LeMond reaching out to victims of sexual abuse
By Sal Ruibal, USA TODAY
August 6, 2009
Greg LeMond has never been one to shy away from controversy, so it should come as no surprise that the three-time Tour de France winner is taking one of the most controversial episodes of his personal life and turning it into an opportunity for others.
In May 2007, his deepest and darkest secret was exposed to the world in a very public and shocking manner. Days before LeMond was scheduled to testify in an arbitration hearing on cyclist Floyd Landis' suspension from the sport for having an illegal testosterone ratio when he won the 2006 Tour, Landis associate Will Geoghegan phoned LeMond, posing as the man who sexually abused him during his childhood.
That childhood abuse was "something I had never even told my wife," LeMond recalled in a Wednesday phone interview.
But he had told Landis about the abuse in a private phone conversation shortly after the 2006 Tour in an effort to convince Landis that, if he was guilty, he should admit to doping rather than spend the rest of his life hiding the truth. When LeMond took the witness stand at the 2007 hearing, he testified about the calls from Geoghegan, which he considered an attempt to affect his testimony.
"It was one of the most traumatic moments in my life," he says. "The hearing became a circus."
Since that episode, LeMond has told his family about the abuse and has recognized how hiding his shame had led to many more problems in his life.
"I had blocked it out for all of those years," he says. "The only other time I thought about it was on the podium when I won the 1986 Tour."
LeMond, now 48, has confronted his past and wants to make the healing process easier for other abuse survivors who have held back from seeking treatment.
"There is significant psychological trauma," he says. "Hiding it won't keep you sane; the only sane people are the ones who seek help."
He is urging people who have been sexually abused by a family member or trusted adult to contact an organization called "1in6" which describes itself as "a nonprofit organization that offers support and resources for the estimated 18 million American men who suffer as a result of unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood."
The name of the group refers to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Harvard Medical School that estimates that as many as one in every six men have experienced some level of sexual abuse.
"We know this problem is very important because of the response we're getting from men dealing with it," says 1in6 executive director Steve LePore. "But we also know that this issue remains off the public radar. This is not just about men who were abused by clergy. As 1in6 has worked to bring the issue into public awareness, we have had men from all walks of life acknowledge unwanted and abusive sexual experiences in their childhoods and talk about the effects those experiences have had on them."
The group offers men the opportunity to access The Online Hotline, available four hours a week at www.1in6.org.
The hotline is staffed and operated by the non-profit Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (www.rainn.org
), and allows men to chat over the internet with a specially trained volunteer who can provide information and direct them to therapists and other resources in their area in a private and secure manner.
The group's website has a vast amount of information on the subject. The group is developing outreach programs in Southern California and is planning to open the hotline for longer periods as funding permits.
LeMond is a member of the group's board of directors and will host Saturday's "Le Tour de Montecito" benefit ride through the hills of Montecito and along the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, Calif., followed by a cookout.
"Initially, I was hesitant to be part of this," LeMond says. "I didn't want to be known as a victim. But now I won't allow that. I am no longer a victim, I'm a survivor."