I got my first road bike in the spring of 1999 from friends that lived across the street from me in Boulder. They were bike racers and got me a deal on a new carbon Trek, the bike their team rode. I learned to "hold their wheel" and suffer, becoming familiar with a pain of the sort that I'd never known before.
Later that summer, Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France. The world was spellbound by his Cinderella story, and, to top it off, I was riding the same bike as him! Like so many, I was overcome with emotion and pride at Lance's achievement. Then, just four months later, I faced my own cancer diagnosis and ironically, it was cycling that taught me to endure chemotherapy, as it was nothing compared to the pain I experienced riding with my racer buddies.
I learned to dig deep. Lance was my hero.
By the time the following summer rolled around, I had finished chemo and Lance threw down again -- winning his second Tour de France, although my racer pals disabused me of any notion that Lance was clean. In their words, he was on "some kinda prep." It had to be. It wasn't even debatable. To compete with the field at that level of the sport (the drugs are such an advantage), you had to be juiced up, they assured me. They just smiled and chuckled when Lance attested to his purity. My friends' explanation rang true and over the course of the next ten years, I've had my own heated discussions with dozens of Lance's sycophants. I was outspoken about the improbability of Lance's story because as a cancer survivor, I found his self-righteous indignation disturbing -- my feeling is that honesty and gratitude are essential ingredients for healing.
And now, the irony is that Lance has the opportunity to be my hero again. A role model for real by undertaking a challenge perhaps more difficult than the Tour de France.
As difficult as it seems, make a deal with the sponsors and the authorities. Even if it means writing a fat check and serving time like Marion Jones or Michael Milken. Properly apologize to your fans, friends and foes. You don't need to explain everything to us. We already know. We will love you again. I promise. You've done a lot of great work. You're still a young man. You'll be soon welcomed back to polite society. You'll serve your sport and your soul. You'll serve your beloved cancer survivors too by leading with humility, courage and strength.
After all, wouldn't you wish this for your kids- - a father that's honest? Teach our kids to take responsibility for their actions. And let's face it -- yours was quite the caper. Though given the circumstance of cycling in your era, I don't dispute that you won those seven tours, fair and square. Or that you and Eddy Merckx are the best bike racers of all time. You were a total badass. That can never be disputed. Though now perhaps, it's time to reclaim your integrity.
In her book, Guide Lectures For Self-Transformation, Eva Peirakkos writes that, "as we reveal the truth of ourselves to the world, we purify our own soul, for it is only the purified soul can stand long in the blinding current of divine love- - this is what we fear and yearn for most." Be bold. Say your sorry. Better yet, BE sorry. Be a badass again. Step out of the shadows. Be my hero, Lance.