Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Lance Armstrong's Reputation Goes Up In Smoke

A small English town decided to burn a 30-foot effigy of Lance Armstrong for their Guy Fawkes celebrations this weekend (for any non-Brits, here's some background on what that's about).

Every year, people in Edenbridge in Kent burn a model of a contemporary villain - apparently it was a tough choice this year.

It's a sad coda to the recent doping revelations surrounding the legendary cyclist, including the stripping of his 7 Tour de France titles and a lifetime ban from the USADA and the UCI.

What's so sad is to see all Armstrong's achievements literally go up in smoke.

This is a man who came back from testicular cancer to win the toughest sporting event in the world 7 times. His Live Strong charity - from which he has now stepped down - has raised half a billion dollars since 1997 and he has inspired and supported countless people - not only those suffering from cancer, as well as their families, but also the wilder world.

All that is now tainted.

However, so ingrained was doping in cycling at the time of Armstrong's Tour de France wins, that no-one else will be awarded his yellow jerseys. In the late 90s and early 00s, apparently the only way to win was to dope.

This has left the sport, which had been enjoying an unprecedented bounce from the Olympics and Bradley Wiggins' success, in a huge hole and one that could take years to dig itself out from.

Is there a way back for Armstrong?

As someone whose day job is PR and, often, reputation management, I think it's unlikely. But there might be a chance - with one proviso: Lance would have to come clean about his doping, admit his years' of lying and do something to change the sport forever.

But that looks unlikely - he still maintains his innocence, even after giving up the fight with the USADA.

What a waste of all that effort, achievement and goodwill...