Hello and welcome to VeloNews.com's coverage of the first night of two Lance Armstrong appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Network. I'm VeloNews.com editor Brian Holcombe and joining me tonight will be a range of Velo editors, including Neal Rogers, Andrew Hood, Chris Case, and Matthew Beaudin, as well as contributor Ryan Newill, Dan Wuori, and Mark Johnson. We'll be bringing you live analysis of what we expect to be a wide-ranging confessional for the banned former world champion. Attorney H. Mark Stichel will check in with his perspective on the legal ramifications of an Armstrong confession, while communications consultant Ben Davis will give feedback on the Texan's PR strategy and brand management.
If you're clicking over to read through the archive of this coverage, start by clicking on the "Oldest" link above and read up the page for a chronological record of our coverage.
We'll be back with live coverage again on Friday, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.
In the meantime, have a look at the Associated Press' retrospective of a decade of Lance Armstrong denials.
Hello, I'm Velo Editor in Chief Neal Rogers. I'm sitting with Brian and Managing Editor Chris Case, and others, in the conference room where we usually plan out future issues of the magazine, race travel or lunch rides.
Tonight, we'll be watching Lance Armstrong tell Oprah Winfrey what we've suspected for years, and something USADA verified last year — that he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.
Some comments streaming in. We're just a few minutes away from getting started.
And if you are wondering if we're having pizza and beer, the answer is yes.
Hello, hello, hello and welcome everyone to VeloNews.com's live coverage of the Lance Armstrong/Oprah Winfrey interview. I'm here with Neal Rogers, managing editor Chris Case, reporter Matthew Beaudin, photo director Brad Kaminski, reporter Ari Baquet, and antagonizer Jason Thorpe.
Joining us from Washington, D.C. is contributor Ryan Newill, and from Southern California, Mark Johnson.
Good evening everyone. Thanks for joining us.
We'll be bringing you analysis of the Armstrong affair to date tonight and Friday night and are happy to try and answer as many questions as we can, so please, fire away.
Hello Dan Wuori, good evening to you.
Hello. No pizza here in San Diego yet.
Good luck with that, Mark.
Also joining us from Baltimore is attorney H. Mark Stichel, and from Denver is public relations and crisis communications consultant Ben Davis. Hello folks.
Thomas, both camps have been very tight-lipped on the content of the interview. What we do know is that it will contain a confession of sorts and there are some potentially game-changing revelations. Whether those happen tonight or Friday, we will see.
Thomas — we wish. We've been trying, but we don't have any details other than what's been reported this far.
Joe, that's very kind. thank you.
Ben Davis, what do you expect to see from Armstrong over the next two nights and how do you expect his communications team to have prepared him for the interview?
I'm assuming his team prepared him with a long-term goal in mind: where he wants to be in some time period long enough for him start competing again and resurrect his brand. That goal would dictate answers tonight on the specifics of his actions, and where the pitfalls are.
I think this interview is important, but what may be more important are his steps after tonight as he re-enters the public sphere needs to operate in as unimpeachable a manner as possible. His answers need to be 100% consistent, honest, and accurate. He has to convince every viewer that he genuinely regrets his actions. In my opinion, if you add all that up: he has to be authentic.
And being authentic presents a major challenge to Lance because to do so - exhibit remorse, apologize, admit wrong-doing while walking a legal line - he is going to have to exhibit more patience, more honesty, and a willingness to be publicly criticized than he has ever done so in his career on or off the bike.
I don't know how I'd bet an over/under on that, but a number of British sites were taking prop bets on tonight's broadcast. You can probably still get your picks in now.
I'd safely bet on a heavy pause, some wiping of the eyes, and a choked voice. That's the real juice for an apology.
Even if Lance doesn't cry, his lawyers may.
Dan. Lawyers don't cry. They bill. There's a difference.
Good question, Rob. I was emailing with Velo photographer Casey B. Gibson last night. He was confronted on two separate occasions this week by folks spewing about "the biggest liar in America," who didn't know he was in the cycling press. Yes, I do think many people care. He was an icon, after all, who exceeded the sphere of cycling. The sporting basis for that is largely gone now.
I can't speak to his motivations, but it seems safe to bet on a desire to compete again and the past few months certainly created a perfect opportunity for some much-needed reflection.
Good PR plans have an ultimate goal in mind that allows the entire strategy to be successful. If Lance's goal is to compete again, then he needs as soft a start as possible (Oprah), a consistent and very simple explanation that is easily explained and repeated (expect all of his answers to be repeated with minor alterations to various questions), and he needs to communicate genuine remorse throughout (we shall see). This gives him an opportunity to follow through with what the sport is going to require of him as well.
But his biggest challenge isn't this taped interview. It's the next year of interviews, comments, and rehabilitation that demonstrate tonight wasn't an act.