If you have donated money to Lance Armstrong’s charity, Livestrong, you must read Bill Gifford’s in-depth piece on what happens to the funds it raised:
Most people—including nearly everybody I surveyed while reporting this story—assume that Livestrong funnels large amounts of money into cancer research. Nope. The foundation gave out a total of $20 million in research grants between 1998 and 2005, the year it began phasing out its support of hard science. A note on the foundation’s website informs visitors that, as of 2010, it no longer even accepts research proposals.
Nevertheless, the notion persists that Livestrong’s main purpose is to help pay for lab research into cancer cures. In an online “60 Minutes Overtime” interview after the May broadcast, CBS anchor Scott Pelley said Armstrong’s alleged misdeeds were mitigated because “he has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research.”
Pelley isn’t alone in getting that wrong: a search of The New York Times turns up dozens of hits for “Armstrong” and “cancer research.” An Associated Press story from August 2010 described Livestrong as “one of the top 10 groups funding cancer research in the United States.” The comments section of any article about Armstrong will inevitably include messages like this one from ESPN.com: “keep raising millions for cancer research lance, and ignore the haters.” At one point, the foundation brought in a PR consultant to try and clarify the messaging, but Armstrong himself says there’s only so much they can do. “We can’t control what everybody says they’re wearing the bracelets for,” he told me.
At the same time, though, Armstrong and his supporters help perpetuate the notion that they are, in fact, helping battle cancer in the lab. “I am here to fight this disease,” he angrily told journalist Paul Kimmage at a press conference held during his 2009 comeback. In 2010, the foundation agreed to let an Australian hospital call its new research facility the Livestrong Cancer Research Center. And when I recently visited my local RadioShack, a major Armstrong sponsor, the clerk asked, “Would you like to make a donation to the Livestrong foundation to help support cancer research?”
No wonder people get confused.