LIVESTRONG should stand strong

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Purdue.

Lance Armstrong a charlatan, a fraud and a pathological liar? Or is he one of
our greatest champions in the fight against cancer? Or both?
LanceIn the end, it doesn't really matter. Certainly there's a mountain of evidence
suggesting that Armstrong doped his way to seven Tour de France victories…as
well as worldwide fame and piles of lucre. But what really matters is that the
charity he helped found, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (aka the LIVESTRONG
Foundation) doesn't suffer for one man's alleged transgressions. Unfortunately,
in our world where public image is everything, I fear it will.

I've been a "cyclist" since I was 8, and I was a very amateur bike
racer for seven years. So from my view in the saddle, if Lance cheated to the
extent so many people inside the sport say he cheated, he deserves to spend the
rest of his days delivering greasy Chinese food in Queens on a rusty

But, in the end, so what if he did? If you bought a Lance Armstrong jersey and
now feel "cheated," too bad. Doping has been synonymous with
professional cycling for decades. You should have known better. And if you're a
Nike shareholder who feels Lance "stole" his fortune in endorsement
money, too bad. Why invest in a grown man who makes his living riding a
bicycle? You should have known better.

But if you want to attack the charity that Lance helped build because of his
alleged transgressions, you need to get your head — and your heart —
examined. Do you disdain Social Security because FDR had an affair with Lucy
Rutherfurd? Do you pooh pooh the Civil Rights Movement because MLK had

Unfortunately, in today's PR-crazed age, LIVESTRONG now has an image problem.
That's tragic. This charity that continues to offer amazing services and
information to cancer patients and their families now has to expend valuable
time and resources fighting a PR battle because its founder might have made
some very poor decisions. There are web-fueled campaigns urging fans to return
Nike LIVESTRONG products to stores.
Hamilton Nolan on is giving us all the okay to trash our yellow LIVESTRONG
bracelets. Thanks for that, Hamilton.

So what would I do if I were
LIVESTRONG’s PR counsel? I’d suggest they tackle the problem head on. Yesterday
I received an email blast from LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman, asking for donations
during a time “when our community has to pull together.” The message was
powerful and heartfelt, soliciting support to show that LIVESTRONG can
“persevere in the face of adversity.” But I think Ulman did his constituents a
disservice by NOT mentioning Lance Armstrong by name. In fact, I’m not really
sure what adversity Ulman was writing about. The fire and brimstone directed at
Lance? The concept that Lance may have lied to the world for years? The
suggestion that Lance fans trash their LIVESTRONG-branded gear?

What, exactly, is Ulman so down
about? What do he and the organization think about the controversy? LIVESTRONG’s
supporters deserve to know. Having a straight talk with them would be the first
step toward making certain that Lance Armstrong’s charity survives his own
personal meltdown. Because if it does not, that would be the real tragedy.

Full disclosure: I know LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman personally. I
have not communicated with him about this situation.

6 thoughts on “LIVESTRONG should stand strong

  1. Excellent post, Matt. Lance is a charlatan, a fraud, a pathological liar and a bully to boot.
    Being a cancer survivor doesn’t make you a saint, just human. The reality is that Lance was a jerk before the cancer, and became a greater one during the glory Tour years. It’s all coming out now. At least Shoeless Joe Jackson didn’t try to deny it when the kid said “say it ain’t so.”
    While I agree that LIVESTRONG doesn’t deserve to suffer for its founder’s transgressions, it probably will. As earnest and heartfelt as Ulman’s message is, it’s all wrong. Acting like it’s everyone’s moral duty to support LIVESTRONG in their time of need sounds sanctimonious.
    Assuming they are willing to listen, I think LIVESTRONG could use some good strategic counsel a la Peppercomm.

  2. Hopefully, Livestrong will stand strong. The organization’s focus on living and surviving is amazing. Livestrong also supports smaller cancer charities which is invaluable. I’m OK that my kids still wear their yellow bracelets. It’s about making life better for those who have been dealt a bad lot. They are fully aware of the scandal in regards to cycling but have not put it in the context of the organization that provided them with summer camp.

  3. And just to be clear Matt, as someone who knows of the good, charitable work that you do, and the organization that you support, I fully respect you, your opinion and your concern that this could hurt cancer-related donations. Hopefully, the outcome is that smaller charities, with low overhead and no controversy will ultimately benefit from this.

  4. Mr. Armstrong is a disgrace, and has no one to blame but himself. His notoriety, fame and personal fortune is built on his cheating. And let’s not pretend that because everyone was doing it, that somehow Lance is less wrong. He was clearly in charge of everything that happened with the USPS team, and he was clearly willing to throw anyone who crossed him under the bus. His repeated and vehement denials, along with his vindictive bullying and threats of everyone from his teammates to Greg Lemond to Betsy Andreu to his soigneur, is no one’s fault but his own. He has benefitted personally and professionally – in notoriety and finances – from his behavior, and now he’s paying the price. No sympathy here.
    Comparing Mr. Armstrong’s crimes to those of FDR or MLK is unfair, as are the Michael Vick and Tiger Woods analogies that are being floated around. Armstrong’s cheating directly impacted the outcome of his sport and directly benefitted him. That’s very different than pointing to indiscretions and imperfections that don’t have anything to do the outcome of the sport or politics.
    Maybe Livestrong can thrive without Armstrong, though I doubt it. You know better than I, but I suspect that (as has been suggested elsewhere) that cancer donations are a zero-sum proposition. As someone who has previously donated to Livestrong, I don’t intend to pocket that extra money now, but rather will donate it to other cancer related charities.
    If Livestrong goes away, there are plenty of worthy organizations that donors can support. Perhaps Livestrong (via Ulman and Armstrong) could help direct their former donors in that direction. This way, those who simply want to support a good cause will continue to do so, and the fanboys who refuse to believe that their hero could ever do wrong, will still have an outlet for their Lance-fueled donations.