Cancer survivor let down’ by Armstrong admission
Foothills: High River teen met famous cyclist at Calgary gala
Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 06:00 am
A 16-year-old cancer survivor, who met Lance Armstrong at a Calgary gala nearly a decade ago, has mixed feelings about his hero’s confession of taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Cancer survivor Dayton Noel was one of millions of people who watched Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey last week.
“He was a pretty big guy who won seven Tour de Frances and to hear him say he was basically doping was a let down,” Noel said from his High River home on Jan. 20.
Noel was diagnosed with testicular cancer as a five-year-old, the same cancer Armstrong had. Like Armstrong, Noel is a survivor and a few months ago the Highwood High School student was diagnosed as cancer-free.
At eight years old Noel was invited to meet the Tour de France champion at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Calgary as part of Armstrong’s Tour of Courage festivities in September 2004. The Tour of Courage was a 125-km ride led by Armstrong starting at Longview School. Thirty riders paid a minimum of $25,000 to ride with the Tour de France champion who was later stripped of his seven tour titles.
Noel said despite Armstrong admitting he cheated, meeting him remains one of the highlights of his life.
“He was my idol for a while when I was younger,” Noel said. “When I met him he was so straightforward and a real nice guy.”
Noel said he was inspired to meet Armstrong who had battled the same cancer that he had.
“He told me to stay strong,” Noel said.
Armstrong said at the gala Noel was no different than himself when it came to beating cancer.
“It’s ironic that just because I’m an athlete, I’m a hero,” Armstrong said. “But I’m no more of a hero than the mother with breast cancer or the five-year-old who beats testicular cancer.”
More than seven years later, Noel watched Armstrong admit to doping during an interview with Oprah Winfrey last week.
“It was shock and awe,” Noel said. “We (Noel and his mother Ginger) didn’t really believe it at first. Then he confesses and apologized. We thought all the reports and stuff were all BS. Then when he finally came out, it was pretty mind blowing.”
As a cancer survivor, Noel stressed Armstrong
shouldn’t just be remembered for his cheating in the Tour de France and Olympics.
“Aside from the races, he was very inspirational to people around the world,” Noel said, adding Armstrong was not only a cancer survivor but raised hundreds of millions of dollars through his Livestrong Foundation.
The Noels contacted Livestrong for sponsorship for the High River Relay for Life in 2007, when Dayton was a honourary co-chairman and led the opening of the all-night walk at Highwood High School.
He said Livestrong provided t-shirts, water bottles and bracelets for the event.
Noel raised more than $10,000 for the walk and received a letter of congratulations from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Ginger Noel admitted she struggled watching Armstrong’s confession. She added Armstrong is still an inspiration to those who have been rocked with cancer.
“I was sad to hear that he felt he had to do that to win,” Ginger said “But as a mom of a kid who has had cancer and beat it… Dayton really idolized him. He idolized him not because of all the Tour de Frances but because they shared the same type of cancer. For me, Dayton idolized him because he had cancer and kept fighting and beat it.
“I don’t think the admission he did this doping, takes away from the fact he beat cancer.”
She also said Armstrong’s confession can provide another lesson for Dayton as he steps into adulthood.
“Dayton is 16 now and I am hoping he realizes now that if you do something wrong you have got to come clean with it,” Ginger said. “That people will respect you more for coming clean.”
She said as a result of not owning up to his actions earlier, Armstrong is in for a rough ride looking for forgiveness from his fans.
“I think Lance is going to go through a number of years of being thought of as a horrible person,” Ginger said.
She said she hopes Armstrong’s charity work will be the former Tour de France champion’s legacy.
“I think at the end of his life, when it comes to weighing good versus bad, what he has done with Livestrong and raising money and awareness, that hopefully that will balance the scales for him,” Ginger said.