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Lance Armstrong says last few weeks 'difficult'

  • An autographed cycling jersey hangs in the offces of Livestrong, Lance Armstrong's cancer-fighting charity, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Armstrong stepped down as chairman of Livestrong on Wednesday. ((AP Photo/Jack Plunkett))

AUSTIN, Texas — Lance Armstrong said he has been through a "difficult couple of weeks" and urged supporters of his cancer-fighting charity to stand behind its mission.

"The mission is bigger than me. It's bigger than any individual," Armstrong said Friday night in his opening remarks at Livestrong's 15th anniversary celebration.

Armstrong has been turned into an outcast in professional cycling and most of his personal sponsors dropped him this week after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report detailing performance-enhancing drug use by the seven-time Tour de France winner. USADA has ordered him banned from cycling for life and stripped of his Tour de France victories.

Armstrong, who denies doping, didn't address the USADA report or the doping charges in his remarks. Instead, he focused on the mission of the foundation he started in 1997. Armstrong was diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain.

"I am ... truly humbled by your support," Armstrong said after receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of 1,700. "It's been an interesting couple of weeks. It's been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family, my friends and this foundation."

Armstrong said he's been asked many times how he is doing.

"I say, 'I've been better, but I've also been worse,'" said Armstrong, making his first public appearance since the USADA report was released last week.

On Monday, the International Cycling Union is expected to announce whether it will appeal USADA's sanctions.

The celebration gala came two days after Armstrong stepped down as chairman of Livestrong to help shield the charity from the fallout of the controversy swirling around him. He remains on the board of directors.

New chairman Jeff Garvey told the crowd he and Armstrong have made each other mad at times working together, "but he never let me down. He still hasn't."

Armstrong urged the crowd to continue fighting to help cancer patients and survivors.

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