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  • Writer's pictureNathan Max

Stop Trashing Lance Armstrong

Photo credit: Nathalie Magniez/AFP/Getty Images. Lance Armstrong's foundation raised millions from 1997-2012

People need to quit hating Lance Armstrong so much and remember all the good he did for humanity.

There was a time in this country not so long ago when you couldn’t take two steps without seeing one of those little, yellow bracelets his foundation sold. All those wrist-bands led to millions being generated for individuals fighting cancer and spawned a copy-cat cornucopia of colorful bracelets that raised money for other worthwhile causes.

Not to mention all the inspiration the now-discredited and stripped seven-time Tour de France champion gave cancer patients. Anybody who got that terrible diagnosis back then could look to Armstrong as a beacon of hope. Around the world, he represented the reality that cancer did not necessarily have to be a death sentence. Far from it, you could bounce back and achieve greatness.

Between 1997-2012, the Lance Armstrong Foundation raised $470 million and helped 2.5 million cancer survivors with free patient navigation services, according to a 2012 report in Forbes. In 2012, the year before Armstrong finally came clean about his doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, there were more than 1,000 grassroots Livestrong Day events held in 65 countries annually to support the cancer battle, Forbes reported.

This man made a positive difference in so many lives. Cancer survivor Kurt Badenhausen put it best when he wrote in 2012: “Was it all a lie? Who cares. Cheater or not, has any athlete done more with their fame than Lance Armstrong did to benefit other people?”

Lance Armstrong did have an aggressive form of testicular cancer nearly 25 years ago. Doctors did give him a 40 percent chance of survival. He did undergo four rounds of chemotherapy, as well as brain surgery and another surgery to remove a testicle.

And he did come back from all that to cross the finish line first seven straight years in the Tour de France, against a field of riders who weren’t exactly on the up-and-up themselves. All these things happened. That is real.

The fact is, people wanted to believe the Lance Armstrong legend so much that they created a kind of cognitive dissonance that defied logic or reason surrounding his accomplishments. At the time Armstrong was winning one race after another, all his top competitors were testing positive and getting suspended for doping.

How could it be possible that the one clean athlete was consistently beating all the cheaters? Anybody who could analytically look at what was happening had to know Armstrong wasn’t playing by the rules. People in the United States willfully ignored the obvious, because the story was so great and he was a hero to so many. We wanted to believe.

Even in France, where nobody thought Armstrong’s accomplishments were legitimate, he was still respected.

“Armstrong is great, even if he is doping,” a French friend once told me, years before the cyclist was exposed.

Don’t get me wrong. Armstrong did a lot of horrible things to people to keep the myth going. He aggressively perpetrated the lie and only came clean after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency forced his hand. We have to ask ourselves: Did the ends justify the means?

For me, if we could raise enough money to find a cure for cancer, or go back to aiding countless people fight the disease, and the deal is we have to allow one sophisticated jerk with a good comeback story cheat to win a bunch of bicycle races, it seems like a decent trade-off despite all the collateral damage.

I’m fairly certain all those cancer patients who were helped during that 15-year span would agree.


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