There are strange stories -- very strange stories -- and then there is the current Lance Armstrong story. According to an article that appeared in The New York Times on January 5, Lance is having back channel communications with the doping authorities in an attempt to cut a deal. Presumably, in return for an admission of guilt regarding his use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), he will have his lifetime ban from competitive sports lifted and be allowed to compete again at some point in the future.
In addition, it is speculated that part of the deal will involve helping the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) catch other cyclists who have used or are currently using PEDs. Who would have ever thought that Lance Armstrong might consider being a deputy sheriff for the drug cops? But it does have precedent. Frank Abagnale, the real-life forger/imposter who Leonardo DeCaprio played in the movie, Catch Me If You Can, was hired by the FBI after being busted. Unlike Lance, however, Frank had some charm.
How is it possible that Lance Armstrong, who has professed his innocence more than any athlete in history, is suddenly reversing course and willing to admit guilt?
The issue of coming clean is far more complicated for Lance then say, Alex Rodriguez, who confessed to using steroids for a three-year period of time while playing for the Texas Rangers. In Rodriguez's case it was a simple progression of events: he tested positive, confessed, apologized, was seemingly forgiven by most people and continued his career.
Lance Armstrong's circumstances are both deeper and darker. His doping operation involved doctors, drugs, countries, hotel rooms, couriers and athletes. He ran his cycling operation like the Godfather, threatening to ruin people's lives if they betrayed him, while repeatedly denying all of it.
But then it all fell apart, piece-by-piece. People began talking, evidence began accumulating, culminating in a 1000-page document detailing everything.
Stripped of his iconic status, Lance was left alone to dwell on the emptiness. Even his beloved LiveStrong Foundation wanted nothing to do with him when he became radioactive. He found out what all narcissists experience when power and celebrity are taken away. Their brain responds as if it's withdrawing from a drug. And the process is agonizing.
So, it's not surprising that, two months into his permanent timeout, Lance had an epiphany. Rage and despair will do that. What else would drive him to be interviewed by Oprah knowing the high probability of being humiliated? If Oprah conducts this interview modeling Mike Wallace, we can all enjoy a bit of schadenfreude.
Expect Lance to sit there with an, "I know I've been bad, but I've seen the light" expression on his face, saying all the right things about taking responsibility for himself and, of course, for the good of the sport. Then there will be the obligatory comments about having let everyone down, especially the kids and cancer patients who idolized him. Finally, he will emphasize how difficult this has been and how he couldn't sleep nights until he made everything right.
Expect the overall recipe to be one of distortion, deletion and denial.
There are two things about Lance Armstrong we know for sure: he's not stupid and he can't be trusted. He managed to avoid being caught for over a decade, and even when confronted with the evidence of his guilt, he continued to lie.
To believe anything he tells us about why he's decided to come clean -- well, only a fool would buy the story.