Lance Armstrong may have brought the sport of cycling into disrepute but charity cyclist, former GAA All-Star and eternal optimist Tony Griffin would rather concentrate on the good work done by the charity Livestrong founded by the disgraced sportsman. The co-founder of teen charity Soar spoke to Claire Gallagher about always looking on the bright side of life.
WHEN you meet someone with endless enthusiasm, it quickly become apparent how cynical you have become after years of dealing with politicians, criminals and government bodies. Talking to Tony Griffin I had to keep that cynicism in check because it appears this is a man that does not even contemplate the negative. The Ballyea man is enthusiastic and positive with a different outlook on life than I usually encounter. A married man of 31 years he speaks with the same energy and will to change the world as an eager teenager – and that is not a bad thing. It was that energy that saw him cycle thousands of miles to raise money for cancer research and that same energy that propelled him to Australia to learn about how to support teenagers living in difficult circumstances fill their full potential as adults. And all the time he held on to the wholeheartedness, when many of us may have lost it along the way. For example the fall from grace of Lance Armstrong must surely have left Tony with some regrets about including the cyclist’s charities in the Tony Griffin Foundation, but it did not.
In 2007, following the death of his father, Tony set up the foundation and set about raising €450,700 through his 7,000km Ride for the Cure. Almost half of the money raised that year went to Livestrong, Armstrong’s charity, with the remaining money helping other cancer charities. Again in 2008, before he wound up the foundation, more money was donated to Livestrong. Yet despite the revelations about Armstrong’s doping, Tony has no regrets.
“It was absolutely worth it, and I know the money raised was spent on research through Livestrong and was put to good use, so I don’t regret it at all. It is very unfortunate what has happened in many ways. In many ways he is a fallen hero and a fallen idol that many people believed in. They feel short-changed because they were lied to on many accounts but I was also exposed to a lot of good work done by Lance and Livestrong,” he said.
“I know Lance did a lot for me personally whether it was getting bikes or sending messages of support, or emailing at certain points or having letters written I asked for for people. I suppose we live in a world of grey and if we look at things in black and white, well I suppose I have seen both sides of the man.”
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