Live, strong. Apart they are two simple words, but when brought together on a yellow band mean so much to so many.
The product of these two words, Livestrong, has become a symbol of hope in the fight against cancer with the legendary cyclist, Lance Armstrong, leading the charge. This is the Lance Armstrong who became famous for winning seven consecutive Tour de France titles in a row a few short years after overcoming cancer, an accomplishment that has served as a source of inspiration for people suffering from this horrible disease.
Armstrong was repeatedly accused of using performance-enhancing drugs; he adamantly denied these accusations until October this year, when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a report detailing allegations of doping throughout his career. In an effort to end this doping saga, Armstrong interviewed with Oprah Winfrey this week to “come clean,” and publicly admit to doping.
To me, it comes as no surprise to hear Lance Armstrong was doping at the height of his career in the late 1990s and early 2000s. On the contrary, I would be shocked if he said he wasn’t doping, but rather owed it all to his training regimen consisting of chopping wood, lifting large boulders and climbing mountains at an undisclosed location in rural Russia.
Armstrong was an elite athlete in an era of sports when many peak performance athletes were using drugs like testosterone to gain an edge on the competition. For example, Barry Bonds used “The Clear,” a type of steroid, to hit a MLB record number of home runs. He also attained the world record for largest head, as his dome substantially increased in size due to the drugs he was taking.
Just like Bonds, Armstrong was able to achieve unheard-of statistics, but, given his normal sized head, people were less skeptical about him using performance-enhancing drugs.
After hearing about Armstrong’s possible confession to doping allegations, organizations are requesting Armstrong pay back millions in prize money and appearance fees. It makes sense he should pay back all of the prize money from the Tour de France and other competitions, but he should be able to keep his appearance fees. Organizations like the government of South Australia spent several million dollars just to have Armstrong compete in their races – but I can guarantee you they made all of that money back and then some in sponsorships attracted by Armstrong’s stardom.
These organizations should stop trying to extort Armstrong for more money than his prize money and instead be thankful he brought cycling more popularity and economic success than ever imagined, even if it may have been through cheating.
Although the media might crucify Armstrong for deceiving his sponsors and fans and disgracing cycling, I think he should be remembered for all of the work he has done to fund the fight against cancer through the Livestrong Foundation. Normally, I would say what he did was wrong, but so much more good than bad came from him cheating a sport for almost a decade.
Armstrong’s efforts to cheat a sport for close to a decade sound pretty bad, but in light of the $470 million Livestrong has raised to fight cancer since the foundation’s inception in 1997, his doping is insignificant. If Armstrong did not cheat, who knows how successful Livestrong would have been or if it would even be around today. People like success stories and Lance Armstrong rising from the ashes against all odds to claim cycling’s most coveted title seven times is one such story.
When Armstrong first started doping he probably was not thinking about how much money he could raise to fight cancer, but he went on to assume the role of Chairman for the Livestrong Foundation and became an influential voice urging people to donate to combat this very real health crisis. Like every good parent, when I have kids, I will tell them not to cheat … unless they cheat like Lance Armstrong and do it for a good cause. So, Mr. Armstrong, thank you for cheating.
Hayes Cascia (email@example.com) is a sophomore with an undeclared major.