By Keysha Hogan
In 2005, Lance Armstrong stood at Paris’ Champs-Elysees after his seventh Tour de France win and said: “The people who don’t believe in cycling, the cynics, the skeptics; sorry for you. You need to believe in these riders. I’m sorry you can’t dream big and I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.” Believing in miracles is never a stretch for sports fans, but keeping faith in our heroes is a losing battle.
This week the International Cycling Union will either affirm or appeal the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s 1,000-page report that lays out a case against Armstrong for systematic doping. If the allegations are deemed credible, medals and titles will be lost. He will also face potential lawsuits from a London newspaper that he successfully sued for libel over doping claims; and a Texas indemnity company that rewarded him a $5 million bonus for winning consecutive Tour de France titles without doping; and the U.S. Justice Department may seek repayment of over $30 million in federal funds that financed his U.S. Postal Service cycling team.
Over the past week sponsors have being doing their best to divorce themselves from the Armstrong/Livestrong brand. Many were quick to criticize Nike for allowing other troubled athletes, like Michael Vick and Tiger Woods to return to their good graces after contracts were ended. But remember you can indulge in any vice you want, but if that vice taints the presumed “sanctity” of sports, they will ‘Just Do It’ and shut you out.
For fans, dealing with the disjoined image of the allegations versus who they knew Armstrong to be must be difficult. Trying to reconcile the image of your hero while at odds with the reports of bullying and his pathological upkeep of ego may cause the casual fan to rethink wearing those bright yellow bands with pride.
This past Monday roughly 4,300 cyclists met in Austin to celebrate 15 years of fighting cancer under the LIVESTRONG charity. They sat poised at the start with yellow shirts and helmets tightened because their lives had been touched by cancer, not because the man who united them under one banner was there to speak. Those who have had to fight for their lives and their loved ones rode out of gratitude for the organization’s many good works and support over the years.
In the coming months, we are going to learn more about the dark side of cycling than we ever cared to know. And in the end, I want to know why officials ignored 3 different suspicious drug test results. What it because the governing body accepting donations from him and his organization? Or was it easier for us to believe the hype and embrace the legend of cancer survivor doing the impossible?
By far the most powerful drug at Armstrong’s disposal was his story. Believing in miracles and dreams was easy for us all when a local returns from 5,000 miles away as a champion.