Could Armstrong interview see cycling flung out of Olympics?
If he blows the whistle on International Cycling Union, its doping probe will be thrown into doubt
LANCE ARMSTRONG'S much-anticipated confessional yet to be broadcast but already the fall-out from his interview with Oprah Winfrey has begun, with the sport's efforts to establish a "truth and reconciliation" process hanging by a thread and calls for cycling to be thrown out of the Olympics.
It appears that Armstrong has shied away from a full-blown admission of guilt in his TV special but he is being tipped to name high-ranking officials from the International Cycling Union (UCI) who he will say are implicated in doping.
That prospect has heightened concerns over a special commission set up by the UCI, which many now fear will prove to be toothless and could even perpetuate the "omerta", or code of silence, that surrounds doping in cycling.
The UCI had refused to allow the commission to offer riders immunity if they confess to doping, and that has prompted WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and USADA, it's US counterpart, to withdraw their support for the investigation.
Now one former WADA head, Dick Pound, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee, has raised the prospect of throwing cycling out of the Olympics if Armstrong provides proof that the UCI has been involved in a cover-up.
"The only way it is going to clean up is if all these people say 'hey, we're no longer in the Olympics and that's where we want to be so let's earn our way back into it," he said. The Times says no such action is likely to be contemplated until after IOC elections later this year.
Throwing cycling out of the Olympics would be a massive blow for the sport, but it is an unlikely scenario. "The Olympic organisers will not rush to drop such a popular sport – and Britain, who have won 26 cycling medals in the past two Games, have more to lose than anyone," said The Guardian.
Of more pressing concern for the sport of cycling is the fate of the anti-doping investigation. Its lack of support from anti-doping agencies "leaves the commission battling for any credibility even before it has properly started the process of collating information", says the Daily Telegraph.
Meanwhile, The Guardian is intrigued by Armstrong's approach to the interview with Oprah. "We've endured the denials... and we've seen the bullying. Next up, we are apparently going to encounter the most surreal twist of all, Armstrong the whistleblower," notes William Fotheringham. And he detects an element of irony in that. "He [Armstrong] didn't like whistleblowers. Indeed, he devoted much time and energy to attempts to shut them up."
However, Armstrong's tactic is typical. It "contributes to a fog of detail and speculation" around the story and detracts from the fact that "this guy was at the top of the biggest fraud in sporting history".
The first 90-minute instalment of the two-part interview with Armstrong will be screened on Thursday night at 9pm ET (2am Friday GMT) on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network. The second part will be shown the following evening. Both will be streamed live on Oprah.com.