Livestrong faces dope fallout

2012-10-12 10:33

Washington - The impact of doping allegations leveled at Lance Armstrong do not end on the cycling circuit. The fallout encircles Livestrong, the charity he founded after recovering from cancer.

Launched in 2003 as an online resource for cancer survivors, the charity achieved global brand recognition a year later by adopting a yellow wristband as its hallmark, a concept Armstrong jointly developed with his sponsor Nike.

The rubber bracelets quickly became a fashion accessory - more than 80 million have been sold - and spawned a wave of imitations in different colors from other charities.

Livestrong's branding, however, had special resonance - the man who inspired them had years earlier beaten cancer and even more remarkably gone on to win the Tour de France, and its hallowed yellow jersey, multiple times.

But, with the cyclist's reputation now languishing in sport's doldrums and up against merciless scrutiny in the court of public opinion, experts say the charity he inspired faces a choice: speak up or stay silent?

"Lance Armstrong has gone from being Livestrong's biggest asset to being their biggest liability," said Sol Levine, a director at Qorvis Communications, a Washington-based public relations firm.

"They have to take care not to have him as their frontman, but it would also be a mistake to actively dissociate themselves."

Livestrong evolved from The Lance Armstrong Foundation - which by name alone was more closely associated with the cyclist - though the two organisations are widely seen as synonymous.

In the last nine years, however, Livestrong has developed its own spirit: Armstrong's image and story do not feature on its website home page though it is found elsewhere on the site.

The charity's most prominent messages instead concern upcoming events and detail where people's donations are spent.

Of the $35.8 million that Livestrong spent last year, 82 percent went on programmes, a high percentage in the charity sector, and its credibility is high.

For that reason, Armstrong's personal troubles are not something Livestrong should address unless it is forced to, said Levine, whose employers specialise in reputation management.

"Livestrong did a lot to break taboos about cancer - the yellow band was a landmark and the organisation is operating under its own power," he said.

"So, I don't think Livestrong is damaged, but Lance Armstrong is no longer an asset. He will always be remembered as a cancer survivor, but that's not what he'll be most remembered for."

Armstrong decided not to contest charges of the US Anti-doping Agency (USADA), though his lawyer said the probe was "pre-determined," and "they were out to get Lance." But the cyclist has undoubtedly lost backing from those who once looked up to him.

"It's so depressing because of the guy's books he wrote that were inspirational to people with cancer, and his cancer charity on one side doing so many positive things. Then you find out this," Britain's Chris Hoy, the six-time Olympic cycling gold medalist, said on Thursday.

So far though, Livestrong has stood back from the controversy. On Wednesday, when the USADA published its dossier, Doug Ulman, the charity's CEO and president, appeared to be following the guidance to stay silent on Armstrong.

"We've got big plans to celebrate 15 yrs of serving survivors. Join us - Oct. 18-21!" he wrote on Twitter, referring to the charity's anniversary.

But given that a Google news search using the terms "Lance Armstrong" and "doping" was generating 57 300 hits late on Thursday, the appetite for the story may soon envelop the charity, and require a more aggressive response.

Chris Edwards, the owner of Reputation Saviors, which specialises in combating negative publicity circulated on the Internet, said if attention moves toward Livestrong, they will have to counter it.

"Right now, they are running with it, but when the entire news media starts to report something, it is a very difficult situation to combat," said Edwards, who is based in Orlando, Florida.

"If that happens to Livestrong they will have to do something. You can't just not answer back."


  • rinus.groeneveld.7 - 2012-10-12 11:10

    Tour de Farce - The Movie. Starring Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie. Or at least a book deal or 2. All has-beens who suddenly crave limelight again and are "coming clean for the benefit of cycling". After benefitting from sponsorships, endorsements and prize money throughout their entire careers - a lot directly attributable to their connection with Lance. And now, at the end of their career, they suddenly develop morals by doing "the right thing" - which is trying to portray Lance as the only villain and claiming that they were innocent pawns under the baseball-bat-scullbreaking-rule of Mafia ring-leader Lance Armstrong. Face it, you lily-livered, yellow-streaked turncoats, HE WAS STILL BETTER THAN ALL OF YOU COMBINED! And Livestrong will outlast anything you have ever achieved in life.... - 2012-10-12 13:25

      Rinus, clearly you're a big fan of the guy, judging by this and other comments you've made, and I also was until I read Tyler Hamiltons book, which openly exposes how they all doped in the TDF and other races. This makes Lance a lying cheat for me because he has always denied that he doped, when clearly he did. Using the argument that he shouldn't be done for it because all the rest were doping as well is like saying that it is ok for Julias Malema to be corrupt because the rest of the ANC guys are as well!! It does not make what he did, right!

      james.whyte.104 - 2012-10-12 14:19

      He is a fecking cheat

      rinus.groeneveld.7 - 2012-10-12 14:37

      endof, you are right, I am a big fan. And I am of the opinion that Hamilton's book would not have sold more than 100 copies if he did not market it by "telling on Lance" i.e. using his name. But that is beside the point. 1. I'm not professing Lance's innocence - I think it is pretty obvious that cycling, in general, is "dope ridden" and even more so, the TDF, since 1903. 2. 11 guys "confesses", pointing fingers at Lance and claiming they had no choice. As if he had a gun against the head. Confession or not, you are equally guilty. Unless you are Roman Catholic. 3. There are probably 3,000 other cyclists who have never confessed, but the cross-hairs are only on Lance. Why? Is it perhaps because he won too many times - just simply because he really was the best? Remember, the playing field was level - testimony revealed everybody doped! 4. I am still not going to judge - it is not my place to do that. And there was no "guilty" verdict sofar. 5. I am also not trying to say it is right to dope. Just that it is not right to focus a witch-hunt on one person. USADA is a Government agency - they simply will not get so much funding if they did not focus on a high-profile individual. Yet I'm sure their brief is to rid "Sport in general" of doping. This exercise helped squat. 6. A lying cheat that does great things is, for me, far better than a straight as an arrow honest person that does nothing at all. Even worse so if the only thing the latter does is criticize. And point fingers.

      John - 2012-10-12 21:31

      Rinus,, I agree on all your points. Could not have made them any better myself. Those other 11 have no honour in coming 'clean' . They made money off Lance Armstrong when he was racing and they're making money off him now, selling their books by pointing fingers at him. Lance may not be innocent, but I by no means think the 11 should be commended in any way. I think what they're doing now is far, far worse and hypocritical. Lance can still claim he is working to fight cancer with cancer patients. That is what he has after all his medals has been taken away, and that is far, far more noble than the books those hypocrites are selling.

      derek.francois.3 - 2012-10-12 21:33

      geez Rinus the cheerleader give it a rest already the arrogant scumbag deserves to go to jail, he cant even man up and admit he doped,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,to think of all the hours I spent watching the tours he won thinking he was awesome when in reality the guys a scumbag cheat..............

      rinus.groeneveld.7 - 2012-10-12 21:51

      Wow derek, you obviously did not read my posts. Thanks for proving my point(s)! And high 5... cents!

  • classwar.trotsky - 2012-10-12 11:32

    The only time he deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as cancer would be something like.... 'Lance Armstrong, indicative of the cancer of doping in sport....'

      rinus.groeneveld.7 - 2012-10-12 11:48

      And just conveniently forget the $65 million Livestrong raised and distributed to various cancer programmes in 2011 alone - on the back of the name 'Lance Armstrong'? Sad. Too many hypocrites walking around, pointing fingers, but doing NOTHING charitable, ever! Lance might not be the biggest Saint on this planet, but he is a far cry from justification as being labelled the biggest Sinner - a classic case of people living in glass houses that are throwing the first stones!!!??

      Jimmy NZ - 2012-10-12 12:02

      @Rinus, agreed mate! If only every other 'cheat' gave so much back!

      saintbruce.bruce - 2012-10-12 12:16

      How does a sportsman give blood for tests over 500 times and not one sign of a banned substance is found and 'suddenly'he has been doping all along? Please explain? If I eat a selected range of foods that boosts my metabolism and gives me an edge in my body's performance over someone else, is that doping? If medical science and sports bodies set up tests and conducted those tests to standards that thousands of competitors were subject to , and passed the standard, then a new test is developed which finds a new thing that may have been present with Everyone - does that now make every test taken in the past a FAIL? This whole thing does not make semse except for some guys being paid - money , or the lack of it being a root of evil behaviour - to sensationalise one of the greatest sportsmen alive for personal reward. I am not a fan of Lance's but I do admire his guts and determination in the face of real obstacles. If no medical evidence of doping was found at the time each blood sample was tested, then he is free and clear. If, however, it could be shown that the tests were not on blood drawn / urine provided in a live post race context, that would be a different matter and would pull in the race officials as well. My take is that this is just a very bad taste attack motivated by sour grapes and money.

      james.whyte.104 - 2012-10-12 14:19

      Fecking cheat, he is

      duanne.dames - 2012-10-12 14:53

      @saintbruce.bruce - it was impossible to test for EPO while Lance was cycling, but right about the time he retired a way to test for this banned substance was created. The evidence thus far does seem circumstantial yes . . the final report is over 1,000 pages and only 200 have been released thus far. 23 corroborating witnesses are not a good start.

      rinus.groeneveld.7 - 2012-10-12 15:08

      @ James: it is nearly impossible to ignore all the evidence and I for one, cannot admit that I have serious doubts about "never ever used anything". I mentioned this on another thread: Lance says: 'The bottom line is I played by the rules that were put in place' - he played by them, not abided. Also: 'I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999.' "Dealing" is not refuting or even rejecting - and the fact that he attaches it to 'having an unfair advantage' for me means that he assumes everybody else was doping so that he had no advantage over others. So my take: EVERYBODY in the TDF gets some form of "assistance" and it remains a constant race between what is banned and what can be detected (you cannot ban anything before you can find it!). Lance was just better than everybody else.

      hamish.drake1 - 2012-10-12 16:14

      Survey done yesterday in the US (can't seem to find the source,dammit) 50% don't believe that he doped and still look up to him as a hero. 80% don't care that he doped. This may explain why his sponsors have not abandoned the ship.

      george.outremer - 2012-10-13 11:26

      @Hamish - My take on this is this: what has the USADA actually achieved? Proven Armstrong guilty? Cleaned up the industry? Really? If anything, I believe they have done more harm to the sport in a) rubbishing the baseline tests of the time, by placing the validity of the tests and the ability, methods and procedures followed by the test officials in question. b) pursuing a determined and obsessive witch hunt against Armstrong. Maybe Armstrong is guilty. That the others who have confessed ARE guilty is now beyond doubt. So where does this leave us? I for one will always look at athletes as dopers - simply because the USADA has put it out there that the baseline methods and technology THEY use, can NEVER be trusted. And how about athletic champions - If an athlete is consistently successful - the question will always be out there - he/she could not achieve such results without the use of drugs.

  • richard.hipkin - 2012-10-12 12:12

    If he did dope and so was everyone else and he still beat them, does that still make him a winner? :)

      saintbruce.bruce - 2012-10-13 11:01

      From various reports I read after my post it seems to be pointing that direction. Everyone was trying to maximise the KW / Kg output from their bodies. I am told by a prominent SA rider of the past that 75 KW + / Kg of body weight is aimed for. If most of that wiry field are at the known limits of their output and endurance then only a few factors are left such as: 1) Personal motivation and determination 2) Equipment used is the best available / exclusive to your competitor 3) Care for the competitor is the best 4) Diet and food 'supplements' to aid recovery are the best. Somewhere in there is the formula for outstanding performance. It is likely everyone was doing those things to get their man to the front. Lance was clearly a better athlete that the rest of the field using the same formula. Success will always rise to the top even on the smallest margin. Basically if this process results in the taking away of titles, the organisers might as well pay back all the sponsors money wasted on a 'sham' event and never stage the Tour De France again!

  • jamesedmundbird - 2012-10-12 14:54

    whats the final decision on his 7 tour de france titles, because the Amaury Sport Organization who runs it said they were gonna wait to read the ASADA's findings before stripping him down?

      rinus.groeneveld.7 - 2012-10-12 14:59

      think they now have 21 days to decide if they will appeal USADA ruling that Lance will be stripped. Difficult decision for them because if they don't, it effectively means they admit that they were not doing their job

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