There is no shortage of opinions and statements about the Lance Armstrong doping scandal in the blogosphere, social-sphere, and comments sections all over the Internet. My intention here is just to say a few words about what this means to me, personally.
We watched the Oprah interview (part 1) last night. She did a great job at showing her true journalistic roots. She didn’t pull any punches and I observed Lance getting away with ducking/dodging only one question. Not bad, considering the magnitude of this case and his notoriety for being a bull.
Here’s the thing. I’m a newer fan of professional cycling – and to be sure, Lance Armstrong’s comeback in 2009 was the root cause for that. I remember sitting in a restaurant or bar back in the mid-2000’s (a time in my life when I wasn’t being the most healthy or ethical, either) and seeing the news crawl that he had won his like 4th or 5th Tour de France. Everyone knew his amazing story – cancer survivor came back to win the most grueling, on-going sufferfest known to man.
Even then I remember feeling a swell of pride for him, an American no less, dominating a sport I hardly knew.
Come with me, back to the mid-80’s for a moment. One of my favorite movies in childhood was American Flyers. My dad loved it and it always stuck with me. I remember David running the fitness test, David and Marcus riding through rolling hills on their way to the Hell of the West, and Rae Dawn Chong’s character standing up to Barry “the Cannibal” Muzzin, who for the longest time I was convinced was Ted Danson. So bike racing has always had this Hollywood mystique for me.
Fast-forward to that mid-2000’s time period. I saw a travel show on cycling Tuscany and remember thinking that I wanted to be healthy enough to do that. I was about 60lbs heavier at that time.
Anyway I had this tacit awareness of Lance Armstrong, the icon, when in 2009 my own comeback coincided with his revival from retirement. I had moved back home to NJ, had few friends, I was caring for my father who was battling a terminal cancer, I was depressed. I was unhealthy emotionally and physically. I watched the entire Tour that year – the first time ever I actually watched it, and my interest in professional cycling was officially born.
I discovered Livestrong sort of by accident – I was trying to plot distances and map routes that I started riding when I found Livestrong Loops and I wrote aboout the Livestrong Challenge – fundraising rides held in different cities around the country –here.
My mom swiped a copy of a Lance Armstrong biography from the waiting room at Memorial Sloan Kettering while my dad was getting chemo and I read the thing in like a week. Don’t worry, I returned it. I got a pack of those yellow bracelets and my dad even wore one from time to time.
It wasn’t until after this that I heard about the culture of doping in professional cycling. As I was reading Bicycling Mag online I saw notes about accusations in the comments section about Lance using performance enhancing substances, which of course he vehemently denied.. We all know the story.
Am I disappointed? Sure. Why not? When someone says something under oath, you want to believe them. When someone screams and protests their honor, you want to believe them. When someone files law suits against others, gets people fired for telling so-called lies, etc, you want to believe them. When someone founds an organization based on honoring your body and being they healthiest version of you, you want to believe that they’ve been doing the same the whole time..
But then you have to ask, what about all the good things Lance Armstrong has done?
Some argue that the Lance Armstrong Foundation has been a tax shelter for him. Others, some I know personally, have undenieable passion for the Livestrong(.ORG) mission. I’m certain that countless cancer survivors and their loved ones still stand in support of that mission regardless of the moral failings of its’ founder.
And what about the inarguable lifting of professional cycling into American sport limelight? What about inspiring young men and women across this country to not only get on their bikes, and ride – but RACE? I would be curious to see how many American riders under the age of 30 point to his 7 “victories” as inspiration. Motivting people like me to grab on to their lives and take their health back into their own hands.
In some weird way, and I never thought I could or would say this, Lance’s last decade has had similar parallels to my own that only I and a few others who I have been close to can understand. I’m glad that he finally came out as a doper.
Even though he’s been stripped of his TdF yellow, officially removed from the podium, and now the pedestal has finally been pulled out from under him, I’m sure he can sleep easier now that his conscious, if not blood, has been scrubbed cleaned.