Darth, Cristophe, Livestrong and Amgen’s cycling-friendly medicine

oh Christophe, the irony! Alanis Morisette could have written a whole album about you, never mind a song. in the very same week that the Death Star, Vader and the entire Sith Army got blasted to smithereens, Luke Skywalker – er, i mean Christophe Bassons (Mr Clean, who was bullied by LA due to his refusal dope during his time as a professioanl roadie) – goes and gets himself a one-year ban for missing a post-race dope test that he was due to take at a MTB race on September 1st.

oh Cristophe! zut alors! he’d abandoned with 20km to go, headed to the finish, handed in his chip and was already on the way home when he got a call to tell him about the test. whoops.

Christophe’s basoon, which so annoyed LA, who is said to prefer the lighter wood instruments

“Why wasn’t I informed much earlier about the test? Why such a heavy sanction? I don’t understand,” he said in a very heavy French accent later. i feel for the guy. i mean, years of knowing the dirty truths of the peloton, having to suffer at the hands of the DopeMeister General, then in this last week finally being vindicated – and so publicly, so gloriously – this happens. what a downer! somewhere in Texas a very former top road racer probably had a good old chuckle at that one. you couldn’t have written it… of course, we can be pretty sure he wasn’t splitting so soon to avoid the test, but still, really not very diligent for such an experienced rider, and one who, at this moment, is one of the very few people of the LA era that we can look to with even a modicum of respect.

shame, that.

LA complained this week that “it’s been a difficult couple of weeks.” Bassons’ news may have cheered him up but yeah, i guess it has been. Jerry Sandusky steals the prize of course for Biggest ScuzBag in Sports over the last decade or two but as far as athletes go I cannot think of a greater fall from grace in the history of sports. Muhammad Ali lost his title of course by refusing to be conscripted into the army and to fight in Vietnam (though most, at least now, consider him a hero for that stance), Ben Johnson shattered the facade of the Olympian ideal in 1988 when caught cheating in the 100m final, and Tiger Woods proved what an assiduous golfer he truly is by going for the hole in (any)one all the time, but the drop for LA has been huge, as well as conclusive, and contradicts directly what he said so many times – ‘I never doped.’ difficult indeed.

but you wouldn’t know that from reading the majority of comments on the Livestrong website in response to the news that LA was ‘stepping down’ as head of the organisation. here’s a snippet or two:

Runtime Design:

Cancer is about overcoming odds. it is about winning. it is about courage, survival, doing whatever it takes to beat the odds and succeed. its also about luck. this is why cycling, and lance armstrong, were such powerful metaphors for cancer treatment and prevention.

on the other hand, what have you done? what act have you achieved that has inspired millions of others? just because journalists and beaureucrats have an axe to grind doesnt change the thousands of miles that lance rode as a champion.

although not all were so heedlessly supportive. Frankoz, for one, seemed disillusioned: My autographed shirt, my collection of books, my live strong cycling gear, all now reside in a landfill. It’s ironic that the biggest cancer in cycling turned out to be Lance.

And Roberta also stands out as a beacon of sense: Congratulations to Lance for stepping down as Chair. Now, he needs to resign from the Board too. It’s time to separate the man from his accomplishments. Livestrong is a great accomplishment, but it deserves to have leaders with integrity.

But, as much of the responses are eerily reminiscent of those to be found on Creationism websites (cranpunk loves a loony with his head in the sand), it’s no surprise that Robert was immediately given a telling off.

If you want to talk about “integrity” then please begin with the US constitution and it’s failure to prevent USADA from witch hunting and passing judgement over to the media and the mob. It only takes one solid piece of evidence for real justice to work – just one – like the police finding a used syringe with David Millar. When you have 10,000 pages of “evidence” and not a single solid piece of direct evidence – never two witnesses corroborating on any single event – then it’s just an impressive pile of paper. Witch hunting works, that’s why the US constitution forbids it.

Integrity is not on the side of USADA in this respect. Lance Armstrong has resigned due to the pressure of controversy – not through an established lack of integrity. Regardless of your own feelings and views those are the facts. The US constitution demands “presumption of innocence” and full due legal process. Integrity? Where is yours?

The author was called StupidPolice…

next up: Amgen. this bit of information came as surprise, though upon googling i realized it’d come out earlier but hadn’t seen it – as far back as 2010 actually – but when you think about it, it shows how screwed up this sport became. seems Amgen, the sponsor of the Tour of California, is also licensed to market EPO in the USA.

Amgen, a pharmaceutical company, works to make unhealthy people healthier (and to make ca$h, naturally), yet it never occurred to them that healthy people (or even uber-healthy folk, like pro cyclists) might take their drugs to gain a sporting advantage. Dr. Steve Elliot, Amgen’s scientific director, said that “It’s such an alien concept – we show up to work every day and try to find these medicines to treat this disease your friends, family and neighbours might have, and you’re so consumed with that that it never occurs to you that somebody is going to go out and abuse this medicine. It’s so disturbing when that happens.”

disturbing indeed, but also a little weird – and i’m being polite – to sponsor a pro bike race suspecting that several members of the race are on your juice. Amgen said they sponsored the race to have the opportunity to educate the riders and cycling community about the dangers of doping. maybe Budweiser could sponsor the next AA meeting in St. Louis. it might catch on. car companies could sponsor hospital wards for people involved in hit-and-run accidents, or tobacco companies could fund cancer wards. ok, i’m going to far but you get my point, however heavy-handed it may be.

i’ll leave you with eddie izzard and lance in the canteen…

Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

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