Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Member

Dr. David Blakesley, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. James Sanderson

Committee Member

Dr. Sean Morey

Committee Member

Dr. Daniel E. Wueste


Lance Armstrong is one of the most recognized athletes of all time and one of the most successful cyclists ever. After surviving cancer, going on to win the Tour de France a record seven times, and being the center of a media empire, Armstrong’s reputation was publicly ruined after the United States Anti-Doping Agency released a huge case against him. Armstrong had to recant years of righteous denials and arduous insistence that he did not use performance-enhancing drugs. This doping scandal exposed a well-liked sports hero as a fraud and cheater, making him an exception case study in branding and crisis communication. Drawing on image repair theory as well ethical and sociological perspectives on performance-enhancing drug use, this dissertation seeks to better understand the rhetorical situations of cycling and doping, the relationship between Armstrong and the media, and the ways Armstrong’s identity construction damaged his reputation. Walter Fisher’s theories of narrative and Kenneth Burke’s dramatism are also brought to bear on the stories Armstrong uses throughout the scandal to explain or rationalize his acts.