August 3, 2010; Source: Associated Press | Champion cyclist Lance Armstong is used to being in the public spotlight, but the kind of attention he’s attracting from accusations that he used performance enhancing drugs might do more than just damage his wholesome public image. His charitable foundation, a major funder of cancer research, might also suffer irreversible harm.
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Armstrong, along with other champion racers, has been accused by a former teammate of doping. Although he hasn’t been charged yet and has said he’s never used drugs to increase his endurance, the Associated Press reports that some observers say his foundation, the nation’s 10th largest funder of cancer, based on revenue in 2008, could suffer if Armstrong can’t convincingly clear his name. “They [the foundation] are not going to be able to thrive if the person who is the spirit behind it is in trouble,” said Ken Berger, CEO of Charity Navigator, a watchdog group that analyzes 5,000 nonprofits in the U.S. “It is just going to devastate them.”
That said, Armstrong is convinced that his foundation, which last year took the operating name Livestrong, will not be hurt. In a statement to the Associated Press, Armstrong, a seven time Tour de France winner, said, “No one on our foundation team is going to be distracted by this witch hunt.” Zeta Interactive, a firm that tracks what people are saying online about celebrities, is less optimistic about Armstrong’s future. People are stating to use words such as “scandal,” “lie,” and “steroids,” when they talk about Armstong. As a result, Al DiGuido, Zeta’s CEO, says rather bluntly: “Anyone or anything associated with Lance Armstrong should be very worried right now.” The master of pedaling has a different kind of peddling to do now.—Bruce Trachtenberg