Reclaiming Our Past

There have been entirely too many doping storylines in cycling lately. We’ve had the Alejandro Valverde problem, the Danilo DiLuca suspension and Ricardo Ricco’s imminent return to the sport. His girlfriend, Vania Rossi, tested positive for the same drug—CERA—for which he was suspended, and he subsequently dumped her, months after she gave birth to their child. Bernard Kohl has opened a bike shop and seemingly ended his monthly interviews that teased out details of his doping regimen like bread crumbs for birds. Stefan Schumacher continues to fight his suspension.

And today we mark six years since the lonely death of Marco Pantani. Like Pantani, Jose Maria Jimenez was a once-talented climber who, according to circumstantial evidence, became addicted to cocaine and ultimately overdosed on the drug, cutting short a life that should have been full of promise, even after ending his career as a racer. It’s little wonder that so many cyclists reacted with horror at the news of Tom Boonen’s flirtations with the nose candy.

The constant parade of doping stories has made many cyclists weary of ProTour racing, but worse, it has changed our understanding and perception of racing in the past. We now accept Fausto Coppi’s statement about always doping when he raced, rather than discount it, which is certainly what I did when I first read the statement in the 1980s.

And while many of us took Eddy Merckx at his word when he insisted he had used nothing out of the ordinary when he was ejected from the 1969 Giro d’Italia, we have come to see that event was but one of three positive tests he gave in his career. Certainly questions abound to this day about that Giro test, such as no counter-analysis and questionable chain of custody, it’s easy to see the positive as a not uncommon occurrence in an era ripe with amphetamine usage. Why should Merckx be any different; after all, he ranks as the most successful cyclist of all time. Are we to think he was the only clean champion of his generation?

Looking back on riders I have admired—Greg LeMond, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Fausto Coppi, Miguel Indurain, Lance Armstrong, Andy Hampsten, Richard Virenque, Marco Pantani, Johan Museeuw, Moreno Argentin, Frank Vandenbroucke, Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Alejandro Valverde, Danilo DiLuca and plenty more, what strikes me is that only two of these names have never been broadly accused or convicted of doping—LeMond and Hampsten. Were we to take every doping allegation out there as fact (save anything Armstrong has said to or about LeMond), we might be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that Hampsten’s win in the Giro was the last by a clean rider, as was LeMond’s last win at the Tour.

I admit, every time a new rider comes thundering onto the scene, I have moments (roughly one for every win) when I wonder, “Is this guy clean?” Even without a single positive test to implicate the rider, I can’t help but wonder if some new phenom is our next Riccardo Ricco or Bernard Kohl. To wonder such a thing is reputation assassination, even if I don’t share it with anyone else.

But this youngest generation of riders, riders who came onto the scene after the EPO problem had been identified, after the test had been devised, those are the guys who scare and upset me. It’s little wonder to me that any rider still in the game now who was there for the rise of EPO and the team podium sweeps of the ’94 Fleche Wallonne (Gewiss-Ballan) and the ’96 Paris-Roubaix (Mapie-GB) might still not be conforming to the memo. But what really troubles me are the new riders who still pursue EPO and its newer variant, CERA. Just as we think we’re making progress in doping thanks to programs such as those run by Bjarne Riis and Jonathan Vaughters, some new rider gets suspended for a drug that we have come to believe is easy to catch.

As a result, many of us have turned our backs on past performances that gave us chills, left us cheering at the TV and maybe even caused us to put up a poster of the rider in our dorm room or garage. Those were the days.

Museeuw’s win at Roubaix in ’96 came at the end of arguably the most dominant ride by any team in the history of the Hell of the North. Now we know that it was EPO that gave their performance the appearance of a Ferrari racing a Yugo.

In comments here at RKP, we’ve seen how many of your have turned against not just Lance Armstrong, but other riders we know to have doped: Marco Pantani, Frank Vandebroucke, Tyler Hamilton and more.

I realized not too long ago that if I disavow every performance that involved doping, I’d be stripped of almost every race that I ever cared about. I’d even be stripped of LeMond’s last-minute win at the 1990 Tour de France because the guy he beat—Claudio Chiappucci—was on EPO. Without him and that drug, LeMond’s win would have been much more dominant. And don’t get me started about 1991.

Despite the lies, the doping, the inability to know who was truly the best on the day, I don’t want to lose the wonder and awe I felt when I saw those performances. If I turn my back on every one of those performances in bitterness, it’s tantamount to saying of your ex, “I never really liked her.”

Those experiences, the wonder I felt at watching Richard Virenque or Floyd Landis winning in Morzine in 2003, the jubilation I felt at Tyler Hamilton’s win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, my astonishment at Armstrong’s win at the Tour in ’99 or my awe at any of Johan Museeuw’s wins at Paris-Roubaix were experiences of genuine and honest emotion on my part. While I have a different understanding of those performances today, and my feelings for those racers may have changed somewhat, I’ve decided I won’t let anyone, any new revelations, change how I remember those performances.

I can’t tell anyone else how to feel about those performances. The bitterness some of you feel at the betrayal of learning some win was doped is as valid an emotional experience as any jubilation I’ve felt for the same performance.

But for those of you who have felt frustration and confusion with each new revelation, I offer my perspective as a different way to process your feelings. I’m not suggesting we capitulate and just give in to enjoying doped riding; like each of you, I want a clean sport, full stop.

Society changes and what we tolerate changes as well. Thomas Jefferson had slaves. I can’t endorse his ownership of a person, but that act shouldn’t erase the work he did in establishing the United States’ democracy.

I truly believe cycling is changing for the better and that doping is on the decline. It is a scourge, though, that we should not fool ourselves into thinking will ever be eradicated. We should not accept the doped performances of the past out of inevitability and resignation, but rather because they inspired us in our own riding. And if we rode with honesty and conviction, then some good came from those tarnished wins.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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31 comments

  1. dave1949

    I gave up caring about “doping” a long time ago. Can you possibly eat as much protein as you get in the supplements? No. Can you possibly compete at any international sport without living a severely unbalanced life that revolves around nothing except maximizing your potential athleticism? No. Can anyone human ride like the tour for 3 weeks without breaking down and shattering? No.
    Can anyone believe that what elite athletes are subjected to now has anything to do with a strong mind in a strong body? No.
    And so some committee decides a is ok b is not and divides the world into those who do and those who don’t and who cares. While watching the people who have all trained like psychopaths charge up the mountain and leave everyone else behind who care what trace elements in the periodic chart are coursing through their veins. Not me.

  2. Doug

    Just the other day I asked myself, “Which bike racers could I count as heroes?” Only the two riders you mentioned who probably did not dope are the riders I would call heroes. Yet it was their personalities that began my admiration for these 2 guys, not the “clean rider” status. Both Greg and Andy are men with heart; open, friendly and likable, as opposed to the cold, arrogant and egotistical pose favored by so many competitors, especially the ones mentioned above as the most disliked in this sport. My 2 cent psychology tells me these cheaters favor a pose of cold detachment to insulate themselves from self-doubt and as a barrier against the truth. So, I trust my instincts when choosing my heroes. And I propose we enjoy racing without reserve. Bike racing is a spectacle I love dearly, and no collection of doper punks can change that!

  3. Sophrosune

    I have to agree more or less with dave1949. I know this is not going to go over well, but I think that maybe if these athletes want to risk their long-term health, let them have at it. It’s just impossible to say who has doped and who hasn’t, so just make it all legal. If they want to threaten their own health to win a bike race, then let them have it. And those that don’t, there’s always running a bike shop.

  4. SinglespeedJarv

    Nice article. I still have conflicting feelings about Flanders and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in ’99. VBDs rides those days were magnificent but I knew at the time that they weren’t clean. They still made for great races though and I can’t ignore that because I can’t change what happened. But we don’t have to glorify those days, acknowledge that they happened, but not glorify those results and want a return to those days.

    Probably my favourite race is still Stage 9 of the 1992 Tour de France and it stands out even more in my mind given the doping shadow of the last 18 years. Gilles Delion took a very classy win from a group of four that included Stephen Roche. In those days I was young enough to have heroes and Delion was one of my heroes. Although he’s generally forgotten about compared to your Lemonds and Hampstens, he did speak out against doping rather than just staying silent and he was ridiculed for that, by the UCI’s president no less.

    Those who say, “let them dope” are idiots. Why should people who want to race clean be penalised just for your entertainment?

  5. John Marrocco

    Hmmm…maybe I missed something during my after race supplement taking fog….I just can’t seem to remember Lance Armstrong being convicted and suspended for doping? I can take or leave him but when did accustations, for him or anyone else, become proof of guilt?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks for the insightful comments.

      John: I agree with you completely—Armstrong is innocent of any doping allegations. That said, I couldn’t write this piece and not acknowledge that there are many cycling fans who have convicted him in their minds and are more than done with him. It’s impossible to write about public opinion on doping without addressing how some riders have been utterly guilty in public opinion. Is it right? Nope, but it is a reality that we can’t be oblivious to.

  6. rich_mutt

    on armstrong: if the glove fits, you must not acquit…

    there is so much circumstantial evidence that can’t be ignored. yes, he never tested positive (ahem, 1999!) but neither did millar, and he was doped to the gills. just read what kohl has to say about how easy it was to cheat the system.

    i know, he never tested positive- whatever… the earth orbits the sun too- i don’t have proof, but i don’t need it to beleive it.

  7. Touriste-Routier

    Not that I am arguing for ignoring the effects of doping, but please consider, that if “everyone is doing it” than the playing field is level. If this is/was the case, then the placings in and of themselves don’t need to be discounted.

    OK, I know that is an extremely skewed perspective, and that not everyone was doing it, but we very well know that there has been systematic doping for a long time. Enough so to be suspicious of everyone.

    I also think we need to be very careful of who we damn for eternity (Vino, Rasmussen, Ricco) and whom we prop up as heroes (Millar, Zabel, Museeuw). While admission is certainly commendable, saying I am sorry doesn’t negate the crime. That said, once you do your time, your sentence has been served, no matter how likable or not you might be.

    We also shouldn’t expect riders to readily admit their guilt when caught. The first instinct is to deny it, and the neither the UCI nor WADA provide much in terms of amnesty for admission. So where is the incentive, especially when the press and public have already convected you, and the chance of successful appeal is minute?

    Furthermore many of us recognize that there are serious flaws in the system in terms of testing standards and jurisprudence, as well as ways for illegal substances to be taken without malice or forethought (ex nutritional supplements & cold medications). Thus we probably need to be a little less judgmental when positive test results are announced. Many of us still want to believe that Floyd is/was innocent; I think some other riders are deserving of similar consideration.

    OK, I went beyond the scope again; time for me to shut up.

  8. Champs

    The GC podiums from 1999-2005 consisted of a who’s who of known dopers and/or dirty teams on the lower steps, with Lance Armstrong at the top. He’s either consistently just that much better than all the cheats or King of the Frauds, and I don’t blame anyone for arriving at the latter conclusion.

  9. Guy

    Armstrong beats the extremely drugged Pantani in any climb and there are doubts that he doped??! Surely you LA supporters jest!?!

  10. Tiffo

    I’m Done with blogs bitching and moaning about Lance Armstrong! Did he? does he dope? or is his comeback good for? or bad for the sport?

    I have met the man and spent a rather enjoyable 20 mins one on one talking kids bikes and holidays, during an evening at the 2009 Tour DownUnder private Cancer dinner. Yep sure it cost $’s but i would spend that and more to eat a nice meal and meet a really gracious host who is interested in each of his guests. During the race we bumped into each other on many occasions, waiting for lifts and riding lifts on each occasion he remembered me and asked how me how my wife and daughter were doing and asked me questions about AFL as he was getting his head around Aussie rules football.
    This is my only blog as i try not to pass public judgement on people i have not met or spent any time with. I like to take people at face value and hate Cynacism with a passion


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks so much for your passionate comments.

      Tiffo: I’m glad you’ve had a chance to experience the man in person. He’s a rare personality.

      If I may suggest, as long as we view this conversation through the lens of Armstrong, we aren’t likely to have a very productive conversation. Let’s be honest: our feelings about Armstrong are tantamount to politics. It’s pretty red state/blue state stuff. I’d love to see the conversation steer away from Armstrong and more into our feelings about those other performances. What about Johan Museeuw? I love that guy and I loved his victories but after he retired we found out fairly conclusively that he wasn’t clean; certainly we could have suspected it before, but I don’t want to judge someone on suspicions. I do believe we need to let the wheels of justice turn.

  11. SinglespeedJarv

    Rather than Museeuw, I was a fan of Wilfried Peeters, I was more a loyal domestique rider rather than a winner and I loved his brilliant tactical mind and the way he worked for the team despite him probably being good enough to have won Roubaix. The esteem that I held Peeters in vanished the moment Museeuw confessed to doping and Peeters dis-owned him. Some mate he was, 15years Peeters rode for Musseeuw and the moment his friend needs him, he drops him like a stone in order to protect his own career as a Directeur Sportif.

    As for Museeuw himself, some of his later Roubaix rides were fantastic, but I don’t believe his confession as to only doping at the end of his career, it defies logic and insults the fans intelligence if he thought we would believe him. I guess I feel quite disappointed, perhaps even let down, by the EPO generation but you can include the UCI in that as well.

    I’m as much interested in the amount of people who think that the best way to go is by giving them all drugs in order to create a level playing field. I can understand the illusion of this, but I thought this concept had been done to death years ago because it quite clearly won’t produce a level playing field

  12. Sophrosune

    If there were a foolproof method of catching every person, every time for doping, I would say make it illegal and ban the guilty parties. But there isn’t and we’re not even close. Everyone knows that one of the most effective methods is transfusions of your own blood to pump up that red blood cell count and there is still no accepted method for detecting that practice.

    I am torn between naivete and cynicism, which oddly results in the same in more or less the same place. I can remain naive and think that all the dopers are being caught and those that win races and are testing negative are legitimate winners, or I can figure that most or all of the top races are doping in one way or another so it hardly matters.

    Since the Landis case has come back into the news let me refer to that story. I really am not troubled by the idea that he did or didn’t take synthetic steroids before his remarkable effort to claw back 7 minutes from Periero on that hot mountain stage. It was still damn impressive, and I guess I am cynical enough to believe that if he was doping he wasn’t the only guy doing it in that race.

    It’s also hard to know where to draw the line between enhanced training techniques and doping. Nutritional supplements, hyperbaric chambers and steroid creams for saddle sores (Yes, Armstrong did test positive), are okay but transfusing yourself with your own blood is not.

    I am reminded of the idea that laws that cannot be enforced are not worthy of being laws. We may have the illusion that the doping rules are being enforced but we all know better. Don’t we?

  13. Roubaix

    Ok,
    What the “people” need to understand is this. These athletes have 2 choices. Work in the fields or factories, or, race a bike. The sponsors pay these guys to perform. If you do not perform, you are gone. Doping in some form has been there since the first LBL or Paris-Roubaix. That is the truth. It is everywhere including the amateurs and juniors. There is so much pressure, more than ever before, to make a “Spectacle” for the fans and sponsors. I pose this. If each one of you reading this had the chance to be there, to be on the start line for Flanders or Het Volk, and your family depended on you, what measures would you take to keep your job? As J. Anq. said, ” People who believe it is possible to race the whole year clean, are either naive or fooling themselves’.

  14. velomonkey

    Padraig – good post. As for Johan Museeuw – he’s a cheat. So too are most of the riders I admire. There are two things that I think need to be added:

    1. All Doping programs are not equal. Some are better than others with better effects and thus results and some of the ways to beat the system are more consistent. Just like some doctors are better than others . . . . it’s like when the Patriots got caught cheating by video taping. Everyone came to their defense and said if you’re not doing stuff like that, then you’re not trying to win. There is a reason why no one was ever caught while under Bruyneel and then they leave and suddenly they’re caught.

    2. Armstrong stands alone. There is no one even close to where that guy is. Museeuw in no way shape or form profits from some over arching media campaign that says he beat cancer and won the tour multiple times by shear hope and work. Armstrong plays this card and he plays it from the bottom of the deck. Show me anyone who has posters made, of themselves nevertheless, where it’s a picture of them and it says “Hope Rides Again.” It’s never happened. Show me anyone in the entire sport who gets one of the best sports writers, who also wrote their best selling book, goes to bat for a rider and says “you see all this number stuff, V02 et al, well Armstrong is a top pro, but not the Top. So how does he do it, one word, ‘will.’ No one gets this, not even in Belgium.

    Yea, I get pissed when people win by cheating. It makes me mad when I’m out there busting my ass, sporting my family and trying to top my 10 minute power effort and the only support I have is some acelerade. What pisses me off even more, though, is when someone cheats, wins and plays the system and everyone goes along and they profit in spades. Yea, maybe I should hate the game and not the player, but, like I said, this player stands along.

    I only wish LA would, at least once, ride freaking paris roubaix. Don’t tell me it’s a different time, I don’t care. In that regard, LeMond and his two 4th finishes he will always be the better rider – The Badger, the guy won it and then proclaimed to never want to come back. It might be French, but that’s panache.

  15. Lachlan

    Looking in retrospect does for me change things a bit when we look at the 1990s…. its done and dusted history and we can be fairly sure almost everyone was doped to the max. especially on EPO… so while it sucks in pure terms, we can still say Museeuw was doing all his great performances on a level playing field.

    To be clear, I do not think we should level the playing field for the future by allowing everything (rather we should have ever better tests). But for the past we can’t do anything, so we can simply take it as it was, and look at the relative performances in that light.

    as a side note that’s why the early 90’s is a special case where one generation suddenly was overtaken early (we can estimate) thanks to the arrival of the new EPO fuelled playing field. The performances were not on a level like later that decade when everyone and his dog was on the stuff…


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks so very much. This is really where I was hoping the conversation would go. I want to make a few comments and then get out of the way to let the conversation continue.

      1. The Level Playing Field. In talking with a few experts and in reading accounts from some riders (Eric Zabel among them) we’ve learned not everyone reacts the same to EPO or CERA. Take the finish order of the ’96 Paris-Roubaix. Had all those riders been truly clean, there’s a very high probability that the results would be fairly different. This detail really undermines the level playing field excuse and it really bugs me.

      2. Food on the Table. The riders have faced some rotten choices often driven by management, there’s no doubt that it’s a Faustian bargain. That said, there’s a bigger picture to consider: Without fans following the racing, the races are pointless. The riders are paid—and some are making big bucks—because sponsors want to reach those fans. The fans want clean sport and because what they see is unethical, some are turning away. Fewer eyes makes the marketing a less attractive investment. If those dollars (or euro) leave, then bike racing will be no more lucrative than a factory job. The message is clear: We want a clean sport and the sponsors don’t want the black eye of a Festina affair or Telekom fiasco.

      3. Transitions. We are living the era of ’90-94, only in reverse. That period of time was an ugly learning curve for the peloton and shattered more dreams than Paul Kimmage ever had. The self-doubt introduced by lackluster performances by supremely trained, clean athletes was a crime. We now have riders who truly seem to be clean once again, but getting the rest of the peloton off the meth will be hard, if not impossible.

      4. Wilfried Peeters. Pushing Museeuw in front of the bus was rotten, but he had little choice. There was zero incentive to tell the truth and plenty incentive to do EXACTLY what he did. In 2007 I wrote an op-ed piece for the LA Times in which I suggested the UCI and WADA needed to convene a truth and reconciliation commission a la South Africa. The powers that be at the UCI saw the piece and their reaction was to….

      5. Brand Armstrong. VeloMonkey makes a great point about the machinery behind Armstrong, but I believe it’s meant to sell Armstrong as a brand and that means different things to different people. It’s one thing to Nike, another thing to Trek, still another thing to fans and yet another still to cancer survivors. Ultimately, I think the marketing campaign does little to influence opinion on whether he’s clean or not. Now that I think about it, the question is a bit like Santa Claus. If you’re asking the question, you probably think he’s guilty.

      Here’s the piece: http://articles.latimes.com/2007/may/30/opinion/oe-brady30

  16. jza

    Very few top tier guys have failed tests or have solid evidence against them. Basso was never more than ‘Birillo’ in Fuentes’s notebook. Museeuw never had anything more than a prescription for his farm animals (who must have been FAST). Pantani never tested positive for anything. Hell, Festina was nothing more than circumstantial. Ol’ Willy Voet could have just been running errands for his buddy’s anemia clinic on the way to the race.

    Plenty of riders have been presumed guilty of doping because the amount of circumstantial evidence was impossible to ignore.

    So please Padraig, tell me this: How is a rider, whose VO2 max is reported to be, at best, in the low 80s able to win the Tour once? Let alone 7 times in a row. How is that not overwhelming evidence of doping? I find it no more believable than a small man from Cesenatico who magically has a hematocrit of 60 when he needs it.

    Please present a single piece of evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, that would suggest Lance’s career is due to anything other than blood doping.

    You can’t drive a Ferrari but never break the speed limit.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      JZA: Ron at Cozy Beehive has put together a very compelling argument based on the circumstantial evidence out there. It’s probably the best compendium of allegations out there. That said, he’s not an enforcement instrument and so Armstrong will continue to race.

      Pantani never tested positive, but he didn’t have to. The standard at the time was a hematocrit higher than 50. Let’s not forget the admissions riders made, which were often weak.

      As to Armstrong’s VO2 max, the lowest I’ve seen reported is 84. I’ve also seen 85, 88 and 90. You seem to be suggesting that drug use made him a great athlete, which, like your assertion that you can’t drive a Ferrari without breaking the speed limit, lacks any rationality. Armstrong was known as scary fast as a teenager. To suggest he is something other than an extremely talented athlete is to disconnect with reality.

      Even if you believe the allegations that Armstrong began using EPO following the 1994 Fleche Wallonne—and there isn’t a single allegation that it began earlier than that day when three Gewiss-Balln riders rode him off their wheel—that means his World Championship was won without the stuff.

      You asked.

  17. Souleur

    great thoughts.

    Been out of comission for a week, glad to be back.

    First, actually, as one that knows a bit more on the availability of testing, there actually is testing that is able to test everything, believe me. For auto-transfusion they do flow cytometry, for CERA they also now detect, its almost like any new technology we know there needs to be something of a detection model.
    Nonetheless, how does it occur that there may be instances that the numbers just don’t add up. Like for instance, VO2 max and true performance outcomes, ie Lance and 7 Tour wins, does that implicate dope? There are and always will be variability in testing, and there will always be reliability differences in testing. There are somethings we will never be able to test, the human spirit and the human will. However, it is testable from a humanity standpoint, we can see it, but you must look for it. It is an imperfect test however, but so are the others.

  18. Velosopher

    Very eloquent, Padraig, and I like your conclusion about the value of inspiration very much.

    I cleave to the opinion of Paul Fournel (in the book Need for the Bike) on the subject. I wrote a post about this topic, inspired by Fournel’s essay, and it’s perhaps the post I’m most proud of.

  19. jza

    I agree. Lance was a hell of a natural talent and would have been competitive in the Classics. His World Championship was most likely won without blood doping. He was nothing but a stage hunter in Grand Tours.

    Of course his VO2 is a well kept secret, but remember Ferrari first refused to work with him, basically because he wasn’t talented enough. Merckx himself had to convince Ferrari that Lance was worth the risk.

    Generally accepted undoped VO2 was high 70’s, low 80’s at BEST. Combine that with his tendency for low blood lactate, and that would give you a hell of a one day rider. That’s a great vo2 for a traiathlete. But to win a Grand Tour you need to be at 90, and he’s not close. That last 10% is the hardest part.

  20. Alex Torres

    Even if I as a kid had fallen in a pool of EPO like that guy Obelix, I wouldn´t be able to ride like Armstrong & Co., or finish a 3 week grand tour riding at 40+kph average. We tend to focus too much on doping because that´s all over the news and media these days, so it gets all too important but it´s only part of the sport.

    Talking about EPO it is in my opinion the big problem. It brought systematic, endemic doping to the scene, whereas in the past the riders had to find their own ways to keep going when empty, wasted or in great pain. There´s a huge difference and we can see it.

    More or less in the same way, Coppi, Anquetil and Merckx used amphetamines and similars to be able to ride the next day, not to improve performance by 10 or 15% like EPO and CERA users do. At least that´s what it seem to me. There´s a big difference in that too.

    Last, when we talk about bike racing, victory is a result of performance no doubt – strenght, VO², hematocrit and such. But also the result of teamwork,stretegy, savvy, opportunity, mental toughness, among other abilities for which we can´t buy smart-enhancing drugs (yet). Winning is a very, very complex math.

    Now on winning and Lance… no one wins the Tour de France 7 times in a row by chance or dope alone. He´s extremely detalist, organized, motivated and driven. By his own merits he assembled the support needed, that´s also a talent and it counts. Finally, let´s not forget he raced against highly organized, strong and capable teams and riders. I believe he could have won anything in cycling if he had so desired, not only because he´s strong (or doped, to whom it matters), but also because he´s an excellent rider in most aspects. But that will forever remain to speculation because he chose to focus on the Tour, and still does.

    For all those reasons I´m still inspired and excited by wins, even if a bit of the magic has been taken away by the doping stories and scandals. But it´s just a bit – I still enjoy bike riding and racing watching A LOT. At the core it´s a beautiful sport and that will never change, doping or not!

  21. velomonkey

    All pro riders are talented athletes. All of ‘em, even the guy in last place. I would bet a lot that all of us, doped to the nines, couldn’t stay on their wheel. With that understood, doping is like an aluminum bat in baseball – you still have to be able to hit a fast ball, but if you can then all the times you hit the ball 290 feet and just got out all of sudden the ball now goes 310 feet and is counted as a home run. Small distinction, big difference.

    Riis was a talented teen, Riis won the tour, and Riis never tested positive. Same with Museeuw, Millar, Basso, Ullrich and nearly all of the other athletes that are mentioned – they NEVER tested positive, they were caught by other means or admitted it after the fact. Vino, Landis, DiLucca and Ricco being the only ones as of late to get caught via a test.

    Beating a test is like a good carfax report for a used car – it means nothing and is the first step in a long process of confirmation, as Reagan said trust but verify. Failing a test is like a bad carfax report – great you caught something now stay away. As much as I enjoyed the racing of DiLuca and Ricco, the two are clearly idiotic in their practices.

    I agree that there are teams that practice clean racing and by and large their performance or lack thereof speak to that fact, but sadly I think while this is growing it’s still the minority.

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  23. SinglespeedJarv

    Wilf Peeters had plenty of choice, 2007 was a time of forgiveness if you told the story carefully. Riis and Zabel haven’t been hurt too much by “confessing”. Perhaps he had more incentive to do what he did rather than support a mate.

    It would be interesting to hear what Peeters has to say about his time as a racer and his relationship with Museeuw, perhaps they weren’t that close and pushing him under the bus wasn’t a difficult choice. But it was still a choice he made and there were other options.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      SinglespeedJarv: If I may, I must respectfully disagree with you. I don’t think 2007 was a time of forgiveness. The difference between Riis’ and Zabel’s confessions and what was going on with Museeuw was the time line. What Riis and Zabel admitted was beyond the statute of limitation, which is why at the same time Ullrich was denying he had participated in any doping. Had Peeters admitted anything, he would have been ripe for a ban, which would have ended his career as a director. He, like most riders, had zero incentive to tell the truth.

      The UCI has yet to give these guys one good reason to tell what they know.

  24. SinglespeedJarv

    Padraig, I’ll agree on the confession bit, but did Peeters need to tell the truth? He was under no requirement to do so. But my understanding of the situation was that he (and Lefevre) ceased all contact with Museeuw, effectively disowning him and pretty publicy as well. Now, that is Omerta.

    By all means keep your mouth shut about what you did, but instead he condemned and disowned an apparently very close friend, not for doping, but for admitting to doping, for telling the (partial?) truth. It’s the ‘shitting on a mate’ bit that took my admiration away from the guy.

    The UCI have no incentive to get the sport to own up. Chances are it would hurt them too much, cost them a lot of revenue…


    1. Author
      Padraig

      SinglespeedJarv: I recall smarting at the way Museeuw was disowned. It was an ugly thing to read. I figured it was just part and parcel of the process; they had to distance themselves from him in order to save the team further scrutiny. But to your point, even if behind closed doors they told Museeuw, “It’s going to go down like so. Here’s what we have to say, but you’re still our buddy,” it must have hurt terribly to hear in public.

      I do think the UCI has incentive to clean the sport up. A clean sport will attract bigger sponsors with even more money. Unfortunately, the job before them is immense. Only the most ambitious person would want to drive across Europe in a Chevrolet Chevette.

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