“You have to be tone-deaf not to be concerned.”
Image by Mike Hutchings / Reuters
For years, Lance Armstrong and top members of his Livestrong Foundation were welcome guests on Capitol Hill despite nagging accusations of PED use.
Even when USADA reopened its investigation of Armstrong earlier this year, his friendships on the Hill remained strong and public. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner sent a letter in July asking the Office of National Drug Control Policy to look into whether USADA was misusing federal funds in their pursuit of Armstrong. And in the same month, Texas Sen. Kay Hutchison and Rep. Jose Serrano met with members of Armstrong's foundation to discuss his concerns about USADA.
But in the days after USADA's enormous final report dropped, even Armstrong's loudest supporters on the Hill have been all but silent. When contacted by BuzzFeed, reps for Hutchison and Sensenbrenner declined to speak about the issue. Rep. Serrano's office did not return a request to comment.
Even if Armstrong has no desire to compete in the world of professional sports again, a large source of pride and protection of his reputation comes from the Foundation. (Last week Armstrong responded to the USADA report by tweeting out a link to events celebrating his foundation's 15th anniversary. "What am I doing tonight? Hanging with my family, unaffected, and thinking about this," he wrote, linking to a Livestrong press release.)
Livestrong spent $150,000 in lobbying money last year, according to records on opensecret.org, and has reported spending $80,000 this year. (The foundation has said donations have remained consistent, if not risen, since USADA re-opened the investigation.)
A source close to Armstrong, who declined to be identified on the record because they do not speak for the Livestong Foundation, said there is fear in his camp that members of Congress who regularly meet with reps from the foundation to discuss about cancer research will be less likely to pick up his calls after the damning coverage.
"Obviously you have to be tone-deaf not to be concerned," the source said.
Armstrong associates who spoke publicly to BuzzFeed denied that there was any reason to be worried.
"I think on the Hill and inside the Beltway Lance Armstong is perceived as one of the world's most highly regarded cancer advocates," Livestrong spokesperson Katherine McLane said, adding that once Congress is back in session she looks forward to "resum[ing] our lobbying and our conversations with our friends on the Hill at the appropriate time."
Furthermore, an Armstrong lawyer says he expects USADA's bombshell report will backfire against the agency because it will encourage lawmakers to look deeper into the anti-doping agency's finances.
USADA, which receives some funding from the government, is a non-profit independent agency which acts as the official anti-doping monitor for U.S. Olympic sports.
"I think this is the kind of report that people should fear from a quasi-government agency," Armstrong's lawyer, Mark Fabiani, charged.
Image by Jeff Mitchell / Reuters