It hasn’t been a great year for Lance Armstrong, to say the least. After the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a report detailing evidence of doping allegations against the former bicyclist, Armstrong decided to resign as chairman for his cancer-fighting Livestrong foundation and Nike announced its choice to terminate his contracts.
Imagine working with someone who you thought of us a legacy and whom you believed made the world a better place. They had the same ideas as you and were a role model to thousands of lives. Now imagine they did something that went against everything you believed they stood for. Would it change your opinion of them? Would you continue to support them?
I want to take a look at, as a PR professional, how I would’ve handled the potential fallout from this career-threatening incident. This would not be an easy one to explain to the press.
Looking back on our history as a country, there have been many scandals in which public figures have broken the rules or gotten involved with people they shouldn’t. The thing I would like to take away from this to apply to my future career in Public Relations is how important it is to tell the truth. Nike dropped its contracts with Armstrong due to the belief that they felt misled. Nike released this statement on its website, “due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him. Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner.”
While people disapproved of his actions, telling the truth in the beginning would have saved him a lot of trouble and grief, maybe even his contracts with Nike. When Armstrong had been questioned about his alleged doping, my advice for him would have been to tell the truth, because your word is your greatest asset and if it’s found to be faulty, it’s very difficult to gain it back. I learned in one of my very first PR classes at the University of Oregon to tell the truth, tell it first and tell it fast!