My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Baby & the Bathwater

Over the last couple months I have been thinking about my relationship with LIVESTRONG. I think many of us that have fundraised for the organization have done so. I think the work the foundation does is excellent and really needed. I've met amazing people from Austin. I've met families that have benefitted from its services.

But I also know that there are many other nonprofits out there engaged in the fight against cancer. And they aren't tainted by their founder's disgrace.

Let me step back a moment. As you know LIVESTRONG was founded by Lance Armstrong. It was created in 1997. Before he "won" any Tours de France and as he came out of his own fight with testicular cancer. LIVESTRONG has now raised over $500M in its 15 years. Most of it on the account of Lance's fame and notoriety.

As we know now, that fame (& fortune) were ill-gotten gains. And while "everyone was doing it" and he never tested positive in any of the "hundreds of tests," the fact remains he doped. He cheated to win those yellow jerseys. And his fame from those "victories" made LIVESTRONG what it is today. (The details are laid out in this report by the US Anti-Doping Agency - a report that Lance has chose not to contest.)

I've seen five basic responses to the Lance news as it relates to LIVESTRONG:
  1. The die-hard supporters who are 100% behind the Foundation and Lance and still call him a 7-time TdF Champion.  They believe that the USADA report was a "witch hunt" and the fact that he "never" tested positive is proof of his innocence.
  2. The supporters who are behind the Foundation and, while accepting that the Tour victories have been erased, say that the good Lance has done as a cancer warrior outweighs whatever "bad" there is in his cycling career.  Therefore they continue to support LIVESTRONG and support Lance.  He has had a major and sometimes direct positive impact on people's lives.
  3. People who support LIVESTRONG and its work and want to separate the Foundation from the controversy surrounding Lance. This post on Huffington Post is a great example that comes from the author's personal experience.
  4. Some people are, understandably and reasonably, pulling away from the Foundation and shifting their efforts/support to other organizations. Here is a blog post from someone's personal blog laying out their reasons for doing so. And
  5. Lance's long-time critics who have also been critical of the Foundation and view it is a front to benefit it's founder, even before this summer's news.
Oh, and no, LIVESTRONG does not fund cancer research. Instead, it has focused where few other orgs have - on providing support and information to those who are just starting their fight against the disease. This work is important to patients and families that are shell shocked by the news that they have cancer. For more information, go here:

So, do you give up on a good organization because of the misdeeds of its founder? Do you throw the baby (LIVESTRONG) out with the bathwater (Lance and his cycling "accomplishments")? Some will say "yes, absolutely yes." Some will say "as long as he is still connected to the org, then yes." And some will say "no, I continue to support the work of the organization."

(For the record, Lance has not only resigned as Chairman of the Board, but also from the Board of Directors. In addition, the organization had also changed its name this last week from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Lance is no longer connected formally with the Foundation.)

As for me, I'm not giving up on the Foundation. I am going to continue my fundraising for LIVESTRONG. Unless the Foundation itself is mismanaging its resources. But there is no evidence of that. In fact, LIVESTRONG is a 4-star (its highest rating) charity according to Charity Navigator. See this link for the CharityNav rating and here for how the Foundation spends its money.

So, why am I sticking with the Foundation? Three reasons. The first is my sister Julie. The reason I started in 2010. (Miss you Sis!) Here's a link to my post in 2010 about why I chose LIVESTRONG when I started.
Julia Avery, 1961-1982
The other two reasons are two courageous young men I've met during the last couple of years while riding with the LIVESTRONG team on RAGBRAI: Drew Wall and Jack Hoeger. These boys have been fighting for years. And LIVESTRONG has been there for them. They and their families are witness to the positive work the Foundation does.  

Here is a video about Jack:
And a link to a previous post I wrote about these young men.

I guess I belong to the third group above.  So, no, I'm not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And I haven't cut my bracelet off either.  I will continue to work to raise money for LIVESTRONG through the RAGBRAI ride fundraising effort.  So when I call on you in the next few months, I hope that you will consider supporting my efforts. If you cannot because of your feelings about Lance, I hope you consider donating to another organization instead. It won't help my fundraising, but it's not about my fundraising. It's about doing good and helping. And bringing an end to cancer.

Thank you for your time!


  1. Good for you Bob! I have never been a huge fan of Lance Armstrong, but this is a perfect example of good coming from bad, it happens all the time and those who turn away are more concerned with their own image which is equivalent to pride. Lance's pride put him where he is, but he is human and he will always know what came of it, the good and the bad. God Bless you, LiveStrong and the Armstrong family.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for your feedback! I truly appreciate it.

  2. I commented once but it didn't come through. Bob, I will fully support your position and really appreciate the links to all other POV's. This is very helpful, fair and balanced. Beautiful tribute to your sister Julie.

    1. Thank you, Julie! I really appreciate you reading and commenting on this. And also for linking it to your blog.

      That pic of my sister is a self-portrait she took shortly before she died.

  3. Bob - I think you know where I stand...was never a lance the cyclist fan....and wasn't a cyclist. But I am with long as LIVESTRONG continues to provide FREE resources to not only those battling cancer, but their family members and those left behind when cancer has stolen loved ones, I will continue to support them and so whatever I can to allow this fantastic organization I fill the void in the cancer community. Research is great but it doesn't help the here and now. And more importantly, without LAnce's vision, none of this would exist. And I would not have the amazing friendships with others that get the cancer crap...that understand how far-reaching it's impacts have on so many lives-not only the survivor....or maybe I should state that Livestrong understands there are various types of survivors. And those friendships have kept me personally from drowning over the years. Without LIVESTRONG I wouldn't have crossed paths with you! So yes, they have my full support!!

    1. Thank you so much Barb for your reply! You hit on some GREAT points that I missed.

      I am so thankful to have met you this summer and gotten to know you. Take care, my friend! See you in July!

  4. Well said Bob, personally,I'm all for Lance screwing the system / playing the game for such a good cause :)

    1. Thanks for taking your time to read this Russ as well as for commenting. Don't agree with the last part, but that's ok.

  5. Bob: I came across your post/blog as I was searching for information about Drew Wall. (Sad news by the way.) You laid out one of the best (if not the best) positions for supporting the Foundation. I participated in the Austin Livestrong Challenge with my 17 year old son as supporters for the cause this past October. An inspiring and humbling experience to be among so many FIGHTERS. Thanks for all you do for so many others.

    1. Thank you so much, Jim for taking the time to visit my corner of cyberspace. I appreciate you reading and commenting on here.

      The news from Cedar Rapids earlier this month was quite sad, may Drew rest in peace.

      Best wishes! And LIVESTRONG!