Wednesday, October 10, 2012
This man is important to me.
I don't really follow "biking" as a sport, but of course, I've seen and heard a lot of this guy.
Lance Armstrong survived impossible odds. Yes, so did I, but, I might have ended up a partial paraplegic in a wheelchair. This man has dealt with killer cancer, more than once. I think that he has allowed us into his life so that we could learn from what he learned, about fighting for his life.
Six weeks ago, Lance Armstrong stopped fighting the United States Anti-doping Agency, known as the USADA. For 13 years, he's been fighting with the USADA, contesting their charges that he took performance enhancing drugs.
The USADA can now conclude that Lance Armstrong cheated -- that he DID take performance enhancing drugs. It means that he can be stripped of all seven of his titles and banned from the sport of cycling for life. He will lose the Bronze Medal he won at the 2000 Olympics. He will also be required to return money he's been winning since 1998.
Back in 1996, Lance, at age 25, was already considered one of the best cyclists in the world. He had aches and pains that he ignored until one of his testicles swelled to three times its normal size. When he finally consulted a doctor, he learned that he had testicular cancer -- it had already metastasized into his lymph nodes, lungs, and brain.
He had two surgeries -- the cancerous testicle was removed, then two cancerous lesions on his brain were removed. While proceeding with four rounds of chemotherapy, he created the Lance Armstrong Foundation that's been raising money to fight cancer and help patients ever since.
Busy fighter Lance went on to win the Tour de France seven times -- every year from 1999 to 2005; He was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 2002. The Associated Press deemed him "Male Athlete of the Year" from 2002 to 2005. He's won a lot of money. According to the Forbes survey, he's worth about $125 million; he earns about $20 million a year. The foundation has raised almost a half-billion dollars.
So, did Lance Armstrong use dope?
A few weeks ago, in Newsweek, Buzz Bizzinger, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and author, said maybe he did, and maybe he didn't -- perhaps the drugs he needed to conquer cancer, and stay alive, did enhance his performing abilities. Armstrong has publicly admitted that he used the banned blood booster EPO, testosterone, corticosteroids, and blood transfusions; he admitted that he used "masking" agents.
All that is what the USADA calls "doping."
According to the New York Times, at least a third of the top 10 finishers (Armstrong is included in this group), have either officially admitted to using performance enhancers or been officially suspected of doping.
So do we now declare Armstrong as yet another fallen sports idol?
This guy has inspired us -- his sheer courage -- his unshakable determination to keep biking, maintain his athleticism, and live. He’s been married twice, has five children, three from sperm he donated earlier; his youngest two were conceived naturally.
So why, after 13 years of fighting the USADA, did he drop his lawsuit against them?
Lance told the Newsweek reporter, “For my own mental health. For my family. For the foundation. And for the sport of cycling. Cycling doesn’t need this. I am more at ease and at peace than I have been in 10 years. I am focused on today and what will happen in the future.”
Golly, I wish I could send him a message and say wow, Mr. Armstrong -- your courage inspires us all.
Armstrong himself said, "I'm just a guy who got through a disease and I don't deserve any credit for that. I was just very lucky."
Wow -- let's hold onto those words. Let’s hold onto this man as a hero who has taught us, shown us how to take what comes and translate happenstance into amazing, wonderful, real life reality.