Lance Armstrong: Separating the Athlete from the Cancer Crusader

Daniel PetriContributor IJune 8, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24:  LIVESTRONG Founder and Chairman and seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong (L) speaks as American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Chief Executive John Seffrin (R) listens during a news conference at the National Press Club March 24, 2011 in Washington, DC. American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network held a news conference to call on the Congress to oppose proposed cuts to cancer research and prevention programs.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Lance Armstrong is in a race to save his reputation as perhaps the greatest cyclist in history. 

There have been allegations from ex-teammates and former competitors that Armstrong was involved in the use of banned substances and blood doping during his seven Tour de France victories.

The allegations are becoming more common and with CBS' 60 Minutes recently reporting on the controversy, the issue is now more serious than ever. 

Federal prosecutors are now looking into the doping allegations, which creates a dark cloud of controversy that is not only impacting Armstrong's famed cycling career, but also his foundation. 

"Livestrong" was created by Lance Armstrong to promote the fight against cancer and to raise money for cancer treatments. The foundation was built off of his miraculous story of having survived testicular cancer which then spread to his brain and lungs; his prognosis was bleak, but he survived to then ride on to Tour de France glory. 

Armstrong sought to use his fame to champion a great cause. Now that cause is under attack.

Bloomberg News (link for viewing at the bottom) is reporting that Armstrong's "Livestrong" foundation could lose $10 million in donations, and possibly more, if the allegations against him turn out to be true and prosecutors move forward. NYU Professor Doug White (of the Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fund-raising), who has studied publicly discredited charities, is cited in the piece. 

Anger and frustration is a natural reaction from Armstrong's fans and corporate sponsors who may be discovering that their favorite athlete (or idol) deceived them with smoke and mirrors; possibly taking that anger out on his foundation would be a misguided effort. 

Armstrong's foundation raises tens of millions of dollars to spread the fight against cancer around the world. It fights against the stigma of cancer, fights with anti-smoking campaigns, promotes community engagement, teaches healthy living and raises money to help find cures for the disease.

Supporters of Armstrong must be able to separate "Lance the Athlete" from "Lance the Cancer Warrior."

While Lance Armstrong's cycling history may end up tarnished and disfigured, his foundation should not end up any less reputable or effective. To cut off funding to his foundation is simply misguided vengeance and only hurts those who are fighting to find a cure for cancer. 

Should the allegations against Armstrong prove true, the public and corporations should not let their anger endanger such a worthy and important cause.


Link to Bloomberg: