Monday, July 16, 2012

Lance Armstrong Investigation: LiveStrong Gets Involved

Photo from Wall Street Journal
News reports suggest that LiveStrong donors should rest well knowing that their funds given to help fight cancer are being used to lobby Congress to pressure USADA in its investigation of Lance Armstrong.

Today's Wall Street Journal reported that a Congressional staff member has confirmed that "The...Texas-based charity known as Livestrong, sent a lobbyist to Capitol Hill last week to discuss the funding for the agency that has accused the retired cycling champion of cheating to win the Tour de France." Here are more details from the Journal:
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. José Serrano (D., N.Y.), who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said his office was visited by a registered lobbyist working on behalf of the foundation, which works to increase awareness of cancer. 
The lobbyist's main purpose, the spokesman said, was to talk about the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which enforces rules about performance-enhancing drugs in sports, and which has charged Mr. Armstrong and five others associated with his former cycling team with operating a doping conspiracy in an effort to dominate the Tour de France. 
...Mr. Serrano's spokesman said the Livestrong lobbyist laid out his concerns about the fairness of USADA's process. 
My guess is that the lobbyist is being paid to get Rep. Serrano to tell USADA that they need to back off of Lance or he will see to it that their appropriations will be cut back in the future. Who knows what Lance's lobbyists are doing to motivate federal officials to pressure USADA but if you want some idea of how the process works, check out this 60 Minutes expose' on Jack Abramoff. He was a master lobbyist on Capitol Hill and opened up his playbook for all to see after being convicted on several charges.

We don't know all the plays that Lance's team is using, we do know that someone appears desperate. This is no longer about showing the world that he never doped or trying to convince us that never failing a doping test means anything.

Showing us that he was clean doesn't seem to be an option any more given that his closest associates (such as George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer) will or have allegedly testified against him and he will have a hard time smearing their reputation like he did with Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton and has tried (but failed) to do with many others including Betsy and Frankie Andreu.

Since his options are few, I expect that we will see more pressure on USADA coming from Lance's team (which apparently includes LiveStrong) in the future. In terms of cycling analogies, I think he's about 20 minutes down in the GC to Travis Tygart and all he has left is one flat stage where he needs to break away and win by 20 minutes. He's going to be on the attack until the finish line but unless the peloton lets him go, he's done for...

On the other hand, truth's best hope is that Travis Tygart stands strong amidst the attacks that Lance's team is going to launch against him. Hopefully, with occasional assistance from others answering attacks such as John McCain, Tygart will be able to withstand the pressure until the race is over and the truth comes out.

Interestingly, here is LiveStrong's response to the Congressional staffer's assertion that Rep. Serrano is being lobbied by LiveStrong regarding USADA:
A spokeswoman for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (i.e. LiveStrong) called the description of the lobbyist's visit "inaccurate," and said the charity was active on Capitol Hill last week. The purpose of the visit, she said, may have been misconstrued by Mr. Serrano's office, because the topic of USADA may have come up in passing. "All of our lobbying is focused on the well being and access to care that our constituents rely on," she said.
Seriously, what reason do you have to believe that the topic of USADA came up in passing?! How does this spokeswoman even know what the lobbyist said? Does she talk to each lobbyist after each day and ask what they discussed and what came up in passing? How naive do you think we are?!

In passing, I will add that it's likely that the integrity of the Lance Armstrong Foundation is a reflection of it's namesake. We know from fraud research that the "tone at the top" tends to permeate an organization. In an organization where the CEO obfuscates the truth or lacks transparency in his or her statements, we find employees who do likewise.

I personally find it amazing that the LiveStrong spokeswoman would say that a Congressional staffer must have been mistaken in saying that the lobbyist's main purpose (not some side topic mentioned in passing) was USADA. Undoubtedly, someone will buy this line along with allusions that LiveStrong supports cancer research.

I recommend looking closely before donating so you know where your money is going...If you're happy to pay lobbyists to apply pressure to USADA to let Lance off the hook, feel free to donate!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link to the 60 Minutes piece - very informative and not something that I'd seen before (though of course I know the basics of the Abramoff story).