Maybe some day, Jerry Burnstein says, he can again wear the Livestrong wristband. But not now.
For now, the yellow bracelet stays off. And all those Lance Armstrong monuments on Burnstein's wall — the autographed Armstrong jersey, the autographed poster, the autographed Sports Illustrated cover — are coming down.
“I can't look at 'em the same way,” Burnstein said. “It was a con game. One of the biggest cons of all time.”
The 48-year-old cancer survivor was more than just an Armstrong fan. He was a Livestrong volunteer. Organized events to raise awareness and funds for Armstrong's foundation that has been a blessing to countless cancer victims.
“Disappointed, angry, betrayed,” Burnstein said. “Those three (words) really come to mind.
“A hero that you look up to all these years, then you find out it's just a big lie. Very disappointing, I'd say.”
A lot of Americans feel the same way. Though many are torn as to whether to continue to wear the wristbands, most are in agreement with Burnstein concerning Armstrong. Massive disappointment in the man who won seven Tour de France championships after being diagnosed with cancer.
Burnstein's disgust didn't just fester a few days ago, when word leaked that Armstrong's Oprah interview would include confessing to doping en route to those Tour de France victories.
When the world cycling federation, U.C.I., in August stripped Armstrong of his Tour de France titles, the public outrage was soft. In fact, Livestrong donations rose. But when the U.S. Anti-Doping Association issued its 1,000-page report in October, Burnstein came to realize that his faith had been misplaced.
“You just wanted to believe him,” Burnstein said. “He overcame the odds. He's a cancer survivor. He was the heart and soul of the (Livestrong) organization. He was what the yellow wrist band was all about.”
Burnstein still feels mixed emotions. Calls it Jekyll and Hyde. Burnstein's disappointment over Armstrong conflicts with all the good he knows Livestrong has done and still could do.
“I'm torn,” Burnstein said. “It's one of those time things. I think I'm willing to forgive and forget. Just going to take a lot of time for me.
“The way he stepped on people. Defiantly denied it. Rubs me the wrong way.”
Burnstein was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2005 and underwent surgery on his nose. He became involved with Livestrong and now receives regular invitations to Austin for Livestrong events and workshops.
That's why Burnstein says he might some day again wear the yellow wristband.
“I think I can do it,” he said. “I just gotta get over it. It's not about him. It's about the 28 million people around the world living with cancer. For all the bad he's done and disappointment he's caused, he's raised a heck of an organization to help a lot of people.”