Lance Armstrong faces the loss of his seven Tour de France titles and a lifetime ban from cycling, but backers of his advocacy work for cancer patients showed undimmed admiration Friday.
“Thanks to all the amazing @livestrong supporters worldwide,” Armstrong said on Twitter, speaking of the Livestrong cancer awareness network his charitable foundation supports. “Donations today were UP 25x over yesterdays. Thank you thank you thank you!”
Lance Armstrong Foundation chief executive Doug Ulman told ESPN that $3,200 came in Thursday to the organization’s website, a fairly typical day. As of 4:30 pm (2030 GMT) on Friday, Ulman said $78,000 of unsolicited donations had been received, with 411 people donating compared to 45 on Thursday.
“Our mission is strong as a result of so many generous people,” Ulman said in a Twitter posting.
The US anti-doping agency said it was banning Armstrong for life and stripping him of the record seven Tour de France titles that helped him become a US sports hero and gave him a platform to speak out about cancer. USADA branded Armstrong a dope cheat a day after the 40-year-old Texan said he wouldn’t accept independent arbitration in a bid to clear himself of charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs to win cycling’s most prestigious race from 1999 to 2005. The agency laid out five rule violations for which Armstrong has been sanctioned, saying the cancer survivor who became a hero to millions took part in a systematic doping conspiracy, and said his results over a 14-year period starting on August 1, 1998 would be expunged.
Initial reaction from sponsors of Armstrong and his foundation was supportive, with sporting goods manufacturer Nike among several sponsors saying they would stick by him. The home of Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City will continue to be called Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting KC chief executive Robb Heineman said the club won’t consider renaming the $200 million sporting grounds that opened last year.
“The naming rights partnership between our stadium and Livestrong provides an opportunity to spread health and wellness messages that emphasizes the spirit of cancer survivorship,” he said. “Livestrong’s focus is the fight against cancer and the support of 28
million people around the world affected by this disease, and we believe strongly in this mission.”
The support of donors appeared to bear out the theory that many of those who admire Armstrong for his Livestrong message don’t care if the doping allegations that have long surrounded him are true. But for those who drew their inspiration from Armstrong’s sporting achievements in the wake of his own cancer fight, the issue may be murkier.
“Lance was a huge inspiration of mine,” tweeted Australian Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice. “I don’t know what to think now.”