You can hardly miss the onslaught of articles and comments in various forms of media today as US born, cancer survivor, 7 times Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong has come out and said “enough is enough”, and he will cease his defense of the USADA’s accusations.
So where do I start?
The best place would be to refer you to Lance’s first book “It’s not about the bike……my journey back to life” where he graphically describes the closeness he was to death and accompanies this with some quite gruesome images. Cancer so nearly ended this mans life at such a young age.
The next piece of the puzzle that so many don’t quite get is the complexity of corruption in the cycling world. During Lance’s 7 tour wins I can clearly remember on numerous occasions news scenes as French police were filmed raiding team hotels as the cyclists slept. On some occasions they found what they were looking for, but on most they left empty handed and the next day’s scene was a bleary eyed riders on the start line. Cycling has always been surrounded with it’s fair share of poor media exposure related to various cases of performance enhancing drug use and abuse. For those that are unaware the gentleman Alexander Vinokourov that we saw take Gold in the recent London Olympics was banned for the sport for 2 years for doping offences.
When it comes to drugs in sport and the policing of it one should note that for a number of years anti doping agencies had a contract to be able to test Lance any time they wanted, 365 days of the year and often purely leveraged this to make his life uncomfortable, raiding his house at ungodly hours.
Now lets look at the USADA and the mans name that is all over the press today; Travis Tygart. I read an article no so long ago which very simply summed up Tygart as being, the judge, the jury and the prosecution, quite a busy man you may say. The word on the USADA today is that they will be stripping lance of his 7 tour victories, victories that were handed to him by the ICU and in fact the USADA has no right to take these titles away, but it will be something that the ICU has to deal with as it was under their jurisdiction that the titles were awarded in the first place.
Do I personally think Lance used performance enhancing drugs? I believe that he may have done so during his career. If you look at the big picture of cycling many do. Is it right? No of course not, and I don’t condone the use of performance enhancing drugs in any sport. I believe each individual has been blessed with various skills and abilities and it is up to them to make the best of these skills and not artificially enhance them. However, what I do not believe is that Lance used performance enhancing drugs during all 7 of his tour victories. Do you not think he was tested on any of the 365 days that he could be to make sure he was living by the rules?
The situation that we now have is so much different than the argument as to “did he” or “didn’t he”. To me that is minor and what I encourage you to do is look to the bigger picture. In that I mean, turn your attention to the Livestrong foundation. A foundation that for sure may be shaken depending on the outcomes of today’s news but I can assure you will not crumble. By Lance being laid on his death bed and getting up and back into professional cycling and setting up Livestrong alone has given so many cancer sufferers hope, strength and what they need to keep fighting and hold onto life.
There have been very few sporting icons that have been able to leverage their success into a brand that lives on far past their demise. Fred Perry the English tennis player is one of a few whose brand still holds strong today. In the Livestrong foundation you are going to have just that. An institution that continues to give people hope, continues to encourage people to fight and helps people overcome cancer, a disease that many of our lives have been touched by and will continue to be affected by in the future I am sure.
In 2003 when Lance was half way through collecting his 7 tour wins the Livestrong foundation released yellow wrists bands on their website. I pre ordered 10 as a sign of my support for cancer victims around the world and what Lance was doing. These bands became a world wide phenomenal for charities and business to express their message, all on the back of what Livestrong had created. I have worn a yellow Livestrong band since that day, and I will continue to wear one for the rest of my life because of what it stands for personally and the lives that cancer has affected.