The Gods, the Bad, the WTF?

All things considered, this has to be the strangest  two weeks of my cycling life. A bit over a week ago I had the worst crash I’ve ever suffered on the bike. To give you some idea how radical my impact was, the only image I can conjure to describe the experience is the Looney Tunes short in which the ACME catapult slams Wile E. Coyote into the dirt. My experience would have been just as comical had it not been, you know, me.

It takes a most unusual calculus to figure that 47 stitches is in any way a blessing, but it’s been 13 or 14 years since I was last on the deck courtesy of a road bike. Pardon me, but I kinda feel like my number was up. Not crashing for more than 10 years is its own kind of fortune. Similarly, the fact that I didn’t manage to break my jaw or any teeth, or bite through my tongue is luck on a scale that could make me as superstitious as the entire European peloton. Where’s my rabbit’s foot? Screw that, somebody get me the whole damn bunny, STAT!

But my crash came the day the USADA “Reasoned Decision” on Lance Armstrong was issued and trying to read pieces of that on my iPhone in the ER through the lens of a morphine drip was as comically black as Slim Pickens riding the nuke in “Dr. Strangelove,” just minus the glee. Again, you’ll have to pardon me, but this would be where I think the gods gave me a taste of cosmic irony.

Oh yeah bud? Mid-morning ride? You think you can afford that time away, do you? How ’bout this? WHAP!

Tess of the d’Urbervilles didn’t know how good she had it.

The hand-wringing over the derailment of the Blue Train has been enough to break fingers. The anger burning in cycling fans has hovered like a swarm of Africanized bees, swirling around, looking for its most suitable victim. Here are a few stings for the riders, a few more for the media, a couple for the sponsors who turned a blind eye to the obvious, a dozen more for the UCI. The rest can go to everyone who ever drew a paycheck from Tailwind Management. But wait, let’s save a couple for Chechu Rubiera for being more tone deaf than a whale oil lamp. Speaking to El Diario de Mallorca (link is to the Cyclingnews piece), the newspaper of record of Mallorca (yeah, Chechu, to defend your former team captain make sure to talk to the smallest newspaper possible, preferably one on an island), he said he never saw Armstrong dope. Okay, fine, maybe he didn’t—but that doesn’t do much to rebut the testimony of those who did. Weirder still, he called Michele Ferrari the best coach there is.

Well, I suppose in a way, we can all agree on that.

It’s a shame he doesn’t grasp that his defense did nothing to help Armstrong but did a marvelous job of making him (Rubiera) look like a tinfoil hat.

But that hardly counts as news compared to the fact that the UCI has attempted to distance itself from its once favorite son, Armstrong. It announced that, yes, it will ratify the USADA reasoned decision, thus stripping him of his seven Tour wins, plus every other result he gained since August 1, 1998. This is either but one important step to cleaning up the sport, or it is the sound of the other shoe dropping—in other words, the end of the progress surrounding this case. Previous episodes, such as the Festina scandal, would suggest this is as far as this episode will drive, but other events suggest this car hasn’t hit its tree just yet.

I just didn’t have the same yee-ha feeling.

The flight of sponsors from Armstrong in just two days was to watch the inverse of the Titanic. Rather than people jumping off a ship, this was nearly a dozen ships jumping off a person. How many dollars left the bike industry that day? Think of what you could have funded with that! (I mean, aside from the world’s best doping program.) And the LA Times has weighed in now with an editorial—rather than the skewed perspective of Michael Hiltzik (and while he makes some good points, he can’t change the obvious)—that calls for Armstrong to cut all ties to his eponymous foundation, which is a severing of ties so monumental it’s a bit like suggesting all the disgraced banks abandon their office buildings on Wall St. One is synonymous with the other. Gads, he could be forced to fly coach after this.

Finally, we finally have for all to see a true one-to-one correlation between doping and sponsor departure. For years to come Google searches of “Lance Armstrong” and “sponsor” will turn up item upon item about the sponsor diaspora from the one-time marketing goldmine that was Big Tex. If anything will ever demonstrate to cycling just how seriously sponsors dislike doping, no moment is more teachable.

It’s been curious to sit back and watch the incredible flood of negative stories that are now surfacing about Armstrong. The way these stories—take this one for instance—were kept under wraps for so long and yet now are bubbling out like an over-soaped load of laundry is as wondrous as the comeback was itself. Who knew?

It’s into this maelstrom of seething, mama-grizzly rage that Skins chairman Jaimie Fuller issued his open letter to UCI president Pat McQuaid. Incredibly, going to the compression wear maker’s home page brings up Fuller’s introduction to the letter, complete with his picture, which is a fine way to really personalize the message; honestly, it’s a better touch than a signature. It’s a genius move—seriously—someone should have done before now.

Of course the week’s events can’t be as cut-and-dried as that. No, they have to be salted. Rabobank, cycling’s single most loyal sponsor, announced they are ending their sponsorship of their team following a 17-year run.  Their official statement cited the USADA investigation into Armstrong and US Postal as their reason for pulling out of the sport, but of course, nothing is ever as simple as it looks. Rather than damn the athlete and his team, Rabobank official aimed a scathing attack at the UCI, writing, “The report shows that the international cycling world is flawed. Doping is supported even within the highest institutions of the cycling world.”

The UCI’s response was so off the mark that crews are working to pull its fuselage out of Lake Geneva. Rather than accept the criticism that most of the cycling world believes the organization to be corrupt they “accepted” that the sponsor was pulling out due to the organization opening disciplinary proceedings against one of its sponsored riders, Carlos Barredo, going as far as to cite, “a more recent action taken by the UCI against a rider of the team, the UCI understands the context which has led to this decision being reached.”

The UCI is the idiot husband whose wife announces she is leaving because he won’t stop cheating, to which he replies, ‘Oh, so you’re upset that I told you your haircut is ugly?’

Previously, I thought if there’s perhaps one constituency that McQuaid might respect and listen to it’s the heads of sponsoring companies. Because the UCI has yet to listen to the riders, the team directors or the fans, it was either natural or naive to think maybe they’ll listen to sponsors. Now we know. Fuller’s grenade over the transom is a great move, a parental, “Get your room cleaned up or there will be no more allowance.” But based on their response to Rabobank I think what the UCI really needs is that ACME catapult, something to knock some sense into them.

 

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23 comments

  1. Evan

    Brilliant! Yes! and worse. UCI written statement slipped in a last minute route for Armstrong to not be sanctioned for more than 8 years back and slimy pressure on WADA to appeal to CAS which is costly, putting the expense on them, and giving Armstrong cover for the witch hunt ideas. Armstrong remember is skilled as feigning the victim.

    Padraig, I would love it for you to hear David Walsh interview, look at this link. Audio interview from today.

    He is very very cogent and persuasive as to what is wrong why and just what needs done.

    Thank you for this site, very impressive and yes funny and serious all at once, perfect!

    http://www.rte.ie/news/news1pm/player.html?20121022%2C3420156%2C3420156%2Cflash%2C257

  2. Evan

    I hope this is ok to post it. If not tell me and I will not do this.
    Evan

    Sunday Times chief sports writer David Walsh has questioned the reaction of UCI president Pat McQuaid to the USADA report on Lance Armstrong.

    The 41-year-old American has been stripped of all results from August 1998, including his record run of Tour de France triumphs from 1999 to 2005, following the USADA investigation. It was confirmed this afternoon the decision has been sanctioned by McQuaid and the UCI.

    McQuaid was adamant that the 1,000-page report shocked him – but Walsh believes that the sentiments expressed by the President could not be possible given the speculation around the US rider.

    Walsh told RTÉ: “Pat McQuaid in his statement said the UCI is stripping of his titles. They are not. Lance Armstrong was already stripped of his titles by United States Anti Doping agency which they are entitled to do. What UCI is doing today is ratifying the decision,

    “I couldn’t be more unimpressed (with Pat McQuaid). Pat McQuaid is giving the impression that this report shocked him. My question to Pat is, ‘how could it shock you’?

    “All the evidence has been out there for a long time. Floyd Landis sent his e-mails two years ago. Did Pat McQuaid ring up Floyd Landis and say ‘Floyd what you’re saying is unbelievable. I need to speak to you. I need you to give me details’.

    “The UCI has never wanted this (USADA) report” – David Walsh
    “If I went back four years before that, in 2006, Frankie Andreu, a former US Postal rider, did an interview with the New York Times where he said I doped to help Lance Armstrong win his first Tour de France in 1999.

    “Pat McQuaid was President of UCI at that time. Did he ring up Frankie Andreu and say ‘Frankie you doped to help Lance. Was there much doping in the team? Could we speak? Will you tell me more?’

    “Frankie Andreu would have told him everything. But the point is Pat McQuaid didn’t want to know.

    “He said he wasn’t impressed and he was thinking of going back and trying to get the prize money that Frankie Andreu won in the 1999 Tour De France. McQuaid wanted to penalise him for telling the truth. The UCI has never wanted this report.

    “They have never wanted the honesty that has led to it. They are embarrassed by it now and basically they have thrown Armstrong under the bus, which Armstrong deserves.

    “But they haven’t done it for the right reasons. They have done it to protect themselves.”


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Evan: It’s better just to include a link rather than pasting the entire piece. The lack of proper attribution could cause problems for us, and really, this is meant to be a space for reader views, but thanks for getting this out there.

  3. Ashley

    I was pretty saddened to see Rabobank leave the sport last week, especially as I closely follow one of their stars: Marianne Vos. Thankfully it looks like the men’s and women’s teams will have funding for next year, and this allows an opportunity for a new sponsor to come into play. It’s still sad that the (essentially) Dutch national team will be no more.

    http://aerochick.com/2012/10/pro-cycling-takes-a-hit/

  4. peter lin

    There are many things that bother me. The biggest one isn’t that lance cheated. A friend who used to be a professional cyclist told me doping was rampant, so it wasn’t any surprise.

    Clearly UCI is corrupt, yet nothing there changes and the people leading it are still there. It might sound a bit harsh, but UCI should be abolished. Short of that, UCI needs to clean house and get rid of all the crooks there. I’m not holding my breathe.

    The second big thing is why did LA’s former team mates not get a life time ban? I like Levi, George and Horner, but 6 month ban smells awefully dishonest. To me, it smells like paid testimony.

    I’m glad the facts are out, but it’s clear USADA and WADA aren’t really going to fix the issue. Neither is Nike or Trek. The ban for any doping offense should be life time. I’m not the only one that feels that way, several of the younger pro cyclist have expressed the same sentiment in recent interviews.

    The businesses that profit from cycling should be lining up to fund doping research and helping to pay for random spot checks of all pros. Trek needs to put their money where their mouth is.

  5. Shawn

    @Peter Lin. People cop pleas everyday and nobody calls it witness buying then. Why here? Also, Horner shouldn’t be included on your list as he didn’t give testimony, nor did he get 6 months, nor was he part of Lance’s Postal doping machine…I mean team.

  6. bigwagon

    Why here? Because it stinks just as bad as it does anywhere else. And people do call it witness buying in criminal cases. The rest of the confessed dopers should be thrown out of cycling too.

  7. Alex TC

    Padraig,

    my turn has come too: last saturday I broke my left femur falling on my side. I was finishing a training ride, just 15 minutes from a hot shower, some pasta and a good RKP reading… Then, entering a turn at 25kpm my front wheel slid and CRASH! Got a free ambulancenride to the hospital.

    After surgery I’m now on a bed with PLENTY of time to follow every published news about the Armstrong case, see you bike in 2013! Just like you I’ve been able to keep away from crashes, pile-ups and accidents in general, nothing serious for more than 10 years. Now this. Heck this is my first broken bone! But somehow I had a feeling it was coming my way.

    Keep writing!

    Cheers.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks for your comments. Keep ‘em coming.

      Alex TC: Dude, I’m so sorry to hear you crashed. That sucks industrial waste. I’ll do what I can to make sure you have plenty of stuff to read in the meantime. Chin up; cyclists tend to heal quicker than most. I just saw my plastic surgeon today and he used the phrase “best-case scenario” in referring to my progress. Says he isn’t seeing much scarring just yet. Maybe you’ll get lucky too.

  8. Tango

    Brother Alex TC,

    Keep the faith. I broke my left femur in 4 places in late Aug 2011after being hit by a car. Assuming you had a good surgeon and follow your rehab plan, you’ll be riding again in 40 days. 12 months to get back to full power. The desire to ride again is powerful motivation.
    RKP: Thanks for the great insight on the Armstrong/Postal events. Excellent analysis as always.

  9. peter lin

    @Shawn

    thanks for the correction on Horner. It does make me wonder if Horner also doped, given he was a team mate of LA.

  10. Scooter

    @PeterLin – agreed…
    How does this help current cycling? Rules still the same, game still the same.
    Whatever this has supposedly done to help cycling it has hurt it twice as much.
    Over it.

  11. Pat O'Brien

    Mix up an amateur sanctioning body with professional riders, who sometimes ride in amateur races, add a whole bunch of money, and a whole bunch of people, companies, and organizations making it, and performance enhancing drugs. What do you get? Chaos. Now that the star has been discovered, all of them will dump on him, as they have. Lots of folks and organization need to go down, or be completely reborn, or we will have the same shit, different day.

  12. Mike

    I’m holding out for Friday and hoping (vainly, I’m sure) that Pat will be forced out.

    If we can get new leadership, without a single figurehead, and separate doping controls from the UCI, then the sport stands a chance of heading down the right path.

  13. Les Bundy

    I wish Rabobank had done something like conditioning its withdrawal of funding on failure of the UCI to clean house in the next six months. Starting in the penthouse.

  14. Alex TC

    Tango, Padraig: thanks a lot for your kind and encouraging words. This is a first for me, I’ve always been on the other side of things but now I know how this kind of support from fellow riders really makes a difference for us “off the bike” cyclists. Tango your case gives me good hopes, 40 days without my bike is “bearable”… I guess I should also take inspiration in Vino’s comeback from the 2011 Tour, heh? (lol)

    Indeed the surgery went fine and I’m healing fast according to the doctors. The pain is going away and I’m already standing and moving around a bit (though not yet with the broken leg), can’t stay on a bed all day long I guess (lol). Will start physio soon too, now I’m trying to control diet so I don’t gain (much) weight! Padraig, when do you expect to be riding again?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Alex TC: I went for a short, easy ride on Friday. I was planning to ride Sunday and again this morning, but misty weather left the streets wet and my discretion gene prevented me from riding in that weather if only because it’s been months since we’ve had any rain and I knew the roads would be slick. Hoping to get out around lunch time today.

      You’ll be back at it soon enough.

  15. Evan

    People think incorrectly that the reason violence and theft occurs during a big sports celebration is due to drinking and mob mentality.

    Actually, those who are sociopathic, i.e., over entitled selfish callous persons CHOOSE to go to the event because they know that under cover of the event they will be caught and or even if caught will mostly hide under it was a bad judgment, the alcohol made me, the crowd.

    Cycling same deal. Big Oxygen drugs plus big money, plus corrupt and incompetent Regulatory Body= Big sociopath criminal thinking persons march in and take over the territory from the prior small time folks.

    This was a sea change, from Festina.

    Corporate Wall St. level criminal sociopaths moved in. LA head don. Bruyneel lieutenant operations, corporate sponsors industry of cover up, riders, lesser responsibility but the foot soldiers of greed.

    The riders are not as bad. They are a mix of people with motives and weaknesses. But bottom line all of them could have walked. At least at first. But lets be real greed, not having other cards to play in life they choose greed.

    But later, like the mob, they were rightfully scared to leave. They knew like Landis, this mob does not protect your family if you keep your mouth shut and go to jail. They just ruin you.

    Thus we must not let but a few managers, staff, back in. And only a very few riders. All else must go.

    But most especially management and UCI those at the top had the most to gain and were the most corrupt.

  16. Alex TC

    Glad to hear that you´re already riding Padraig, and good judgement ;-) As for myself, just got home and my suspicions were confirmed after a quick bike check: a semi-flat front tire caused my crash. I thought was the wet asphalt but it was full flat and I saw the marks on the rim. Somehow I didn´t notice it before that fatal turn, guess I was too tired from the ride or maybe relaxed getting home. Anyhow, prognostics are good so who knows… In the meantime I´ll be around checking RKP updates and keeping up with news, thanks a lot and best of luck!

  17. Jesus from Cancun

    Alex, I am late joining the conversation, but I want to wish you a quick recovery.

    I also broke several bones over the years. From the way down: cheekbone, jaw, nose (3 times, but only twice bike related) right collarbone twice, left collarbone once, 4 right ribs, 3 left ribs, 1-metacarpal(thumb), cracked hip, and cracked coxis.

    Every single time my recovery was much faster than doctors had foreseen. I think this was because I wasn’t good at following advice regarding rest. I always tried to stay active, as long as I thought I wasn’t damaging the injured bone.

    After shoulder surgeries I was on the trainer as soon as it didn’t hurt too much. When I cracked my hip I was swimming and doing upper body exercises in a pool as much as I could bear, since I also had a good dose of road rash. I always tried getting back on the bike much earlier than I was told, of course stepping back inmediately of something felt wrong.

    I am not advocating being a Macho show off, but as long as you don’t risk damaging your injured bone, exercise raises your metabolism and accelerates the healing processes.
    In my experience, most doctors will always take you the safest way and keep you grounded more than necessary. That’s what they have to do as doctors (liability has so much to do with that, I know, my dad is a doctor), and I have no intention of pretending to know better. But when I was healing from a fracture, I avoided pain killers so I could listen to my body, and tried to stay as active as I could. If anything felt wrong or I was in doubt, I backed off and tried something else later on.

    I know, a femur is a tough bitch, but get the rest of your body moving as much as you safely can, and you will rebound sooner than you think.

    And Padraig, what can I tell you. Glad it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I hope it will be at least another 10 years without kissing the ground again!

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