Doping allegations have followed cyclist Lance Armstrong for more than a decade as his run in professional cycling defied logic, common sense and explanation. While his doping confession, which he gave to Oprah Winfrey during an interview on Jan. 14, answers many of the lingering questions about his athletic career, it has also opened a whole new series of questions that will take much longer to answer.
In particular, the biggest and perhaps hardest to answer of those questions is just what will happen not only to Armstrong's personal brand, but also to Livestrong, the charity that became synonymous with Armstrong and the fight against cancer.
Although he will most likely never rebuild his once-stellar reputation, many experts agree that the interview represents the first steps in a journey toward forgiveness. John Llewellyn, an associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University, says that his apology will begin to clarify how the situation will play out.
"A proper apology has three parts," said Llewellyn. "It expresses regret, offers reparations and promises it won't happen again. But Lance Armstrong will be hard to believe since he has spent decades vehemently denying he was doping. He and his attorneys seem to have carefully calculated the statute of limitations, so what will he do to pay for his actions? And thirdly, after spending so many years cheating, how can he promise it won't happen again with any credibility?"
Answering those questions in a way that people find believable will likely be Armstrong's main challenge. However, Armstrong's situation is unique because of his connection to Livestrong and the money that the charity raised for cancer research.
"Some good was done," said Llewellyn. "Livestrong does go on the positive side of the ledger, but now people are scrambling, the brand is damaged and people who relied on him as a figure of strength for their own cancer battles are now second-guessing themselves and wondering if it they have been fooled also."
Despite those good deeds, Llewellyn says Armstrong would be best served by taking a step back from the situation once his interview airs.
"The best thing he can do for that brand is to get away from it," said Llewellyn. "I don’t think this interview is going to fly, and in my opinion, separating the nobility of the cause from the taint that is attached to its creator would be the best thing to do."
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