Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Thoughts on Lance and Hope.

I haven't blogged much the past several years.  I've typically reserved posts lately for milestones, like races and other life events - not so much training.  But tonight, as I went on my last longer run before the NYC Marathon I decided it was time to get this off my chest.

When my mom had breast cancer in 2003 my dad was in pieces.  I remember being there for him and like to think I contributed to him holding it together as my mom went through her chemo.  The other person who helped him get through this time was none other than Lance Armstrong.  My dad wasn't the fittest guy alive.  He had slightly high cholesterol and starting riding the stationary bike before work that summer.  In July 2003 Lance was pursuing his 5th Tour title --- my dad would wake up before the sun, turn on the tour, and before he left for his day would proudly tell my mom that he "rode with Lance."  Lance was more than just an incredible athlete --- he truly represented hope for my dad.  Hope - that my mom would live out a healthy life and that the cancer and chemo wouldn't suck the life out of her permanently.

While I of course knew who Lance was - I hadn't yet discovered my passion for cycling.  I was at the beginning stage of my music career and at the time was incredibly obsessed with hockey.  But I loved that my dad had found an outlet and somebody to inspire him.  Thankfully, my mom - after long months of chemo and a double mastectomy would make a full recovery.  And now that it's been several years we can call her "cured."

In an ironic twist my dad would suffer a massive stroke on January 24, 2006.  Later that year we discovered the stroke had been caused by a Gliobastoma - an extremely aggressive brain tumor.  He died on January 14, 2007.

Later that year I found a way to deal with my grief more productively than just moping my way through life.  I found running by way of the Dean Karnazes film I was hired to score.  Even though my dad was already gone, my new running obsession was "hope" for me the same way Lance was for my dad.  After my 4th marathon in early 2009 I decided it was time to buy a bike.  It wasn't long before I started being "Lance obsessed."  I was lucky enough to do a massive charity ride with him in Los Angeles and saw him speak.  And that year I was able to see his "Comeback 2.0."  I saw him race the Tour of CA (and took the picture above!)  You could have easily called me a junkie.  He really hooked me on cycling, despite having missed the boat the first time around.

As I evolved as an endurance athlete I of course noticed the negative stigma in some circles that has surrounded Lance for years.  Whether it's doping allegations or personal ones, it's been a hot topic for some time.  But I find that this sort of attitude follows any public figure - haters are gonna hate.  I had largely written it off - Lance was a hero to me.

The allegations of doping first really heated up two years ago - right as I was training for my first Ironman.  I was troubled - but it was silly Floyd Landis making the accusations - a cyclist who was pretty easy to write off.  A year later, when Tyler Hamilton came forward, that was harder.  When it was rumored that Hincapie also came forward and testified I was pretty devastated and desperate for answers.

I bought and read the book "From Lance to Landis."  It was so one sided that it almost felt biased, but although it was incredibly troubling, I still held out hope.  I thought if there's even the slightest of possibilities that Lance is clean, I could hold out "hope."  That is after all what he's represented to me and my dad all these years.  His letter in August to USADA and his fans was convincing and heartfelt - and I somehow could see where he was coming from - I wore my Livestrong hat in defiance.  

And here we are today.  Even after 1,000 pages of USADA accusations (no, I haven't read it all) - after his sponsors running for the hills - after him leaving the charity he found - I'm still conflicted.

My brain knows Lance doped.  The evidence seems insurmountable.

He hasn't came out in anger that his tour titles will likely be formally stripped in the coming weeks, that his sponsors have left him or that he was basically forced to resign from his own charity!  All that is really left to do is confess.  He's already been labeled the "disgraced cyclist," but he can't bring himself to do it.

So he doped.  Lance Armstrong doped.  I've got to convince my heart that it's true - and that all is ok in the world.  He's human.  Even if he "bullied" other athletes as the reports suggest - we all make bad choices - at least he's used his fame to do good for the thousands of families his foundation has supported.  Hell, he supported my family just being him (well him and likely EPO) but especially because we didn't know it at the time, he provided the support we needed when we needed it.  

It does no good for me to feel "cheated" as a fan.  It was a tainted era.  And there's no justice as it seems any of the runner ups were also doped up.  It's sad that cycling went through its dark days and that we've got to have a fall guy.  But when Lance dominated the sports biggest race for 7 years, how could he not be the fall guy?  Sure, maybe he was the best doper too, but he was definitely the best cyclist.

Bryan Farhy, the leader of the Fireflies ride, summed it up for me on Facebook today "I don't care that Lance took drugs. He's done a hell of lot more good in this world than I have."  

Couldn't have said it better myself.  

So….Thanks for helping us when we needed you, Lance.  You really did make a big difference for my dad and me.

EDIT/UPDATE: Well, oh well.


About Me

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Film composer moonlighting as a runner, cyclist and triathlete