narcissism,” agreed @SeanGrandePBP.
But the Texan had his supporters as well, not least for his work for cancer survivors through the Livestrong charity he founded in 1997 after his own brush with testicular cancer.
“The fact the he lied and brought people down won't change the fact HE helped people with cancer,” tweeted one fan going by the handle @hoooligan. “No matter what, I respect. #lancearmstrong”. – Sapa-AFP