CHICAGO (AP) — Leaders of the cancer charity founded by Lance Armstrong struck a determined, sometimes defiant tone on Thursday as they declared the organization will persevere in the wake of the cyclist's admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
"I am on safe ground to say that the past year did not go as planned," Livestrong's executive vice president Andy Miller said at The Livestrong Foundation's annual meeting in Chicago. "Things happen that we cannot control — cancer has taught us that. What do we do? We adapt."
He added later, "This is our message to the world: The Livestrong Foundation is not going anywhere."
The meeting, its first such gathering since Armstrong's troubled departure in October, comes amid a swirl of uncertainty about whether donors could back away or whether people worldwide will stop showing their support by purchasing the foundation's trademark yellow "Livestrong" bracelets.
Addressing some 500 people in his 30-minute keynote speech, Miller mentioned Armstrong by name only four times. But there was no mistaking what he meant by the foundation being "caught in the crossfire of the media frenzy."
"We faced headwinds that were not only stiff, but heartbreaking," Miller said, without getting more specific.
Armstrong won seven Tour de France titles — all of which were stripped in August. He also is banned for life from sports. He stepped down as chairman of the charity in October, saying he didn't want his association to damage the foundation's ability to raise money and continue its advocacy programs on behalf of people with cancer.
Livestrong's president, Doug Ulman, echoed Miller's sentiments in prepared remarks.
"Our success has never been based on one person," said Ulman, who was unable to deliver the speech in person because of travel delays. "Will the Livestrong Foundation survive? Yes. Absolutely, yes. Hell, yes."
A common theme Thursday was disappointment in Armstrong's actions but gratitude for how he parlayed his fame into raising cancer awareness.
"We were deeply disappointed when we learned along with the rest of the world that we had been misled during and after Lance's cycling career," Miller said. "We accepted the apology ... and we remain grateful for what he decided to create and helped build."
Among the steps the organization is taking to establish a new identity is to change its day of action each year from Oct. 2 — the date in 1996 that Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer — to May 17, the group announced Thursday.
On that day in 2004, the charity launched their yellow bands. Since then, 87 million have been sold to raise $87 million, said Katherine McLane, the group's executive vice president for communications.