Lance Armstrong, speaking at a Trek event in 2007, has had a close association with the Waterloo-based bicycle company.
So Lance Armstrong and his lawyers and his public relations entourage, finally cornered, strategized their way onto Oprah in the effort to convince America to let them have another act. Or another paycheck.
And they surely will.
We're a nation of suckers who love a good redemption tale - especially one you can maybe buy on Amazon for $9.99. Hey, everybody deserves a second chance. Or an eighth. Or whatever. All is forgiven and forgotten.
Unless you're one of the out-of-breath cyclists always at the end of the pack because Armstrong and a bunch of his fellow liars were doping. Or one of the people he sued for daring to suggest he was dirty. Or Trek, the Wisconsin-based company that is finding itself tarnished right along with the guy they paid a fortune to help sell their bikes.
An article in the New York Times has already mentioned Trek in a story insinuating that "companies that endorse athletes might prefer to stand by quietly if they know an athlete is doping, appreciating the benefits of his success rather than moving to expose the pitchman."
Eric Bjorling, a Trek spokesman, told me the company was "learning about (Armstrong's confession) as everyone else does."
"Sponsors are not involved in the management of the team in any way," he added. "We provide equipment and money but are not on the team bus" and have no day-to-day involvement.
Trek, said Bjorling, is obviously "disappointed."
I take him at his word. But if I were running that company, I would be more than disappointed. I would be ready to take a wrench to his spokes because that's exactly what he did to Trek. I would want my money back. I would sue, and I've never sued anybody.
Not that it's just about money. I interviewed a few people in Waterloo, where Trek has its headquarters. Maybe I was talking to the wrong people. But instead of real anger, I essentially found shrugs and relativism.
Nowadays, you're not supposed to talk about right and wrong without qualifiers and gray areas and "ifs" and "buts," I guess.
"I think he is a cheater in a cheater's world," one guy told me. "For me, it would be a lot different if nobody else was doing it in that sport."
"I can see why people are mad, definitely. He probably should have fessed up in the beginning," said another. But "how many others were doing it? Was he getting picked out of the bunch because he was so successful?"
I admit that I don't think there's anything Armstrong could do to convince me he's really sorry. He lied too many times in too many ways.
But I would pay more attention if he called one of the cyclists who competed while clean - if there are any. Or if he'd quietly made the trek to tiny Waterloo.
Trek is a pretty unique company for small-town Wisconsin, and it's made Waterloo kind of unique, too. I don't think there's another town in this state that gets so much of its identity - and so many of its jobs - from a single business.
Waterloo, which lost 700 jobs eight years ago when RR Donnelly moved out, would be just another old, deteriorating rural outpost without Trek. Instead, there are about 2,000 jobs in the area and almost half of them are at the bike manufacturer.
The city logo is "Find Your Path Here," and that's exactly what they want people to do. They're planning a big community park they want to turn into a "trailhead" for bike paths branching out - essentially - from Trek headquarters.
The city is so in love with cyclists that, one year, after Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France, they hung yellow jerseys from the light posts.
The best and most fitting thing Waterloo could do now is burn them.
- Mike Nichols: firstname.lastname@example.org