Lance Armstrong doping allegations could leave lasting stain on Livestrong

October 18, 2012

The damning and extensive report issued by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency last week may have erased any lingering doubt about Lance Armstrong’s alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. But despite his decision to step down as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation, one of the world’s most prominent supporters of cancer research remains tainted by Armstrong’s alleged deception. As Cindy Boren writes:

The contrast between Lance Armstrong, the inspirational cancer survivor, and Lance Armstrong, the disgraced cyclist, has never been more distinct. Armstrong’s reputation in cycling has been becoming increasingly tattered since this summer, with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s report last week labeling him a “serial cheat” and quoting former teammates who exposed the extent of his involvement in doping as he was winning seven Tours de France.

He lost a series of endorsement deals Wednesday, with Nike’s announcement that it was severing ties with him emboldening others. Trek, Giro, FRS, Honey Stinger, 24 Hour Fitness, Anheuser-Busch and Radio Shack all dumped him, with Oakley saying it would wait until the International Cycling Union issued its final report on Armstrong before making a decision. At this point, Armstrong is so toxic as a spokesman and so finished as an athlete at 41 that the decision was an easy one, even for Trek, which made Armstrong’s bicycles.

But Armstrong isn’t Barry Bonds or any other athlete who can be easily discarded as a cheat and a product of a corrupt era. He remains enormously popular as an advocate for cancer research and spokesman for cancer patients and survivors. Although he stepped down as chairman of his Livestrong Foundation on Wednesday, both Nike and Trek said they would continue to, as Trek put it on its website, “to support the Livestrong Foundation and its efforts to combat cancer.”

Matt Powell, an analyst at SportsOneSource, told the Wall Street Journal that “I’d be surprised if it the Livestrong brand was as big as $100 million. The Livestrong brand was more about the foundation and fighting cancer than it ever was about Lance Armstrong.”

Now that Armstrong has stepped back from Livestrong — a foundation built largely on the cyclist’s own reputation — the repercussions of his actions will have a lasting impact that extends beyond Livestrong. As Janice D’Arcy writes:

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.”

While the focus remains of the doping investigation remains firmly fixed on Armstrong, Spain’s anti-doping agency is seeking out those who helped supply Armstrong and his teammates with banned substances and considering retroactive punishment. As the Associated Press reports:

Spain’s anti-doping agency says state prosecutors could seek retroactive punishment against those who may have broken national laws during their alleged involvement in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

The AEA says it handed the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency dossier over to prosecutors to investigate whether charges should be invoked for crimes committed in Spain.

Spanish doctors Luis Garcia del Moral and Pedro Celaya and Pepe Marti are alleged to have been key figures in what USADA calls “the most sophisticated doping program that sport has ever seen.” It allegedly helped Armstrong win seven Tour de France titles from 1999-2005 for U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel. Former team principal Johan Bruyneel was a Spanish resident at the time.

More from Washington Post Sports:

As Lance Armstrong loses sponsors, what’s next for Livestrong

Lance Armtrong and cheating’s repercussions

Armstrong’s former manager fears defense of doping charges could be ‘prejudiced’

Lance Armstrong steps down as head of foundation

Nike drops Lance Armstrong

Document: USADA’s decision on disqualification and ineligibility of Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong’s legacy still in play

Sally Jenkins: Armstrong case reeks of hypocrisy

USADA strips Armstrong of titles, bans him from cycling

Statement: Armstrong says he will stop fighting doping allegations

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