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‘Revelations and disclosures’ see charity pay price for close association with its founder

Recently released federal forms have revealed that Livestrong, the cancer charity founded by Lance Armstrong saw a significant drop in donations in 2013. The disgraced cyclist’s admission that he relied heavily on performance enhancing drugs during his career has apparently had a major impact, despite the fact that Armstrong no longer sits on the Livestrong board

US media are reporting that Livestrong donations were down by 34 per cent to $15m from almost $23m the year before. Total revenue was also down with a number of commercial sponsorships being either cancelled or not renewed. Although the charity didn’t name Armstrong explicitly, reference was made to ‘revelations and disclosures’ as being a major reason for the downturn.

The charity’s donations have long been closely linked to Armstrong’s activities. In 2009, the year he made his comeback in the Tour de France, they hit $41 million. But it now seems that Livestrong – originally known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation – may be paying the price for the close connection.

It has been suggested that the glut of Armstrong interviews in recent times has been an attempt to improve his image. If that is the case, he cannot possibly hope to undo all the damage. Speaking to CNN last month, there was even an admission that if it weren’t for the federal investigation, he may never have confessed:

“Once you say ‘no’ you have to keep saying ‘no’. If this stuff hadn’t taken place with the federal investigation, I’d probably still be saying ‘no’ with the same conviction and tone as before.”

The comment will do little to persuade people that he has changed, and later in the same interview, when it is suggested that he might seek therapy, he replies:

“My therapy is riding my bike, playing golf and having a beer.”

While there have been suggestions that Armstrong would be welcome back at Livestrong, Daniel Borochoff, founder of CharityWatch, a charity rating and evaluation service, appears scornful of the idea. He emphasises the need for the charity to distance itself from its founder.

"People go through a mourning process when they hear of the scandal. They were a big supporter, he was a big hero and they were fans. Then you're embarrassed and ashamed. It's a lot of emotions. Later, your rational facilities take over and realise the organisation serves a worthy purpose, that it is not a man and can bring in new leadership."

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