One morning, in the summer of 2007, Apurv Verma, who was one of my students in 1983-84, just appeared before me in my office. I was pleasantly surprised to see him after so many years.
When Apurv came to me, I was putting together an inspirational book titled – ‘The Cheetah’ to be released in June that year. I knew someone would appear, from nowhere, to help me up financially. My heart opened up before my dear student, and Apurv, who was then a Vice President of one of the multinationals, said ‘yes’ without even blinking.
So, on June 10, 2007, on the annual Graduation day of THE DAWN CLUB students, we held a book-releasing ceremony. During the function, I put my arm around Apurv and spoke fondly about him to the audience. In response, he spoke kindly about me and, showed every one two books that had left a great impact on his life. He had brought a copy of each book to gift me, and he spoke something about the books and their author.
Lance Armstrong was the author… And, his two famous books were: ‘It’s Not About The Bike’ and ‘Every Second Counts’.
The man had won the coveted world championship seven times in the grueling cycling contest ‘Tour de France’.
It is not the victory in the cycling contest that had made Armstrong a cult hero. It was his victory over the dreaded testicular cancer. He fought it hard, and after years of enduring the trauma and torture, he was declared ‘cancer-free’. He inspired millions of people all over the world… and, in 1999, when he made a spectacular comeback winning the title once again, he practically had turned into a beacon of hope!
As you read Armstrong’s books, you can feel what a great fighter he is. Yes, to win seven times the contest such as Tour de France, you need to burn your ass on the bike for years and years on. And, to win a race against your own death, you need to burn your heart the way he did!
So, as the title of the books say: it is not about the bike… and, every second does count!
I became an instant fan of Lance Armstrong… and, I have gifted several copies of his books to several people after Apurv gifted it to me in 2007.
Today’s newspapers have this on the front page: “The great fighter against cancer, and seven-time Tour de France champion, gives up the legal battle against dope-charge… Stripped off all the titles!”
My heart stopped!
I was in a hurry to leave home this morning when I glanced upon the headlines. But, I immediately sulked on the chair and stayed back to read the entire report.
Later, all along the way to my workplace, I was left disturbed.
Lance Armstrong had been a strong man. ‘Strong’ is, in fact, a weak word to describe him.
‘LIVESTRONG’… this is the message of hope he gives to millions of cancer victims. Our own Yuvraj Singh found solace and hope through Armstrong’s books and messages when he was fighting cancer in the hospital.
It’s not about the bike…
It is about life…
It is about living…
It is about surviving great odds…
It is about faith, hope and courage…
So, millions of people who adored him are not really the die-hard fans of a great cycling race. I am not.
Then, why did Armstrong choose not to fight the doping charge leveled by the US anti-dope agency?
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough,' Armstrong said in a statement on Thursday.”For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999… the witch-hunt has taken the toll on my family, and my work for our Foundation and on me… it leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense… I have decided not to fight the charges whatever be its consequences…”
Frankly, it is not important to me to know whether or not Lance Armstrong won his cycling races by doping himself… thereby cheating. To me, it is important that he did much beyond those cycling races…
He inspired a guy like me… who doesn’t know the ‘c’ of a cycling race; leave alone the Tour de France.!
Sorry friends, I may be alone in defending Lance Armstrong’s – call him the ‘fallen hero’, or the ‘disgraced legend’ or the ‘cheat’ or whatever you like – decision not to defend himself against the doping charges. Hey, a weak man would have fought them… For, the consequences of such a decision are just scary… Yes, they are going to be scary!
And, yet, this man says ‘enough is enough… come what may’!
I only pray!
My mind goes back to another scene… where, more than two thousand years ago, another Hero of mine is dragged before the ‘Kangaroo court’ of a despot king called Herod. This king mocks at my Hero, teases Him to perform before him some of His miracles… asks Him if He is the ‘King of Jews’… or the ‘Son of God’… and all such things. And, the Holy Book, which I swear by, says that my Hero chooses not to say anything. That, He chooses to be silent!
Jesus Christ was already condemned
to be ‘guilty’ before any court
could prove him ‘guilty’.
He knew what was going to come…
He was prepared to face the consequences…
He ‘accepted the cup’!
I do not worship Herod or Pontius Pilate…who condemned Jesus. I worship the ‘condemned’!
I have chosen the ‘guilty’ as my Hero… my hope, my salvation!
Thus, today, even though I may look alone in it, I would still choose to say the same thing about Lance Armstrong…
They have stripped Armstrong off all his cycling titles... In the days to come, they may strip him off many more things… Like they did with my Hero before nailing Him on the cross, they have already stripped my hero, Lance Armstrong, off his famous yellow jersey.
But, there is something no authority on earth can strip us off: The might of a human decision… and his resolve to accept its consequences! It takes formidable strength to take a call like that… It is a steely stuff, my friends… Mind you, you can’t nail human spirit on the cross… You just can’t!
And, I tell you this: even if you dope yourself with the strongest drug on earth, you won’t be able to take a call which this man – Lance Armstrong – has taken now.
Pics.: Janardhan Narayan