Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bicycling Legend Lance Armstrong Takes a Tumble From His Seat as Hero

Individuals can be victims of crises the same as organizations can.

I had good friends in Portland, Oregon, who were avid bikers. I remember being together during the Tour de France, when they checked the results regularly on TV. They cheered for Lance Armstrong. He was not only much better than every other biker in the world, but he was a cancer survivor involved in raising money for cancer research.

Armstrong's legacy has crashed in disgrace. The Armstrong name used to mean excellence; now, after years of investigation and allegation, it means cheating. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency now says there is overwhelming evidence Armstrong was involved as a professional cyclist in "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program." Armstrong continues to insist on his innocence, but has been quiter on the subject lately.

The scandal is costing Armstrong a lot more than his reputation. The latest and greatest fall from grace came Monday when the International Cycling Union stripped the 41-year-old of his record seven Tour de France titles. "'Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling,' said the union's president, Pat McQuaid, announcing that Armstrong is also banned from the sport."  (http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/22/sport/lance-armstrong-controversy/index.html?hpt=hp_t3)

In a statement, the union, world cycling's governing body, wrote, "Today's young riders do not deserve to be branded or tarnished by the past or to pay the price for the Armstrong era."

The French Cycling Federation reissued its call for Armstrong to return 2.95 million euros (nearly $4 million) that he collected for winning the tours. On top of that, SCA Promotions wants its money back. "The Texas insurance company covered bonuses that Armstrong was promised if he won the Tour de France. In 2002, it paid him $1.5 million; in 2003, $3 million, according to a Texas Monthly article that SCA posted on its website. But after his 2005 victory, SCA withheld a promised $5 million bonus, citing reports that Armstrong had doped. He fought back in court and won. SCA had to pay not only the $5 million but also attorneys' costs and fees, bringing the total that year to $7.5 million."
 
Oakley became the latest on a list of sponsors that have backed out of deals with Armstrong. The company outfitted him in sunglasses and other gear and joined Nike, RadioShack, Anheuser-Busch, and others in pulling the plug. Sponsors, however, vowed to continue supporting the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which fights cancer through a program called Livestrong.

The International Olympic Committee is reviewing the evidence and might revoke Armstrong's bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Games.

"Monday's news conference turned somewhat contentious as reporters asked whether the cycling union had looked the other way for years despite growing allegations of widespread doping in the sport. Armstrong had made two donations to the union for anti-doping technology."
 
Perhaps UCI (French abreviation for International Cycling Union) will need to deal with a crisis of its own. "(McQuaid) wrote off any suggestion that Armstrong's contributions had led the organization to make any decision on the issue.
'The UCI has tested Lance Armstrong 218 times. If Lance Armstrong was able to beat the system, then the responsibility for addressing that rests not only with the UCI but also with' the anti-doping agencies that accepted the results, the cycling union said in its statement."
 
Armstrong resigned as chairman of his foundation (http://www.livestrong.org/) last week but said he will continue to be involved. Some of the foundation's donors are demanding their money back. "We will not be deterred," Armstrong said Friday night at the organization's 15th anniversary celebration in Austin. "We will move forward."
 
"His attorneys did not immediately respond to CNN's requests for comment Monday, and the foundation said it would not make a statement."
 
Translation: Neither was prepared.
 
Armstrong's only hope to deal with this crisis would have been to tell the truth to begin with. That's a lesson for all of us. The bigger the lie, the harder we fall.

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