Joe Papp: Not Quite Finished With Dope

So Joe Papp is back in the news. This time it’s for a guilty plea in connection with selling doping products. Specifically, he plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy to sell EPO and HGH over the Internet.

As much as I’d like to ignore this and hope he fades into forgettable obscurity, I don’t think that will happen just yet. And because RKP has written so much about doping, we are rather obliged to give this more of a once-over than two Tweets about the subject.

Papp netted more than $80,000 between September 2006 to September 2007 selling these drugs. That’s a tidy income, especially for what I suspect wasn’t a lot of work. After all, he didn’t have any of the traditional marketing costs associated with a sales enterprise, so people found him, 187 of them, to be precise.

The income isn’t the issue. It’s the time period. It was during this same time period that USADA trotted him out as a star witness at the Floyd Landis hearing. His purpose? To testify on the remarkable recovery that one can enjoy when using synthetic testosterone. That Travis Tygart (then counsel, now CEO) of USADA didn’t vet Papp more thoroughly is deeply troubling.

Papp disputed VeloNews’ contention that he testified against Landis. He told them, “The matter for which I publicly acknowledged my guilt today in Pittsburgh had nothing to do with my appearance at the Landis hearing. I didn’t testify against Floyd Landis in that hearing,” Papp noted. “My testimony was about my own personal experiences with the drug testosterone and how it is generally perceived within the peloton. That was it. I told the story of how testosterone works and can help you as a cyclist by enhancing recovery.”

Papp’s point splits hairs. Semantically, he may be correct, but he was an instrument in the process of convicting Landis. The problem I have with this is that he was presented as a reformed doper, someone who would be candid as a result of his changed ways. Candor is an important part of establishing credibility, and Papp presented himself as someone for whom performance enhancing drugs were strictly past tense. We have learned that was not the case.

So what should Papp’s sentence be? He could be banned for life from cycling, and that ought to happen; he shouldn’t be allowed to coach or advise other cyclists given his recent industry. He also stands to serve as much as five years in federal prison when he is sentenced on June 25. Hopefully, that June date gives him enough time for him to finish his graduate degree at Chatham University, where he is a student, and (we hope) not focusing on exercise physiology. No one should be forced to starve and Papp needs a good way to reinvent himself in order to stay away from the racing end of the sport.

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  1. maxrad

    You mean he should have had a disclaimer, like in those infomercials: “I’m not just a dealer of illegal performance-enhancing drugs– I’m also a customer!” ?

  2. eightplustwo

    Could not agree more. I’ve said it many times, what Papp needs to do in order to move on is to put cycling completely behind him. He continues to put himself in the spotlight and its doing him no good. The truth is that he will never be respected nor work again in the cycling industry in any capacity.

  3. Touriste-Routier

    Just to be clear I am not defending Joe Papp here, I just want to add some context to think about it in.

    Not that it really matters in regards to the message of this post, but there is a big difference between income/revenue and profits. I wouldn’t expect a P&L statement to be produced, but let’s not assume that he profited handsomely from this enterprise. None of the stories I have read have specified revenue vs profits, and information, accurate or not, tends to repeat itself. Even if this figure is profits, in the risk vs reward scenario, it isn’t all that much. More so lets condemn the acts themselves rather than the profit motive or result.

    As for banning him for life, while I am sure it could be done on paper, in practice it would be only symbolic. He is already damaged goods to the elite level of the sport; no one is going to touch him at that level, ban or not. His only appeal would be at the local or regional amateur level, and the reach of the UCI just doesn’t go that far.

    As far as his credibility as a witness in the Landis hearing goes, establishing his credibility was not his responsibility. Semantics aside, he was brought on as a witness on the prosecution side of the equation; they chose him. It was the job of the USADA prosecutors to establish his credibility, and it was the job of Landis’ defense team to discredit him.

    I didn’t read the transcripts; I don’t know whether Papp perjured himself or if the prosecution withheld information concerning him. But unless he lied under oath, I don’t think it is fair to hold his role in the Landis hearing against him. The results speak for themselves; guilty or innocent, Landis’ defense didn’t do the job of convincing the panel that Landis was innocent, or that the test results were invalid.

    1. Author

      Touriste_Routier: A very fair rebuttal. I do agree that it was USADA’s job to check him out and present him as someone with credibility. To the point of the lifetime ban, the sport of boxing has demonstrated with any number of managers how a lifetime ban from the sport may not have much effect. His web site is still up and offering coaching services. The scope of the questioning at the Landis hearing was narrow enough that I don’t think he had a chance to perjure himself; I don’t recall that there was a question asking him about any current involvement with doping.

  4. Blake Barrilleaux

    Jesus,man, what is wrong with this guy. Last week I was reading his webpage/blog with the story of the crash and the massive subcutaneous haematoma and the story of admission and redemption/self examinaton and I just don’t know what to think. This guy’s got some real issues.

  5. souleur

    Boy, good question on what to do about these guys after they are busted.

    On one hand I personally feel they should be banned for life. Take away from them their means, and remove from us our cancer. Seems just, right? Then Touriste-Routier makes a very valid point, that I realize when I step aside and look at things objectively. They are damaged goods, everyone in the pack realizes this and it hasn’t seemed to make a big difference over the past 10 years leveraging punitive measures across cycling for doing/selling/associating w/the dopers.

    So, what is one to do? And what is just??

    Perhaps the pursuit of the current system really is a decent first step. Blood chemistry passports are a good start, and I think that management is also key. Team managers and doctors know what to look for, they must be sincere to the point of offering something little up in corrective value to save the bigger picture of the sport we all hold high. There are conflicts of interest in this all over the place, from cycling within, from the riders themselves (to win or not be rideable), from management. The conflicts must eventually be mediated out, reconciled and I believe cycling can. When we do, we will be the first sport to honestly and sincerely put it out there and I think others will then follow ‘cyclings model’ of dealing with it.

    Perhaps there are other ways to deal with it too. This is just what I am thinking as I sip my capo’ this manana.

  6. velomonkey

    Once again we are shown how off the mark this site and specifically this author is. I’m not sure if you don’t get it, or if you never raced anything higher than CAT 5, but to NOT think EPO and all the others aren’t used routinely – well, then, you’re naive and never really ‘got’ what was going on. I have said it before and I will say it again – there are guys on my local club rides who are on this stuff – CAT IV guys do this stuff just to get to III and hopefully II. Padraig thought not, essentially challenged me on it and then the master rider got caught and now this.

    Yea, you write about dope, but you have no idea what’s going on.

  7. Touriste-Routier

    velomonkey, your comments here confuse me; somehow I got lost along the way. Can you please explain them in regards to this particular post?

    For full disclosure, I was in the same club team as Padraig in the mid 90s. He may not have been aware (and he can speak for himself, if he so chooses), because he didn’t have as close an association with them as I, but we did have a few team members and other folks linked to one of members who was a local independent coach, who were using illicit substances. They were mostly elite track racers, though not exclusively.

    I don’t see how Padraig’s racing category is relevant for any discussion except as directly related to life within the peloton during a race. He has a depth of relevant experience and skills (both on and off the bike) that go well beyond his palmares, and those of many an elite racer.

    Being a racer is not all that, and speaking as a retired Cat 2, in my experience I witnessed what I mockingly describe as a loss of braincells, cognitive skills, and world view as racers lives become more insular as they advance in category. 😉

    One doesn’t have to agree with Padraig, but that doesn’t mean his views are invalid, or not credible. This site has some of the most healthy, respectful debate on cycling that I have encountered. I think this speaks to the character of the authors and contributors more so than what numbers may have featured on anyone’s racing license.

    1. Author

      I recall the players involved in that team and was aware of the allegations. I did some racing with them as well as other racers who were alleged to have used performance-enhancing drugs. Those allegations, proven or not, have exactly zero bearing on Mr. Papp and this post. Any time someone with a previous doping suspension is found to have trafficked in PEDs, we need to ban that person from the sport for life.

  8. velomonkey

    Hamilton, Landis, Papp, Zirbel, O’Bee, Moniger – those are just a few of the names of people who have gotten busted for doping in past few years. They’re all american and most of them are highly educated people unlike, say, Kohl who had a dead-end life waiting in the wings.

    Papp went out and told the world how you beat the system. Is anyone really surprised this guy is selling products while in school? Really? Surprise, no, lame, yes. It’s not like Missy Giove who just got arrested with what, 400 pounds of marijuana. Papp knew there was a market for this stuff, new it was with the amateurs and knew he could capitalize off of it. Big freakin’ surprise. I use the CAT example only to convey how deep this runs, it probably scales off the higher the CAT – which would buttress your point of higher insular suroundings the lower the CAT. With that said, as a retired II myself who has raced most likely against you and Padraig I know several IVs, and IIIs who over the years and just this year have confessed to me on more than one occasion that they’re willing to purchase HGH or other PEDs. This is not geographically insular either, it spans both coasts. I know, as a fact, more than one instance of a III who became a II and wanted so bad to be a I or a pro that he started EPO as a III.

    Should these people be banned? Yes, of course, that’s a no brainer. Will it make a difference? No. Walk into any cancer clinic, any of ’em, and you will see EPO put out like samples at a Costco. The freakin’ tour of california is sponsored by the company that makes EPO for crying out load – oh but that’s a coincidence.

    My point, this stuff is more than just some racer living in europe, this stuff lives on more typical weekly group rides than most care to admit and it aint with track pros.

    I have to drop off, though, enjoy the blog.

  9. Trev

    Doesn’t anyone just take steroids anymore? I wouldn’t even know where to go to buy EPO or HGH.

    I wonder what Tyler Hamilton is doing these days? I wish someone would interview these guys and do a little “where are they now?”

    1. Author

      Trev: Fair question, rhetorical or not. Steroids aren’t usually that hard to find if you’re willing to hang out with body builders. There’s a gym near me that has a significant patronage with backne, a common indicator of use. HGH and testosterone are much easier to find: anti-aging clinics, which are as common in Beverly Hills as frozen yogurt establishments. EPO, however, is a good deal harder to find. I won’t say you can’t get it, but it’s harder to find a doctor who will write the prescription and it’s significantly more expensive than all the others, save hGH. If I was looking, I’d start at the anti-aging clinic.

      And yes, Hamilton has a coaching business … which is troubling.

  10. snakeboat

    TylerH’s working for the next generation, and I quote:
    “I’m now taking clients worldwide. I’ll work w/ you personally to create a training plan to reach your goals. DM me if interested.
    9:55 PM Feb 18th via HootSuite”

  11. Souleur

    anabolic steroids and HGH are in many measures the same, as is testosterone. Just differing means to achieve a similar physiologic response. Anabolic steroids however have such a broad spectrum of activity and side effects, many try to obtain a more ‘pin-point’ approach’ to their doping adventures. Testosterone may do the same, with some unpalatable outcomes also.

    EPO, however, and now CERA, are much harder to get, I agree. EPO costs over $1000 a dose, and CERA I would have no idea, so it seems to me to be somewhat prohibitive unless some snake in the grass is somehow getting their medical insurance & doc to write for it, and that again seems medically neglectful and liable if anything happens…but…stupid is as stupid does.

    I only know this as I am a Nurse Practitioner in Internal Medicine, for anyone who may imply anything from the above.

    And, there are much more that the dopers do also, which is quite novel.

  12. CGreen

    “Walk into any cancer clinic, any of ‘em, and you will see EPO put out like samples at a Costco.”


    This should not be true for many reasons:
    1. This isn’t a small molecule drug for headaches, or something that patients more/less self prescribe, like birth control, sleep aid or allergy med. This is a biologic, intended for treatment of anemia due to renal failure / chemotherapy. How often do you see an Epogen, Aranesp or CERA ad on TV? Sales reps won’t regularly leave samples at clinics because it doesn’t help sales.
    2. storage conditions are 2-8, so it would be kept in a refrigerator.
    3. if a clinic left out unsecured prescription drugs, like “samples at Costco”, even the laziest auditor would write that up as an observation. These aren’t OTC drugs, even if samples are available, a doctor would have to write a prescription.

    Also, Amgen helped develop tests to catch Epogen/Aranesp use. Their revenue is in the billions for these drugs, they aren’t thinking about marketing to dopers when they sponsor the TOC.

  13. Matt Walsh

    Hey, really like your site and the writing. Man, I’d hate to be in Joe Papp’s cleats. Five years is a long time to ride a trainer in a small cell. I’d had quite a number of e-mails back and forth with Joe after I did a post or two on him in my cycling blog. I also used to read his rider diary in cyclingnews a number of years ago. All I can say is that he seems like a good, smart guy who made some really big mistakes and that’s certainly sad. The punishments he has already endured are plenty. He’s lost his job, his passion, he house, his wife and family and soon his freedom.

    1. Author

      Too often we look for villains in a black hat who drown kittens and steal lollipops from children. The reality is much more complicated. I’d probably enjoy a bike ride with Papp but his multiple ethical lapses in this sport really concern me. I don’t see how cycling can benefit from him.

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