Join 3,417 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Outside Magazine on Livestrong - Valid criticism or concern trolling?
January 9, 2012 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Outside Magazine on Livestrong - Valid criticism or concern trolling?

Longtime critic of Lance Armstrong, Bill Gifford, writes about the Livestrong Foundation.

The Livestrong page on Where the money goes.
posted by Argyle (78 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
People in the biking community have a much more jaundiced view of Armstrong than the general public, and Livestrong is widely viewed as a fig leaf for his borderline-asshole personality and suspicions of doping. So this is not really new.
posted by dhartung at 2:32 PM on January 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


My experiences match what @dhartung said.
posted by Doug Stewart at 2:36 PM on January 9, 2012


I'm not a particularly emotional person, nor am I in any way involved in the biking community, but I've followed the Tour de France for over 20 years and if there's one person I really fucking *want* to believe in, it's Lance Armstrong. I'm a cynical old bastard and I love seeing all these blowhards appear on TV and then get taken down by their own hypocrisy, but Lance, well I just need him to be different.

I really do. I really need him to be that one guy who overcame all sorts of horrible and just did what he did and did it so well that nobody could touch him, all the while staying humble, staying real and giving shit back.

Please be that guy Lance. Please.
posted by jontyjago at 2:45 PM on January 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


People in the biking community have a much more jaundiced view of Armstrong than the general public

Not one of my friends who is both a member of this "community" and a survivor of testicular cancer. He has not spoken to me since I dared to suggest that St Lance had doped- and that conversation took place in 2008.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:49 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know, but the favicon on that site looks suspiciously like a LiveStrong bracelet.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:49 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Confession, I didn't read either article fully but isn't that a 'thing' now? Finding out that charities aren't really giving money to the assumed causes but are only 'raising awareness'?

Didn't Bono's RED campaign have the same thing? "As in 'we never said we were actually using the money to fight the disease/fund research/do anything' we just said we were "raising awareness" by putting its (and our name) out there."
posted by bquarters at 2:50 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, Livestrong doesn't do research grants any more? And their product is "hope"?

Yeah, I won't be ponying up any time soon.

(Also, I thought Charles Pelkey's response to the article was interesting.)
posted by RakDaddy at 2:50 PM on January 9, 2012


Livestrong focuses on patient advocacy rather than research. Stop The Presses!

I'm not particularly into cycling nor am I particularly a fan of Lance Armstrong but I don't see anything wrong with what the foundation does. In fact, it sounds very valuable and it certainly helps a different set of the public than research would. They are open about what they do, have compelling reasons and lots of happy clients. They have slick media and a shiny new office. So what?

This article comes across as a hack job by someone who is personally disillusioned with lance Armstrong the athlete, not someone who really looked into the organization itself or the need it meets in the cancer community.

The again it is Outside magazine and they're notorious for publishing this kind of thing. (generally preceded by a thorough tongue bath of said athlete at the height of his bro-idolatry).
posted by fshgrl at 2:51 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, Livestrong doesn't do research grants any more? And their product is "hope"?


Yeah, I won't be ponying up any time soon.


Read the article. They provide concrete support services to cancer patients. That's a lot more difficult than doling out grant dollars.
posted by fshgrl at 2:53 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Lance Armstrong went to jail and Livestrong went away, that would be a huge setback in our war against cancer, right? Not exactly
...
I had both Mortenson and 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.
Woah, the big news to me is that Armstrong might go to jail. I knew there were rumors of doping, I had no idea there was a legal case against him.

And yeah 'awareness' is there seriously anyone who isn't 'aware' of cancer at this point?

That said, I think the government going after doping athletes is such a huge waste of time. On an individual level, it's even stupider then the 'regular' war on drugs, except the 'regular' war on drugs affects far more people.
posted by delmoi at 2:53 PM on January 9, 2012


That "where the money goes" graph is intentionally misleading.
posted by entropone at 2:53 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Remember when Livestrong bracelets were so popular that there was a huge back-order, and people were re-selling bracelets for a significant mark-up on eBay? I do.

Such conspicuous consumption for a cause is interesting - it raises awareness about a cause, but the cause can get overshadowed by the culture around the thing(s). At least, in my eyes, Livestrong is more message-focused than (PRODUCT)RED is (it's all about fundingraising for AIDS awareness in Africa), which just became a unifying cross-product branding exercise.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:53 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just read the whole article. While the author himself is pretty skeptical and keeps hinting at fraud and scandals, he doesn't find anything illegal and nothing even particularly untowardly. It really does come down to how you see the work that they do.

Re: awareness. I found this quote in the article enlightening:
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.”
'Awareness' is a much more complex concept than it seems on the surface, I think.
posted by tippiedog at 2:59 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have to be honest: If someone were to ask me what "Livestrong" promotes I would probably have to take a couple minutes to remember. Their "awareness campaign" frankly isn't very good.

They have slick media and a shiny new office. So what?

Slick media and a shiny new office cost money. Money that comes from donors.

Unfortunately for Gifford, he links to a much more succint article and then doesn't follow up with better answers to the fundamental question:
Similarly, the issue with Lance Armstrong isn't whether he has done good for cancer victims, 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.
posted by muddgirl at 3:02 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


That "where the money goes" graphic is a classic method of lying with statistics. (I have no idea if 20% overhead is small or large.)
posted by benito.strauss at 3:02 PM on January 9, 2012


20% overhead is reasonable. Universities are typically 50% or more, which is why giving small grants to academic researchers isn't terribly cost effective.
posted by fshgrl at 3:04 PM on January 9, 2012


It's interesting how the author of this article spends the first three pages establishing why he's completely unqualified to write about the subject with an objective and dispassionate tone.

Not that he's wrong....I suspect he's probably right on the money here, but I'm not sure that it's a good persuasive tactic to admit upfront that you have a huge axe to grind.
posted by schmod at 3:06 PM on January 9, 2012


My contribution is 70's movie wisdom.
posted by Winnemac at 3:07 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


fshgrl - Hey, maybe I'll do that next time! I'll read the entire article before posting a comment on Metafilter! Why didn't I think of that?

I did read the article, hence the "hope" in quotes, as I was quoting LS Board Member Mark McKinnon from the article. The fact that McKinnon represents Bono, who I consider as much of a awareness-pimping fraud as Armstrong, says enough for me. Armstrong quite probably cheated, and his image as The Man Who Cancer Couldn't Kill is quite probably built on a lie. Whatever good LS does is mitigated by its symbiotic relationship with a spokesman who is, quite probably, a liar and a cheat.
posted by RakDaddy at 3:14 PM on January 9, 2012


Also, this?
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.”
I think the situation is absolutely the reverse. The more we study cancer, the more we realize that we have a long way to go, scientifically, to figuring out what is going on.

Of course, "We don't know what the fuck is going on, so we should put money into patients rather than research" doesn't exactly play well.
posted by muddgirl at 3:15 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was funny. I hated Armstrong before he got cancer--seriously, you should see the interviews from back then. At least he backed his boasts up. Then I loved him after he beat cancer. Back to hating him now.

Cycling has a long way to go.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:16 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


> he links to a much more succint article and then doesn't follow up with better answers to the fundamental question

But Giffords wasn't setting out to answer the question about whether Armstrong doped or not, and he did (in my read, anyway) answer the question of whether Armstrong is enriching himself through the foundation to the best of his ability, and the answer is no.

As close as that linked article is to an outright smear of Armstrong, I think Giffords was smart to leave it alone. It is a valid question about whether the people who donate to Livestrong understand what activities their money is going toward, and if it's not well managed, Livestrong would hardly be the first foundation to suffer that problem. But murky messaging and problematic management are a different order of business than taking foundation money for personal enrichment.
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:17 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


But Giffords wasn't setting out to answer the question about whether Armstrong doped or not

That wasn't the question.

and the answer is no

That depends on the definition of "enriching himself." No, Armstrong isn't embezzling money from Livestrong, but is it an incredibly effective, donor-funded PR campaign for Armstrong (whether intentionally or unintentionally)? Yes. Is it an effective tool for funnelling money towards beneficial cancer-related programs? To me this is doubtful.
posted by muddgirl at 3:22 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you get diagnosed with cancer, you can call Livestrong at (in the USA) 855-220-7777 and they will do everything they can to help you get effective treatment, manage the disease and the havoc it can inflict upon your life, and in general support you as a human being. I have personal experience in this regard and every single person I have ever met who works for the organization or volunteers their time has been an outstanding example of a decent human being.

I bust ass to raise money for Livestrong because I care about helping people in that situation. You can donate here if that's important to you as well.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:23 PM on January 9, 2012 [20 favorites]


Slick media and a shiny new office cost money. Money that comes from donors.

True. Although many in the charity world will tell you that slick media and shiny new offices exist specifically to generate more donors. You want to give your money to the guy that looks like he knows what to do with it, not the guy that can barely keep the lights on. Is that fair? Hell no. But it's reality.

There's a reason the Gates Foundation moved into new headquarters, and it sure as hell wasn't because Seattle lacked office space.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:25 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I won the Tour de France a couple of times after battling cancer. Jesus this Lance Armstrong guy should just shut up already.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:30 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love that the Gates Foundation is so shiny, and that it's neighbours are a big pit in the ground and a trailer park full of bums.
posted by Artw at 3:32 PM on January 9, 2012


Is it an effective tool for funnelling money towards beneficial cancer-related programs?

Okay, then we're not disagreeing, exactly. I think this is the pertinent, and much more interesting question -- and that Giffords piece does more to address it than the referenced article, which falls just short of accusing Armstrong of being exactly like Greg Mortenson.
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:32 PM on January 9, 2012


Didn't Bono's RED campaign have the same thing? "As in 'we never said we were actually using the money to fight the disease/fund research/do anything' we just said we were "raising awareness" by putting its (and our name) out there."

There's plenty of criticisms to be made about (RED) and its ties to consumerist culture, but unless they're outright lying they've given around $150 million to the Global Fund. Not a huge percentage of what the Global Fund gets per se, but not chump change either. Are companies doing (RED) purely out of altruism? Of course not. Would that $150 million have been raised otherwise? I doubt it.

(The Global Fund directly funds prevention and treatment programs for AIDS, TB, and malaria.)
posted by kmz at 3:33 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


A follow-up from Charles Pelkey, a journalist and cancer survivor quoted in the article.
posted by muddgirl at 3:33 PM on January 9, 2012


This article has no real conclusions and tons and tons of vague hints. It's not nearly black and white enough as to sufficiently fuel any outrage so clearly it's a failure.
posted by xmutex at 3:35 PM on January 9, 2012


They provide concrete support services to cancer patients. That's a lot more difficult than doling out grant dollars.

I work for a nonprofit that does similar work--providing direct support and navigational assistance to people in crappy situations--and I agree with what you see about the importance and difficulty of providing concrete support services.

On the other hand, I'd characterize a lot of what Livestrong does in terms of their budget expenditures as "shady," particularly writing off marketing expenses (like the yellow bracelets) as "program expenditures" rather than as marketing expenditures. If you did that with government grant money, you'd lose your grant in a hurry.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:35 PM on January 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


EvaDestruction - I think in the end I mostly agree with you. I guess I would have liked more concrete numbers when Gifford was deconstructing their program spending (the fact that they are counting donation of Nike Livestrong bracelets as program funding seems particularly damning*, but no numbers are given). I know I could look those numbers up myself, but not everyone knows of those resources.

* It seems to me that the claim is that Livestrong is buying bracelets from Nike and then donating them to organizations, claiming that as program expenses (rather than marketing expenses!). Since Nike is in kind donating money back to Livestrong (and is also a sponsor of Armstrong and pays him to wear Nike/Livestrong gear) the relationship seems very muddled.
posted by muddgirl at 3:37 PM on January 9, 2012


It was funny. I hated Armstrong before he got cancer--seriously, you should see the interviews from back then. At least he backed his boasts up. Then I loved him after he beat cancer. Back to hating him now.

heh. Interestingly enough I have been in the industry long enough to have seen & heard some curious insider takes. Rather than perpetuate any third party rumours however, I shall simply report on my personal brushes with him throughout the years. Summary: Armstrong has never stopped being an asshole of the first water; he merely got wealthy enough post-miraculous-recovery to afford better press agents, full stop.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:40 PM on January 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm SO sick of that cheater.
posted by ReeMonster at 3:46 PM on January 9, 2012


Slick media and a shiny new office cost money. Money that comes from donors.

Actually, labor (wages and benefits) is often the biggest cost - and rightly so. I work in a grant-related job and there's this perception that paying researchers and support staff reasonable amounts ($30,000- $60,000/year plus benefits, depending on their expertise) is somehow this huge giant waste of money that gets in the way of the research. While Lance Armstrong sounds like an enormous douche and his second in command sounds totally overpaid ($312,000/year!), 20% sounds actually pretty trim.

Universities do not, as said upthread, use 50% on overhead. Our general rates for federal grantors are around 1/3 on overhead - ie, you write a grant for $100,000 and you also request "indirect costs" of around $50,000. This helps subsidize the grants from foundations and companies that don't provide indirect costs or provide only 5%-10%. Indirect costs pay building maintenance, support staff, utilities, and the various "OMG Mr. Dean my flow cytometer just broke and I can't afford another one" costs associated with research. Research, IME, tends to lose money most of the time and break even in good years.
posted by Frowner at 3:47 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


20% sounds actually pretty trim

Their overhead number is meaningless if they are disguising marketing costs as "awareness programs," which is one allegation.
posted by muddgirl at 3:54 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


For those of you who haven't followed the Pelkey link:
First off, the reference to my Tweet about my cancer was to the comment I made a couple of hours I made after being laid-off by VeloNews. A little shaken up, I said - to my then small cadre of 65 or so followers - "A bit nervous. On top of everything, cancer surgery on Tuesday. All I ask, though, just don't buy me a @#$ing yellow rubberband."

Lance opted to retweet the thing to his million-billion followers and offered up "wow. stay classy charles." To which I responded "I will. I promise. Can you make the same commitment?" (Apparently, he couldn't. It's been radio silence since.)
Lance Armstrong: The Once and Future Asshole.

If Livestrong staff and volunteers do some good work connecting cancer patients with treatment options, then that's very admirable. But if they aren't the only people offering this kind of support, I'd think I'd rather go to anyfuckingone else than LS. Any organization headed by a petty, passive-aggressive dick like Armstrong is one I'll avoid.
posted by maudlin at 3:56 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I knew that Armstrong is an asshole. I have no problem with the arrogance, he could always back that up by winning, but he is a bully. He uses everything from threatening letters from his lawyers to threats of physical violence in restaurant restrooms in order to intimidate anyone standing in his way. And in my opinion, which is just a personal opinion Mr. Armstrong's Lawyer, there is no we he could do what he did, surrounded by dopers, if he did not dope himself.

But the thing that really really surprised me is the people he has working for him:

Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane [...] 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.

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

Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres indeed.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 4:00 PM on January 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


The hate Lance Armstrong garners here simultaneously amazes and disappoints me. I don't know the guy; likely, I will never meet the guy; I have no history with either professional cycling or testicular cancer besides being a fan of the prior and not a fan of the latter.

He is a man. He may be a liar or a cheat. He may be a hero and a saint. Reality and experience generally lend me to believe there is at least a little truth to any or all of that. If he cheated, fine - ride the horse (or bike) all the way to jail or a very large fine for him (and loss of titles). And if he's innocent - well then, if your problem with him is that he's still an asshole... Recognize the problem and the hate you have towards him is somewhere in the realm of hating Mickey mouse and/or the Ronald McDonald House... LiveStrong and Lance Armstrong are icons of commercialism and goodwill like many others before them.

So for those of you bitter, who have never met the guy and don't know him at any real level besides press releases and paparazzi, I am sorry that you have found out that real heroes aren't perfect. Like Batman, he may not be the hero we need, but he is definitely the hero we deserve.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:10 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


threats of physical violence in restaurant restrooms

What?
posted by xmutex at 4:20 PM on January 9, 2012


I have friends who do volunteer and fundraise for Livestrong entirely out of the goodness of their hearts, to fight cancer. I hope the organization is solid and reputable.

Page 10 explains the nonsense of livestrong.org vs. livestrong.com. Livestrong.com is SEO spammer nonsense bullshit and it embarrasses me every time it shows up in a Google search result page. Now that I know they licensed the Livestrong brand to Demand Media, it all makes sense. The Livestrong team says it's all about outreach and fundraising and goodness but it's still a terrible, sleazy site. Hopefully that was just a bad decision and not emblematic of a broken organization.
posted by Nelson at 4:21 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, there's no doubt that Livestrong.com pays writers pathetically low sums of money to write crappy content (you pretty well couldn't do otherwise at the amounts they pay) so why would his charity be any better? Thankfully, Google seems to be killing it and other content farms.
posted by Maias at 4:22 PM on January 9, 2012


If he cheated, if, then it's not the cheating in the sport that's the issue. It's the fact that this implies that he has found a pharmaceutical cocktail that enables someone to go from chemo to repeat Tour de France winner, without being detectable using modern testing techniques: i.e. something new and interesting.

Cheating at the TdF I can deal with. Withholding new science from cancer survivors? That's very very bad.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 4:27 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


dhartung: People in the biking community have a much more jaundiced view of Armstrong than the general public, and Livestrong is widely viewed as a fig leaf for his borderline-asshole personality and suspicions of doping. So this is not really new.

You know, jaundiced is quite the word choice to describe someone's opinion of Armstrong. Considering the funny yellow Livestrong bracelets everyone is wearing.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 4:29 PM on January 9, 2012


Universities do not, as said upthread, use 50% on overhead. Our

I spent many years working for a federal grant program reviewing hundreds of applications per year and 50% indirect is quite average for a major US university. I have never seen one less than 40% on a research proposal I don't think.

Most non profits that don't have a federally negotiated indirect rate charge 10-20%.
posted by fshgrl at 4:32 PM on January 9, 2012


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.”

posted by anniecat at 4:34 PM on January 9, 2012


Here's a gem:

“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.
posted by anniecat at 4:36 PM on January 9, 2012


My guess is that Armstrong's vigorous philanthropic activity is motivated in part by guilt over cycling victories achieved via doping (ameliorated by the fact that essentially everyone else who ever stood on the podium with him was also a doper).
posted by exogenous at 4:44 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no real opinion on livestrong, one way or the other--to me, they seem like the givewell of the cancer world--but I wonder why the government has an office whose mandate is to discover whether athletes are doping.
posted by maxwelton at 4:52 PM on January 9, 2012


It was funny. I hated Armstrong before he got cancer--seriously, you should see the interviews from back then. At least he backed his boasts up. Then I loved him after he beat cancer. Back to hating him now.

I guess you could say that your views of him are. . . cyclical.
posted by euphorb at 5:08 PM on January 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Armstrong could have just volunteered or raised money for the American Cancer Society and other existing cancer-fighting agencies. I have never heard them attacked for excessive overhead or failing to act, and it's unlikely he even matches their overhead efficiency.

Unless someone can tell me a good reason why existing charities were unable to effectively help cancer patients, Occam's Razor tells me that the effort of him starting a new organization is all about his ego, about basically appropriating the goodwill that would have gone to the American Cancer Society for Nike and Armstrong. And if he is at all less effective or efficient than ACS, or if his personal failings end up damaging the cause, then he will have hurt a lot of very vulnerable people simply to serve his own ego and interests.
posted by msalt at 5:21 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


LastOfHisKind: "If you get diagnosed with cancer, you can call Livestrong at (in the USA) 855-220-7777 and they will do everything they can to help you get effective treatment, manage the disease and the havoc it can inflict upon your life, and in general support you as a human being."

My mom was diagnosed with cancer a couple of months ago. Of all the organizations I thought of contacting (American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, local universities) I have to say Livestrong was not on the list. I guess what I mean by that is that I had no idea they'd offer you support like that. If they want to increase awareness, perhaps they should increase the awareness that they can/will help you.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:23 PM on January 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I spent many years working for a federal grant program reviewing hundreds of applications per year and 50% indirect is quite average for a major US university. I have never seen one less than 40% on a research proposal I don't think.

Most non profits that don't have a federally negotiated indirect rate charge 10-20%.


But your math, it is confused! Using 50% on overhead would mean getting $100,000 of which $50,000 goes to overhead. Having a 50% indirect cost rate means that you ask for 50% again as much as the grant - ie, you get $150,000 and you spend $50,000, which is 50% (or 1/3) on overhead. And as we both agree, this partially subsidizes other grants with lower IDCs. Most grants that train students provide MUCH less indirect support (ie 4-10%) while requiring much MORE administration. Some Health and Human Services grants (which are mostly for awesome programs) also provide much less IDC than normal.) Medical and dental schools tend to have a lot of training grants and Health and Human Services grants. They also tend to have clinical trials, which pay less IDC as well.

As universities lose state funding, there's pressure to get as much IDC as possible, just to keep the lights on. We're running very lean where I work - VERY lean indeed - and we still petitioned for a rise in IDC rates.
posted by Frowner at 5:34 PM on January 9, 2012


I spent many years working for a federal grant program reviewing hundreds of applications per year and 50% indirect is quite average for a major US university.

Also, that would be a cool job. I would love to work for NIH or similar (not that I could actually review grants since I have no science background). Sadly, they have a pretty bad rep for how they treat their lower-level staff.
posted by Frowner at 5:37 PM on January 9, 2012


Every rider in the Tour is on something. Lance, thanks to his brave story, and subsequent endorsements has the $$ for the best drugs, the best lawyers and the best doctors. I'm willing to admire his effort and courage, but I'm not going to worship at the shrine of St. Lance.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:45 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like Batman, he may not be the hero we need, but he is definitely the hero we deserve.

Nanukthedog, if Batman is lying to the authorities about whether or not he follows the laws, whilst promoting himself tooth & nail as absolutely following those same laws, AND defrauding contributors to the Batman Fund for Orphans of Violence, then we don't need Batman, and he's no hero.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:48 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lance Armstrong would definitely be a member of the Brotherhood of Mutants, but I'm cool with that.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:58 PM on January 9, 2012


threats of physical violence in restaurant restrooms

What?


Here's a summary, as posted earlier by Outside magazine: Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton walk into a bar...
posted by buck godot, zap gun for hire at 7:02 PM on January 9, 2012


I will not give specifics because I was not there, but you can find lots of stories of Lance being a bully all the way back from his training days for the 1992 Olympics up to the last few years in Aspen.

I will bet $20 that in the next two years he has a very well planned "coming out" party, with lawyers and PR people involved. Maybe he will finally explain the EPO positive B samples and the $100k he paid the UCI.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 8:24 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I tend to be against performance enhancing drug use in principal.. Or at least pro harm reduction among pro athletes. That said..
I really need him to be that one guy who overcame all sorts of horrible and just did what he did and did it so well that nobody could touch him,
But he is all that, really really is, more or less. An ass hole too, by most accounts, but what he did for (to?) cycling was definitely epic. Keep in mind that ALL of his opponents were guilty of juicing too.

Did you ever actually think he was humble?
posted by Chuckles at 8:36 PM on January 9, 2012


Glad Sheryl Crow dodged that bullet (even though he left her for wanting children and then promptly knocked up his next girlfriend).
posted by anniecat at 8:38 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


fshgrl: “They provide concrete support services to cancer patients. That's a lot more difficult than doling out grant dollars.”

At a single facility with only 88 employees? While the CEO makes $320,000 a year, and the foundation watches billions of dollars go by annually? Yeah, I don't know how much "concrete support services" they're providing. Maybe a tiny amount, but I've seen no-name non-profit cancer centers with twice that many employees who had a tiny fraction of that budget. Perhaps nobody had heard of them, but at least they spent all their time and money giving support services, instead of mostly just advertising the name of their supposed benefactor.
posted by koeselitz at 10:45 PM on January 9, 2012


I'm SO sick of that cheater

(removes sunglasses)

Well, there's no doubt that Lance Armstrong cheated. . . death.

(replaces sunglasses)
posted by hattifattener at 11:14 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


But your math, it is confused! Using 50% on overhead would mean getting $100,000 of which $50,000 goes to overhead. Having a 50% indirect cost rate means that you ask for 50% again as much as the grant - ie, you get $150,000 and you spend $50,000, which is 50% (or 1/3) on overhead.

I didn't do any math. The stated indirect rate for most universities is around 40-55% and that's what I said. I don't have a problem with it at all, I think people get too wound up about "overhead" when it comes to non profits and colleges. They have to keep the lights on and the janitorial staff paid to do what they do. Bottom line: grant money is earmarked for a purpose, it's going to go to whoever can get the job done competently at a reasonable cost and is ready and able to do so. For the most part it's a screaming deal. Hire a consultancy to do the same work and it'll cost more.

My point was that 20% is not out of line, despite the way it's presented in the article. In fact I don't think there's anything in the article that indicates Armstrong of the foundation are defrauding donors and I'm surprised that is the takeaway message people seem to be getting from it. If people are surprised that the money doesn't go to research they can just look on the website or call and ask before donating!

If Lance Armstrong doped during races, that's another issue. One the author of the article brings up repeatedly but I don't see what it has to do anything myself.
posted by fshgrl at 12:04 AM on January 10, 2012


If people are surprised that the money doesn't go to research they can just look on the website or call and ask before donating!

When they are donating in response to a solicitation 'for cancer research', as at Radio Shack, you think they shouldn't expect it to go to cancer research? Nobody expects people to do due diligence on a $1 checkout donation, and the lowest possible standard we could hold LiveStrong and their partners to is 'don't lie about where the money is going'. I bet LiveStrong could have had every RadioShack employee and store corrected in a few hours if they cared to.
posted by jacalata at 12:39 AM on January 10, 2012


I was at the 2009 Tour de France for the prologue in Monaco (my photos) and when they rode through Nice. Take a quick look at that photoset and notice the position of riders' heads. I was standing at a spot I knew well, in front of a building where I'd worked for a year and a half. It was one of the few uphill spots, so I knew I'd have time to take better shots of the riders. All of the riders showed their heads/faces as they rode past.

Except Lance Armstrong. You can see what happened. Notice that there are several people with cameras, shouting. What I heard, that you naturally can't see from photographs, is that they're all French or Italian speakers. I was born in Oregon; grew up roding bikes; have a cousin who rode pro as a road cyclist for a while. So Lance had an American cyclist fan there, excited to finally see him up close and take his photo, happy to cheer him on. As soon as I said, in my distinctly American accent, "GO LANCE!" this is what he did. And kept doing. Made a distinct, clear point of doing as he passed me. Disappointed is an understatement.

I finally understood he's not riding for fans. I don't even care that much about the doping, as others have said, chances are very good that everyone on the Tour is doped. They're still amazing athletes. But as soon as Lance pulled that pointless nonsense, I understood that stories about his assholishness were true. Such a shame for him, because if he'd just cycled like everyone else, I'd have disbelieved the negative reports on his personality. Instead he confirmed it himself.
posted by fraula at 12:46 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oops, my initial photo of Lance in the "Except Lance Armstrong" sentence disappeared. Here it is, before I'd cheered.
posted by fraula at 12:49 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are "overheads" for a charity and "overheads" for a university different things? Universities call "overhead" activity that directly supports research: overhead is what pays for my work computer networks & the support staff that keeps it going. Overhead is what pays for the libraries & the librarians that actually make them useful, overhead is the building I work in, the electricity bill, the heating bill etc etc. Overhead is everything *except* my salary in fact. Except that without these things that overhead pays for, I can't do any of the research work that I'm paid to do!

I've got the impression that "overheads" for a charity is used to delineate all the things that are *not* part of supporting the actual charitable work. Where you draw that dividing line is of course always going to be difficult & I doubt you can directly compare figures for charities working under different models of outreach & support for their charitable work of choice. Which is of course why this whole field is both full of dubious activity (if not outright fraud) as well as mud-slinging against perfectly upstanding charities.
posted by pharm at 2:37 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn't do any math. The stated indirect rate for most universities is around 40-55% and that's what I said. I don't have a problem with it at all, I think people get too wound up about "overhead" when it comes to non profits and colleges.

fshgrl, what Frowner is pointing out is that numbers like 65% are misleading to people who don't have experience with grants, because they indicate a percentage of the direct costs, not of the total. (And in some places a percentage only of only part of the direct cost.) This is especially misleading in the present context, where overhead-type allocations for non-profits seem to usually be reported to the public with a pie chart and so are given as a percentage of the total grant. 55% indirect costs typically works out to be less than 33% of the total budget; some sample calculations for others can be seen here.
posted by advil at 6:19 AM on January 10, 2012


hey fraula?
i don't know if you've ever ridden a time trial. but the point is to grind yourself into the ground. the point is to do a thing to your brain and your body so that it can do stupid, difficult things that hurt.

blame him for a lot of douchey things, but not paying attention to a fan during a time trial? not an issue. i'd doubt he even heard you, quite frankly - no matter how audible you were.
posted by entropone at 6:39 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


tons and tons of vague hints

This is the deal - the French hate Armstrong with a mad, furious passion, because he comes from a country that doesn't care terribly much about cycling as a sport, and completely dominated it for more than a decade. It's an insult to their national and pan-european pride.

So, they accuse him of doping. Constantly. He's the single most investigated, tested and spied-on athlete in any sport. He can't be on the up-and-up, not with his age and cancer and (paid) eye-witnesses and all... yet time and again, he tests clean.

The rational conclusion to make is that he's clean, and one of the best athletes of all time.

The conclusion euro-sympathetic cycling fans make is that he's cheating, using magic or perhaps alien technology.

It's an amazing mainstream conspiracy theory, and fun to watch unfold - as in-depth as the JFK assassination or Roswell incident. Important people involved have eyewitness reports! (that can't be corroborated) Science has developed new tests that work on blood that's been frozen for years! (Well, one crank claims it has.) Arstrong paid off important European testing bodies! (by buying them state-of-the-art drug testing equipment) The DEA had one of their top investigators working full time on busting Armstrong! (He didn't find anything, either, and spent a lot of time and money in not finding it.)

Long after Lance is dead and the TDF is raced by clones on gel-metal bicycles using mind-control gears, they'll be coming up with new "evidence" he was doping.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:50 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Virtually everybody who works at a bar in downtown Austin has a personal anecdote about Armstrong's assholery. It is the stuff of local legend.

That said, I don't know where/when we started assuming/expecting our admired public figures to be saints. To find that one is an asshole may be disappointing, but it shouldn't be surprising. I'd even wager that he wouldn't have gotten where he was, were he not an douchebag alpha type.
posted by kaseijin at 7:39 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


fshgrl, what Frowner is pointing out is that numbers like 65% are misleading to people who don't have experience with grants, because they indicate a percentage of the direct costs, not of the total.

Precisely! I think you and I are both saying the same thing (that 20% overhead is reasonable and that university IDC rates are ~50% for federal funders) but we're explaining the figures differently.
posted by Frowner at 8:05 AM on January 10, 2012


That said, I don't know where/when we started assuming/expecting our admired public figures to be saints.

Right about the time they start asking for donations. No one held a gun to his head and said "Be a do-gooder." If you're a known and documented asshole, people will naturally question your motives when you ask them to give you money.
posted by msalt at 8:26 AM on January 10, 2012


I have to be honest: If someone were to ask me what "Livestrong" promotes I would probably have to take a couple minutes to remember. Their "awareness campaign" frankly isn't very good.

If you asked me what Livestrong does, I would say:

1. it sells celebrity bracelets
2. it promotes healthy living

I used to really like the recipes, but now they require an account and it's like why bother.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:32 AM on January 10, 2012


btw, anyone have a good lentil-walnut loaf recipe?
posted by mrgrimm at 8:43 AM on January 10, 2012


I'd like to read the article, but I can't get past Armstrong's crotch.
posted by gertzedek at 10:12 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older "Probably the most important conservation statute ...  |  On June 3, 1995, Courtney Love... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments