Following the release of a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report on cyclist Lance Armstrong's alleged doping activities, the former seven-time Tour de France champion's foundation is fighting for its future, the Associated Press reports.
The foundation, which has operated as Livestrong since 2009, is continuing to support and raise funds for cancer survivors, president and CEO Doug Ulman told the AP. Indeed, the Austin-based charity's leadership is hoping that the good done by Armstrong the cancer fighter will offset the damage done to the organization by the fall of Armstrong the world-famous athlete. Although he canceled a public appearance in Chicago last Friday, Armstrong — who denies the allegations and no longer comments on them — plans to appear at events marking the foundation's fifteenth anniversary this week, including a fundraising gala expected to raise $2 million. "His leadership role doesn't change," said Ulman. "He's the founder. He's our biggest advocate and always will be. People with cancer feel ownership of the brand. It was created for them."
The foundation reported a spike in contributions in late August, following Armstrong's announcement that he would not contest the USADA's doping charges. Still, some observers told the AP that Armstrong should hand over the reins of the organization or ask the public not to punish the charity for his alleged actions. "We have an iconic leader of an organization shown to allegedly have feet of clay," said Gene Grabowski, executive vice president of Levick, a Washington, D.C.-based crisis and issues management firm. "If the organization is that important to Lance, he might consider handing the reins to another high-profile person."
Corporate sponsorships may be at risk as well. While Armstrong's highest-profile backer, Nike, said last week that it would continue its support for the organization, several marketing experts told the Washington Post that any number of corporate sponsors could choose not to renew their support after their contracts expire. "They may let those contracts lapse, rather than cut him immediately," said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California. "They may choose not to feature him [in advertising or promotional campaigns] until the contracts run out. But for anyone to align with him now, it wouldn't make a lot of sense until the smoke clears."