Case | HBS Case Collection | July 2013 (Revised October 2014)

Following Lance Armstrong: Excellence Corrupted

by Clayton Rose and Noah Fisher


After years of vigorous denials, on January 14, 2013 Lance Armstrong admitted in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey that he "doped" in each of his record seven consecutive Tour de France victories, confirming the findings a few months earlier by the US Anti-Doping Agency that he had orchestrated "a massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history." Until that moment with Oprah, Armstrong had consistently and strenuously denied using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), blood transfusions, or other artificial enhancers to compete in the grueling, three-week race throughout France. He verbally thrashed, bullied and threatened legal action against riders, journalists, race officials, and anyone else who had suggested he had cheated.

This case explores Armstrong's leadership of a corrupt culture, the extensive nature of the cheating scandal among elite athletes, the decisions taken by other riders to both support Armstrong and his scheme and ultimately to admit to cheating, and the costs borne by those associated with Armstrong. It allows for discussion of the responsibilities that leaders have to followers, and that followers have to themselves and to others.

Keywords: corruption; leadership; culture; Ethics; Crime and Corruption; Leadership; Culture; Sports Industry; United States; Europe; France;


Rose, Clayton, and Noah Fisher. "Following Lance Armstrong: Excellence Corrupted." Harvard Business School Case 314-015, July 2013. (Revised October 2014.)