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Livestrong fighting for future

  • FILE - This March 21, 2009 file photo shows Lance Armstrong, of the United States, beside fellow countryman George Hincapie, left, during the Milan-San Remo cycling classic in San Remo, Italy. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says 11 of Lance Armstrong's former teammates testified against him in its investigation of the cyclist, revealing "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    FILE - This March 21, 2009 file photo shows Lance Armstrong, of the United States, beside fellow countryman George Hincapie, left, during the Milan-San Remo cycling classic in San Remo, Italy. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says 11 of Lance Armstrong's former teammates testified against him in its investigation of the cyclist, revealing "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • FILE-This July 1, 1999 file photo shows American cyclists Jonathan Vaughters, left, and Lance Armstrong sharing a light moment during medical checks for the Tour de France cycling race at Le Puy du Fou, western France.  Vaughters testified that he saw Armstrong inject himself in the stomach in 1998 and that, "from that point on, while I was on the U.S. Postal Service team, Lance was open with me about his use of EPO." (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

    FILE-This July 1, 1999 file photo shows American cyclists Jonathan Vaughters, left, and Lance Armstrong sharing a light moment during medical checks for the Tour de France cycling race at Le Puy du Fou, western France. Vaughters testified that he saw Armstrong inject himself in the stomach in 1998 and that, "from that point on, while I was on the U.S. Postal Service team, Lance was open with me about his use of EPO." (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

  • FILE-This July 1, 1999 file photo shows American cyclists Jonathan Vaughters, left, and Lance Armstrong sharing a light moment during medical checks for the Tour de France cycling race at Le Puy du Fou, western France.  Vaughters testified that he saw Armstrong inject himself in the stomach in 1998 and that, "from that point on, while I was on the U.S. Postal Service team, Lance was open with me about his use of EPO." (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

    FILE-This July 1, 1999 file photo shows American cyclists Jonathan Vaughters, left, and Lance Armstrong sharing a light moment during medical checks for the Tour de France cycling race at Le Puy du Fou, western France. Vaughters testified that he saw Armstrong inject himself in the stomach in 1998 and that, "from that point on, while I was on the U.S. Postal Service team, Lance was open with me about his use of EPO." (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

  • FILE-This July 1, 1999 file photo shows American cyclists Jonathan Vaughters, left, and Lance Armstrong sharing a light moment during medical checks for the Tour de France cycling race at Le Puy du Fou, western France.  Vaughters testified that he saw Armstrong inject himself in the stomach in 1998 and that, "from that point on, while I was on the U.S. Postal Service team, Lance was open with me about his use of EPO." (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

    FILE-This July 1, 1999 file photo shows American cyclists Jonathan Vaughters, left, and Lance Armstrong sharing a light moment during medical checks for the Tour de France cycling race at Le Puy du Fou, western France. Vaughters testified that he saw Armstrong inject himself in the stomach in 1998 and that, "from that point on, while I was on the U.S. Postal Service team, Lance was open with me about his use of EPO." (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

  • FILE - This is a July 24, 2005, file photo showing overall leader Lance Armstrong, of Austin, Texas, surrounded by press photographers, signaling seven,  for his seventh straight win in the Tour de France cycling race, prior to the start of the 21st and final stage of the race,  between Corbeil-Essonnes, south of Paris, and the French capital. The world may soon know what the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has on Armstrong. USADA has said it had 10 former teammates ready to testify against Armstrong before he chose not to take his case to an arbitration hearing. The list likely includes previous Armstrong accusers Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

    FILE - This is a July 24, 2005, file photo showing overall leader Lance Armstrong, of Austin, Texas, surrounded by press photographers, signaling seven, for his seventh straight win in the Tour de France cycling race, prior to the start of the 21st and final stage of the race, between Corbeil-Essonnes, south of Paris, and the French capital. The world may soon know what the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has on Armstrong. USADA has said it had 10 former teammates ready to testify against Armstrong before he chose not to take his case to an arbitration hearing. The list likely includes previous Armstrong accusers Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

  • FILE - This March 21, 2009 file photo shows Lance Armstrong, of the United States, beside fellow countryman George Hincapie, left, during the Milan-San Remo cycling classic in San Remo, Italy. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says 11 of Lance Armstrong's former teammates testified against him in its investigation of the cyclist, revealing "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    FILE - This March 21, 2009 file photo shows Lance Armstrong, of the United States, beside fellow countryman George Hincapie, left, during the Milan-San Remo cycling classic in San Remo, Italy. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says 11 of Lance Armstrong's former teammates testified against him in its investigation of the cyclist, revealing "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • FILE - This March 21, 2009 file photo shows Lance Armstrong, of the United States, beside fellow countryman George Hincapie, left, during the Milan-San Remo cycling classic in San Remo, Italy. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says 11 of Lance Armstrong's former teammates testified against him in its investigation of the cyclist, revealing "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • FILE-This July 1, 1999 file photo shows American cyclists Jonathan Vaughters, left, and Lance Armstrong sharing a light moment during medical checks for the Tour de France cycling race at Le Puy du Fou, western France.  Vaughters testified that he saw Armstrong inject himself in the stomach in 1998 and that, "from that point on, while I was on the U.S. Postal Service team, Lance was open with me about his use of EPO." (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)
  • FILE-This July 1, 1999 file photo shows American cyclists Jonathan Vaughters, left, and Lance Armstrong sharing a light moment during medical checks for the Tour de France cycling race at Le Puy du Fou, western France.  Vaughters testified that he saw Armstrong inject himself in the stomach in 1998 and that, "from that point on, while I was on the U.S. Postal Service team, Lance was open with me about his use of EPO." (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)
  • FILE-This July 1, 1999 file photo shows American cyclists Jonathan Vaughters, left, and Lance Armstrong sharing a light moment during medical checks for the Tour de France cycling race at Le Puy du Fou, western France.  Vaughters testified that he saw Armstrong inject himself in the stomach in 1998 and that, "from that point on, while I was on the U.S. Postal Service team, Lance was open with me about his use of EPO." (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)
  • FILE - This is a July 24, 2005, file photo showing overall leader Lance Armstrong, of Austin, Texas, surrounded by press photographers, signaling seven,  for his seventh straight win in the Tour de France cycling race, prior to the start of the 21st and final stage of the race,  between Corbeil-Essonnes, south of Paris, and the French capital. The world may soon know what the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has on Armstrong. USADA has said it had 10 former teammates ready to testify against Armstrong before he chose not to take his case to an arbitration hearing. The list likely includes previous Armstrong accusers Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
  • FILE - This March 21, 2009 file photo shows Lance Armstrong, of the United States, beside fellow countryman George Hincapie, left, during the Milan-San Remo cycling classic in San Remo, Italy. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says 11 of Lance Armstrong's former teammates testified against him in its investigation of the cyclist, revealing "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

His cancer-fighting foundation, however, plans to plunge ahead, despite the sanctions laid on Armstrong by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and its blistering report that portrays the cyclist as cheating his way through seven Tour de France victories. The agency has now ordered those wins erased.

To the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a $500-million charity built on the “Livestrong” brand, it’s not about the bike. Chief executive and president Doug Ulman said the goal is to “keep fighting for the mission” of helping cancer victims.

He and the charity’s other leaders are banking on the idea that the good done by Armstrong the cancer fighter will overcome any damage to the organization done by the fall of Armstrong the athlete.

“His leadership role doesn’t change. He’s the founder. He’s our biggest advocate and always will be,” Ulman said. “People with cancer feel ownership of the brand. It was created for them.”

Although Armstrong canceled a public appearance in Chicago on Friday, Ulman said he will be a big part of several days’ worth of events in Austin next week to celebrate the foundation’s 15th anniversary, including a fundraising gala expected to raise $2 million.

Crisis management experts, however, think that might be the wrong approach.

Gene Grabowski, executive vice president of Levick, a Washington, D.C.-based crisis and issues management firm, suggested Armstrong step away from his public role for a while. The charity must be allowed to keep the focus on the work and should not engage in the public debate over whether Armstrong doped, he said.

“We have an iconic leader of an organization shown to allegedly have feet of clay,” Grabowski said. “If the organization is that important to Lance, he might consider handing the reins to another high-profile person.”

Armstrong denies doping and has said he’ll no longer comment on the accusations.

He founded the charity in 1997 after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. The charity grew rapidly after he won the first of seven consecutive Tour de France titles in 1999. And in 2004, the foundation introduced the yellow “Livestrong” bracelets, creating a global symbol for cancer awareness and survivorship.

Armstrong has given every indication he plans to stay visible.

About 24 hours after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s report, Armstrong tweeted that he was visiting headquarters and stayed about 30 minutes. He chatted with staff and picked a place to hang a new painting he recently bought for his personal art collection.

The foundation reported a spike in contributions in late August in the days immediately after Armstrong announced he would no longer fight doping charges and officials moved to erase his Tour victories. Ulman said the foundation felt a bigger pushback from donors in 2009 when it endorsed President Obama’s federal health care plan.

Daniel Borochoff, founder and president of Chicago-based CharityWatch, which monitors the financial records of nonprofit groups, said it may take some time for donors to digest the allegations against Armstrong.

“Individuals that admire and support an individual who is later found out to be severely tarnished, don’t want to admit it, don’t want to admit that they’ve been duped,” Borochoff said. “People, though, do need to trust a charity to be able to support it.”

For now, the foundation can count on major donors like Jeff Mulder, a Michigan businessman who had previously purchased two tables at next Friday’s anniversary gala for $150,000.

Mulder said he “doesn’t care” about the doping charges and likely won’t read the details in the USADA report.

“I don’t know Lance. I’ve shaken his hand a few times. I feel bad for him,” Mulder said. “But I don’t do stuff for Livestrong because of Lance. He got it started, but I raise money because people have cancer.”

Corporate sponsor Nike Inc. said Wednesday it is sticking by Armstrong and the foundation.

“Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on this position. Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors,” the company said.

Corporate sponsors rarely pull out when the spotlight on controversy is white hot, Borochoff said. When the issue calms down, companies start to re-evaluate their commitment.

“Usually in a big crisis, companies hold back. They know from a marketing, (public relations) point, it would not look good,” Borochoff said.

George Merlis, founder of Experience Media Consulting Group in Los Angeles, said Armstrong’s defiance is risky for his charity.

“Every stone wall eventually crumbles,” Merlis said. “There are second acts in American life. He needs to do a mea culpa and ask that the charity not be hurt.”

TOUR WINNER TO REMAIN VACANT — The Tour de France will have no official winner for the seven races from 1999-2005 if Armstrong is stripped of his victories by the International Cycling Union.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Tour director Christian Prudhomme called the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s report on Armstrong “damning.” It raises doubts, he said, about “a system and an era.”

Tour officials are still waiting on the UCI’s decision on whether to go along with USADA’s decision to ban Armstrong for life and erase his racing results. A spokesman for the sport’s governing body, Enrico Carpani, said it was “too early to say” what would happen. The UCI must decide by the end of the month whether to appeal USADA’s ruling.

UCI President Pat McQuaid declined to comment on USADA’s report but defended his organization’s efforts to catch drug cheats.

If Armstrong’s victories are not awarded to other riders, that would leave a gaping seven-year black hole in Tour de France record books. It would also mark a shift in how Tour organizers treated similar cases in the past.

When Alberto Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour victory for a doping violation, organizers held a ceremony to award the race winner’s yellow jersey to Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck. In 2006, Oscar Pereiro was awarded the victory and a place in the record books after the doping disqualification of American rider Floyd Landis.

Prudhomme wouldn’t address the differences in approach.

McQuaid said inadequacies in the anti-doping system were failing to catch drug-using athletes. The UCI tests athletes repeatedly for doping, he said, but the federation can do little if the results are negative. He insisted the anti-doping system had improved since the 1998-2009 period of Armstrong’s career examined in the report.

For Frankie Andreu, the report offered relief. A former Armstrong teammate, he had previously admitted doping.

“We’re kind of getting to the end of this, where we can have some closure on this,” Andreu said. “There’s more riders, more people out there, talking about what happened in the past.”

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