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Where the bad men go: Disgraced Armstrong finds his niche

It’s the podcast you never knew you wanted. Arguably the most widely reviled figure in recent sporting history interviewing others about their mistakes; chewing the cud over repercussions and redemption. Of all things to stumble upon on the internet. And it turns out The Forward is getting rather popular, too.

Lance Armstrong is building a new life after the last one ended in ignominy. Given the heights he ascended, no individual, not even Tiger Woods, has fallen so far and so hard. From world champion, cancer survivor and philanthropist to cheat and arrogant antagoniser.

For years he threatened, with litigation and nasty rants, to destroy the lives of those who challenged his advertised persona of a paragon of virtue — only he was exposed as a terrible fraud.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and given a lifetime ban from cycling.

Where do bad men go when their careers die? Apparently to the studio to become commentators and YouTubers. Armstrong, who is now 46 years old, runs a channel where he comments on a myriad of topics — in the cycling world and out of it. But why would anyone want to listen to a certified scumbag?

His best series is called The Forward, where he has a friendly chat with his guests, who are trying to turn their life around for one reason or another. Given that Armstrong is now synonymous with the word disgrace, he’s better equipped than most to understand the nuances of regret — and it shows.

With more than a million views, his interview with former porn icon Mia Khalifa has given him strong momentum in 2018. Only in the industry for three months, she gained global stardom after the Islamic State and other groups issued death threats against her for wearing a hijab in a scene.

Now pursuing a career as a sports presenter, she opened up to Armstrong in a previously unseen candid fashion. It’s easy to see why: the host is warm and unjudging. He treated the conversation in a way that restored the humanity to his subject and veered clear of the salacious kind of questioning that would be so tempting in that situation.

Tim Kennedy, a former Green Beret in the United States army and Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts winner,recalls harrowing moments in battle and opens up about his desires and motivations about going to war. His honest introspection again is something unusual and refreshing. Armstrong undertook a fitness challenge with him before the recording and it’s clear that little extra steps like that help yield a better product.

Armstrong regularly refers to himself as a dick. He questions how many of those who were affected by his actions are yet to forgive him. For all we know, he may still be a bad person. But, at the very least, listening to an intriguing podcast doesn’t make you one.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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