By: Olivia Adams
He was an international icon. People around the world looked up to this athlete as a legend. By winning seven consecutive Tour de France titles and his inspiring battle with cancer, this man went down in history because of his triumphs and victory over life’s biggest challenges.
But what if that story was all a lie?
Throughout Lance Armstrong’s cycling career, he faced numerous accusations of doping, and denied every single one, until this year. Last October, Armstrong received more heat than ever and was stripped of his Tour de France titles as well as his Olympic medals. Despite all of this, he still pleaded innocent.
On January 15th, an interview with Oprah aired, which would end up bringing his career to a halt and serious damage to his reputation as a cycling legend would be done.
Armstrong admitted during this interview with Oprah that he was guilty of doping. How did this confession change his reputation for himself? Would this affect the reputation of the Livestrong Foundation? People around the world were wondering the same thing.
Armstrong was stuck between a rock and a hard place. His first option was to live the rest of his life with dishonesty and slowly see his reputation crumble. The second was that he could confess now and immediately lose everything he worked for. To Armstrong’s dismay, neither option was in his favor.
This confession sent Armstrong straight into the doghouse, along with other athletes of our time who admitted using performance enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, what makes this a unique scenario is that Armstrong is one of the most iconic athletes in our lifetime because of his athleticism and philanthropy. However, because of his confession, Armstrong was forced to lose everything his personal brand stood for.
The moral of this crisis is that the longer one lives in denial, the harsher the consequences. It’s hard to tell if Armstrong will ever bounce back. In the eye of the public, some are forgiving and some are not. There are those who will always support Armstrong, while others think he isn’t worthy of a second chance.
If Armstrong would have confessed earlier in the game, he may have had time to recover his brand. But to be in denial for over a decade, is a long time to be putting the truth on the back-burner.
As far as the Livestrong Foundation goes, the organization should make it out okay. They may see fewer donations over the next few years; however, many people will continue to support the cause, despite of Armstrong’s record.
The irony of this entire controversy is the meaning of PR. In the world of media and business, PR stands for public relations. In the eye of athletes, PR means personal record, something every athlete strives towards. For Armstrong, these concepts go hand in hand. Could have Armstrong’s public relations team ever saved his personal record or personal brand? Was it even possible for public relations to spin a lie into a truth.
If you look at the PRSA code of ethics, you will notice that one of the key points is honesty. By following the code, if Armstrong’s team wanted to help him improve his personal record, they could have encouraged him to confess early in his career. However, it stands that Armstrong may never have the ability to improve his personal record, at least for years to come.
For me, as someone who looked up to Armstrong since a young child and always sported a yellow Livestrong bracelet, it made me wonder if there were other heroes in life that were a lie. I was mostly saddened by how he was idolized for so many years, yet never truly earned his reputation. I suppose people will do anything possible to rise to the top, but in the midst of that, they would have to sacrifice some of their morals.
On the bright side, Armstrong’s public relations crisis will simmer down. New controversies and scandals will steal the spotlight. However, Armstrong may never steal it back. He will only be added to the list of athletes who doped to get ahead.