Commentary: Can Lance Armstrong Repair His Reputation?

Though he screwed up time and again, not everything the cyclist has done over the past decade has been awful.

Posted: 01/15/2013 05:49 PM EST

After more than a decade of accusations and speculation, Lance Armstrong has allegedly come clean. In an interview with Oprah — the first step for many celebrities on their moves toward living better lives — Armstrong has reportedly admitted to doping with banned drugs in order to win his numerous cycling titles.

Report Bloomberg writers Erik Matuszewski and Mason Levinson:

Already stripped of his titles, barred from Olympic sports for life and abandoned by longtime sponsors such as Nike Inc. (NKE), Oakley Inc. and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI), Armstrong publicly acknowledged doping for the first time yesterday in a 2 1/2-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey, the talk-show host said on “CBS This Morning.”

“He did not come clean in the manner that I expected,” Winfrey said today. “It was surprising to me. We were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers.”

Oprah’s interview with Armstrong, who is worth around $100 million, according to estimates, is set to air this Thursday and Friday, but the court of public opinion is already skewering him. In an interview with Bloomberg, Rick Burton, a sports management professor at Syracuse University, said that Armstrong is “looking like he’s going to possibly be one of the biggest frauds of all time.”

“If he wants rehabilitation he’s got to be really sorry and he’s got to take it all on himself,” Burton said.

Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and is now banned from athletic competition for life. But what has to be harder for him is the damage to his reputation. Athletic victories are nice, of course, but honor and dignity are far more important. Armstrong, a cancer survivor who was once an inspiring voice for others suffering with the illness, lost a lot of both of those things in many people’s eyes.

All that being said, it’s probably important to recognize that Armstrong, for his many faults, has in fact contributed to people’s lives in ways outside of his tarnished cycling career. Armstrong’s cancer charity Livestrong, while flawed, has donated lots and lots of money to cancer awareness and done some real good for cancer patients. And Armstrong gave a lot of his time and money to people in need on top of what Livestrong was already contributing.

Does that absolve him of all his lying and cheating for years and years? Probably not in most people’s eyes. But of course, nobody is all the way good or bad. Here’s hoping that Armstrong can improve his life in the second act.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

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