Sunday October 21, 2012
Armstrong rallies Livestrong backers despite scandal
AUSTIN (Texas): 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 1,500 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 organization 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 $2.5 million.
“We will not be deterred... The mission absolutely must go on. This mission is bigger than me - it’s bigger than any individual.”
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 via the “Yellow Carpet” - a nod to the yellow rubber Livestrong bracelets worn to promote cancer awareness.
“Lance has developed an organization that has become an inspiration to me and to others and it will remain.”
Early tomorrow, Armstrong is expected to address nearly 4,000 cyclists before the start of the Livestrong Challenge, an annual fundraising race that starts in the heart of Austin. — AFP