Yesterday evening brought the news that the International Cycling Union has stripped Lance Armstrong of all seven of his Tour de France titles. On the heels of USADA's damning investigative report and the subsequent mass exodus of Armstrong's sponsors, the ICU's decision is the capper of what's been a very bad few weeks for Lance. But Armstrong's legacy is a complicated thing. Our own Shlara weighs in on that aspect of this story:
LIVESTRONG is so much more than Lance Armstrong
I’ve never been a big fan of Lance Armstrong, the athlete.
He’s like the New York Yankees of cycling, and I prefer an underdog.
But Lance Armstrong, the cancer survivor, is an inspiration to me.
And I would bet that hundreds of thousands of cancer patients and fellow survivors agree.
I’ve pontificated several times in the blogosphere about the impact Lance Armstrong’s steroid use would/could/should have on the foundation he started, LIVESTRONG. I’ve been following the series of announcements over the last few days—Nike and Radio Shack discontinuing sponsorships of Lance, Anheuser-Busch stating it will not renew at the end of its 2012 contract and Lance himself stepping down as the Chair of the LIVESTRONG board of directors.
As a communications professional, I agree that Lance did the right and responsible thing for the organization. His personal drama was causing a distraction for LIVESTRONG and taking important attention and resources away from mission-focused work. He is giving the Foundation space to distance itself from the doping conversation and helping protect it from future damage. Reputationally, I still do not believe that the Foundation will take a big hit.
LIVESTRONG is preparing to celebrate a 15th anniversary and in that time has proven to be a valuable resource and advocate for cancer patients and their families. It’s a massive grassroots network of people sharing advice and experiences. It’s the most comprehensive, yet easy-to-use collection of practical resources for patients navigating treatment (test, doctors, options, insurance, etc.) It’s collaboration across silos for research. It’s a focus on living your life during and after treatment. The organization is substantive, well-managed and has a well-known and well-respected brand that does not rely on Lance.
The foundation’s financial health, however, may take a hit from Lance’s personal and professional decisions. About 30 percent of revenue for LIVESTRONG comes from cause-marketing and licensing (read: deals with Lance’s sponsors). Now that many of those relationships have been discontinued, LIVESTRONG needs to identify other streams of revenue. Hopefully the leadership has been considering how to diversify the funding pool and can take the necessary steps to shift funding sources with minimal disruption to the programs.
Personally, I’m rooting for LIVESTRONG. They, and Lance, have inspired me to stay tough and positive in my own battle with cancer and I know their support and message is invaluable to others (See: LIVESTRONG manifesto). LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman said it best in a November 2010 Fast Company article: “In the sports world, [Lance] is a very polarizing figure. In cancer, he’s not.”
LIVESTRONG is approachable, empowering and innovative.
It’s an incredible force in the cancer universe and health care writ large.
And people like me will continue to wear a yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet and support the foundation with time and money because it is a source of hope, strength and determination.
Brother of FOGTB KQ, TJ Quinn, has been covering the Lance/steroid story since it started. In one of his ESPN segments yesterday, Quinn said, “I can’t tell you how many people I know that wear those yellow wristbands…people wanted so badly to believe in this guy.” Count me in that camp. Still. Despite all of the information that has been uncovered about the steroids. And, one of TJ’s twitter followers (Tim Clough, @coopersam), so perfectly captured the reason why on Twitter: “blame me or not but [my] head is going in the sand. He inspired my mom to fight cancer. The rest means nothing.”
Lance started this, but the rest of us fighters and survivors make it go now.