Could Lance Armstrong's decision to come clean with Oprah Winfrey over doping allegations change the minds of some major former sponsors? Don't count on it - but don't be surprised if it happens either.
The 41-year-old's business relationship with long-time sponsor Nike came to a dramatic end last October after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's released a 1,000 page report detailing his performance-enhancing drug use over the years.
"Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him," the company said in a statement. "Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner."
In a brief exchange with TMZ.com at the Brookings Institution in Washington Tuesday (Jan. 15), Nike CEO Phil Knight seemed to indicate that there might still be room for reconciliation.
"Never say never," a grinning Knight said when asked if there was any chance Armstrong and Nike would "reunite." When asked if he was waiting for an apology, Knight - who called the Armstrong scandal an "unpleasant surprise" - said: "No, we don't have any plans. I don't know what he's going to say."
Indeed, how exactly Armstrong comes across in the interview (Oprah herself doesn't believe he was especially contrite) could speak volumes about potential second-looks from big names such as Nike, Oakley, Subaru, Dasani, Bristol Myers, the Discovery Channel. The aftermath of an admission - in particular how such a reveal might play out with any action taken by the Justice Department - will also play heavily into any future relationships. One thing's for sure: Lance likely will not be making the estimated $20-28M he earned annually from sponsorship deals over the years for a long time to come, if ever.
“Rebuilding Lance Armstrong’s reputation is the biggest challenge imaginable, but it starts now," John David, CEO at David PR, told the site Metro. “He has supporters and if his story is believable, he has a chance.”
Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey will air Thursday, January 17, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET/PT and Friday, January 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The interview will be simultaneously streamed live both nights on Oprah.com.