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Fallen Idol in Sports Still Stands Tall in Healthcare World

The news was devastating.  Lance Armstrong, [[wysiwyg_imageupload:138:]]
one of the greatest athletes of our age, had just announced that he would no longer contest the USADA investigation on doping charges.  Although he did not admit to using performance enhancing drugs, and many believe he is innocent, the decision not to fight the charges was a stunning development.  As a result, Armstrong will be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and will be permanently banned from cycling.

But while perceptions of Armstrong’s role as an athlete may be altered by this development, what about his role as a philanthropist?  With Livestrong, his cancer advocacy group, Lance Armstrong has become as prominent in the world of health as he is in the world of cycling.

In 1997, following a battle with testicular cancer, Armstrong founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation with the goal of improving the lives of survivors of cancer.  Over the years, the Foundation morphed into Livestrong and became a behemoth in the world of cancer advocacy raising more than $500 million to fight cancer and serving 2.5 million people worldwide.  More than 1,100 grassroots Livestrong Day events are held in 65 countries.

An organization and its founder are joined at the hip when a scandal hits either one. Though the scandal was not personal, Nancy Brinker had to resign from the Susan G. Komen Foundation over the Planned Parenthood flap.  In the case of Livestrong, it is the founder involved in a scandal but the damage will likely spill over to the organization. 

Lance Armstrong’s story and his deep commitment to the cause of cancer survivorship have propelled the success of Livestrong.  His name and image are inextricably linked to the organization and there will be some fall-out as a result.  Yet longer-term the image and mission of Livestrong will endure.  The sheer weight of its contributions in the cancer world will ensure that.   Lance Armstrong’s star as an athlete may have dimmed, but in the world of healthcare it still shines bright.