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Wife’s faith won out in cycling’s doping scandal

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Betsy Andreu's beliefs carried her and her husband Frankie through tough trials
By Jean Ko Din
TORONTO (CCN)

Betsy Andreu likes to carry around two prayer cards — one for St. Padre Pio and one for St. Therese of Lisieux. They are crumpled and worn, but each crease is a souvenir of a time when she was tested by the world.

“Every single day, I just prayed ‘God, use me to get the truth out,’” said Betsy. “It was really hard. I didn’t understand why, but I persisted and I hoped to God the truth comes out.”

She found herself in the middle of a media storm in 2005 when she and her husband, Frankie, both from Detroit, testified they were present in 1996 when champion road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to his cancer doctors he had been doping with erythropoietin (EPO) growth hormone and steroids.

At the time, Armstrong vehemently denied the claims, swearing under oath it never happened and attacking the Andreues for making the claims.

“I was up against this beloved athlete who had become a famous celebrity,” said Betsy. “And because of that, you had all these fans who just adored him. When people are telling you, ‘Kill yourself because you’re a loser, because you must be the bitter, lying, fat bitch that he says you are,’ you have to have some pretty thick skin.”

She and her husband endured public character assassinations from Armstrong, his sponsors, and his fans. But amidst the darkest of times, she stood firm in herself, in her husband, and in her faith in God.

Betsy plans to share her testimony at an upcoming women’s conference in Mississauga, Ont.

Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven straight years (1999-2005), eventually admitted to doping offences in 2013 and was banned for life. Betsy said Armstrong has never personally apologized to her.

The most important message Betsy wants to impart to the women and girls at the conference is the importance of choosing the right man as a husband, saying she couldn’t have endured the public backlash without Frankie’s support.

“The biggest risk, I think, anybody will make in their life is choosing their husband or choosing their wife,” she said. “You better make sure you do a really good job because there are a lot of ups and downs in marriages.”

Betsy said Frankie, also a competitive cyclist, faced immense pressure to dope in order to stay competitive in the sport, but Betsy stood firmly against it. She gave her husband an ultimatum and said she was ready to leave with their child if he did not stop doping. He agreed and stopped doping in 2000.

Frankie’s teammates, coaches, and sponsors continued to pressure him, but his stand against doping, his speaking out about Armstrong’s doping habits, and the media attention growing around him all eventually led to his being fired.

Frankie has been a competitive cycler since the age of 19. He first became teammates with Lance Armstrong in 1991 as part of the Motorola Pro cycling team for the Tour de France. In wasn’t until 1995, at age 29, that Frankie first succumbed to the pressure to use EPO.

Betsy said everyone blamed her for the end of Frankie’s cycling career. Her father and her in-laws tried to convince her to back down and even some of her cousins opposed her.

“I don’t want to say to women ‘Everything’s going to be great, just trust in Jesus,’ ” said Betsy. “Maybe I can offer some hope to women out there … if you married the right guy, he’ll make the right decision and he’ll stand by you.”

She said she doesn’t want to portray herself as a perfect Christian because she is not. She only hopes her testimony will bring a message of hope to other Catholic women.

 

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