REUTERS - Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong failed to convince many people he was truly sorry for his actions during his televised confession to cheating his way to a record seven Tour de France titles by using drugs, according to a Reuters poll.
Armstrong, 41, admitted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey last week that he used performance-enhancing drugs and lied about it for over decade, finally owning up to being at the centre of one of the biggest drug scandals in world sport.
But the two-part interview aired over 2.5 hours on Winfrey’s OWN cable TV channel, appeared to do little to restore faith in the once revered and inspirational cyclist who was admired for his charity work after surviving cancer.
Only 12 percent of 1,240 Americans surveyed in an Ipsos poll for Reuters, conducted between January 18-22, said Armstrong appeared genuinely remorseful when confronted by Oprah.
Nearly half of the respondents, or 48 percent, said Armstrong had only come clean as he could no longer continue to deny it and a third said it was a bid to rebuild his shattered image.
The scandal has pushed Armstrong to the bottom of a list of 12 world-class athletes, in terms of reputation, with seven out of 10 people, or 71 percent, saying he was a bad role model for children.
A majority of people, 57 percent, said Armstrong should be banned from competing in racing in the future even though the Texan has said he hoped a lifetime ban would one day be lifted to allow him to compete in events like marathons.
But despite the survey showing a dramatic fall from grace, the results showed that redemption was not impossible although few other athletes have had to overcome the scale of cheating undertaken by Armstrong.
Golfer Tiger Woods, whose serial infidelity was revealed after a traffic accident outside his home, was cited by 20 percent as a good role model for children.
Swimmer Michael Phelps was seen as a good role model by 63 percent despite newspapers publishing photographs of him in 2009 inhaling from a glass pipe used for smoking marijuana.
Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who was stripped of his 1988 Olympic 100 metres title for taking steroids, was cited as a good role model by 27 percent of participants in the survey.
Johnson believes Armstrong could still rebuild his standing with the public, particularly in light of the work he did establishing Livestrong, the cancer foundation.
“American people will forgive him,” Johnson said in an interview on BBC radio earlier this week, “I think people will judge him differently, based on what he did for humanity and for cancer.”
Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; editing by Julian Linden