‘I’ll be the first man through the door’, he asserts. It could be Jack Reacher, all-action, alienated anti-hero of Lee Childs’ blockbuster novels (that’s ‘alienation’ as in ex-commando-absent-without-leave-from-normality; not the bohemian kind). Second look says no, not the Jack that Lee wrote; but Childs does come from Coventry, England, where this other Guy is being sent to. In a powder blue shirt and dark blue blazer, flecks of grey in his unfashionably short hair (neither long nor short enough), atop blue-grey eyes and a ramrod-firm jaw, pariah cyclist Lance Armstrong is making his doping confession to broadcaster Oprah Winfrey on her personal television network, OWN. On a beige set – or is it his own house? – anyhow it’s his Austin, Texas, homebase, Armstrong is insisting that he would be the first man through the door of any truth and reconciliation commission on drug-taking in cycling. Except he doesn’t say it straight out like that. Transcribed word-for-word there would have to be extra lines, half-cut phrases, pauses and ellipses: ‘It’s not for me to call…I don’t have the credibility.’ Dead-wood words and gaps between them, inserted before the disgraced champion’s assertion (‘I’ll be the first’ etc etc). More of a Mike Leigh-effect than Lee Childs’ Reacher-talk. Armstrong’s critics (what’s not to criticise?) see this as affectation. They suspect his improvisation is far from spontaneous; claim to have detected the underlying script – traitor touts for public sympathy. Even more so when Armstrong brings the children into it, explaining how he first confessed his crimes to his kids because he couldn’t let them carry on defending his non-existent honour. Deserves an Oscar, they say, pointing to the fidgety fingers that won’t stay still, the eyes lurching ostentatiously skyward then darting around like he deliberately doesn’t know where to look; sentences that pointedly grind to a halt before reaching their destination. But there’s no need to accept their performance theory; it attributes too much premeditation to a man running…just running like he always has. Like (fictional) Reacher, this is a real competitor. I compete therefore I am. When Armstrong described not being allowed to – the life ban – as his ‘death penalty’, he was hardly being metaphorical. He’s so literal (short hair, not short hair), would he know the meaning of the word? Does this player even know when he’s play acting? Compete – against the road and the others riding it; compete – against the bike; compete – against his ruined reputation. Nothing else computes.