I’m sat at home, pondering recent events in the cycling world. At the age of 52, I’ve seen many drugs scandals over the years. This latest one is the biggest, and worst, by far. The accused is one of my all time heroes, a man who beat the odds of cancer, when given 35% chance of survival. Returning from illness to win seven Tours, Lance went on to build Livestrong, a charity that has raised over $500 million to help other cancer sufferers.
His tenacity, willpower , and application, gave me hope when I was bumping along the bottom, and today I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that it may have all been built on sand. I’m waiting, as are many others, to see what the governing body of cycling, the UCI, make of all the conjecture and here say, as well as the evidence collected by the USADA.
For years I believed it to be a witch hunt. So many failed to achieve their promise whilst Lance seemed to rule the roads. He just appeared better than the rest, showing huge physical and mental prowess on so many occasions. Nobody could challenge him and his team. He was a hard task master by his own admission, and there were plenty of riders who suffered at his hands, something I don’t condone.
Now I’m being asked to believe it was all done through cheating. Even if it was, there were many other teams doing the same. So much so, it would seem that if Lance is disgraced, nobody will be awarded the victories that he is stripped of, and that is what upsets me. So many tours were won whilst the riders were taking drugs, that nobody is fit to wear the crown.
I feel cheated and angry, at an event that I have followed since childhood. We have been told time and time again that cycling is clean now, only to find out that money is all that matters, and the riders, doctors, physio’s, team leaders, and even friends, wives, and acquaintances, are all complicit in cheating us of what we all thought we witnessed.
Whatever the outcome of this sorry affair, I won’t ever be able to sit and watch again. Dave Brailsford was right in saying that after all the hard work that has been undergone to get Bradley Wiggins et al to the pinnacle of their cycling careers, people are rightly asking questions about the Briton’s rise, and whether drugs have played a part in it. He added that given the biological passports that pro-cyclists now have to keep, that using EPO, or other methods like transfusions, is all but impossible, but is it?
Like many other people, I don’t have the skills to dissect the USADA documentation. Therefore, I can’t give an opinion, or form any point of view. It’s just too complex. All I can do is sit and wait until the UCI announces its own outcome, feeling hurt and let down.
Ironically, I can’t cycle without taking drugs. My medication is essential at the moment, although I have reduced it by thirty percent. So far, there have been no drastic side effects from this. I am more fluid emotionally, but my therapist thinks this is good news. I’m also sleeping like I never have, averaging around eleven hours a night. Nightmares are disturbing this on a regular basis, but I still rise feeling rested. The first hour disappears in a familiar fog, and my mood states vary more than when I was on the stronger dose. Apart from that I seem to be able to do the things I need to get done. I will keep you posted of any changes as winter begins to descend upon us.
Anger is an emotion I don’t like, and rarely feel, or show. I’ve always been afraid of losing control and letting it out. My therapist wants me to get angry. At present, when I begin to feel angry, or show a little anger, I just fall apart, reduced to tears. The after effects of this leave me feeling fragile and tired for days afterwards. During the past few weeks, I have become increasingly angry towards the state. Having worked hard to attain my teaching status, I had no choice but to let it all go. The resulting loss of income, self-worth, career, etc was a devastating blow at the time. Now I feel that people like me are being punished for being ill. As if it isn’t enough to have been through these crisis, the government refuses to recognise mental health illnesses as real.
Since my breakdown I have done everything within my grasp to improve my own situation, and are thoroughly fed up with hearing politicians blabbing on about cutting the welfare budget. Personally, I like to think that had I been given any support, outside of my doctor, that I would now be even further down the road to recovery than I am right now. As it is, I have paid for therapy for many years, and are now staring down the barrel of a gun, whereby I may have to give it up due to my financial situation.
Many other people also rely on talking therapy, to address trauma and to stay level on a week to week basis. Taking that away is asking us to cope beyond what we are capable of doing, and means we risk relapses. That in turn could lead to massive long-term costs, as people then begin to need the services of crisis teams, and even hospitals. People who suffer poor mental health already have a life expectancy of up to fifteen years lower than those who don’t!
The basis of our health care system should mean that when we get seriously ill we are cared for. In the case of mental health problems, it’s seen differently. I can never explain to you how debilitating my illness has been, and continues to be. I try to write about the effects of being ill, and what I do to cope, but I’ve rarely written about the politics and resulting resentment of a failing system. I try to keep this blog positive, and that reflects my general attitude to my life.
This week we heard that when the new single-benefit is introduced, the chances are that we will be worse off again. I have already been told that I may have to contribute £250- towards my council tax from next year. Where does that money come from? I don’t have it. What does it mean for my mental health, that I have to worry about how to manage from day-to-day? My DLA paid for my therapy, and last year it disappeared, leaving me over £200 a month worse off. Do I run up a debt, or give up the therapy I still need?
When my father passed away, I was left some money. I invested that in my home. If I hadn’t, I would have had to spend it. In buying my home, I reduced my housing cost to the welfare state by fifty percent. I had to get permission from the state to buy the house, but my moral conscience, and the need to gain stability in my life, made it a no-brainer. A further, and unexpected windfall, meant that I could complete my ride around Britain. This years ride was funded by selling my motorcycle. I saw it as an expendable luxury, and had no qualms about letting it go in order to improve my situation and continue the project. I still had to gain permission to spend the money that way, and was honest and open in doing so.
There are always people working the system, but to punish those who are genuinely ill is a travesty. The new fit for work process doesn’t take into account people’s mental wellbeing and health. How can that be, and why doesn’t society revolt against this? It’s blatant discrimination at best. For me it means that I am constantly questioning my own ability to work, whilst worrying about when the axe will fall. What does that mean for my long-term health, and for many other sufferers? Waking every day with heart pounding anxiety may be part and parcel of reducing my drugs, but why do I feel that way, and what role does the government’s negativity play in that? Suicides in middle age men are rising exponentially. I’d like to ask why you think that is, and why a lying, cheating, and bullying government, isn’t seen in the same way the media are painting Lance Armstrong.
Next year is beginning to loom in my mind. As I have said, I need to fundraise in order to do anything. I hope to run a series of talks in the local area after Christmas, so if you know a group who might be interested, let me know. I will also be launching my second book, which is now just a couple of weeks away from a first draft. I’ve enjoyed writing it even more than last year, feeling relaxed about writing , rather than intense, as I felt last time out. I will release it as an Ebook, and will see how expensive it would be to always produce a paper version. It’s a little shorter than the last book, which I always felt was the length it needed to be, but a little long to get published. I have a plan in mind for next year already, and are currently completing a budget in order to pitch the idea to a fundraising website, all my friends, and associates. I’m also looking at the possibility of employing a professional fundraiser. I should know about the outcome of that shortly. It isn’t easy to fundraise as an individual, and most grant givers won’t give to solo projects. One of the things I am considering, is to register Riding2Recovery as a charity in its own right. That way I could grow the idea, and begin to help others to get out there, ride, organise events, and talk to people. It would be a big step, but would help with fundraising, and give the project direction and purpose.
For now, I’m concentrating on shaking a virus. I haven’t succumbed to one for ages, and have to admit that I’m as bad most other men when it comes to dealing with them. Hopefully I’ll be back out on my bike in the next few days, and then I can begin to work towards my next dream, something the government can never take away.