Is Lance Armstrong Taking Our Temperature?

January 10, 2013

It was announced Tuesday that Lance Armstrong will be appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Network on January 17 to address the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency reports accusing him of doping. This fall, the agencies stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life from competing in all Olympic sports and athletic events. In recent days, Armstrong and his PR team may have been taking a temperature check on how an admission would pan out for him.

According to The New York Times, a source claims Armstrong may admit to doping for professional gain in order to lift his ban and to compete in sports again. The World Anti-Doping Code states an athlete might be eligible for a reduced punishment if he fully confesses and details how he doped, who helped him dope and how he got away with doping. According to the Times:

Lance Armstrong, who this fall was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping and barred for life from competing in all Olympic sports, has told associates and antidoping officials that he is considering publicly admitting that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions during his cycling career, according to several people with direct knowledge of the situation. He would do this, the people said, because he wants to persuade antidoping officials to restore his eligibility so he can resume his athletic career.

Armstrong has been under pressure from various fronts to confess. Wealthy supporters of Livestrong, the charity he founded after surviving testicular cancer, have been trying to persuade him to come forward so he could clear his conscience and save the organization from further damage, one person with knowledge of the situation said.

Reactions have been across the board, but from a public relations standpoint, here lies a potential crisis strategy plan in the making. Most PR professionals will tell you that a long-overdue apology is not the usual way to handle a PR crisis. However, an intentional leak through an anonymous source in a major publication could begin the conversation, to gauge not only what the public reaction might be, but also to give Armstrong's team an advanced look into how to build their strategies from a public relations and private sector perspective.

But does PR matter if he admits lying under oath? Perhaps there is an explanation for a delayed admission. "I would count back the years to make sure he is past the statute of limitations for perjury," said New York trial attorney Stuart Slotnick. The Times also suggests a public mea culpa may be in exchange for an agreement for the Justice Department to not prosecute him for perjury.

We ask our Hot Sheet Panel:

  • Do you think Armstrong will admit to doping in the upcoming Oprah interview?
  • From a public relations perspective, does it matter if Armstrong apologizes?
  • Has Armstrong's window of opportunity to apologize closed, or at this point is any apology better than nothing?
  • Lastly, do you think The New York Times piece was a public temperature check designed by Armstrong's camp?



I think Oprah would refuse to do the interview unless she stipulated in the ground rules that Lance Armstrong fully confess and she likely laid out the points on which he must acknowledge his wrongdoing. Otherwise, why waste her time?     

I believe that to have lied to EVERYONE for so long, to have included his teammates in the doping and the lies, he's proved he's no more than a drug addict and a pimp.     

The ONLY reason to go on Oprah is to begin to restore his reputation. I don't think he cares a hoot anymore about competing. But the irrational person who drugged for decades still thinks he can restore those wins. It's what therapists would call magical thinking. Sadly, the charity may likely not survive. These are the consequences of lies. Someone who was a hero to so many was anything but. Terribly, terribly sad. But this is the human condition. We have to accept the truth, just as he does. No more delusions anywhere. He must face them. Acknowledge them. Then, possibly, something new and valuable can replace all the old which must be washed away. Think of Nixon. Think of Clinton.  
Ginny Pulos
Owner, Ginny Pulos Communications, Inc.
NYWICI Integrated Marketing Communications Committee Member



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Ginny Pulos

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