As Lance Armstrong continues to fend off another round of doping charges, experts are speculating just how much this latest scandal will affect his charitable efforts.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed formal charges against the seven-time Tour de France winner Tuesday, saying it has evidence dating back to 1996 of his using performance-enhancing drugs, the Associated Press reports. While the famed athlete has called the allegations "baseless" and "motivated by spite,” charity experts say even the probe alone could lead donors to turn their back on the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
“I think it could potentially be extremely damaging [to] the contributions to his foundation,” Sandra Miniutti of the nonprofit watchdog site Charity Navigator told Marketplace.org. “That said, he does have a lot of adoring fans so I think only time will tell if contributions dip after this latest allegation.”
But the renowned cyclist, who is the driving force behind the advocacy organization that has raised nearly $500 million for cancer survivors and their families, still has the undivided support of his cause.
“Lance’s courage in speaking out about cancer—when many athletes would have kept silent—helped spark a global change in how the disease and its survivors are perceived," Doug Ulman, president and CEO of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, wrote in a statement. "We remain steadfastly supportive of Lance, a champion for cancer survivors everywhere.”
As Armstrong waits to find out if he’ll be stripped of his victories –- and if his donors will walk away from his cause -- the cancer survivor can consider how other celebrity charities fared in the wake of a defaming scandal.
When the Tiger Woods sex scandal broke, for example, his foundation –- which offers educational opportunities to underserved youth -- struggled to save face.
The elite golfer took leave from his beloved game and the tournaments that raised money for his organization, according to ESPN.
When the shamed athlete didn’t play in the Chevron World Challenge in 2009, a tournament that plays a key role in raising money for the Tiger Woods Foundation, the charity offered spectators a refund or a 20 percent discount on the following year’s event, the news outlet reported.
"Clearly the situation was challenging for all of us," Greg McLaughlin, president and chief executive officer, of the Tiger Woods Foundation told ESPN. "The one thing that all of our people -- the board, the staff, our partners ... they believed in the work we were doing.
Still, even before the controversy settled, the foundation managed to grow and opened up two new learning centers in Washington, D.C. at the end of 2010.
While Woods hoped his foundation would survive the scandal, other athletes wouldn’t let a tainted image stand in the way of launching a philanthropic campaign.
Seven years after the rape charges against Kobe Bryant were dropped, the Lakers star went on to launch the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation to fight youth homelessness in Los Angeles to much fanfare.
"We're going to attack this,” Bryant told ABC in July of his mission to solve youth homelessness. We're going to attack this, because for our youth to be out there stranded in the street feeling like there's nobody else that could support them or help them or give them guidance to be able to follow or achieve their dreams is weak."
While charities have managed bounce back from disgrace, Miniutti urges donors to look beyond a A-list name when deciding which causes to support.
"There are other tools and I think this highlights the problem of donors giving simply because of a celebrity affiliated with the charity," she told Marketplace.org. "You need to take some time, check out the charity's financial performance, look into their accomplishments, really vet their mission."
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