Lance Armstrong shocked millions when it was announced he was involved in a doping scandal earlier this year; after becoming a symbol of strength and hope for so many, the news that he may have acquired his seven Tour de France titles illegally came as a hard blow to those he inspired.
Now, after having those titles invalidated and being banned from competitive cycling forever, Armstrong is officially stepping down as chairman of LIVESTRONG, the foundation he started as a means to raise funds for cancer research and to help cancer patients and survivors. He issued a statement this morning regarding his decision.
"In 1996, as my cancer treatment was drawing to an end, I created a foundation to serve people affected by cancer. It has been a great privilege to help grow it from a dream into an organization that today has served 2.5 million people and helped spur a cultural shift in how the world views cancer survivors. This organization, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart.
"I am deeply grateful to the people of the foundation who have done such hard and excellent work over the last 15 years, building tangible and effective ways to improve the lives of cancer survivors. And I am deeply humbled by the support our foundation has received from so many people throughout the world -- survivors, world leaders, business leaders and of course, the cancer community itself. We turn to this community frequently for guidance and collaboration to achieve our shared goals. They are unfailingly generous with their wisdom and counsel and I can never thank them enough.
"I have had the great honor of serving as this foundation's chairman for the last five years and its mission and success are my top priorities. Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship.
"My duties will transfer to Vice Chairman Jeff Garvey who will serve as chairman. Jeff's guidance and wisdom have been critical to shaping the foundation's work since its earliest days. Jeff was this organization's founding chairman and I have full confidence that under his leadership, the foundation will continue expanding its ability to serve cancer survivors.
"My family and I have devoted our lives to the work of the foundation and that will not change. We plan to continue our service to the foundation and the cancer community. We will remain active advocates for cancer survivors and engaged supporters of the fight against cancer. And we look forward to an exciting weekend of activities marking the 15th anniversary of the foundation's creation."
The news comes at the same time fitness gear giant Nike has announced they are officially terminating their endorsement deal with Armstrong, and are even changing the name of the Lance Armstrong Fitness Center, located at Nike headquarters in Oregon. The company released their own statement about the decision:
"Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him. Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner. Nike plans to continue support of the Livestrong initiatives created to unite, inspire and empower people affected by cancer."
Although the news of Armstrong's deeds came out between June and August, LIVESTRONG still reported a spike in donations during that time. Daniel Borochoff, founder of CharityWatch, says that the athlete's followers didn't want to believe the allegations against him and continued to support the foundation.
"Individuals that admire and support an individual who is later found out to be severely tarnished, don't want to admit it, don't want to admit that they've been duped," Borochoff said. "People, though, do need to trust a charity to be able to support it."