AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
To athletes young and old, Lance Armstrong has been an icon and an inspiration, even more so to cancer survivors, their families and anyone who wore a yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet. So what becomes of Armstrong's legacy now that his titles are gone and he's been labeled a doper?
Here's NPR's Mike Pesca with some reaction.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: The year is 2000, and the Tour de France has just reached a critical stage in Provence. Breaking away from the pack, in effect breaking the pack, is Lance Armstrong.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, this is an incredible demonstration of the sort I don't think I've ever seen in the Tour de France because Armstrong is toying with the top ranks of the cycling world.
PESCA: Incredible, Armstrong passes Botero, crushes Ullrich, chases down Pantani. He is ascendant, and those competitors just named would all soon be implicated in doping scandals. There were years when you could take a still photo of the closely bunched riders in the peloton and just pick out rider after rider and match them with the drug for which they were banned. But not Lance Armstrong. He was above the rest - until now.
In deciding not to fight the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation, Armstrong's name goes down alongside the other cheats. But the name has come to mean so much more than cycling. In Austin, Texas, home to headquarters of the LIVESTRONG Foundation, Armstrong's decision was met mostly by sadness.
TOMMY POMEROY: He didn't fight it, so I really - you know, it seems like it's him giving up.
FRANK JOSEPH: I - Lance Armstrong is always a hero of mine, and personally I'm crushed. I think this decimates his legacy and his career.
PESCA: That was Tommy Pomeroy, who works in a bike shop, and Frank Joseph, a cycling enthusiast for 50 years. They and other Austin residents expressed concern that the LIVESTRONG Foundation, which has raised half a billion dollars in its 15 years of existence, will suffer. That has, in fact, been the pattern when a charity's public face is legally or ethically compromised, says Ken Berger, executive director of Charity Navigator.
KEN BERGER: The most common result is that the charity will see a decline in support, but this may be an exception to the rule.
PESCA: Berger points out that LIVESTRONG has distanced itself from Armstrong a bit, and he also takes pains to note that LIVESTRONG is a very efficiently run charity, earning four-star ratings from his organization. And LIVESTRONG has thrived even as allegations against Armstrong swirled.
The lay public has long known that Armstrong was always said to be taking some drug, and nothing was ever proved. Easier to put faith in the man who beat cancer's constant refrain of never having failed drug test. Charles Pelkey, a lawyer and cycling journalist, considers that claim misleading and mostly beside the point. Pelkey is certainly not in mourning for the sport he loves.
CHARLES PELKEY: Big picture, I don't think it's all that sad. I think it's a good thing that, you know, it sends one clear message that you may be able to get away with it now, but at some point, there's a good chance that results and witness testimony will combine to show that you did cheat.
PESCA: Today, most riders participating in Spain's biggest road race, La Vuelta Espana, sidestep questions about Armstrong, though the Spanish rider, Oscar Pereiro, criticized how long the investigation has gone on. Pereiro is now the winner of the 2006 Tour de France after Floyd Landis was stripped of the title for doping. Floyd Landis, coincidentally, admitted today to fraud, ripping off donors who had contributed to his legal defense fund.
When it comes to legacies, it seems all disgraced cyclists are not the same. Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.