Illustration: John Shakespeare
The truth, the half-truth and anything but the truth. Lance Armstrong's showbiz ''confession'' to Oprah Winfrey, was an unpalatable blend of all three elements, each of them carefully manipulated at the appropriate moment to suit a singular purpose: Lance Armstrong, not the sport of cycling.
As the chairman of the sportswear company SKINS, I believe we are entitled to compensation due to the corrupt actions of the Union Cycliste International (UCI) in covering for Armstrong for so long. If we are to save the reputation of this sport, we must see leadership and cultural change at the UCI.
Make no mistake about it, Armstrong was finally admitting what many have known for years, simply because he was forced to. Cycling's disgraced super-hero needed to make a full, unequivocal confession and give cycling a chance to redeem itself. But this televised ''light entertainment'' was positioned to extract the sympathy vote.
The result was a series of convenient half-truths which played to the process of confession when it suited, and a continuation of the denial when it didn't.
There was no deeper reflection of remorse for a regime that was about bullying and manipulation. Some lost lucrative businesses or their basic livelihood simply because they had dared to challenge Armstrong over a secret he was prepared to go to the ends of the earth to hide. It was appalling to hear him list many of those he now needed to apologise to - his massage therapist Emma O'Reilly, Frankie and Betsy Andreu his friends who heard his hospital room confession to doctors that he used performance enhancing drugs pre-cancer - as if they were just names on a gala night guest list. Frankly I didn't believe he was sincere. What about the companies and people who have given money to sponsor him or support his charity. How do you think they feel?
As a member of the human race, I have total admiration for anyone who has defied the odds and beaten a life-threatening disease as Armstrong did with cancer. Equally, I have great empathy with any father who has to come to terms with the fact that his actions deceived his innocent young children.
No child deserves to be unwittingly tainted by such myopic adult obsessions, and yes the realisation must be genuinely tough for Armstrong's children. In Oprah's ''light entertainment'' world, it makes great TV.
The trouble is, Oprah's world isn't equipped to resurrect cycling's dignity and the sympathy of middle America and Australia isn't worth a jot either, as far as the rehabilitation of cycling is concerned.
Now the showbiz element is over, Armstrong must face the scrutiny of those who need the sordid details without the sugar coating. Armstrong said he was beginning a process by making his confession. Now it's time to prove he meant it by taking his (and cycling's) catharsis to the next level.
It is important to acknowledge that cycling's problems extend far beyond one man. They are complex, deep rooted and beset with sinister suggestions of malpractice in the highest places.
In admitting that a positive cortisone test was covered up in 1999 with a back-dated prescription, Armstrong confirmed the UCI was complicit in the lying and the cheating. The independent commission that was set up to review the UCI's part in what the US Anti-Doping agency called, ''the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen'', has so far been prohibited from preparing a truly independent review by interference and obstruction from the very organisation it was set up to investigate. If there was one positive aspect of Armstrong's populist approach, it was that the commission, together with the US Anti-Doping Agency, the World anti-Doping agency and Change Cycling Now (an organisation set up specifically to generate positive change for professional cycling) must be allowed to exercise their desire for a full truth and reconciliation process. Armstrong confirmed he would willingly take part and the UCI can no longer stand in the way.
As chairman of SKINS, I recently served a lawsuit on the UCI. In many ways, it was the desperate act of a cycling fan rather than a corporate captain. I truly believed - and still do - that SKINS' sponsorship of cycling was short-changed by the UCI's leadership of a sport they'd repeatedly told commercial sponsors, the media and the public, was clean, wholesome and trustworthy. Clearly, it was not. My lawyers told me I had a strong case and the lawsuit is still active. Now that the story has moved on, we have an obligation to see it through and set a legal precedent that shows sports' governing bodies can and shall be held fully accountable for their actions.
Armstrong said he wants to play his part in truth and reconciliation. He said he is truly sorry and he said he was beginning a process. He now has to prove it by exchanging sugary showbiz for bitter reality. He must put himself at the mercy of those who will ask the crucial questions and those who genuinely want to restore credibility to world cycling.
No half measures any more. Lance, you're either in or you're out.
Sydney businessman Jaimie Fuller is the Swiss-based chairman of sportswear company SKINS and founder of Change Cycling Now.