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Livestrong despite the controversy

By Jacquie ItsinesAssistant Editorial Editor

I slumped in a church pew with my head down and my eyes locked on nothing, flipping a yellow rubber bracelet inside and out on my wrist. I had just lost my grandfather to cancer, and my sister and I chose to wear our Livestrong wristbands underneath our funeral attire as a small way of commemorating him. It was symbolic: a glimpse of yellow — my grandfather’s favorite color — in a mass of black and gray, a glimpse of hope in a grim circumstance.

That was almost one year ago. Now, the meaning behind the Livestrong wristband has changed thanks to recent doping admissions by the creator of the Livestrong Foundation, cyclist Lance Armstrong.

The wristbands served as a representation of Armstrong’s victorious emergences from the grip of testicular cancer and from seven consecutive Tour de France races. Armstrong’s feat suggested to others affected by cancer that anything was possible. But upon learning that Armstrong’s athletic phenomena were a lie, some people are currently struggling to accept Livestrong wristbands as positive tokens.

Armstrong is one man – granted, he is the face of the Livestrong Foundation, but only one face. Just because he failed to live up to the honorable lifestyle projected by his organization does not mean that everyone else must follow in his footsteps.

The Livestrong manifesto of finding strength and hope in unity, knowledge and optimism does not expire in Armstrong’s absence. These means of perseverance are universally and perennially applicable to all forms of adversity. Armstrong is no longer a relevant factor in the Livestrong Foundation’s success; it has surpassed him in significance.

Thus, to disregard a memento that was once proudly worn in memory or support of a loved one with cancer just because of Armstrong’s transgressions is shallow and disrespectful. Is Armstrong more significant than that loved one? Is Armstrong bigger than cancer?

When I see a Livestrong wristband, I do not think of Lance Armstrong or cheating; I think of my grandfather, of living strong. I think of how he managed to maintain a sense of humor in even the worst of situations, how his eyes lit up when my cousins and I laughed at his jokes, how he was more proud of our good character than of any achievements that we made, and how he favored my dog over all eight of us.

My memory of my grandfather is far too meaningful to be trumped by the wrongdoings of an athlete whom I have never met.

Lance Armstrong cheated and lied, and he is being punished for it. His shortcomings should be subject only to acknowledgement, not dwelling. In a world in which precious lives are relentlessly threatened by cancer, we have no time for that.


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