Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why My Daughter Cares About #doprah

Corey Green is part of the leadership team for the Lionhearts Junior Cycling Team and Program in Cincinnati and over the past few days, like Luke Armstrong-Lance's son, those juniors had to field questions about doping at school too.  It brings an interesting side to the conversation.

Days prior to Lance's #doprah special we got tidbits of "leaked" info, primarily that he "did it". You couldn't turn on a TV or even listen to the radio without hearing that Lance was going to admit Thursday night to Oprah.

As I thought about the proceedings and the forthcoming admission, I decided I didn't really care. I watched all his Tour de France's over and over on my basement trainer. I know every excruciating detail of those tours from Armstrong riding away from Zulle in 1999 to chasing down Fillipo Simeoni in 2004 to the famous "look" back to Ullrich on L'Alpe-d'Huez in 2001.  I have a barely worn t-shirt commemorating the look from Armstrong's Ride for the Roses ride in 2002.  Roughly 8000 others from that ride do too.  

I had watched this footage over and over, I knew there was no way Armstrong did it clean. When you watch him pull away from every previously confirmed doper, year after year, it doesn't take a genius to know it isn't a matter of "if" its confirmed, its "when". 

Still I needed to know more.  I needed to watch the Lance interview on Oprah, but not for me.  As you know from reading, I have been working with juniors for several years.  They would have questions and may even watch themselves. So I watched, curious what I would see and even more curious whether I would learn something.

The first night, I learned almost nothing, except for Lance Armstrong confirming his brash, unyielding and stubborn persona.  Night two I contemplated whether I should spend another hour watching.  The same conversation went through my head.  I was glad I watched.  Lance nearly broke down, but not for the reasons I had suspected. 

Lance nearly lost it when talking about Luke, his 13 year old son, defending his father at school. After the USADA report was delivered it had become increasingly difficult for a 13 year old to withstand the constant questions from other kids. The teen years are awkward enough without having to defend your dad's actions daily.

That's when it clicked with Lance.

As a dad I could see the anguish in Lance's eyes. It was easy for Lance to lie, control other people, inject EPO into his body, or meet in secret hotel locations to discuss strategy with doctors referred to as vampires. However, to uphold his secret, to maintain his control, it now meant his son, an impressionable teen, would have to lie too. He would have to continue to defend his dad no matter how complicated the situation, no matter when or where.

He told his son "don't defend me anymore." I can't imagine having that conversation.  I can't imagine what I would have do to put myself in the situation to have that conversation. It's quite a leap from the Easter Bunny.
Juniors on the Podium at Chicago Cup CX 2013
I hadn't expected the questions our juniors got at school. Other kids at school asked my juniors, my kids about drugs, why cyclists took drugs, and whether one of them did drugs themselves to improve their performance.

Until Lance on Oprah, I thought the situation only impacted current cyclists and riders from the previous generation, the guys who "did it." Tyler, Floyd, Ivan, Alex, Jan, etc, etc had taken the drugs and received their suspension.  Some disappeared.  Others returned to ride again. Without being known worldwide, their impact on the general public was minimal, and their issues came and went without my kids knowing.

Lance was different. Yellow LiveStrong bands graced the wrists of school kids of all ages. Certainly they didn't know the depth of LiveStrong and what it stood for, but they knew it was Lance and the bracelets were cool. He dated Sheryl Crow, hung with Robin Williams, was on Letterman and Leno every year, and even hosted Saturday Night Live.  The other kids at school knew who he was, what he did, and associated our kids with him because they were junior cyclists.

Pro CXer Kaitlin Antonneau Gives Tips To Junior Racers
Our quest is harder now. Lance didn't make adults 30 and over wonder about drugs and question whether all cyclists took drugs to go faster, he made anyone who could watch TV wonder.  Now, kids of all ages who love taking their bike out to the park to race and recently built a wealth of experience in Madison at Nationals were having to answer Oprah's questions. They didn't have to defend Lance - he excused himself - they had to defend their sport.

Lance wants a comeback.  Frankly I don't care if he rides or races or not, but his rehab program should include education to all of America that cycling isn't an evil sport. The world needs to know cycling is a community of good people, people who care not about themselves, but about a sport that provides lifetime fitness, a sport that Lance used and abused like a rental car to bring him fame and fortune. 

Funniest part of this whole story is how much Lance was just like the teens I spend my time working alongside. Teens are a combination of mature and immature at the same time. They understand complex emotional situations and teeter on the edge of making good and bad decisions. Their success rate is poor at times, but we all chalk it up to growing up and "those dang teen years." What do you do when a teenager needs an attitude adjustment or needs to see the fallacy in their decision making?

You take away something important to them.