The confession box has been rather busy this week. Lance
Armstrong confessed to doping during an interview with Oprah
Winfrey, and Jodie Foster confessed to being gay as part of
her acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award at the
There were some surprising similarities and subtle
differences between the two confessions regarding coming
clean and coming out.
Both chose to confess in a very public forum that would be
projected on to television, computer and phone screens around
the world in the blink of an eye.
Foster's coming out speech was oblique and rather than taking
the opportunity to shout from the stage she was gay, she
simply announced her single status, having separated from her
partner of 20 years, Cydney Bernard.
She said: ''I already did my coming out about 1000 years ago,
back in the Stone Age, those very quaint days when a fragile
young girl would open up to trusted friends and family and
co-workers, and then gradually and proudly to everyone who
knew her, to everyone she actually met.''
Reactions to her speech have been mixed, with some finding it
artfully put together and emotionally affecting, while others
believe it's too little. After 47 years in the film industry,
Foster's decision to keep her sexuality private seems
understandable because she sees privacy as something precious
to protect. Now she has seemingly decided to retire from
acting, she let her guard down and used this soap box
opportunity to remind her superstar colleagues of the value
Like Foster, Armstrong has fought tooth and nail to keep some
aspects of his life private, but if he had a choice he
wouldn't be confessing at all.
Unlike Foster, he has been forced to confess as a result of
being outed by Usada and his cycling colleagues. His
confession may be just as vague as Foster's, with Oprah
Winfrey suggesting he ''didn't come clean the way I
Perhaps he, like Foster, confessed in a cheeky, clever and
artful way? Or did he reveal he used performance-enhancing
drugs because he was forced to by the culture and environment
of elite cycling?Will his confession bring a tear to the eye
of other cyclists and athletes who knowingly use PEDs, and
will it evoke sympathy and inspire non-doping athletes to
tweet about their reactions in a public way?I doubt it. Very
few felt short-changed by Foster for not revealing her
sexuality earlier in her acting career, because, let's face
it, acting is all about illusion.
Although also part of the entertainment industry, sport works
hard to convince us all that it is real - with no script, no
fake emotions, and no enhancements.
Armstrong has shattered that fantasy. For years he sold his
story of achievement and resiliency based on willpower and
determination to live strong and clean.
Like Foster, he has come clean to trusted friends and family
and co-workers before going public. But, in typical Texan
fashion, he has decided to confess in a way that is very
He also may have taken this opportunity to deflect the
accusing finger at the UCI rather than himself, so they'll be
waiting nervously to see the interview revealed.
Maybe, like Foster, Armstrong is using this intense public
interest to shed light on the ugly aspects of his industry.
For Foster, it was the insane pressure to live all aspects of
your life in the public arena with press conferences, and
reality television. For Armstrong, perhaps it is the intense
pressure athletes feel to live up to the expectation of
others and to achieve the impossible.
What Oprah and her OWN network have done well is build up the
anticipation and curiosity regarding the interview to such an
extent they'll be making a lot of money from it.
Only in Hollywood could the confessions of actors and
athletes make great entertainment and returns.