Lance Armstrong spoke "candidly" to Oprah Monday.
It will be interesting to see if his brand of candor meets the expectation of the audience.
In "Hope For Armstrong" I wrote that the cyclist would be well served by taking time to figure things out -- to break free from the vortex of his fictitious world.
Accounts on Wednesday indicate that he did in fact admit in his interview that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
Good for him for finally owning up to the fact that he cheated.
But, that is not good enough -- not in the least.
We will soon know.
Some will look past the fact that Lance Armstrong was the preeminent doper in a sport riddled with cheats.
Few will forgive Lance Armstrong for his ruthlessness. He fired employees. He sued organizations. He even allegedly threatened to physically harm a few who hinted that they were "going public."
If Armstrong chooses to use the opportunity with Oprah to forge a feigned apology, or to talk about how he got caught up in the competition, or how he thought winning would help him raise money for cancer, I will swiftly take back my previous statement that there is "hope" for the cyclist.
When Oprah talks about sports and racing, Lance should turn the discussion to a more painful subject: the lives he harmed. He needs to tackle the hard stuff head on. If he apologizes but can't also say that he personally reached out to every single one of these individuals before the interview, then he hasn't done what he needs to do.
Personally, I have a hard time believing that he is ready for the interview. I highly doubt that he has done the face-to-face work required -- made the personal apologies. I am also dubious of the suggestion that he has come to terms with the alternate reality he dwelled in for more than a decade.
I said in previous pieces that Armstrong must show sincerity in any admission and apology. His tone, demeanor and body language will all tell a picture. The words are important but these factors will perhaps do more to signal that his probity is solid.
But with people like Stephen A. Smith saying on ESPN that he wants Armstrong to "suffer," you realize that it's going to take a lot more than a convincing tone of voice and what could sound like a sincere apology for the cyclist to recover his reputation.
Most crisis situations I've dealt with over the years have a strong legal element to them and this case is no different. Keep in mind that Lance's team of lawyers are constantly reminding him of the legal and financial exposure he opens himself up to by admitting that he doped.
As an example, will Armstrong voluntarily pay back the Sunday Times for the money he won in his liable suit against them?
My guess is that we will make a sizeable financial pledge to Livestrong, or some other charity, in the name of the Sunday Times and the individuals whose lives he damaged -- hoping beyond all hope that this will be enough to keep them from suing him.
Most will view this as a publicity stunt, but everything that Armstrong does publicly at this point will be seen as such. We are talking about a very proud person who is perhaps one of the biggest control freaks in history. I will be shocked if his position is to simply open up his checkbook and allow those he harmed to have their "pay day."
He will want to dictate and control the terms. Making a contribution to charities in advance of any pending lawsuit allows him to be philanthropic (though transparently opportunistic), and in his calculating way send a message to anyone who wants a piece of him: "sure, you are entitled to some of my money, go ahead, take it ... from cancer patients."
I, of course, could be wrong but this approach would not surprise me in the least.
In this case, as it usually is, apologizing is the easy part. For Armstrong, doing it the right way will be the challenge -- meaning it is a whole different issue.
It's no longer about his reputation, it's about doing what's right. The question is: Does Lance understand that?
Time will tell.
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