Lance Armstrong: Why confess now?

Michelle Singletary
Columnist January 17, 2013

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.” View Archive

If Lance Armstrong truly came clean and confessed to Oprah Winfrey in a two-part interview (part one to be aired tonight) that he used performance-enhancing drugs, will he really see a financial comeuppance?

I doubt it. Even if Armstrong has to return substantial funds to his sponsors and others, the famed cyclist who won seven Tour de France titles spent years reaping financial rewards from his cheating. At one time, Armstrong was so popular he could command $20 million a year in sponsorships, reported CNN. Armstrong’s titles have since been stripped, and he’s lost lucrative endorsement deals.

What does Armstrong have to gain from confessing?

Lance Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Oprah discusses the in-depth interview with the "CBS This Morning" co-hosts.

Washington Post columnist Tracee Hamilton says his contrition is contrived to limit his liability. She writes: “He could have come clean immediately and helped his reputation; instead, he chose to ride at the head of a peloton of lawyers who calculated when he would — no, could — admit what he’d done without increasing his liability. That’s when he lost me completely.”

And there’s still the possibility that Armstrong will profit from his celebrity status. According to CNN, sources have said that Armstrong is negotiating to return some of the sponsorship money he received as captain of the U.S. Postal Service team during his career. Only those sponsors who paid for his actual athletic performance, like the Postal Service, as opposed to those who purchased his personal endorsement, are likely to be able to recoup sponsorship money, CNN reported.

“But even though he is permanently disgraced, he will retain the ability to make some money just by being Lance Armstrong, along with most of the more than $100 million or so in endorsements he’s already collected,” CNN said.

The celebrity Web site TMZ reported on Wednesday that Nike’s chief executive hinted that the company, which ended its contract with Armstrong, might want him back. When asked if Nike might patch things up, company CEO Phil Knight said, “Never say never,” TMZ reported.

A sports marketing expert told CNN that Armstrong will likely to be able to make money with a book deal and speaking and appearance fees.

“I am no longer interested in what Armstrong has to say,” Hamilton said. “Why would I watch two nights of television featuring a man who has consistently lied for years, and who is apologizing now to help his wallet and his career?”

For this week’s Color of Money Question: Will you buy into Armstrong’s career recovery by watching the Winfrey interview or shelling out money to see or read what he has to say? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “Lance Armstrong’s Confession” in the subject line.

Let’s Chat Today

Join me today at noon ET for a live discussion.

If you can’t join me live, send your questions in early. I’d also love to hear what financial New Year’s resolutions you’ve made and how you’re sticking to them.

You’ll now also be able to chat with me every week on Thursdays at noon. The chats will last 30 minutes, and I’ll do my best to get to as many of your personal finance questions as I can.

Workplace hazards

I’ve had to work under some uncomfortable conditions, but my complaints were minor compared with what some Social Security Administration employees in Baltimore had to endure.

The employees complained to their supervisor about a co-worker who constantly passed gas. The worker received an official reprimand for excessive workplace flatulence, according to the Smoking Gun Web site, which obtained a copy of the letter to the employee.

The Washington Post’s Federal Eye reached out to the agency’s spokeswoman, Dorothy J. Clark, who said in an e-mail, “When senior management became aware of the reprimand it was immediately rescinded.”

So, I have to ask. Have you had to endure a workplace situation that drove you nuts? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Workplace Hazards” in the subject line.

Family Financial Fights

Last year I started a feature to help people who were having financial fights with family members. I’m continuing the feature this year. So, if you need help deciding who is right in a financial fight, send your stories to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state and put “Family Finance” in the subject line.

Save your token

The owners behind the classic board game Monopoly are giving the public a chance to vote on which token the game should retire and which piece should take its place. All of the classic tokens have been jailed, and, ultimately, one will be gone forever and replaced by the new piece, according to Monopoly’s Facebook page.

So far, the tokens not receiving much love are the iron, thimble, wheelbarrow and boot. The top vote-getters for keeping are the Scottie dog, the race car, battleship and top hat.

Lowen Liu of Slate.com sees a bigger theme at play (pun intended) among the tokens that are getting the most votes.

“What do they have in common? Accoutrements of the 1 percent,” Liu writes. “A Scottish terrier champion-line puppy may cost $1,500. A roadster, $50,000. A battleship, $100 million in mid-century dollars. The top hat is as much a sign of the filthy rich as the monocle.”

All the proposed replacement tokens also speak to wealth, she says.

“An anthropomorphic robot, a diamond ring, a guitar, a cat with sizeable bling on its collar, and a bleeping helicopter. Not a one of them symbolic of the laboring class.”

Alexandria Petri, who writes the ComPost blog for The Washington Post, also chimed in on the contest.

“Frankly, all the new tokens underwhelm me,” she wrote.

Which token would you vote to keep, and which one should be out? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Save Your Token” in the subject line. Be sure to include your full name, city and state.

“Donor or Daddy”

Last week I asked you to weigh in on a story about a Kansas man who was ordered to pay child support for a child he fathered through a sperm donation.

I wanted to know if you thought the man should be forced to reimburse the state and pay child support.

“I vote donor, not daddy,” wrote Michael Hatley of Manhattan Beach, Calif. “I think it’s ridiculous that the state of Kansas is going after that man.”

“Under no circumstances should William Marotta be forced to pay child support or reimburse the state,” said Lorna Gilkey of Alexandria, Va. “For Kansas officials to even suggest he do so is a travesty of justice!”

L. Jo Kichline of Arizona thinks the state has gone beyond the absurd in this instance. “If you do not have any rights in the care and upbringing of a child, I don’t see how you can be held financially responsible if the legal parents of the child are in financial trouble.”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

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