Lance Armstrong and The Concept of Trust

By January 16, 2013Communications

When Marijean asked me to write a post about Lance Armstrong, I was torn. He’s getting ready to admit to being a cheater and liar on Oprah this week. He has always been an inspiration to me, since I am a serious cyclist and have watched, and drawn motivation from, his amazing performances in the Tour de France for a long time.  It could be argued that Lance Armstrong single-handedly took cycling into the mainstream as a fitness activity in America, and for that I will remain forever grateful.

I can also argue that the good his Livestrong foundation has done for cancer patients around the globe is miraculous, both in terms of support and also in terms of inspiration. Lance’s cycling exploits made all that possible and for that many should also be grateful.

I can ALSO argue, although it’s a tougher one to make, that ALL pro cyclists are taking PEDs, so Lance was merely the best of the best. It’s certainly clear from all the activities of the UCI and USADA that many other cyclists were doping throughout their careers. As a cyclist, I really don’t CARE if they dope, because I know how much they are suffering regardless of how quickly they recover. It’s a brutal sport and I love watching, even if they are thickening their blood with EPO. I say let them all do it. Hell, let’s FORCE them to do it! Not really.


What I DO care about is that these guys, and Lance in particular, are being total cowards about it. They lie, they obfuscate, they deny, and yet they benefit from the fruits of commercial success. Lance, in particular, has been particularly egregious and has profited particularly well from what now appears to be a totally fabricated story. His inspirational return to cycling after his cancer scare had weight PRECISELY because he claimed to be a clean rider after that. Total crap now. THAT hurts.

If they all stood up to the federations and worked WITH them to develop a solution, then we might be somewhere.  Refuse to ride any races until it’s resolved. The Tour folks would get to the table pretty fast if that happened. This culture of criminalizing what WE choose to put in our bodies must end.

But from a PR perspective, Armstrong’s activities and all that he has done to hide them violate every piece of advice we give our clients regarding transparency, accountability, clarity, and trust. He is now the shining example of how NOT to conduct business.

This ESPN video sums up a lot of what people are feeling, so I won’t try and recap it. But I personally am bummed because it’s just one more example of how our desire to be famous, rich, and powerful just ends in corrupt, morally empty, and amazingly narcissistic behavior. Our glorification of celebrity is destroying our culture of trust, cooperation, and sense of fair play. Guys like Lance just do whatever benefits them, no matter what damage it does to their sport or to other people. Sad.

How do you feel about it?

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One Comment

  • ginidietrich says:

    I’m having a really, really hard time with this. I realize I’m being completely hypocritical. If this were someone (or an organization) I didn’t love, I would be skewering him. So it really bothers me that I’m torn about it. I’m trying very, very hard to separate my personal feelings (everyone doped, he still rode and won, he maneuvered his bike like no one did before or since) and think about it purely from a communications perspective. What I’ve decided to do is watch the interview and decide then. You know where I’ll be at 8:00 tomorrow night.