By Fraser P. Seitel
After two decades of brow-beating teammates, threatening journalists and suing adversaries, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong has one chance this week with Oprah Winfrey to set the record straight and begin to win back his reputation.
Here’s what he ought to do.
1. Come clean.
For 20 years, Armstrong fought longer, yelled louder and sued more people, insisting that he never took performance-enhancing drugs.
So his “confession” must be more specific, more detailed and more comprehensive than any athlete drug transgressor heretofore.
The advance word out of Austin, TX, where the Oprah sit-down takes place Monday, is that Armstrong will, indeed, confess to doping but “not provide much detail.”
A Mark McGwire “half pregnant apology” – where the steroid-taking slugger whined to Bob Costas that it was his “god given ability and hard work” and not drugs that enabled his homers – won’t cut it for Armstrong.
The cycling doper has bullied too many people over the years to expect any remaining reservoir of goodwill. So his confession must be inclusive, i.e. definin"
- When he did drugs.
- How he did them.
- With whom he did them.
- Where he did them.
- And why he lied for so long that he wasn’t a doper.
Anything short of a total explanation will only fan the flames of increased criticism.
Armstrong can’t win by playing “small ball” on his confession.
2. Agree to settle.
Any Armstrong confession will set the cyclist up for enormous claw backs of ill-gotten gains – from sponsors, insurance companies, even newspapers who lost libel cases against him.
This is the price he must pay for cheating.
Some think Armstrong will demur when it comes to acknowledging to Oprah his obligation to pay back money he earned. Again, this would be the wrong choice.
Were he to preempt the payback discussion by acknowledging guilt and announcing his intention to “work toward settlement,” Armstrong would at least be setting the agenda and even the parameters for settlement discussions.
3. Pledge to work for a solution.
While Lance Armstrong is the most successful and well-known and belligerent of cycling dopers, he obviously wasn’t the sport’s only violator.
It appears that many – if not most – competitive racers took performance enhancing drugs to deal with one of the world’s most taxing endurance tests.
If everybody felt they had to dope to compete, then something is very wrong with cycling.
Beyond his confession and his monetary givebacks, Armstrong should express to Oprah his pledge to work for a solution to cycling’s doping problem.
This kind of “Michael Vick ASPCA solution” might strike cynics as just another Armstrong ploy to curry favor; but there is no denying that cycling has a real problem; affecting its best athletes.
If cycling turns a blind eye to dealing realistically with the doping problem in its midst, it will face a decline in popularity.
Who better to work for a more realistic regulatory regimen than the former king of the sport, himself brought down by doping?
4. Make a comeback.
Reportedly, one reason Armstrong has agreed finally to confess is he wishes to return to competitive Olympic sports and can only accomplish that if his lifetime doping ban is lifted.
Of course at age 41, Armstrong’s road back in triathlons and running events would be iffy, at best.
But America is a forgiving nation and loves a winner. And winning, as they say, “heals all heals.”
It’s a stretch, but Armstrong is a uniquely gifted athlete.
First, though, he must make a full confession to Oprah.