Officials with Pelotonia say they’re investigating whether a man featured in the organization’s advertising faked his illness.
The release, issued in a series of tweets attributed to Pelotonia President and CEO Doug Ulman, says officials with the fundraiser for cancer research heard rumors about the man misrepresenting himself as a cancer patient and survivor in 2015.
“With only a rumor to work with, and no evidence, Pelotonia consulted with legal counsel and our board of directors and decided, out of an abundance of caution, to discontinue referencing or using promotional materials that featured this individual,” the statement said.
“More recently, people very close to this individual who believed in his cancer survivorship and have firsthand knowledge of this individual’s activities, came forward to allege that not only has he never had cancer, but also that he may have kept some cash donations for his own use," the statement continues.
Pelotonia COO Miguel Perez said he was surprised by the allegations.
"I've been involved in cancer advocacy and fundraising for over 25 years," Perez says. "It's very sad to me that someone would do this."
He said the man raised $75,000 and the money went directly to cancer research at Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center and James Cancer Hospital.
Founded in 2008 to help raise money for cancer research, Pelotonia officials say they raised $157 million in their first nine years of operation. The Pelotonia website says they’ve raised another $17 million this year.
"Unfortunately, this is not just happening right here," Perez says. "I've heard of multiple stories like this and if you do any sort of search of someone faking their story or misrepresenting a community, it happens and it's quite sad."