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Originally published: 2012-08-25 18:10:45
Last modified: 2012-08-25 18:10:45

Our View: The mission of survival still No. 1 job

It is difficult enough to separate the myth from the man, but separating the man from the nonprofit organization might be necessary in the case of Livestrong and its founder, cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong, who once called Boone and our surrounding environments his favorite American training ground, was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles and banned for life by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Friday. These actions, under contention from the International Cycling Union which claims jurisdiction in the Armstrong doping case, came after Armstrong’s decision Thursday to give up his fight against the charges, saying “enough is enough” and calling the USADA investigation an “unconstitutional witch hunt.” The cyclist maintains his innocence and called the investigation a distraction from his philanthropic work.

We will never condone cheating as a means to an end, and doping, certainly, has  no place in the sporting arena.

However, the question now before millions of cancer survivors and their families is whether Armstrong can maintain the goodwill he has amassed with the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Livestrong, the organization he built 15 years ago.

Today, Armstrong’s records may be marked by an asterisk, but it is important to remember that he founded LAF in 1997, a year after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, and two years before he would win his first Tour de France.

The tour, and other subsequent major wins, were certainly instrumental in raising awareness of - and donations for - Armstrong’s foundation. Since 1997, Armstrong says his organization has aided 2.5 million cancer survivors and raised about $500 million.

But as inexplicably tied as the foundation and the man may be, the Tour de France is not the tour of duty Armstrong set before himself with LAF. Cycling has powered much of the organization’s mission, but it is not the mission itself - and it would be a sore loss to millions of cancer survivors if its resources and support were not available.

Will Armstrong need to distance himself from Livestrong to move the foundation forward?
That depends largely on public perception. And depending on that perception, Armstrong today is either an asset or a liability to the organization he began.

Moving forward, there is no doubt that whatever Armstrong does will affect the ability of LAF to market its work at the levels it has reached in the past. Indeed, such levels may not again be achievable.

But beyond perception is the good LAF accomplishes. It is up to its founder to make the right decisions about how to best climb the mountain of controversy now set before his greatest lifetime achievement.