For the first time, he admitted to using performance-enhancing
drugs, cheating his way to seven Tour de France titles and bullying
friends and foes that tried to expose the truth.
The Livestrong Foundation founder showed little emotion or
regret in the interview taped Monday at a hotel in Austin. He
coldly described his career as "one big lie." He said that at the
time, he didn't feel bad about doping or even believed he was
cheating. His awkward attempt at humor fell flat.
"I didn't get the feeling he feels any guilt. I get the feeling
he has a sense of entitlement. A true narcissist," said Norman
Wyloge, a Manhattan psychoanalyst who watched the 90-minute special
on the OWN network.
Ad Age asked sports-marketing, body-language and crisis-PR
experts to analyze Mr. Armstrong's performance on three counts:
Put a fork in Mr. Armstrong as far as future endorsement deals
go, said Darren Rovell, ESPN's sports-business reporter. He's
"Lance Armstrong doesn't have any future marketability. It's
over," he said.
Yes, other athletes such as Tiger Woods, Ben Roethlisberger, Ray
Lewis and Kobe Bryant have bounced back from scandals. But Mr.
Rovell ticked off the factors that would prevent that from
happening for Mr. Armstrong.
First, his cycling career is over, so he has no opportunity to
wow consumers or sponsors on his bike, unlike Mr. Woods, who could
and did return to competition. Two, it was his inspiring story --
of a cancer survivor triumphing in races -- that made him
marketable. If the wins are not legit, then neither is he. Three,
he managed to "transcend" a niche sport. "He was never just a
cyclist," said Mr. Rovell. But if Mr. Armstrong does compete in
marathons or triathlons, he'll be back in a niche sport that's
hard-pressed to attract major sponsors.
At the outset, Mr. Armstrong tried to appear in "complete
control" of the interview, said Tonya Reiman, author of "The Power
of Body Language." He took a dominant-male position with one foot
crossed over the other and took up as much room as possible.
But as Ms. Winfrey coolly went for the jugular, he betrayed his
fear and anxiety in nonverbal ways, Ms. Reiman said. He looked away
from Ms. Winfrey rather than looking her in the eye. He touched his
hands to his face repeatedly, bit his lips, took deep breaths and
swallowed hard. All signs of anxiety. He shrugged his shoulders
when he answered questions -- a signal he didn't believe what he
The most interesting moments for Ms. Reiman came when Mr.
Armstrong "fig-leafed," or nervously covered his groin with his
hands. "If you watched him, there were several times he did that,"
she said. "He was wringing his hands. That's a sign of somebody
who's under pressure."
At one point, Mr. Armstrong admitted to calling accuser Betty
Andreu "crazy" and a "bitch" -- but joked he never said she was
"fat." He laughed nervously. Oprah didn't crack a smile. He quickly
closed his legs and tucked his hands between his legs.
Ms. Reiman felt Mr. Armstrong came off as too rehearsed, too
calculating, almost like a politician. "He showed so much
arrogance. Not enough real remorse. That's what we wanted to
The first crisis-PR move by scandal-plagued athletes is often
the confessional interview where they come clean and throw
themselves at the mercy of the court of public opinion.
But crisis expert Mike Paul believes Mr. Armstrong only
"partially" told the truth Thursday night. When it comes to
confessing to save your reputation, you either have to go big or go
home, he said. "The worst kind of lie is the partial truth, because
you are drawing people into thinking you are being fully honestly
and sincere. But what you're saying is, 'I'm smarter than you. I'll
give you little pieces that make you think I'm being truthful --
and then I'm going to lie about the rest.'"
As investigators parse Mr. Armstrong's comments to Ms. Winfrey,
Mr. Paul believes they'll find multiple evasions and
inconsistencies. So Mr. Armstrong may have only created more
problems for himself.