In an interview taped Monday, Armstrong told Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs, according to the Associated Press. He had already apologized to staffers at his cancer-fighting Livestrong Foundation for letting them down, without going into specifics.
Mother Winfrey has perfected the art of hearing out the likes of even the Kardashians. Winfrey loves a good I've-done-wrong-and-here's-what-I've-learned story.
Hey, I'm not accusing the talk-show queen of not being tough. Piss her off and Winfrey will go there with you. Ask motivational speaker Iyanla Vanzant, whom Winfrey iced out for years after she attempted to compete against Winfrey on another network. I also still remember how Winfrey all but ripped discredited A Million Little Pieces author James Frey a new one after he was dumb enough to return to her show following revelations that his so-called memoir, an Oprah book-club selection, was a pack of lies. I almost felt sorry for him by the time Winfrey finished.
According to the AP, Armstrong planned only a limited confession.
That's like admitting to stealing a man's watch but not his Range Rover.
Regardless of how forthcoming Armstrong actually is in the interview, which airs at 9 p.m. Thursday on the OWN cable network, Winfrey wins anyway for once again turning her fledgling channel into must-see TV. The last time was after Whitney Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina, made an appearance on "Oprah's Next Chapter."
"There is an 'If you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' element to the Lance Armstrong interview with Oprah Winfrey,' " pointed out Richard Goedkoop, who used to teach broadcasting and ethics at LaSalle University. "Armstrong needs to finally get some dimension of the 'truth' out regarding his use of drugs during his cycling career, and Oprah is able to get him that forum in what will likely be less than a 'hard-hitting' interview.
"Oprah Winfrey is not Mike Wallace reincarnated," added Goedkoop in an email. "What Oprah and the OWN network get is a tremendous amount of publicity both before the interview and secondary use of interview clips by other media outlets with OWN prominently displayed. It will likely enhance the network's present ratings and generate more future audience viewing. Both Oprah and Lance win with this arrangement."
Since its 2011 debut, OWN has struggled to expand its audience.
Snagging Armstrong is the latest coup. Winfrey's sit-down with Rihanna, the singer who's been romantically linked to Chris Brown, was another big ratings grabber. So, regardless of how forthcoming Armstrong winds up being, it's a win-win for Winfrey.
But it's shady for Armstrong.
On Twitter: @JeniceAmstrong