What should I do with my yellow band, the one with the word “Livestrong” engraved into its surface?
Its namesake, cancer survivor and former biking champion Lance Armstrong gave up his years-long fight against those who have tried to dethrone him by asserting that he doped and cheated his way to the top of the sport – a sport he eventually transcended.
Armstrong wasn’t just another athlete, though. He was a symbol of American pride, a reaffirmation that no obstacle – whether it be testicular cancer or a mountain incline – is too great to overcome and eventually conquer.
I originally bought my Livestrong band to fit in. Everyone else at school was wearing one and, as an adolescent, that was a good enough reason for me.
But then I read Armstrong’s book: “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.”
To this day it’s the most inspirational book I have ever read. It tells of Armstrong’s rise as a brash Texan raised by a single mother to near the top of the cycling world only to have cancer take it all away.
But as everyone knows, Armstrong came back stronger than ever and won an unprecedented seven Tour de France titles.
My once trendy band meant more to me after that.
But now I’m not sure what to think.
Armstrong has ended his fight against the United States Anti-Doping Association and will be stripped of all of his Tour de France titles.
It was an interesting maneuver for Armstrong.
Instead of letting the USADA, or any other organization for that matter, come to a conclusive decision about his guilt, he left the answer open-ended.
Those who want to believe he’s guilty will undoubtedly see his fight’s resignation as an admission of guilt. But supporters can choose to believe that Armstrong was simply content with his own knowledge of innocence and was tired of fighting against an organization that was out to get him.
We will never conclusively know if Armstrong was guilty or not; if he duped not only his sport, but cancer survivors around the world and the people who have collectively donated around $500 million to his foundation.
Some don’t care.
Whether he cheated or not, the overwhelming amount of good his foundation has done trumps any means he used to build up his reputation.
Think about this.
If creating and maintaining a lie would raise hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research, would you do it?
Many would, but if Armstrong doped, he wasn’t just doing it for his foundation. At some level, cheating is always a selfish act and it disturbs me to see so many people cling to such a flimsy defense for an action that is clearly wrong.
But the most disturbing thing in all of this is that no matter how you twist it, Armstrong quit his fight against USADA.
And part of the reason Armstrong was so revered is that quitting was a concept fundamentally foreign to him. Even when the odds were stacked against him, he pressed on.
The Lance Armstrong I thought I knew would have fought and clawed for his innocence or died trying, and the fact that he didn’t raises a red flag.
So that’s why I’ve decided to take off my Livestrong band. It’s not because I don’t support his foundation or even because I think he’s guilty.
It’s because Armstrong isn’t the same guy he was when I put it on. I understand the considerable strain the constant allegations must have put on him and his family, but the Lance Armstrong I always supported was the guy who absorbed all the blows and only came out stronger.
The Lance Armstrong I supported wouldn’t want to leave question of his innocence up for debate. He was resolute.
That’s who Lance Armstrong was for me and probably thousands of people across the nation.
Maybe it’s not fair for one person to carry that burden. But if there was one person who could do it, I thought it was him.