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Looking at Lance Armstrong’s use of rhetoric

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‘Rhetoric’ can be defined as the art of using speech to persuade, influence or please.

For onetime cycling legend Lance Armstrong, the use of rhetoric helped propel him to the pinnacle of public perception.

At St. Edward’s University in South Austin, English Writing and Rhetoric Professor Drew Loewe and his students are studying how Armstrong used the power of persuasion.

"One useful way of thinking about rhetoric is, how people compete to frame an issue so that it is understood in a certain way and how they get a message across," Loewe said.

For more than a decade, the seven-time Tour de France champion denied widespread allegations that he doped his way through success.

"He was defining innocence in a certain way,” Loewe said. “Remember, framing the issue and selling a particular interpretation and the innocence was defined as, ‘I have never failed a drug test.’"

Now, on Thursday, Armstrong is expected to admit during a taped interview with Oprah Winfrey that he did in fact use performance-enhancing drugs during his career. The potential confession comes after mounting pressure from an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the Department of Justice.

Craig Staley is the general manager at Mellow Johnny’s, the Austin bike shop Armstrong owns downtown. He's Armstrong's friend, and says he hopes the Oprah interview is an avenue for all the community to once again believe in Lance and trust what he says.

"I've been following the sport forever and kind of knew that was part of what goes on," he said. "I hope there are some people that can remain fans and him coming out and talking helps them turn the corner because he is turning the corner."

On the tour, Armstrong was known as perhaps the best mountain cyclist of all time, but now he must climb a rhetorical mountain to redemption.

"It's not the last chapter of him by any means," Loewe said.

The second and final part of Oprah's interview with Lance Armstrong airs Friday night on OWN, which is Time Warner Cable Channel 225 in Austin and Channel 71 in Waco.

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