The Yellow Washing of Lance

Lance racing MTB

The Yellow Washing of Lance has happened over the past week with articles like this from the AP, tweets, and profound messages of support, including a shut down the USADA campaign. While a now former good cycling friend told me to F off because I didn’t profess my devotion to Lance like he does.

Lance could wear a Janus mask, as he tells a reporter he’s happy to get beaten in a race, is totally over it, and just eating burgers, drinking beer now.

There are Two Lances

There’s a Lance that exists in the cycling world where anyone within a degree of him knows someone at divisive, distinctive odds with the healing person who’s transcended into a do-no-wrong hero. People who love him see trips to visit sick children in hospital while those that don’t see him for what he’s done on the bike, including the drugs.

We have this thing with idolizing sports figures until they get torn down. The same belief system that lifted Paterno into a god-like status, is willing to wrap Lance in a warm blanket of yellow bands and feel-good, slickly marketed slogans from Nike.

This week he abandoned his team mates, an industry, and devout fans of the sport. By not challenging the charges, he’s guilty of them and some of us cyclists feel he quit the sport when it most needed him.

I expect Lance to live gloriously in Livestrong yellow, thrive, and say to his critics, from a retirement villa “how ‘bout them Apples!?”

But them apples have been pulled from a jersey pocket and tossed by the roadside. For those that believe so strongly in the bike like we do here, it was never about that for Lance.

Now he rides for those that believe in who he’s become, not who he was on the roads of France.

On Twitter

I’m sharing this thread from Twitter because of the context to the larger issue about Lance, his legacy, and our community. Livestrong has done all those things its supporters and donors say it has.

Doug and Byron

Doug Ullman and me at SXSW

What Livestrong has also done with cancer besides branding and marketing, is politicize it. If you don’t post a devotion to Lance, you’re a hater and pro-cancer. When those with yellow bands criticize those without for not believing like they do, we’re seeing Rovian-style politics at play. Absolutist viewpoints from pols teetering on the extreme.

Lance is a far more complex character than that and I hope his fans can understand the differing viewpoints. For the non or sort-of believer, Livestrong does not wash away his sins on the bike. Some, like us, are in the middle of the Lance scale of justice.


  • MTB Photo by David Schloss and SXSW photo by Mathowie
  • Not sure if he coined it, but Anil Dash said Yellow Washing on Twitter last week.
  • How ‘bout them Apples is a famous Lance saying from a race, when he dropped all of his rivals and went on to win. It’s synonymous with his defiance of critics.