Lance Armstrong and an Apology: Too Little, Too Late?

News reports, including an article in The New York Times, surfaced over the weekend that Lance Armstrong is considering admitting to doping during his cycling career.

If Armstrong does fess up and show some contrition, he'll be practicing some of the basic tenets of crisis PR: Admit your misdeeds, apologize and then do your best to make things right.

Today it's unclear if Armstrong will take all or any of those steps. First, there are legal entanglements that might cost Armstrong millions if he admits to doping; but perhaps more important is Armstrong's personal motivation to apologize. Throughout the years he's vehemently denied cheating accusations while leaving a trail of hurt former teammates, friends and associates who've suffered because of his denials.

What makes anyone think that now Armstrong will get all emotional and say he's sorry? "It would be hard for him to admit it, and not offer some sort of apology," says Matt Barkett, managing director at PR agency Dix & Eaton. "That fact that he deceived so many for so long, it would be hard not to issue some sort of apology."

Yet Times writer Juliet Mancur notes that a simple confession may be all Armstrong is looking for, so that he'll be able to compete in triathlons and other racing venues. A confession also may help Armstrong's cancer charity Livestrong and its now-tarnished reputation.
So if Armstrong does decide to issue some sort of apology, however weak, there's one missing element attached to those crisis tenets that's critical: Confessions and apologies should come relatively soon after the offense is committed. In Armstrong's case, he vehemently denied doping for years and is his image has suffered for that mightily.

This begs the question: Does an apology have a statute of limitations attached? Barkett thinks not, and offers up the case of Pete Rose, who for years denied he had bet on baseball games yet in the last few years has admitted doing so. Rose, Barkett says, has regained at least some stature because of it.

Has Armstrong's window of opportunity to apologize run its course, or at this point is any apology better than nothing?

Follow Scott Van Camp:

Comments Off


About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

Deals of the Week

Get $150 Off PR News' Measurement Conference 

Media Relations ConferenceJoin PR News at the National Press Club on Dec. 11 for the Media Relations Conference, where you'll learn how to tie your media relations initiatives to business goals, use the right metrics to prove the success of your efforts, incorporate social media in a brand crisis and more.

Use code “150” at checkout to save $150 on the regular rate.

Get $50 off PR News' Crisis Management Guidebook


Crisis management is an art, not a science. In this edition of PR News’ Book of Crisis Management Strategies & Tactics, you will discover many different views on this art, and you are certain to find takeaways that will transform the way your organization handles crises. 

Use code “50off” at checkout.

Save $100 on a PR News Subscription



Let PR News become your weekly, go-to resource for the latest PR trends, case studies and tip sheets. Topics covered include visual storytelling, social media, measurement, crisis management and media relations.

Use code “SUBDEAL” at checkout.

Comments are closed.