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Why Doping Allegations Against Lance Armstrong Hurt So Much

Fans want the famed cancer activist and cyclist to tell the truth about his career.

 

Lance Armstrong is a hero in the cancer community. That is not to be debated. For many, nothing else matters. I completely understand. My yellow wristband will remain where it is in honor of those who wake up each day with the hopes of pounding the beast into submission.

If you feel that he should be placed beyond reproach when it comes to his cycling career, you have that right.

This is purely about Lance and me — or more accurately, Lance, The Boy, and me. It involves about a dozen years of buying into his story and ultimately feeding it to my son.

That’s why this hurts.

I’m probably in the one percent of hardcore professional cycling fans reading this column. If The Badger, La Vie Clair, The Professor, Tesh, LeMond, and Team 7-11 mean nothing to you, you’ve been a pro cycling fan for about 10 minutes.

Cycling history didn’t begin for me with Lance Armstrong. His career, however, ran parallel to The Boy’s love affair with the bike. There were times when he refused to take his U.S. Postal Service cycling shorts off for days at a time.

The Boy (at age 4): Marco Pantani (pro cyclist suspected of blood doping who would later die from a cocaine OD) is BAD because he uses DRUGS! Does he still use drugs Daddy? Why does he use drugs?” 

Me: “Some people need to win so bad that they break the rules to have a better chance. Just practice hard. Work hard. Ride hard. And play fair. Always do your very best buddy. That can never be taken away from you.”

The Boy (pedaling as fast as chubby little legs can spin): “Daddy I’m Lance Armstrong. Daddy say, ‘There goes Lance, he’s beating Jan Ullrich. (Former Tour de France winner eventually found guilty of doping).’”

When Lance won his first Tour de France and accepted the ESPY for Comeback of the Year, I wept in front of my TV like a child whose mother was stolen by cancer. I took vacation time from work for seven years to watch the Tour live. I bought into everything Lance.

I knew about the dopers, the cheaters. But not Lance, he looked us in the eye and said he was clean. I defended him. Why would a cancer survivor put anything illegal into his body? His words. We loved Lance because he said, “What am I on? I’m on my bike…” And a 4- and 38-year-old believed it. Lance was our hero before most of you ever heard of him. He was our special secret — pure — and we kept it that way for as long as we could.

That’s why this hurts more than Bonds, A-Rod, or McGuire. I had nothing invested in them. I didn’t watch them beat cancer. I didn’t watch them pedal to a mountaintop finish and point to the sky for a dead teammate. I didn’t think of my mom when they hit homeruns. I didn’t suffer with them.

Lance never “failed” a drug test. But folks, don’t be so naïve as to think there are not ways to fool the test if you know what you are doing. Don’t be so naïve as to think that a multi-millionaire cannot buy and bully his way out of a jam. And don’t be so naïve as to think that Lance did not use cancer as a shield and his command of his surroundings to fly in just under the radar.

Most of you don’t know about the 2001 drug test. Most of you don’t know Hincapie, Hamilton or Michele Ferrari. And most of you don’t remember when the “blood collectors” showed up at Lance’s home and had to wait.

Cycling is a rare combination of team and individual performance. One does not survive without the other. Take a look at Lance’s former teammates and friends. They either followed his protocol or got squeezed out the back end. Lance was a cycling bully. He demanded respect and only gave it back if he benefited.

And now it seems as though we were duped by his magic on the bike. It now seems that seven Julys on the roads of France were a cruel illusion. The risk behind having a childhood hero is the chance of being let down and lied to.

If Lance is eventually stripped of his seven Tours de France victories, it will be a colossal blow to the sport, one that could take a generation to recover from.

If Lance is a phony on the bike, he needs to come out from behind the cloak of cancer and admit it was a hoax. Admit that he lied because it was more important to win dirty than to lose cleanly.

If it’s true, he lied to our faces.

ellen doyle June 25, 2012 at 01:13 PM
The doping scandal points to a lack of integrity. A long-standing, "you had time to think this over", 10 plus year lack of integrity. Which breaks my heart, as a cancer survivor who had been a Lance fan before cancer, and who let LIvestrong mean a lot to me in recovery. An awful lot. Now I don't even trust Livestrong as an organization. What else don't we know about his lack of integrity? So sad.
bk June 25, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Ron, if you really know cycling. You should know there still is doping and there is never a time period that it was "clean". I think it is sad that you put your son in the paper. Much like LA is putting cancer survivor thru, so are you with your son. You should not teach him the habit of being a victim. That movement will last him the rest of his life and he mostly will lose his zest for life.  This is a wonderful opportunity to teach him about how the world of people work but it does not have to be that way. If you teach your son only to have and seek pleasure, then he will suffer. That is how pleasure works. LA is not a nice man. He receive his cancer from doping. I heard this from his coach by accident. He used cancer survivor's to be powerful and rich. Keep Amgen in the news (the make the EPO). The amount of money it takes to R&D and have the FDA okay it. Is in the billion's. If Livingstrong (liestrong or livingwrong) is all about helping survivor's. Collecting money for research does not even pay for one drug to be tested. What would of be incredible. Livingstrong takes it's message another way, by helping people. Take them to their Chemo appointments, help them not to lose their house, or deliver them food. THAT would be INCREDIBLE! And that is another way. bk
innis_mor June 25, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Yeah, well, careful who you hero-worship. Joe Paterno worshipers would give you more background to that risk. Me, I never picked Lance to worship. His charachter never struck a chord with me. My heroes are more in the vein of Terry Fox. Now, he had charachter. Also, and quite unlike Lance's, Terry's foundation has raised hundred's of milllions for cancer research, while he had but a few dollars to his name when he died his untimely death from his returned cancer. A form of cancer, I might add, that is now entirely treatable, due in large part to research funded by the Terry Fox Foundation. LA always struck me as rather plastic, and self-absorbed, even as he constructed good PR for "cancer awareness".
William G. Jochimsen June 26, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Unbelievable! Years after Lance demonstrated his prowess as a competitor, folks come squeezing through slime pits to besmirch this outstanding athlete. Shame on you all that you would not believe the negative results of hundreds of tests that confirmed that he was clean. Isn't it strange that the only athletes the USADA points it's grubby fingers at is US athletes? I'm ashamed if one dollar of my tax money goes to support this organization bent on destroying the reputation of one of this country's greatest athletes. When this case is thrown out who will give Lance his reputation back?

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