Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Live Stronger

Beating cancer isn't as easy as riding a bike.

Beating cancer was riding a bike.  In October of 1996, Lance Armstrong, diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer that spread to his abdomen, brain and lungs, was given a 40 percent chance to survive.  What do you think his chances were of winning a 2,200 mile bike race just three years later? 

And his chances of winning that same race seven times?  The ultimate success story not just for the Tour de France, but for the entire world, has been all but completely erased.  In a sport riddled with issues surrounding the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Armstrong's physical and mental strength set him apart.  Armstrong's body could take in and use much more oxygen during physical activity than the average human, making him a superhuman in the Tour.

But without kryptonite, is there a Superman?  Without performance-enhancing drugs, there is no seven-time champion Lance Armstrong.  Armstrong recently "gave up" on addressing accusations that he used PEDs, after years of vehemently denying claims since his athletic career began.  Why?  Because there are testimonies from over 30 people, including former teammates, that he used illegal substances, dodged scheduled testing and attempted to pay off facilities to hide positive test results.

Armstrong is the founder and, until Wednesday morning, was the chairman of Livestrong.  He stepped down Wednesday morning hoping to draw any negative press away from the foundation.  "Today, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship," Armstrong said in a statement.  Nike has since dropped Armstrong's contract, but will continue to partner with the Livestrong Foundation to keep it's positive message and mission alive.

Eighty million dollars have been raised through the sale of Livestrong bracelets alone.  Those bracelets cost one dollar, and for so long have served to spread the message of hope, and the hope that one day there will be a cure for cancer.  You don't need to do any math to figure how many people in this country show their support for the foundation and their determination to overcome this disease.  My brother wears one, my father wears one.  I lost my grandmother to cancer and watched my dad beat it while wearing one.

Those aren't things you move on from.  I still wear the bracelet, and the bright yellow sweatshirt, not to remind myself of what my family and millions of families go through, but to keep the faith, and inspire faith in others that one day soon, we're going to beat this.

This news about Lance Armstrong is devastating to me.  Someone who inspired exponentially more people than I ever will wearing a bracelet around is a liar and a cheater.  Someone who I looked up to more than any baseball player I've ever wanted to be has been dishonest and has tarnished one of the greatest foundations for eliminating cancer.

I believe that Nike can sustain Livestrong, and will continue to grow and do tremendous things in communities around the country and the world.  What I will never understand is how one person can be aware of all the good he is doing for so many people while being selfish enough to risk losing everything by doing something as stupid as cheating.  Just getting on that bike and crossing the starting line was enough.

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