In an interview with Oprah Winfrey last month, Lance Armstrong publicly admitted to doping during his miraculous cycling career. Since then, much speculation has surrounded the future of the Livestrong Foundation, the cancer charity that Armstrong, a cancer survivor himself, founded in 1997.
“Will Livestrong weather the storm of its founder’s disgrace?” wonders Nonprofit Quarterly. NPQ reports that Armstrong stopped by the Livestrong offices to apologize before admitting publicly to his indiscretions, but did not explain that he was apologizing not just for using performance-enhancing drugs over the course of his Tour de France victories, but also for lying about using them and bullying teammates into not speaking out. Writing about the ongoing issue of doping in professional sports, NPQ’s Rick Cohen asserts, “At some point, the history of denials and umbrage…become co-equal parts of the story.”
According to The Atlantic, Armstrong told the Livestrong staff that his admission and apology were steps toward saving the reputation of the foundation – which many still associate with Armstrong. In October, when he stepped down as chair of the foundation a week after the United States Anti-Doping Agency released its October report placing him at the center of a sophisticated doping scheme, both Nike and Anheuser-Busch terminated their endorsement deals with Armstrong. Both companies, however, along with the American Cancer Society, said that they would remain involved with Livestrong without Armstrong at the helm.
The American public wants to believe in heroes, writes NPQ’s Cohen, “and will do so past mounting evidence that their heroes have clay feet.” But a charity associated with a “hero” is likely to take a hit when evidence suggests that the athlete (or other public figure) is more interested in himself or herself than in doing good works. However, an article from Forbes voices the possibility that Armstrong’s confession could actually help Livestrong more than it could help his own future earnings. Patrick Rishe writes that although “some will never forgive a cheater in competitive sport, many of those same people will not short-change those fighting cancer simply to spite their once hero turned fraud.”
Is the American public likely to – or even capable of – separating Livestrong’s efforts from its founder’s scandal? Weigh in here.