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In the wake of the massive doping scandal that has stripped him of his seven Tour de France victories, cyclist Lance Armstrong has cut all ties with the Livestrong Foundation, the cure-seeking charity he founded in 1997 following a testicular cancer diagnosis.
The news comes a little over a day after the 41-year-old tweeted a provocative photo of himself lounging casually on a sectional couch in his home, surrounded by all seven of his framed Tour de France victory jerseys, captioned, “Back in Austin and just layin’ around…”
News of Armstrong’s departure comes via a statement from the foundation’s current chairman, Jeff Garvey.
“Lance Armstrong has chosen to voluntarily resign from the board of directors of the Livestrong Foundation to spare the organization any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding his cycling career,” said Garvey, who replaced Armstrong after he stepped down as chairman Oct. 17.
Garvey continued, “We are deeply grateful to Lance for creating a cause that has served millions of cancer survivors and their families.”
Livestrong has grown into one of the country’s most recognizable and fashionable causes, due in no small part to Armstrong’s pre-doping-scandal appeal as an American sports hero in a tier occupied by few others.
In 2004, the foundation ignited a sensation in the form of a yellow silicone wristband. Mass-produced by Nike and embossed with the word “Livestrong,” the bracelets were sold for $1 each in the hopes of raising $25.1 million for cancer research. That amount was achieved in six months; the bracelets have gone on to sell more than 80 million units.
On Oct. 22, Armstrong’s seven victories were nullified and he was banned from the sport for life after the International Cycling Union approved sanctions set against him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. An eviscerating USADA report called his cheating the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
Reuters quotes Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane as saying Armstrong “remains the inspiration” for the charity and its biggest financial supporter, having donated $7 million of his winnings and endorsement money.
As for the tweeted photo, reaction has been strong, with some critics assailing it as a brazen act of either defiance, denial or sheer desperation. While the jerseys are unlikely to leave those walls unless Armstrong takes them down himself, the cyclist’s time-trial bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Olympics is a different story: The International Olympic Committee said Nov. 1 that it is investigating the matter and that any finding of misconduct will result in the medal being returned.
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