Can LIVESTRONG Survive the Scandal?
A Tough Week for LIVESTRONG
This week, the Austin-based nonprofit organization that was set up by Lance Armstrong in 1997 to help fight cancer had to stand back and watch as its founder was not only officially stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, but was also banned for life by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), cycling’s governing body, as a result of findings in a report that was published by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
If that wasn’t enough, some people who have donated to LIVESTRONG are now saying that they want their money back.
As reported in an article on latimes.com, “Connie and Daniel Roddy of Santa Monica have given in excess of $100,000 over the years to the cancer-fighting charity founded by Armstrong. They want it back.”
And, they are not alone.
This raises the question: Can LIVESTRONG survive the scandal?
Lance Armstrong: Athlete, Cancer Survivor, Philanthropist and Alleged Ringleader of a Doping Scheme
Lance Edward Armstrong was born in 1971 in Plano, Texas.
According to Wikipedia, he started his athletic career at the age of 12 as a swimmer, and at age 13 Armstrong competed in his first triathlon.
In 1992, Armstrong began his very successful professional cycling career by joining the Motorola Cycling Team.
Then, in 1996, he signed a two year deal to join the French Cofidis Cycling Team worth $2 million a year.
However, his career was abruptly put on hold two months later, when he was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer. The cancer had spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. At the time, his doctors had told him that he had less than a 40% chance of survival.
Amazingly, he received his last chemotherapy treatment on December 13, 1996 and was declared cancer-free in February of 1997. That same year, he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation, now known as LIVESTRONG.
Unfortunately, shortly after being declared cancer-free, he was given news that his contract with Cofidis had been canceled. However, that did not deter him from racing; his cycling comeback began in 1998 when he finished fourth in the Vuelta a Espana while racing for the US Postal team.
In the years that followed, Armstrong won the Tour de France an amazing seven times.
However, it appears that his victories were accomplished only with the help performance-enhancing drugs.
In June 2012, Armstrong was formally charged by the USADA and in August they banned him from competition and stripped him of all his titles that he had won since 1998. This week, the UCI endorsed the USADA’s verdict and confirmed both the lifetime ban and the stripping of the titles.
Let’s Put Things in Perspective
If the information reported by the USADA is correct, then I think that the ruling that they made was the correct one.
It would be very difficult for anyone to argue that the drugs didn’t help Armstrong win at least some of the time and cheating shouldn’t be tolerated.
However, we need to remember, even with performance-enhancing drugs, the man still chose to keep going after being diagnosed with cancer. Other people, given the same situation, might have given up.
I think that with the health issues that he has had to overcome, even finishing a race like the Tour de France is admirable. It’s an accomplishment that many people couldn’t achieve even with the help of performance-enhancing drugs.
The Future of LIVESTRONG
Given the recent developments in the scandal, it is not surprising that some donors would be upset.
In fact, part of me can understand where they are coming from when they ask for their money back.
However, I think it is most unfortunate, and I hope that they reconsider.
You see, although LIVESTRONG was founded by Lance Armstrong, it has grown into something more than its founder.
The foundation is doing a lot of good by raising awareness of the disease and the importance of early screenings, as well as helping raise money for cancer research. And, unlike its founder, it has earned a high score (67 out of 70) in regard to accountability and transparency by Charity Navigator.
Furthermore, now that Armstrong has stepped down as chairman, the foundation has become even less about him.
That said, there is no doubt that LIVESTRONG’s marketing and public relations teams still have their work cut out for them.
In order for the organization to carry out its mission in the future, it is still going to have to rely on the generosity of donors.
Therefore, LIVESTRONG is going have to find a way to take the focus off of the scandal and continue to put it where it should be, on the charitable work that it is doing to help cancer patients.
In a recent post, Geoff Livingston suggests that LIVESTRONG has what it takes to survive.
I hope that he is right.