The other bike cleat has dropped. The fall has added yet another element to what has become Lance Armstrong’s cautionary tale.
Armstrong has stepped down as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation, the charity he created on behalf of cancer patients, “to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career.”
Livestrong has been an inspirational effort, raising millions for cancer research and introducing kids across the country to concept and worthiness of charity.
It was also a foundation built on and largely fueled by a single reputation. Now that that reputation has been ruined, Livestrong’s future is murky.
Wednesday, Nike, the primary sponsor of Livestrong and closely associated with the seven-time winner of the Tour de France, terminated his contract. Officials said the cyclist misled them about his doping.
Armstrong has denied doping, but the USADA’s evidence includes statements from 11 former teammates and physical evidence.
Parents have already had to explain the Armstrong saga to kids who idealized the cyclist or, in so many cases, adopted the enthusiasm for him from their own parent. Cheaters only cheat themselves, has been the mantra.
Now, it turns out, this case of alleged cheating has triggered even further and longer-lasting repercussions. It is poisoning good, honest work.
Of the hundreds of commenters who responded to today’s Post story on Armstrong, several chastised Livestrong along with its founder.
One reader wrote:
“I’m a bit surprised … that people don’t take a more cynical view of Armstrong’s charity. He used it, no doubt, as a way to inoculate himself from charges of impropriety or cheating. After all, who would impugn the motives or reputation of a cancer survivor and cancer fundraiser? Whatever good his foundation did it also (conveniently) made him personally wealthy and conferred an almost unimpeachable status of athletic ‘royalty’.”
“I think Livestrong did some good through the years but I also agree it was basically a smoke screen for the fraud that is Lance Armstrong. He used the power of Livestrong and its legal resources to squash anyone who thought to expose or confront him.”
This is a charity that claims to have raised about $500 million for cancer research and services for cancer patients. It’s one that introduced the wristband ethic, which kids, in particular, embraced and have used as a model for countless charity efforts of their own. It will now be known more for it’s founder’s association with drugs and lies.
It’s a sad consequence that also serves as a good lesson, for kids and their parents and coaches, too.
Fred Bowen, who writes about sports for kids in The Post, said the spectacle has reminded him of a column he wrote in 2007 when Barry Bonds was closing in on breaking the home run record and Floyd Landis was accused of doping to win the Tour de France.
In it, he wrote, “Sports are moving in the wrong direction these days. We all need to get our games back — honestly.”
He went on to make a point that he reiterated to me today: “An honest effort that falls short must be admired as much as a victory. When we can do that, we will be on the road back to reclaiming what is best about our sports.”
What are your thoughts on Lance Armstrong and Livestrong? Have you explained the news to your kids?