January 16, 2013

Lance Armstrong Doping Admission: Can He Regain the Positive Spotlight?

positive spotlight

Big news broke this week – Lance Armstrong finally admitted to doping. He spoke with Oprah in an interview that’s airing this Thursday to talk about his confession and (I’m assuming) apologize to his millions of fans and supporters. I saw on the news today that Oprah said he didn’t come clean in the way she thought he would and she and her staff were surprised and riveted by some of his answers to her questions.

I have never closely followed Lance Armstrong’s achievements or his work through Livestrong, but I know he has served as a symbol of motivation and inspiration for people from all walks of life for many, many years. He was a positive role model who instilled hope and encouragement in his fans and supporters.

Now, he has severely damaged all those years of hard work and reputation/credibility building.

Let’s look more closely at the confession and airing his dirty laundry with Oprah strategy. Drew Sharp wrote an article in the Detroit Free Press about how Lance Armstrong’s talk with Oprah is about PR, not journalism. He notes that “if Oprah cuts you slack, then it’s only a matter of time before everybody else follows.”

Drew refers to the interview as a “public relations ploy.” If you’re in the PR world, that phrase probably makes you cringe (it does for me). To me, using the word “ploy” denotes deception and negativity, when in reality, Lance talking first to Oprah is actually a really smart strategy (Drew does say Lance made a smart move by agreeing to talk with Oprah).

I posted Drew’s article in a PR Google+ community I’m part of and got some interesting comments:

“I don’t think he is wrong to do it and I don’t think it is a bad move. Depending how it goes, I think it will work pretty well for him. However, imo he’s clearly being a bit sneaky/smart about it or he’d be talking to a sports outlet. I suspect he’s doing this first so when he does talk to the sports media later it’ll be that much more well received.” – Craig Fifield

“Agreed with Craig Faifield. Clearly this is the right PR move for him. Oprah won’t ask hard hitting questions. She’ll ask “tough” questions, but will let him off the hook with a one sentence answer.” – Matt LaCasse

I agree with both Craig and Matt. Right strategy, but will it really help salvage his reputation in the end? We’ll see. I’ll be intently watching the Oprah interview.

So, here are my questions – Can Lance ever make a comeback? Will he be viewed in a positive light among his fans, his foundation’s employees, the media and the general public ever again? Can admission to guilt after so many years of adamantly and vehemently denying doping allegations eventually help turn things around for Lance?

My prediction: It’s going to take a very long time before Lance smells the sweet scent of redemption. You can’t deny something for so long and think that admitting it and showing remorse will immediately bring you back into a positive spotlight. It’s going to take years of hard work to rebuild his credibility. I don’t think he’ll ever again reach the status he once held as a do-gooder person/athlete and role model.

However, time, genuine and heartfelt remorse and hard work to fix damages you created can do wonders.

Your thoughts on the Lance Armstrong doping debacle? 

Photo Credit: Visualogist via Compfight cc