by crankpunk. this article is a re-post and originally appeared in Spin Magazine, March 2013. since the original publication of this article, Mr. White joined the Philadelphia 76ers but was waived by the team at the end of October…
Defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as:
1: a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia)
2: such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility
3a : extreme folly or unreasonableness
3b : something utterly foolish or unreasonable
I’m going to talk a little about basketball for a moment, or, more precisely, one particular basketball player, a certain Royce White. I will, I promise, return to the sport of the shaven-legged, just hang in here for a paragraph or two.
It is, I promise, pertinent. I think. Though there is of course the possibility that the madness of a life on two wheels will consume me finally, before I get to the end, and then you’ll have just wasted a good ten minutes. But then if you’re reading this you’re probably a little nutso anyways, so all good…
Anyway, back to Mr. White. Mr. White is a phenomenally talented basketball player, and “plays” for the Rockets.
I put plays in inverted commas because, in truth, the 21 year old has yet to step onto the court in a Rockets jersey because he is locked in a contractual (and you could say philosophical) battle with the team’s hierarchy, because the two parties can’t quite come to mutually acceptable terms about White’s mental illness, one that all accept does in fact exist.
White has anxiety attacks that cripple him and a fear of flying that doesn’t stop him completely from flying, but that makes it an extremely difficult and exhausting experience for him.
What he wants, in a nutshell, is to be able to appoint his own psychiatrist who will then decide before each game whether he is mentally fit to play. The Rockets say no go, fella. Hence the stalemate.
Now that’s kind of interesting, but what is really fascinating is White’s belief about mental illness across society, which, according to the US National Institute for Mental Health, affects 26% of the population.
First off, White says in a recent interview with Chuck Klosterman that the number is higher in both society and sports, stating that the percentage of players in the NBA who smoke marijuana is never taken into account, claiming that those addicted are mentally ill.
He cites the stress caused by the modern world and its attendant problems, which is without doubt a major cause of heart attacks and deaths, as another form of mental illness. He also cites the problems caused by financial insecurity as another form.
His question, at one point in the interview, was “How many people don’t have a mental illness? But that’s what we don’t want to talk about.”
What’s this got to do with cycling? Well let’s take a look. First off, let’s say that if in American society the number of mentally ill people is at 26%, the number must be similar in most western societies, where most of the top pro riders come from.
Now let’s consider the number of prominent cyclists who have had drug problems – and I don’t mean PEDs – that would take a book and a half.
Tom Boonen of course, cocaine. Frank Vandenbroucke, cocaine and alcohol, and the rest. Marco Pantani, coke by the Colombian truck load. Go back through the decades and you’ll find tale after tale of riders who took so much amphetamine that by the end they were more like drug addicts with a cycling problem than the other way around.
No doubt, our sport has its fare share of midnight monsters. Ride hard, play hard is often the motto for a sizable minority of riders.
And surely, to be even slightly into this sport of ours you have to be somewhat driven by some form of madness. First off, we shave our legs. Now, the pros have a reason to do so – nightly massages and frequent crashes make it essential. But what about the weekend warrior? See what I mean? Slightly nuts, for sure.
Definitely fits Mirriam-Webster’s description of insanity here:
3a : extreme folly or unreasonableness
We also have to be mad to actually go out and take the punishment we mete out to ourselves. What’s that all about? Yes it’s great to summit a hill, to fly down a descent at 85km/hr, to drop a rival or crush a young pretender.
But why do we need to do it? Personally I’ve stopped questioning why. Hour after hour of training. Banging up hills repeatedly til I’m retching. Missing out on parties and all the fun to get up at 6am to go out in the rain for 5 hours.
All I know is that, for some reason, it feels good and that’s ok by me, but I do know that essentially it is a little mad.
And that fits 3b:
3b : something utterly foolish or unreasonable
OK, but that’s the lighthearted stuff. Let’s look at what happens at the extremes. Two words.
Utter psychopath. Sociopath, even. To say he’s devious is like calling Richard Nixon ‘sneaky’. The adjectives don’t even come close.
Armstrong, like Nixon, crossed the line so thoroughly that even the knowledge that there once was a line was eradicated. They bent the truth to suit their own realities to such a degree that their reality became the truth, and thus all who opposed them opposed truth.
There are other drugs cheats in other sports but there’s never quite been one like Lance Armstrong, and there’s a reason why he managed to become so successful, both as an athlete and as a liar, in this particular sport.
Because this sport rewards the mad, the insane. It’s the premise upon which all our traditions are built. From Henri Desgrange’s wickedly brutal early Tour de France to the madness of the Classics such as Paris-Roubaix, you don’t have to be mad to be a cyclist, to paraphrase that popular office jolly, but actually you do.
Armstrong, by the way, fits Merriam-Webster’s definition #2 perfectly:
2: such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility
(And for the record, so do all the drugs cheats).
Finally we have the truly insane amongst us, who are worth a mention. Pantani and Vandenbroucke, may whomever bless them, were up there. Poor troubled souls who were not meant for this world, for they were far too fragile.
Another was the legendary climber Charly Gaul, the Luxembourger who won the Tour in 1958 and the Giro d’Italia in 1956 and 1959. An incredible climber, he was also a fan of amphetamines, and known to froth at the mouth during some stages.
His teammate Marcel Ernzer recalled a conversation he had with Gaul in his heyday (Gaul was known to speak of himself in the third person):
“Charly’s going to die,” said Gaul.
“Why do you say that?” asked Ernzer.
“Because Charly takes too many pills.”
“But everybody takes them.”
“Yes, but Charly a lot more than the others.”
When he quit the sport a few years later, Gaul went to live in a forest in the Ardennes, wearing the same clothes daily and known to locals to be suffering from depression. He lived as a recluse until 1983 when he somehow married and made a gradual move back into society.
Another was Jacques Anquetil. One of the true greats, the Frenchman won almost everything worth winning, including five Tour de France.
However when he retired he was known to be somewhat of an insomniac, heading off into the woods in his estate with his dog to sit quietly under the trees for hours on end.
He also – and this is truly troubling – began a ménage a trois between his wife and his step-daughter, eventually impregnating the girl, who was then only 18, and going on to marry her!
Yes, quite insane. But then again this is cycling, so, by our standards – no, still insane!
One could stretch the argument and say that both Gaul and Anquetil, and in turn VDB and Pantani, match Merriam-Webster’s definition #1:
a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia) .
Mad people in a mad sport. But then, I can talk. I am, after all, a cyclist. But then, so are you.
Welcome to Bedlam!
this article originally appeared on The Roar
It seems to be catching, like the sniffly cold your kid brings back from school that explodes into full-blown influenza and ravages the household. Except this isn’t merely a cold virus – it seems that several members of the cycling fraternity have developed collective amnesia.
Forgetting, it would appear, is this winter’s black, it’s that fashionable. Just when you’d have thought that lessons had been learnt from and opportunities to tackle the problems that blight cycling presented, heads are heading right back into the sand after their brief excursions into bleached-out daylight.
We, they, can no longer say we don’t know just how institutionalized the doping problem in sport is/was (delete as you see fit), and yet still individuals and companies that should know better are pandering to former dopers and, in one hard to believe case, even trying to cripple the agency that may have brought an end to a once seemingly glittering career.
One such instance is that of disgraced American professional rider and career doper Levi Leipheimer, who still turns up to thrill the masses at the annual Grand Fondo that bears his name.
Several large companies still flock to sponsor the event even after the ‘admission’ by Leipheimer that he doped for large swathes of his fairly successful career.
Some people seem to have no problem with this, but I have several. The former state that this is a great event that brings out over 7,000 people to enjoy the joys of cycling, but if the sponsors insist his name be taken off and if he didn’t turn up, wouldn’t the event surely be better for it?
What message is this sending out to young riders? That you can dope, have a financially rewarding career, apologise when you get caught, then carry on as if nothing happened?
And what of these companies? Will there be no blow-back for them for supporting the race and, by extension, the man whose name is attached to it?
I find this, in all honesty, unfathomable.
Next up we have Nicolas Roche, the Irish pro rider who plies his trade with the Tinkoff-Saxo team. Now, I’m not suggesting that pro riders have an automatic responsibility to put their careers in jeopardy by criticizing their manager and back room staff, but when you manager is about to be hauled before the Danish courts for his admitted doping offences and for the allegations by Tyler Hamilton, Jörg Jaksche and most recently Michael Rasmussen, who say he helped them dope, then surely it’s better to keep your mouth firmly shut.
But no, Roche is on CyclingNews telling the venerable website that Riis is all that and then some.
“When Bjarne’s around, the team is just that extra bit focused and that brings some extra excitement to the race,” said the son of Stephen Roche. “He comes with ideas that change the profile of the race. He takes the extra bit of risk in races, when maybe some sports directors mightn’t be ready to take the risk, which is normal too.”
The mention of risk comes, apparently, without irony.
To make matters worse, Roche is now on a team owned by a certain Oleg Tinkov, a man who said last week that “doping is over, cycling has changed.” Did the team members collectively cringe when they heard that? Didn’t everyone?
Fear not archaeologists, it looks like the dinosaurs are not yet extinct, at least not in professional cycling.
This brings us nicely to the Schleck brothers. The two lads recently will be working with Kim Anderson as their DS through to the end of 2014, a former pro that they’ve been guided by for some years now.
The excellent dopeology website states that Andersen tested positive seven times in his career and was finally banned for life – from riding, that is, not from being a DS.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Frank at least values the knowledge and experience of Andersen – he was banned last year for doping himself, and was found to have transferred funds into the account of the doctor at the center of Operacion Puerto in 2006, Dr Fuentes.
Schleck was on the CSC team at the time, a team managed then by, you guessed it, Bjarne Riis.
Aren’t these little coincidences amazing?
Finally, we come to Jeannie Longo, the Frenchwoman with a palmares longer than Eddy Merckx’s who is currently trying to cripple the French anti-doping agency, AFLD.
Longo has had her brushes with suspensions but never actually received one. The nearest came in 2011 after she missed no less than three out-of-competition tests.
If you remember that loveable rogue, Michael Rasmussen, he got tossed from the Tour after just one missed test. Longo however got out of a lengthy ban via a loophole that everyone involved (except of course Longo herself) agreed was a proper cock-up.
No doubt about it – she dodged the tests and should have been banned.
Move on a little later and her husband gets busted after being named by dope-dealer Joe Papp as one of his customers. Seems that Longo’s husband was buying EPO from the American, dope that Papp said he was told was intended for Longo.
In early 2012 Ciprelli was charged with the importation of the banned substance EPO, on which he is said to have spent 15,000 euros on 15 purchases in 2007.
But do not fear, it was all apparently intended for him to help him recover from a cycling injury. That is some costly rehab.
No charges were brought against Longo, but she is seeking 1.1 million euro in damages from the AFLD, for her damaged reputation.
In a completely unrelated note, former pro rider Inga Thompson, a renowned anti-doping advocate, alleged in a November 2012 U.S. radio interview that Longo had used performance enhancing drugs during at least the latter part of her career.
Has Longo forgotten what the AFLD is supposed to do? And can she see no possible reason just why the AFLD and others might just maybe be a little suspicious when her husband is buying bucketloads of the very drug that makes cyclists go really fast?
Seems not. Seems like everyone’s just too busy forgetting.
by Dr. Conor McGrane, co-author of The Pat McQuaid File
I’ve been a doctor for almost 20 years but a cyclist since childhood. Over the years I’ve seen huge changes.
I started cycling as a kid but the 1982/83 TDF’s really sparked my interest.
Ireland is a small country but to see Kelly and then Roche do so well brought a generation of us into the sport.
Back in the day golf was seen as the sport for docs…
Now I see my classmates from medical school comparing rides on strava the way previous generations compared handicaps.
Conversations at conferences and meeting now revolve around new bikes, events or even the pro scene.
Sports medicine is also becoming more formalised and training more streamlined. It has made me look at the whole issue of Doctors in cycling. How did they get involved and why do they do it?
I see then likes of Ferrari (who is a bright and intelligent physician) and see what damage he has done.
The overriding principle for physicians dating back to the Greeks was “First do no harm”
At some point we as a profession threw this principle away.
Gert Jan Theunisse has just has a pace maker fitted at the age of 50 after a series of heart attacks. There is no way this could not be connected to his use of testosterone (at the very least) while a pro. Almost certainly someone prescribed and maybe even administered this to him.
The introduction of EPO (again prescribed most of the time by doctors) was heralded by a series of deaths, often while sleeping.
When you read of what Armstrong, Hamilton, Landis et al were taking under the supervision of a series of doctors I fully expect to see ill health and premature deaths in a large number of ex pros from that era.
Yet for all the cyclists (and other athletes) banned it’s rare to see those who admistered or facilitated the doping get a similar sanction.
It’s time for WADA and indeed the UCI to do more.
Fuentes was a trained gynaecologist yet was allowed become the team doctor for male pro teams without anyone batting an eyelid as recently as 2005.
Agents and DS’s now need to be certified and surely it’s time for team doctors to be similarly accredited.
If we are serious about eradicating doping then we need to do much more than simply ban those who get caught.
We need to be more thorough in checking out those who work behind the scenes.
There are relatively few Pro Continental teams and even fewer ProTour ones. At this level I feel it would be relatively easy to enforce standard rules and limits as to who was allowed act as team doctors. It would be a start and set an example not just to cyclists but to other sports as well.
Would the likes of Fuentes have been able to pass the scrutiny of a proper check of their past training and actions?
Not only did these guys help cyclists cheat, they also endangered their lives at the time and increased their risks of all sorts of illness in the future.
The UCI is now under new management and in my opinion the time has come to properly regulate those who provide medical care to the top echelons of the sport.
There are plenty of examples of doctors working across different countries jurisdictions who make dreadful mistakes largely because they were given positions they were not properly trained for.
At present it falls back on the medical regulatory body of the doctor’s country of practice to certify them.
I have yet to see a doctor be disciplined for doping athletes by these bodies.
If the UCI introduced a relatively simple system of registration with a thorough background check we could at the very least keep tabs on who is doing what.
Considering the risks involved to the sport I think it’s the least we should be doing.
Betsy Andreu mentioned The Outer Line report, A Roadmap To Repair Road Cycling, in her widely read article here a couple of days ago about LA, and after reading the report in full and all its recommendations, I’d encourage any of you who haven’t yet read it to go download it, grab a coffee (or two) and sit back and read it.
If you haven’t time to read the full version, there is a summary of 11 pages that captures the major points.
Written by Steve Maxwell and Joe Harris, about whom you can read more on their site, the report just makes a whole lot of sense, to me anyway. At the very least, it is worth reading as it one of the very few things out there that actually offers suggestions on how to make the future better, and a direction in which the sport may head.
The pair also leave contact details for email and twitter on the About Us page, so they are open to dialogue.
This week’s recommended read.
by Tim Renowden
So Saxoff is now Tinko, or something like that. Sinkoff Taxo? Sixo Tankoff? I can’t keep up.
I met Oleg Tinkov once. It had taken me the best part of two hours to pass by his various layers of security: the voluptuous receptionist at the front of his corporate office; the thick-necked security guards frisking me at the metal detectors; the thin-lipped man with an earpiece, with his dead-eyed gaze as I strolled through the heavy steel doors.
Once inside, the man himself was seated behind a huge mahogany desk with a scale model of Europe and a big red button, smoking an enormous cigar and stroking a white cat. He rotated in his leather chair and growled, “Greetings…”
Not really, obviously. This story is a complete fabrication. But would anyone be surprised if it were true? It’s not that much more fanciful than some of the lurid-but-genuine commentary about cycling’s newest team owner.
Mr Tinkov does present in public as (to borrow a phrase common in Australian pubs) a pretty loose unit, known for firing off drunk tweets faster than, well, a Russian downing shots at a wedding.
[check out Neil Browne's collection of Tinkov tweets here]
So colourful is Mr Tinkov that there’s even been murmurings of the UCI setting up a “fit and proper” person test, presumably to prevent people like him sullying cycling’s good reputation for ethics and governance.
Frankly, I think this is a bad idea. Basically, I just don’t think it’s fair to single out cycling for attracting dubious characters, when the English Premier League is allowed to exist.
Then there are the practicalities: it wouldn’t necessarily be easy designing a test that catches one self-made millionaire businessman with a slightly dusty public image but lets all the others stay.
I mean, he’s no shadowy oligarch. Tinkov made his millions from flipping companies and investing the huge profits in new companies, which he then flips for even huger profits.
He’s had the business importing cheap electronics from Asia; the brewery with a fake back-story and risque commercials; and the dot.com credit card company with the recent shaky IPO. All very successful businesses.
He’s clearly in this for the long haul.
I will admit he did a pretty amazing job at alienating his star rider, Alberto Contador, by very publicly criticising him during and after this year’s Tour.
On July 22: “His salary doesn’t match his performance. Too rich and isn’t hungry, that’s my opinion, and I deserve it. He must work harder”
A week later: “he is not riding Vuelta- he is tired), LOL, what the fuck Conta is tired from,one race?He isn’t tired to receive monthly HUGE check, though.”
In September, after his relationship with Riis and the team had seemingly broken, Oleg tweeted “Contador to join Alonso team in 2014? If Bjarne get rid of Conta I may re-think may departure from #TeamSaxoTinkoff”
No surprise that Alberto’s sulky teenager impression was on full display at the Tinkoff-Saxo launch. Like a teenager, Alberto just has to survive one more year, and then he can go hang out with his mate Fernando Alonso and not worry about his stupid team owner and his stupid chores.
But Oleg wasn’t completely wrong, Contador used to be able to attack all day, and now he just seems to get tired like everyone else. It’s definitely possibly because he’s not training hard enough.
Despite all this I’m sure all of the Tinko riders will be motivated and in great spirits, knowing their new boss is following their performance so closely.
At least Tinkov seems to have improved his opinion of his star. This week he tweeted: “Exited to see my new @tinkoffsaxo team on the roads. And @albertocontador leading Tour de France in 2014. Wow.”
This has been going on for at least a few weeks. On November 23 he tweeted a photo of Contador out training: “Conta is getting ready to kick ass of Froome))) and I am behind it YET”
Oleg has also had some issues with his new general manager and former team owner, Bjarne Riis, who was reported to have told him to take a long walk off a short pier just a few months ago.
But it’s different this time, they’re mates again, and full of mutual respect. There’s no way this is just a marriage of convenience.
Kind words through gritted teeth are still kind words, right? You take ‘em where you can get ‘em.
Anyone who says that Riis looks set to lose his team anyway when the hammer drops on a big Danish doping enquiry, so he might as well cash in first, is just a cynic.
OK, Oleg has made some off-colour sexist jokes. But it’s not as if the UCI has ever taken women’s professional cycling seriously, so who can blame him? He’s just trying to fit in with the lads!
Perhaps we should be a bit concerned that Tyler Hamilton says Uncle Oleg basically told him to get on the dope in 2007.
But hey, people say the same thing about Bjarne Riis, not to mention half of the guys still running teams, so that’s hardly a unique grounds for disqualification.
All in all, it’s hard to see how Oleg Tinkov is any worse of a proposition as a team owner than several of his counterparts. He’s definitely more often drunk in public than most of them, but really, is being a drunken buffoon on social media worse than running a sophisticated doping operation?
OK, so perhaps I wouldn’t buy a used car from him, but what could possibly go wrong?
Actually, this is worse than I thought.
One day of Oleg Tinkov
all opinions stated by writers are those held by the writer individually, and in no way reflect the opinion of crankpunk himself nor any other contributor to the site. however, we probably do all agree on most things, if that helps any…
this article originally appeared on The Roar.
it’s also a re-post, and the reason i am re-posting is as a response to a comment from Dave Johnson on Betsy Andreu’s article. i agree with Dave, we are all bear some responsibility for this mess…
Marco Pantani. If ever there was a single human being who embodied all that is the bittersweet reality of professional cycling over the past 20 years, it was the diminutive, bald-headed Italian who was known with no little affection as ‘Il Pirata’ when he was in his pomp.
And what a romping, stomping reign he enjoyed between 1994 and 1998, when he was widely acknowledged as the world’s greatest climber.
The phrase ‘dancing on the pedals’ seemed to have been coined exclusively for the native of Cessena, who in that golden period claimed a haul of 6 stage wins in three Tours de France and one overall win in 1998, as well as 4 stage wins in three Giro d’Italia, as well as a 2nd GC place in 1994, and a much heralded overall win in 1998, sealing a rare Tour/Giro double and a place – or so it seemed – in the pantheon of the greats.
And then it all unraveled. Like a glorious façade built on poorly laid foundations, one brick after another became dislodged, and very soon the myth of The Pirate lay in a crumpled heap.
The beginning of the slow, grisly end that led to his tragic demise began at the 1999 Giro, where he returned a hematocrit level of 52%, 2% above the already questionable allowable limit of 50.
Rumors seeped out of the woodwork like squirming termites. One such rumour, later corroborated as fact, had his hematocrit level after a training accident in 1995 recorded at a hospital as a whopping 57.6%. Another said he had been on the juice since a junior.
Pantani soldiered on however through all the trials and tribulations, his legion of fans forever by his side, pushing him on up mountains both real and metaphorical. He was, in the eyes of many, a god and a victim simultaneously.
One thing is sure. Marco Pantani had two prodigious appetites – for victory, and for dope. After his expulsion from the 1999 Giro, he confessed to his then-girlfriend that he had started using cocaine. In his excellent book ‘The Death of Marco Pantani’, Matt Rendell details the large quantities of cocaine that the Italian snorted his way through in his last years, crashing car after car as a result of his binges.
His friends document that he became increasingly paranoid and delusional. It all came to a terribly sad but almost inevitable end on the 14th of February, 2004, as a result of complications brought on by a cocaine overdose. He was 34.
Pantani is in the news again thanks to his mother, Tonina Pantani, who claimed just recently that her son may have been murdered.
“My biggest concern,” she said, “is that he may have been killed. In my opinion, Marco had ruffled someone’s feathers.”
Those feathers were ruffled, claim Tonina, because her son was about to expose the extent of doping within pro cycling.
Without meaning any disrespect to Tonina’s grief, this theory cannot really be considered anything more than fanciful.
Marco Pantani killed Marco Pantani. And yet… Tonina goes on to say something very interesting, that she believes that there may have others in the hotel room where Pantani died.
And this is something I agree with.
Who was there? I couldn’t possibly list them individually, but there were hundreds, possibly thousands of people. The UCI hierarchy were there, by default of allowing the new generation of game-changing drugs to rampage through the world of cycling from the early 90’s until – well, until now.
Pantani’s army of supporters and fans were also there, having cheered him on so fanatically when they knew, in their bones if not in their conscious minds, that what he was achieving in his heyday was impossible for a drug-free human.
The ‘yes men’ that surrounded the star were also there, the managers who looked away or even encouraged the acts that took place in hotel rooms and delivered Pantani his power. His teammates were there too, those that also doped and kept schtum, and those who brought the dope in the first place.
Commentators and journalists were also present, those vanguards of truth that abandoned their posts when men became supermen, trumpeting victories that all but the most imbecilic could see were dirty.
The list goes on, from race organisers to legislators, it includes so many. They were also present when the young European pros started dying in their sleep in the early 90s, and when Frank Vandenbroucke perished in a similarly lonely hotel room in West Africa in 2009, also aged 34.
These two men in particular, Pantani and Vandenbroucke, were prime candidates for an early grave, having exhibited weaknesses of character that, fortunately, most professional cyclists escape. But their whole professional careers – and indeed their whole adult lives – are indicative of just how bad things had become in the sport by the time they were in their ascents to stardom.
The star system was in full swing by then, the sport had a ruling body that was not interested in taking care of rider welfare nor in sufficiently tackling the rampant, institutionalized drug abuse that was rotting the core of cycling.
Everyone was swept up along in it, save a very unique, strong few. Some, like these two, were finally submerged, drowned by the merciless flow of the torrent that was the sport they loved.
And we stood by, and watched the whole thing.
By Betsy Andreu
As long as Lance is on his reconciliation tour, I think it’s only appropriate the tour should have its own theme song. I’m thinking of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tell me Lies”. Maybe not sweet little lies or just “one big lie” but a continuation of lies.
In a desperate attempt to do whatever he can to mitigate the damage he’s done to himself with a lifetime ban competing in sports at an elite level, Lance is reaching out to whomever will listen to him. He wants to show how very sorry he is for decimating people like me, Frankie, Greg LeMond, Mike Anderson, David Walsh, Emma, JV, Travis and USADA that he has only reached out to his former soigneur Emma – over wine and with cameras rolling just to show how sorry he really is.
And what about the rest of us?
Lance’s reconciliation tour, aka the I-really-want-to-compete-at-an-elite-level-again tour, is nothing more than a charade to back up his call for a version of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee that will exonerate him. I really didn’t get the gist of it until I talked to Joe Harris, a consultant who has applied the principles of truth and reconciliation in business, and co-authored a “roadmap” for repairing pro cycling with Steve Maxwell, an economist and contributor to VeloNews.
He explained that a truth and reconciliation process, when done correctly, is never run by the agency who will itself be investigated. In this case, the UCI. Just as MLB hired the independent investigator George Mitchell, so cycling must do the same. There must be complete autonomy from the UCI, who would have to divest all of the oversight to an independent person. Without this independence, the committee could be swayed by personal agendas, and testimony could be filtered so that certain people get preferential treatment, even if they don’t deserve it.
Where would this person come from? An agency well versed in transitional law such as the International Center for Transitional Justice in South Africa, New York University Law School’s Justice in Transition, or the Carter Foundation could recommend a legal scholar who would focus on the societal healing and international rebuilding of the immense damage caused to the sport by such corruption. As Joe so eloquently explained to me, I agree with this premise. We certainly can’t afford to have another farcical Vrijman Report. Joe and Steve’s website www.theouterline.com explains it far better than I can even begin to.
What I don’t understand, however, is why Lance needs a TRC in order to tell the truth. Nothing is preventing him from meeting with the fine folks at USADA. He declined to go under oath for The London Sunday Times and Acceptance Insurance, yet, he can still do so with SCA and the U.S. government. He’ll have the freedom to tell all; his testimony under oath is protected as long as he’s not lying. No brainer, right?
Lance would have you think that it’s all the UCI’s fault. I won’t argue that they’re at fault but where’s Lance’s culpability here? Who helped him collude with the UCI? I guarantee you, he didn’t do it on his own. A TRC unchecked with no accountability can do more harm than good. Under oath, Lance is held accountable.
Nothing changes if nothing changes. Nothing has changed with Lance. He is still desperately trying to control the narrative. The problem for him is not many are listening. I know firsthand he is trying hard to sully me and Frankie not to mention Travis, Greg, JV, and his most recent target, Alex Gibney. Funny thing is he’s going off the record hoping that by merely telling the lie the seed is planted. After all, it worked before. I can’t tell you how many people told me they thought I was crazy thanks to lance. Look at the damage done to Greg’s reputation from people who still tout him as nuts. What about Travis and usada’s famous witch hunt?
After Emma and Lance’s very public meeting, so many contacted me asking if I was next. Would I meet with him? Sure why not? As long as Travis Tygart is present and Lance is bound under oath why wouldn’t I? I actually invite him to meet with me. You think he’ll agree to those terms? I’ll stick with water or coffee and no cameras to film it by the way.
After Oprah, I was willing to give him a chance; I wanted there to be a reconciliation. I wanted nothing more than to put this behind me, use it as a cautionary tale and forge ahead touting clean sport especially for kids whether it be through USADA’s truesport.org initiative or via the media.
Let’s face it, Lance’s childhood was awful; the child within was never healed. It doesn’t excuse the monster of the person he became but it damn well helps to explain it. I was being told he was using me, Frankie didn’t hold back on that opinion. I didn’t want to listen. After all, Lance said he was sorry. I felt it was only fair that I give him a chance to prove that he meant it.
That conversation before Oprah, he told me he wanted to meet with me and Frankie face to face. He told me he’d done a lot of bad things to a lot of good people. Healing and forgiving is a process. For Lance, telling the truth or learning to tell the truth was part of that process. After Oprah, we sporadically kept in touch. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. I was slowly beginning the painful realization that his talk was cheap.
When I went to Austin in April as part of a an anti-doping panel, Lance and I had agreed to meet. I was skeptical he would actually follow through. “Are you going to skedaddle when I get to town?” I emailed him. “Please,” was his response, “I’ll be here.”
Well, as Frankie predicted, he backed out. He and the others were right: he used me. I’m embarrassed to say I fell for it. What benefit it had been for him to have his most ardent and vocal critic willing to give him a chance. In doing so, I kept quiet and I didn’t call him out on his lack of action. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt when I’d talk to journalists. Like so many Lance used for his own benefit, I too became a pawn in his reconciliation tour. Frankie being that wonderful sensitive husband he is said, “I told you so. He’s a liar. Duh!”
Consider these 3 instances:
* 3 days before we were deposed in the SCA case in October 2005, Lance calls Frankie for the first time in almost 2 years. In his deposition, Lance said he called Frankie just to say hello. Frankie testified he called to talk about our imminent depositions as well as Kathy LeMond’s deposition.
* The day before he tapes Oprah in January 2013, he starts his reconciliation tour by calling people. Frankie and I are the only ones who spoke with him. Of course, Oprah asks him if he’s called people to apologize. Voila! He can say he talked to us.
* The weekend before his big Monday hearing in D.C. regarding the whistleblower case (November 18, 2013), he meets with Emma – and agrees to go on camera for the world to see how very sorry he is. It just happens to be the weekend before his big court date.
Do you see a pattern here? Just the other day Lance tweeted that he has “repeatedly” told me and Frankie he’s sorry.
He’s still lying.
There’s a reason why. When a reformed kool-aid drinker, Patrick Dixon, told me he told Lance he should do what it takes to make amends with me and Frankie, Lance told him to ”F@#& off!” This was just a few short months ago after Lance refused to meet with me in April. You get the gist.
Lance didn’t meet with me in April because he wasn’t authentic with me in January. If Lance could somehow understand the damage he’s done to people on a personal level, the businesseses he’s defrauded, the destruction of the sport itself on a global level, he’d realize that it’s not possible to allow him back in sport.
Lance should ask a very simple question: what must I do to rectify the damage I’ve done? In our case, all he had to do was meet with us - nothing more nothing less.
He should be opening up his checkbook to SCA and asking,”How much do I write the check for?”
He should be flying to New Zealand and get down on his knees to Mike Anderson and beg for forgiveness.
Maybe with Kathy and Greg, he could tell them what Trek knew and offer to pay them for their bike company he helped destroy.
How about paying USADA back - the anti-doping agency he tried to destroy. It’s really not that difficult on what he should do.
It’s only difficult if the intent to do good is not there.
A pathological liar doesn’t all of the sudden become a truth teller. Maybe he just switches from telling one big lie to a lot of little lies.
(I was not paid to write this.)
so you know bodybuilding has a lot of small-penised men with inferiority complexes, buckets of creosote with which they like to paint with thick, stiff bristled paintbrushes into every nook and crannie, and speedos that ride up to where the sun don’t shine?
oh, and it has a mammoth roid culture?
well it’s so bad in fact that as well as the roid-pumped official bodybuilding championships that are held, another bunch of non-roid taking BB’ers have their own natural bodybuilding championships. they may as call the other one the ‘Drug Fueled BodyBuilding Champs’…
which got me to thinking.
how about a ‘Natural Tour de France’?
ok, let’s wait now for the guy who mails in to say ‘hey jeez man, no one was positive at the last Tour!’
uh huh. and Hincapie never tested positive did he. nor… you get my drift.
[read this for more info: http://cyclingtips.com.au/2013/04/oxygen-in-a-pill-the-next-big-thing-in-sports-doping/
"Current anti-doping is a total failure. Success rate is extremely poor. Perhaps the best proof of its failure is a statement by WADA’s director general David Howman, from 2011: “We are catching the dopey dopers, but not the sophisticated ones.”"]
anyway, just a thought…
interesting video here, Jay Cutler at the end says ‘you do what you do to win, if you wanna call that cheating, fine.’
Lance! take note!
google ‘levi’s gran fondo’ – or click here – and check out the number of companies sponsoring this distinguished event.
26, i make it. 26 companies, from Specialized to Nissan to Francis Ford Coppola Winery to Smith Optics. what are they donating? cash? where is it going? charities?
do i care? no. the real question is what are they getting? and, if there is such a thing as an even realer question, why are they getting no sh*t for this?
hiding behind the ‘but it’s for charity’ veil has to come to an end. there are a million worthier fundraisers out there than Levi Leipheimer – whom, lest we forget, got busted last year for being a career doper. you remember that, right? he was stripped of all results from June 1, 1999 to July 30, 2006, and July 7 to July 29, 2007, the periods he admitted to being aided by illegal means.
i remember that.
you probably remember that.
seems though that Specialized, Smith Optics, Clif Bar, Zipp, Camelbak and Capo don’t, however. ah, the collective corporate memory, what a thing full of holes it is. seems odd to me though that Nike and Oakley dropped LA when news came out (definitive news that is, as many in those companies kinda knew that he was on the juice all along) about his infractions, and yet these companies here are flocking to a man who cheated for large parts – if not all – of his own career.
and didn’t Omega Pharma-QuickStep – who ride Specialized – drop Levi after he admitted blood doping? do Specialized America have a soft spot for California’s needle-loving bald eagle? can no one there see that this attachment, this association, might just maybe be bad for their own image?
well, guess what – no. they couldn’t care less. because it seems that cycling America couldn’t care less. now, that is a blanket statement, but look at how many people rode Levi’s Gran Fondo this year – seven thousand and five hundred.
SEVEN THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED.
get it? that is a lot. if those 7,000+ folks were not turning up but were in fact staying away because heck, Levi seems friendly enough but he is after all a committed doper, think maybe that the companies might stay away too?
what do you get, in any case, for taking part in this event? what makes this so appealing? well, according to the website, you get “An unforgettable experience from a grand day on the bike with Levi Leipheimer, his pro buddies, and thousands of your new friends.”
first off, there should really be just one rider at this event, Mr. Leipheimer himself. and who are the rest of the people who pay cash to be in a ride orchestrated and overseen by Levi? and who are these ‘pro buddies’? one was Andrew Talansky, of Garmin. another was Luca Euser of UHC.
another of the attendees was Padraig of RedKitePrayer.
here’s how he prefaced his account of a good ol’ day in the sun:
“We’re at an uneasy place with our heroes. Even without the benefit of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the landscape of our understanding of professional bike racing in the last 20 years has fundamentally changed. For most followers of bike racing, doping went from this little problem in uncommon instances to a pervasive culture common to all but the rarest riders. While we beg for the truth about what occurred, as sporting fans, we’ve yet to embrace a single rider who confesses. As a group, we’ve yet to confer forgiveness to a single prodigal son.
“Some people would like to see Leipheimer and every other confessed doper shot by firing squad, or at least expunged from the collective memory of cycling. Truly, some of the vitriol is hard to fathom. But he hasn’t gone away, nor has his eponymous event. To evidence this drop in stock value, entries for Levi’s Gran Fondo sold at a slower rate this year than they did in previous years. But they did sell out.”
yes, it did sell out, and Padraig helped that happen. and this ‘uneasy place’ seems to be a way to justify feeling kinda weird about being at the event but having fun anyway. and ‘to confer forgiveness’ – doesn’t being there in effect do just that?
another who was there was Austin McInerney, “executive director for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association [who] was there with a full gaggle of high school riders from the NorCal league.”
high school riders. you mean, those impressionable kids who might just be confused with Levi’s name up there on all the banners and stuff and his doping past? confused by Talansky being in attendance? Specialized sponsoring? their own executive director smiling away on the start line?
those high school kids?
we have so little power as cyclists, whether or not you pay your UCI dues, that we have very few opportunities to make our views on doping heard. very few chances to register our disdain for people who cheat to win, who corrupt others around them and who, only when the gun is loaded and the hammer cocked, begrudgingly ‘admit’ to doping.
here though is one. it’s one thing to be out for a ride with a man who doped, to chat about how it happened, to hear his side of the story, to wish him well in his future (non-cycling) endeavors and to bid him on his way.
it’s quite another to pay money to an event hosted by an ex-doper, an event sponsored by massive companies, because that legitimizes what he did to get there, justifies the ends, and offers a rehabilitation of reputation that he does not deserve. it also confuses those with impressionable minds.
attending an event like this suggests that those clipping in have either not thought about the consequences of their actions or just do not give a f*ck any old way. both must be questioned.
and those companies? the ones with the heavy wallets? sure, sponsor cycling events and promote getting thousands out on two wheels. and continue to support an event that has become an established part of the calendar for amateur riders in the USA – but demand that Mr Leipheimer’s name be taken off it. it’s pretty simple and would be a great statement to make.
where’s Christophe Bassons’ Gran Fondo? Nicole Cooke’s? Inga Thompson’s?
the message currently being sent out is not the message that cyclists and corporations should be delivering. it is, in fact, the exact opposite.
you have to wonder just how many self-portraits Alexandre Vinokourov has hanging on the walls of his residence – or should i say residences, given that he had such a successful career as a pro cyclist, a career which shifted into management as he took over the Astana ProTour team – cos this guy has a self-love that must at times make it difficult for him to walk in the morning.
Astana – a team he once described as ‘my baby.’ hmm, maybe that baby needs a warning sticker slapped on it, given the nature and history of its papa. Vino was, if anyone needs reminding, busted for blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France, which led to his entire Astana team being withdrawn and a 2-year suspension.
from wikipedia: “Vinokourov failed a doping control following his time trial victory. His blood had a double population of erythocites, which implied a homologous transfusion He delivered a positive for blood doping on 24 July 2007.
“Vinokourov’s B sample came back positive a few days later, and Cadel Evans was declared winner of stage 13. Vinokourov was stripped of his stage 15 victory, which was awarded to Kim Kerchen. According to Phil Ligget [aka Too Ligget To Quit], long-time commentator for the Tour, “It is incomprehensible that Vinokourov could do such a thing when he must have known he was under suspicion because of his dealing with disgraced doctor Michele Ferrari in Italy. He must have known he would be tested at every opportunity, and the time trial was the perfect occasion.”
yeah, right Phil, how shocked you must have been when so many journos knew that top riders were still ‘frequenting’ Ferari’s – and other well known doping doctors’ – dens of ill-repute. what was truly shocking was that he actually got caught. no wonder he bristled with the injustice of it all!
Vino remained unrepentant about his positive, came back to the sport and went on to win gold in the road race in London last year, an Olympic victory so unpopular that its only rival is Jessie Owens and his 4 golds in Berlin in 1936, when a sour-faced Adolf Hitler watched a black man kick the arse of every one of his superior Aryans.
Vino might be beaten into third by LA and Ricardo Ricco in the stakes for top-dope-poster-boy of these sad, depressing past few years, but he can still be proud that he is indicative of all that is wrong with cycling. a former doper, unrepentant, who is managing a top team, a man who commands such allegiance in his home nation that it would be very surprising if he doesn’t become president one day, and a guy with such an uncontrollable ego that he allows a team to be named Vino4ever!
the arrogance, ignorance and plain old cheek of it are astounding.
the issue of former dopers managing teams and working in the sport is a central one in the fight against doping. it’s time to get these ol’ hombres out.