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UC Sports Researcher Comments As Lance Armstrong Comes Clean

A UC researcher into the social history of sport provides comment following Armstrong’s televised confession that he had regularly used performance-enhancing drugs.

Date: 1/18/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Randy Miramontez/ (Armstrong Photo)

UC ingot   Reaction is pouring in nationally after Lance Armstrong publicly admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs and lied about that use time and time again.
Randy Miramontez/
Photo by Randy Miramontez/

Kevin Grace, head of UC’s Archives and Rare Books Library and an adjunct assistant professor in the University Honors Program, is a longtime researcher of the social history of sport, including social issues such as corruption, fan behavior and mass media. Grace weighs in on Armstrong’s televised admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

Prior to this week’s interview but amidst all the publicity about it, the International Olympic Committee stripped Armstrong of his bronze medal from the 2000 Olympics. He was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned by the U.S. Doping Agency last October. His lucrative endorsements dropped him soon after that. Any thoughts on why the IOC is taking action this week and not with the U.S. Doping Agency’s findings in October?

“Bureaucracies move slowly, especially when there are internal politics and image at work. The IOC, to protect its brand and its reputation, waited until they were on safe ground.”

Why would Armstrong be coming forward now and why did he stay silent in October?

“Lawsuits are building and he is trying to mitigate damage.” 

You’ve researched media in relation to sport. In this case, any thoughts on why he chose Oprah? Why not ESPN? Why not a network news reporter?

“Oprah is safe, and her interviews are emotion-laden. She tends to present a forgiving atmosphere and confessing to Oprah becomes a cathartic experience – this is what she offers her interviewees. Hard news reporters ask hard questions with hard follow-ups and digging into a situation, with no notion of ‘Things will be all right now, and thank you so much for your frank revelations on my television program.’ Oprah is about selling a brand, so for the interviewee, an appearance on her show represents safety and a known situation.”

Can he gain any credibility from the exposure this week, after publicly denying doping time and time again? Those previous interviews with him – vehemently denying using performance-enhancing drugs – have been airing all week.

“No, his credibility is pretty much shot. And, it is doubtful that the public really cares about his credibility.”

Does that credibility shift in regard to fans or mass media?

Kevin Grace
Kevin Grace (Photo by Jay Yocis)

“It’s a spin situation. Hardcore bicycling fans may shift a bit, simply because they understand the pressures of competition better than the general public, but celebrity confessions are so commonplace because of the mass media, that they are taken in stride.”

Is it likely he’ll be reinstated?

“Doubtful. Even if he is, it will be several years before he can compete, at which point he will really not be a world-class athlete. Chances are he may compete in various events as a ‘circus act’ to draw some immediate attention, not unlike appearances by Pete Rose and other disgraced athletes.”

Can he redeem himself with his fans?

“Sure, fans of a specific athlete are, for the most part, forgiving people and his fans will want to believe he is sincere.”

Is there an added disappointment among fans because his heroism didn’t just evolve from the sport, but also from coming back to “victory” as a cancer survivor?

“Yes, the two went together, so it is disheartening to cancer survivors to learn of his duplicity. The positive thing is that the charity Livestrong can survive without much Armstrong involvement and they have a solid reputation for helping people realize what they can accomplish.”

Can he make amends in that regard?

“Doubtful that any meaningful amends can be made.”

Can he redeem himself in the international arena?

“No, this will hound him wherever he appears, and though PEDs may be rampant among cyclists (maybe or maybe not), he is regarded as another typical American cheater. Plus, he is nearing the end where he can truly be competitive.”

This would also be a huge embarrassment for the sport itself, in finding that in testing athletes, Armstrong coasted through the process numerous times. Any expectations about next steps on this matter?

“Further investigations, finger-pointing and excuses.”

Will this be any vindication for former teammates who claim they were threatened and their reputations were ruined for testifying against him before the U.S. Anti- Doping Agency?

“Yes, definitely. They will be regarded as people of integrity. It will be interesting to see what defamation lawsuits arise out of this.”

Turning now to the scandal that rocked a beloved U.S. pastime and the Queen City, when Pete Rose was banned from baseball and years later, admitted to gambling on the game. Would there be any similarities with fan reaction in this case? Some still feel Charlie Hustle belongs in the Hall of Fame, others still feel the sting of being let down by their hero…

“One wonders how much the support for Rose in the Hall of Fame is local and regional. On a national basis, he is regarded benignly as a clown, someone to leave us bemused at his behavior and comments.  And, he is considered somewhat as a pathetic figure for his autograph signings, his physical appearance (the dyed hair, etc.), and his overt longing to be in the Hall of Fame. Generally, after all these years, fans still believe Rose hasn’t completely come clean. “