Lance Armstrong listens as he is interviewed by talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Hannah Swerdloff, 21, always looked up to Lance Armstrong.
So the University of Florida student was caught completely off-guard when she read that the famous cyclist had admitted to doping.
“When he came out and said it, I was really shocked,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’”
Swerdloff and many other college students across the country are reacting to Armstrong’s recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during many of his competitions.
David Rozul, 21, a senior at San Diego State University, said Armstrong’s decision to have an interview with Oprah was not the best choice for him.
“He’s using the fame, entertainment card,” he said. “He went to Oprah and is trying to get the sympathy card.”
The first 90 minutes of the two-part interview with Winfrey aired Thursday night on the Oprah Winfrey Network. During the interview, Armstrong said he wasn’t “the most believable guy in the world right now,” and that he was “trying to win at all costs” during his competitions.
Before the first part of his interview aired Thursday, the winner of seven straight Tour de France competitions was stripped of the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee.
Matt Boles, 20, also a student at the University of Florida, said Wednesday that Armstrong’s reputation will suffer. Boles hopes that the Livestrong Foundation, a non-profit cancer-support organization founded by Armstrong, isn’t negatively affected by the news.
“I think what [Livestrong] does is great,” Boles said.
Sporting Kansas City, a Major League Soccer team, recently cut ties with Livestrong, which had the naming rights to its stadium. Sporting KC still owes the foundation $750,000 of its promised $1 million, according to USA TODAY. The deal’s end allegedly wasn’t related to Armstrong’s confession.
Boles said he thinks it will be difficult to separate Armstrong’s actions from those of his foundation.
“When I think Livestrong, I think Lance Armstrong,” he said.
Armstrong is just one of several athletes in recent years to be swept up in a performance-enhancing drug scandal.
“I think with Lance, it’s different” because he initially denied doping, Boles said.
The culture of looking up to athletes as role models is changing, Boles said, because of all the recent performance-enhancing drug stories. He said students will start looking at other students and teachers as role models “because they know them.”
Swerdloff said she’s going to be more skeptical of athletes’ legitimacy. The public relations major said college students and young people should be too.
“Other athletes,” she said, “will have to take more of a stance to say, ‘I don’t do this’ or ‘I don’t use drugs.’”
Rozul doesn’t condone the use of performance-enhancers, but said athletes lying about it is even worse.
“It’s important not to lie about [drug use]. It’s going to come out and be a huge downward spiral from there,” he said.
In the future, Rozul, a journalism major, said he doesn’t expect college students’ opinion of athletes will change, but that they will “do a double-take” when considering an athlete as a role model.
The most important thing, he said, is how athletes come clean about doping and using drugs.
“You can’t lie about it,” Rozul said, “because the truth is going to come out.”
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