Cyclist Lance Armstrong’s refusal to fight drug allegations by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was the best decision he could make for his Livestrong charity, a Columbia University professor said.
Armstrong, 40, has been stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport for life after announcing two days ago that he would not seek arbitration of the agency’s accusations. He did not admit guilt.
Columbia professor Doug White said in a telephone interview yesterday that Armstrong’s move was best for Livestrong, which changed its name from the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 2009,
“Charities have to be above and beyond reproach and since he’s the impediment to the charity, he did the best thing he could do,” said White, 59, who will teach courses in fundraising and ethics this fall. “I think there will be a real fragile period of probably a year where people will have to separate that issue from the good work he is trying to do and if they can’t do that then the charity is not going to go very far.”
The ban and loss of results since Aug. 1, 1998, come from anti-doping rules violations including possession, trafficking, administration and use of prohibited substances, according to an e-mailed release yesterday from USADA.
“Nobody wins when an athlete decides to cheat with dangerous performance-enhancing drugs,” USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said in the statement. “Any time we have overwhelming proof of doping, our mandate is to initiate the case through the process and see it to conclusion as was done in this case.”
Armstrong’s decision to not fight the accusations came three days after a federal judge in the cyclist’s hometown of Austin, Texas, rejected his request to block USADA from proceeding with its case.
“If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and -- once and for all -- put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance,” Armstrong said in a statement. “But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair.”
Armstrong won the Tour de France every year from 1999 to 2005, a record for the sport’s most prestigious race. He survived testicular cancer early in his career, and created Livestrong, a charity that has raised more than $470 million for the fight against cancer, according to its website.
Livestrong Vice Chairman Jeffery Garvey said in a statement yesterday that the charity supports Armstrong’s decision to avoid “a biased process.”
“Lance chose to put his family and his foundation first and we support his decision,” Garvey said. “Lance’s contributions to the fight against cancer are invaluable and we look forward to continuing the important work at hand.”
The foundation raised $51 million in private donations in 2011, after generating $50.8 million in 2010, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. It was ranked 343, the only athlete’s charity to be in the top 400.
John Seffrin, chief executive of the American Cancer Society, said he hoped the foundation would not be affected by the aftermath of Armstrong’s decision not to fight USADA’s charges.
“Reducing suffering and death from cancer is a moral imperative, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s contribution is sorely needed,” Seffrin said in a statement on the Livestrong website.
A “great deal of damage” has been done to Armstrong personally, Jason Maloni, senior vice president of Washington, D.C.-based Levick and chairman of the communications firm’s Sports & Litigation Practices. He called the recent events a “death by a thousand cuts” to Armstrong’s brand as an athlete.
Armstrong’s website lists Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s Michelob brand, Nike Inc., Trek Bicycle Corp. and RadioShack Corp. among his current sponsors, most of which have stood by him through doping allegations in the past.
Anheuser-Busch, Nike and energy nutrition company Honey Stinger, another sponsor, said in separate statements yesterday that they plan to continue supporting Armstrong and Livestrong.
“Our partnership with Lance remains unchanged,” Paul Chibe, vice president of U.S. marketing for Anheuser-Busch, said in an e-mailed statement. “He has inspired millions with his athletic achievement and his commitment to help cancer survivors and their families.”
Trek spokesman Bill Mashek said yesterday in a telephone interview that the company was monitoring recent developments and had made no decisions regarding the future of its business partnership with Armstrong.
“This is extremely damaging for cycling and very damaging for the Tour de France,” Nigel Currie, director of London-based sports marketing agency brandRapport, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Armstrong has been such a big part of the Tour de France for the past 20 years, and took it to new levels for the American market.”
The Amaury Sport Organisation, a French family business that has controlled the Tour de France since World War II, declined to comment on the outcome of the Armstrong case.
Armstrong has said for years that he has never failed a drug test and has repeatedly denied using banned substances.
After retiring from cycling in February 2011, Armstrong had been participating in triathlons until he was banned in June from events organized by the World Triathlon Corp., which owns the Ironman series, because of the USADA allegations. Armstrong started his career as a triathlete before switching to cycling in the 1990s.
“He has done a lot of work in bicycling and given it all away now,” White, the Columbia professor, said. “That’s a hell of a lot to walk away from, so something in his head is saying there is something more important, more important in my life and maybe it is the foundation.”