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Steve Trew laments about his one true love and the rollercoaster ride it can be.

Steve Trew

Illustration by Peter Greenwood

I’ve been having this love affair for about 50 years now. It’s OK because my wife knows all about it. It started in Tokyo when I was a kid. We’ve had a few ups and downs but the downs have been few.

The affair continued through to Mexico and then onto Munich and onwards right across the globe. We reached a bit of a high spot in Sydney, before consummating it in London this year.

My love affair has been with sport. Top-level sport. Triathlon, track and field, swimming, distance running and cycling. And oh my, how I fell for the Tour. It was the ultimate three weeks of sheer suffering. And from the comfort of my armchair and just a couple of times from the roadside. I lived the dream along with the riders. Shared it sometimes by sitting on the turbo while watching and pretending (don’t deny you did that as well!).

You took all my happy days

Like all love affairs, I got a bit hurt. That 100 metres race in Seoul; Ben Johnson. The “dirtiest race in history”, they called it. Johnson stripped of the gold, then revelations about Lewis and then Christie. The only runner in the top five who still had his reputation intact was Calvin Smith (USA) who was upgraded to bronze.

My love affair also hurt a lot a couple of years after Sydney when we found out that the women’s triathlon winner tested positive for drugs. Call it what you will, I call it cheating. You broke my heart a bit then; more than a bit actually because it was triathlon and it was a part of me.

But the Tour de France was incredible. The public and people in the know knew there was drug use (misuse?) but that doesn’t take away from what an amazing race it is. And then Lance came along. He burst onto my radar and took my love affair to a new high. Because he was my hero. I wrote about him and promoted him because he was really special. Lance proved that anything was possible. Lance was the ex-triathlete, the kid who dared to take on Scott, Tinley, and Allen and when he was just 15 years old. That’s a bit special. And then he got on his bike. OMG! is, I believe, the current expression.

And left me lonely at night

And then even more. Cancer? Stuff that! Lance can beat that. And the world believed in him. He was the best there ever was. Sure, we knew he’d had to take drugs when he was ill; but that’s what the real use of steroids is for isn’t it? Heal and build up. So we thought that, sure, maybe that building up with the sickness could have helped, along with the massive weight loss and the readjustment of weight/power output ratios. That’s what we thought. And then to come back seven times. That was awesome! It was unbelievable (it really was unbelievable with the benefit of hindsight).

I didn’t believe David Walsh; I didn’t believe what he wrote because I didn’t want to. Because I believed in Lance and his achievements. But he lied to me – he lied to all of us. He really did break my heart.

I don’t love him anymore. I don’t love you, top-class sport, because there’s this massive shadow, this huge cloud sitting on top of us. And I can’t trust you any more at all. Goodbye. My love affair is over.

Break up to make up

But it can’t end like that, can it? Of course not. I fell in love again in London this year; my lovely, lovely London. I fell in love with the clean sport, the clean winners. Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Alistair and Jonny. I fell back in love with Michael Phelps because he showed that he was human, that he could lose. And then he came back to win again and again and again. I fell in love with Bradley Wiggins because he did it in cycling – the part of my heart that had been broken had been mended.

I fell in love with the Paralympics because those guys are so special. How dare the drug cheats operate out there when we have the absolute heroes with nothing? Who dare to go out again and again and again, to fight all the odds, to cover themselves in blood and sweat and dust and tears because they choose to. Who fail sometimes, who fail again and again, because they know that one day they may win. Who know the absolute devotion, the enthusiasm; who know the magnificent achievement of trying to be the best they can be. And who at the worst, if they fail, they fail while daring. I’m back in love.

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

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