Lance Armstrong’s sporting legacy and commercial worth is crumbling as we speak with the seven-time Tour de France title winner admitting to using performance enhancing drugs.
In what is arguably the sporting world’s biggest ever fall from grace, there are actually a couple things the former king of cycling has done very well in coming clean and provide important lessons for us to learn.
For a man that has been stripped of his Tour titles, lost most of his endorsements, been forced to leave his cancer charity and copped a lifetime ban from sports, it might sound a bit daft. But the fact is that his crisis management since deciding to come clean has been ahead of the peloton.
Dealt With Private Interests First
On Monday Armstrong apologised to the staff of the cancer foundation he started over the difficulties they’ve experienced because of his ongoing doping controversies.
"It was a very sincere and heartfelt expression of regret over any stress that they've suffered over the course of the last few years as a result of the media attention," Livestrong Foundation spokeswoman Katherine McLane said of the apology.
It’s a seemingly simple move, but by apologising before the admission is made public Armstrong is far more likely to gain empathy and even forgiveness than if he had done so after the media caught wind of his admission.
It’s fair to say he probably did the same with his sensitive but salvageable commercial and personal relationships too.
Leveraged Off A Clean Figure
Armstrong’s decision to confess to America’s mother, Oprah, was a masterstroke.
If you’re going to confess to cheating, do it to someone who’ll be kind and leverage off their clean skin brand. It gives the confession far more authenticity and can even cultivate a sense of compassion.
The benefits of Armstrong’s approach here have already begun with Oprah taking a motherly tone to the confession even before the interview has been aired.
“I would say that for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerised and riveted by some of his answers,” Oprah said this week. “I felt that he was thoughtful. I thought that he was serious. I would say that he met the moment.”
These were two simple yet well measured moves from Armstrong, and while they might not keep the lawyers at bay, will certainly trim some of the commercial and character damage as the wheels come off his bike.
Of course some credit should also go to the professional help, with Armstrong hiring Mark Fabiani for the fiasco, the former White House special counsel that advised Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal...
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