Alberto Contador has been determined to have Clenbuterol in his system. Clenbuterol is a banned substance. Contador is guilty of doping, right?
Maybe, maybe not. Let’s consider the situation in the abstract. Let’s imagine Contador as the driver of a car and doping as a pedestrian.
Scenario 1: A guy driving down the street at night doesn’t see a pedestrian step out from behind a car. The pedestrian is drunk, stumbles backward and falls in the driver’s path. The pedestrian is run over and dies. The driver stops and waits for the police at the scene.
Scenario 2: A guy driving down the street at is speeding, enjoying his new sports car. He’s traveling 110 mph and when he suddenly sees a pedestrian in a cross walk. He hits the brakes, but it’s too late; his car fishtails and hits the pedestrian, killing him. The driver stops and waits for the police at the scene.
Scenario 3: A guy driving down the street at night and sees the boss who fired him a week before for stealing from the company. In a fit of rage he swerves and bowling pins the old boss, killing him instantly. The driver flees the scene, but is caught soon after.
Scenario 4: A guy is pissed that his boss fired him for stealing from the company. He waits in his car outside the guy’s house. When the ex-boss comes out of his house, the guy steps on the gas and runs him over. Unsure that the boss is definitely dead, he backs over the guy, spins his tires and then flees the scene, but is caught soon after.
We have four different events that share a death. What separates them is intent. The principles of jurisprudence in most countries hold that in scenario 1, the driver is not at fault; no crime was committed. However, in scenario 2 the driver didn’t mean to kill the pedestrian either, but he failed to take adequate care for the health and safety of others; a crime was committed, involuntary manslaughter. In scenario 3, the driver murders his boss, pure and simple, but it was an act committed as an “act of passion.” His future prospects aren’t good; in most places, he faces a likely prison sentence of life. In scenario 4, the driver has planned his murder. As human beings, we generally agree that premeditated murder is one of the worst crimes you can commit. In some places, he faces a possible death sentence.
With Alberto Contador’s case, I believe we can outline three possible scenarios by which the Clenburterol entered his body.
Scenario 1: Contador raced the Tour de France clean and ate steaks that his team chef traveled with in an effort to control his diet as rigorously and responsibly as possible.
Scenario 2: Contador raced the Tour but accepted a bottle from a fan out on the road. The fan happened to want to see a certain Luxembourger win and also happened to be a fan of Macchiavelli. Because ends justify means in the authors world, the fan spiked the bottle with Clen, hoping a positive test would knock Contador out of the Tour.
Scenario 3: Contador took Clenbuterol to help him lose weight in the spring and withdrew blood too shortly after taking the Clenbuterol, which is why the concentration was so low.
Scenario 2 is far-fetched the way a walk to Nevada is, if you’re starting in Texas. Still. Due to the concept of strict liability, any rider who has a banned substance in his body is guilty. It is the responsibility of the rider to demonstrate that the substance arrived by means not nefarious.
It is my personal belief that unless Contador proves conclusively that the Clen entered his body accidentally, he hasn’t distinguished himself from the rider who meant to dope. This isn’t American jurisprudence and so the notion of reasonable doubt isn’t at issue. Dog-ate-homework excuses have been trotted around by every doper since admitting doping became a career liability … which was fairly recent, in fact.
Let’s put this another way: Strict liability means a rider is guilty of scenario 4—murder—unless he proves otherwise. A rider is literally as guilty as can be. Think of strict liability as a bit like Napoleonic code: guilty until proven innocent.
The Napoleonic code seems a barbaric way to mete justice. It can be difficult and often downright impossible to prove a negative. With doping, the situation is different. We start with a given: a test reports that a rider tested positive. Because the rider agreed to the rules of his national federation and the UCI, this is no time to say he doesn’t like the system. If he didn’t dope, he must prove he was a victim of circumstance.
Contador has offered up a reasonable explanation. However, according to the rules handed down by the UCI, that’s not sufficient. To deserve anything less than a typical two-year ban, he really must prove his case. Had he produced a steak purchased from the same butcher who sourced it from the same rancher, I expect the Spanish Federation and the UCI could have reasonably given him a one-year sentence. I don’t think it’s as rigorous scientifically as the sport deserves (it certainly wouldn’t stand up in an episode of CSI Miami), but the UCI (not to mention the Spanish Federation) isn’t exactly a bastion of logical thought.
From everything I’ve been able to find out Contador has provided nothing more than a story and when doping is present, stories are worth less than chaff, and to most reasonable people, anything short of a smoking steak isn’t adequate.
Were Contador to prove his intent, I’d immediately change my position on him. Further, I’d put it, and an apology, in a post.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Today, there is only one cyclist on planet Earth, and he’s suspended. Unless you’re dead, you’ve read the story. The Spanish cycling federation has proposed a one-year suspension for Alberto Contador, subsequent to his positive clenbuterol test from last summer’s Tour de France. The rider can appeal the proposal, though who knows what that means, and he has vowed, through his spokesman to fight any sanction.
This week’s Group Ride asks the obvious question: Has Contador been treated fairly?
David Garcia received a two year suspension for an EPO positive at the Vuelta, as the rules stipulate he must. Assuming Contador is guilty (which the UCI and Spanish federation must believe he is) is Garcia’s offense worse than Contador’s?
Of course, EPO isn’t found in beef, as a matter of course, but the anti-doping codes don’t seem to differentiate between substances an athlete has to buy on the black martket versus substances that might be ingested in food or supplements.
Callum Priestley, a young English hurdler, was recently suspended for two years on the back of a Clenbuterol positive. Like Contador, he blamed tainted meat, consumed in South Africa, for his adverse finding. The English didn’t care.
And of course, there’s Li Fuyu, the Radio Shack rider who was suspended for Clenbuterol in the spring of 2010. He too claimed contamination. The UCI didn’t care. He’s out for two years.
On the other side of the ledger, Italian Alessandro Colo of the ISD-Neri team, also tested positive for the stimulant at last year’s Vuelta a Mexico, and he attributed his positive to eating contaminated meat in Mexico. Italian officials gave Colo a reduced, one-year sentence.
To my mind, Contador’s actual guilt seems secondary to the discussion. At this stage, it can seemingly neither be proved or disproved. What remains are the positive tests and the rules governing them.
We might argue that the rules could/should be changed, but that doesn’t get to the issue of whether or not Contador has had a fair shake. Clearly, the process that has brought us to this point in the story has been drawn out in a singular way. None of the other suspended athletes named here had so long to mount a defense or were given the option to respond to a “proposed” ban.
One might believe, however, that the protracted nature of proceedings has actually hurt Contador worse than an expeditious ban.
We leave that all to you though.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
In light of the reports regarding Alberto Contador’s imminent, one-year vacation, we’re thinking double extra hard about different ways to clean up the sport. The other day we discussed the need for greater decisiveness from the UCI and more draconian application of the rules.
Who really has the power in pro cycling? It’s an imprecise question. It yields some obtuse answer about the various parties involved, the UCI, the state federations, the Pro and Pro Continental teams, the sponsors and the race organizers. Assign percentages. Divide and debate.
A more precise question is: Where’s the money?
It is true that the UCI, federations, teams and sponsors all have an interest in clean racing, but it is also true that each of those stake holders has some motive for winning, regardless of the methods. The UCI needs champions in order to grow the sport. More than that, they need spectacle and drama. They need superhumanity. Obviously, doping scandals hurt their brand, but what weapons have they got? We’ve already talked about how ineffective their current approach has been, suspend and litigate.
The federations also want champions, riders from their countries standing atop podiums. They want clean athletes, but they only really need their athletes to be cleaner than the others. They also have no real power, just a smaller player in the suspend and litigate system.
The teams are the most compromised. They need to appear to be clean, but if they don’t win races, it doesn’t matter much whether they’re clean or dirty as a dormant coal mine. They lose sponsorship either way.
The sponsors have money, it’s true, but they’re in the same boat with the teams. They want the publicity that comes from winning races. They want a spot in the Tour caravan. Doping scandals may or may not hurt them. Festina reported selling more watches in the year following their team’s expulsion from the 1998 Tour.
That brings us to the race organizers. It brings us to the Amaury Sports Organization (ASO).
As most folks know, the ASO runs the Tour de France, the biggest cash cow in the sport. What they may not know is that they also own and/or operate the Tour of Qatar, Tour of Oman, Paris-Nice, Critérium International, Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Vuelta España, Tour de l’Avenir and Paris-Tours. In short, ASO is the gatekeeper. More than anyone else, they have the power.
So what if the ASO implemented its own anti-doping policy, some more clearly stated variation on what they do now. Yes, Tour director Christian Prudhomme has been sending the teams messages for years. Embarrass the Tour and you become persona non grata in France, in July. But the rules aren’t written, and they’re not hard or fast.
If the ASO made the simple policy of barring riders who had tested positive from competing in any other of their races, it would send a shock wave through the peloton. Gone would be David Millar, Ivan Basso, Alexandre Vinokourov, et. al. It would be a loss, but it would be a tolerable one to get our sport back from middle pages of scandal-addicted newspapers.
Not being able to race in ASO races would decrease even the most talented rider’s value so significantly as to virtually end their careers. Am I really going to pay Vinokourov’s salary only to have him compete in the Giro and some subsection of the rest of the season? And what if Giro director Angelo Zomegnan buys into this approach? To borrow and phrase from another sport, game, set, match. Over.
I am sure that the deal hammered-out between the UCI and race organizers to guarantee selection to the biggest races for the entire list of ProTeams contains some provision for teams who harbor convicted dopers. I would argue that there is almost no way, under law, for the ASO to be compelled to allow the participation of riders whose presence might devalue their primary assets.
The ASO could make this happen. But will they?
Over the last decade, the ASO has acquired a number of big races, expanding their cycling portfolio to its current size, and glancing down the list you will see three of the seven spring classics, two of the three grand tours, the most prestigious one week stage race (Paris-Nice) and one of the big fall classics (Paris-Tours). How many more races would they need before they could effectively take cycling private, marginalize the UCI, and run their own show? It seems outlandish, but … outlandish is what cycling does, isn’t it? Perhaps it will take a paradigm shift like this, a breakaway if you will, to win the race against doping. Perhaps this is our last, best hope.
We saw this coming. Anyone who didn’t see a suspension looming for Alberto Contador probably didn’t think the worldwide real estate bubble would burst, that the summer of love would end or that drugs would continue to be a problem for cycling. The Spanish Cycling Federation really didn’t have many choices. Even though some media quotes suggest that certain members of the federation would have acted to protect Contador, it would have been suicidal for the federation to absolve him of any infraction.
Even if it was conclusively proven that a team of rogue ninjas mugged Contador, strapped him down and then placed a cookie jar over his hand, his hand was not allowed in the cookie jar under any circumstances. Strict liability. The rules really didn’t allow for another outcome.
American cyclist Scott Moninger mounted mounted the most rigorous defense ever presented to show that the presence of a banned substance in his body got there unintentionally. Moninger tested positive for 19-norandrosterone due to a tainted supplement. He bought up other containers of the dietary supplement and had them tested to demonstrate how the substance entered his body. He still got a one-year suspension.
By comparison, Contador has floated theories that have mostly involved tossing the whole of the Spanish beef-producing industry under the bus. It may be that he genuinely doesn’t know where the Clenbuterol came from, how it entered his body. He has, however, a problem that Moninger didn’t have. His test sample showed evidence of plasticizers that are used to keep equipment used in blood transfusions soft and pliable. Think of plasticizers as lotion for plastics.
While there is no rule specifically against plasticizers, the UCI’s ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ view of the world suggests they are unlikely to be satisfied with a single year’s suspension for el Pistolero.
The issue here is not whether Contador deserves a more significant suspension, it’s that by not handing him a more significant suspension, the Spanish Federation may have actually prolonged Contador’s agony. Should the UCI appeal his suspension, the fighting could go on longer than the current length of his suspension.
It’s hard to think that a cycling story could eclipse the current Sports Illustrated piece concerning the investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service cycling team by Jeff Novitzky, but here we are. Current Tour de France champion stripped of title and suspended for doping beats story of 10-year-old allegations into Lance Armstrong’s alleged doping.
Should the UCI accept the one-year suspension and not appeal for something longer, we are still within our right to ask about the suspension as determined. How useful is a one-year suspension?
Contador is 28. Suspended for one year, he’ll come back to compete in the Tour de France at the ripe old age of … 29. And after all, 29 is generally considered to be roughly the peak of a cyclist’s powers.
Had Contador tested positive for, say, heroin, I would have been suspicious that something odd had happened. I would be hesitant to believe that he took that drug. However, the Clenbuterol and plasticizer fit precisely within the logic of what a Grand Tour rider would take. To the degree that there’s been a rush to judgement on Contador, it’s been because the substances found in his sample fit within what we know of doping practices by those attempting to win stage races.
I’ve tried, from time to time, to suspend not disbelief, but belief. If I’m honest, I was suspicious of Contador’s success during the 2009 Tour. Certainly his performance in the final time trial at Lake Annecy strained my credulity. It couldn’t have been less believable to me even if director Michael Bay had added machine guns, car crashes and explosions.
It is because I have trouble believing that he’s only accidentally guilty that I wonder if a single year suspension is enough. Perhaps his suspension as recommended by the Spanish Federation won’t matter, even if the UCI doesn’t appeal it. It seems possible that the Amaury Sport Organization will just refuse to invite any team he’s on—in perpetuity.
And if they do that, could we blame them?
It’s easy to wonder just what’s on the mind of Pat McQuaid. I honestly don’t know how his mind works. However, I do wholly believe that Christian Prudhomme wants the Tour de France competed in and won by clean athletes. And I think part of the ASO’s issue with the UCI is that they don’t see the Aigle Cabal as doing enough to protect their interests.
Twelve months from now we may be saying, “Woe be unto thee who hires Alberto Contador.”
It may be that hiring him doesn’t ensure victory; instead it may only ensure what races you’re not doing.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
In 2002 I got a loan from my father as well as one from my mom, emptied my 401k and sold four bikes. Totaled, it would have been a downpayment for a modest house, just not in LA. Why? Because I was stuck in my life.
I was one of the editors for a magazine called Bicycle Guide for a few years in the late ‘90s and was on assignment in France when the publisher pulled the plug. The magazine had weathered a few lousy years and seemed to be making a turnaround when they killed it, 10 months before Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France. After that, the whole road market experienced a turnaround even a Mini Cooper could admire.
Once home, I moped. The world didn’t make sense to me. The magazine had a readership of 100,000, give or take. There were advertisers. And the publisher had a bloated payroll filled with executives that fought over just how cheap to be. I figured a lean operation could unite the loyal readers with good content. And the lean operation could offer reasonable ad rates to reach those readers.
But in 1999, paper was passé. There was this thing called the Internet and people were willing to throw money at me to the tune of six figures for an operation that would have no identifiable revenue stream. A magazine? Was I out of my mind?
I told one potential investor: “I don’t want to cut paychecks for a year, I want to be cutting them ten years from now.” I should have taken the money and had fun running a cycling web site until the money ran out, but my moral compass wouldn’t let me. Damn magnetism.
I had dozens of meetings with potential investors that went nowhere, so finally I did the one thing everyone said not to do: I invested my own money.
Which brings us back to why. I was stuck in my life because I needed to take the best swing I could at this, and I felt like I hadn’t made every sacrifice I could to make this dream real. So I launched Asphalt Magazine with a partner and a handful of freelance contributors.
Plot spoiler: It failed. (Not that you didn’t already know that).
The fault rests with me. I wasn’t the right guy. I wasn’t a tough enough manager, wasn’t a slick enough salesman, wasn’t a guy who could run on two hours of sleep. I’ve got a garage full of magazines and no regrets. That said, my greatest shock came when I approached the industry for advertising. A number of companies told me point blank: We’re going to sit out the first year and see how you do.
Which brings me to peloton magazine. Brad Roe, Tim Schamber, Ben Edwards and Adam Reek are industry vets. Peloton magazine is not just the best independently produced magazine the bike industry has ever seen, it’s the best, period. I heard from any number of Asphalt readers who swore that my magazine was the best bike mag they’d ever seen. I’m telling you on no uncertain terms peloton is superior. From running on time to negotiating a killer distribution deal before a single magazine had been produced, they have delivered in every way you can.
But as a new publishing company, they need to prove that they can make it without the muscle of an entrenched publisher behind them. In short, they need subscribers. I can guarantee you that bike companies have told them what they told me, that they’d wait and see. Why they do this defies explanation. It’s like going to the polling place and not voting because you want to see if your guy actually gets elected.
Brad and Tim have given me more latitude as a writer and photographer than anyone has ever given me—except maybe myself. It’s an uncommon event in a writer’s life that you’re encouraged to rise to an occasion, to deliver the smartest, bravest work you can. To paraphrase Spock, my first, best, destiny is as a feature writer and columnist, and Brad is giving me rope enough to hang myself daily.
I believe peloton is an unusual magazine, one that comes along maybe once in a generation.
I’ve reviewed and recommended a great many items and experiences here at RKP. I’ve never requested anything of you, the readers. That you all read, which is proving to be an increasingly rare activity in this world, has been enough for which to be grateful.
To those of you who have already stepped up and purchased a subscription to peloton, thank you.
To those of you who have purchased a single copy of peloton on the newsstand and liked what you read, please subscribe.
To those of you who have yet to see an issue of peloton, if you like exciting content about your favorite sport and want to see stories of unusual origin, features that go unexpected places, take a chance on Brad’s brainchild.
Each new subscription tells the industry that you’re hungry for content beyond race results. Brad, Tim, Adam, Ben and the rest of the crew have stepped up for the cycling community in a big way. They’ve put previously secure jobs and their families on the line for this. Don’t wait. Don’t see. A subscription is a small risk in a dangerous world. One that will be rewarded with each new issue.
These guys burn with a holy light for cycling and after reading a copy, it’s my belief you won’t want anything so much as to go for a ride. And isn’t that what a bike mag should do for you?
It should be clear to everyone involved at this point, that the disciplinary process for rule-breaking riders is hopelessly slow, convoluted and ineffective. Further, the length of time it has taken for the UCI and Spanish Federation to figure out what to do with Alberto Contador’s doping positive has compounded the damage of the “adverse clinical finding” ten fold. Pro cycling is killing itself slowly, with drugs, indecision and incompetence.
It seems like every other article I read these days concerns either Contador and the Godot-like wait for a verdict on his case OR Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis and the grand jury that cogitates in silence on an entire era of alleged pro cycling malfeasance.
This morning it occurred to me that FIFA, the governing body of football (soccer), would never do this to itself. Corrupt though it may be, FIFA lets nothing stand in the way of the game. If football’s biggest star, probably Lionel Messi at the moment, were found to have spiked his corn flakes with banned substances they would have, in conjunction with the Spanish FA, suspended him for some arbitrary length of time and left the chips to fall where they might.
FIFA doesn’t care that much about what’s fair. It allows football fans to seethe in rage, to debate in the most colorful language, to riot in the streets, but eventually to let the games go on. Messi would sit. He might appeal. His appeal would be upheld or denied, and the game would go on, and on, and on, earning and entertaining as it went.
Neither FIFA nor the UCI are governmental organizations. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hears any extra-organizational cases brought to them, and rules with the force of law.
What the UCI calls “complex,” FIFA calls ordinary. Where cycling dithers, dodge, obfuscates and ponders, FIFA decides.
It is fair to suggest that there is a far bigger doping problem in football than in cycling. It is fair to say that cycling is infinitely more transparent in the way it deals with its athletes. It is fair to say that FIFA is an oligarchy of corrupt old men who pillage their sport’s multi-billion dollar/euro/yuan/shekel revenues for their own fortunes and power. Those things all might be true. Or not.
But what you can’t say is that cycling runs its business more effectively. Someone at the UCI (paging Mr. McQuaid … Mr.McQuaid to the white courtesy telephone) needs to understand that they are as complicit in the sport’s demise as the dopers who steal the headlines. As every official from Paris to Madrid scrambles to avoid accountability for Contador’s ultimate fate, the fiddle music grows louder and Rome continues to burn.
In the 7th century B.C., a law scribe named Draco converted the system of oral law in force in Athens to a set of written laws, famous for their severity. In modern times, “draconian” has a pejorative connotation, but what Draco intended was for the law to be clear and decisive. Setting aside the issue of appropriate punishments for a cyclist’s indiscretions (most minor crimes in the Draconian system were punishable by death), perhaps what the sport needs is a little more draconian application of its rules.
There is a saying that goes something like this, “It is far easier to beg forgiveness, than ask permission.” The UCI needs to act quickly and decisively in all doping-related matters. It can apologize to those it wrongs later.
Alberto Contador may or may not have cheated in order to win bike races. Even when we get a verdict, some will believe and others won’t. All of that is immaterial now. In effect, the reigning Tour de France champion has already served 6 months of a purgatorial sentence. No matter what happens next, the Spaniard has lost, and cycling has, too.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
In a departure from recent tradition, Christian Prudhomme released the list of Tour de France team invitations early. Twenty-two teams were on the list, the eighteen ProTeams and four wild cards, all French. The managers of FDJ, Saur-Sojasun, Cofidis and Europcar must have been giggling over their morning croissants. Mauro Gianetti at Geox – TMC, excluded from the race, despite having former Tour winner Carlos Sastre and regular podium finisher Denis Menchov on their roster, was not nearly so pleased.
Prudhomme insisted his team selections were about supporting French cycling, but not everyone bought that explanation.
As John Wilcockson wrote for VeloNews, Geox-TMC’s summer vacation is less about Prudhomme favoring French teams, but rather more about old vendettas against Giannetti. The Italian had managed the Saunier-Duval team of Ricardo Ricco, the Italian climber banned for two years, busted at the 2008 Tour. No matter that Gianetti immediately fired Ricco, the Geox-TMC boss in persona non grata for Prudhomme and ASO.
Is it odd then that BMC rides so many ASO events, despite their connection to the Phonak team, also run by Andy Rihs? Phonak won the 2006 Tour with their leader Floyd Landis. Has there been a more embarrassing event in recent Tour history than Landis’ disqualification?
This week’s Group Ride asks the following: Is Geox-TMC’s exclusion fair? Does the invitation of demonstrably weaker French teams hurt the race? What do you think about ASO punishing teams for the behavior of past riders?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Bashing Floyd Landis has become something of a past time for cycling fans. Even before his first implosion he was a rough-hewn character, the Crocodile Dundee of the cycling world. Within the US Postal Service Team he was Oscar to Lance Armstrong’s Felix in the boys in blue’s production of “The Odd Couple.”
From his first explanation for his positive test (Jack Daniels) he showed a capacity for the unexpected that could take even a fortune teller by surprise. His book, “Positively False” showed a rebellious, impish spirit designed almost perfectly to clash with Armstrong’s iron fist management. As an expression of spirit, it was an entertaining read and fairly complete in its examination of his career—with one not-so-small omission: his pharmacy.
I wrote several posts concerning Landis’ defense and read the entire transcript of the CAS appeal at Pepperdine University. While the UCI acted on an understandable “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” premise, I’m convinced they never actually caught Landis. The initial test was so poorly performed that the case against him should have been dropped. My problem with the case wasn’t that I wanted a cheat to win, it was that I didn’t want to see the same tactics result in the suspension of an innocent rider.
In a spectacular variation on the “guilty but not responsible” defense, I can see how he might have thought, “I’m accused of something I didn’t actually do. I can beat this, because they didn’t catch me at what I did do.”
Who wouldn’t think that?
Landis’ career and life were utterly destroyed as he pursued his defense. Many people are angry that a guilty man took money from them to mount an extraordinarily expensive, but ultimately fruitless, defense. Viewed through the mindset outlined above, an argument can be made that he wasn’t cheating anyone.
But for those who didn’t provide for his defense, an understandable outrage remains: Landis’ doping case cost USADA so much to prosecute that they ran other efforts on reduced budgets. In short, Landis’ defense impinged on other anti-doping efforts.
Since changing his story, cycling fans and the media have seized upon his story as either the raving of a lunatic or the smoking gun necessary to bring down Big Tex. What’s amazing is how often I encounter people who didn’t believe he was innocent when he first tested positive and yet don’t believe him now that he has confessed to doping.
Which is it, people? It can’t be both.
While it is logically possible that both stories could be complete fabrications, that’s highly unlikely. A lie is told to serve a larger purpose and if Landis is lying now, we have to ask the question: ‘To what purpose?’
If what he says isn’t true, the ramifications for him could include jail time, which is perhaps the only meaningful deterrent for him as he is essentially without assets at this point and what lawyers frequently refer to as “judgement-proof.” And I don’t think Landis would willingly choose jail as an alternative to unemployment.
Still, Landis hasn’t made this easy for himself. While he has given investigator Jeff Novitzky a variety-pack of allegations that the dogged and successful investigator is chasing, he has also handed us gems like the suggestion that the UCI protected some riders.
While I can name instances—for which I was present—where the UCI’s application of its own rules was highly irregular, I never saw anything that bordered on protecting a doped rider. That’s not to say it hasn’t happened; Landis has yet to provide anything stronger than a rumor and his other allegations suffer for it.
Now, Landis has asserted that cycling is the Superfund Site of sports, an endeavor in which doping is so inextricably entwined that cleaning it up is less likely than man traveling at the speed of light. His solution? Open a top fuel division: allow doping.
Look, I believe that Landis has seen things and knows things that could help to shed light to investigators on the doping front. Think of him as first mate on the Santa Maria. His eyewitness accounts of Columbus’ voyage to the west would be invaluable. We need him to talk.
However, every time he opens his mouth on something he didn’t personally do or see, he gets into trouble. What he doesn’t understand is that his usefulness to cycling does not extend, currently, to suggestions such as eliminating the doping code.
Here’s something that is not a newsflash: Doping will never be eliminated. In any population there will be those who cut corners, push the bounds, cheat. Those few should not cause an entire society to capitulate. Just because people are murdered, should we all carry guns?
Because so much of what Landis has to say seems to be based in the same variety of nuttiness that led the Octomom to become the world’s only single mother to 14 children, many people simply write him off. It’s understandable, if tragic.
Years ago I knew someone who would buy Lucky Charms cereal and pour small bowls of it and pick the marshmallows out, leaving behind the cereal, which was just Alphabits. I always thought of it as a waste of cereal. Landis has given me the capacity to see the merit in just extracting the tiny bits of gold that are presented. Maybe it’s unfair to compare him to a marshmallow, but not everything that comes out of his mouth is crazy. In dismissing everything he says as a fabrication from whole cloth, we lose an opportunity to learn from his experiences as a rider, and we do that at our own peril.
What he knows could provide an invaluable education to both the UCI and to WADA.
What Landis doesn’t seem to understand is that the UCI can’t be treated as an adversary if your purpose is to help expose the doping problems inherent in cycling. Unfortunately, Pat McQuaid is Floyd Landis’ doppelgänger, and in that he is no less likely to make statements of such sweeping irresponsibility that we have little use for them except to fertilize the whole of the plains states.
This week, with little surprise, Landis announced his retirement, effective immediately. It’s easy to turn his announcement into a joke about the obvious—that he really had no career currently—but the sadder truth is that it was an admission on his part that it was time to let go of a dream.
Landis knows things, helpful things. We should hear him out and we should show him some compassion. He’s lost everything he worked for. Is that really the just result for his transgressions?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Here, all that was fluffy is now slush. All that was white has gone gray. The river has freed itself from its icy cover, and sea birds cluster together and bob with the current. Those who ride their bikes evoke snorts of derision from pedestrians and motorists. They slip and slide in the frozen muck and spew it from their back wheels as they go.
In Australia, a pack of ludicrously skinny men are pedaling their bicycles through the Southern summer, racing each other, while those of us on this side of the planet cling for warmth to burgeoning body fat.
If your boots aren’t waterproof or you’ve opted for style over substance, you are likely sitting at your desk in sodden socks contemplating hypothermia. You raise your eyes to the horizon, looking for some sign of spring, but lower them again. We’re not even close.
For me, the Tour Down Under is a potentially great race. Picking up from our last Group Ride, Australia is a sports mad country. It offers beautiful countryside and friendly people. The Aussie contingent of the pro peloton is growing and growing. The TDU is everything the UCI’s globalization plan seeks to achieve, planting the seed of cycling passion in fertile ground and tending it carefully.
If we tilt our heads to one side and squint just the right way, maybe we can see the first tendrils of the new cycling season pushing through the earth. It’s a trick of perception and imagination, and one we need desperately to pull off, while our socks are drying.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Peter Post, who was a professional rider from 1956 to 1972, has died. To most cyclists of my generation Post is best remembered as the team director of the Dutch Panasonic team through several different sponsor incarnations. Today’s Rabobank team is directly descended from the Panasonic-Raleigh team Post founded in 1984. Rabobank’s current director, Erik Breukink is but one of many great riders Post guided to success.
It’s the rare rider who wouldn’t prefer to be remembered in their prime, immortalized in a moment of mastery and exhilaration. Though Post raced on both the road and the track, he found his greatest success on the track. He was called “The Emperor of the Six Days” in deference to Rik Van Looy who was known simply as “The Emporer.”
Post’s most significant win was his only victory at a Monument: the 1964 Paris-Roubaix. Completed in record speed, cycling fans sometimes wonder if the victory was tainted by our ever-present scourge. Accounts of the day tell of a howling tailwind, not amphetamines.
Images: John Pierce, Photosport International