BOSTON (CBS) – With his primetime television revelation this week that he used performance-enhancing drugs, former world champion cyclist Lance Armstrong is trying to rehabilitate his crumbling public image.
But his legacy of goodwill is doing some of that work for him.
One arm of his charitable foundation, from which he formally stepped down on Wednesday, is called Livestrong at the YMCA. It is a 12-week group exercise program free for cancer survivors. It is offered in Ys around the country, including the one in West Roxbury.
Janice O’Connor is in charge of the Livestrong program there. She has personally coached more than a hundred Boston-area cancer survivors as the Y’s Health and Wellness Director.
“People who have finished this class, they say it’s changed their lives,” she explains. “That’s kind of made it easy for us to just say, we’re sticking with Lance Armstrong the cancer survivor who started this wonderful foundation.”
O’Connor says it makes a lot of sense for her to see Armstrong not as the flawed man who took drugs and lied about it.
“Lance Armstrong first and foremost, as far as this foundation goes, is a cancer survivor,” she says. “The foundation is still going strong. It’s still helping people. Livestrong at the YMCA, here at the West Roxbury YMCA, we will continue to run this program. We stand by it. It’s a wonderful, wonderful program.”
Participants agree. Mary Ellen Sullivan was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, 2010. The Livestrong program, she says, has been a godsend. Following 14 months of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, she says she could barely walk up the stairs. Not only did she complete the program, she’s still going to the Y regularly to keep in shape.
“It’s given me my life back after cancer really,” she says. “I have a motivation now like I’ve never had before.”