On lying as a PR strategy; or, sex, lies and drug tests

I wasn’t going to write about the downfall of Indiana Congressman Mark Souder, latest in a long series of religious, “family values” advocates caught valuing his carnal urges over his marriage and family. I don’t get mad about these horny hypocrites any more, although the irony of preaching ‘family values’ while bedding a younger staffer is striking.

At least we didn’t have the wronged wife, beautifully dressed, smiling bravely next to him as he gave his tearful resignation—and where he obliquely blamed Washington and those criticizing him for his transgression. He claims the Mrs. wanted to be there, but why should we believe him now?

I also wasn’t going to write about Democratic Senate candidate Mark Blumenthal’s claim that he “misspoke” when he said he served in Vietnam.

‘”On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service and I regret that. And I take full responsibility,” said Blumenthal…”But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”’

Yeah, right. There’s a big difference between serving “during” the Vietnam war and actually going there, only to come home and be ridiculed and spit on in the airport. (Ask my brother about that and see what he says.)

So again, we’ve got the liar blaming others and really only showing regret that he got caught, and deflecting blame onto the people criticizing him.

What prompted me to write is the news that Floyd Landis, dethroned 2006 Tour de France winner, is finally coming clean about his doping. Well, sort of.

He’s admitted taking performance enhancing drugs throughout his career, but still maintains the test that busted him from the Tour de France podium was flawed, and that he never used synthetic testosterone that season.

And in the same breath he names Lance Armstrong a fellow doper.

So this is his strategy—admit to generalized wrongdoing while maintaining innocence in a specific case, and then deflect the attention onto a bigger name in the sport just to make sure your story makes front page news. It’s an interesting twist on the “Express regret but admit no wrongdoing” theory of public relations adopted by so many politicians and celebrities. And it’s a unique way of blaming someone else.

Full disclosure: I’m a long distance cyclist and a real fan of Lance Armstrong, and I find it hard to believe anybody who went through the cancer treatment he survived would intentionally put any harmful substance into his body. The man is driven, out to prove something, making a difference in cancer awareness, and has an incredible work ethic. He’s also arguably the most drug-tested athlete in the world. This is a man whose wife was in labor, and as they were getting into the car to go to the hospital were interrupted by the WADA crew demanding a sample. He’s won lawsuits against people who made doping accusations before, and he’s never failed a drug test. Until I hear otherwise from Lance himself, I believe he’s clean. Everyone else’s accusations are sour grapes.

I was also a great fan of Landis, and this is why I’m so mad: I gave money to his defense fund. I shook his hand and had my photo taken with him. He looked me in the eye and thanked me for my support as he signed my Richardson Bike Mart jersey. I stood in the store—decorated with Tour de France memorabilia given to the owners by their friend and loyal customer Lance Armstrong—and listened to Floyd and his lawyer talk about the case they had against the charges.

And I believed him.

I spoke to a former pro cyclist with knowledge of doping—he’s now battling Multiple Sclerosis—and he said there was no way Landis would have taken testosterone as a one day drug enhancement. He also talked about how the Tour de France’s chain of custody for samples is so bad they could have mixed up a dog urine sample with Floyd’s and never known it. So everything pointed to a setup.

Now it appears those of us who contributed to his $2 million dollar defense fund—cyclists, trainers, bike shop owners, and fans—are the ones who were set up. And the timing–during the Tour de California and Giro d’Italia and the run up to the Tour de France–is suspect as well.

And I’m mad. I’m sure the bike shop owners who organized appearances and loyal fans are mad. The little kids who broke open their piggy banks and gave money for Floyd’s defense are mad. The media are mad. The French are mad (OK, they’re always mad about something). The entire clean portion of the cycling world is mad, because Landis’ accusations cast aspersions on everyone involved, not just those caught, and not just on Lance Armstrong.

Floyd’s PR strategy is working though—he has ensured that whether or not he rides in this year’s big European races, he’ll be the talk of the Tour for a long time. For those who believe there’s no such thing as bad publicity, Floyd is winning without ever getting on a bike.

One thought on “On lying as a PR strategy; or, sex, lies and drug tests

  1. Dan Keeney, APR May 20, 2010 / 5:48 pm

    When I learned that Floyd Landis and his attorney attempted to blackmail Greg LeMond about being sexually abused as a kid (which LeMond revealed privately to Landis to describe the terrible toll of keeping a secret) I threw Landis on the waste-heap of people without any moral boundaries. He may be right about those he implicates, but his implication carries no weight with me.

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