Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, long accused of doping in order to pull off an astounding seven Tour de France titles, has finally come clean and admitted that his “victories” were based on a huge and long-running cycle of lies, performance enhancing drugs and blood transfusions. He decided to “come clean” – pun intended – by seeking absolution from Oprah.
He not only has been stripped of his seven falsely won Tour de France titles, he also has been forced to relinquish the bronze medal he won in the 2000 Sydney Olympics – an event in which I do not believe he was not even accused of doping.
But Armstrong now faces a tougher uphill climb than any he ever faced racing in the French Alps in dealing with his self-inflicted crisis. Like so many who have come – and stumbled – before him, Armstrong now faces the daunting “Liar’s Enigma.”
Simply stated, the Liar’s Enigma puts forth this simple query: If you ask a known liar if he is telling the truth, do you believe him if he says, “Yes”…or “No”?
To be clear, Armstrong is no mere amateur liar. For so many years he has been able to look inquisitors directly in the eye and tell incredible whoppers. He did it in interviews, on camera and even under oath. And he was incredibly convincing – not just in his full-throated denials, but in successfully denouncing his attackers (in and out of court) to make the public think they were crazy and they were lying. He raised lying to a new art form, which will make any hope of down-the-road redemption all the more difficult, if not impossible.
It will be interesting to see how his Livestrong Foundation, dedicated to fighting cancer, manages its own crisis. The organization has been so closely associated with its founder that some of Armstrong’s dirt has already rubbed off on it. But a series of new crisis communications messages and an effective crisis management campaign could help it weather the storm if it successfully distances itself from Armstrong. But it will have to pedal hard and fast to really get away from the Armstrong stench of deceit.
Time will tell. Effective crisis communications and crisis management will help.