Timothy A. Clary /AFP/Getty Images
Lance Armstrong in 2010. Timothy A. Clary /AFP/Getty Images
The CEO of the Lance Armstrong-founded cancer charity Livestrong tells NPR his organization remains proud that the cyclist and cancer survivor founded Livestrong in 1997 and wants him to remain involved in its work.
"He's our founder. He's been the inspiration for our work for so many years," Doug Ulman told All Things Considered host Melissa Block this afternoon.
Armstrong's decision to step down from his role as Livestrong's chairman, accounced one week after the United States Anti-Doping Agency released a damning report that placed him at the center of a sophisticated and brazen doping scheme during his cycling career, doesn't mean he can't still be a inspiration to other cancer survivors, Ulman said.
"The work that he started ... is incredibly meaningful to millions and millions of people," said Ulman. "The fact that he dealt with and experienced exactly what people each and every day in this country and around the world face when they are diagnosed with cancer is what's really important. ... That authentic experience is what drives our programs."
As for separating the sports scandal surrounding Armstrong and his work with Livestrong, Ulman said "our mission is not cycling ... our mission is not athletics." Livestrong's mission, he said, is to help remove the financial, psychological and social barriers that cancer patients face.
Ulman also told Melissa he has never spoken to Armstrong about the doping allegations.
According to Ulman, Armstrong will be front-and-center at events this weekend in Austin, Texas, where Livestrong will mark its 15th anniversary. Armstrong will be hosting a party and accompanying thousands of cyclists through the streets of the city on a fundraising ride.
As for talk that Armstrong may have used Livestrong over the years to polish his image, Ulman told Melissa that, "I take issue with that. ... I have this unique window into Lance's commitment to the cause. ... I see every day the value and the time and energy he puts forth. ... The impact he's had on millions of lives ... is so paramount."
As we also reported earlier, while Nike said today that it is dropping its sponsorship of Armstrong it is continuing to support Livestrong. Reuters is reporting that Anheuser Busch is also cutting ties with Armstrong, but not with Livestrong.
Much more from Melissa's conversation with Ulman will be on All Things Considered later today. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. Later, we'll add the as-broadcast version of the interview to the top of this post.