People were eating pizza and drinking beer, and a handout with rules for a drinking game was making the rounds among the guests. This gathering had all the markers for an NFL Super Bowl party, except these viewers were watching a sporting event of a different kind: Lance Armstrong's tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey.
People were eating pizza and drinking beer, and a handout with rules for a drinking game was making the rounds among the guests.
This gathering had all the markers for an NFL Super Bowl party, except these viewers were watching a sporting event of a different kind: Lance Armstrong’s tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey.
More than 25 people, most of them cyclists, gathered last night at the Trek Bicycle Store in Dublin for a party to watch the interview and confirm what they already knew: That Lance Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs.
A dead silence fell around the store as Armstrong and Winfrey came on the screen. The first noise wasn’t made until five minutes into the interview, when one partygoer exploded one of the party poppers that the store manager had passed out and yelled, “Tell the whole truth!”
“We have a lot of hardcore serious riders that come into our store that really followed Lance,” said Mimi Webb, store manager. “So a lot of them are just really disappointed and even heartbroken.”
The cyclist, who survived testicular cancer diagnosed in 1996 when he was 25, developed a relationship with Columbus over the years.
His Lance Armstrong Foundation, also known as the Livestrong Foundation, has given nearly $2 million to the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, according to the university.
That included $1.25 million over five years to fund the Livestrong Survivorship Center of Excellence, which supported programs to help people cope with life after cancer. The Livestrong center expired with the grant at the end of last year, university spokeswoman Eileen Scahill said.
Armstrong also rode in the first Pelotonia charity bicycle tour, in 2009.
Dr. Michael Caligiuri, the director of the cancer center, was traveling and was not available for comment on Armstrong’s admission that he lied about using performance-enhancing drugs. No other university officials wished to comment either, Scahill said.
Pelotonia Executive Director Tom Lennox also declined comment yesterday.
Others are willing to talk publicly, however, about the topic that is prompting discussions over kitchen tables and in workplaces locally and nationwide.
Carol Wagner and her husband, Doug, participated in the Columbus area’s first Cancer Transitions class, in 2009, a program the Lance Armstrong Foundation helped sponsor to empower cancer survivors. The same year, she and her husband, who had prostate cancer, volunteered at the first Pelotonia and heard Armstrong speak.
All of the good he has done to help cancer survivors and cancer research outweighs whatever mistakes he made, said Wagner, 53, who lives on the Far North Side and fought a recurrence of non-Hodgkins lymphoma last year after she was first treated in 2008.
“I have no right to judge the man,” she said. “The man has done a lot. People make mistakes, they make bad decisions. It doesn’t mean they are a bad person, it doesn’t mean they didn’t do something good.”
Pelotonia will continue to grow in popularity and dollars raised, Mrs. Wagner and others predicted. It raised $16.8 million and attracted about 6,200 riders last year. That brought the total raised to more than $42 million, organizers said.
“Lance Armstrong is still a cancer survivor, bottom line,” John Looker, a 44-year-old Clintonville resident with brain cancer who has ridden in Pelotonia, wrote in an email.
“His participation in year one didn’t affect the following years, even when the controversy around him was growing. So I don’t see how his confession, which as many will attest to did not come as a shock or surprise to them, would affect participation in Pelotonia.”
Some cyclists found Armstrong’s doping confession both anticlimactic and inconsequential.
“A lot of people assumed it was the case a long time ago,” said Brian Hagerty, the president of Consider Biking, which promotes bicycling in central Ohio. “I don’t see a long-term impact.”
Serious cyclist Chuck Gulker also said Armstrong’s admission was no surprise.
“We all knew he was guilty, just like he said you can’t win seven titles in a row clean,” said Gulker, who was at the Trek viewing party. Armstrong had said during the interview he didn’t think it would have been possible to win seven Tour de France titles without doping.
Keith Finn, the president of Columbus Outdoor Pursuits, said many of the group’s recreational bicyclists had admired Armstrong for his accomplishments.
“Personally,” Finn wrote in an email, “I am really not affected by his confession. I find him lumped in the same category as Barry Bonds — great athletes that are forever marred by that little * next to their accomplishments.”