I'm tired of having my destiny in someone else's hands. But today is a different day. Today is the day I take back the reins. However, today is not yesterday...yesterday was the day I was to cut all ties completely. Today, I have a slightly cooler head but the idea is the same. You can thank Rebecca for this 'resignation' letter not going out yesterday:
I officially received a 2 year sanction notification from USADA today. No big surprise, right? I alluded to this weeks ago. But my reaction is a surprise. Call it the straw that broke the camel's back – I don't know. Whatever the trigger, I've decided to walk away from the sport. I haven't talked to the friends and family or anyone else about this. Call it a rash decision if you like, but I'll try to explain my reasoning so that you can understand where I'm coming from.
I've been watching the Olympics these last few days and it has been really inspiring for me. For the first time, I can see myself standing on the podium, bowing my head to receive my medal. This is a breakthrough for me. It helped me affirm to myself that I need to come back from this ordeal and rise to the top and accomplish greater things in the sport of cycling. Today, I started asking “Why?”. Why do I 'need' to come back? Well, because I've felt this burning in my gut these last two weeks, propelling me to work harder and become faster than I ever have before. Okay, but that doesn't answer the question, I can do that without racing. Maybe it's because I've grown accustomed to the cycling spotlight and people looking up to me. Maybe it's because I want to show all these doubters just how strong I am. Maybe it's because I want to continue to live the 'pro' lifestyle. I think we're getting to the crux of the reason for a comeback now. But what am I truly after in this life? Asking myself this question today the answer was “to be extraordinary”. I want nothing to do with mediocrity. But on top of that (and what I've lost sight of in the last few years), I want to improve the world. Yes, I am a naïve, 30-something dreamer, but I want to help save the world. And I always said that I would use cycling to amass influence and monies and then put myself to good use in helping my causes of choice (like a certain Texan who is a Saint in the cancer community). But the reality is, cycling and racing so consume me that I have little time or energy for anything beyond myself. My first year out of college, I made $28k working at a chemistry lab in Boulder. During that year, I managed to work 40 hrs/week, train between 70-100 miles/week running (which led to a 2:31:40 marathon), buy a new car for my mom, and give around $1000 to various charities. A few years later, when I decided to put everything I had into becoming a pro cyclist, I worked around 25 hrs/week delivering pizzas, trained around 20 hrs/week cycling, and volunteered at the homeless shelter twice a week because I was barely making ends meet and couldn't donate money. For comparison, last year I made more money than I ever have in my life, had no other job than racing my bike 70 or so times during the year, and still only gave maybe $300 to charities over the course of the year and sometimes went months between contacting the teenage boy whom I'm mentoring. What's extraordinary in that? What's more extraordinary – if Greg Mortenson would have made it to the summit of K2 or if Greg Mortenson failed to summit K2 and instead dedicated his life to building hundreds of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan? I'd say the latter. What's more extraordinary – Eric Heiden the amazing skater and cyclist or Eric Heiden the amazing surgeon? How about Davis Phinney the cyclist or Davis Phinney the Parkinson's crusader? I've come to the realization that I would rather be a David Benke than a Cancellara. I would rather help the boy I'm mentoring graduate from college and break the cycle of poverty in his family than win a Pro Tour TT. To me, the life I'm choosing from this day on is more challenging and potentially rewarding than the life of training to ride in a straight line really fast for 40 minutes. For whatever reason, I haven't been able to do both so it's time to step back and re-prioritize.
And no, I would never have come to this decision without this positive doping test fiasco. So, maybe there's the good out of this situation. Am I giving up? In a way, I'd say I was giving up on my dream while being a pro cyclist. I was so self-absorbed that I did little good with life beyond my self.
And so that's that. It's been fun. I'm taking so many wonderful memories and relationships from the last 6 years with me. And now that I'm done with all of this, I want you to hear the truth once and for all. Come in close so I can whisper.....I didn't dope.”
Today, I laid all my cards on the table for USADA. I told them everything that I know about the positive test, meaning every possible lead as to how it happened, and that I will cooperate in any way that I can. As great as my lawyer has been for me, I told him that I needed to do this on my own from now on. I have no intention of taking this case to a hearing. Now that I've made the determination that I really could and would walk away from the sport forever, it's liberating. USADA, WADA, and the UCI no longer have power over me. But I will continue to jump through a few hoops (if not too high nor on fire) in order to leave the option open for a return in years to come (though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back). I will continue to try and figure out how this happened so that I know for my own sanity and so it won't happen to someone else, but that is a separate issue. I'm ready to turn the page and start living a better, more fulfilling life. Whether or not bicycle racing is in that future is too foggy to tell. I hope you all can understand why I've chosen this road. It feels so good to be out of the holding pattern.
Okay, I gotta go. I have some jobs to apply for!