Apr 262011
Authors: Allison Sylte

Without Lance Armstrong, I wouldn’t have a closet full of spandex.

I wouldn’t have spent six months eating nothing but ramen noodles to save up for an entry-level Scott road bike, and I certainly wouldn’t spend many long mornings trudging my way up immensely painful hills on the roads near Horsetooth, much to the chagrin of my worn-out quads.

If it weren’t for Lance Armstrong, I would be just a nerd who paid way too much for a bike, training for a sport that is essentially under the radar.

And it wouldn’t just be me. It would be those countless cyclists who flock to the fantastic places to bike in Fort Collins, pretending every ride is a winning stage in the Tour de France, enjoying a craze that just 10 years ago would have seemed absolutely ridiculous.
Because of Lance Armstrong, I’m madly in love with cycling. And that’s why it kills me to read the increasingly mounting evidence that he cheated.

In the cover story of this month’s issue of “Bicycling Magazine,” Bill Strickland, a journalist, defender and long-time companion of Armstrong, wrote a piece more or less confirming that he lost faith in Armstrong and that he believes almost without a doubt Armstrong was a doper.

In the article, Strickland illustrates eye-witness accounts from multiple fellow riders who witnessed firsthand Lance taking performance enhancing drugs and even describes instances early in Armstrong’s career where he tested positive for doping, instances that were later covered up.

The worst part? Armstrong looked him straight in the eye and said he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs.

Strickland isn’t someone who has something to gain from implicating Armstrong in doping charges. Instead, Strickland was such a fan that he spent a year away from his young daughter following Armstrong on his comeback and was someone who vehemently denied any wrongdoing doing on Armstrong’s part publicly during the very beginnings of the scandal.
He summed up his feelings by stating, “accepting that Lance cheated makes me want to cry. A 46-year-old guy. Can you imagine that?”

I can. Accepting that Armstrong cheated is almost inconceivable for me, a 20-year-old female. It doesn’t quite make me want to cry, but it definitely makes me rethink how I feel when I clip into my pedals before a big ride.

Before the doping allegations, Armstrong was someone who was untouchable, and he was certainly a big hero of mine. Once upon a time, I would have argued that Armstrong was possibly the greatest athlete of our generation, someone who overcame all odds to do something absolutely amazing, and someone whose charitable endeavors showed that his heart was inherently in the right place.

Not just his cycling ability but also his backstory, made me and millions of other Americans idolize him. A testicular survivor who won seven Tour de France titles? You couldn’t make up something better than that.

Just like with recent allegations against Greg Mortensen, it’s sad to learn that someone who you look up to is less than perfect. It’s also sad to see Armstrong’s unprecedented accomplishments tainted by the scandals. He may have been a doper, but the Livestrong foundation has also raised more than $400 million for cancer survivors –– that’s got to count for something, right?

Anyway, even if he was taking performance-enhancing drugs, pretty much everyone else in the Tour de France was too. At least it was a level playing field.

What kills me most about this is that the reason why I cycle and run, heck, even the reason I work for the Collegian, is that I like the challenge of pushing myself to the limit, and I like the challenge and satisfaction that comes from working hard to achieve a goal.

Sure, I wish that I could just inject some HGH before I go on a training run, and some of the stories that my reporters give me make me wish I had performance-enhancing drugs.

But what makes Lance fantastic is that he is already one of the best, even without drugs. If he had just settled for doing the hard work and not stooping to the low level of some of his competitors, he would have won fair and square.

And that’s what I take away more than anything from the recent scandal: Maybe it’s better to be honest than to simply be a winner.

News Editor Allison Sylte is a sophomore journalism major. Feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:53 pm

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