It seems as if in a blink of the eye, Lance Armstrong went from being America’s favorite athlete and survival story to the nation’s biggest liar. His story was an inspirational one. He beat cancer, created the LIVESTRONG foundation to help other cancer patients and then went on to beat the odds and win seven Tour De France Titles from 1999-2005. To everyone’s shock and disbelief, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a report that targeted Armstrong as a key player in the cycling drug ring early this past October. On October 15th, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France titles and banned completely from the sport. Following that, on October 17th Armstrong stepped down as chairman of his own foundation, LIVESTRONG, and most recently, on November 4th he decided to no longer be a part of LIVESTRONG’s executive board.
In an article titled “Lance Armstrong verdict upheld” published on espn.go.co on October 23rd, it was reported “’Early Tuesday, Armstrong’s profile said: ‘Raising my five kids. Fighting Cancer. Swim, bike, run and golf whenever I can.’ Previously, the profile said: ‘Father of 5 amazing kids, 7-time Tour de France winner, full time cancer fighter, part time triathlete.’” If this situation doesn’t sound like crisis PR, I can’t find a better example. I polled thirty BU students asking for comments and criticisms of Armstrong’s decisions in regards to his personal brand:
I was incredibly surprised that it was completely split down the middle! Although responses were not required for this question, only one response defended Armstrong, which said, “Not enough (any) evidence, in my opinion.” The three other responses argued that cheating is unacceptable and he shouldn’t have won.
This question went back and forth throughout the week, but it’s clear that 2/3’s of voters thought Armstrong should not have stepped down as chairman. One response claimed, “He was promoting a cause that went beyond his own life. If he was doing a good job with it, then perhaps that would help his reputation rise a little.” However, some argued it was appropriate for Armstrong to step down and contended, “You never want a great organization to have a stain like that.”
For the final question I asked, “Do Lance Armstrong’s actions reflect upon LIVESTRONG itself? Have your opinions of the organization changed? Would you still donate to the foundation or feel less inclined now?” I required all written responses rather than a yes or no, because although Armstrong is struggling to maintain his personal brand, it’s important to remember that his actions reflect upon his life-changing foundation as well. Twenty voters said that his actions did not affect their opinion, four said it made a slight impact, and seven said it did make a negative impact on their personal image of the brand. Here were some of the most thought-provoking responses:
I think Lance needs to fess up/apologize but state that his actions do not reflect LIVESTRONG itself and that the amazing cause should not be discredited as a result of his misdemeanors. I would not be less inclined because the charity should be thought of as a separate entity. Just because Lance was irresponsible does not make LIVESTRONG any less of a great organization.
No, my opinions have not changed. Dishonesty in his sport does not necessarily mean dishonesty in other aspects of his life. He’s done a lot of good with his foundation and that shouldn’t be taken away from him or the people his foundation benefits.
Yes, he affects his organization, but he isn’t the only factor. Maybe I feel less inclined to donate, but LIVESTRONG supports a great cause and had amazing advertising. You can’t forget how huge of a fad the LIVESTRONG bands were. That’s such an admirable feat.
We can only hope that the LIVESTRONG foundation and its amazing work will remain strong during this troubling time. Time will tell if Armstrong’s actions are a deciding role for the future of the foundation.