Monday, January 21, 2013

Lance Armstrong case shows doping among super-fundraisers is widespread

How many mega-fundraisers doped while asking for millions for charity?

Experts say that Lance Armstrong’s admission to Oprah that he was doping is just the tip of the iceberg. They say the TV admission by Armstrong will likely force a number of other high-profile fundraisers  to follow suit and admit to doping while raising money for charity.

“The case of Lance Armstrong clearly shows the intense competition out there if you want to create your own high-profile foundation and raise  millions for charity,” said Dr. Milton Snidely, professor of fundraising science at the University of Northern South Dakota. “The only way someone can win the Tour de France or become a mega-fundraiser is to take steroids or some other banned substance.”

In the interview, Armstrong admitted to taking a variety of drugs during his cycling career and then lying about it repeatedly for years. When asked why he took the banned substances, Armstrong said he was just trying to “even out the playing field.” He said he would not have been able to achieve the success he did without doping.

Fundraising experts like Snidely say that while there have been incredible advances in fundraising the success of people like Armstrong is just not physically possible. His recent study on the subject for the World Anti-doping Fundraising Authority (WAFA) was published in the journal Fundraising Management and Golfing last year.

“There’s just no way a regular human being can raise that amount of money again and again. We’ve proven that in the lab. The most one normal human can raise is somewhere around $250,000 a year, and that’s with a lot of begging. Anything above that cannot be done without taking a performance enhancing substance such as the blood-booster EPO or having blood transfusions or having some kind or personality disorder,” said Snidely.

“The idea that you can survive cancer, then win the Tour de France, sell millions of bracelets and create a mega-foundation is a myth.”

Despite the conclusions of Snidely’s study, the number of US fundraisers making millions for charity has skyrocketed in the last few years. While the number of investigations by WAFA has correspondingly increased, the number of convictions has not. WAFA spokesperson Dibble Brewer says it’s obvious that an underground market in illegal fundraising performance enhancements has flourished.

Last year’s arrest in Germany of controversial Italian fundraising doctor Luigi Ricearoni yielded authorities a brief glimpse of that dark world. Ricearoni’s database showed that he was supplying more than 100 senior hospital and university super-fundraisers with a cocktail of steroids, testosterone, cortisone, human growth hormone and even espresso in order for them to make their mega-quota of donations.

“There’s no question that this Lance Armstrong business is just the tip of the iceberg for the vast fundraising doping black market. There’s more where he came from,” Brewer said. “WAFA will be devoting more energy to weeding those people out and stopping them from raising inhuman amounts of money. That’s just cheating.”

In a related story, the day after the Lance Armstrong interview with Oprah several high-profile mega-fundraisers across the world handed in their resignations. In one case, a woman who heads up a hospital foundation admitted to her employers she used to be a man. She reportedly said she used so many doses of female hormones to raise continually more and more money for the charity that she eventually changed genders. No one at the foundation seemed to notice, although several commented about her changing hair styles.