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Armstrong foundation fighting for future

  • In this July 24, 2005 file photo, Lance Armstrong, of Austin, Texas, carries the United States flag during a victory parade on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, after winning his seventh straight Tour de France cycling race. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

AUSTIN, Texas — Lance Armstrong can never ride again in the world's top cycling races. His attempt to win elite triathlons in middle age is over. He even got booted from the Chicago Marathon.

His cancer-fighting foundation, however, plans to plunge ahead, despite the sanctions laid on Armstrong by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and its blistering report that portrays the cyclist as cheating his way through seven Tour de France victories. The agency has now ordered those wins erased.

To the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a $500-million charity built on the "Livestrong" brand, it's not about the bike. Chief executive and president Doug Ulman said the goal is to "keep fighting for the mission" of helping cancer victims.

He and the charity's other leaders are banking on the idea that the good done by Armstrong the cancer fighter will overcome any damage to the organization done by the fall of Armstrong the athlete.

"His leadership role doesn't change. He's the founder. He's our biggest advocate and always will be," Ulman said. "People with cancer feel ownership of the brand. It was created for them."

Although Armstrong canceled a public appearance in Chicago on Friday, Ulman said he will be a big part of several days' worth of events in Austin next week to celebrate the foundation's 15th anniversary, including a fundraising gala expected to raise $2 million.

Crisis management experts, however, think that might be the wrong approach.

Gene Grabowski, executive vice president of Levick, a Washington, D.C.-based crisis and issues management firm, suggested Armstrong step away from his public role for a while. The charity must be allowed to keep the focus on the work and should not engage in the public debate over whether Armstrong doped, he said.

"We have an iconic leader of an organization shown to allegedly have feet of clay," Grabowski said. "If the organization is that important to Lance, he might consider handing the reins to another high-profile person."

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