AUSTIN, Tex. — Barry Bonds. Marion Jones. Alex Rodriguez. Roger Clemens. There is no shortage of athletes who have fallen from grace, their achievements on the playing field and their public stature compromised by accusations of cheating or revelations of criminal or otherwise repugnant behavior.
The case of Lance Armstrong is far more complex. Having survived testicular cancer that metastasized to his lungs and his brain, Mr. Armstrong — who went on to win a record seven Tour de France titles — has become a powerful symbol of the possibilities of life after the disease. He has also become a world-class philanthropist, his Livestrong foundation doling out $31 million last year on behalf of cancer patients.
But now that he and his former team are subjects of a federal investigation into doping activities, those in the interdependent circles of his world are concerned that the inquiry will tarnish or erode all he has built.
“There are just so many unknowns at this point,” Doug Ulman, the chief executive of Livestrong and a cancer survivor, said in an interview at the foundation’s airy new headquarters here. “That’s the most frustrating thing.”
To Dr. John R. Seffrin, the chief executive of the American Cancer Society, the investigation should be irrelevant. Whatever Mr. Armstrong’s transgressions as an athlete, he said, they pale in comparison with the good he has done.
“Lance Armstrong has done more to destigmatize cancer than anyone,” Dr. Seffrin said.
Few would dispute that Mr. Armstrong is a splendid athlete, gifted and dedicated, or that he is a magnificent publicist for his cause. Since 2004, when Livestrong and its corporate partner Nike gave the world the yellow bracelet to signify that the wearer had been touched by cancer, more than 70 million have been distributed.