Chances are, you already have an opinion of Lance Armstrong.
I was familiar with him when I pick up his book, “It’s Not About the Bike” in a Singapore hostel library in 2010. It was a hot, rainy day, so I spent the afternoon devouring the book and found his story incredible and inspiring.
The subject of Lance Armstrong created a household divided. My husband, a french national, grew up watching and spectating Le Tour de France and concluded he was doping, because no one could achieve what he did without performance enhancing drugs. I, a proud American, and lover of an inspirational comeback story, defended Armstrong and concluded my husband was just jealous, that an American was superior. So, when the scandal broke in 2012, I had to eat some of my words. I wanted to believe this incredible athlete clawed and scraped his way from rock bottom (a serious cancer diagnosis) to sky high (winning Le Tour de France multiple times). After much thought, I decided was still a fan, he’s still inspiring and his comeback is still incredible. Sure, he lied, but raise your right hand if you’ve ever lied. Next, raise your left hand if you’ve ever made a mistake. Yup, everyone in the room just raised both their hands. As Bill Burr says, “Lance Armstrong raised $500 million dollars for cancer research. That’s what that lie did.”
However, in 2014, I was diagnosed with cancer. I would occasionally think about Lance Armstrong and was baffled that someone with metastatic cancer would take such a risk by taking performance enhancing drugs that could potentially fuel cancer cells in his body. It all seemed irrational to me. Even so, as a (former) endurance athelete and cancer surivivor, I can’t help but look at Armstrong as a role model. While he’s no longer associated with Livestrong, he is the embodiment and icon for what it means to continue to persevere through tremendous adversity.
Recently, I have become reacquainted with Lance through his podcast, The Forward. I was surprised to find him a great interviewer. I look “forward” to his podcast every week. The name, The Forward, came from his cycling buddy. When he and his friend were out on a ride and would come to an intersection, instead of saying, “Lance, go straight.”, his friend would say, “Lance, go forward,” And this has stuck with him because that’s the way he wants his life to go. Isn’t that what we all want – to keep moving forward?
On his podcast, he has also talks about the word, suffering and how he believes it is the most interesting, definitive word in the English language. I think I agree. Suffering is a word that scares me, but has also taught me more than I can begin to describe.
Now, if you’re a cancer survivor, athlete and/or a lover of podcasts, you should check out The Forward. Here are a few good interviews to start with: Simon Illa, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Rahm Emanuel, Bo Jackson, Michael Franti, Eduardo Garcia (shout out to First Descents) and Dave McGillivray.