Nike has fired Lance Armstrong, according to USA Today, “and will take his name off the Lance Armstrong Fitness Center at its world headquarters.”
I find everything about the recent Lance Armstrong stories disheartening. Lance Armstrong introduced me to the sport of endurance cycling. I had watched Olympic indoor cycling pre-Lance, but found it ridiculous. I knew about triathlons and I knew there was a Tour de France (or at least I think I did) but before Lance Armstrong’s 2003 Tour, I had never watched any of it and was far from a fan. I was newly diagnosed (March 2002) with type 1 diabetes at the time.
The idea that someone could come back from cancer and win one of the hardest endurance races in the world, again and again and again, was inspiring and comforting to me at a time when I was struggling to come to terms with my type 1 diabetes diagnosis. I used to go down to the gym in the hi-tech company I worked for and spend an hour or so on the treadmill running while watching live coverage of the Tour de France, and then at home I watched the highlights of the day.
I continued to follow Lance Armstrong during the next Tours, amazed by his drive and fighting spirit. I also considered him a good guy, especially because of his work in the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
All of the rumors, and then reports of Lance Armstrong’s doping didn’t do much to change the way I felt about him, although I realized something wasn’t right.
Just last week someone sent me a YouTube video of Lance Armstrong winning the Superfrog Half Ironman in California. Banned from most races, Lance Armstrong turned to smaller local races, which are happy to have a super athlete like Armstrong participating.
I watched the 10 minute recap of his 3:49 course record amazed and inspired, the way I felt when I watched him come back from a fall or climb up a mountain during one of the many Tours de France, which he won. I also admired his comeback, which showed his love of sport and competition.
But then over the last few days I started reading the articles containing the testimonies of his former teammates, and the evidence collected by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA not to be confused with the ADA!), and found it hard to believe Armstrong’s denials and his claims of witch hunts.
Reading the evidence, my rational side – my brain – knows that there is a very big problem with the Armstrong story. He is no longer the great example you’d like to give your children of someone who overcomes the worst and becomes a champion. But my heart seems to want the truth to go away. I find myself thinking things like everyone was using drugs, and look at Armstrong now, drug free and winning triathlons and half Ironmans.
Maybe we should just disregard professional athletes, not think of them as our heroes. We should look for heroes who are real people challenging themselves, be inspired by people we know who’re doing incredible things. Think of Peter Nerothin and the Insulindependence programs.
As for Nike firing Lance Armstrong, if they’re looking for someone new to represent the brand, I’m available.