(USA Today) - Lance Armstrong is not sorry that he doped. He's sorry that he got caught.
The worst cheater in the history of sports has come clean not because it's the right thing to do, but because he believes it's the expedient thing to do.
Devastated by his new reality, one that prevents him from competing in sanctioned triathlons and marathons for the rest of his life, Armstrong wanted a quick fix. He wanted to take care of his latest and greatest problem the way he has handled every other issue in his career: by getting rid of it.
Facts? Deny them. Accusers? Destroy them.
Banned for life? Call Oprah, apologize and move on.
But as Armstrong is now painfully realizing, everything has changed in his life. The man who used to control everything now controls nothing.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is in charge of Armstrong's life now, a turn of events that Armstrong must find especially cruel, even as most of the rest of us find it absolutely fitting.
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Armstrong had his chance to avoid a lifetime banishment just a few months ago. Back in June, in the midst of its exhaustive investigation, USADA invited Armstrong to come clean, to finally tell the truth about more than a decade of doping and deceit. He could be "part of the solution," USADA said, naming names and revealing how he avoided detection for so many years, and in return, he likely would have been suspended for years, not decades.
But Armstrong being Armstrong, believing that he would beat any charges USADA brought against him, he belligerently declined, instead continuing to attack the agency that is the nation's best hope to create clean, drug-free sport not just for our superstars, but for our kids.
What happened next had to shock the living daylights out of Armstrong. He didn't beat the charges. In fact, he gave up rather than try to fight them. He was ignominiously stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Nike, a company that has stood by some of the worst scoundrels in sports, dumped him. He had to abandon his charity. No one would have anything to do with him, so he went into exile.
But he still couldn't stop doing what he has always done, being the biggest bully on the block. Within weeks, he was taunting USADA and his many enemies by brazenly tweeting a picture of himself on his couch, admiring his seven Tour de France jerseys.
A hero in victory, he was nothing short of pathetic in defeat.
But, within a month, somehow, someway, reality hit. He really was finished. No more appearance fees at big-city marathons and triathlons. No more fawning fans. No more sycophants to believe all those lies.
Armstrong naturally couldn't stand the thought, so he devised a completely new strategy to make himself once again the center of at least his own universe. He'd go on Oprah. He'd apologize. The American people are simpletons, he must think. They'd forgive him. Then he'd say he was sorry to USADA and back he'd come. Just before it starved to death, his ego would again be fed.
That's what would have happened in the world of Armstrong's dreams.
But he is living in his own, self-induced nightmare now. The Oprah interview means nothing, unless he divulged new information that USADA can use. To even begin to think about coming back someday, he must sit down on USADA's couch not for a couple of hours, but for days, and tell everything he did and everything he knows about doping in sports.
There's no guarantee Armstrong is willing to do that. But if he does cooperate, his lifetime ban could be reduced to eight years.
Yes, eight years. That's his hope: a reduction that would allow him back for age-group triathlons and marathons as he is about to turn 50, just as most of us have completely forgotten about him.
Armstrong's life as he knew it is over. It's only a matter of time before he truly understands what that means.
By Christine Brennan USA Today columnist