She has suffered six years of personal hell, having her reputation, her emotions and even her weight ridiculed. But the more Lance Armstrong attacked her, the more Betsy Andreu stayed firm.
The more Armstrong attacked her husband Frankie, the angrier she became. And, as the rest of the world discovered the breathtaking extent of Armstrong’s deception, she was finally vindicated.
Her response was to cry. Then she put on a CD of a favourite song, listened to it over and over again, and cried some more.
It was the end of an ordeal that had begun in 1996, when she had been in a hospital room with Armstrong as he told doctors that he had taken an array of performance-enhancing drugs including EPO, testosterone, growth hormone and cortisone.
Armstrong made the confession having recently undergone surgery after being diagnosed with cancer. Andreu had been present because her fiancÚ (now husband) Frankie was a professional cyclist and one of Armstrong’s most valued teammates.
For several years, the confession was known only to the six people who heard it. But when Andreu, who was so fiercely opposed to drug-taking that she had told Frankie she would not marry him if she found he had doped, helped to make the story public, she was subjected to sustained abuse and bullying by Armstrong and those around him, who sustained the myth of his heroism until it was so dramatically exposed over the past few weeks.
Frankie was best friends with Lance, and Betsy became close to him, too. Then came the hospital admission that would change their lives. She remembers it clearly — and what she said to Frankie. “I told him I am not f------ marrying you if you are doing that s---.
The relationship with Armstrong became even bitter as he sought to persuade her to sign a false statement, denying the hospital confession had taken place.
“The more dismissed I got, the more Frankie got dismissed in cycling and when it affects Frankie, it affects me,’’ Betsy said. “Frankie didn’t try and stifle me, he respected me to be the vocal person. You have to do the right thing, imagine if I had lied, how would my reputation be now?”
Prompted by his wife, Frankie admitted doping. That was when the harassment and attempted intimidation by Armstrong ramped up.
In an email, Armstrong warned Frankie he should keep Betsy quiet: “By helping to bring me down is not going to help y’alls situation at all. There is a direct link to all of our success here. I suggest you remind her of that,” Armstrong wrote.
But, now Andreu can enjoy the afterglow of having been right, news which has even reached her children’s school playground.
“A girl in my son’s class was wearing a yellow bracelet and another boy said to her, 'Do you know what a cheat that guy is?’ and she took it off voluntarily.
My message is that if you give in to peer pressure you can still redeem yourself. If you do wrong, you can then make a choice to do right. My story is that you can stand up to a bully. Don’t let the bully win, never let the bully win.’’