Long live Livestrong
18 Jan 2013
By Liam Hamill
So now we know for sure what many of us knew deep down anyway, Lance Armstrong is a doping cheat who for many years sat at the centre of the most sophisticated web of deceit professional sport has ever seen.
Even though we knew it, hearing it from the horse’s mouth makes the pain no less painful and the sheer sense of disappointment and anger any easier to accept.
Here was a man who for so many years was so much more. He was the embodiment of the ideal that no matter what the odds the unquenchable power of the human spirit can conquer all. Aged 25 and diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer that spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain, Armstrong refused to submit. He not only beat cancer, like a Phoenix from the flames he soared above mere mortals to win sport's most challenging competition, the Tour De France, seven years running.
His story touched us all. He gave hope and inspiration to millions - cancer sufferers, athletes, and every day people with every day problems. He helped us believe that no matter what the challenge, we could endure and emerge from the darkness into the light.
And now it all lies in tatters. Lie upon lie upon lie - a duplicity of monumental proportions most horrid. Reputations, hopes and dreams shredded. But out of the destruction, something incredible still remains and must continue stronger than ever - Livestrong.
Built upon the Armstrong myth, supported by Nike and made real through the blood, sweat and tears of thousands of volunteers, fundraisers, cancer survivors, their families and employees, the cancer charity brings support to millions around the world. In just over 15 years, Livestrong has raised over $470 million to fulfill its mission of inspiration and empowerment. More than that, Livestrong now powers an agenda for change, encouraging people to live healthier, happier and more active lives.
But the question is how Livestrong moves forward without the myth of Armstrong to nourish it. For so long the two have seemed inseparable - the cause being the man and the man being the cause.
Or is it? As Livestrong stated this morning in their response to Armstrong's confession, "Our success has never been based on one person – it’s based on the patients and survivors we serve every day, who approach a cancer diagnosis with hope, courage and perseverance."
And surely that's the point here. Livestrong may have started with the Armstrong story, but it's the people who have built the movement each and every day that now own the torch and must continue to keep the cause burning brightly.
We owe it to ourselves and to Livestrong to ditch the man, not the ideal. Livestrong is not Armstrong’s road to redemption. It is our legacy, not his. And like the most powerful of ideas, it is far bigger than one man. So wear your band with pride and proclaim, "Long live Livestrong."