I knew it would only be a matter of time, and I wasn’t disappointed: already I’ve seen a call for a “boycott” of Livestrong, the foundation set up by Lance Armstrong to raise support for people affected by cancer. That happened after Armstrong admitted to Oprah Winfrey that despite years of vehement denials, he had been using performance-enhancing drugs.
Is a boycott the right thing to do?
The answer, common sense might suggest, depends on how you answer this question: Do you believe the people who managed Livestrong knew of Armstrong’s doping?
If you genuinely believe that they knew of the deception and were certain — beyond any doubt — that Armstrong was being deceptive, then maybe you want to donate elsewhere. (That’s if you really want to donate at all as opposed to just trying to start an argument.)
If you think it’s possible that the foundation’s leadership did not know about what Armstrong was doing, then I don’t see how you can fairly conclude that boycotting Livestrong is somehow a good idea. For that matter, even if you think they knew, considering that the group has raised nearly half a billion dollars for cancer research, I’d still wonder why not donating makes sense: it’s clear, no matter what Armstrong did to win races, that the group itself is doing good things for people who have absolutely nothing to do with the sport.
I encountered a Twitter user who seems to believe that Livestrong was some sort of public relations cover to keep attention off the possibility of Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs. If he’s right, then that was probably one of the least-successful plans ever executed, because all people have talked about, sooner or later, whenever Armstrong’s name came up was whether he might be doping. Even so, we keep returning to the basic truth about the group itself: even if it was intended as a PR move, it still raised nearly half a billion bucks for cancer research.