Now that Lance Armstrong has been about as thoroughly disgraced as possible, one of the big questions confronting his onetime avid fans is: What should happen to those 80 million or so bright-yellow Livestrong wristbands?
It’s not as inconsequential a question as it first appears, as I was reminded over the weekend when a Facebook friend posted about his internal struggle over the silicone-gel bracelet that had been resting on the top of his bureau for several days. Though the bracelet was seen in its earliest days as a symbol of support for Armstrong the champion bicyclist and survivor of cancer, it took on greater meaning as more and more people who hadn’t touched a bike since childhood bought their own -- and other charities followed the fashion trend with their own rubbery wrist decorations.
The wristband became a symbol not only of Armstrong’s achievements in the face of a disease that more often is seen as physically and emotionally debilitating, but of living life fully and of supporting cancer research financially and offering moral support to cancer patients. Of course, now that Armstrong isn’t seen as especially moral altogether, it’s hard to feel quite the same level of inspiration over the $1 bracelet. Then there’s always the possibility that others will think the wearer doesn’t care about cheating.
My Facebook friend ultimately decided to slip on his band again. It had stood for solidarity with relatives of his who had been diagnosed with cancer, and for holding on to hope and inner strength when he faced his own medical problems. Its meaning is greater than the man to him, even if there’s no way to extricate one from the other.
What would your decision be? Or if you’re among the 80 million, what decision have you made?