Dear Lance Armstrong:
Tonight the world will flip their TV channels to the Oprah network. Reporters and bloggers will flock to see what it is that you shared with the woman who stands at the pulpit of the modern day confessional. News stations will report on it for days.
I don’t know a lot but I know for certain I won’t be there. With the exception of what flies by as I scroll my twitter and facebook feeds, I will not read. I will not click links, I will not pick up the newspaper or magazine. I am determined to not care about you anymore.
You don’t know me, and you most likely never will. Two years ago I would have been among crowds that clamor to see you when you walk in a room or appear at their triathlon, biathlon or marathon. If you are ever at a race I run the only thing I will do is try to run faster than you now. But I digress, because tonight I face a dilemma. Tonight I try to decide what to do with three items in my closet: a shirt, a bracelet, and a book.
The book I got for Christmas when I was fourteen or fifteen. I remember being enamoured with the man who fought with cancer, and fought hard. I remember going out and buying the second book a few years later. I remember thinking “this guy has it right” and when things got difficult soldiering on because “if Lance could do THAT, I can do anything.”
In many ways you were the only athletic hero I had for a while (then the US women’s and later Canadian women’s Olympic soccer teams came along… and I’m so grateful for that now).
I have read and re-read your book.
I supported Livestrong, hence the bracelet. Okay, fine, I still support Livestrong. I don’t think that in the end it is their fault they had such a crappy example at the helm.
So the bracelet stays. The book? Not sure yet.
But the shirt? I raced in that shirt. You and your actions are irrevocably tied together and to that shirt. You were the man who battled and conquered cancer, the man who was fighting against the evils of the world, both those accusing him of doping and the cancer that has taken so much from so many of us. You became your own news story (ironically Oprah’s identity is much the same, she has become the good deeds she performs). We put you up on a pedestal and now you have fallen, hard. And that shirt not only represents the charity that you grew but also you. When I raced in that shirt, a part of me raced for you. And that makes me mad.
I don’t care that you doped. The guy in 59th, 71st, and 147th also probably doped and you beat them. Seven times. I don’t doubt your competitive drive or athleticism.
But to lie? What message does that send to those of us who believed in you, who defended you?
I’ll tell you what it says to me.
It says you just want to race again. That your competitive nature has driven you to an apology. That you do not care that you have literally spit on people and thrown people under the bus who did nothing but support you. You have bullied people out of their careers for choosing to question you. You’re out to cut your losses.
You put the work of your charity and the money they have raised, those hardworking people who believed in you and your cause at risk.
Like I said, I don’t care about the doping. I don’t know what it is like in the world of competitive, top level athletes. I don’t know the pressures, I don’t know the stress. And I won’t pretend that I do.
But I do know where my moral compass points. I do know the kind of people I want to be surrounded with. I do know the people who, when I inevitably write my memoir – even if it is just in my own journal – I will give credit to for being an inspiration.
You see, Lance, I have this imaginary neighbourhood. Thanks to Robin Sharma, I created this street full of people who inspire me because it helped me define the qualities I want in my own life and in the people I choose to surround myself with.
I live near Mother Teresa and Princess Diana, near Brandi Chastain and Christine Sinclair. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Pierre Elliiot Trudeau come over for tea. Bart Yasso and I go for runs. And you and I used to bike.
But you’re moving out. And so is your shirt. I just can’t forgive the lies.