I wanted to give my thoughts on a report in today’s USA Today that suggests Lance Armstrong’s expected confession that he did take performance-enhancing drugs during his professional cycling career is part of a long-term plan to rehabilitate his damaged image. If he does admit doping [to date Lance Armstrong has always denied it] I believe this plan will not only fail, but will backfire badly. Why? Because of his vehement denials, the fact that any admission would come after he’d been stripped of his seven Tour De France titles, because he’s had numerous opportunities to come clean and because not only will he be seen to have cheated, but now also to have repeatedly lied about it.
I’ve been a supporter of Armstrong for many years. I don’t understand why a man who is acknowledged to be a super-human athlete, [his aerobic performance has long been documented to be off-the-charts even before his cycling career] and who, by the admission of one of his accusers, could beat [clean] his doping competitors, would take drugs. I also don’t understand why, in an environment where many of his peers have admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs, it has taken him so long to come clean.
I wrote earlier in the year about Armstrong’s communications strategy. I believed his approach – to force the USADA to show their evidence – was a wise strategy if he was innocent of the accusations. If he was guilty however, and there was evidence that would condemn him, it was madness. If, as is reported, Armstrong finally admits he cheated then his strategy then was awful. It’s now also mis-judged. If he believes that an admission will lead to some kind of redemption, it won’t.