Livestrong boss bullish on future

Leaders of the cancer charity founded by Lance Armstrong said

Thursday that the organization will persevere in the wake of the

cyclist’s admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

”I am on safe ground to say that the past year did not go as

planned,” Livestrong’s executive vice president Andy Miller said

at The Livestrong Foundation’s annual meeting in Chicago – its

first such gathering since Armstrong’s troubled departure. ”Things

happen that we cannot control – cancer has taught us that. What do

we do? We adapt.”

He added later, ”The Livestrong Foundation is not going

anywhere.”

Livestrong’s president, Doug Ulman, echoed that sentiment in

prepared remarks for the more than 500 participants.

”Our success has never been based on one person,” said Ulman,

who was unable to deliver the speech in person because of travel

delays. ”Will the Livestrong Foundation survive? Yes. Absolutely,

yes. Hell, yes.”

Armstrong stepped down as chairman of the charity in October,

saying he didn’t want his association to damage the foundation’s

ability to raise money and continue its advocacy programs on behalf

of people with cancer.

Among the steps the organization is taking to establish a new

identity is to change its day of action each year from Oct. 2 – the

date in 1996 that Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer – to May 17,

the group announced Thursday.

On that day in 2004, the charity launched their trademark yellow

Livestrong bands. Since then, 87 million have been sold, Katherine

McLane, the group’s executive vice president for communications,

said.

”The foundation is charting its own course without the founder

since its inception,” she said in an interview. ”It’s a

challenge. It might be a rocky road in 2013. But we are thinking in

terms of the next five years.”

There has been no indication, she said, that donors are

distancing themselves from the charity as a result of Armstrong’s

fall from grace. The $48 million that Livestrong raised in 2012 was

down 2 or 3 percent from 2011 but consistent with slight drop-offs

other foundations saw in a still-struggling economy, she said.

The cyclist created the organization – originally called the

Lance Armstrong Foundation – in Austin, Texas, in 1997 while he was

being treated for testicular cancer that had spread to his brain

and lungs. Doctors gave him 50-50 odds of surviving.

Armstrong won seven Tour de France titles – all of which have

been stripped. He has also been given a lifetime ban from

sports.

Throughout his career, Armstrong always denied drug use, but

earlier this year, he admitted during an interview with Oprah

Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

He told Winfrey that leaving Livestrong was the most

”humbling” experience after the revelations about his drug use

broke.

”I wouldn’t at all say forced out, told to leave,” he told

Winfrey about Livestrong. ”I was aware of the pressure. But it

hurt like hell.

”That was the lowest,” Armstrong said. ”The lowest.”

Armstrong’s personal fortune had sustained a big hit days before

the interview as one by one, his sponsors called to end their

associations: Nike, Trek Bicycles, Giro, Anheuser-Busch.

”That was a $75 million day,” Armstrong said.

”That just went out of your life,” Winfrey said.

”Gone,” he replied.