- Special Pages
AUSTIN, Texas: Disgraced cycling icon Lance Armstrong, unable to lead his cancer-fighting foundation’s efforts or compete in world-class sports, could provide the first glimpse of his future today.
Armstrong will speak to supporters of his Livestrong anti-cancer charity at a 15th anniversary fund-raiser in his hometown of Austin, Texas, in his first public comments since his dramatic downfall in an epic doping scandal.
Key sponsors Nike, Trek bicycles and brewers Anheuser-Busch cut ties with Armstrong on Wednesday, a week after the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) revealed 1,000 pages of evidence supporting why it gave him a life ban from competition and stripped him of seven Tour de France victories. Engulfed by scandal and not wanting to taint the charity he worked so hard to set up and promote after winning his famous battle with testicular cancer, Armstrong stepped down on Wednesday as Livestrong’s chairman.
His speech today will be witnessed by a nominally friendly crowd of Livestrong backers, with organisers releasing a video recording afterwards on YouTube -- so there will be no tough questions about his fall from grace.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) is studying USADA’s report to see if it will accept the findings, based upon testimony from 26 witnesses that include 11 former Armstrong team-mates, or reject the punishment, likely setting up a hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
But before that, Armstrong faces a speech before those who were his most inspired supporters, a group that might now be among those who feel the most betrayed to discover his spectacular feats were accomplished by doping. David Carter, a sports business professor at the University of Southern California and executive director of USC’s Sports Business Institute, said any Armstrong journey to reclaim public respectability must include a confession.
“The only way they come back is when they take personal responsibility and accountability for what they’ve done,” Carter said. “He has not taken responsibility.”
That sets the stage for what could be an emotional moment of truth for Armstrong. If not, there may be are hints about where the once-revered cycling legend goes from here.
Could Armstrong, who has denied any wrongdoing for years, suddenly now admit that he was at the heart of a massive doping scheme when he won the Tour de France seven times in the row from 1999 through 2005?
Or might an increasingly isolated Armstrong lash out at his accusers, attacking those who testified against him as taking a deal for decreased suspensions as part of an epic conspiracy against the man they helped make a champion? In any case, Armstrong’s longest-lasting legacy might not be his vacated cycling titles or his elaborate doping schemes, but the Livestrong foundation that might prove in this case the ends justify the means. Sponsors have said even as they distance themselves from Armstrong that they will continue to support Livestrong, which has raised nearly $500m.
Armstrong quit as Livestrong’s chairman so it might not become hit by the scandal and that seems to have worked out well for the charity, which also sponsors a biking event this weekend.
“It has been a great privilege to help grow it from a dream into an organisation that today has served 2.5 million people and helped spur a cultural shift in how the world views cancer survivors,” Armstrong said. More than 80 million of Livestrong’s yellow wristbands have been sold and its future does not appear nearly as uncertain as that of Armstrong. “It’s hard to tell how far they’ll bounce down,” Carter said. “The sooner they can create a new environment the better it’s going to be for them in terms of getting across the message of what the foundation’s all about.”