Every time I think I’m done writing about Lance Armstrong and how he affects LIVESTRONG, the story takes another turn. When I wrote down my thoughts about Lance after the USADA report came out in October, it felt definitive at the time. Time has a way of changing things on you, and I sit her today in front of my keyboard feeling the need to write about this.
I wanted to make sure I got my thoughts down before the interview aired, though there has now been confirmation in the media that Lance confessed to some degree. I’m sure we’ll know more tomorrow, but I thought it was better to speak my piece now and not hide from a tough moment. I have been an ardent supporter of both Lance and LIVESTRONG for many years. A yellow bracelet hangs on my wrist where it has for quite some time.
Part of the reason for writing today is to give people the chance to tell me I’m wrong, misguided. My position was and is a polarizing one. He asked me if I felt cheated? I’d already started thinking about writing this post, and I shared some of my early thoughts with him. A good friend called me last evening and likened the situation with Lance to someone he held a great deal of respect for, Joe Paterno. While the situations are different, I do see the similarity of men who have accomplished great things but were, ultimately, human.
After watching the storm that happened after USADA stripped Lance of his titles, I was taken with the fact that I had underestimated how much this could hurt LIVESTRONG. When I heard that Lance would be going on Oprah, I sat down to consider the ramifications. The first thought that crystallized for me was that the best thing Lance could do for LIVESTRONG would be to tell the truth, whatever that was. Regardless of Lance’s prospects of redemption, the best course of action for LIVESTRONG would be to have everything out there to deal with. No more secrets to slow down the mission.
And, that appears to be what he’s done. In light of these developments, I decided to ask myself the questions I’m sure my friends and readers will ask me:
Q: Does Lance confessing change your opinion of him? Are you disappointed?
A: Some may decry me as not being truthful, but whatever I hear tomorrow won’t change my opinion of him. When the USADA report came out and I read George Hincapie’s comments, I had to believe what was written. Most everyone reading this will have no idea who George Hincapie is. Just think of the person you rely on most in your life to be supportive, honest, loyal, truthful. Multiply that by 10 and you have George Hincapie. Reading what he wrote made me realize I was wrong in my unerring belief of Lance’s innocence. But, even then my opinion of Lance was unchanged. Maybe that makes me naive, but it’s still what I feel as I sit here today.
Q: How can you support an organization like LIVESTRONG when you consider everything Lance has done? How can you support Lance after reading the report and hearing him confess? How is it possible your opinion hasn’t changed?
A: This is a difficult one to answer. I don’t want to seem disingenuous to myself or to anyone who actually cares to hear the answer. I’ve been hearing these questions for over a decade from when I first started to follow cycling. A decade. That’s 25% of my life. A lot of water over the rock, so to speak.
When I watched my aunt Toni’s life slip away I had to cling to something. I had to hope, because I couldn’t cure her. The yellow bracelet was there to give me hope that we could save the next person I loved who suffered through this pain.
Another close friend shared the story of the loss of his mother at too young an age many years ago. His comment when he shared the story moved me to tears, “I’d give every penny I had for just one more minute with my mom.” He’s worn the same yellow bracelet since he bought one in the first batch, now faded and missing a piece.
And yet another close friend, in recently what was supposed to be one of the happiest moments of achievement for him, collapsed in tears on my shoulder as he cried about the loss of his father many years ago to cancer, a pain that obviously hasn’t subsided.
Any incident involving Lance, doping, sponsors, accusations? They all pale in comparison to these personal moments that scar us but allow us to keep moving on, conditioned to accept that we won’t be able to help those we love fight to be cured.
I consider myself to be lucky to have my health. I’ve met so many cancer survivors who share a bond of having won the fight, if only temporarily. My scars aren’t anywhere as deep as theirs, nor my pain as profound. What I do know is that if I ever find myself in a fight against cancer, they’ll be there for me, and that’s why I support them now.
In the end, I believe Lance will pay a monumental price, both financially and personally. But, I won’t be submitting an invoice for payment. He doesn’t owe me anything.
He started something that gives me hope. And, I’m there if he needs me.