Armstrong revered at charity event
Lance Armstrong's legacy may be to rip world cycling apart as he continues to ignore doping allegations made by former US Postal teammates and staff (Image: AFP)
Lance Armstrong admitted he had endured a “difficult” two weeks, but shook off the cloud of doping on Friday as he urged supporters of his Livestrong charity to continue the fight against cancer.
“It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family, my friends and this foundation,” Armstrong said as he welcomed some 1500 people to the gala celebration of Livestrong’s 15th anniversary.
Armstrong founded Livestrong after his own battle with testicular cancer, but this week stepped down as its chairman after the US Anti-Doping Agency released a devastating report that placed the Texan at the heart of what it said was the biggest doping program in sports history.
Corporate sponsors including sportswear giant Nike have cut ties with Armstrong, but have said they will continue to support Livestrong.
“The mission absolutely must go on,” Armstrong said.
Even so, it remains to be seen if the foundation will weather the scandal, with some saying Armstrong – who remains on the board – should break with the organisation completely.
Access was tightly controlled for the event, but Livestrong posted a video of Armstrong addressing the crowd as the organisation announced the event raised $US2.5 million ($A2.42 million).
“We will not be deterred… The mission absolutely must go on.
“I just have one last request,” Armstrong concluded, “let’s have a helluva good time tonight.”
Sean Penn, among the actors lending a bit of Hollywood glamour to the occasion, said he came to support both embattled Armstrong and the foundation.
“I’m here for both,” the Oscar-winning actor said as he headed into the Austin Convention Center in Texas via the “Yellow Carpet” – a nod to the yellow rubber Livestrong bracelets worn to promote cancer awareness.
“Lance has developed an organisation that has become an inspiration to me and to others – and I think it will remain.”
Asked if Armstrong is still an inspiration, Penn said: “I think to anyone who looks at this with a clear eye will see it as hypocritical to think otherwise.”
It’s a different take on Armstrong now that USADA’s bombshell report has made him an outcast in cycling.
In support of the life ban it meted out to Armstrong in August, USADA published a damning dossier in which more than two dozen witnesses described his role in a doping scheme that helped him win seven Tour de France titles.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) said on Friday that it would respond to USADA’s report on Monday in Geneva.
The body has to decide whether to endorse or reject USADA’s ban and the removal of his Tour titles.
One longtime cycling sponsor decided not to wait for the UCI.
Rabobank, which has sponsored a professional cycling team for the last 17 years, claimed the sport had been irrevocably damaged by a succession of doping cases, and the report on Armstrong was the last straw.
Meanwhile, a report in Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper on Thursday claimed that a host of top riders and even whole teams were linked to the sports doctor who oversaw Armstrong’s doping programme, stoking fears of fresh controversy.
Livestrong, however, said donations continued flow in.© AFP 2013