Armstrong deserves praise for raising funds for cancer research

State Hornet Staff

In the year 2000, my father was diagnosed with Leukemia. I was 9 years old. Nine years after that, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. On top of that, just two years ago my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

If it weren’t for the $470 million in funds raised by Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong foundation, my parents would probably not be here today.

With Armstrong recently admitting his use of PEDs in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey, the world has turned on its one-time hero.

Armstrong had won seven consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999-2005 after being diagnosed with testicular cancer at the young age of 25 in 1996. Doctors told him he had a 40 percent chance of living.

Sure, the man used steroids to win his titles, but he began his cancer research foundation in 1997 – well before he won any major races.

We have seen hundreds of professional athletes in all sports test positive for some sort of PED, but no athlete in the world has influenced as many lives as Armstrong with his fundraising efforts.

Baseball has seen Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa – some of the game’s best hitters – all test positive for steroids. People became skeptical of those guys but eventually wanted them in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

What have they done to earn the respect Armstrong has somehow lost? I have not heard of any fundraising efforts by those guys, yet people overlook the Livestrong foundation worth almost a half billion dollars.

Floyd Landis, the Tour de France winner of 2006, was stripped of his title once he was caught with traces of steroids in a urine test. In fact, steroids were a huge part of professional cycling in the past 15 years; it’s nearly impossible to find a top-10 finisher behind Armstrong who has been steroid-free in his career.

Steroids have had an unfortunate place in most sports. Baseball has been in a “steroid era” since 1990, where several top players were involved in the famous Mitchell Report – a detailed list of over 80 PED users in baseball released in 2007.

There is no doubt in my mind steroids have had a negative impact on professional players’ bodies, but they are a part of the game no matter how many urine tests are forced down their pants.

Melky Cabrera, a former outfielder for the San Francisco Giants, was suspended 50 games last August for PED use. He missed the last half of the season and was jobless after the Giants went on to win the World Series without him.

Bartolo Colon of the Oakland A’s was also caught last season and was sentenced to the same suspension as Cabrera.

Despite both players breaking the rules and suffering the consequences, they both have been signed to multi-million dollar contracts with major league teams for next season.

I don’t consider Armstrong a cheater. Maybe in his personal life he has cheated, but I don’t care or know anything about that. I’m only concerned about his legacy he has left behind.

He did what he had to do to keep up with the rest of the cyclists. At the same time, he did something no other athlete has done – become a true hero.

He indirectly saved my parents’ lives and every day I wake up with the yellow Livestrong band around my right wrist. Every day I am reminded of something bigger than the Tour de France, baseball’s Hall of Fame or steroids – it’s providing for others and saving lives around the world.

More athletes should look up to Armstrong – not as “cheating athlete,” but as a role model of what to do with the fame and fortune.

I’ve worn my Livestrong band for 10 years to remind others and myself how grateful I am for Armstrong.

Russell can be reached on Twitter at @Prestonshsports and follow State Hornet Sports at @sh_sports