Throwback Thursday – Yellow Bracelets
I posted this about three years ago. My wife, Muri and I were talking to a realtor and she suddenly started talking about Lance Armstrong. It mystified me until Muri pointed to my Yellow Bracelet, which I have worn for so long, I forget it’s there. This is the (slightly updated … updates in red) post.
For about eight years, I’ve worn a yellow plastic bracelet on my right wrist, day and night. You’ve probably seen them around. They have the word LiveStrong embossed on one side. Of course, they are a signature of The Lance Armstrong Foundation, which is the largest athlete charity in history, raising $470M since 1997 to fight cancer. I started wearing the bracelet when my friend John was fighting cancer, a battle he lost. I’ve worn it through Muri’s semiannual mammograms and the sometimes sonograms when something showed up, all false alarms, thank God. I wore it while my sister-in-law lost her battle and now while my friend, Bill, is fighting his. It represents my support of charities fighting cancer and my support of anyone dealing with the disease. It was also a favorite plaything of my favorite cat ever, Mr. P, who disappeared this year. It’s not about Lance Armstrong.
OK, it didn’t hurt that it was Lance Armstrong. I’d followed his career from the first time he won the Tour de France. I got up early in the morning to watch his amazing uphill charges and come from behind victories. I read his book, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, the story of his recovery from testicular cancer. In case you don’t know the story, in 1996, his cancer had had metastasized to his brain and lungs with a very poor prognosis. By 1999, after brain and testicular surgery and extensive chemotherapy, he was winning his first Tour de France. He would win the next six. I read Lance Armstrong’s War, Daniel Coyle’s brilliant portrait of Armstrong and the world of professional cycling. Like almost everyone else, I considered Lance an American hero, the rumors of doping and performance enhancing drugs notwithstanding. It was only the French accusing him after all.
So, seven years after his last tour win, the the United States Anti-Doping Agency finally ran him to ground, charging Armstrong with doping and trafficking of drugs, based on blood samples from 2009 and 2010, and testimonies from other cyclists, most of whom have already admitted to doping. In a statement, Armstrong said this: There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, “Enough is enough.” For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart’s unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me which leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense.
I’m not naive. I’ve known for years that it was a possibility that an American hero was cheating … in a sport where many do. I chose not to believe it because we need heroes who come back from cancer and win it all. Watching the USADA’s obsessive pursuit of Armstrong makes me sick, not because they’ve found evidence but because it seemed to be more about vindictiveness toward a man who refused to give in to their pressure than about drugs. So, the agency whose mission is to Preserve the Integrity of Competition, Protect True Sport and Protect the Right of U.S. Athletes has brought down an American hero. Lead investigator Travis Tygart is dancing his victory dance. Was Armstrong ever an American hero? Maybe not. Does anyone think Tygart is? Sadly, self-righteous journalists who’ve never done anything but write about sports are writing scathing articles about the man they lionized a few years back. And on the message boards, people who’ve done absolutely nothing in their lives are writing cynical comments that they seem to think are clever or funny. The whole thing makes me feel like I need a shower. And it makes me sad.
Oh, yeah. The Livestrong Foundation (as The Lance Armstrong Foundation was rebranded after Armstrong’s downfall) has generated over $500 million dollars for cancer related work during its existence. And I’m still wearing my bracelet.