A Last Chance for Lance

Posted in: Moore Thoughts | By: | October 21, 2012

The latest evidence on Lance Armstrong is that he is playing the poor, poor pitiful me card. Not a smart move. “I’ve been better,” Armstrong said over the weekend in Austin. “I’ve also been a lot worse.” This week, the International Cycling Union is expected to accept the doping scheme findings from USADA and the Texan will be formally stripped of his seven Tour de France yellow jerseys. His sponsorships worth millions are gone. His celebrity is tarnished. And things will only get worse.

They can. Seriously. The Livestrong Foundation could suffer greatly.

Regardless of the fact that he has stepped down from his cancer charity, Armstrong is the Livestrong brand. And it has been harmed. Early indications this weekend in Austin were that many people in the cancer fight and some in the cycling community are willing to overlook Lance’s cheating, lying, defrauding of taxpayers, and bullying of truth-seekers because of his work to fight cancer. 1700 attendees gave Armstrong a standing ovation at the 15th anniversary gala for Livestrong Friday and more than 4000 cyclists turned out for his Ride for the Roses Saturday to benefit the Livestrong charity. An estimated $4 million dollars were raised for cancer awareness. Two Trek bicycles from the manufacturer that dumped Armstrong were auctioned off for about $6000 each.

The big money, though, for Livestrong, is not in individual giving but is, instead, in corporate donors and sponsors. Many of those that have dropped the cyclist have expressed pride in their association and continued support for the charity, in spite of the 1000 pages of documentation that a fraud and cheater founded the organization. The lights are on now, and quite brightly, and big time funders are not going to run away from a cancer charity. As Armstrong departs, however, the philanthropic value may become less appealing to corporations that are constantly pressured to give to endless charities. Livestrong, to survive, will need to be rebranded under a new name and over time it becomes just another cancer charity competing with countless others for money.

Unless Lance Armstrong comes clean and apologizes.

Here’s what he could and should do: call a news conference to make a public confession and ask forgiveness. Hell, there’s nothing Americans love more than second chances and fallen heroes. Answer every question from every reporter for as long as they are being asked at the news conference. Offer every minute detail possible of what he did and how he did it. Say he’s sorry, over and over and over. And mean it. Tell people that they can punish him and take away his jerseys but they shouldn’t punish Livestrong and all of the people who need its help. Apologize to the people he and his consorts bullied and sued. Ask their forgiveness.

That’s just the beginning of redemption, however. Lance ought to also become a leader in the anti-doping movement that threatens to destroy him and has almost ruined the sport of competitive cycling. He can use his charisma and celebrity to bring attention to the problem, and young cyclists facing similar pressures might view him as an example of what could happen to their career if they make a bad choice to dope. Armstrong can still have significant impact on the sport that gave him fame and fortune, if he cares to help those coming along in his turbulent slipstream.

But this is really about his cancer charity. Armstrong has to be smart enough to know that a lot of friends and sponsors and donors are on the verge of permanently disappearing. Assuming the fight against cancer has been a part of his motivation to spin and win, Armstrong must understand that his refusal to make admission will, ultimately, jeopardize the future of his foundation. If that’s what he truly cares about, he has to come clean; let the critics hit him until there is nothing new to say. But ask them to leave Livestrong alone to do its work. Without an admission, an apology, and a request for forgiveness, Lance places his charity’s prospects at great risk. He needs to make full confession.

And this decision is easier than the one about whether or not to dope.

4 Comments for this entry

  • Christine C.

    I have found this scandal fascinating. I know Armstrong has throngs of supporters here in Austin – supporters that stand at events and applaud a man who has been proven to be a liar and an arrogant bully; is it because they want to support Austin’s own hero? Because it’s not heroic, the things he did to his teammates;the reptetive lying and manipulating, the way he took millions and lived a lavish lifestyle under false pretenses. He robbed hundreds of other men of the opportunity to be winners. Who knows if the doping in cycling is an epidemic. Maybe investigations will find that it’s worse than we think. But those young men who work and train all year to win this race must feel heartbroken, betrayed, and angry that they were not allowed to compete on a level playing field. It diminishes their entire life’s work, and it’s dispicable what Armstrong did to them, to their families, to all the young people who looked up to him, to the corporate sponsors who supported his lavish lifestyle with fat endorsement checks – and to the people who believed in him and his exceptionalism. I’m sorry. I don’t buy the whole ‘it’s not like he started a war or something’ excuse. What he did is reprehensible, and you’re right, James, until he’s a man who owns up to what he did, he’s just another narcissist like all the other narcissists throughout history who have publically fallen. And maybe he can recover some degree of status for his foundation by making that apology and coming ‘clean’ – but to me, I’d rather give money to an organization that was built on truth and on fairness; not one built on lies and deceit. I am not one of those who thinks what he did wasn’t that big of a deal. I think it was. And I think his brand, except perhaps here in Austin where apparently people are ok with his behavior, is mud now. And that has NOTHING to do with whether you support cancer research or not. Guess what; if you really want to give to cancer research, no one can stop you. So give and give proudly to a legitimate organziation. In the meantime, maybe Lance can donate all of his ill-gotten gains to cancer research, then figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. In the end, he’s the one that has to live with himself. But I’m not going to be one of those giving him a standing ovation when he walks by.

  • Jim

    Christine – thanks for the thoughtful note. I think you’ve pretty much struck all of the facts and nailed the hypocrisies. I still can’t quite fathom the whole thing and people who are acting like it’s all okay because he started a cancer charity. Or that everyone else cheated. This went so far beyond all of that. He didn’t just cheat; he built an entire infrastructure to cheat and then bullied people and suppressed the truth. All beyond comprehension to me. I can’t stand the guy. And anyone who tolerates his crap because he’s Lance certainly would not accept the same behavior from their children. – JM

  • Terry M

    Around the time Armstrong the cheat announced he would not fight the accusations against him, the world was mourning the passing of Neil Armstrong. I posted a comment on my Facebook page that highlighted the difference between Neil, who
    inspired so many people and launched so many dreams, and, Lance, who shattered the dreams and admiration of so many. I was then absolutely smashed with comments from people that had survived cancer or had someone close that had dealt with cancer.
    Not one of these people had read anything dealing with the allegations against Armstrong. Nor did it matter that I sent them links to the huge amount of evidence against him.
    All that mattered to them was that Lance Armstrong Sport Cheat and Fraud, worked to raise money for cancer research. A number of these people have stopped contact with me as a result…….no big deal. The big deal is that this fraud has built himself a buffer of supporters that see no evil.
    All I see is a bully, a fraud and a liar. I feel personally attacked by this con man. For every night I sat up late in Australia, cheering this man on in Le Tour. He conned me. For all the honest riders he beat, he cheated them. For every dollar he took, he defrauded those paying.
    He deserves no honor, he deserves no respect, he deserves no adoration, he especially deserves no sympathy !

  • Jim

    We are singin’ from the same song book, Terry. I always called it, “Raising the magic cancer shield.” He gets protected that way. It’s garbage, though, as you plainly state.

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