345 days: It’s not about Lance

Quick recap: I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013. And squeeze in some training for Ironman Lake Tahoe (and other events).

Ragnar Northwest Passage registration is open. Four commitments are in, 8 more to go… If I get 2 more commitments I will register the team. I’ll post more specific details on Friday on what all this means…

Tomorrow is the biggest day of the year for triathletes. Kona. Ironman World Championships. The coverage all week at Triathlete online has been wonderful – and I fully intend on spending the night catching up on all that I’ve missed. And, of course, I will be watching live streaming coverage of the race all day Saturday.

Yesterday we spent a little more time talking about STRESS. I need your help with a couple of things, so please make sure to participate in the poll and help me decide who needs a stress break.

We have established that this week has been really rough. Work has been incredibly taxing. I had a race on Sunday. And it won’t get any easier with Lauren leaving today for a week-long conference in Barcelona. I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep, and won’t get much for a while. I haven’t been getting in much (any?) training, and won’t be getting in much for a little while.

And I am OK with all of this. I wear big boy pants (when I’m not wearing shorts or lycra). This is all part of what it means to be an adult in our modern society. I will get through all of this like we all have many, many times before.

But one thing happened this week that I am not quite sure how I’ll deal with… before I get into that story, let me give you some background information.

A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to the 4 organizations that I wanted to support over the next year. One of these organizations is LIVESTRONG. In the blog post introducing LIVESTRONG I wrote the following:

Love Lance. Hate Lance. I do not care. Let me repeat myself: I. DO. NOT. CARE.

Why?

Because the LIVESTRONG organization is rock solid. The things they do are truly quite amazing, particularly when you talk to a family that has benefited from the programs, information, and support that they provide.

I meant it when I wrote that. I mean it today. And I’ll still say the same thing tomorrow.

Two weeks ago I kicked off our very first challenge in an effort raise money for LIVESTRONG in celebration of LIVESTRONG Day on October 2. Together we raised $800. This is $800 that will go toward helping a family understand their cancer treatment options, toward helping that family regain its bearings and navigate the scary path toward healing. When cancer hits, LIVESTRONG is there to help you with that fight, and to help your family help you win that fight.

With that goal in mind, you met my challenge. We did this by wearing yellow. We did this by doing an extra hard workout. We did this by donating money to LIVESTRONG. And we told people about what we were doing, and why we were doing it.

I had people I respect greatly tell me that they didn’t participate in this challenge because of, well, Lance Armstrong, but are looking forward to participating in other activities over the next year. I understand and respect that. But LIVESTRONG is more than just Lance Armstrong.

My passion for cycling is well known, going back at least 20 years. I spent many a July morning waking up at 5am to cheer on the cyclists on my TV screen. So many great moments of cycling history were witnessed. As an avid fan, people constantly ask me about my feelings for Lance, most wanting to know if I think he is a doper. For years my response was, “He’s never tested positive. I don’t think he doped.” Nobody was able to prove that he had done anything wrong. His drug tests: all clean. And the guy is simply a beast; a freak of nature.

During his first retirement and his cycling comeback, we got to know him a lot better. He was more visible and active promoting his foundation. The proliferation of social media removed some of the filters put on by the media. We began to learn more about the man behind the myth. He is arrogant. He is brash. He has an ego 5 times bigger than mine (and THAT is saying a A LOT). He is a fierce, unforgiving competitor.

I respect the hell out of his competitive spirit. His physiology is simply ridiculous. But he still never tested positive. Not during his cycling comeback. Not during his highly successful foray into triathlons this year. Not one positive test… so you had to believe. The needle/pee cup don’t lie. But I began to think that he did actually dope… it was in his personality.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) came after him this year. They suspended him and stripped away his Tour de France titles. But he had still never tested positive, so you still had to believe… right? It has never been proven… though you suspect that he did.

Alright, that is the condensed version of the background information. Which brings us to this week: USADA released its evidence in a 200-page report. The evidence is damning. Downright convincing. There is no doubt that Lance doped. And I can deal with that – I’ve already been able to come to grips with the notion that one of my cycling heroes cheated.

And then you flip through the report, and see the interviews and articles written about those who testified in this case. Levi Leipheimer. George Hincapie. Christian Vande Velde. Tom Danielson. Dave Zabriskie. All admitted to doping – these guys were the “nice guys” of the peloton. These are the guys that you always thought, “No way. Not these guys.” I admired Lance and his drive; I respected and admired these other guys for winning and racing without a suspected shadow.

Lance let me down. But I suspected he would. I never suspected these other guys would let me down. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to deal with this…

Much like the steroid era in baseball, every single bicycle race until the last 5 years, heck, maybe even today, is in doubt. It appears that the entire peloton was filled with EPO, testosterone, and blood transfusions. The unfortunate few got caught. The better organized were able to not get caught; and they got lucky. Those who didn’t get caught publicly shamed those who were busted for using performance enhancing drugs and blood manipulation techniques. But it was a facade; the code of the peloton appears to have been quite clear: everybody dopes, but nobody tattles.

So, where does that leave me with Lance and LIVESTRONG?

Ultimately, the work that LIVESTRONG does is truly great. And I don’t want that to stop. Yes, the founder and most visible spokesman got caught up in what appears to be the most widespread cheating scandal not only in cycling, but in the history of sport.

What LIVESTRONG does has very little to do with Lance. And for that LIVESTRONG will continue to get my support. I will continue to wear yellow. I will continue to come across the finish line and point to my yellow LIVESTRONG visor in tribute. Because for me, at the end the day, it’s not about Lance.

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