So, Monday brought the expected news that Lance Armstrong officially lost his Tour De France titles, all seven of them, and he is now banned from competitive cycling for life. Not a shock, the announcement of the intention had been made weeks ago, but the immediate, and domino like effect of sponsors leaving his side, was a head turner. Nike was first to announce, and not knowing the numbers, my guess is they were a big dollar sponsor for Lance Armstrong the individual. But add them all up, and Armstrong himself, has to be shocked. Nike, Giro, Trek Bikes, Anheuser-Bush, 24 hour fitness, Honey Stinger, and just this week, sunglass maker Oakley, all walking away from in some cases, a lengthy relationship with the former Pro cyclist. Monday also brought news that Armstrong will be asked to repay over seven million dollars in Tour De France bonus money he won.
It will be interesting to see the road Armstrong travels from here. He has denied from day one, any form of doping. He points to hundreds of drug tests, all of them negative. The evidence against him from the doping scandal includes testimony from a number of former teammates and riders. Many wonder, if they all have fallen on the sword, why doesn’t Armstrong just come clean, admit it, and move on. History would suggest that that move is often one’s best route to redemption. In the case of Tiger Woods, we all know what happened, we all saw the mea-culpa, and even though he has not returned to the level of golfer he once was, from the outside looking in, it seems he may be in a place now, where he can walk into a room, and all the talk may not be of the indiscretions. Baseball, steroid scandal, remember that one? Some of the biggest names have been reborn, after their admissions.
But what if Armstrong is clean? What if he never doped? Is it possible? While it may seem preposterous, who really knows?
What I do know, is that America is a forgiving place, history tells us so. Will Armstrong ever regain some semblance of respect in this life? Not one of us knows the true answer, but I would echo one suggestion, that history will show that he started a foundation, that has made a difference in the world of Cancer. I rode in the Livestrong Cancer ride last year in Austin. Some 4,000 plus riders, all coming together for the common cause of fighting cancer. During our three hours or so in the saddle, there was much talk about Cancer, friends who had it, relatives and friends who died from it, and the passion to find a cure. Outside of hearing Armstrong talk at the start, I don’t recall much conversation about the man himself. That day, the Livestrong ride was about the disease, pure and simple. Having been touched like so many, by Cancer, my hope is that the foundation Armstrong began, continues to grow, and continues making a difference in programs and services, with or without Armstrong.
It’s not easy when we watch the lives of household names, crumble publicly. Especially when our children ask questions. I also have no sympathy for those who cheat. Where Armstrong falls is subject to opinion, and will be for some time. But one thing is for sure, the brash unapologetic kid from Plano, is now in what will likely be the longest, and most difficult race of his life. One that can’t be aided by performance enhancing drugs in any way. The race, to restore respect, and reputation.
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