Tag Archives: Doping

Nope, I don’t dope

How long has doping been a matter of discussion among fans of cycling? I bet you could go back a hundred years and find the topic whispered about. The substances and methods may have been different, but you would probably find a racer doing something to deaden the pain and keep pushing his body. Thing is, this is nothing new to us. It is interesting to hear the responses to the recent 60 Minutes story from people who don’t follow the sport.

“You’re a cyclist,” I’ve been joked at more than once in the last week. Then comes the punchline, “Have any EPO?” Granted, this is often followed up by a serious desire to understand a bit more about the news from a fan perspective. Still, it shows how these few minutes of air time can taint the whole sport.

Some of these same people who live in Greenville will follow up asking if the Upstate cycling community is “devastated” at the report that George Hincapie had given testimony that he doped with Armstrong during the US Postal days. How do you answer that question? Whether Hincapie doped or not is not a point of devastation or elation. At the same time the whole story of doping is a long and complex one that, frankly, does not lend itself to black and white answers.

Is doping wrong. You betcha. However, do I sit here and throw anyone who has ever doped under the bus? I don’t.

I think of the Civil Rights era. We are quick to pass judgement on the people who followed the mainstream of their culture in supporting the inequalities of segregation. We declare, “If I was living during that time, I wouldn’t have done that!” You wouldn’t? Don’t be so sure until you have been born into that culture with all the experiences around you reinforcing those beliefs.

What would I have done back in the 80’s or 90’s if I was given the chance to ride with a pro team — and even in the Tour de France? What would I have done if my livelihood depended on my success on the bike? What would I have done with absolutely no support system to ride clean? I would like to think that I would turn and walk away from the opportunity/temptation. However, would I? Would you?

Frankly, I am more interested in now than then. The “movement” toward clean cycling as an organized effort is a more recent phenomena. It is now the mantra of several pro teams — “We’re clean and we are evangelists for the cause.” Garmin and Highroad are two examples. A doper is bad enough. A hypocritical doper is even more of an insult.

I guess I do have it in me to forgive a doper. My line for doing so is somewhere before the doper is silent and where he becomes a hypocrite. There is no patience in my mind for someone who declares he is clean and speaks out in support of a clean sport while all the time he is using performance doping.

Characters from a doper's nightmares

Remember when you were a kid and you were hanging with your buddies doing something you knew you shouldn’t? At some point it dawned on you that if your mom and dad found out about it, you would be toast! The peer pressure might even cause you to continue for a time, but at some point your fear overcomes your seared conscience. “Guys, I’m leaving,” you say looking over your shoulder, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

You don’t just run out the door to the principal’s office either. While you stopped smoking in the boys room, it doesn’t mean you are ready to volunteer to declare your guilt from the past. As a matter of fact, should those guys ever get caught in the act, you will feel your heart racing hoping you won’t be put in the place to answer for your past actions with a straight “yes” or “no.”

I hope we are starting to get to that point in professional cycling. There very well could be racers who doped in the past. The question for me is are they still hanging out in the school bathroom sharing a cigarette.

Floyd Landis: Pro and Con

The news wasn’t surprising. The story in the Wall Street Journal spread like wildfire through the twitterverse. Also unsurprising was incendiary fuel of some big names to help fuel the flame. Floyd Landis is back in the news and this pro — and con — gives us reason again to take a look at the state of doping in our sport.

Con

The issue with the revelations by Landis is that he is a con. He has lied before. What makes us think he won’t lie again? The “con” is that he is a con.

What if every allegation that he is making is true? Wow, that would turn the cycling world upside down. Then again… would it? Just because it might be true doesn’t mean it can be proven. Unless physical proof can be presented it is the word of a known liar – Landis – against Lance Armstrong and a host of other long-time professional athletes.

Hmmmm, wonder who will win that battle? Had Landis come forward back before he was caught and made these allegations, perhaps his revelations would carry more punch. As it is, he comes across as a sinking ship that is trying to throw anchor onto all the vessels around him for the sake of causing them to go down with him.

This whole business is a “con” for our sport. The loudest messengers calling for the sport to be cleaned up always seem to be the ones caught in the act. Don’t get me wrong… there are other voices, they just don’t end up in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Pro

All that said, it does keep the pressure on the dopers. There really isn’t anything we can do about 2002 – 2006. The focus needs to be on now and curtailing the doping that still continues in the ranks of professional cycling. If these emails by Landis help to keep the focus on finding those cheaters and putting a stop to their actions, then that is a painful but positive result.

Another positive is that at least now we can move on from Landis himself. I’ll admit, I had sympathy for the guy and deep inside I hoped that it was true that he didn’t dope — though reason told me otherwise. Yes, perhaps his allegations will open a whole new book of stories, but as for Landis himself, I’ve closed the book on him.

Why

It leaves us to ask the question “Why?” Why did Landis come clean about his own use of performance enhancing drugs and methods? Why now? Are those questions even important?

The deeper question is “Why do these athletes do this?” The obvious answer is that they are seeking that competitive edge that will give them what they seek most – a place. I don’t think that it is so much that they do so to win. Many of the dopers never do. They are simply trying to stay in the game.

I can see how easy it could be. They are very disciplined and control so many aspects of their lives to make a go of it. The one thing they cannot control is the competition. When you are doing all you can to perform at your best and you are still struggling… the temptation is to look for that one extra boost.

Dopers are like politicians (my apologies to the dopers).  So often before they are elected politicians will arrive in government with lofty ideals. Before long they are sucked into the feeding frenzy and belly up at the trough. Their only goal becomes getting reelected.

How

How do we put an end to this? Well, as much as we hate it, there must be testing. However, that won’t end it. The end of doping will have to take place within the peloton. The code needs to be turned on its head. Some other pro rather than a known con must take the first step to helping the peloton police itself.

Tyler Hamilton is busted again

Well, I guess a certain to remain unnamed local blogger is vindicated with his sharing of the rumor that back in February Tyler Hamilton had failed a drug test.  That comment on a rumor that was circling around turns out to be true.  Here is the link to the CyclingNews.com report.

I found out while driving down Pelham Road when I received the text message “TH is busted again.”  Now it will be showing up all over the place.  Velonews.com has the story, Bicycling.com has its version, as does the AP and ESPN.  Funny, there will probably be more coverage in the US about this than there was about some awesome classics racing in Europe this year.

The more we continue in this the more any sympathy I might have for the rider goes out the window.  Yes, he seeks our sympathy with the mention of the clinical depression.  However, there are other ways to deal with it.  It is hard to trust the story.  I am angry at Tyler Hamilton.  He is hurting himself and he is hurting the sport I love.

I guess Blake Caldwell is our new USA Cycling road racing champion.  The Garmin-Chipotle rider was right there in that exciting finish last year in Greenville.  Still, I wish Danny Pate had beaten both of them.

Ride off into the sunset Hamilton.  Anybody else doping out there can follow him.  Enough.  I’m turning my focus back to those who are trying to do it right.

Landis

Do I have to talk about Floyd Landis? I feel an obligation to say something, but it won’t be much. Really, is anybody surprised that he lost his appeal? I’m not.

You also think about what would have happened had he won his appeal. Landis says he is currently researching his legal options. Had he won I’m sure the UCI or ASO or whatever sports organization he is up against would do the same. The CAS ruling has not ended it.

I also doubt, in the current climate, he would have been able to find a ride. Kind of tough when the ads for the Tour de France have a scene where they reverse the video of him receiving his yellow jersey to make it appear they are taking it off. At the same time you see this year’s slogan “Take Back the Tour” flashing on the screen.

About that slogan – which Tour are we taking it back to? Seems like there has been some doping issue for as long as I can remember. It is just that recently there has been more public talk about it. To which Tour? 2006? 1996? Even farther back you read the stories of how riders unabashedly used external stimulants to help them perform.

I’m not condoning that. I’m all for a doping free Tour. I just think the “Take Back the Tour” slogan on Versus is a little naive. Then again, I’m feeling kind of grumpy today. I guess I’m just seeing the dark side in everything.

Oh, one last thing about Landis. He is off his suspension in January 2009. That is only seven months away. Has it been that long?