posted on Oct 14, 2012 / tags: lance armstrong, heroes, cycilng / 0 comments
Kids have heroes. They choose their heroes from their accomplishments, their records, their wins, the things they say and the the things they do. Sometimes when those kids grow up they choose to move on, and sometimes those kids keep their heroes. Their achievements haven’t changed, and even as adults, we admire their work. Unfortunately, sometimes our heroes let us down. Sometimes we have that moment where we shake our heads in disappointment and wish that it wasn’t true. Now I don’t believe in idols, or putting people on pedestals, but I believe that there are people in our world that have done great things, and I think it’s OK to appreciate those people for the things they’ve done. That’s what I call a hero.
When I was growing up, I had two heroes: David Copperfield and Lance Armstrong. I’ve seen Copperfield perform live a few times and to this day, I think he is a tremendous performer. Likewise, I first saw Lance race in person when I was a sophomore in High School. Lance was lined up with the Motorola Cycling Team for the annual Thrift Drug Classic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Yeah, he won it. I managed to capture an image of him before the race. Since that time, Lance battled cancer, fought his way back into the sport, and won the Tour de France seven straight times. All that to say that I’ve been a fan for a long time. I followed his career though the Tours, the retirement, the Leadville 100, and the Comeback. I rooted for him on U.S. Postal, Discovery Channel, Radio Shack and even Astana. I have a signed jersey hanging proudly in my office at work. I’ve even defended him. I wanted to believe that a truly dominant rider in a known dirty sport could actually be clean.
Now some people that are reading this are probably thinking I’m a fool right now, but before recent news, there really was no solid evidence to the contrary. No positive tests, no credible eye witnesses. But that all changed recently, when the USADA released their findings. The report is over 1000 pages, so I haven’t read it all, but I read the important parts, and those parts hurt. I can’t say that I was totally surprised by it, because the thoughts have gone through my mind before, but when I read the testimony by George Hincape, I realized my worst fears are probably completely true. George is a good friend of Lance. They raced together for many years, and trusted each other completely. George even said in his testimony that Lance is a friend and he didn’t want to hurt his friend. But I guess when it all boils down, he had to do what was right for his family and be truthful. For that I applaud him, but I feel that I lost my hero. The burden of proof has undoubtably shifted from the USADA (and many others), to Lance, but he has chosen to not address this issue any more. Unfortunately I have no choice but to assume that the testimony of good people like Levi and George is all true. We may never know the full truth, but at this point we have to accept what we know. This really hurts to say, but yeah… Lance let me down.
After putting a lot of thought into this situation, I’ve settled on one key ingredient of a hero; Character. Back in 1992, this was the one thing that Lance lacked. He was known to be cocky, confident, and even cold to other competitors. But somewhere between fighting off cancer to helping millions of cancer patients around the world, he found his character. This is the Lance that I appreciate. I’m not going to lie here, I really enjoyed watching Lance race. The competition, the challenges, ‘The Look’. It made for good TV and great cycling. But let’s be honest, generally speaking (especially in this country), people don’t care about cycling. Lance became far more well known for what he did off the bike than on. Wether you love him or hate him, he has done great work off the bike. I believe that it has been proven that Lance truly desires to do great things for cancer patients around the world. Lance likes to win, and he wants to beat cancer. This is the character that Lance has, and now, more than ever, needs to display.
Character would accept responsibility. I want to teach my kids that. I want to be able to say that of myself. An apology goes a really long way. At the end of the day, people don’t care about Tour de France titles. They care about the lie. They care about the thought that maybe if that was a lie, then maybe Livestrong is too. Maybe the yellow bracelets and the millions of dollars were all just a way for Lance to make money. Maybe he doesn’t really care. Maybe he doesn’t really have character. I really believe that these statements are completely false. I think he does care. I think he cares DEEPLY about this disease. But as I said, the burden of proof is on him.
What I hope for is for Lance to step up. The peloton in the 90’s and early 00’s was clearly not clean. You don’t have to read much of the USADA report to see that. So you doped in a time that basically every contender was also doping. I get it, I don’t like it, but I get it, so own it. Apologize for it. Apologize for the lies. Apologize for pulling the focus from the 28 million. Then let us know that you have moved on. That you have turned that desire to win into a desire to beat this disease. Let us know that you have your focus. Let us know that you have character.
Let me know that I can have my hero back.