As Lance Armstrong's world comes crashing down around him, it seems reasonable to wonder what will happen to his Livestrong foundation and its programs. And if the foundation cannot survive, will that deal a serious blow to the war on cancer?
These are not easy questions to answer. But Bill Gifford, a longtime contributor to Outside magazine, has written a long piece that answers many of them. Among many other things, Gifford discovers that Livestrong contributes almost nothing to cancer research. What the foundation does do is contribute a lot to programs that provide good publicity for the embattled Armstrong.
One example Gifford cites is a global cancer summit Livestrong held in Dublin in 2009. Here's Gifford:
To kick things off, Livestrong hired Ogilvy, the famous advertising firm, to create a global cancer-awareness campaign leading up to the summit. Cost: $3.8 million. It spent another $1.2 million to hire a New York City production company to stage the three-day event. Then it paid more than $1 million to fly 600 cancer survivors and advocates to Dublin from all over the world—the U.S., Russia, Bangladesh, and 60 other countries. The former president of Nigeria even showed up.
That's a lot of money that doesn't directly help anyone with cancer.
Gifford does a nice job of reporting what he knows, reporting what others believe to be true, and distinguishing between the two. He doesn't paint a flattering portrait of Livestrong, but supporters of Armstrong and the foundation will see, I think, that Gifford has given their viewpoint its due.
Rumors are now swirling that Armstrong is considering admitting that he used performance-enhancing drugs to win his Tour de France titles. If he does, that might mean the end of the foundation. It's another sad part of a sad story. Whatever one thinks of Armstrong--and he doesn't come across as a very nice fellow in this story--it's always sad to see heroes fall.