I took some time out of my schedule to watch the first part of your interview with Oprah last night – and I have the DVR set to watch the second part when it’s aired, too. Like many, I was interested in hearing your story. After the interview, I decided to sleep on what I witnessed so I could relay my thoughts with a clear head.
You don’t know me. I’m not a major donor to any of your charities (though I do have a yellow LIVESTRONG shirt). I’m not a sponsor. I’m not one of your support staff. I’m not a professional rider.
I am just a regular guy who loves to escape on my bike whenever I can spare some time in my schedule. I am a supporter and participator of local organized fundraising rides and I have been a sponsor at some local races. I’ve supported the Tour de France for several years simply by being glued to my TV set for the month of July (the evening extended show – I have to avoid all media for the day so nothing is spoiled).
It really was your involvement and your successes that got me interested in watching and supporting professional racing. As the years passed and more riders either admitted to or were caught doping, I would grow disenchanted with professional riders in general. As accusations were thrown and you vehemently denied them, I (like many others) believed the accusers of sour-grapes syndrome (Floyd Landis was one of the sourest of those grapes, I thought….).
I believed in you.
It’s funny – but that belief was more than believing that you raced cleanly. You and I are essentially the same age (you may be a few months younger than me). Because of that, I admit I’d be riding along on my bike and imagining I could keep up with you (imagination is as far as it ever would be, of course, I’m only a 17-18 mph rider). “Hmmm……Lance is my age……maybe the Tour de France isn’t that far out of reach,” I’d think to myself (again – knowing it was never physically possible, but fun to dream nonetheless). You gave me hope.
Well, the truth is out. You’ve admitted your doping. You’ve apologized to your charity, your sponsors, former employees and large donors.
An apology to the regular cyclist is also in order.
I like to think that your remorse is for actually doping on the bike and duping everyone else – not being remorseful that you were caught and had to fess up. I’m going to stick with my version. It just feels better to think that.
I’m certain that the interview with Oprah was not easy for you. I have a sense that you are feeling the weight of the disappointment you have unleashed on the cycling world.
While not nearly on the same scale, I know that feeling – I had it when I was asked straight up about the Easter Bunny by my daughter a few years back (she was probably around 7 years old at the time). Obviously, she had heard of accusations that the Easter Bunny wasn’t real – and she wanted to know the truth from me. So, she asked.
I looked at her and thought about all of the possible responses to her question. I could continue the story and let her be happy living with an untruth. I could deflect the question and change the subject. Or, I could level with her. I paused and asked her if she really wanted to know…. When she said she did, I told it to her as it was. Her next question was, “How about Santa?”
She pretended all was fine. In fact, she said, “That’s ok!” As she said it, her eyes were filling with tears and she turned away from me and cried softly. I felt as small as an ant (and kind of hoped I’d get stepped on). I ended her childhood innocence in a matter of seconds.
She got over it in time. She sometimes tells me that those holidays aren’t the same as they used to be now that she knows the truth. They’re still enjoyable – just in a different (and less fun) way.
Now, I also know how she felt. My naive beliefs about the clean riding of one of my cycling idols was merely make believe.
And I’m sad.
I’ll get over it in time. I’ll still watch professional cycling. I’ll still enjoy watching attacks on climbs and on sprints – only it’ll be different (and less fun).