Lance Armstrong Loses the Battle… and Wins the War

 Lance Armstrong Loses the Battle... and Wins the War

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Lance Armstrong and the LIVESTRONG brand.

“Enough! “ said Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France medal winner. He is no longer prepared to subject himself to the anti-doping Stasi that has been pursuing him relentlessly for the last fifteen years. Armstrong is waving the white flag, returning his medals, and instead will dedicate himself to his cancer charity, LIVESTRONG, and being the “fittest 40 year old man on the planet.” Any further questions?

Well yes, there are a few, but most likely none will ever be properly answered. What is beyond doubt is that the world is still VERY confused. Did he dope to win all those races, or didn’t he? Armstrong’s PR, on the other hand, has done an excellent job of positioning the doping investigations as a witch-hunt. The whiff of scandal was always present with Armstrong; SEVEN wins by simple hard training and eating right? But now the truth will never be known. Game over for Armstrong’s detractors, who will never get to prove their claims.

Armstrong, by legally refusing to submit to further investigations by giving up his wins, hasn’t given in; he’s taken the wind out of his nemesis’s sails. For his accusers to brag that they won will only confirm suspicions that somehow, their allegations were personal. Meanwhile, for Armstrong, the lack of any definitive finding leaves the door open to ongoing image rehabilitation.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Lance Armstrong and the LIVESTRONG brand. Tough times, but survivable for both. Soon it will be business as usual.

The PR Takeaway:  Steal your opponent’s thunder and you run the show. Imagine the disappointment: Armstrong handed in the medals before they could be taken from him! Despite longstanding accusations of winning by doping, Armstrong has had little problem in securing lucrative endorsement contracts and funding for his eponymous charity. Those days seem set to continue. If he’d had the awards taken away from him, that might have been different. His accusers may be wondering if it was tactically advisable to push him so publicly into a corner. In doing so, they may have missed their much-anticipated moment. Armstrong seems destined for the final PR victory lap. He deliberately lost the battle and won the war.

(Editors’ note: The PRV is published on Monday and Thursday until Memorial Day weekend.)

Do you think Armstrong gave up his TdF wins because he was guilty or incredibly savvy? Give us your PR Verdict!







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What is Your PR Verdict?

  1. Paul Marrone Paul Marrone says:

    Mark McGwire, Manny Sosa, Marion Jones and many more lead the way for those defined as “cheats” which is what the broader sports community now labels Armstrong with his refusal to defend in the face of more than 10 witness ready to testify in a mediation. Future endorsement and image credibility remain to seen …witness Tiger Woods for different reasons and his significant loss of endorsements. Armstrong’s refusal to defend is a tacit acknowledgment to the public he was and is a cheat. Hope his charity does not suffer larger collateral damage.

  2. Stuart Kaufman says:

    Mark, you’re a smart, insightful and astute observer of these kinds of issues, but I fear your liking for Armstrong, if that’s what it is, has led you astray on this. Lance has now joined that rarefied group of guilty-as-hell-and-in-total-denial athletes such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who have steadfastly denied everything but whose reputations are still in tatters, and for good reason. Lance’s only hope of a better future than those two poster boys for surly dishonesty is that he’s basically more likeable than they are and, perhaps also, because Lance competed in a what may be the dirtiest of all professional sports, although that still doesn’t say much for Lance’s ethics. If Greg LeMond, no slouch at winning a few Tours de France himself, thinks Lance Armstrong is a liar and a cheat, and he’s said as much, that’s good enough for me.

  3. I’m torn on this one. As a big cycling fan, and an admirer of the discipline and grit it takes to compete in 3-week all-out bike races (a la the Tour de France) I’m weary of seeing guys I respected fall from grace as cheats. I continue to hold out hope that some of those guys, Armstrong among them, rode clean. Long shot, sure, but hope springs eternal.

    From a PR standpoint, I think Mark got it right. Armstrong’s goal is to preserve some of his brand equity. If he lost his years-long battle against USADA, he’d have nothing. Seems like he finally decided half a loaf is better than no bread at all. He can still be out there fighting cancer, promoting his foundation and making the Nike/Livestrong brand sing. If he’d lost his legal battle, he’d have a big house in Austin (and Aspen) and a lot of time to putter around fixing gutters.

    Years from now, he will still be able to proclaim himself the “most drug-tested athlete in the world,” and say that he “never failed a drug test.” He’ll say he gave up his fight to preserve his sanity and enable himself (and his millions) to get back to work fighting cancer. If that ain’t a PR win, I don’t know what is.

  4. The War is not over. Tyler Hamilton’s devastating book comes out in the US today, September 5, and USADA is going to release a report of the evidence in a few weeks. Also, if the UCI appeals USADA’s decision, the whole case will be heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The Times of London is studying the case in which they were sued and had to pay Armstrong for defamation years ago. SCA Promotions, a company that gave Armstrong a $5M bonus for breaking the record of wins of the Tour, is looking at its options in case it wants to recoup its money.


  1. says:

    Lance Armstrong Loses the Battle… and Wins the War…

    The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Lance Armstrong and the LIVESTRONG brand. Tough times, but survivable for both. Soon it will be business as usual….

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