yeah you read right. i’m a couple of months behind the wagon on this one but after being sent the link to this story, i knew i’d found the material that would hump my leg out of hibernation. utterly, fantasmagorically unbelievable as it may seem, someone, somewhere, has their mouth wrapped around a hosepipe that’s attached to the back of a family four-door saloon. and the really sad thing is, they’re not trying to end it all…
when we put those two words together, ‘cycling’ and ‘cancer’, one thing, one name, immediately pops up in our heads: Lance Armstrong. google pro cyclists cancer and you’ll be met by page after page of news on LA and the Livestrong foundation and on his battle against testicular cancer, which, fortunately of course, he won. but is there a deadlier connection between cycling and the disease that is characterised by unregulated cell growth and that proves so devastating for so many?
in the news today is a story on the former U23 European Champ, Italian Graziano Gasparre. now 34, Gasparre recently had a tumor unceremoniously removed from his left butt cheek. he had a pretty underwhelming pro life, though did ride the Giro twice and won a stage at the Tour de l’Avenir when with Mapei, and is perhaps better known for giving information to the Italian authorities on doping towards the end of his career. Gasparre though doesn’t look back on his time in the peloton with any great fondness -in fact, he links his cancer directly to his racing career:
“If today I’m stricken by this problem, it’s probably the fault of doping. For many years, to remain at a certain level, I had to adhere to the system, ruining my health, and not just that.”
you know the guy (ok neither did i), he was on LA’s team in the ’99-2000 season with US
Dopal Postal, where he really learnt to suck it up – EPO from the vial, that is. in day-old news (one thing crankpunk can promise is that absolutely nothing you find here will ever be fresh, we wouldn’t want to spoil you), it seems that the 36-year old GeorgeyBoy tested positive for the drug that bestows upon its adherents lengthy careers, wealth, victories, country-pop crossover singers, smug and imminently punchable smiles and, ultimately, comeuppance in the shape of Travis Tygart.
excellent article from Stuart Stevens in Outside Magazine, first published in 2003 but just as relevant now. Stuart was fed up with reading about all these athletes on EPO and HGH and decided to actually take the stuff then write about it. great read!
an interview here with Max Torque, pro rider at Rabodale-Caisse-Tana, who recently tested positive for EPO, HGH, blood transfusions, Eskimo Placebo, High Grade Spanish Bull Faeces (99%) and pregnancy.
Torque, who’s won jack-all in his 11 years as a pro, was banned for 23 days (retroactively), a decision he feels was unjust. he denies any wrongdoing whatsoever and challenges all the positive test results (apart from the pregnancy – he’s due in January). he contacted crankpunk in a bid to clear up the issues surrounding his case.
crankpunk: hello Max
Max Torque: [silence]
cp: er… now then Max, there’s been a lot written in the press about you recently
MT: i bring the ruckus, that’s why
cp: … what does that mean?
MT: … i’m not sure… whatever you want it to mean. are you recording this?
cp: yes, i told you i was. it’s an interview.
MT: are you a Fed?
cp: what….? no, i’m a journalist.
[at this point Torque subjected crankpunk to a body search, leaving me shaken and a little disturbed. later, i noticed my wallet was missing. Torque has yet to return my calls and texts regarding its disappearance]
MT: hmm, ok. i will have to see that you eat this tape though after this interview is over.
cp: are you serious?
MT: nah i’m just fooling! but, you will have to eat it.
cp: … now then Max, if we can begin. essentially you deny all accusations of doping.
MT: i do
cp: despite testing positive for EPO, HG-
MT: ok ok, i know what i took – i mean – what… i’m accused… of taking. and it’s all a lie.
cp: but you tested positive for everything, twice within 12 days. that’s 6 tests, double samples, so effectively 12 positives. the lab said they’d never seen such a high percentage of Spanish Bull Faeces. you were almost off the charts.
MT: … what are you saying?
cp: that you’re full of bullsh*t.
MT: look, i was spiked. or the testing procedure was wrong. or the lab rats were paid to return those positives. or you’re lying. and i eat a lot of beef, i mean, i practically bovine. or – [at this point a lawyer came into the room and whispered into Max Torque's ear] – ok, he said i’m gonna have to bake the spliff. i’m baking the spliff, all the way. i’m baked.
cp: what? baking the… do you mean taking the 5th?
MT: [again, the lawyer whispered into Torque's ear] Shut up. Just stop talking.
cp: … did he just tell you to shut up and stop talking?
MT: look, let me be clear on this – i cannot answer that question without implicating myself and so i say to myself to the best of my abilities that i love the sport and that you should too and that you should believe better than you do, cos it’s a beautiful thing and i want to thank my sponsors and yes, i believe you are correct on that point but in fact i do not recall the original question nor the date you mentioned nor the thing we are actually talking about.
cp: [at this point the lawyer sighed heavily before leaving the room] ok, Max, in your own words, how do you actually think the EPO, HGH etc etc came to be in your system?
MT: i never doped. let me be clear on that. it may have been that i was drugged, however, without my knowledge.
cp: are you saying that your team doctor doped you?
MT: did i say that? jeez i am on so much stuff right now i can’t remember what the heck i had for breakfast. look, there was a day i remember, vaguely, when a doctor somewhere told me to take some stuff and it was in a bag. it was hanging on the wall, on a picture hook. it had a brand name, on the bag if i remember, OPE, something like that. it’s all very vague, there were so many days like that. i mean… it happened once.
MT: oh yeah man, i took truckloads of the stuff. that and HGH, spelt funny, like, backwards.
MT: yeah, actually there was another one called OMIKSE something or other.
cp: so, your defense is that you didn’t know that OPE was EPO, that HGH ‘spelt funny’ wasn’t in fact Human Growth Hormone with a backwards ‘G’, and that OMIKSE wasn’t in fact Eskimo Placebo? seriously?
MT: look, you can put words in my mouth and drugs up my nose all day, but the fact is -
[at this point the interview had to be terminated. the fire alarm rang and the hotel was evacuated. there was never any fire discovered. Torque has not been seen since]
the audacity is atrocious, the nerve phenomenal, the assumption that he wouldn’t be knocked off his bike by the cacophony of resounding boos and guttural jeers just impossible to fathom.
get this. Levi Leipheimer says he wants to come back after his 6-month ban is up, because “I don’t want it to end like this.”
according to the testimony he gave to the federal investigation into fraud at the US Postal (yes, they always delivered, even if it was bags of blood and via motorbike), the doe-eyed Levi began doping when he first turned pro on the Saturn team, back in 1989. he claims he quit the dope in 2007 – so only 18 years of doping for a salary and glory then. he then says how proud he is of the Tour of California and Vuelta wins, as he won them ‘clean’.
then there’s a comment about how his friends have stood by him and cheered him up, and that “I wouldn’t have been able to make it through all this without their support.”
“You know what, you made a mistake, you owned up to it and you told the truth and we respect you for that and here’s to looking forward,” he recalls one saying.
touching. no, really. wonder if he thinks about the cycling fans who for the past 20 years have been screwed over, lied to and just plain cheated out of their time, respect and money? wonder if he went round and announced his massive doping past to all the thousands of people who went along in his Gran Fondo days before all this hit the fan.
at one point, the interviewer says:
PD: There’s an old line in baseball: If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.
LL: That brings up a good point. I was just in Atlanta Sunday at a symposium with some of the top scientists in anti-doping from across the world. They wanted to hear my personal experiences and opinions on how to improve the testing. Create a clean sport. One of the questions was: We hear a lot from people who say we should legalize all kinds of doping and be a free-for-all. If that had been done that at any point from when I was 13 years old to now it would have been an easy decision to stop. Because that just scares the hell out of me. I don’t want to be part of the sport that is a free-for-all. I would have left the sport. No question. That’s not worth it. For sure there would be individuals out there for whatever reason, probably mostly because they didn’t know better, they would go to the brink of death.
but that’s exactly what these riders, just like Levi, helped to create, a free-for-all – one that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, if you had a Ferrari – but a free-for-all nontheless, where getting your hands on the newest dope meant you were a winner, all the while denying it to anyone within earshot with a holier-than-thou attitude.
where does this logic come from? did Felix Baumgartner bring it back from space? man, there, right there, is how he did it all those years, by inverting logic and his own sense of himself through such a mangled line of reasoning that what comes out the other end just doesn’t make no sense whatsoever. Tyler Hamilton went through it too, and Floyd, til they finally realized they were fooling absolutely nobody but themselves. Levi is there right now, bent, twisted, and utterly out of touch, and he may regret this interview in the years to come.
Levi, you think the sport owes you something? even now? after you stood by and watched LA destroy others’ careers, try to destroy Betsy Andreu, and claim on the podium in Paris – the goddam podium for godsake (can’t find the link, a youtube conspiracy?!) – that he was SuperClean, after being part of that elite circle that doped to the gills with the best doctors lined up to get you out of testing positive, whilst when others got busted you tut-tutted and looked the other way? you still think you should be allowed back to say a final farewell? man, those drugs must have been good, real good, but they messed with your head.
it’s not about what you want. you got what you wanted, for 23 years. your time is up.
if it’s a happy ending you’re after, try a massage parlor. or Christina Watches…
read the full interview here