What were Lance Armstrong’s PR advisers trying to achieve with his recent confession to Oprah, given the maelstrom of negative media coverage that resulted.
Granted, he certainly wasn’t the first-ever celebrity to turn to Oprah for absolution, but such appearances offer no guarantees. Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s sofa, Whitney Houston confessed drug use and Rhianna admitted her undying love for her brute former boyfriend Chris Brown. None received the expected reputational boost from the exercise.
But Lance’s confession was significantly different. He wasn’t admitting to hurting himself or his loved ones…his confession was about something much more unforgivable. He had been cheating his fans and his sport since the beginning.
Rumours about Lance’s drug use have followed him around for years, but he had always denied it, and he had never been tested positive. Plus people had had enormous respect for Lance’s Livestrong Foundation.
A public poll undertaken by SurveyUSA since the Oprah appearance shows that only 21% of Americans think that Lance can now restore his reputation. Indeed, only 17% of respondents thought that Lance was being completely honest with Oprah.
Given his glorious sporting career, his successful battle with cancer and the resulting comeback to win the Tour de France and his Livestrong foundation work, it’s entirely conceivable that if Lance had just kept schtum, his reputation, although cast in shadow, would not have been left in tatters.
The interview left many people wondering why now? And what next?
He has been banned from competitive cycling for life, so surely no further comebacks are in the works. Perhaps the confession was supposed to be the first step in a reputation rebuilding exercise in the hopes that someday people will forgive him and that his long-term legacy will not be one of disgrace.
More likely the object of the exercise was to set the scene that will open new and lucrative business opportunities for Lance. He wouldn’t be the first disgraced celebrity to turn notoriety into a substantial paycheque.
So expect to see a world number-one best-selling book: Lance’s tell all memoirs and of course the resulting blockbuster Hollywood movie.
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