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Regarding Lance Armstrong: Second Thoughts

So it’s now clear. Lance Armstrong admits he doped from the start, in every one of the seven Tour de France races he won. It’s a fact, not an allegation.

Back in October, I wrote that I stood with Lance, and would still wear the yellow Livestrong bracelet as a sign of respect for his contributions to cancer research, patients and their families. I meant what I wrote. But since then, the bracelet has become tarnished for me.

Call me naive if you must, and many will, but I believed Armstrong when he denied ever using performance enhancing drugs to win races. Now that he’s admitted those denials were all lies, I feel betrayed. I can’t manage to feel angry, really, just disappointed. We all want to believe in heroes, and it’s no fun to realize they’re as human as the rest of us. Yes, Armstrong lied, and cheated, and deserves to be punished for it.

Questions have arisen too abou the purpose of the Livestrong Foundation. Was it nothing more than a “yellow-washing” campaign to maintain Armstrong’s reputation? Maybe. I can’t bring myself to wear the wristband, a symbol of too much deceit.

But I still believe in the foundation, and that Armstrong’s work on its behalf actually has benefitted cancer patients and their families. The foundation does provide resources for patients and caregivers, and that shouldn’t be shortchanged by the founder’s dishonesty.

And I’m still not impressed by USADA’s tactics, or by many of those who spoke out against Armstrong. Some of them had ulterior motives of their own.

Yes, I realize I’m all over the map here, but maybe that’s as it must be. For me, the whole story is a mixed up mess, one that has shades of black, white and gray. I end up a little sadder, a little wiser, and in the words of the Who, determined that I won’t get fooled again.

I Stand With Lance

So Lance Armstrong has been stripped of 7 Tour de France victories.  He allegedly has been exposed as a fraud, a cheat, someone who routinely used performance enhancing drugs to conquer cycling’s toughest challenge.

In the eyes of many, Armstrong has been disgraced as nothing more than yet another in a long line of heroes with feet of clay. To some, the allegations taint everything the man has touched, negating his astonishing feats of athletic ability and his extensive work over the past decade-plus for cancer research funding and support.

Armstrong has stepped down from the chairmanship of the Livestrong Foundation, the cancer charity he established.  Some people argue that the iconic yellow bracelet has become a badge of shame instead of one of courage.  Faith shaken, many will never wear their Livestrong bracelets again.

Not me. I stand with Lance. I will wear the yellow bracelet as a badge of solidarity.

Why? Not to condone blood doping or any other cheating Armstrong is accused of.  IF he’s guilty of committing such acts — and from where I sit, that’s a very big question mark, given USADA’s tactics — then yes, there should be consequences. But consider this — if Armstrong was doping in a sport in which doping was rampant, what exactly was he doing that others didn’t?

Let’s face it, cycling has had a doping problem for years. With Armstrong stripped of his titles, the International Cycling Union acknowledges the second-place finishers for most of the years he won also doped. Now we’re told the record books for those 7 years will indicate no winner. Sounds like Armstrong was still the strongest athlete out there, even among fellow users of performance enhancing drugs.  Should he pay a greater price than the others?

But the real reason I remain an Armstrong supporter is his work with the Livestrong Foundation. In the past 15 years, the foundation has raised nearly a half-billion dollars for cancer research, awareness programs and patient support. Whatever else Lance Armstrong has or hasn’t done, he has been a godsend for cancer patients and their families. He’s been a living example that cancer CAN be defeated. And no one can deny that.

That means a lot to me.  Like many, my family has been touched by cancer.  And that’s the thing — it’s not just an individual disease. It affects an entire family.  The good work of the foundation is crucial to people in desperate situations.

Whether Armstrong cheated is irrelevant when you’re trying to cope with the possibility of losing someone you love. As Armstrong himself noted in the title of his book, it’s not about the bike. Even if, as some allege, Armstrong started the foundation to deflect criticism of his cheating in his chosen sport, I don’t care. The work of Livestrong remains worthy of support, and it will remain a solid part of Armstrong’s legacy.

So yes, you will see me wearing a yellow bracelet. In my book, Lance Armstrong remains forever a champion.

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