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My Break-Up with Lance Armstrong

November 19, 2012

Published here on October 24, 2012

The International Cycling Union has stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. It’s official.

I want to deny that he had been doping throughout his cycling career. I want to deny the vast amount of evidence that the USADA has against him, including more than a dozen testimonies. I want to believe his multiple sworn statements that he won his titles honestly, without the help of illegal drugs.

But I can’t anymore. In a way, I’m heartbroken.

I have been competing in triathlons for the past three years, and before that I ran cross-country in high school. Lance was nothing short of an icon in the endurance community. No matter how badly I hurt during a race, no matter how “empty” I felt, I could always take heart that Lance had felt worse. He had pushed the bounds of human endurance so far that I never was left with a viable excuse to quit. That was the essence of his mantra, “Pain is temporary; quitting lasts forever.”

I realize that he did have the determination to push through all the pain during his training. I know that his mantra still applies today. But I no longer can idolize him like I used to. I can’t look up to him for his impressive feats of endurance. He no longer stands on a golden pedestal, high above the rest of us mere humans.

His star is dropping faster than his list of sponsors. It’s like watching the Tiger Woods saga all over again. America loves a scandal, but I think deep down we still want Lance to be the superstar we thought he was, just like we wanted Tiger to remain the golden boy of golf. Lance and Tiger will always be remembered for their accomplishments, but no one will ever associate them with honesty or good character.

It’s just saddening to me. I can’t look at his face on any of the magazine covers I’ve saved over the years or wear a yellow Livestrong band without thinking “cheater.” I feel like I’ve just gone through a bad break up and should break out into Adele’s “Someone Like You.”

It’s a hurt felt throughout the endurance community. We will always look to Lance as an example of pushing through the pain or for going after a goal with nothing stopping you. But there will be no more talk of how impressive his feats were. We will no longer remember him as the Herculean fitness icon. His image has been forever tainted.

Personally, I will hang onto those magazine covers. But they will be gathering dust in a corner of some closet, not stapled to the back of my training plan.

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