I believed you when you said you never doped.
Most of my friends rolled their eyes at me, called me naïve, foolish even for defending you, but I did. I told them it was an elaborate setup and everyone was out to prove you wrong, because no one could possibly believe such an astounding comeback.
A man not only beats cancer, but then goes on to win one of the most grueling athletic competitions on earth, not once but seven times?! Are you kidding me? I told them it was only natural for everyone to question you, because it was so inconceivable to people that a person could do this.
I believed you when you said the saddle-sore cream caused a positive steroids test of your urine during your first Tour de France win in 1999. And when you questioned those who doubted you, with each response filled with more anger than the next, I too questioned your accusers.
The staffer allegedly caught disposing drugs, the French book that said you were juicing (the French always hated you I told myself), and then the teammates that started to come forward and say you were doping…you stuck to your claim and I did too. You didn’t do it. They were clearly just jealous.
I believed you when you said you passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one. When the US Anti-Doping Agency charged and suspended you last summer, I believed you when you called it a “witch hunt.” And then when you said you would not fight the agency’s charges, I even found myself explaining to friends “give the guy a break, he’s done fighting these people and just wants to be left alone.”
Nike, the brand that made your Livestrong foundation a household name, left you high and dry. Soon after you stepped down from the board of your own foundation, a cause you believed in so strongly. I defended the move, telling friends it was a noble thing for you to do, because you didn’t want Livestrong to get dragged through the mud along with you.
I don’t remember when, but it was sometime in fall. I was reading yet another sports writer try to give their two cents of the “witch hunt” after you, but this time it was different. I was finding myself agreeing more and more with a point the writer made.
“How could a man who fought so hard against cancer, then worked his butt off to get himself in such phenomenal shape, to then compete in one of the most grueling athletic competitions, just give up?”
And even upon hearing the news of the Oprah interview I was still questioning if you were capable of doing something like this. I think I just didn’t want to believe it.
I didn’t want to believe that you so masterfully and disgustingly dodged your accusers, making sure to associate the fact that they doubted your abilities with the thought that they were then doubting a cancer survivor.
I didn’t want to believe that you were making everyone who thought you used steroids think that they were actually the ones at fault, that they were all persecuting you with their accusations and “witch hunt”.
I didn’t want to believe that you would go so far as to make the idea of others questioning you into a marketing strategy.
“Everyone wants to know what I’m on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?” you say in the well-known Nike commercial that shows images of your cancer treatment.
I didn’t want to believe that this athlete who was put on a pedestal by so many for what seemed to be his hard work ethic, determination, and philanthropy could do such a thing. I wanted to believe the guy in the commercial.
Ironically at the start of the Nike commercial you say, “This is my body and I can do whatever I want to it.”
Looks like you knew that all along.
Someone who doesn’t believe you anymore.