It was Lance Armstrong's get-out clause and he worked it into the Oprah Winfrey interrogation like the expert manipulator he has always been: Cheating with performance-enhancing drugs during his fraudulent reign at the top of world cycling was "like saying we have to have air in our tyres or we have to have water in our bottles". It was eerily clever.
Though careful to not accuse individuals, he recast the cloud over cycling by implying it was a de rigueur pastime for everyone to cheat their hearts out endlessly during his tainted golden era. Everyone was in on it - although he wouldn't say who.
He couldn't even upend Dr Michele Ferrari (a key protagonist), saying he was a "good man".
It was delusional stuff.
Armstrong was teased by the concept of avoiding exposure when quizzed about whether he had any regrets about his comeback ... "I do. We wouldn't be sitting here if I didn't come back."
Then later, in part two: "Everybody that gets caught is bummed out they got caught."
Another telling dip into the character of this serial fraudster.
He flirted with the thought. Oh dear, it was thoroughly sick-making. Armstrong thought he was "out of the woods" when the Department of Justice dropped the case against him.
There were enough punctuation marks about his previous cancer battle to niggle at the sympathy nerve, and elicit some forgiveness from former true believers.
He wants to come back and compete on the sporting field. It was frightening stuff. Looking for the way out when he hasn't even scratched the surface of potential penalties and recriminations.
Armstrong was so good during this interrogation, so controlling, it was to use his expression ... "scary".
Contrition was but a light dressing on this toxic salad. Tears of crocodilic nature.
The most telling part of the, at times excruciating two and-a-half hours, was the exchange in the latter stages of of part one.
Oprah: "Was it a big deal to you, did it feel wrong?"
Armstrong: "No. Scary."
Oprah: "It did not even feel wrong?"
Armstrong: "No ... Even scarier."
Oprah: "Did you feel bad about it?"
Armstrong: "No. The scariest."
The body language here was unnerving coming from a man with no moral compass whatsoever; a man who never thought he was doing anything wrong; who was consumed by "a mythic perfect story"; who terrorised people to "control the narrative"; who seemed to think getting caught and losing "his 75 million-dollar day" when sponsors deserted him was more important than the overall damage he'd done to cycling and dreams.
Armstrong had to look up the definition of cheat. Mind-boggling. Here's a definition of pathological - "of, relating to, or manifesting behaviour that is habitual, maladapted and compulsive". Armstrong epitomised.
Axe-murderers and major fraudsters don't get this day in court, a fireside chat with a friend to exorcise a few demons. It was as though Armstrong had always seen it this way, using the power of language and persuasion to talk his way out of the box, should he ever get caught.
Another act in a long-running theatrical drama. Hero, champion, villain, and then an ultimately restored human being.
Never once losing the celebrity status he so craved - and still does. The Texan police should have waltzed right on to the set in the hotel and put the cuffs on Armstrong.
Apart from the overall, massive fraud, the outrageous bullying, the repetitive cheating, what does it say to any aspiring sporting youngster, or anyone really, that you can deceive for so long, take no prisoners along the way then launch back into life anew as is his ultimate desire, as though 13 years plus of making a mockery of the sporting behavioural code and the rules of life, was a mere bagatelle.
Please can we have less celebrity and more reality.
Tomic must learn from master
It was heady stuff for Bernard Tomic on Saturday night and hopefully a bookcase full of lessons in his defeat by Roger Federer.
The critical moments were the raison d’être for watching sport.
At the back end of the second set, there was young Tomic at the absolute peak of his game, producing wonderful shots, digging deep into his character while engaged in some spectacular points with Federer.
Against anyone but a pure champion, Tomic would have held sway and won the set to tie it up at one apiece.
Yet there was Federer, 31 years of age, tucking into the battle with his full repertoire of shots and emotion. He was getting balls back that confused Tomic and into the tie-breaker, behind, he won points he shouldn’t have.
This was masterful.
And amid all Tomic’s overconfidence verging on misplaced arrogance in the lead up to the match, he should note that set down as a marker for his career.
Mark it down on the quality of play he can produce, but more importantly the steps he needs to make to go to the next level, one that Federer has occupied for eons.
The other lesson for Tomic was the third set. Great players rise above disappointing mid-match outcomes and keep on coming. Tomic was a beaten man mentally and physically in set three.
There’s work to do, but on raw gifts, Tomic looks the package. It just depends on how he manages ability and desire.
Italian worth weight in gold
It’s with some incredulity that we find Alessandro Del Piero still hasn’t been locked up by Sydney FC for next season.
That would seem to be curious, verging on inexplicable management from Sydney.
But it seems that the demands from the Del Piero quarter might just have been the inhibiting factor.
The problem is, after Saturday night’s extraordinary four-goal effort from the Italian maestro, the negotiating table has probably got a little more expensive for the Sky Blues.
Maybe there is a realisation as well that despite the fine service on and off the park, the numbers just don’t add up.
The crowd of between 12,000 and 13,000 at the Allianz Stadium for the 7-1 rout of Wellington wouldn’t be enough to pay the bills.
Time to stop the rotation
Finally some perspective, mind you under sufferance, from Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke.
When quizzed after Australia’s pathetic 74 on Friday at the Gabba, after being 9-40, Clarke agreed it was hard for players to get rhythm and confidence when they weren’t in the team consistently.
Hear, hear. There has been many a defence of the rotation policy from within and outside the framework of the Australian team, to balance the avalanche of criticism. But this is it in a nutshell. They don’t call it a ‘‘team’’ for nothing.
Even in the unique environment of the game of cricket, where individual performances can dictate results, having familiar
players, developing partnerships in batting and bowling, is what characterises the best teams.
Constant chopping and changing can’t breed the required familiarity. It has to be a negative.