"He said as little as he needed to"
Paul Kimmage has expressed his frustration that Oprah Winfrey missed opportunities to ask Lance Armstrong telling follow-up questions during their televised interview, which was screened on Thursday night.
The journalist and former rider said that he awoke at 4:30am to watch a recording of the interview to find a note from his son attached to the side of the television warning him that he might end up putting his foot through the screen in frustration.
“I started off with low expectations to say the least,” Kimmage told Irish radio station 98FM. “It was enlightening but some parts were very interesting, but it was also incredibly frustrating. As well as she [Winfrey] did – and she did ok – I just felt that at the key moments when she could really have landed a significant blow, she didn’t know where to go with it. That’s where the frustration is for me.”
Kimmage was impressed by Winfrey’s firm opening line of questioning, which saw Armstrong confess to doping in a series of yes or no answers, but felt that she failed to pursue certain avenues later on. “That was a fantastic start but just when you thought it was going fantastically well, she let it get away from her,” he said, pointing to Armstrong’s reiteration of the old lie that he never failed a doping test. “She didn’t remind him of his contradictions. Had Oprah been on her game, she would have said ‘you did fail a test in 1999.’”
The Irishman was not surprised by the decidedly incomplete nature of Armstrong’s confession, his continued denial of doping after his comeback in 2009 and his refusal to implicate others involved in the US Postal doping system. “He said as little as he needed to do. He would have been very conscious of where he stood legally right through the interview.”
There had been speculation prior to the interview that Armstrong would implicate the UCI in covering up his doping, but instead he denied that his donation to their anti-doping programme had constituted a bribe. “When he was asked about the donation, he did say there were shady dealings with the UCI. The question is what were the shady dealings? She didn’t ask it,” Kimmage said.
“Overall if you’re Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, you’re looking at this rubbing your hands together because he hasn’t said anything about the donation, he’s said, ‘The testing evolved later and this is why I wasn’t caught, nothing to do with the UCI.’ If you’re Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen watching this you’re think Hallelujah, all my Christmases have come together here.”
Kimmage was also asked to react to Bradley Wiggins’ comments on the Armstrong case earlier in the week, in which he said the confession would be a “sad day” for cycling and name-checked Kimmage as being consumed by the story.
“Why he chooses to personalise it and bring me into it and explain me as bitter and consumed by him and his team is a nonsense, an absolute nonsense,” Kimmage said. “I was talking about this subject 22 years ago.
“What Bradley Wiggins needs to understand is that it is the last chance saloon [for cycling] and that with the great rewards he is now getting as Tour de France champion comes a great responsibility, a responsibility to this sport and he needs to be reminded of that. He’s going to be reminded of it by me and he should be reminded of it by Dave Brailsford and the team he’s riding for now. If they started reminding Bradley Wiggins of his responsibility, we’d all be in a better place today.”