In October 2012 former seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was stripped of his victories and banned from professional cycling after the United States Anti-Doping Agency (usada ) reported that he had lied about secretly using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. This essay analyzes the apologetic and atonement strategies employed by Armstrong during a two-part television interview with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013. Our analysis uses the framework of Benoit’s (1995) theory of image restoration discourse, Koesten and Rowland’s (2004) discussion on atonement rhetoric, and Shepard’s (2009) theory of simulated atonement. In this essay, we argue that Armstrong’s attempts at offering a public apology were undermined by his continued evasion of responsibility and his failure to outline a corrective course of action. Throughout the interview, Armstrong refused to describe his behavior as cheating and repeated past claims that he was merely a victim of the doping culture in professional cycling. We conclude that this failure to provide an authentic rhetorical atonement prevented him from redeeming himself among media and fans, as indicated by an examination of postinterview responses from the media and the public.


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pp. 79-99
Launched on MUSE
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