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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Cancer Survivor and Cyclist's Thoughts on Lance Armstrong

I must admit....I have been somewhat mystified over the kerfuffle about Lance Armstrong.  When I heard about the move to strip him of his titles I wondered who in the heck he ticked off.  Why? Because professional bike racing is a very dirty sport.  Doping among cyclists is common in Europe....and I would bet that if all the Tour de France winners over the last 20 years were exposed to as much interrogation and investigation as Lance Armstrong has, they would be hard pressed to find anyone who would  retain the yellow jersey.

I have followed the Tour from my armchair for years.  You see, I once was an avid cyclist.  I met my husband in the Middlesex County Bike Club (Middletown, CT)  in the 1980s.  He started amateur racing at age 14 and raced in criteriums and triathlons until 1995 when the demands of a 2 year old child and a house and job made it a bit difficult to train.  As a member of the Bike Club, and actually for a year before I was a member, I volunteered to work at the Andy Raymond Firecracker Criterium in Middletown, CT.  There, I got to meet many top flight cyclists from the U.S., as well as Europeans who came over to the U.S. to Ride. I was a fairly fast recreational rider (I averaged between 16 and 18 mph over a 30 mile period regularly riding in the hills of Connecticut) and enjoyed it immensely.

In  addition, like Lance, I am a stage IV cancer survivor.  He and I went through treatment at about the same time.  For cancer survivors, Lance is, and will remain, an icon and someone who has done a heck of a lot for    cancer patients.  His Livestrong Foundation has done a lot to help and raise addition, the fact that he was able to win after cancer treatment is still a major beacon of hope in a world which can be awfully dark.  Armstrong encourages people to make healthy choices in life and educates cancer patients in how they can exercise  eat better and obtain their maximum health. I regret that I cannot do many of the things the organization advocates, including ride, because of the damage to my hip from a fracture caused by bone mets in 2009...11 years after my original Stage IV diagnosis.

Don't get me wrong....I don't like it when people lie.  But, doping or not, the Tour de France remains undeniably the hardest athletic event in the world.  I don't know of many athletes who can ride 21 days out of 23 up mountains and down at amazing speeds.  Yes, I get is a team sport....but it is an amazing feat for anyone to accomplish.

I am sure that Lance Armstrong probably has the arrogance that many athletes at this level and in this particular sport has...but I'm guessing because I have never met the man.  If I ever did, I would shake his hand and say "thanks."  I'm sad that he stepped away from the Livestrong Foundation.  I am sad that his career is being tarnished like this... and yes, I suppose he brought it upon himself.  However, his accomplishments, in biking, as a survivor, and in the amount he has given to the sport of cycling and to the Livestrong Foundation still leaves me in  awe.


Del said...

Hear, Hear! I agree. It seems to me they have singled him out to be hounded and are doing more harm to the sport and his good deeds than the doping has done. I am sorry, though, that he has lied about it for so long.

Kathleen Loomis said...

I want to move up a level and say what a shame that the entire "sport" of pro cycling is so rotten. For whatever reason, the culture has required magnificent athletes to dope and lie. seems like a terrible perversion of a good thing (as in Lisa's life) into a morass of bad. I don't see Armstrong as any better or any worse than the rest of his cohorts, and the business and "sport" interests that enable the mess.

Lisa Quintana said...

True, Kathleen. My husband and I have talked about this a lot and he says it is a shame that this athlete who has such an amazing body (considered near perfect for the sport of cycling based on scientific analysis) became so focused on the "win" that it fogged his thinking and being. He had a fantastic team which worked for him..and yes, perhaps without the doping/drugs he would have lost a few stages or a few minutes....but we both doubt that if he had done it clean, and the rest of the field were clean, the results wouldn't have been that much different....if at all. Money, fame and arrogance make for bad decisions.