Is philanthropy heroic?

Yeah, so Lance Arm­strong is a jerk. He won sev­en Tour de France races, but has just not-admit­ted that he won them all with the help of per­for­mance enhanc­ing drugs. He used those wins to fuel a shock­ing­ly suc­cess­ful endorse­ment career, and used that mon­ey to fuel a shock­ing­ly wide­spread phil­an­thropic effort.

Oh, and he beat can­cer, too. (Before he won all the Tours de France, mind you.)

The Live­strong Fondation’s dona­tions to can­cer research are esti­mat­ed at $470 mil­lion by Forbes. Char­i­ty Nav­i­ga­tor rates the orga­ni­za­tion very high­ly, high­er than any oth­er can­cer char­i­ty in the coun­try. It’s a good orga­ni­za­tion, and it would not exist if Lance Arm­strong had not won all those races.

So he’s a cycling hero, who has crashed off that bike. He was a sports hero, and now, he is not.

But, does his phil­an­thropic work make up for that? Is he Robin the Hood, not the sto­ry­book char­ac­ter, but the real out­law, killing and steal­ing for some Oth­er Good? Did he bilk his spon­sors out of mil­lions, cheat­ing his way into their cof­fers, in order to use that mon­ey and fame to build the Lance Arm­strong Foun­da­tion?

And is that so bad?

Hon­est­ly, I don’t know. Cheat­ing is bad. Giv­ing is good. Cheat­ing cor­po­ra­tions is, well, not as bad. Lying to kids, how­ev­er, is pret­ty bad. Giv­ing hope to mil­lions of can­cer patients (some of them kids, some of them cycling fans)? Undoubt­ed­ly good.

Per­son­al­ly, I’m not so bro­ken up about his cheat­ing in the bike races, but I am not a huge cycling fan. My moth­er is in remis­sion from can­cer, and I appre­ci­ate any­thing the Live­strong Foundation’s $470 mil­lion might have indi­rect­ly had to do with her treat­ment.

So yeah, regard­less of what I think of Lance Arm­strong, I think phil­an­thropy is hero­ic. And I think Lance Arm­strong may have come to the same con­clu­sion.