In my two decades with the ABC I always wanted to interview two people – Sir Donald Bradman and Muhammad Ali. Regretfully, in thousands of interviews with sports personalities and athletes, I didn’t get the chance to do either.
But this week I could add another to the ‘never to be attained’ wish list.
As Lance Armstrong speaks publicly for the first time since he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles as a result of doping, I would love to have been the one to have fired the questions.
I am sure I am not alone in that desire. I would imagine thousands of journalists and broadcasters around the globe wishing they were also the ones conducting the interview.
But, as we know, the inquisitor will be Oprah Winfrey.
Oprah is entertainment’s true ‘Big O’ – a woman from humble beginnings who has risen to be a billionaire and possesses the power to turn an otherwise unknown author into a multi-million best seller just by saying she liked their book.
But, what sort of job will she do with the Armstrong interview? And what will she ask?
Armstrong has stated that he wants her to ask whatever she likes – that it will be no-holds barred as far as he is concerned.
Sources are being reported as saying that Armstrong will confess to drug use during the interview.
If that be so, I hope Winfrey asks the Texan these questions:
Q: Given you have shown yourself to be an inveterate liar, just what store should we place on your answers here today?
Q: Do you have any shame after all the years of lying and vilifying others who questioned your morality?
Q: Do you feel you have any credibility left in the eyes of the public?
Q: What is the motivation behind your admission today?
Q: Do you, even with your admission of drug use, still see yourself as a seven-time Tour de France champion?
Q: You effectively defrauded so many people along the way. You earned millions of dollars in prize money. Do you feel any need at all to pay that money back?
Q: You have publicly vilified so many people during your years of denial – the likes of David Walsh, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Christophe Bassons, Betsy Andreu – to name just a few. What do you say to them all now?
Q: Did you ever live in fear you would get found out or did you always believe in your own heart that you would never be caught?
Q: Now that you have confessed to being a drug cheat, just what was the motivation behind your $250,000 donation to the UCI that you said you made to help them improve their anti-doping operation?
Q: You always trumpeted the fact that you never once tested positive during your career. Is that actually true?
Q: What will you, or have you, told your children about the numerous lies you pedalled for well over a decade?
Q: Are you disappointed that Landis and Hamilton broke cycling’s omertà?
Q: You have so often said that you love cycling. That being the case how do you feel now as the man who has done more to hurt the sport than any other?
Q: Your closest friend in the sport is Johan Bryuneel, the man who was the team director for all seven of your Tour victories. He has chosen to fight the charges levelled against him through the court system. Have you spoken to him about the impact your confession will have on his future?
Q: Frankie and Betsy Andreu have testified that they heard you respond to a doctor’s enquiry whilst you were being treated for your cancer that you had in fact used various performance-enhancing drugs to that point. You have always denied that conversation. Were you lying, and if you were, do you feel that your drug use may have been a cause of your cancer?
Q: As one of your lines of defence over the years, you said that after all you had been through with cancer that you would never put untoward chemicals in your system. Now that we know that you did, did you have any fear doing so?
Q: What do you say today to the millions of people who suffer from cancer that believed your story and took motivation from your deeds even though they were based on a myth?
Q: How clean is the sport nowadays?
Q: What does the future hold for you now?
Q: How do you feel about having to go through the rest of your life as arguably the biggest drug cheat in history?
Q: You stood on the podium in the Champs-Elysees after you won your seventh Tour and were heading into retirement and uttered these words:
“Finally, the last thing I’ll say to the people who don’t believe in cycling, the cynics and the skeptics; I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry that you can’t dream big. I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles. You should believe in these athletes, and you should believe in these people.” What do you now say to those cynics and skeptics, Lance?
I really hope Winfrey asks the hard questions. I hope she follows them up with hard questions. Oprah’s producers have been doing their research – David Walsh has been tweeting that he feels the right research is being done.
And I really hope that Armstrong does answer them honestly.
But, given his track record, should we really expect a complete mea culpa?
Editor’s note: Oprah’s Next Chapter featuring Lance Armstrong will be streamed on Oprah.com on (Australian time) Friday 18/1 1pm AEDT (US time: Thursday 1/17 at 9pm ET/8pm CT)