Bruyneel is right: his 10 year ban just is not fair

“The evidence establishes conclusively that Mr Bruyneel was at the apex of a conspiracy to commit widespread doping on the USPS and Discovery Channel teams spanning many years and many riders.”

“Similarly, Dr Celaya and Mr Marti were part of, or at least allowed themselves to be used as instruments of, that conspiracy.”

The above statement came fast on the heels of the decision by the American Arbitration Association to hand down a 10-year ban to Johan Bruyneel, and an eight-year ban each to Dr. Calaya and trainer Jose Marti for their part in enabling the doping that permeated the US Postal and Discovery teams.

These three now join Australian Matt White, who was also banned (for six months), in the wake if the fallout from the USADA investigation. This was the investigation which eventually saw a lifetime ban given to Lance Armstrong.

Bruyneel is mewing and spewing that his ban is unfair, and, goshdarnit, he is right.

Because it is way too short.

the good ol' days
the good ol’ days

Why a trio like this, who not only knew about doping on these teams but actively encouraged it, should ever again be allowed anywhere near sport and young athletes is beyond me. A ten year ban though, or an 8 year ban, or a 14 year ban – anything other than life – suggests that there is a way back for even such devious characters as these.

The decision by Orica-GreenEDGE to reinstate Matt White after he’d been banned and subsequently fired set a dangerous precedent. It is one that can only be avoided in the future by handing out lengthy bans to anyone from management who either doped as an athlete or encouraged, allowed or enabled it as a manager.

One of the arguments with regards to not banning ex-riders who doped going into management (touted, funnily enough, by ex-riders who doped who then went into management, such as Jonathan Vaughters – wait, is this Catch-22?) is that these former riders represent a wealth of experience not only of cycling and training but of doping, therefore they can help young riders stay away from chemical temptation.

However, if anyone is in a position to tell young riders how to avoid doping it is surely former riders who themselves avoided doping. I know several who never became famous, never hit it rich, never won the jerseys and trophies that their natural talent warranted, who would jump at the chance to manage at Garmin-Sharp, BMC Racing or indeed Orica-GreenEDGE.

Yet the pro bike world evidently believes that only those who performed at the highest echelons of the sport deserve a crack at managing there. This, despite the depressing and increasing evidence that the vast majority of the pelotons from which these men emerged were involved in widespread doping.

“I do not dispute there are certain elements of my career that I wish had been different, nor do I dispute that doping was a fact of life in the peloton for a considerable period of time,” Bruyneel wrote on his website, reacting to the 10-year ban.

“However, a small minority of us have been used as scapegoats for an entire generation. There is clearly something wrong with a system that allows only six individuals to be punished as retribution for the sins of an era.”

There is clearly something wrong with a man who for so long encouraged his charges to dope and saw nothing wrong with it.

There is clearly something wrong with a cycling federation that knew what was going on and allowed it to continue with a silent nod and quiet blessing, going so far as to cover up evidence that its leading light was on the juice.

And there is clearly something wrong with an anti-doping system that took so long to get to the bottom of the truth, which, coincidentally, it is yet to do fully.

Yet Bruyneel is right. Never mind that there was also an institutionalised doping culture at Rabobank, and yet no charges have ever been brought there. Similar can be said of Bjarne Riis’ teams, with Tyler Hamilton and others claiming that the team was mostly augmented and that the management knew.

I could go on and on.

Where I think USADA is failing is not in punishing Bruyneel and his cohorts, because this is a necessity, but in not launching investigations into Jim Ochowicz, Steve Johnson, Thom Wiesel and a host of others.

Ochowicz is head of BMC Racing, Johnson is head of USACycling and Wiesel bankrolled Armstrong’s career. Each has links to Armstrong and to USA Cycling that paint a less than rosy picture (‘incestuous’ may be more appropriate) and which demands investigation.

USADA has been criticised for going after one team and two men in particular, Armstrong and Bruyneel, and there may be some merit to this criticism.

Others who gave evidence to the investigation (such as George Hincapie who now funds the Hincapie Development Team) got pathetic bans and have largely been forgotten. Others have been punished more in accordance with their ‘misdemeanours’.

explain this to me, please
explain this to me, please…

This is where, for once, I agree with Johan Bruyneel. USADA has done a commendable job with the Armstrong affair in many respects even if it has failed on others, but now it is time for the UCI and any other organisation, national or otherwise, to drive these cheats out of the sport.

Bruyneel and Lance are merely the tip of a very large iceberg. I know that. You know that. And Johan really knows that.

Author: Lee Rodgers

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

One thought

  1. I think a distinction needs to be made between punishment (which doesn’t work anyways, and if you don’t believe me, read Punished by Reward by Alfie Kohn) that is “protective use of force” and violence. Reading Non-violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg might also help contextualize the problems with dopers like this.

    “Fairness” as Bruyneel is using it basically means “treating everyone the same”. The problem is that in the case of Bruyneel and Lance especially, their behavior warrants exclusion basically the protect the sport from these mafia-style narcissists.

    It needs to be clear that not everyone who breaks the rules carries it as far as Lance and Bruyneel did with their legal, fiscal and plain old leverage over the sport that Lance once possessed. As a sport, we MUST protect ourselves from people who think like this and it’s clear that both Lance and Bruyneel are narcissists, who are among the most dangerous people in society, at any level of government, sport or whatever.

    It needs to be clearly stated that their “punishment” is conscious and specific separation from a sport in which they are creating and created a lasting legacy of toxicity.

    Violence is far different than a protective use of force. Protective use of force is done consciously and with restraint, appropriate to the level of danger and threat. It’s clear enough that these guys are a big threat and continue to be.

    It is in this specific sense that Bruyneel’s “punishment” is too short. He shouldn’t be allowed to deal in any sport ever again and neither should Lance.

    When you don’t understand the difference between protective use of force and violence (which is always unwarranted, regardless of what justification you use), then you are automatically confused about “fairness”. It’s clear that Bruyneel isn’t the greatest ethical guy in the world, because if he had, then he’d have stayed retired instead of managed bike racing teams, he’d have waged war on the corruption in sport vs. amplified it, etc.

    I’m not sure how participation in sport when you’re that far gone is justifiable. Maybe they believed their own narcissism for too long?

    I find most journalists quite lacking in the understanding of ethics (but that’s our culture) and allow people like Bruyneel and Lance to decide the nature of the dialogue which is happening around them. If you could stop being complicit in their conduct, they would soon become the pariahs they need to be and be quickly forgotten.

    People who are dopers but are genuinely contrite and NOT NARCISSISTS would warrant a bit better treatment in this regard. It is from this we have a large percentage of other dopers (the majority, in fact) who are too often bundled in the same and rather violent angst we reserve for people like Lance, who we are angry at for being narcissists (like THEY care- it’s all narcissistic supply, after all).

    What we need to do with narcissists is CUT OFF THEIR SUPPLY. The others treat humanely and with some compassion, you know, like people. Narcissists aren’t really people, functioning in society, anymore- except to their own benefit. They are vampires who feed off of our attention, and they always have henchmen like Bruyneel (who was sort of recruited into Lance’s narcissism) and Hincapie, who really isn’t that smart. He benefits by having a smart brother to make up for it.

    If you don’t know about narcissism, read up on it (anything but Sam Vaknin, even though that’s almost impossible at this point), and understand who you are dealing with. How come we (as fans and journalists) know so much about BLOOD now it’s ridiculous, but we know NOTHING on narcissism? Come on you “journalists”. Do better. This is the wheelhouse we’re playing in. Watch the movie on Sam Vaknin and how he operates. Seriously disturbing. Compare that to “Lance in his prime”. You’ll see what I mean, and the danger.

    Crankpunk, I’d like to hear some real insights on this blog related to doping, rather than your own limited version of zero-tolerance angst. I think you can do better. Study your subject matter.

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