Lance Armstrong's gradual shift from cyclist to celebrity will come full circle on Thursday when he interviews the fabled American talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
It's a sad indictment to all those anti-doping campaigners who worked so hard to bring about a Federal Enquiry for the former Tour de France bully: instead of facing the music in front of a grand jury in a US court of law, Armstrong will emotionally share a sofa and chew the fat with a figure regarded by many as the most influential woman in the world – a women whose interviewing technique with Tom Cruise consisted of hugging, screaming, crying and delivering high-fives.
Unlike the creepy Cruise interview back in 2005 – which perfected the act of misdirection to a tee by being watched in a studio filled to the rafters of wailing women – the 90-minute Lance-Oprah epic will have no studio audience.
In fact, rumour has that it will be pre-recorded in Armstrong's home in Texas, which is nice. Perhaps it will be conducted on the very sofa that followers of Armstrong on Twitter are so familiar with – you know, the one surrounded by his seven framed Tour de France yellow jerseys.
"I doubt very much it will be a proper interrogation," the ever-astute David Millar said this week, stressing his fears that the whole charade would be a "stage-managed" affair playing on the Texan's emotions, not his actions.
Millar is certainly right; the chances of Oprah forcing her detainee to wear orange overalls while being submitted to a bout of waterboarding are about as remote as Armstrong coming forward of his own accord to offer a full confession.
So while Irish journalist David Walsh has stressed his opinion that a tell-all interview might be Armstrong's only path out of "purgatory", the reality is that the most hellish experience will no doubt be that of the discerning viewers, who won't see any of the right questions asked or hear anything of much interest from Armstrong.
As ESPN writer Don Van Natta Jr. posted on Twitter: "You don't go on Oprah to confess. You go to be forgiven." Or, perhaps, even to deny.
Indeed, British bookmakers Ladbrokes have offered even odds for the terms 'innocent' and 'never tested positive' being uttered, with 'witch hunt' coming in at 2/1 and 'conspiracy' at 1/2.
With live streaming of the Oprah-Lance showdown available all over the world, this is set to become the most-watched TV interview ever, easily surpassing the 36.5 million viewers that tuned in for Oprah's interview with Michael Jackson in 1993
But let's not get too excited. If it's not a full denial, then it'll at least be an exercise of damage limitation. After all, when Cruise went on the show in 2005 most people expected horizontal movement from a closet but instead were treated to vertical movement on a couch, as the pint-sized screen action hero with a penchant for naval attire professed his love for new girlfriend Katie Holmes.
The Oprahfication of one of sport's biggest frauds, which will be broadcast at 9pm EST and 2am GMT (further underlining who the target audience really is), is part of the 'Oprah's Next Chapter' series.
But surely it could just as well as be entitled 'Lance's Next Chapter' – for this deft movement from saddle to small screen could well mark a fresh career move for Armstrong. After all, he's got to pay back the prize money, compensation and legal bills some way – and he ain't going to do it on a bike.
There are all manner of interview opportunities, reality TV programmes, sitcoms, drama series and films that could be revamped with gusto with Armstrong at the helm.
For instance, a live TV interview with Piers Morgan is a must – if only to hear the Texan give the hapless British media man 'the look' while shouting: "1998 will commence again if you try to take our drugs. No matter how many lemmings you get out there to testify, we will not relinquish our EPO. I wanna blame the real culprit – weight-loss pills."
Swapping Oprah for opera, Armstrong could move to mainstream TV, and there are numerous shows with Lance's name all over them: The Biggest Loser, Deal or No Deal, Jackass, American Chopper, Tool Academy, Mythbusters, Faking It and, perhaps, Inside American Jail.
Already, TV executives are probably holding meetings to discuss the mouth-watering prospects for the following shows...
The Apprentice: Sir Alan Sugar/Donald Trump brings the whole of the former US Postal team together in a bid to find a new business associate. With Armstrong excelling on the first four of seven tasks, the big cheese points his finger over the boardroom table and says: "Tyler Hamilton – you're getting too big for your boots on this team... You're fired!"
Dragons' Den: Having witnessed Armstrong pitch his yellow bracelet business, Peter Jones interjects: "You come here dressed in nothing but Lycra with a crummy idea built on false pretences. For that reason, I'm out."
Masterchef/Chopped: Armstrong and Hamilton do battle in the Cache-Cache kitchen in a grand finale that requires them to make a three-course meal for an entire team of cyclists, to be served in a musette and delivered by motorcycle.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?: "For one million pounds, Lance, please answer the following question – which American has won the most Tour de France titles? Is it, a) yourself, b) Greg Lemond, c) Floyd Landis or d) Joe Papp? You still have two life-lines, but I wouldn't ask the audience because they have no idea, while if you phone Johan, he'll probably give you the wrong answer."
Catchphrase: "Say what you see, Lance..." "A seven-time Tour champ...?" "It's good but it's not right... Travis Tygart, over to you... take a look at Mr Chips and the syringe... say what you see..." "A cheating nasty piece of work?"
Punk'd: "Lance, I have a confession to make. I'm not Travis Tygart... and this is not a US court of law... I'm Ashton Kutcher and you've been Punk'd!"
Celebrity Big Brother: A line up consisting of Armstrong, Hamilton, Landis, Johan Bruyneel, Frankie Andreu, Betsy Andreau, Emma O'Reilly, David Walsh, Paul Kimmage, Christophe Bassons, Filippo Simeoni and Jan Ullrich would make the diary room and nominations fairly explosive. "Day 23 in the Big Brother house. Filippo and Christophe see their attempts to stay clean in the shower thwarted yet again by Lance..."
The Hunger Games: The same line-up as Big Brother, but this time the 'tributes' must fight to the death using an array of weaponry including bidons, syringes and musettes. Under the watchful eye of Pat McQuaid, gamemaker Christian Prudhomme sets the arena – and can thrown in curveballs such as sharp tacks, rogue journalist vehicles and barbed wire fences.
Eurovision Song Contest: "Johan Bruyneel, Belgium... Nul points."
Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23: Remake of the US sitcom with Armstrong in the director's chair and starring Emma O'Reilly in the title role.
Retired at 35: Another rebooted US sitcom, returning for a fresh third series entitled "Retired at 35, Came Back and Now Regretting It".
Men Behaving Badly: Ageing house-mates Lance and Johan get up to no good as they bid to impress the girls next door, Betsy and Emma.
Breaking Bad: Spin-off series set in Texas near the Mexican border in which Lance and Johan create class A synthetic testosterone in a caravan and try and sell it to the new Colombian pro-conti team.
Groundhog Day: American all-round hero wins the world's most famous bike race again and again and again and again and again and again. Starring Johan Bruyneel as the hog.
Judge Judy: The court case America never got...
Can you think of any other possibilities for Lance as he embarks on his new career in showbiz on the back of his interview with Oprah Winfrey next week? Have your say below...
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