10/24/2012 12:01 pm ET Updated Dec 24, 2012

Hope for Armstrong

Lance Armstrong's supporters left him behind to keep pace with the peloton of public opinion -- distancing themselves from the seven-time winner of the Tour de France.

The bad publicity for Armstrong keeps coming with seemingly no end in sight. The good news is that the public can be forgiving, even if we love to kick someone when they're down.

Lance is done as a competitive athlete and as a role model. But in life, he is far from finished, even if carrying his bike without wheels through the Pyrenees.

Armstrong's friends, teammates and sponsors have departed for the most part; there's no George Hincapie, the loyal lieutenant, to lead him through the most grueling parts of what will be his toughest climb yet.

Yes, he overcame cancer -- no easy feat. But that was largely in the hands of God and his doctors, though I acknowledge Armstrong fought hard to get through it.

In the case of his character, his reputation, there are no drugs (legal or illegal) that can save Lance Armstrong, though swallowing some bitter pills will help.

It is up to him -- nobody else can save him now.

As a fan, I was one of the last to give in to the idea that the man I admired cheated. I, like many others, wanted to believe that the "Lance-haters" were still jealous and that one day he would be vindicated. But apparently they were on to something.

The amazing thing is that Lance Armstrong didn't need to win the Tour seven times to be revered or to make a difference; overcoming cancer and simply competing in the race would have been enough. Would he have sold as many books? No. But would he have made an impact, absolutely.

As with cancer, there is a path to recovery for Armstrong. The treatment plan is long, arduous, and perhaps more analogous to that of a recovering addict as opposed to a medical ailment because he must burst free from the bubble of denial that envelops his world.

I have no problem with Armstrong taking time right now, staying quiet, because there is nothing he can do to reverse the current tide. Even an admission and apology would seem disingenuous at this point -- bad timing. He needs to let all of the bad come out, while he gets his life in order; only then can he effectively take on this challenge.

Two words should frame the fallen icon's eventual response: contrition and sincerity.

He must avoid the trappings of settling scores or correcting factually inaccurate information at this point. I am sure there are things reported that simply aren't true, but none of that matters at this stage -- he must let all of that go and own up to his misdeeds and embrace the fact that he cheated to win.

A simple apology without remorse will only enrage people more and make any reputation come-back nearly impossible. When he finally does speak about these issues, humility and sorrow will go a long way toward stopping the bleeding -- actions, sustained over a long period of time are required if he hopes to reclaim any of what he's lost.

What actions? That is up to him. Anti-doping crusader? Bike charity for low-income kids? It doesn't matter as long as it is sincere and not a transparent piece to a public relations plan.

The road to redemption is less like the Tour, where teams and crews play such prominent roles; Armstrong is at the starting gate of the longest, most taxing individual time trial of his life.

As long as humanity is forgiving, there is hope for Lance Armstrong. He is a young man who can still make a positive impact if he chooses; "saving face" simply isn't in the cards, but making a difference absolutely is.

Lance Armstrong cannot make us like the person he was, but he can certainly help us accept the man he can become.