Report: Armstrong's influence extends beyond sport
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
The cycling world has been shocked by the contents of the US Anti-Doping Agency’s dossier against Lance Armstrong, which detailed not only organised doping within his US Postal Service team, but threats, intimidation and coercion employed to manipulate those who questioned him. A new report by notable sports journalist Selena Roberts demonstrates that Armstrong attempted not only to influence sport but to take on politics at the highest level.
Armstrong has been welcomed into the White House by presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who recognised him not only for his now-disqualified sporting achievements, but for his message of hope in the fight against cancer – a message that hits close to the heart of millions of Americans affected by the disease, and one that he used as a shield against anyone who dared to question his sporting ethics.
In the online publication, “The Influence Peddler“, Roberts writes that avid cyclist and former presidential candidate John Kerry found himself on the receiving end of the strong-arm tactics Armstrong used to get his way.
In the summer of 2008, Barack Obama was emerging as the prime presidential candidate, channeling his motto of hope and change to the top of the polls. Kerry, who had helped promote bike events to raise funds for cancer causes, was friendly with Armstrong. But Armstrong wanted Obama to join Republican candidate John McCain in speaking at a July 25 Livestrong event, and was not going to take “no” for an answer, despite the fact that Obama would be in Europe on that date.
Roberts recounts a story of Kerry reading a furious email from Armstrong, which included the ultimatum: “If cancer isn’t an issue of concern for the Democratic Party, then we will go into the database of Livestrong, which has millions of people, and let them know where the Democratic Party stands.”
Although Armstrong was unable to influence Obama to cut short his trip overseas, and the millions of people in his Livestrong army failed to sway the election, his political connections may have come in handy when it came to the federal grand jury which was looking into the same evidence that USADA used to strip him of his sporting reputation.
One source suggested to Roberts that Clinton himself swayed US Attorney Andre Briotte into suddenly closing down the 18-month investigation without reason on Superbowl Sunday, although the office denied its decision was the result of political pressure. But the closure did coincide with a large donation from Armstrong – $100,000 – to Planned Parenthood, provider of breast cancer screening to underprivileged women, which was coming under fire from conservatives.
Armstrong’s influence extends to other world leaders, including French president Nicolas Sarkozy, to whom Armstrong presented a tricolour Trek in 2010, emblazoned with the Livestrong logo.