Sadly, unless there is a definitive answer, that final attribute will now always be associated with Lance Armstrong's personal brand. But always with a question. We all know him through those first three attributes, the question is can we ever not think of him without the last one?
Both sides were always too far apart for this to be concluded with anything other than the wrong result. Witnesses and experts on both sides claiming to be right. Strong personalities involved. A lot at stake. Now the truth may never be known.
Part of the confusion for many of us might be the fact that what might be a lifetime ban for some sports (e.g. cycling), can be a couple of years in athletics or results in a 50 game ban or less in baseball. Even some multiple offenders come back to play in their sport again.
For the USADA this has been a 10+ year endeavour. The rumour and insinuation has hung over Armstrong really ever since his first Tour win, or even before. His decision to no longer contest the USADA investigation, as much as they would like to think so, has not changed that.
Many cases of celebrity brands being damaged, and recovering, have been because their indiscretions were evident, recorded or admitted. Think of Martha Stewart or Tiger Woods. To varying degrees they made a come back, as have many others. The celebrity loving public can be quite forgiving, as can their sponsors.
But will the public forgive Armstrong? For many there is nothing to forgive. Does he even have to be looking at any kind of comeback? His brand is so strong in the eyes and minds of so many, even more I suggest than almost any other athlete or even celebrity, and the case still ambiguous at best, we may see mush less fall out than from other high profile falls from grace.
So what will become of Lance Armstrong?
- The Livestrong Foundation he founded even before his first Tour win will continue it's mission and he will spearhead this. He has said as much. You will likely see a spike in support and donations following his announcement. Many people (myself included) see this as much bigger than him and that was the intention. That has not changed. I will continue to wear my yellow band.
- His commercial interests seem at the moment to be unaffected. Nike were quick to come out in support. In time you might see some sponsors come after him for refunds, as they have with Floyd Landis. But unlike others his endoresment is so strong the potential negative reaction might be more than it is worth.
- The man himself has not changed. Many are surprised by his decision, especially for someone who never seems to 'quit'. But none of us know his true purpose. The deadline was approaching for him to decide if he wanted arbitration. After 10 years of fighting this, perhaps he looked at the overall situation in relation to everything else that is important to him in life and just said, enough.
I understand, for someone who over came cancer, saying enough is okay in my book. Thanks Lance, MY perception of your personal brand is you are an athlete, survivor, philanthropist. BUT above all an inspiration - unless you say otherwise that continues for me today.