... And the walls came tumbling down

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         Dear readers, I am a little bit embarrassed, but not ashamed by what I did!  However, I feel sure that I am not far from alone.

By now, you are probably wondering what I am talking about?  Let me not keep you guessing. Over the past few years, this column has been a staunch supporter of Lance Armstrong!

As one of the creators, co-owner and Board Member of the Amgen Tour of California, America's Premier Cycling event, I had the opportunity to be in Lance's company and personally be part of quite a few conversations.

In fact, I was part of the decision to handsomely donate to Lance's "Livestrong" philanthropy. In exchange, the reigning "King of the Road" agreed to compete in our race.  

This was important as it accomplished two things. First, it gave our race instant cognizance and second, it brought even more attention to "Livestrong" and its good work. Not necessarily in that order.

Since its inception, the Foundation has contributed over half a billion dollars to aid in Cancer research. Cancer Research  that has resulted in cures for millions of Americans.

Now to everyone's dismay, disappointment, feeling of betrayal plus out and out admitted fraud, he has revealed his transgressions.  The TV Beneficiary of this had no idea what to expect nor did I when I turned on Oprah Winfrey the other night.

It had been so hyped; I was prepared for a big letdown.  After all, these days if a celebrity has an ingrown toenail, the TV Screens will more than likely blast "Breaking News",

However, he was confessing to Oprah, the master interrogator. He admitted that during all seven years of his Tour de France victories, he was indeed taking a cocktail of banned substances including HGH, Epogen and Oxygen.  

In addition, he was participating in Blood Transferral and Blood Doping. He kept doing it during other tours in which he competed in that time span. He was even a Bully having the admitted philosophy of " Win at all costs". He intentionally ruined people's lives.

 I feel a sense of loss and that of being duped.  I was blinded since America needs heroes... Lance Armstrong is not one.

During the years, I have received many letters from readers chastising my stand. I didn't understand why! After all I thought, look at what he did with Livestrong.

Many of those letters were from lawyers. Two that took the time to criticize in depth were Marc David Blum of Syracuse, NY and "Tag" Hoefflin of  Thousand Oaks, California. In brevity, they were among the many who in depth no matter what "wrong is wrong". I apologize to them and all of you.

This will be the last column I write about MR Armstrong! He has lost his fan base! His sponsors have left him! There are no more endorsements. Young people, who greatly admired him, have seen another of their heroes, brought to heel.

A sport that saw tremendous growth will probably hear a hue and cry from the disillusioned. Lance was both a bane and a boon to the sport.

As a "Pied Piper" he, in no small way, was the reason that almost 3 Million Fans annually lined our       racecourse from San Francisco (North), as far as Escondido to the South... 800 miles plus. His confession, after years of denial, without question will cast a pall over cycling itself.

In addition, all thinking people familiar with the Law are confused. They ask the question we all ask, "Hasn't he opened himself to many law suits, as well as the possibility of Criminal Prosecution?

I feel bad that I backed a "Dirty" Athlete and a Bully. However, I still cannot help, but admire how Cancer Research has benefitted from Livestrong. I hope those who have supported Livestrong  continue to do so, as the work is of the greatest importance.

 Unfortunately, as Mark Antony said at Caesar's Funeral, "The good is oft interred with their bones".

We shall see shortly, if like the Pirates of Auld, Lance has truly fallen on his own Petard. He deserves whatever he gets!  He has earned it!

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Sports Scrapbook
Shelly Saltman has been in the sports world as an executive, TV producer, broadcaster and event creator for more than 50 years. Among his credentials are his work with Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel, the numerous network TV shows he produced and created, NBA/NHL management roles, co-creator of the Amgen Tour of California and as the first president of Fox Sports. He lives in Ventura County.