Charles Pelkey responds to Outside

Mon, 01/09/2012 - 12:39pm by Andy Shen

Bill Gifford's excellent examination into the uneasy relationship between Lance Armstrong and the Livestrong foundation, It's Not About the Lab Rats, is now live online here. One passage surprised me:

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.”

Andy Shen: I was surprised to see you in Bill Gifford's Livestrong article, and even more surprised to see that Livestrong had reached out to you and offered you assistance in dealing with your cancer. I have a feeling there's more to that story, care to clarify?

Charles Pelkey: Yeah, I was a little taken aback at how that appeared in the article. I am not saying that I was misquoted, but the article reflects a selective use of what I said. Yes, I said that I didn't particularly like Mr. Armstrong and, yes, I did say that I respect the work of the folks - particularly the volunteers - at the LAF. What's missing is the 15-minute rant that came in between those quotes.

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.)

Well, that thing went mini-viral in a way and I got more than my share of hate mail from the wristband crew. To his credit, LAF's Chris Brewer dropped me a note and said he was going to put me in touch with someone at LAF to help me through surgery, chemo and recovery. Indeed, I got a call from a really nice woman who offered to guide me through the process. For a lot of reasons, I turned her down. One, I didn't think it appropriate to be a long-time critic of Mr. Armstrong and then suddenly turn to him and the charity named after him for help when I got cancer.

Nonetheless, I said I respected the work of the group, its staff and, above all, those who selflessly volunteer their time.

I also noted that I had my suspicions about the organization, its funding and the way it spends its money. Again, I said that none of that should reflect on the staff or volunteers. Frankly, the organization has always made me suspicious. I don't like the way everyone's cancer has been "branded" with a variation of the guy's name (I am done with chemo and never did I "LiveStrong") and I was never all that sure that the funds being raised were being spent on fighting the disease from which many of us suffer. It's because of that, I turned down help from the LAF but I added that I had respect for the motivations and the work of those trying to help people fighting cancer.

Weird as it seems, my comments in the Outside article seem to suggest that I had some sort of epiphany and suddenly embraced Armstrong and the LAF the minute I got cancer. Not true.

Bottom line in my case, I got more support from NYVeloCity and its readers than from anywhere else. You guys came through in a million ways and I really regret that all of that - which I made clear to the reporter and to the fact checker who called last month - didn't get mentioned in the article.

It's kind of ironic, isn't it, that I am now bitching about how I was treated by a reporter, eh?

I have no real interest in having my cancer "branded" with a variant of LA's name or any interest in taking advantage of even the most heart-felt services offered by a group of devoted volunteers, who probably don't realize their charity is being exploited.

AS: The selective editing could have been, as you suggested, the work of his editors, who we know were put under tremendous pressure by the Armstrong people. And, to be fair, we're talking about just a few sentences in a very long and balanced article.

Having said that, I got the definite impression that you accepted help from Livestrong, and the casual reader would know nothing of Armstrong's testy tweet directed at you.

CP: I have no gripe with Bill Gifford. Indeed, what the fact checker read to me seemed to reflect the nature of our conversation. Somehow that changed from there to the print on the page. Yes, it does look like I accepted help from the LAF. Not that I have an objection to people taking help from any quarter, but in my case I just felt that it would have been the height of hypocrisy. I did not.

AS: Now that's out of the way let me congratulate you on landing at Red Kite Prayer with The Explainer, as well as finishing chemo!

CP: Sure, thank you. I was really pleased when Patrick offered me what was essentially the same deal as I was getting from Velo after my lay-off. Actually, since then I've increased my number of columns, so it's even better. Last week, John Wilcockson joined up with RKP and my ol' buddy, O'Grady, left Velo after 23 years.

I guess it's not exactly the same company I joined in 1994 and I just figure it's time to put that in the rear view mirror.

Now, as for chemo, yes! It's over. I was supposed to get weekly treatments through January 20, but just before Christmas, the oncologist found a dysrhythmia and it had her concerned enough to send me off for five hours of testing in the ER. After discussing the case with three other oncologists, she decided that the risks of further chemo outweighed the benefits. Hey, I'm cool with that.

She says the particular side-effect is rare, "less than one-percent of patients" on the drugs I was using. That means I am exceptionally rare, eh? I'm a dude with breast cancer (less than one percent of breast cancer cases) and I risked dying from a rare side-effect. I'm pretty much done being a statistical outlier. Enough already.



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i hear that lance hums "all i
By: matt macgonnahay
Fri, 01/13/2012 - 7:28pm

i hear that lance hums "all i wanna do is have some fun" while he gets his freak on.

Hey Bebop
By: Rip Toff
Fri, 01/13/2012 - 7:13pm

Awareness of the Olsen twins raised my lance.

too fucking bizarre | | |
By: Rim Job
Fri, 01/13/2012 - 3:21am

too fucking bizarre

By: PooBah
Thu, 01/12/2012 - 10:43pm

Well I for one LOVE Livestrong.com and all the content there. I especially appreciate all of Lancie's little personal touches...like this one.


If Lance is indicted it will only mean
By: Rip Toff
Thu, 01/12/2012 - 7:40pm

that he is a ham sandwich, not spanish beef.
Nice Sol Wachtler reference there...

hard to hide
By: Julien Hammer
Thu, 01/12/2012 - 7:20pm

It's pretty easy to see which poster/s are from the LA publicity/damage control agency. They are the ones posting the same comments on all the web sites they can find that mention the Outside article.

where's the popcorn?
By: Amerigo Helmet
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 10:56pm

Bernardo Chamois/mjohnburns/juan pelota, and on and on and on. It's ridiculously stupid, but highly entertaining and lol funny at the same time.
One thing is for sure, though. I'm really going to enjoy watching Big Tex go down.

Lance raised my awareness of
By: Justin Bebop
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 8:22pm

Lance raised my awareness of the Olsen Twins.

let's make this easy
By: not good
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 8:04pm

If LIVESTRONG was really working to help people, they'd be bending over backward to support Obamacare so everyone can get the health care they need. Or even, the Romneycare.

I don't know about the other
By: Non-fanatical
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 4:52pm

I don't know about the other Lance haters, but my problem with him is a little more nuanced than "he cheated, he lied, so he's an a$$hole".

This is because according to numerous ex-teammates, competiters, business partners, team staff members and others in the cycling community he did much worse than simply cheating and then lying about it. He doped; big deal so did everyone. He lied; ditto. But what everyone else didn't do is organize the program, coerce other younger riders into doping therefore perpetuating this physically and psychologically damaging system, threaten anyone who even thought of telling what they know and likely bribe the very organization responsible for anti-doping enforcement to buy special treatment..

If instead of staging his comeback for 'awareness', he had come clean about his career in a confessional and apologetic tone and resigned from LiveStrong to try to limit the damage to this great and valuable organization, he could have been seen as a tragic hero, instead of what he is now.

the army
By: Axel Brazeon
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 4:19pm

do you share lance's belief that *all* of the pros who have said he doped are "out to get him"? all of the former teammates, some of his best friends, all of the former competitors, all of the people in Switzerland who have spoken up about the buried postiive test? all of them, really?

...the emperors...
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 11:43am

...new clothes are nothing but old yellow jerseys & they've worn thin...

...pelkey...dammit, man, you're a class fucking act...armstrong could learn a few lessons in humility from you but i doubt his fear will ever allow that to happen...

I don't know if it's
By: Rim Job
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 2:32am

I don't know if it's ignorance or naivete that drives them, but the Lance Army folks are a lot like George W Bush supporters years after no WMDs were ever found.

Lance Haters to...the local
By: Benjamin Cage
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 12:52am

Lance Haters to...the local news stand to buy the most recent copy of Outside magazine?

Lance Army to Mengoni
By: Ridolfo Clamp
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 12:36am

Lance Army to Mengoni

To Kimbro
By: CPelkey
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 11:06pm

To Kimbro,
I realize that my situation was quite unique. I have never - and never will - fault anyone for seeking help where it is to be found and that includes the many good and decent people who work for and with the LAF.

In my case, I was - and am - truly fortunate. Cancer sucks. At times, it seem that treatment sucked even worse. I am just happy to be through it.

My problem with someone like me accepting help from LAF is that I have long been a critic of the man after whom it was named. Again, as I mentioned above, I would think it to be the height of hypocrisy to then turn to him and his organization when I got cancer. Instead, I turned to some very competent and professional doctors ... who did a helluva job.

Unexpectedly, I got a ton of help from the readers of this site, which was touching since I had never contributed here and was just a fan. I still can't believe how kind - and utterly selfless - people can be.

I have tried to be as open as I can about my cancer, the treatment and the circumstances around it. I wanted to be open about my thoughts regarding the question of Livestrong.org/Livestrong.com, Lance and the LAF, too.

... besides, yellow just doesn't look good on me.

no, when lance is in jail
By: David Seatmast
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 10:40pm

no, when lance is in jail it'll still be classy to hate. to think of all those years he robbed jan ullrich and ivan basso of winning the tour dee france! oh, woops, nevermind, they'd have been disqualified due to doping.

wait, what was the question?

to each his own Mr Pelkey
By: Kimbro
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 10:38pm

...and likewise Mr. Pelkey, LiveStrong has helped me and my family more than you can "ever" imagine. We did "not" have the resources you were fortunate to have available to you.

when lance gets indicted will
By: Sol Wachtler
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 10:27pm

when lance gets indicted will it still be hating?

Cycling enthusiasts
By: CPelkey
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 10:23pm

The folks here at NYVelocity helped me more that you can imagine. The day I had my first of three surgeries, Andy posted a chip-in page he created and said that while I wasn't asking for help, the fact that my lay-off and cancer coincided might mean that I could use a hand.

By the time I got home, there were more than ten thousand dollars in my account. Even after I asked people to hold off, the number grew to more than 12G. I cannot express how grateful I am. The money has offset some our COBRA costs, the co-pays and a big portion of the uninsured treatments and exams I received. It was amazing. I have tried to send thank you notes to all of those who donated and am still catching up.

The NYVeloCity crew is more than that ... it's more like a family, and I am the crazy uncle living out in the wilds of Wyoming ;-)

Charles Pelkey
By: Pierre Tracknut
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 10:23pm

Was greatly relieved to hear that Charles had finished his course of Chemo treatment prior to Christmas ! Hopefully the family enjoyed the festivities and have a bright New Year planned !

Had Charles accepted the help offered by the Livestrong Foundation i doubt that ANYONE would have thought any less of him ! Fact is they like any other Charity Organisation involved in helping people DO NOT HOLD GRUDGES and thus discriminate ! Charles's personal choice in this matter should not influence others that are " bagging " Livestrong from accepting their help when they find their life on the line !

Livestrong has been since 2005 about helping people and i remember in 2004 at the Athens Olympic Games , meeting an Athlete recovered from CANCER who was funded by Livestrong and no doubt he would not have been participating had he not received their help !

Blogging as Parrabuddy ( google Skippydetour ), i have tackled many of the commenters about their attitudes expressed in the mushroom farm and have yet to see why they think that " Innocent until Proven etc " should not be applied to this extraordinary cyclist ! Envy and the " Tall poppy syndrome " notwithstanding the subject has created a $US100m foundation and " Saint or Sinner " his personal traits are insignificant in the light of the efforts of his supporters and the foundation's volunteers !

There are so many Charities deserving support and to donate is a personal choice as is the destination ! Cyclists choosing Livestrong over other charities are to be encouraged BUT belittling Lance doesn't stop the great work done by the Volunteers and employees of LiveSTRONG !

By: Baldo Pulley
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 10:14pm

I have no affiliation with Lance, his organization or any organization connected with him. Read fraudbytes more closely. I said that there. I am just someone who cries at what passes as journalism in this country. Sounds like I entered a Lance hater world I had no knowledge existed!!! You guys really have your minds made up.

cut and paste
By: Ruben Lube
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 10:05pm

To "Not Journalism"....I guess you are spending the day just cutting and pasting your long comments all over the web? Already saw you on Fraudbytes. Do you work for livestrong?

@Not Journalism By: Bernardo
By: Corentin Liner
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 9:28pm

@Not Journalism By: Bernardo Chamois

Fascinating that you question “journalism” in regards to this story. That’s the sort of rhetoric Armstrong’s open letters to the WSJ used to claim before we discovered that he wasn’t actually “on his bike 6 hours a day” but was actually engaging in a sophisticated doping program with Dr. Ferrari.

The fact that Armstrong has spent the entire last part of his career telling the world that he’d never put junk into his body because he once had cancer allows any of us to question what goes on at the charity he runs and lends his name to – my question being – If he was prepared to lie about his doping for so long is he lying about the work going on at Livestrong? I’d like to know. I thought the article was balanced. It reported the facts well and several mentions at some of the excellent work going on at the center in Austin. Why all the aggression? I for one would like to know where my money goes if I decided to donate. Wouldn’t you?

The Outside mag article is a
By: Brazeon
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 9:02pm

The Outside mag article is a contradictory:

"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."

WTF? $20 million is nothing?

what the heck is the
By: Morelli Clamp
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 7:54pm

what the heck is the difference between livestrong.org vs. .com?

i so confused. they cross-link all over the place too.

is it basically one entity is charitable organization and the other is for-profit lance inc.?

not so bad
By: Julien Hammer
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 7:33pm

Even with all the whining and name calling that happens on this site, it appears that some folks did some good by helping out a fellow cycling enthusiast, Charles Pelkey. I hope CP continues to a full recovery.

Ugg boots which apparently
By: Andy Shen
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 7:18pm
The Lance Army wears Ugg
By: Lukas Rim
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 7:17pm

The Lance Army wears Ugg boots.

Bernardo Chamois
By: Kimbro
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 6:51pm

Looks like you hit a nerve with your synopsis.

It's a sadly accurate statement about the state of "investigative" writing today. Snark du jour if you will, not unlike the disingenuous twit by Mr. Pelkey he is so proud of.

Lancer EMP
By: William Internal Routing
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 6:35pm

In before the Cancer EMP is deployed! Again.

here comes the lance army
By: Charles Housing
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 6:18pm

here comes the lance army

Not Journalism
By: Bernardo Chamois
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 6:16pm

The Outside article is a good example of the morphing of print media (media; not journalism) into the paper version of reality TV and the proliferation of entertainment profiting from drama and conflict in our society. The article does this with very little facts.

How does this article do this?

Let’s count the ways. The author:

(1) inserts references to Greg Mortenson and Barry Bonds very early on in the article to imply similarly bad behavior by Lance and essentially skew the reader’s perspective toward the conclusion that Lance engaged in ethically questionable and perhaps criminal behavior;

(2) uses the presence of government investigations as a basis to imply or even conclude guilt;

(3) uses references to Lance’s wealth in negative terms (off to the Aspen house, etc.), seemingly to instigate jealousy or perhaps suggest that his level of income could not have been obtained legitimately and/or that Lance’s priorities are misguided;

(4) tries to appear objective by agreeing that the foundation’s financial records support Lance’s and the company’s assertions; perhaps the reader then would be more likely to agree with the more specious aspects of the article;

(5) uses the public’s misperception about the organization’s mission and activities against the organization, even when the organization itself fought to dispel those misperceptions;

(6) downplays the positive aspects of the organization’s mission and accepts as a universal truth that the money its raise could be better spent on research, without fully establishing the basis for that conclusion;

(7) implies that because the foundation’s money could be better used, Lance is a bad man;

(8) implies that Lance has to engage in bad acts now because the foundation’s influence is waning along with Lance’s pro bike career;

(9) concludes that because the foundation is hip in terms of its facilities in Austin its operation as a whole must be shallow or of questionable nature;

(10) minimizes the conclusions of the organizations that rate foundations like Livestrong, who certainly are in a better position to make the very conclusions that this article presents;

(11) implies that Lance should work for free or donate all of his income to the foundation, and because he does not he’s a bad man; and

(12) concludes or wants the reader to conclude that because Lance benefits from the foundation there must be foul play, even when almost everyone who starts such an organization benefits from it, including reputation, influence, community standing etc.

Thanks - I spotted that too.
By: mikeweb
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 4:27pm

Thanks - I spotted that too. Saved me a few bucks at the news stand...

Just read it online, it's
By: Andy Shen
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 3:46pm

Just read it online, it's linked in the first line.

Thanks for this quick
By: mikeweb
Mon, 01/09/2012 - 3:42pm

Thanks for this quick clarification. I haven't read the piece yet, but will pick up the issue today...

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