In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, cyclist Lance Armstrong admits doping
The disgraced athlete's admission follows 7 Tour de France wins
Armstrong had for many years denied using performance enhancing drugs
Barry Neild looks at ways Armstrong could try to repair his public image
When it comes to seeking public redemption for crimes and misdemeanors, such as cheating in the Tour de France, surely being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey is, well, cheating.
The road to redemption should be a grueling uphill struggle, and one undertaken without massive quantities of drugs. Many will try to climb it. Many will fall by the wayside.
Here are a 10 alternative steps to salvation Armstrong may, or may not, like to consider:
1. DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Before she too became an alumnus of the Oprah sofa, American sprinter Marion Jones denied doping her way to Olympic glory in the Sydney Olympics. The truth eventually overtook her. After serving jail time, Jones began a new career as a basketball player and was signed in 2010 to Tulsa Shock, a women’s team whose ill-starred fortunes she failed to improve before she was let go a year later.
Lance’s chance: Armstrong’s drive and aggression would make him a natural salesman. Perhaps used cars. Perhaps used bicycles.
2. DO SOMETHING BETTER
Blurting out anti-Semitic nonsense was a drunken Mel Gibson’s ticket to purgatory in 2006. His career-topping action movie “Apocalypto,” released a few months later, was his ticket home. Unfortunately, Gibson kind of blew it again in 2010 when he became embroiled in allegations of domestic abuse. Despite what Jodie Foster says, he remains cast out into the wilderness.
Lance’s chance: Riding to a drug-free victory in the 2013 Tour de France might help. But to fully better his former glory he will need to win every Tour until 2020.
3. DO A RUNNER
Director Roman Polanski has spent 35 years on the lam from charges of unlawful sex with a minor at no apparent cost to his reputation as film maker. Polanski fled the U.S. before being sentenced in 1977, seeking refuge in France. From there he has continued a successful career that peaked in 2002 with the multi-Oscar-winning “The Pianist.”
Lance’s chance: France won’t take Armstrong given the damage he has done to the Tour. But as Gerard Depardieu has shown, Russia might.
4. DO A STINT IN REHAB
Charlie Sheen said rehab didn’t work because he cured himself. And we believe everything he says, right? But whatever the merits of checking into a clinic are, for $4,000-a-night, your reputation gets a lot of help. Supermodel Kate Moss lost fashion contracts after she was photographed allegedly snorting drugs. After one month in rehab, the checkbooks were back out and she was flouncing down catwalks with renewed credibility.
Lance’s chance: What are you waiting for Armstrong? Four weeks away from the bad headlines and a chance to rule the exercise bikes in the clinic gym.
5. DO A HUGH
“I did something dishonourable, shabby and goatish,” said movie star Hugh Grant in 1995 shortly after he was caught in a shabby, dishonorable and, if he says so, goatish liaison with a prostitute. Rather than lie or shy away from the truth, Grant simply admitted everything and apologized in the affable manner that has continued to earn him millions of Hollywood dollars. Grant could probably get away with punching President Obama by looking slightly sheepish afterwards and mumbling something in a charming English accent.
Lance’s chance: “Gosh, sorry everyone, I’ve been a bit foolish,” says Armstrong, pushing back his newly-cultivated floppy fringe.
6. DO A BOOK
Conveniently, Lance has already done a book. “It’s Not About the Bike,” chronicled his victory over testicular cancer and his fight back into world class cycling. It wouldn’t take much effort to tack on a couple of extra chapters and perhaps edit in a few furtive meetings with seedy doctors that he might have accidentally missed out the first time round. The book route certainly worked for drug cheat David Millar who fessed all in his 2011 autobiography “Racing Through the Dark,” and battled his way back last year to win a Tour de France stage to deserved acclaim.
Lance’s chance: Surely no one will complain if Armstrong cheats and uses a ghost writer.
7. DO A DOWNEY JR.
When all else fails, do all of the above. This, so far, seems to have worked out OK for Robert Downey Jr. The once-troubled actor spent time in and out of rehab and jail. He tried something new by releasing a record. He reportedly almost wrote a book about his problems, but later pulled out of the deal. He hasn’t apologized in Grantish style, but he did appear on “Ally McBeal,” which shows a degree of contrition. And since cleaning up his act, he’s gone on to deliver some of his best work. Oh, and he’s also done an Oprah interview.
Lance’s chance: Seven stolen Tour de France victories. Seven shots at redemption. Seems fair.
8. DO A STEP SIDEWAYS
Or, as it is also known: A Bill Clinton. It looked like the career of the 42nd president of the United States was over after details of his improper relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky hit the headlines in 1998. Miraculously, he survived impeachment and managed to ride out the rest of his term. Clinton’s salvation appears to have been that the furore became less focused on what he’d done and more on what he’d said – a complex exercise in semantics that at one point got hung up on the definition of the word “is.” Eventually everyone got so baffled, they more or less gave up.
Lance’s chance: He’s already started with the semantics, saying he didn’t consider he was cheating at the time.
9. DO NOTHING
Can Armstrong learn anything from disgraced former U.S. congressman Anthony Weiner? Accidentally posting a photo of your own crotch on Twitter, as Weiner did, is a far cry from being accused of using performance-enhancing drugs to win major sports titles; one misdemeanor was clearly a lot bigger than the other. But size isn’t everything, so perhaps Weiner, who subsequently lapsed into an 18-month silence, can offer inspiration. Apparently absolved, Weiner has now made a tentative return to Twitter and there is now talk of him running again to become New York mayor.
Lance’s chance: There’s never been a better reason to keep your cycling shorts firmly on. And your Twitter account off.
10. DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN
OJ Simpson is never the best person to drag into an argument about redemption, but his case does offer lessons. Former footballer Simpson, as you may or may not remember, was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend in 1994. In a separate trial, which you also may or may not recall, he was held liable for their wrongful deaths and ordered to pay millions in damages. Then in 2007, as you can be forgiven for being somewhat vague about, Simpson was jailed for 33 years for armed robbery and kidnapping.
The upshot of all this is not many people, clearly excluding those involved, can precisely recall what Simpson has or hasn’t been found guilty of and what he is now being punished for. Not exactly redemption, but certainly a wall of confusion to hide behind.
Lance’s chance: On second thoughts, perhaps just stick to Oprah.