Today, disgraced former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong moved his posterior from bike seat to television couch as he sat down with Oprah Winfrey to discuss his fall from grace. The broadcast will air Thursday night, 9pm eastern, on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Why Oprah? Why now? And, what will he say? Let’s take a closer look.
Oprah could use Lance as much as Lance needs Oprah. When making an admission of guilt via a public forum, it is important to pick the media outlet wisely, choosing a medium that will provide the best opportunity to tell your story, as sympathetically and completely as possible, amid as friendly of fire as possible. And while a respected sports journalist such as Bob Costas might seem to some to be a logical place to go, he most likely would be too unforgiving and frank in his questioning. And, while Oprah can be tough, she is most likely to help Armstrong come across in a more human way. Plus, as she still struggles with ratings for her fledgling network, she may well have agreed to questioning and editing ground rules in exchange for the blockbuster interview ‘first’.
Why the change of heart by Armstrong? Why, after years of accusations and denials, does he appear poised to shed light on his illegal drug use and blood transfusions? Perhaps Oprah will ask that very question. The bottom line, though, is that Armstrong has definitely reached ‘bottom’ with nowhere to go but ‘up’ provided he finally comes clean. Just compare and contrast how differently former New York Yankee pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte handled accusations of steroid use. Clemens the denier is still reviled. Pettitte the contrite continued to pitch in the big leagues after the scandal.
As for what Armstrong will say exactly, AP and CNN are reporting this evening that he does admit using performance enhancing drugs. We are sure to hear many ‘snippets’ and soundbites between now and Thursday as OWN will certainly be teasing the full broadcast like they’ve never promoted anything before. His battle with cancer is sure to come up; and while it is doubtful he will use his illness as an excuse, it will make us stop and think – and consider.
Like we have written here before, in the realm of adversity management, we are a forgiving society, IF mistakes are admitted and responsibility taken for particular egregious actions. Only then can redemption be attempted and a life/career rebuilt. Lance Armstrong has obviously taken a good long look in the mirror and doesn’t like what he sees. What he does next will reflect significantly on both his future and his legacy.