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Have your say: Can a disgraced athlete redeem himself?

A video screen at a hotel restaurant in Grapevine, Tex., Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, shows a replay telecast of a segment of Lance Armstrong being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. Reversing more than a decade of denials, Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France cycling during the interview.

LM Otero/AP

Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free the Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.

Following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, David Letterman and Tiger Woods, former seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong confessed his considerable sins to television audiences around the world last week, sparking a visceral public reaction that was largely negative.

Although sports fans tend to forgive their favourite athlete's personal transgressions over time, those caught cheating to win seem to have a harder time: Think of Tonya Harding, the Chicago Black Sox, or poor Ben Johnson and those "I Cheetah all the time" commercials.

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Yet Lance Armstrong is as well known for his fight against cancer, the Livestrong Foundation he founded and his herculean fundraising efforts as for his cycling achievements. If our society holds the belief that wrongdoers can be at least partly redeemed through community service, does Lance's charitable work help to salvage his legend? Or does his recent confession make it even worse because he violated public trust?

This week's question: Should we forgive our heroes – celebrities, politicians, athletes – for their transgressions if they give back to their communities?

The experts:

Paul Melia, president and chief executive officer, Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport

Doing good by raising money for cancer research does not exonerate one from wrongdoing in sport. Pursuing excellence by cheating through doping is unfair, disrespectful and unsafe. Role-model athletes set an example for young kids, and these are not the examples we want our kids to follow.

Robert MacKalski, Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University

Don't forget "cheater" Bill Clinton and "home wrecker" Angelina Jolie used charity works to rebuild their images. Lance can do the same, but he'll have to work extra hard to get his message out because he no longer has the headline grabbers about being the fastest cyclist.

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Michael (Pinball) Clemons, Hall of Fame Canadian Football League running back

Mistakes can't be eradicated by philanthropic excellence; redemption resides in the hearts of people. Some have already forgiven him, others never will. The goal of philanthropy should be to do what is right. If he's lucky, that might result in redemption.

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