It was more than a year in the making but last week, the US President signed the bill to award Greg LeMond the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest civilian award in the country. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, LeMond expressed disbelief in being bestowed with such an honour.
"I keep going, 'Why me?'" LeMond said. "I don't even know what to say It's humbling to even be considered."
LeMond joins an elite list of recipients that starts with George Washington and includes the Wright Brothers, Jonas Salk, Rosa Parks, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., and other sports figures like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, and NFL safety Stephen Michael Gleason.
The three-time Tour de France winner was not nominated solely on the merit of his cycling career, however. The bill's sponsor Rep. Mike Thompson of California was inspired to go through the long process of convincing Congress to pass the measure to award the medal to LeMond after reading Daniel de Visé's 2018 book, The Comeback.
Thompson read the story of LeMond's rapid ascent to become the first US rider to win the Tour de France and the elite men's road race world champion. He was moved by LeMond's recovery from a 1987 hunting accident where he was accidentally shot in the back and nearly died from blood loss.
LeMond was nominated for speaking out to 'champion healthy sport'. LeMond was one of the first to publicly question Lance Armstrong's post-cancer performances, a move that cost him his business relationship with Trek. He also urged Floyd Landis' to tell the truth after he tested positive for testosterone and testified on the side of USADA.
During the case, LeMond admitted privately to having been sexually abused as a child to Landis as a way to convince him of the perils of keeping secrets. Landis' defense team tried to intimidate LeMond with the information - instead, LeMond bravely put it out there in court and went on to become a founding member of the non-profit 1in6 that aids male victims of childhood sexual abuse.
That work became part of the basis of Thompson's bill which was passed by the Senate in November and signed on December 4 by President Trump – but LeMond is still struggling to accept the well-deserved honour.
"I always think that something like this is for people who are saving lives, or inventing cures for new diseases," LeMond said. "I'm really honored, but at the same time, I don't take getting awards really well. I always feel like there's other deserving people.
"I didn't ever expect recognition when I started racing. I just really had a blast. I mean, I was pretty good at it, and it was a whole new world for me.
"But this? I look at the list of the medal [winners] and I'm going, 'I'm in really, really good company.'"
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