Thursday, January 31, 2013

Drugged - High On Alcohol

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II


In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family of six, lost in the taiga
By Mike Dash

Siberian summers do not last long. The snows linger into May, and the cold weather returns again during September, freezing the taiga into a still life awesome in its desolation: endless miles of straggly pine and birch forests scattered with sleeping bears and hungry wolves; steep-sided mountains; white-water rivers that pour in torrents through the valleys; a hundred thousand icy bogs. This forest is the last and greatest of Earth's wildernesses. It stretches from the furthest tip of Russia's arctic regions as far south as Mongolia, and east from the Urals to the Pacific: five million square miles of nothingness, with a population, outside a handful of towns, that amounts to only a few thousand people.

When the warm days do arrive, though, the taiga blooms, and for a few short months it can seem almost welcoming. It is then that man can see most clearly into this hidden world—not on land, for the taiga can swallow whole armies of explorers, but from the air. Siberia is the source of most of Russia's oil and mineral resources, and, over the years, even its most distant parts have been overflown by oil prospectors and surveyors on their way to backwoods camps where the work of extracting wealth is carried on.


Karp Lykov and his daughter Agafia, wearing clothes donated by Soviet geologists not long after their family was rediscovered.

Thus it was in the remote south of the forest in the summer of 1978. A helicopter sent to find a safe spot to land a party of geologists was skimming the treeline a hundred or so miles from the Mongolian border when it dropped into the thickly wooded valley of an unnamed tributary of the Abakan, a seething ribbon of water rushing through dangerous terrain. The valley walls were narrow, with sides that were close to vertical in places, and the skinny pine and birch trees swaying in the rotors' downdraft were so thickly clustered that there was no chance of finding a spot to set the aircraft down. But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time.

It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.


The Lykovs lived in this hand-built log cabin, lit by a single window "the size of a backpack pocket" and warmed by a smoky wood-fired stove.

The four scientists sent into the district to prospect for iron ore were told about the pilots' sighting, and it perplexed and worried them. "It's less dangerous," the writer Vasily Peskov notes of this part of the taiga, "to run across a wild animal than a stranger," and rather than wait at their own temporary base, 10 miles away, the scientists decided to investigate. Led by a geologist named Galina Pismenskaya, they "chose a fine day and put gifts in our packs for our prospective friends"—though, just to be sure, she recalled, "I did check the pistol that hung at my side."

As the intruders scrambled up the mountain, heading for the spot pinpointed by their pilots, they began to come across signs of human activity: a rough path, a staff, a log laid across a stream, and finally a small shed filled with birch-bark containers of cut-up dried potatoes. Then, Pismenskaya said,


beside a stream there was a dwelling. Blackened by time and rain, the hut was piled up on all sides with taiga rubbish—bark, poles, planks. If it hadn't been for a window the size of my backpack pocket, it would have been hard to believe that people lived there. But they did, no doubt about it.... Our arrival had been noticed, as we could see.

The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive.... We had to say something, so I began: 'Greetings, grandfather! We've come to visit!'

The old man did not reply immediately.... Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: 'Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.'

The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—"a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar," with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:


The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: 'This is for our sins, our sins.' The other, keeping behind a post... sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.


Agafia Lykova (left) with her sister, Natalia.

Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, "frankly curious." Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, "We are not allowed that!" When Pismenskaya asked, "Have you ever eaten bread?" the old man answered: "I have. But they have not. They have never seen it." At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. "When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing."

Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man's name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer—a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had beenpersecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and "the anti-Christ in human form"—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar's campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly "chopping off the beards of Christians." But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods [940 pounds] of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.

Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power. Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov's brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.


Peter the Great's attempts to modernize the Russia of the early 18th century found a focal point in a campaign to end the wearing of beards. Facial hair was taxed and non-payers were compulsorily shaved—anathema to Karp Lykov and the Old Believers.

That was in 1936, and there were only four Lykovs then—Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2. Taking their possessions and some seeds, they had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot. Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family. All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents' stories. The family's principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, "was for everyone to recount their dreams."

The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them. Their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink. When Agafia was shown a picture of a horse, she recognized it from her mother's Bible stories. "Look, papa," she exclaimed. "A steed!"

But if the family's isolation was hard to grasp, the unmitigated harshness of their lives was not. Traveling to the Lykov homestead on foot was astonishingly arduous, even with the help of a boat along the Abakan. On his first visit to the Lykovs, Peskov—who would appoint himself the family's chief chronicler—noted that "we traversed 250 kilometres [155 miles] without seeing a single human dwelling!"

Isolation made survival in the wilderness close to impossible. Dependent solely on their own resources, the Lykovs struggled to replace the few things they had brought into the taiga with them. They fashioned birch-bark galoshes in place of shoes. Clothes were patched and repatched until they fell apart, then replaced with hemp cloth grown from seed.


The Lykovs' mountain home, seen from a Soviet helicopter.

The Lykovs had carried a crude spinning wheel and, incredibly, the components of a loom into the taiga with them—moving these from place to place as they gradually went further into the wilderness must have required many long and arduous journeys—but they had no technology for replacing metal. A couple of kettles served them well for many years, but when rust finally overcame them, the only replacements they could fashion came from birch bark. Since these could not be placed in a fire, it became far harder to cook. By the time the Lykovs were discovered, their staple diet was potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds.

In some respects, Peskov makes clear, the taiga did offer some abundance: "Beside the dwelling ran a clear, cold stream. Stands of larch, spruce, pine and birch yielded all that anyone could take.... Bilberries and raspberries were close to hand, firewood as well, and pine nuts fell right on the roof."

Yet the Lykovs lived permanently on the edge of famine. It was not until the late 1950s, when Dmitry reached manhood, that they first trapped animals for their meat and skins. Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders. More often than not, though, there was no meat, and their diet gradually became more monotonous. Wild animals destroyed their crop of carrots, and Agafia recalled the late 1950s as "the hungry years." "We ate the rowanberry leaf," she said,


roots, grass, mushrooms, potato tops, and bark, We were hungry all the time. Every year we held a council to decide whether to eat everything up or leave some for seed.

Famine was an ever-present danger in these circumstances, and in 1961 it snowed in June. The hard frost killed everything growing in their garden, and by spring the family had been reduced to eating shoes and bark. Akulina chose to see her children fed, and that year she died of starvation. The rest of the family were saved by what they regarded as a miracle: a single grain of rye sprouted in their pea patch. The Lykovs put up a fence around the shoot and guarded it zealously night and day to keep off mice and squirrels. At harvest time, the solitary spike yielded 18 grains, and from this they painstakingly rebuilt their rye crop.


Dmitry (left) and Savin in the Siberian summer.

As the Soviet geologists got to know the Lykov family, they realized that they had underestimated their abilities and intelligence. Each family member had a distinct personality; Old Karp was usually delighted by the latest innovations that the scientists brought up from their camp, and though he steadfastly refused to believe that man had set foot on the moon, he adapted swiftly to the idea of satellites. The Lykovs had noticed them as early as the 1950s, when "the stars began to go quickly across the sky," and Karp himself conceived a theory to explain this: "People have thought something up and are sending out fires that are very like stars."

"What amazed him most of all," Peskov recorded, "was a transparent cellophane package. 'Lord, what have they thought up—it is glass, but it crumples!'" And Karp held grimly to his status as head of the family, though he was well into his 80s. His eldest child, Savin, dealt with this by casting himself as the family's unbending arbiter in matters of religion. "He was strong of faith, but a harsh man," his own father said of him, and Karp seems to have worried about what would happen to his family after he died if Savin took control. Certainly the eldest son would have encountered little resistance from Natalia, who always struggled to replace her mother as cook, seamstress and nurse.

The two younger children, on the other hand, were more approachable and more open to change and innovation. "Fanaticism was not terribly marked in Agafia," Peskov said, and in time he came to realize that the youngest of the Lykovs had a sense of irony and could poke fun at herself. Agafia's unusual speech—she had a singsong voice and stretched simple words into polysyllables—convinced some of her visitors she was slow-witted; in fact she was markedly intelligent, and took charge of the difficult task, in a family that possessed no calendars, of keeping track of time. She thought nothing of hard work, either, excavating a new cellar by hand late in the fall and working on by moonlight when the sun had set. Asked by an astonished Peskov whether she was not frightened to be out alone in the wilderness after dark, she replied: "What would there be out here to hurt me?"


A Russian press photo of Karp Lykov (second left) with Dmitry and Agafia, accompanied by a Soviet geologist.

Of all the Lykovs, though, the geologists' favorite was Dmitry, a consummate outdoorsman who knew all of the taiga's moods. He was the most curious and perhaps the most forward-looking member of the family. It was he who had built the family stove, and all the birch-bark buckets that they used to store food. It was also Dmitry who spent days hand-cutting and hand-planing each log that the Lykovs felled. Perhaps it was no surprise that he was also the most enraptured by the scientists' technology. Once relations had improved to the point that the Lykovs could be persuaded to visit the Soviets' camp, downstream, he spent many happy hours in its little sawmill, marveling at how easily a circular saw and lathes could finish wood. "It's not hard to figure," Peskov wrote. "The log that took Dmitry a day or two to plane was transformed into handsome, even boards before his eyes. Dmitry felt the boards with his palm and said: 'Fine!'"

Karp Lykov fought a long and losing battle with himself to keep all this modernity at bay. When they first got to know the geologists, the family would accept only a single gift—salt. (Living without it for four decades, Karp said, had been "true torture.") Over time, however, they began to take more. They welcomed the assistance of their special friend among the geologists—a driller named Yerofei Sedov, who spent much of his spare time helping them to plant and harvest crops. They took knives, forks, handles, grain and eventually even pen and paper and an electric torch. Most of these innovations were only grudgingly acknowledged, but the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists' camp,


proved irresistible for them.... On their rare appearances, they would invariably sit down and watch. Karp sat directly in front of the screen. Agafia watched poking her head from behind a door. She tried to pray away her transgression immediately—whispering, crossing herself.... The old man prayed afterward, diligently and in one fell swoop.


The Lykovs' homestead seen from a Soviet reconnaissance plane, 1980.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Lykovs' strange story was the rapidity with which the family went into decline after they re-established contact with the outside world. In the fall of 1981, three of the four children followed their mother to the grave within a few days of one another. According to Peskov, their deaths were not, as might have been expected, the result of exposure to diseases to which they had no immunity. Both Savin and Natalia suffered from kidney failure, most likely a result of their harsh diet. But Dmitry died of pneumonia, which might have begun as an infection he acquired from his new friends.

His death shook the geologists, who tried desperately to save him. They offered to call in a helicopter and have him evacuated to a hospital. But Dmitry, in extremis, would abandon neither his family nor the religion he had practiced all his life. "We are not allowed that," he whispered just before he died. "A man lives for howsoever God grants."


The Lykovs' graves. Today only Agafia survives of the family of six, living alone in the taiga.

When all three Lykovs had been buried, the geologists attempted to talk Karp and Agafia into leaving the forest and returning to be with relatives who had survived the persecutions of the purge years, and who still lived on in the same old villages. But neither of the survivors would hear of it. They rebuilt their old cabin, but stayed close to their old home.

Karp Lykov died in his sleep on February 16, 1988, 27 years to the day after his wife, Akulina. Agafia buried him on the mountain slopes with the help of the geologists, then turned and headed back to her home. The Lord would provide, and she would stay, she said—as indeed she has. A quarter of a century later, now in her seventies herself, this child of the taiga lives on alone, high above the Abakan.

She will not leave. But we must leave her, seen through the eyes of Yerofei on the day of her father's funeral:


I looked back to wave at Agafia. She was standing by the river break like a statue. She wasn't crying. She nodded: 'Go on, go on.' We went another kilometer and I looked back. She was still standing there.

Youtube link

Monday, January 28, 2013

Goku VS Superman

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Amazing, Extreme, Crazy 2013

Brian Scalabrine dominated the competition in Boston one-on-one challenge

Source

Over 11 NBA seasons, journeyman forward Brian Scalabrine cultivated an image of a regular guy who just happened to play basketball. Eventually, many fans came to believe that Scalabrine was an Average Joe, not an elite athlete (as all NBA players are), and figured that he probably wasn't that great at the profession that earned him tens of millions of dollars. This summer, Scalabrine said that he resented this suggestion (even if he also heartily embraced the regular guy image), and in December he challenged any Boston-area amateur basketball players to games of one-on-one.

On Monday, Scalabrine faced four hand-picked competitors. He destroyed them all. From CBS Boston (via TBJ):

Scalabrine, who retired over the summer after a very serviceable 11-year NBA career, took on four of Boston’s best ballers in 98.5 The Sports Hub’s 1-on-1 “Scallenge,” put on by morning hosts Toucher & Rich.

Listeners sent in their try-out videos, showing off their skills and talking some trash towards Scal, but it turns out even Boston’s best was no match for Scalabrine. [...]

Scalabrine — who spent the last few seasons of his career seen as the “human victory cigar” — easily defeated all four of his opponents, throwing down monstrous jams and sinking smooth jumpers as he beat them all by a combined score of 44-6.

That link also features a 30-minute video of the action, and it becomes very clear very quickly that Scalabrine is on another level from these athletes. Even against decent competition — the first challenger, Matt Tomaszewski, was on Syracuse's roster just last season — Scalabrine owned everyone. The second and third games were both shutouts, and the six points scored included one two-pointer. In four games, Scalabrine conceded just five baskets.

This full-scale domination isn't terribly surprising, because it really is amazingly difficult to play in the NBA for 11 seasons. Scalabrine managed to do so in part because he found a role as a good teammate, which made him more valuable than his talent may have suggested, but even then he was in competition with an exceedingly small group of potential employees. The idea that any random weekend warrior could challenge him is ridiculous.

We are only left to wonder why this challenge was necessary in the first place. For that, Scalabrine has to look at himself. While no fan should ever feel like he's on the same athletic plane as a professional athlete, the fact of the matter is that some pros embrace that image because it provides them new opportunities. Without it, Scalabrine probably never would have gotten his current job as an analyst for CSN New England. He deserves more respect than he's been given, but there are also identifiable reasons for why he doesn't always get it.

Kids
















Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

La Pascualita - Dead Bride

Source



Mannequins are weird and creepy on their own, but if you add a spooky legend as the one behind the Pascualita De Chihuahua… and you got yourself a subject for nightmares. The Pascualita is supposedly not a real mannequin, but a very well-preserved dead body, and we have the pictures that might actually prove that myth. Let’s check out the story of this weird corpse bride and see other weird mannequins.



La Pascualita De Chihuahua



This mannequin looks fantastic from afar, but once you get a little closer, you will notice some very startling details that will spook you out and cast away the magical gaze of Pascualita. This mannequin is also known as Little Pascuala and she is the star attraction of Chihuahua, Mexico. Why is a mannequin such a crowd-drawer? Well, she’s very special, the first reason is the fact that this bridal-shop dummy has lived in the window of a store in Chihuahua for over 80 years… and that is very unheard of.



Well, sure, once you get past the amazing age of the mannequin, the other thing that strikes you is the bizarre gaze this model has. It is very life-like due to the stare, the natural hair and… last, but not least, the urban myth behind it. Legend has it that Little Pascuala is not just your average window-display mannequin, but actually, the very well-preserved dead body of the first shop owner.



The alleged perfectly preserved corpse was first displayed on March 25, 1930, along with a gorges wedding gown. Immediately, the window-casing drew a crown, not just because the dress was fabulous, but also, due to the fact that the mannequin on display looked almost human, but more importantly, it bared a great resemblance to the owner’s dead daughter. Sure, we’ve seen life-like mannequins, but the problem with this one is that Pascuala Esparza, the shop-owner’s daughter, had tragically died on her wedding day, after being bitten by a Black Widow spider…



The grieving owner of the boutique, found her daughter dead and was supposedly not willing to let her daughter take her place into the realm of the dead, so instead, she had her daughter embalmed and put up at the display window of her store, where she could see people walking by… Okay, so if that isn’t even remotely weird, things get even worse… Visitors of the shop claim that on many occasion, they find themselves pursued by the mannequin’s frightful glass look. Also… La Pascualita has been known to change positions over night, even tho the shop is locked under key, and no workers stay there during night hours.


See above, the photo of the shop owner, and the mother of the corpse-bride mannequin

If up till now, all of the info on the corpse-bride seems to be a hear-tell urban legend, the shocking testimony comes from the shop-workers… Some of which are not very happy, especially if they are the ones who have to be the last to leave the store and lock up, or the ones who are assigned to change the bizarre, spooky bride. Despite the fact that all the employees have a non-disclosure policy, some have stated very gruesome facts about La Pascualita.



The workers claim that the corpse-bride grins subtlety when they look at her, and others says that she is warm to the touch. One shop employee even claimed that the mannequin’s hands got sweaty every time she tried to adjust it. Have a close look at the mannequin’s hands in the picture below… Not only do they look exactly human, but they also have the small depressions and skin-wrinkles we get from bending our fingers, and other various hand-movements.



The mannequin’s changed twice a week, behind closed doors (why all the secrecy?). Sonia Burciaga, is one of the women who were in charge of changing the wedding gown, and she declared that:


“Every time I go near Pascualita my hands break out in a sweat. Her hands are very realistic and she even has varicose veins on her legs. I believe she’s a real person.”



While many who see this weird mannequin believe that it is indeed a very well-preserved dead corpse, many people on the internet argue that it is not really that easy to preserve human flesh this well… I guess we will never know the truth, as long as a full and through examination of the mannequin will be allowed by the shop-owners.



See an amazing video of the corpse-bride below, the video includes footage of the corpse bride smiling, or better said, grinning for the cameras…


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Livestrong Donates to Cancer Research???

Source

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE LAB RATS

If Lance Armstrong went to jail and Livestrong went away, that would be a huge setback in our war against cancer, right? Not exactly, because the famous nonprofit donates almost ­nothing to scientific research. BILL GIFFORD looks at where the money goes and finds a mix of fine ideas, millions of dollars aimed at “awareness,” and a few very blurry lines.

By: BILL GIFFORD



BRRRIIIIING!

It’s a journalistic axiom that when your phone rings early on a Monday, from a blocked number, it’s generally not because somebody loves your work. I picked up to hear an angry Lance Armstrong on the line, along with Doug Ulman, the CEO of the Lance Armstrong Foundation—a.k.a.Livestrong. It was 8 a.m. in Austin. They were calling to berate me about what they considered my bias against Livestrong and Lance.

Which seemed strange, since I wasn’t working on a Livestrong article. Not yet, anyway. Granted, I’d been sniffing around and had posted a tweet or two, but nothing more. One of those posts was written on April 17, 2011, the day 60 Minutes aired its report on Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute. According to allegations made by Steve Kroft and Jon Krakauer, Mortenson had used foundation money to fly himself around and promote his books, which were full of lies about his adventures in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the charges went, the organization wasn’t operating nearly as many schools as Mortenson liked to claim.

“60 Minutes takedown,” I tweeted, “just goes to show that ‘awareness’ is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Admittedly, I had both Mortensonand Armstrong in mind when I wrote this: both were facing legal investigations, and both would end up using their philanthropic work as part of their PR defense. The “awareness” wording was a jab at Livestrong, since raising cancer awareness is a major part of the organization’s mission.

A lame joke, perhaps, but that’s all it was. Still, it made Armstrong livid. “You need to come down here and see what we do,” he said sternly. “Ask us the hard questions.” It was more a command than a request. “I know you’re a hater and you’re gonna write what you write, but I just want you to see it.”

At the time, Armstrong was starting to take some serious flak of his own. The Jeff Novitzky–led federal investigation into his past was dragging former teammates and associates in front of a Los Angeles grand jury. In January, Sports Illustrated published an exposé that supported Floyd Landis’s claims that Armstrong had doped to win his seven Tour de France titles. Now 60 Minutes was said to be working on its own, more damaging story.

In the wake of the Mortenson report, bloggers and journalists (not just this one) were asking pointed questions about Livestrong, the disease-fighting charity that Armstrong founded in 1997, during his recovery from testicular cancer. Cynics wondered whether Armstrong was another Mortenson, living large on his foundation’s dime. After all, Armstrong had recently spent $11 million on a personal jet. Was he really rich enough to pay for that out of his own pocket?

“The issue with Lance Armstrong isn’t whether he has done good for cancer victims,” accounting professor Mark Zimbelman wrote on his blog Fraudbytes, in a post comparing Mortenson to Armstrong, “but rather, whether he first cheated to beat his opponents, then used his fraudulent titles to help promote an organization that appears to do good but also enriches a fraudster.”

Others noticed an annoying tendency: whenever questions about doping arose, Armstrong and his supporters changed the subject to his cancer work, a tactic that the bicycling website NY Velocity called “raising the cancer shield.” After the 60 Minutes segment on Armstrong aired in May—complete with damning claims from ex-teammate Tyler Hamilton that Armstrong had cheated—Armstrong’s lawyers denied the allegations and quickly invoked Livestrong in his defense. In their one legal brief to date, they blasted the feds over alleged leaks to 60 Minutesthat, they said, were intended to legitimize “the government’s investigation of a national hero, best known for his role in the fight against cancer.”

But what did that fight amount to? Did Livestrong actually do much to eradicate cancer, or did it exist largely to promote Lance? If and when any indictments came down, would his good deeds help him escape conviction or jail time? It seemed likely that this theme could come up. Barry Bonds’s lawyers recently asked for probation instead of prison time as punishment for the baseball star’s 2011 Balco conviction, citing his “significant history of charitable, civic, and prior good works.”

Writers who’ve dealt with Lance and his associates are familiar with their aggro style, but it seemed strange that they’d come on so strong that morning. Still, Lance had a point: if I wanted to write about Livestrong, I needed to go see things for myself.

FOR VARIOUS REASONS, I’m not Lance Armstrong’s favorite journalist. In 2006, I profiled Michele Ferrari, his longtime Italian trainer, for Bicycling. Researching that story left me with serious doubts about whether Armstrong had competed clean, as he continues to insist. In 2009, I wrote a Slate story called “JerkStrong” that likened his media relations style to Sarah Palin’s. But my skepticism about Armstrong as an athlete did not extend to the cancer arena. More than once, I have given his book It’s Not About the Bike to friends stricken with the disease. Not all of them survived, but I know that none of them cared whether he doped to win the Tour.

Make no mistake, though: if Armstrong is indicted, the survival of Livestrong will hang in the balance. It seems obvious that Novitzky, an aggressive former IRS agent, would be keenly interested in the organization and how it operates. If so, he’s not alone. At least two other major publications have done serious reporting on Livestrong—that is, they started to. In both cases, Livestrong lawyers succeeded in shutting down the stories before they were published. They applied the same pressures to Outside, blitzing my editors with pissed-off e-mails, phone calls, and, eventually, a five-page letter from general counsel Mona Patel complaining about “Mr. Gifford’s conduct, professionalism, and method of reporting.” One of my crimes was a failed attempt to get a source to talk off the record, an ordinary journalistic practice.

All of which now makes me wonder if I missed something. During an investigation that played out over several months—involving dozens of interviews and careful examination of Livestrong’s public financial records—I found no evidence that Armstrong has done anything illegal in his role as the face of the organization. As far as I can tell, he paid for the private jet himself—which is now for sale, by the way, along with his ranch outside Austin—and he’s apparently been scrupulous about his expenditures as they relate to the nonprofit. When Armstrong travels on Livestrong business, the foundation insists, he picks up his own tabs.

“Since day one, Lance has never been reimbursed for an expense,” says Greg Lee, Livestrong’s CFO. “Period.” Armstrong told me that Livestrong’s board—which includes venture capitalist Jeff Garvey, CNN medical reporter Sanjay Gupta, and Harlem cancer fighter Harold Freeman—“would resign immediately if any of that shit happened.”

The financial records appear to back up Armstrong’s assertion, and if there’s a more nefarious reality behind the curtain, it may take someone with subpoena power to bring it to light. In addition to Novitzky’s investigation, the IRS examined the foundation’s 2006 returns, although Livestrong officials say it was a routine review.

On the program side, I learned that Livestrong provides an innovative and expanding suite of direct services to help cancer survivors negotiate our Kafkaesque health care system. Beyond that, though, I found a curiously fuzzy mix of cancer-war goals like “survivorship” and “global awareness,” labels that seem to entail plastering the yellow Livestrong logo on everything from T-shirts to medical conferences to soccer stadiums. Much of the foundation’s work ends up buffing the image of one Lance Edward Armstrong, which seems fair—after all, Livestrong wouldn’t exist without him. But Livestrong spends massively on advertising, PR, and “branding,” all of which helps preserve Armstrong’s marketability at a time when he’s under fire. Meanwhile, Armstrong has used the goodwill of his foundation to cut business deals that have enriched him personally, an ethically questionable move.

“It’s a win-win,” says Daniel Borochoff, head of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a watchdog group. “He builds up the foundation, and they build up him.”

Equally interesting is what the foundation doesn’t do. Most people—including nearly everybody I surveyed while reporting this story—assume that Livestrong funnels large amounts of money into cancer research. Nope. The foundation gave out a total of $20 million in research grants between 1998 and 2005, the year it began phasing out its support of hard science. A note on the foundation’s website informs visitors that, as of 2010, it no longer even accepts research proposals.

Nevertheless, the notion persists that Livestrong’s main purpose is to help pay for lab research into cancer cures. In an online “60 MinutesOvertime” interview after the May broadcast, CBS anchor Scott Pelley said Armstrong’s alleged misdeeds were mitigated because “he has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research.”

Pelley isn’t alone in getting that wrong: a search of The New York Times turns up dozens of hits for “Armstrong” and “cancer research.” An Associated Press story from August 2010 described Livestrong as “one of the top 10 groups funding cancer research in the United States.” The comments section of any article about Armstrong will inevitably include messages like this one from ESPN.com: “keep raising millions for cancer research lance, and ignore the haters.” At one point, the foundation brought in a PR consultant to try and clarify the messaging, but Armstrong himself says there’s only so much they can do. “We can’t control what everybody says they’re wearing the bracelets for,” he told me.

At the same time, though, Armstrong and his supporters help perpetuate the notion that they are, in fact, helping battle cancer in the lab. “I am here to fight this disease,” he angrily told journalist Paul Kimmage at a press conference held during his 2009 comeback. In 2010, the foundation agreed to let an Australian hospital call its new research facility the Livestrong Cancer Research Center. And when I recently visited my local RadioShack, a major Armstrong sponsor, the clerk asked, “Would you like to make a donation to the Livestrong foundation to help support cancer research?”

No wonder people get confused.

WITH ITS RECLAIMED-WOOD SURFACES and industrial-chic design, Livestrong HQ resembles a cutting-edge Whole Foods—another signature Austin institution. Here in East Austin, the poorer side of town, there’s no Whole Foods, just dusty carnicerías that sell fantastic tongue tacos. A renovated warehouse, the $9 million building opened in 2009.

In the lobby, I meet Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane and Chris Dammert, head of what’s known as navigation services. Our first stop is the building’s walk-in navigation center, adjacent to the main entrance, where bilingual staffers offer cancer patients financial consultation, help with insurance issues, and counseling. Since the center opened in late 2010, Dammert says, some 207 families have come in—lower traffic than he’d like. “We’re hoping to build awareness over time,” he says.

The walk-in center is a hands-on version of the online and telephone support services that Livestrong has offered since 2005. Dammert leads me upstairs to an area where two “navigators” are settling into their cubicles. This is where patients or loved ones can phone in to a hotline with questions. Depending on their needs, callers are either directed to one of two in-house social workers for emotional support or referred to outside agencies.

Livestrong sends about two-thirds of the callers to organizations like the Virginia-based Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF), which deals with insurance and billing issues. In 2010, Livestrong paid PAF $727,000 for helping its clients; the organization even has a staffer on-site in Austin. In addition, Livestrong helps connect people with clinical trials and offers assistance to patients who (like Lance did) need help learning about sperm banking or egg freezing. Last year, the foundation says, it saved its members more than $2 million on fertility services.

Lastly, Livestrong publishes a set of cancer guidebooks, which include a journal, a record keeper to help organize paperwork, and a manual walking readers through the many steps of treatment. These are available from the Livestrong website for free.

One unlikely “nav” beneficiary is cycling journalist Charles Pelkey, diagnosed last summer with male breast cancer. Pelkey has been a critic of Armstrong—“I don’t particularly like the man,” he says—but after he tweeted about his cancer, a Livestrong navigator contacted him to offer assistance. “There are really wonderful people who work there,” Pelkey says. “I respect everything they do.”

Dammert hands me off to McLane for the rest of the tour, and it’s clear Armstrong didn’t hire a milquetoast for the job. Tall and serious, she came to the foundation in 2007 from the Bush Department of Education. “My job was to defend the No Child Left Behind law,” she says. “Every teacher in America hated it, including my parents.”

Armstrong is a visitor, not a daily presence; when I was there in June, he had already decamped to Aspen for the summer. But his handprints are all over the place, from the framed yellow jerseys outside the staff gym to the enormous yellow chopper (a gift from the guys on Orange County Choppers) parked near the lobby. Every available surface is occupied by pieces from Armstrong’s art collection—including the Shepard Fairey “Lance face” poster and a wooden carving of a female torso emerging from a globe.

We end up in a conference room with 34-year-old Doug Ulman, Livestrong’s $320,000-a-year CEO. Earnest and intense, he looks like he could be Lance’s younger brother. Ulman was a sophomore soccer player at Brown University when he was diagnosed with a rare tumor and two types of melanoma. After successful treatment, he started his own foundation for young adults with cancer; Armstrong read about him in the Brown alumni magazine and sent an admiring e-mail. They hit it off, and Ulman came aboard in 2001. At the time, Livestrong had four staffers and a budget of about $7 million. Now it has a staff of 88, and it took in $48 million in 2010.

Like his boss, Ulman is energized by adversity. Tacked to the wall of his cube is a photo-copied quote from Ken Berger, the head of Charity Navigator, an influential ratings and watchdog group. “It is just going to devastate them,” he said in an Associated Press article.

“It” is the federal investigation against Armstrong, which Livestrong staffers have tried to compartmentalize. “We can’t predict what’s going to happen in the world of cycling,” Ulman says. “We have to stay focused on fulfilling our mission.”

THAT MISSION HAS EVOLVED considerably. In the early years, Ulman says, the foundation awarded grants for research on both testicular cancer and cancer survivors. The grants were small, in the low six figures or less, and were aimed at scientists pursuing cutting-edge ideas.

“For a young researcher it was great,” says Julien Sage, a Stanford professor who received a total of $150,000 from 2004 to 2005. “I had no data, just an idea.” Small, speculative grants like his, he explains, are essential to young scientists who are developing the data they need to apply for more substantial government funding.

The main reason for the shift, Ulman says, was scale. The American Cancer Society raised $900 million last year. And the National Cancer Institute awards nearly $2 billion a year in research grants. Ulman says Livestrong was too small to make a difference in such a big pond. “We started to realize that there’s literally billions of dollars in cancer research, and we asked, Is that the best use of the money we’re raising?”

Point taken. It’s worth noting, though, that the Michael J. Fox Foundation had about the same revenue as Livestrong in 2008—$40 million—and gave away $33 million of that in grants for Parkinson’s research. The Susan G. Komen foundation also does a huge amount of pink-ribbon “awareness” work, but it still dished out $145 million in breast-cancer research grants over the past two years. With Livestrong gone, there is no equivalent private funder for testicular-cancer research.

Sage says that the kind of contribution Livestrong was making is still needed. “It’s a mistake to stop supporting basic research, because there are a lot of things we can learn,” he says. “There are still people who die from testicular cancer, and we need to look for better ways to treat them.”

Ulman doesn’t see it that way. “We are all about people,” he says. “Most organizations are about the disease. They’re about trying to solve a disease, and we are about trying to improve the lives of people that are battling the disease.… What can we do today to improve their lives? As opposed to saying we’ll fund research that in 15 years might help somebody live a little longer.”
McLane agrees. “If we applied the science we already have, we could cure almost everybody,” she says. “The search for a cure could have already been successful. It’s removing the barriers to the treatment that can cause that cure that is the real problem for many people all over the 
world.”

AFTER ARMSTRONG RETIRED FROM CYCLING, the only direction his foundation seemed to be moving was down. In 2005, the last year he won the Tour, revenues grew to $52 million, fueled largely by the famous $1 Nike Livestrong wristband. But when Armstrong left the spotlight, the wristband fad waned and foundation revenues sagged by $20 million the next year.

They stayed lower despite a notable success in 2007, perhaps Livestrong’s greatest achievement. Armstrong spent much of that year campaigning for Proposition 15, a Texas ballot initiative to create a huge pool of public money for cancer research and prevention. He worked the Texas legislature and traveled the state by bus with then state representative Patrick Rose, and the measure passed. “There is no chance that Prop 15 would have become a reality but for Lance’s personal involvement,” Rose says today.

But it took Comeback 2.0 to put Livestrong on people’s radar again. Armstrong announced his plans in a September 2008 Vanity Fair interview, in which he said his return would be built around what he called a “global cancer summit.” The comeback was portrayed as a completely charitable mission. “I am essentially racing for free,” he told the magazine. “No salary. No bonus. This one’s on the house.”

His reboot was a smashing success: huge crowds and adoring headlines greeted Armstrong’s return to racing at the Tour Down Under in Australia. In Sacramento, fans lined the prologue course of the Tour of California waving yellow signs with the Lance face and the slogan HOPE RIDES AGAIN. He ended up with a podium finish at the 2009 Tour de France, and Livestrong revenue surged back over the $40 million mark.

But the comeback also saw Livestrong’s final evolution from a research nonprofit into something that looks more like a hip marketing agency. Rather than funding test-tube projects, it was deploying buzzwords likeleverage, partnering, and message.

One way to spread the message is to slap Livestrong’s name on just about everything, from Livestrong Survivorship Centers of Excellence (there are eight at major hospitals nationwide) to Oakley sunglasses to, at one point, a Livestrong Build-a-Bear (complete with yellow cycling outfit). The Livestrong label is so appealing that the owners of the Major League Soccer franchise Sporting KC decided to donate the naming rights for its new stadium, guaranteeing the foundation $7.5 million over six years. Normally, a corporation would pay to have its name put on such a venue, but team owners are betting that Livestrong Sporting Park will attract more business and goodwill than, say, AT&T Arena would. (Lance even has his own seat: Box 1, Seat 007.)

Did the doping allegations bother them? “We asked the foundation about that,” says team co-owner Robb Heineman. “They said he’s the most tested athlete in the history of sports, and he maintains he’s
never done it.”

LIVESTRONG PRIDES ITSELF on the fact that—on paper, anyway—it spends 81 percent of every dollar on programs. This is a big improvement over 2005, when the American Institute of Philanthropy took Livestrong to task for spending 45 cents of every dollar on fundraising. Now AIP gives Livestrong an A-minus, while Charity Navigator rates it three stars out of four.

But the foundation’s financial reports from 2009 and 2010 show that Livestrong’s resources pay for a very large amount of marketing and PR. During those years, the foundation raised $84 million and spent just over $60 million. (The rest went into a reserve of cash and assets that now tops $100 million.)

A surprising $4.2 million of that went straight to advertising, including large expenditures for banner ads and optimal search-engine placement. Outsourcing is the order of the day: $14 million of total spending, or more than 20 percent, went to outside consultants and professionals. That figure includes $2 million for construction, but much of the money went to independent organizations that actually run Livestrong programs. For example, Livestrong paid $1 million to a Boston–based public-health consulting firm to manage its campaigns in Mexico and South Africa against cancer stigma—the perception that cancer is contagious or invariably fatal.

Livestrong touts its stigma programs, but it spent more than triple that, $3.5 million in 2010 alone, for merchandise giveaways and order fulfillment. Curiously, on Livestrong’s tax return most of those merchandise costs were categorized as “program” expenses. CFO Greg Lee says donating the wristbands counts as a program because “it raises awareness.”

This kind of spending dwarfs Livestrong’s outlays for its direct services and patient-focused programs like Livestrong at the YMCA, an exercise routine tailored to cancer survivors available at YMCAs nationwide ($424,000 in 2010). There’s also a Livestrong at School program, offered in conjunction with Scholastic magazine ($630,000 in 2010). “Explain to students that Lance was very sick with cancer but that he was treated and got better,” begins one sample lesson plan for grades three through six.

Livestrong spends as much on legal bills as on these two programs combined: $1.8 million in 2009–10, mainly to protect its trademarks. In one memorable case, its lawyers shut down a man in Oklahoma who was selling Barkstrong dog collars. Meanwhile, “benefits to donors” (also merchandise, as well as travel expenses for Livestrong Challenge fundraisers) accounted for another $1.4 million in spending in 2010.

There’s still a research department, but now it focuses on things like quality-of-life surveys of cancer survivors. During my visit, I was plied with glossy reports and brochures, which are cranked out by the truckload. The foundation’s 2010 copying-and-printing bill came to almost $1.5 million.

But Livestrong’s largest single project in 2009—indeed, the main focus of Armstrong’s comeback—was the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit, held in Dublin in August. The summit ate up close to 20 percent of the foundation’s $30 million in program spending that year.
To kick things off, Livestrong hired Ogilvy, the famous advertising firm, to create a global cancer-awareness campaign leading up to the summit. Cost: $3.8 million. It spent another $1.2 million to hire a New York City production company to stage the three-day event. Then it paid more than $1 million to fly 600 cancer survivors and advocates to Dublin from all over the world—the U.S., Russia, Bangladesh, and 60 other countries. The former president of Nigeria even showed up.

Often, the main output at gatherings like this is verbiage, and so it was at the summit. Participants declared cancer a “global health crisis.” A report was produced titled “A World Without Cancer.” And delegates called on every country to develop a national cancer plan to deal with the disease. At the end of the summit, 97 percent of participants answering a Livestrong survey said they had “developed a deeper level of understanding about the issues related to cancer.”

“You wonder,” AIP’s Borochoff says. “If they just gave the money to cancer research, would it generate as much great publicity for Lance Armstrong?”

THE FOUNDATION considers this money well spent, but if I were a Livestrong supporter I’d also ask: What’s the product here? If not research, then what do I get for my $100 donation?

“I think the product is hope,” says Mark McKinnon, the renowned GOP political consultant and a Livestrong board member. Armstrong’s team approached McKinnon in 2001, seeking advice on positioning Lance for a postcycling career. McKinnon, a media strategist for President George W. Bush, introduced Armstrong to another client, Bono. The two hit it off, and soon Armstrong seemed to be aiming toward a Bono-like role as a global cancer statesman.

“His goal was to change the way people look at cancer and the way people deal with cancer,” says McKinnon. “In typical Lance fashion, he wanted to have a fundamental impact on the disease: how it’s perceived, how it’s dealt with.”

Done. Thanks largely to Armstrong, we don’t talk about cancer “victims” anymore; they’re cancer survivors. And they don’t “suffer” from the disease; they want to “Kick. Its. Ass”—as ESPN anchor and cancer patient Stuart Scott urged a crowd of high-level Livestrong fundraisers and donors at a dinner before the Philadelphia Livestrong Challenge last August.

Sitting beside me at that event, a man named Scott Joy nodded fervently as he listened. In 2003, Joy was diagnosed with testicular cancer and found his way to Armstrong’s book. “It told me I would get through this,” he said. “I needed to hear that.”

Joy is now a Livestrong Leader, part of an elite corps of fundraisers and organizers. This year he raised more than $42,000 for Livestrong, but perhaps more important, he’s been fiercely defending Lance and the foundation on Twitter and in the comments sections of online articles. Joy is one of many Livestrong Army members who remain passionate about their cause and their hero.

Nobody can doubt Armstrong’s empathy for cancer patients or his power to inspire. In certain instances, though, he has leveraged this charitable appeal for personal gain. During his comeback, the lines between Cancer Lance and Business Lance became especially blurry.

Although Armstrong had told Vanity Fair he would be racing for free, he actually pocketed appearance fees in the high six figures from the organizers of both the Tour Down Under and the Giro d’Italia. An Australian government official told reporters that the money was a charitable donation, but Lance himself admitted to The New York Timesthat he was treating it as personal income.

It’s a tricky thing. Armstrong is in demand not just as a cyclist but also as a cancer survivor and inspirational figure—in other words, because of the Livestrong Effect—yet he’s never been shy about monetizing this appeal for personal gain. For example, when he spoke at the inaugural Pelotonia cancer ride in Columbus, Ohio, in August 2009, he charged the startup charity his usual $200,000 speaking fee, including $100,000 worth of NetJets time, courtesy of Pelotonia sponsor and NetJets founder Rich Santulli. Pelotonia executive director Tom Lennox considers it worth the expense: the 2011 edition of the ride pulled in more than $11 million—all of which will be spent on cancer research, by the way.

In a sense, Livestrong and Lance are like conjoined twins, each depending on the other for survival. Separating them—or even figuring out where one ends and the other begins—is no small task. The foundation is a major reason why sponsors are attracted to Armstrong; as his agent Bill Stapleton put it in 2001, his survivor story “broadened and deepened the brand … and then everybody wanted him.” But the reverse is also true: Without Lance, Livestrong would be just another cancer charity scrapping for funds.

Nike is the best example of this symbiotic relationship: Armstrong’s longtime sponsor produces a complete line of Livestrong apparel, from shorts and backpacks to running shoes and T-shirts, all of which it pays Armstrong to wear. Under a five-year deal negotiated in early 2010—before the Landis allegations broke—Nike agreed to pay Livestrong a minimum of $7.5 million per year from its merchandise profits.

Nike’s commitment goes well beyond selling merchandise and sponsorship to producing ads that promote Livestrong, Armstrong, and the Nike brand all at once. In one particularly memorable spot from 2009, Armstrong verbally took on his critics. “They say I’m arrogant… a doper… washed up…a fraud,” he said over scenes of himself on his bike intercut with shots of cancer patients getting chemo treatments, crawling out of bed, and unsteadily lifting weights. “I’m not back on my bike for them.”

IT WAS CLEAR WHICH SIDE RADIOSHACK wanted to be on. Not long after the Nike ad aired, during the 2009 Tour, the electronics retailer stepped up to sponsor a 2010 squad built around Armstrong, paying him a reported $10 million to be team leader. The deal was negotiated by L.A.–based superagent Casey Wasserman, who donated $1 million to Livestrong via his family foundation. The RadioShack deal was brilliant in its own way. Not only would the company support Lance and his team, but it also made a major commitment to support Livestrong. The cancer charity, in fact, was the key to the whole thing. “We wouldn’t have done it without Livestrong,” says Lee Applbaum, RadioShack’s chief marketing officer.

But rather than simply donating money outright, RadioShack got its customers to pony up $1 or more at the checkout counter. So far, the Shack’s customers have kicked in more than $10 million, according to company spokesman Eric Bruner. (Sometimes without knowing it: early on, a few customers complained that the $1 donation had been accidentally added to their bill.)

Not all the money goes where Livestrong says it goes, however. In January 2010, after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Armstrong made a personal video statement: to help earthquake victims, Livestrong would give $125,000 each to the charitable organizations Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health, which it subsequently did. RadioShack also hopped on board, soliciting $538,000 in customer donations for the Haitian cause. According to Livestrong, it gave $413,000 of the RadioShack money to Partners in Health. And the foundation’s 2010 tax form shows a $458,000 donation to the group. But $333,000 of that had been previously allocated to a separate hospital project in Haiti that “had nothing to do with the earthquake,” says a spokesperson for Partners in Health. That means Livestrong used the RadioShack earthquake donations to cover its prior hospital pledge.

IN ONE CASE, ARMSTRONG himself stood to profit from the sale of a major Livestrong asset: its name. Most people are unaware that there are two Livestrong websites. Livestrong.org is the site for the nonprofit Lance Armstrong Foundation, while Livestrong.com is a somewhat similar-looking page that features the same Livestrong logo and design but is actually a for-profit content farm owned by Demand Media.

In 2008, the foundation licensed the Livestrong brand name to Demand, the online media company behind eHow and Cracked.com, among other properties. Livestrong.com was positioned as a “health, fitness, and wellness community,” offering an online calorie counter, exercise and yoga videos, and articles about such topics as “What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Rejecting Belly Button Rings?”

As compensation for the use of its name, the foundation received about 183,000 shares of stock, which it sold for $3.1 million when the company went public in January 2011. Armstrong also received 156,000 shares of his own as part of a spokesperson agreement. (His agents, Bill Stapleton and Bart Knaggs, also received shares.) After the deal was criticized in the media, Armstrong donated his initial sale proceeds—roughly $1.2 million—to the foundation and said he planned to donate the rest, too.

Livestrong executives describe the deal as good for everyone, a way to spread their message of healthy lifestyles to a wider audience. Under the agreement, Armstrong provided blog entries, videos, and other content to Livestrong.com. “I actually have to do work for them,” he told me in an interview.

Adds Ulman: “They guaranteed us certain levels of traffic. They said, ‘We will build a site, and we will ultimately send people to the foundation.’ ” But traffic to the for-profit Demand Media site has surged, in part thanks to Lance’s promotional work, while the foundation’s traffic has remained essentially flat. And it was the foundation that paid to defend their joint trademark against the Barkstrong dog-collar salesman.

“It’s definitely questionable,” says Mark Zimbelman, the Brigham Young University professor behind Fraudbytes. “Imagine if the American Red Cross sold its name to Americanredcross.com, and you can go there and buy vitamins. You think you’re donating or helping the American Red Cross, but you’re really not. It’s unheard of.”

ARMSTRONG BENEFITS FROM HIS FOUNDATION in another, less tangible way: everything he does in connection with Livestrong gets him good press, diluting the flow of scandal stories. In September, he made a splash at a UN meeting on noncommunicable diseases, appearing at several forums to, as the foundation put it, “represent the 28 million people around the world living with cancer.” New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, himself a million-dollar donor, threw a lavish party that featured a Livestrong-produced documentary on young cancer patients in Rwanda and Jordan. Nike put up a three-story billboard near Madison Square Garden with Livestrong’s latest slogan, FIGHT LIKE HELL.

That might as well be Lance’s legal motto, since all signs point to a scorched-earth battle in his near future. At press time, Novitzky had been investigating Armstrong for more than 18 months, with still no indictments coming out of the Los Angeles grand jury. Whether that’s good news or bad news for Armstrong remains to be seen, but most observers think an indictment is coming.

The feds aren’t his only worry. Waiting in the wings is the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which has been conducting its own investigation since it received Floyd Landis’s accusatory e-mails in May 2010. And while it remains true that Armstrong has never tested positive, at least officially, nowadays you don’t need to flunk a lab test to be sanctioned for performance-enhancing drugs.

For the past several years, USADA has been handing down non-analytical positives—sanctioning athletes based on evidence, including testimony from teammates, other than direct positive tests. In 2008, the agency banned the cyclist Kayle Leogrande for EPO use based almost entirely on the testimony of a soigneur and a team administrator.Armstrong now has at least two former teammates, Landis and Hamilton, who say they witnessed him using banned drugs—and there may be more if, as 60 Minutes reported, George Hincapie and others told similar stories to the grand jury.

That means Armstrong could be looking at a doping sanction, possibly a lifetime ban, and the loss of at least two of his Tour titles. (The statute of limitations for doping offenses is eight years.)

And while the foundation takes care to distance itself from the doping drama—McLane calls it “issues in the cycling world”—the potential fallout is considerable. If Armstrong turns out to have used drugs, then It’s Not About the Bike—Livestrong’s creation myth—will ring just as false as Three Cups of Tea.

“It’s going to have a huge impact,” says Michael Birdsong, a former Livestrong supporter, now disillusioned, who estimates that he has given $50,000 to Livestrong over the years. “Who wants to support a foundation that was founded by a cheater? Not only a cheater, but a person who lied about it.”

The foundation says that its 2011 donations are up, year over year. But more than a third of the foundation’s support comes from corporate sources and cross-marketing deals with Armstrong’s sponsors, starting with that $7.5 million from Nike. If he is sanctioned for doping, then that money, and revenue from his other sponsors, becomes vulnerable. While Nike and RadioShack say they are sticking by Armstrong, that can always change: when Marion Jones was busted for doping, Nike dropped her.

More tellingly, the Livestrong Challenge ride and run events—which depend on people asking friends and neighbors for donations—are bringing in much less money these days. The rides raised only $6.3 million in 2011, before expenses, versus more than $11 million the previous year, according to the foundation’s 2010 annual report. “It was a lot more difficult to raise $250 for Livestrong this year,” says one longtime foundation fundraiser. “People asked a lot more questions.”

For his part, Armstrong is staying the course: he’s innocent, he says, and the public backing that he and Livestrong need will always be there. “I can only tell you what people come up and say with regard to that,” he told me. “The support might even go to a place where they say, ‘I don’t fucking know, and I don’t care. I know what Livestrong means to myself and my family. That’s what I care about.’ ”

Still, in a 2006 deposition in another court case, even Armstrong sounded worried about how a scandal could affect his sponsors and followers. “If you have a doping offense or you test positive, it goes without saying that you’re fired, from all of your contracts,” he said. “It’s not about money for me. It’s all about the faith that people have put in me over the years. All of that would be erased. So I don’t need it to say in a contract, You’re fired if you test positive. That’s not as important as losing the support of hundreds of millions of people.”

BILL GIFFORD (@billgifford) is A LONGTIME CONTRIBUTOR TO OUTSIDE.

Friday, January 18, 2013

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