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L'Express, France

Oprah: The Last Tour of Lance Armstrong

By Philippe Coste

Translated By Grace Norman

15 January 2013

Edited by Rachel Smith

France - L'Express - Original Article (French)

Oprah Winfrey, the great helmswoman of middle-class American values, has never been soft on losers entangled in the web of their own lies, and her detector for nonsense is one of the most sensitive in the whole world of media. It's the key to her reputation and to her well-deserved career. If the goddess won the exclusivity of an interview with Lance Armstrong, it's as much to dope the ratings of her television channel, which have always been beneath those of her old legendary afternoon show, as to allow Armstrong to make cathartic revelations to her, which seem conducive to redemption and new beginnings. And yet she seems disappointed by the interview filmed on Monday, the broadcast of which next Thursday will likely generate a nuclear cataclysm in every news magazine in the country. Will Armstrong have evaded the issue, finally admitting to the evidence, but denying masterminding the fraud or transferring the main blame onto a third party? Knowing his ability to deny, this catastrophe is possible. And it would mean his certain decline.

In principle Armstrong decided to speak publicly to avoid the collapse of his legendary foundation against cancer. Livestrong, established with the support of his sponsor Nike, has become a national institution, financed by the sale of millions of yellow wristbands as well as donations from the business elite. This philanthropic giant, having transformed into a real influence on those Americans with cancer, is at the center of a gigantic network of hospitals and home care services and provides vital, social connections for millions of the afflicted. But Armstrong's poor image is already provoking the discreet and gradual removal of the largest monetary backers. Nike was deeply committed to his side and broadcast an advert adding a sense of irony to the doping suspicions. “Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?” jeered the heroic cyclist. For the brand, the risk has now become too large.

The fallen sportsman has already stood back from the foundation but he knows that Livestrong's decline would hasten his personal decline. "Without his charitable work, he would already be a complete outcast,” Michael Williams, journalist for Texas Monthly and former fan of the champion, confided to me. Austin, Texas is watching its native son in distress with a saddened affection. But Armstrong should do a little to reverse the opinions against him. Armstrong has never missed a chance to use his political influences, his appearances in the media, and his notable local credibility to retaliate with violence and even cruelty against the testimonies of his former collaborators who have testified to his doping. The former masseuse of his Tour de France team, having had her name dragged through the mud and having been branded an alcoholic prostitute by the champion's lawyers, has not recovered. But the intimidation will only last so long.



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