Confessing with His Head Held High

Article excerpt

To the world-weary, Lance Armstrong's confession to Oprah was just one more in a series.

The process of public contrition is by now yawningly familiar: Comfortably seated in front of cameras, the high priestess of the mea culpa faces the penitent. Armstrong, stoic and chiseled, agrees to terms of engagement, his reflexive grin/grimace a foreshadowing of the little deaths to come.

Remotes to the ready, America prepares to watch and judge.

This is familiar turf for Oprah, America's First Interrogator -- often having previously been First Endorser. She once sang the praises of James Frey, who fabricated most of his drug-abuse autobiography, "A Million Little Pieces," and then had to call him back to the couch to hash out his deception.

Now, having once been a champion of Armstrong, urging Americans to wear his yellow gel "Livestrong" bracelet in solidarity with the cancer survivor/champion, it is Armstrong's turn to explain himself.

Did he dope? Yes. Did he boost his blood with EPO? Yes. Did he lie, betray and bully? Yes, all that.

Did he feel guilty? Not really.

Guilt without shame.

No. "Scary," he says.

"Did you feel bad about it?" No.

"Even scarier."

This is not sounding much like contrition because, well, it isn't. Matter-of-factly, Armstrong tells Oprah that he was just leveling the playing field, doing what was necessary to compete in a sport where doping apparently was widespread. Indeed, some familiar with the field argue that, if all had cycled clean, Armstrong still would have won.

This is of no consolation to those who feel betrayed or who have been bullied by Armstrong through the years. Of all his sins, Armstrong's persistent bullying toward any who questioned his drug use -- often suing them, successfully -- seems to be the most unforgivable. …