Here is one woman’s fight with her truth!
[ This article was published in the Trinidad and Tobago Express Woman’s Magazine in 2007]
Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote: “A lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies.” On the basis of what is “acceptable” many conclude that if everyone is doing or thinking something then it must be normal and correct. And so it is in the world of sport. And yes I’m talking again about doping but only because this time I received an email from Betsy Andreu, wife of Frankie Andreu – former team mate and friend of Lance Armstrong – seven time Tour de France winner!
I must admit, when I first received the email – I didn’t even KNOW who Betsy Andreu was. Of course feedback is important for everyone including writers so I welcomed her comments on an article I wrote about Marion Jones titled “Can We Ever Forgive Marion Jones?”. She asked me if I had read David Walsh’s book “From Lance to Landis” where he made a distinction between those who dope as ‘the draggers’ and those who don’t want to dope but do it anyway as ‘dragged’? “When you surround yourself by people who don’t think anything is wrong with doping or encourage it, it makes it all the easier to justify. You have to look at one’s character to see why one would be surrounded by these people who lack integrity to begin with. Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are,” she said.
Mrs. Andreu talked about her own husband’s doping ordeal. He used EPO. She felt that her husband saw no other way. To compete professionally and make a living he had to “do as the Romans were doing.” “Frankie rode the Tour clean in 2000 and didn’t have a contract to ride professionally ever again. That’s the consequence of not being a ‘team player’.”
In September 2006, Frankie Andreu, who twice helped Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France, stood in the kitchen of his Detroit home and faced the question: Had he ever doped? The first time Betsy Andreu heard of doping within the cycling fraternity was in the hospital conference room when Lance was being questioned by the doctors about his use of performance enhancing drugs. Betsy and Frankie were engaged and she threatened to call off their wedding if he was involved in a dope program. He told her he wasn’t. Ten years and three children later, Frankie Andreu confessed to doping. This time, his wife didn’t want to say what she was thinking out loud. Instead, she wrote a note and placed it on his pillow. It said: ‘I’m prouder of you than I’ve ever been before, and I respect you more than I ever have,'”
When I spoke with Betsy she shared that she was on an “all out crusade” to clear her good name. If you Google Betsy Andreu – it’s possible that you may not find a single positive comment about her. While Frankie is aware of all his wife’s interviews he remains reticent – sorry, very supportive of his wife – but quietly so. Betsy has another fight on her hands: no one believes her. In a deposition, she testified that the couple and four other people visited Armstrong when he was undergoing cancer treatment in October 1996 and that, in front of all of them, he told a doctor that he had taken an array of performance-enhancing drugs. (After the hospital visit, she confronted her husband about his own involvement in doping. This was when she threatened to call off their wedding. It would be another three years in 1999 before Betsy would find out about Frankie’s drug use.) Other than Frankie, no one else in the room that day has supported the admission.
Betsy holds on to her truth. “I may not have control over what happens in the world, but I DO have control over what happens in my home!” With three young children, all under eight, Betsy and Frankie together will tell them the truth someday, about their Dad. Betsy certainly isn’t afraid to be the circle, so to speak, fitting into the square peg of what is accepted as “normal” for cycling. She understands that they are paying a financial price [there are no book deals, no more cycling contracts (Frankie is now past the age for competition)], and of course the price of unpopularity.
Betsy offered in her email to me: “It would’ve been interesting to see how this would’ve panned out had she (Marion Jones) had a foundation raising millions for those afflicted with cancer.” That provoked a lot of thoughts for me. As I listened to a radio interview earlier this year Betsy concluded the show with a question that has left me “unsettled”… “Is a hope – who is a fraud, better than no hope at all?”