Lance Armstrong, the biggest drugs cheat in sport, is having a friend over this week. The pair may compare inspiring quotes - both have spawned industries in them - and talk about the spiritual enlightenment that grows in adversity.

Oprah's producers will surely give Lance a bit of make up to cover that nose up. Picture: Boo Bailey

There will be a confession - or so says the press release - and there may be tears and a hug. Armstrong may even try telling the truth for the first time in a decade or two.

But let’s not get carried away. Armstrong has had five months since he was outed as a slimebag to practise his best version of honesty, the one that is least likely to lead to lawsuits and most likely to spark the first flickerings of public support.

He’ll have been coached like a politician on the campaign trail. Do say this. Don’t say that. Take some responsibility but don’t take all responsibility. Be a victim - but only of your desire to succeed. Whatever you do, don’t talk details.

Chances are Armstrong will sound half convincing, too. He’s Pinocchio on Pedals.  He’s been method acting for almost two decades. 

And whether Oprah Winfrey, his new best friend, is the most qualified interviewer to extract facts from him is debatable. Winfrey may be the world’s best empathiser. She’s not, as is needed here, the world’s best interrogator - which is why Armstrong invited her to his house for a televised chat. 

He may have seen Winfrey’s 2008 interview with Marion Jones, the Olympic superstar from the Sydney Games.

Jones was fresh from a six-month jail stint for perjury charges stemming from the drug use that had her stripped of five Sydney medals.

She giggled and cried and explained that she didn’t know she had been taking drugs - heck, she thought she was taking flax seed oil pills.

“You know, that’s hard to believe, that’s really hard to believe,” Winfrey ventured, momentarily out of character, before reverting to her sisterly confidant style that allowed Jones to perpetuate a tale that didn’t sound at all feasible.

Where’s Judge Judy when you need her?

Winfrey won’t be forgiven if she allows Armstrong such latitude this week (Friday AEDT). What seems inevitable is that her interview will lack the forensic hardness needed to probe one of the most audacious frauds of modern times.

The match-up, which was never likely to satisfy most viewers, may not present Winfrey with the gushing commentaries to which she is accustomed. It may not help Armstrong much, either.

Open-ended questions that invite rehearsed answers steeped in “regret” won’t set him on the tricky path to recovery.

It normally might: for Tiger Woods, say, and dozens of AFL footballers who err off-field, the public apology is often enough to arouse some sense of forgiveness.

Armstrong’s cheating was more wholesale. It wasn’t a lapse of judgment. It wasn’t a weakness in this or that part of his nature. His cheating was intrinsic to his identity. It was who he is. If he didn’t cheat, he was no one.

Armstrong had a foundation story of cancer survival. He nurtured a folklore built on integrity. He had wristbands and catchphrases and lawyers who mugged anyone who queried the mythology. Armstrong didn’t deny using drugs. He raged and seethed at the slightest suggestion of it. He had no shame.
 
Armstrong invited people to invest in hope as framed by the cyclist who had nearly died then, through sheer will, had triumphed again and again to win the Tour de France seven times. 

He was the best cyclist, it now seems, because he was the best cheater. His wins have been expunged from history as though the races never took place. Throughout the years, and up until now, he himself has acted, disturbingly, as though he has believed the fraud to be the truth. He chased every lawsuit and every performance bonus, as though every cent of his estimated $100 million was his due. The truth, as we now know, is that - as a morality tale - he wasn’t worth a cracker. What could he now say, to Winfrey or anyone else, that could mitigate the devilry of his deception?

The interview, as an event, has been likened to Woods’ apology for cheating on his wife. Sponsors cared, of course, and so did fans groomed to believe that titillation and public interest are interchangeable. Yet Woods’ personal meanderings had no bearing on his sporting integrity. He had not been dishonest on a golf course, and it was because of golf that people admired him in the first place. 

Other athletes have cheated, of course. Usually they have been pawns, to varying extents, to coaches or officials.

Armstrong was a ringleader. He has never not lied about drugs until now. He has never shown any regret: speaking now, belatedly, smacks of the sort of reptilian calculation that propelled his cycling career.

Armstrong’s nearest comparisons belong outside of sport. Think of the shock, perhaps, if it emerged that Hillary had used a helicopter to climb Everest in 1953. Or think of the evangelist minister who preaches family values, wife at his side, while hitting on every woman who passes by.

Some Americans have alighted on Bernie Madoff, the Ponzi scheme fraudster, as Armstrong’s closest counterpart.

Madoff is three years into a 150-jail term for defrauding something like $65 billion from clients. For now, Madoff, who has never been interviewed by Winfrey, remains one up on Armstrong - at least he has admitted his massive failings as a human being. 

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEDT.

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49 comments

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    • sunny says:

      06:31am | 15/01/13

      The Lance needs to be boiled.

    • stephen says:

      07:29am | 15/01/13

      Madoff wasn’t a team player - get some perspective, son.

      I don’t that that Armstrong will be coached as to what to say.
      He wants to compete, and a tell-all will allow him to get back on the bike.

    • Joan Bennett says:

      07:30am | 15/01/13

      I can’t understand why they are going after him, only.  To be competitive, they all use these “performance enhancing” drugs, so why is Lance Armstrong being singled out?  It’s just the way of professional sport and pretending otherwise is pure fantasy.

    • marley says:

      08:13am | 15/01/13

      They’re going after Armstrong because he didn’t just use the drugs, he organised their supply and distribution to team members, coerced his team into using them, submitted fake documents to cover up positive drug tests, and the like.

    • Woodsy says:

      08:28am | 15/01/13

      Because none of the others won seven consecutive tours and generated half a billion dollars for their foundations whilst using said performance enhancing drugs.

    • ronny jonny says:

      08:44am | 15/01/13

      Because Armstrong has been trading on the myth that he won all those races clean, he has done very well for himself out of this myth, a myth of his own creation. Add to that his amazing comeback after cancer, not actually all that amazing, it’s just medicine and science, and you have the miracle of Lance Armstrong, who turned out to be a grubby little cheat. Because he set himself up as this great legend it has terrific value as an example to expose him as the fraud he is.

    • ronny jonny says:

      08:45am | 15/01/13

      Because Armstrong has been trading on the myth that he won all those races clean, he has done very well for himself out of this myth, a myth of his own creation. Add to that his amazing comeback after cancer, not actually all that amazing, it’s just medicine and science, and you have the miracle of Lance Armstrong, who turned out to be a grubby little cheat. Because he set himself up as this great legend it has terrific value as an example to expose him as the fraud he is.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      01:45pm | 15/01/13

      Because, just like that person in Canberra he LIED.
      He promoted himself as being the “Mr Clean of Cycling”.
      He claimed he never, ever used any drugs whatsoever.
      He repeatedly condemned the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs.
      He got paid millions, particularly by the ALP Government of South Australia, to just put in an appearance at the Tour Down Under.
      He was promoted on the basis of how he was the epitome of Clean, Drug-Free Athletes.
      He promoted himself as being a glowing example of a sportsman who could & had gotten to the pinnacle of his sport & had done so without the use of any illegal drugs.
      That, Joan, is why he is being pilloried today.
      Cycling will take generations to get over this.
      No matter how unjustly, there will not be a Cyclist anywhere in the world who wins any race, anywhere in the world who, thanks to Armstrong, will not have a banner hung above his head stating:
      “He won but did he do it without drugs?”
      Armstrong was held up. & held himself up, to children as being an Adult whom they should admire & aspire to emulate in later life.
      If, as you say, they are all using PEDs is that any reason to make them legal?

    • Mike says:

      01:45pm | 15/01/13

      You are right, it is rife in sport, I suspect far more than what most people think. Just the extra physical exertion required to for instance break certain Olympic records must be damn near impossible without chemical assistance. That’s where entire team divisions are often in on it. Not to mention baseball, where its known already, basketball and NFL where its obvious the physiques have changed considerably in the past 20-30 years, etc. But people would rather not know about it, but still then point the finger when something like this happens.

    • Tim says:

      07:41am | 15/01/13

      It’s a good assessment but the one thing you don’t understand at all is cycling and just how hard the sport is. To have life threatening cancer and to return to racing at an elite level is amazing in itself. That was Armstrong’s problem. He should have been satisfied with that. The other point is that you’re overstating the impact the drugs probably had on his performance. They did not turn a hack into a world beater all by themselves. For instance we could pump you full of steroids, EPO and any other drug you care to name and I doubt if you would make it past the first stage of the tour.  Armstrong was just plain stupid.

    • marley says:

      08:16am | 15/01/13

      I wouldn’t call him stupid.  His use of drugs, and more to the point, his insistence on his team’s use of drugs, gave him and them an edge over other elite athletes.  They could train harder and longer and recover faster.  That got him 7 Tour championships and millions in endorsements and sponsorships.  Stupid?  Nope, he took a calculated risk.  He’s worth over $100 million as a result of that.

    • darren says:

      08:28am | 15/01/13

      EPO transformed Riis from a nag into a race horse. And he was hardly the only one. Why would it be any different for Lance.

      Fact is pre-cancer Lance was never considered a future contender for GT victory. Just ask Phil Anderson.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      02:05pm | 15/01/13

      Where did the idea come from that Testicular cancer is suddenly “Life Threatening”? Caught early enough it is, according to my GP, one of the most easily cured forms of Cancer. It is eminently easy to detect any unusual or unfamiliar lump or sudden change in shape or size of the testicles. It is something men can do every time they have a shower.
      I have been doing that check for longer than Armstrong has been alive. At the first little sign of “something different” men should go to their GP & get it checked out.
      Just as women should do when they do their regular self-examination of their breasts & find “something different”
      Not all Testicular lumps & bumps are actually Cancerous.
      Not all lumps & bumps in the female breasts are Cancerous.
      It has been said that the use of abnormal amounts of Testosterone, such as we are told these fool athletes pump themselves full of, can result in Cancers.
      When combined with other drugs does the resultant interaction between them also leave a person open to developing Cancers & other illnesses?
      You say Armstrong had “cancer & returned to racing at an elite level & that was amazing.”
      Questions:
      Was Armstrong using copious amounts of these drugs prior to being diagnosed with Testicular Cancer?
      If he was, was he responsible for his causing his own cancer?

    • Nick says:

      03:46pm | 15/01/13

      “The other point is that you’re overstating the impact the drugs probably had on his performance. They did not turn a hack into a world beater all by themselves.”

      That’s not the case. EPO (and other blood doping drugs) have a very uneven effect on people - some people benefit enormously from them, others hardly at all. It depends on your natural levels of hemocrit, your VO2Max level and the relationship between them

      There was a blogger who has since deleted his blog (probably because he named names) who had a spread showing roughly how much of a benefit people would get given their current blood passport levels.

      He showed how a fairly average US domestic racer (who he named) has the right hemocrit levels to dope himself up to Tour de France winner levels of power if he followed the Armstrong/US Postal program.

      So yes, doping can turn a hack (ok, a bit better than you or I, but still hardly world class) into a winner. They did the same for Armstrong.

    • DCBris says:

      04:42pm | 15/01/13

      Just wanted to address the idea that testicular cancer is not dangerous compared to some other cancers as implied in an earlier post. This is only true in part. In Armstrongs case it’d become metastatic - specifically secondaries in his lungs and brain. This instantly makes it a every dangerous form of testicular cancer. His eventual remission should not be sneezed at either from a medical or perseverance point of view. . By pointing this out I’m not defending Armstrong’s actions just elaborating on his particular cancer. In fact his sporting actions make me sick.

    • Kyliemac says:

      08:05am | 15/01/13

      I totally agree. Why give the psychopathic liar a chance to wiggle out of this. He has proven time and again what a fraud he is and that he is able to command people’s attention with lies, deception and threat. This soft interview with Oprah is just another way to control the situation.  Great article!

    • Sahz says:

      08:17am | 15/01/13

      So annoyed! My husband and I (last year before this scandal) bought a close family member (who is a cycling enthusiast) a $100+ present which was a picture of Lance framed & signed. We even got a $40 engraved plaque to say Happy 50th which was stuck on the frame. Now it’s worthless and it no longer hangs on the wall. So disappointed and (strangely) violated. It would be wonderful if Lance could just damn well confess and accept responsibility and what he did.

    • Jay2 says:

      10:41am | 15/01/13

      Well news just in Lance is a self confessed liar and cheat, it’s official and given the baying masses their apology.

      As I’ve written before, I’ve always felt Lance was the best in a field of largely like minded. Doesn’t make it right or better, but I personally always thought that the likes of Lance was the rule rather than the exception during that era.

      Mind you, I have read his charity has raised some 500 million bucks and counting.

    • Pedro says:

      01:12pm | 15/01/13

      Charity?
      I wonder how much of the $500M (your figure) went in Lance’s pocket via director’s fees, licensing fees, appearance fees, etc etc.
      I for one would love to see a breakdown of the Live Strong finances. Anyone who was silly enough to hand over their $ might as disappointed as the gooses who gave their money to Kony 2012.
      PT Barnum was right - there’s a sucker born every minute. I am not one (so far).

    • Jay2 says:

      05:12pm | 15/01/13

      @Pedro, yes I’ve read that about three or four times, that all up in various charity work he’s raised aboutr 500 million in the last 15 years or so. Stupendous if it is true.

      Apparently Livestrong has a high accountability and spends about 5% on administration, which is also pretty impressive.
      Mind you, I’m not an auditor of the books, so I only can take that on face value.
      Kony 2012….you could see that coming a mile off I always thought.

      Lance brought this on himself, so I don’t feel sorry for him, but the amount of hysterical like feeding frenzy is something I don’t get. I can’t even recall bin Laden being on the receiving end like it. Amazing to watch…

    • darren says:

      08:24am | 15/01/13

      Hang on, you think Woods never doped?!?!? Its that attitude from so called journo’s like yourself that let Lance get away with it for so long.

    • Rose says:

      08:33am | 15/01/13

      I think you underestimate the stupidity of many viewers. Many viewers will be satisfied with an Oprah confessional, she is still the most powerful ‘interviewer’ in the world. She is so good at what she does that she will be able to satisfy the hoards of people who are wanting a reason, any reason, to forgive Armstrong, and she will do so without making Armstrong any more uncomfortable than necessary.
      Armstrong’s battle with cancer, while unfortunate, is not an excuse to do what he has done, his wearing his cancer battle on his sleeve as he does is almost an insult to all those who have suffered through cancer themselves, regained their strength, rebuilt their lives and careers, all without lying and cheating.
      Read the comments today, there will be plenty, like Joan Bennett already, who will still support him and make excuses for him. People are quite often fools!!

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      04:17pm | 15/01/13

      Hang on a sec! “
      Winfrey the most powerful interviewer in the world?”
      The world does not begin & end on the East or West Coasts of the USA.
      There are millions, if not billions, around the world who have (a) Never, ever heard of her. (b) there are similar numbers who simply brush her aside as “just another egotistical, loud-mouthed American.
      Remember that silly trip she made here?
      For Christ’s sake she was so scared no-one would turn up she brought her own audience with her.
      And just who did turn up? A bunch of mostly middle-to-old-aged women with nothing better to do with their time.
      They are now claiming that 20,000 US tourists came here & that that was because of this talk-show prop.
      If the truth be known that increase in arrivals from the USA was solely because they wanted to see why it was that, thanks to John Howard & Peter Costello, Australia was not in the same bankrupt state that the USA is. I wonder how many of them, on their return to the USA, started making enquiries about emigrating here!!

    • Rose says:

      08:36am | 15/01/13

      I think you underestimate the stupidity of many viewers. Many viewers will be satisfied with an Oprah confessional, she is still the most powerful ‘interviewer’ in the world. She is so good at what she does that she will be able to satisfy the hoards of people who are wanting a reason, any reason, to forgive Armstrong, and she will do so without making Armstrong any more uncomfortable than necessary.
      Armstrong’s battle with cancer, while unfortunate, is not an excuse to do what he has done, his wearing his cancer battle on his sleeve as he does is almost an insult to all those who have suffered through cancer themselves, regained their strength, rebuilt their lives and careers, all without lying and cheating.
      Read the comments today, there will be plenty, like Joan Bennett already, who will still support him and make excuses for him. People are quite often fools!!

    • Ohcomeon says:

      09:06am | 15/01/13

      Who cares, it’s not likes it’s important.

      Sport is just entertainment after all.

    • John says:

      12:15pm | 15/01/13

      Taking $500 million from people for a ‘cancer awareness’ charity is more than sport. It’s a fraud like most other ‘awareness’ charities…

    • j says:

      02:45pm | 15/01/13

      John… The money still went to the fight against cancer, who cares how the money was raised ..

    • enddoesnotjustifythemeans says:

      04:12pm | 15/01/13

      @j
      ‘Who cares how the money was raised’

      I guess you have no quarms with someone else stealing your life savings, as long as it all goes to a worthy cause right?

    • Chopper knows says:

      09:14am | 15/01/13

      I wouldn’t bet on him giving any confession as he could be liable for criminal charges in court and all the other money that he could be sued for during other tournament wins when he was on the juice. I suspect the interview would go along the lines of the Bill Clinton interview - Harpo “have you ever used performance enhancing drugs in your life” Livestrong ” Yes, when i was a teenage kid and experimenting with recreational drugs” Harpo ” Have you ever used them during Tour De France” Lance ” No I have not, honest to God and all my fans, I am telling the truth please believe me”
      etc etc etc
      Theres a reason why Harpo is the highest earning female entertainer in history and thats because she is the biggest sellout in the entire history of the black race, very similar to Lance being the biggest cheat in the entire white caucasian athletes history. All this interview will do is make more money for Harpo and Livestrong Inc. YOUR ALL SUCKERS haha!!!

    • Ryan says:

      09:28am | 15/01/13

      I have always wondered if the cancer was just a cover story.

    • RH says:

      02:06pm | 15/01/13

      Nah, but look at cause and effect.  How do you think he got it?
      Clean prior HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
      Once a drug cheat, always a drug cheat

    • SZF says:

      09:36am | 15/01/13

      Don’t worry Lance fans, it’s not like he’ll actually MEAN any of what he says to Oprah. His recent selfie on the couch with his fake yellow jerseys on the wall puts paid to that notion…

      Not sure whether to be sad that this could be the start of his public “redemption”, or furious that Team Lance clearly thinks it will be - and that by extension they think we’re that stupid.

      Probably both.

    • Harquebus says:

      10:00am | 15/01/13

      Personally, I couldn’t care less and just want the whole thing to go away. LA ain’t that great and anyone can ride a bike.

    • dancan says:

      10:30am | 15/01/13

      Armstrong and Winfrey are no better than the kardashians, willing to do anything for money. Both are doing this interview for the cash and nothing more, Winfrey will throw softball questions and nod empathically while Armstrong gives vague answers and may even shed a tear or two.  In the end nothing will be achieved and both will walk away with huge, and I mean HUGE bank cheques.

    • Audra Blue says:

      10:48am | 15/01/13

      We may not get a chance to hear everything Lance has to say, that is if Oprah is up to her Interruptosaurus best.  It’ll be an interview with Lance where we find out more about Oprah than what he’s up to.

      But Lance is on a good thing here.  Oprah is the Queen of Victims and Lance should find a sympathetic ear with her.  The whole thing will be a minute study in hypocrisy.

      I think I’ll pass.

    • Traxster says:

      11:04am | 15/01/13

      Lance Armstrong,drug cheat…..yadda yadda yadda…...whatever….
      I like him.

    • vox says:

      11:58am | 15/01/13

      I wondered why you call yourself “Traxter”. I guess that now I know.
      Armstrong is a thief. He is a con-man. He is a fraud. He is not a champion, simply because if he was he wouldn’t need performance enhancing drugs.
      And “all” cyclists in the TDF don’t take drugs. That’s just another copout from those fools who were duped by their integrity challenged idol and can’t bear to see how naive they were.
      In Australia it’s called “The Howard Syndrome”.

    • marley says:

      06:30pm | 15/01/13

      @vox - now, I could be wrong, but I rather thought it was an ALP premier that squandered millions of taxpayers bucks bringing Lance to Australia.  Now I ask myself, why would you bring a cyclist who had been under suspicion for years, to Australia to ride in a third tier event.  I guess Rann was one of those easily duped fools you describe.  So, I’d call it the Rann syndrome, myself.

    • lostinperth says:

      12:05pm | 15/01/13

      Patrick - I know Herald Sun journalists regard themselves to be a cut above the common hoi poloi, but I didn’t reliase that omniscience and the ability to tell the future is among your talents. You state that Armstrong will lie to Oprah before the interview is even conducted.

      Do you have godlike powers or is this just more crap journalistic hyperbole?

    • Ashley Cole says:

      12:36pm | 15/01/13

      Lance Armstrong=The biggest loser

    • Super Frank says:

      05:13pm | 15/01/13

      “champions of Europe, we know who we are!”

    • Gordon says:

      01:04pm | 15/01/13

      Welcome to the global village, where truth is a relative concept and a story of pain and redemption warms every heart. Barf. Of course none of this would exist if the fame and loot wasn’t there for the taking by whatever means necessary.

    • j says:

      01:10pm | 15/01/13

      why the hell would you hold these people so highly? he rides a bike! big deal! oh you are all so shocked that he took drugs to get him there! are you all so daft that you don’t think that this kind of thing goes on at the top level ALL OF THE TIME!!!
      Of course it does, most of these guys and girls don’t get to the top without a little help, or a lot what ever the case may be. 
      At the end of the day they are just sports people, it’s not like any of them is a surgon smoking crack before he operates on someone, THEN you would have a right to be outraged.

    • Lukew says:

      03:19pm | 15/01/13

      I would like to know who the winner is out of all this.

      I think I would have preferred to let sleeping dogs lie. In is inherently unfair to target one person, because he was the best.  We all know it was a mostly level playing field.  There is no doubt his efforts were extraordinary despite the drugs and he left a positive legacy after all, including a phenomenal ability to raise money for cancer research. 

      The only people with a real gripe would be the few clean cyclists, who can hold their heads high either way Funnily enough,they have been the only ones to remain silent!  None of this helps them!  We should have concentrated our efforts on the future, not the past.

      Businesses and governments are putting ‘one over us’ every day and we don’t raise an eyebrow, despite the ramification being far more sinister.  At least the outcome of Armstrong’s efforts were positive, but now that is gone.  We have the truth and it is all bad.

      Is that what we really want?

    • Rotten Sport says:

      04:43pm | 15/01/13

      I wonder how many people, if they were in Armstrong’s position in 1997, would have done what he did, i.e. decide that the only way to beat the drug cheats was to become one, and how many would have said “I can’t take drugs, I’m going to sacrifice my talent and career and walk away from cycling”...........Be honest!

      I’m not excusing Armstrong but I can understand his actions. The UCI is far more culpable in my eyes. If the sport had not been dirty in 1997 who knows what Lance may have been able to achieve as a “clean” athlete. Its a crying shame…...

      I am a cancer survivour from 1999/2000 and Lance was a big inspiration to me and while his lying about doping has lessened him in my eyes I still believe his achievements on the bike post cancer are…..........

      I hope Armstrong does confess in detail. And I hope he points a finger at all the other drug cheats/doctors/trainers in cycling and I hope thay are investigated and they point to others etc until the entire sport is cleaned up and the whole disgusting history is expunged from memory. The entire sport has been drug infested since the 80’s and the UCI is entirely responsible.

    • marley says:

      06:33pm | 15/01/13

      Actually, I know a young man who was a very promising junior cyclist just about then.  He had offers from a couple of pro teams. And he walked away from the sport, because he wouldn’t do the drugs. He’s a tradie now, and doesn’t regret his decision for a minute.

    • jb says:

      05:45pm | 15/01/13

      yeah so what are they going to do with the 7 yellow shirts, give them to the next cheat. The guy really had no more advantages than the rest of the pack had or could have, just depends on how much you want it really. They are all just pissed because he made them all look like idiots for a decade.

    • Daz says:

      07:49am | 16/01/13

      It’s bad enough that this guy is an habitual liar and drug cheat. But he is also a bully and a manipulative intimidator of anyone who threatened to out him. Now he is trying to save himself by claiming that doping was ok because everyone was doing it. That may or may not be true but what happened to personal responsibility? If he came out and said what I did was wrong and I take responsibility for it I would have some sympathy for him. But no this moral coward wants to take everyone in the sport down with him, even the clean ones over whom he had an unfair advantage for decades.

    • Go Get Him says:

      11:32am | 16/01/13

      Oprah! My arse!

      I would like to have seen Leigh Sales get the gig.

 

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