Lance Armstrong's doping confessions to Oprah Winfrey 'a necessary PR step'

Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey was 'less of an apology and more of a necessary PR step', a sport PR expert has argued.

Lance Armstrong: 'An amazing communicator' (Credit: Liz Kreutz)
Lance Armstrong: 'An amazing communicator' (Credit: Liz Kreutz)

The disgraced cyclist last night came clean over his drug use, confessing to a history of doping to Winfrey and a global TV audience.

Armstrong, who has been stripped of his Tour de France titles and Olympic medal, called his history of doping and subsequent aggressive denials ‘one big lie I repeated a lot of times'.

M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment director Jamie Wynne-Morgan said Armstrong’s ‘coached admission’ was part of an interview set on his terms.

‘It was a guarded admission in which he tried to offset responsibility by showing himself as a flawed character. It was less of an apology and more a necessary PR step for him to take.’

Though he apologised, Armstrong nonetheless denied it was the ‘sport’s biggest doping programme’ and said his viewed his drug use as being part of ‘a level playing field'.

For Henry Chappell, CEO of Pitch, a key line during the interview was Armstrong’s confession that he ‘tried to control the narrative’ over others’ drug use as well as his own.

‘He is an amazing communicator and has over the years through Malcolm Tucker-esque bullying and crisis management managed to maintain one of the biggest deceits there’s been in public life,' he said.

'There’s no doubt this is still an attempt to control the narrative and he needed to go further in apologising directly to his victims.’

In response to the interview the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) called for Armstrong to detail 'under oath' the full extent of his doping.

Both Wynne-Morgan and Chappell felt the interview would ultimately fall short its achieving a public rehabilitation of Armstrong. However, both agreed that Armstrong's statements could help the sport of cycling move on from a dark period.

‘His admissions, and the fact that they were made clear through a yes or no format at the beginning of the interview, has to be a turning point for the sport,’ said Chappell.

Dan French, owner of Clifford French, praised Winfrey, who he said only faltered around questioning Armstrong’s relationship with Dr Michele Ferrari.

Ferrari was given a lifetime ban for helping the doping scam but denies the allegations.
French also questioned the wider implications of the interview for cycling.

‘Above and beyond the negative global coverage this interview has generated, cycling bodies will be deep in conversation with their lawyers and their commercial sponsors,' he said.

'Will brands stick by them? Will they ride the storm?‘

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