Hamilton told "60 Minutes'" Scott Pelley, in a widely gabbed-about segment broadcast Sunday, that he used banned performance-enhancing substances with Armstrong to cheat in pro races, including the Tour de France. Hamilton also claims that Armstrong actually tested positive once but that his "people took care of it."
In a response to the broadcast, Armstrong's attorney, Mark Fabiani, posted the following, among other denials of wrongdoing: "Throughout this entire process CBS has demonstrated a serious lack of journalistic fairness and has elevated sensationalism over responsibility."
The larger question in the continuing Armstrong saga is, of course: How much battering can a brand icon take before the brand is irreparably damaged? In this case, though, we're not talking about a cereal or a soda pop or an automobile. We talking about a do-good organization that has blazed new trails, empowered many people in a tough struggle and provides online content that is as solid and innovative as you'll find anywhere.
But, as Mike Wise writes in the Washington Post, it can get personal: "Every believer to pull an elastic, canary-yellow rubber band imprinted with the word "LIVESTRONG" on their hand and around their wrist -- everyone who ever pledged a dollar toward cancer research so they could symbolically overcome as their inspiration overcame -- is confronting some hard questions today."
Ad Age's Alexandra Bruell reports that Armstrong's Nielsen N-Score -- which measures audience awareness of an athlete, his or her overall appeal and 46 specific personal attributes such as leadership and trustworthiness -- "has plummeted from a career high of 775 in 2005 to 194." But that's his personal brand.
Livestrong's senior director of communications, Katherine McLane, tells Bruell that "the vibe at the organization is business as usual." And rather than disassociate from the namesake it is, in fact, talking to him about again participating in the Austin Marathon, as he did this year. She adds that Armstrong participates in all the decisions the organization makes.
Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News writes in a piece headlined "Does Lance Armstrong doping controversy taint Livestrong?" that was widely republished in print and online: "This is different. We are not merely talking about what comes after the first comma in a celebrated athlete's obituary. We are talking about the work of that athlete, about a charitable endeavor that was birthed upon his inspiring story and that has grown to become one of the largest cancer-related charities in the country."
What's mostly telling is that Hofmann doesn't -- can't really - answer the question, any more than Chuck Salter could when he wrote "Can Livestrong Survive Lance Armstrong and a Doping Scandal?" for Fast Company last October, or anymore than I could when I addressed the issue following a Wall Street Journal piece ("For Cycling's Big Backers, Joy Ride Ends in Grief") in December.
Hofmann can only tell us that Livestrong.com reports that the number of contributors has actually risen in the last year, despite the tough economy, and the nonprofit recently surpassed $400 million in total funds raised since its founding in 1997.
He leaves us by asking another question. "The great cause is still great and the good works are still good -- but what will happen if another grand jury brings another indictment against another sporting icon?"
Nothing, I hope. I've never worn the bracelet but I've had cancer and found the Livestrong.org website to be extremely valuable. To me, it transcends Armstrong. He is, in fact, irreverent to the information it contains. What do you think?