Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cycling, Doping and Lance Revisited

A year and a half ago I started this blog with a post I felt very passionate about writing. I think it was around the time of Tyler Hamilton's appearance on 60 Minutes and the cracks in the wall around Lance Armstrong's reality were beginning to form. In that post I argued that the cycling world would be better served if all those of that era would just tell the truth, confess to what they did and let today's riders move on without that spectre hanging over them.

This week, the USADA released its evidence and argument in its case that Lance Armstrong and others surrounding him engaged in systemic cheating. No less than 11 of his former teammates signed affidavits telling the story of the doping they did, how many of them knew of or witnessed Lance's cheating and the reasons behind their decisions.

So now I have my wish, most of the riders that I respected have come clean about what was going in in their era. All except for one, of course, Lance. Is it within the realm of possibility that he didn't cheat? Yes, but that would mean that over a dozen people have decided to lie under oath about being dopers in order to be vindictive to the man who made it all possible for them to earn the wages they've earned over the past 15 years. No, as I've said before, its impossible to believe that there was no cheating going on.

In the end though, its not the doping that is the most disturbing part of the stories I read. Everyone was doping. Lance needed to dope to stay in the race. Lance did it better than anyone else around and beat them at their own game. Fine, I can accept that. What really bothers me are the stories of bullying, of intimidation, of careers ruined for daring to make a decision different than that of Mr. Armstrong. Anyone who left his cadre through the years tells similar stories of threats, explicit or veiled. We've all seen Lance ride up the road to chase down a break with a rider who dared to say something about him or his Dr. in the press. Levi Leipheimer tells of his wife receiving threatening text messages from Lance after testifying to the Grand Jury initially investigating this case.

I can forgive doping. I can't forgive being a jerk. Yes, he's done a lot of good things for the cancer community. His positive impact on the sport of cycling means that people actually care about this stuff. But an asshole who does some good things is still an asshole. If you're going to think that your version of the truth is important enough to destroy other people, then you are an asshole.

I'm glad that this story broke after the cycling season ended and I hope that next year once the Giro and the Tour roll around that people pay attention. There are some fantastic young riders from the US who are out there making a difference. Taylor Phinney and Tejay van Garderen did fantastic things this year and bring hope that majesty of the sport of cycling will continue long after the smoke of doping dissipates. 

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