The Cynic

In the summer of 1989, after Greg LeMond had won his second Tour de France, I received a copy of VeloNews in my mailbox, which was then the “official” publication of the United States Cycling Federation. In it there was a story about an American cyclist who went to the Junior World Championships and took off early in the race, amassing a huge lead, only to see it and him swallowed up shortly before the finish. The writer suggested that the name Lance Armstrong would be one to watch for the future.

I’ve followed Armstrong’s career since that day. I’ve written about him a fair amount, both for RKP and for other publications, and I still count my interview with him the most entertaining I’ve ever done with a professional cyclist. That said, I need to admit to you that it’s been a long time since I thought Armstrong was a clean cyclist.

Though I had read Paul Kimmage’s “Rough Ride,” I’d compartmentalized that as something true yet not terribly applicable to the pro cycling I followed and would eventually write about. As recently as 1996 I thought cycling was a pretty clean sport. Then, at a party at my home, the photographer Mike Powell, a guy who probably knows more about track and field than I know about cycling, shattered my pretty little world. He told me that doping was rife in cycling. When I doubted him, he told me how he’d learned about the doping that goes on in track and field, and how he saw all the same signs when he’d shot bike races, such as that year’s Tour. He talked about miraculous overnight recovery for riders who had been dragged from their bikes.

I began to recall stories of steroid use told to me by a friend who had been a 440 hurdler on a full ride to Alabama. He’d seen plenty of anabolic usage among denizens of the school’s athletic complex and I recalled him once saying how anabolics made athletes unnaturally lean. They had no subcutaneous fat. Sitting in my living room and listening to Mike, I suddenly flashed on my first experience being in the same room with Armstrong. It was at the opening press conference for the 1996 Tour DuPont, which I was covering for Outside. I was sitting along the middle aisle in some hotel ballroom when in walks Armstrong in cycling kit with tennis shoes. I didn’t know it was Armstrong at first, though; I was looking down at my laptop when I caught this calf out of the corner of my eye and then turned to look. It was the most perfect calf I’d ever seen. The muscles were perfectly etched. It was as if skin-colored saran wrap had been stretched across the muscle with no intervening fat to blur the muscles’ definition. At the time I’d thought there was something supernatural about his appearance; later I would amend that to unnatural.

Ah. Two plus two equals … Lance Armstrong dopes.

I wrestled with that conclusion, what it meant for me as someone who made his living writing about cycling (by this time I was working for Bicycle Guide) and how that affected my view of the sport. I figured there was only one thing I could do: No matter what I thought, if Armstrong and other riders weren’t testing positive, then they were clean enough to compete, and if they were clean enough to compete, they were clean.

To the degree that I had lingering doubts about how clean the peloton was, the 1998 Festina Scandal was Mike’s “I told ya so.” Not that he wagged a finger my way, but when the story broke, my first thought was, “Damn, he really was right. It’s everybody.” Initially, I, like many others, thought that the Festina debacle would really clean up cycling. It wouldn’t be too many years before the realists among us realized that things weren’t better, they were worse. I came to the conclusion that the UCI didn’t want clean cycling, they just wanted the appearance of clean cycling. Specifically, what the UCI needed to avoid was anything that embarrassed the sport. That meant no deaths of over-doped riders and no arrests of soigneurs ferrying portable pharmacies. Their anti-doping efforts were as vigorous as my father’s game of checkers was with me when I was a kid—he let me win a lot.

That realization—that the UCI only wanted the appearance of a clean sport—is something that I responded to in the most cynical way possible. To me, the logic was, if the UCI wasn’t really going to do the work to clean up cycling broadly, then a guy like Armstrong should find success.

I opposed the investigation into Armstrong for the simple fact that I didn’t like that one American cyclist would be torn down while so much other doping would go unpunished. Grand Tour racing remains the unlimited class and though the UCI may not have had the resources to get the job done, that’s not much of an excuse; what they have really lacked is the will, and we don’t yet know if that’s a sin the world will ever forgive.

I’ll also admit that I, like many writers, was flat-out afraid of the Armstrong machine. I’d seen the lawsuits, and while I wasn’t trying to break any stories, I didn’t want to get caught in the cross hairs.

I was critical of Greg LeMond in an open letter I wrote, not because I didn’t think he was telling the truth, but because I thought hijacking a press conference to try to grill Armstrong publicly was unseemly and beneath one of the greatest cyclists of all time. It was an event that was just a few ounces of hair gel short of becoming a Jersey Shore-style brawl. I pointed out that LeMond wasn’t part of the enforcement apparatus and then—naively—suggested he should take his conclusions to the UCI or WADA.

I’ve been critical of the USADA investigation, noting on several occasions that they were investigating doping ten years done when doping is happening right now, today. It has always struck me as a ginormous expense for an organization of limited means, Champagne on a water-fountain budget. My fear was less what would happen to Armstrong, it was how the investigation could harm cycling as a whole—for years to come. It’s safe to say we won’t see Nike in cycling again before my son is old enough to turn pro. Plenty of other companies will need even longer to come around again. I had plenty of doubts that the investigation could reveal anything that might surprise me, anything I hadn’t already guessed. There were plenty of surprises in Tyler Hamilton’s story alone.

In short, I lacked the faith necessary to see that the USADA investigation could reach beyond the Atlantic, that it could serve as the catalyst for sweeping, permanent change. On this score, I’m pleased to say I was evolution-denier wrong.

Travis Tygart, I owe you an apology. Your work has proven to be the indictment of the UCI for which I’ve been waiting a good 15 years. I was unwilling to believe that this investigation could illustrate the corruption within the UCI as clearly as it has, that we would ever see the full body of evidence collected by the federal investigation and USADA, that a “true” picture would emerge of how cycling at the top level functioned.

The USADA investigation and some of the subsequent events (such as Rabobank’s indictment of the UCI and Skins’ CEO Jaimie Fuller’s open letter to the UCI) ultimately are unlikely to lead, on their own, to the overhaul at the UCI that is necessary to restore our faith in the institution. Pat McQuaid has signaled that he will commission an independent investigation. I am suspicious of this the way I am suspicious of my son when he says he hasn’t pooped—then why does your diaper droop and the room smell? Apparently, I’m not the only one who views this with a crooked eyebrow. Brian Cookson, the president of the British Cycling Federation, has said that unless the UCI impanels a truly independent investigator, then it will lose what he called its’ “last chance to re-establish itself as a credible organization.”

I have my doubts McQuaid and company understand just how dire the situation is.

Paul Kimmage has hinted that he may file suit against the UCI, even though they have shelved their suit against him. While the UCI’s decision to back off what would almost certainly have been ruled a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) here in the U.S., backing down in the face of $85,800 in contributions (so far) to Kimmage’s defense fund suggests maybe McQuaid and Verbruggen aren’t entirely blind. The fund set up in his name must be used for legal bills, so it stands to reason that he’d go ahead and engage the fight against the UCI. This is civilized society’s version of meeting behind the gym for a bare-knuckle fight. Just because the UCI got the first lick in doesn’t mean the fight is over.

Right now the best opportunity we have to see just how corrupt the UCI has been is a lawsuit by Kimmage. Twenty years ago, had anyone suggested to me that the only way to clean up cycling right to its roots would be a lawsuit by a journalist against the sport’s governing body, I’d have laughed. I’d have said it was as unlikely as the polar ice caps melting.

 

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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46 comments

  1. Tim Jackson

    Patrick, as usual, this is a well done piece. I’ve been all over the emotional map on this one for years too. Many of us, regardless of our depth of knowledge of the sport (or what we believed we knew) were duped. Many of us- including myself- because we didn’t want to accept the reality. When Kimmage and Walsh first stared revealing dark truths, I wanted to ignore it and even went as far as saying that until they had verified proof- as in failed tests- they needed to simply shut up. Yeah, I regret that now.

    I chased the dream of becoming a pro, truly believing for many years that I was to become the next LeMond. I believed that dream so much, and I believed I’d never have a need to cheat to get there. I only got marginally good enough to ever have to consider that next step, and ironically it was as a track sprinter, rather than the skinny mountain goat I’d always been and after I shelved the idea of racing the Tour. Once I showed some actual promise as a sprinter, I had offers of “help” to get better. Then years later when racing for an elite masters team, I saw much more open doping going on… FOR MASTERS RACING! Still, I wanted to believe that the Euro peloton was cleaner than it actually was. Allowing the reality to be real, meant accepting that my dream had been false. I didn’t want to accept that at all.

    Many of us turned a blind eye to the truth, not because we didn’t care, but because we loved the sport far too much to allow it to be tarnished more than it already was. But now, since this investigation began, I’ve been very much in favor of it and I’ve been cheering each ugly detail to be exposed. It hurts, like a Band-Aid® being ripped off each time something sees daylight. But as each one comes off and each wound gets fresh air and a little cleaning, the healing begins.

    If we have to burn the UCI to the ground and lose a year or two of racing, I am ok with that. I want my sport that I love so very dearly to be restored to credibility. Cycling already does WAY more than any other sport to combat doping, but we have the worst reputation for doping. It’s totally unfair. Going through this gutting process will hopefully change public opinion and prove once and for all that cycling actually is doing something- unlike any other sport. I am SO encouraged by the growth of cycling at the enthusiast level. Just last weekend, here in SoCal, we had a fantastic two days of cross racing… in a part of the country where cross is not exactly a tradition. That gives me so much hope for the sport.

    The hope and the love is there. The cynicism is being slowly killed off. The UCI needs to redouble its efforts to regain trust and credibility. Pat and Hein need to be shown the door and the sport needs to rebuild itself. I’ve got a shovel and what’s left of a strong back (which isn’t much, I admit)… I plan to get my hands dirty and keep my blood clean, in the name of cycling. I love it too much to let it die.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks for stopping by Tim. I think there’s light at the end of this tunnel. At least, based on Kimmage’s last tweet, I’m excited to watch the fireworks.

  2. A-Trav

    I think that if LA is going to be banned from cycling for doping, we also need to get rid of everybody else involved in what was obviously a huge conspiracy to conceal doping in the sport. That means the upper management level of all the cycling sports governing entities, manager, trainers, doctors, and support staff. Everybody sharing the taint needs to go. This would open up a lot of new spots for up and comers of all stripes. What the old guard needs most at this point is some new blood, and a lot of it. Anything short of a measure this drastic is not going to convince the public that real change is afoot.

  3. Petros V

    Padraig,
    I, too, hope that this is what the official world of professional cycling needs to truly get clean. I am, however, a little skeptical, still. The Festina affair (as you very well mentioned) did basically nothing. We then had the Operacion Puerto; now THAT was going to cause at least some change. Well, it didn’t. Now it’s USADA’s turn, and the biggest fish they were hoping to catch (and apparently did).
    I will not stop watching and following the Tour, the Giro, or the Vuelta. But I’ll concentrate on scoping out locations I’d like to go with my own bike, instead of being mesmerized by the superhuman (and often doped) efforts of Armstrong, Ullrich, Pantani, or Contador.
    Finally, I do hold out some hope for young riders like Tejay, or even Andy Schleck…

  4. Steve

    Padraig, your son’s friends are going to be teasing him all the way through high school about whether he’s pooped recently. But otherwise this is an excellent piece. You speak for many of us in your apology to Travis Tygart.

  5. Reid N.

    This is the kind of apology that was owed to cycling fans everywhere. A concession of wilful blindness. An admission of a conscious refusal to support Greg Lemond (and other truthtellers) against the Armstrong Machine when every knowledgeable person understood that Lemond was speaking the truth. An admission of fear of reprisal by Armstrong and his business allies. A candid statement that because you did not think the USADA investigation would accomplish anything in the grand scheme of things, you mistakenly argued against any investigation at all. It takes a big man to admit you were wrong. We appreciate it. It matters. Hopefully, journalists everywhere (whether cycling journalists, sports writers generally, or just first year reporters – straight out of j-school) will use the coverage of Lance Armstrong, his manipulation of the media and the sports industry and his legion of anti-cancer followers, as well as the shameful treatment of Armstrong’s critics, as a useful case study. Credible brave journalists are not out there to make friends with powerful people (see, for comparison, Rick Reilly and Sally Jenkins). Brave, credible journalists exist to tell the truth. And for that, we the public, are grateful. I may not be powerful, but next time you are in Denver, Colorado, let me buy you a beer.

  6. Ron S

    “The pen is mightier than the sword”, or whatever the true quote is. Many of today’s journalists have dropped their pens against the mighty, media manipulating swine that swim ahead of the pack. But I think that’s usually the case. Just as it was (and still is) with the financial analysts, and reporters before the Great Recession began. It takes great courage to cycle uphill when everyone else is going down. If it weren’t, there would be no quote. Padraig, thank you for showing us your human side again (and again). Most of us don’t have to make that choice between keeping a paycheck and following our gut. Although I believed LA had cheated, based on the power output data (> 6 watts/kg) for long climbs, I was never able to convince any of my friends. They just “believed” he was clean, and believed his magical cancer cure made him superhuman. Some people “believe” global warming is a hoax, others believe the facts. You can’t use facts to argue against a belief. (Yes I am a scientist and I don’t accept facts without some backup data.)
    Paul Kimmage was just doing the best job he could before the SLAPP suit. I am thrilled he’s answering the bell for round 2 (one could say he rang the bell) and is coming out swinging. I will donate again and again to help him in his fight. I hate bullies too.

  7. Professor Velo

    My own sense is that this won’t eliminate doping from cycling, but I think it will eliminate the systematic doping machines of the 90s. I think the risk/reward ratio is finally tipping in the right directions and there are many young riders who are seeing first hand how careers and public images are being ruined by doping.

    One of the things not often talked about is the prospect of incentivizing resisting doping. The solutions we seek cannot be exclusively punitive. Indeed, most behavioralists would tell you that positive reinforcement is the only way to promote the change you want to see. While Rabobank’s departure is regrettable, there is also some evidence they turned a blind eye to doping practices as long as no one got caught and the brand wasn’t damaged. Perhaps the next wave of sponsors will approach cycling with a concern to create positive incentives for winning clean – not simply winning.

    In the end, I think we have to be satisfied with this and grateful that this turn of events has brought us as close as we’ve been to a clean sport (in the EPO era). With some luck – and perhaps minus some of the rampant cynicism currently in evidence – we can look forward to a time when we can enjoy a great performance without wondering.

  8. Lachlan

    A fascinating (as usual) and refreshingly honest look back Padraig. Strangely enough, not something I’ve seen too many journalists doing so powerfully. Hindsight is of course 20:20, but its still important to be honest with ourselves!

    Sorry for the long rant that follows, but their is one big thing I still struggle with a bit in all this. And it is an idea widely touted, by very many people from you to Lemond who I respect and am well aware have a closer perspective to the people involved than I do… and that is the idea that the UCI knew everything and could have done more, and therefore that replacing the UCI or key figures will somehow avoid the problem. (Or more specifically would have avoided the problem in the 1990s and 2000s)

    I don’t mean this to defend the UCI, as I wouldn’t, but I do question the assertion they cause the problem, and the assumption the could have stopped it with any reasonable means they had at their disposal. That I think is a very dangerous assumption for building a better future system…

    Setting aside the often silly and counterproductively defensive reactions of McQuaid et al. There are a number of logical issues I have with that. Because even if they were outright trying to enable cheats or help them avoid detection, they still built, or allowed/were pressured to build probably the most advanced drug testing scheme that any sport has. That system includes all kinds of in and out of competition testing that most sports dismiss out of hand, (ditto whereabouts & blood passports). That system was enforced and policed as much if not more (in numerical terms) by other organisations to the UCI (USADA, WADA, AFLD etc). And it was enforced (I believe) many honest and reputable scientists, labs and drug enforcement officials from both outside and inside the UCI (Gripper/Ashenden etc) who may have been frustrated by a lack of funds and completeness of data, and for sure have called on the UCI to do more (because they could see that cheating was likely going on all the time!).. but they still had far, far more data and methods to go on than any other sport had or to this day has. Yet those reputable folks, with the most advanced and complete tools of any sport STILL couldn’t catch enough of the cheats.

    As for critique of the 50% rule… much lamented in hindsight, but in the absence of any kind of EPO test until the 2000′s, it seemed like a reasonable idea and far more agressive stance than other sports were taking to try and mitigate the issue and at least prevent the Mr 60%ers. And it did claim major scalps like Pantani, that were far from “good news” for cycling at the time.

    So while I’m definitely not defending the UCI’s attitudes or motivations (I honestly can’t fathom them) I do question the idea that even if we simply rid the sport of the UCI then all will be well. I think that is a dangerous easy fix that sadly seems to be the consensus. UCI should take a large portion of critique but they are far from the only ones to blame.

    Regardless of the UCI’s defaults or strengths, cycling had some genuinely bleeding edge (pun intended ;)) approaches to drug control in place and STILL the scientists, WADA, AFLD, USADA, CONI, UCI etc etc couldn’t stop what happened from happening. It is only now after real law enforcement threats have the ‘heroes’ of the Armstrong case owned up to their and his past.

    What more could all those agencies have done with their very limited money, no EPO tests in the 1990, etc etc? (they dont have a lot, and still dont have a lot of legal powers in the scheme of things) I for one know that I don’t know. What pains me is that I’ve seen few (make that no) realistic suggestions.

    The USADA didn’t make this suddenly break… if they could have they should have YEARS ago and should all be fired immediately (kidding, because they didn’t have the ability in the past, just like all the other associations)… Again it was only the threat of law enforcement made cheats break down and give up their old boss in return for a deal.

    Sure, change the system to be better, but dont pretend it was the UCI that doped – the riders and teams did that. The UCI did a bad job in response, but anyone who believes that if only they, or some other reputable person had been at the helm in the 1990s they could have stopped EPO and blood doping in its tracks is surely living in a fantasy world even bigger than the one we all were in when we believed in those performances.

    I am stil however also looking forward to Kimmages revenge, and the fireworks you allude to ; )


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Lachlan: I think where the UCI can be faulted in terms of will is their utter indifference to Michele Ferrari’s quotes on EPO following Fleche Wallonne in 1994. That should have set events in motion with regard to EPO use and banning him from the sport. When you consider how long they waited before pursuing a test for EPO, that inaction is their fault. When you consider the number of riders who attempted to report what they knew first-hand of doping and they did NOTHING to follow up on those reports, they can be faulted for that inaction as well.

      It’s delusional to think that the UCI could have conducted a 100% clean Tour in 1999, but their lack of action was inexcusable. I’ve never held a job that would have permitted me to get so little done and stay employed.

  9. Simon

    While we’re plotting the downfall of McQuaid and Verbruggen (a goal with which a heartily agree) let’s spare a thought for what we want to replace them. While we do so maybe we should remember Pantani and Frank Vdb. The cycling that I’d like to see might not have let what happened to them happen.

  10. motomark

    While I agree with most of your sentiments regarding the Armstrong affair I don’t think cycling will miss Nike if they choose to leave. It seems that the only major doping case that hasn’t involved Nike in US sports is the Barry Bonds case. I have to start wondering if it’s a more than a little suspicious given the all encompassing involvement Nike has with the athletes they sponsor. Ad in some of the recruiting abnormalities at U of Oregon (Nike U) and I think Nike is very responsible for the win at all costs mentality that has infected sports worldwide. For me it’s no loss if they depart, I quit buying Nike when they decided to resign Michael Vick. On the other hand I will happily contribute more to the Paul Kimmage offense fund, and if Nike wants to show me they care about the sport they will too.

  11. Rod

    Padraig,

    I appreciate your acknowledgement that this investigation and the damage that it causes to the image of cycling might actually help move this forward in the long run by lifting the lid on how cycling has been run either incompetently or corruptly.

    I am very interested in what comes out of Kimmages suit, and how much is revealed from that process. For those of us that were told that “the sport has turned the corner” after Festina, Pantani, Puerto, etc. it’s long overdue.

    Thank you for your candid and passionate views. I think this will still be worse before it gets better as other testimonies come to light (see the Australian contingent, and how their incumbent UCI rep is now being internally challenged) and maybe more sponsors withdraw. But it still is an exciting sport and the more it gets away from a WWE scrap, the better chance of growing it genuinely and sustainably. This starts at the top.

  12. Robby Canuck

    I am one of those fans who has always thought LA doped and every time I blogged or commented I would get lambasted by the naive Lance fans or taken to task by some journalist. I am a former prosecutor and defence lawyer and as such I understood that a body of eye-witness evidence starting with Landis (who I believed from the get-go) and the corroborating scientific evidence was building like the proverbial avalanche to finally unmask LA the cheat.

    I am a student of evidence and I believe I could see what others could not. I also understood the relationship between LA and Ferrari was clearly to mask doping and beat doping tests and the old “I never failed a test mantra” was crappola (this is a well known legal term).

    So while I applaud your apology especially to those of us who got it right from the outset, with great respect your mea culpa comes just more than a day late. I am always skeptical of journalists who are swept up by the faux celebrity in any athlete and fail to see the underpinnings of a real jerk.

    I participated in sport at a high level (University BB, Soccer and Track) and it does not take much to find out who the really good guys are and who are the jerks. One game of pick up BB or a game of golf will usually tell you. I could see LA was a jerk from the get go. A vain-glorious ego-maniac whose hubris knew no bounds and whose meaness was unbridled.

    These characteristics are red flags for experienced trial lawyers, because no one falls harder than the cocky and the brash. As an avid cyclist and fan, it can only be hoped that finally, people will wake up and smell the coffee.

    As for the UCI we really don’t need a Kimmage lawsuit to see or smell the corruption. We need McQuaid to do the right thing and resign, the UCI moved out of Switzerland and maybe even Europe, and someone committed to cycling as opposed to someone who fawns to the elite to take charge.

  13. Atlaz

    I have to admit, I’m somewhat underwhelmed by this in many respects. Why did the USADA investigation HAVE to have any ramification beyond the USA? Surely doping is doping and as long as someone is doing their best to deal with it, journalists, fans and industry insiders should be grateful.

    It seems very much like you feel that if the UCI didn’t care, why should journalists? Well that’s the whole point of journalists and in this case very few bothered to stay impartial. In the same way I’d love to believe that the UCI will change permanently for the better, I also have doubts that the cycling press (mostly journalist-fans) will change permanently. Hand-wringing after the fact by people who are confessing they knew or had suspicions is remarkably similar to what we’re hearing from the UCI. The specialist press were complicit in that they didn’t speak out, didn’t support Walsh and Kimmage and even spent time damning the investigations once they’d started.

    This isn’t just a crisis for the UCI and pro-cycling, its a crisis for the specialist press too. All sides need to restore faith that they can do what they’re supposed to do.

  14. David B

    This is an excellent piece. It helps explain why this massive fraud has been going on for over a decade – helped, in part, by an army of journalists who raised their voice to speak out against… Greg LeMond! Against… USADA!

    The same people who did their best to hush the whole thing up for so long then turned around and said, why air the 10-year-old dirty laundry? Let’s look to the future instead!

    Well, speaking about the future, I want clean riders. But I want clean writers too.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thank you for your comments. For those who say that the cycling press—me included—need to reform our ways, I honestly am not sure how to respond. Were the situation to unfold all over again, I don’t know what I would do different, other than say I found the performances suspicious. Because of where I’m based, what my budget is, I’m not in a position to deliver more than that. But I don’t get the impression that is a sufficient change in how we do business for readers to be satisfied.

      Let’s take a current example, Bradley Wiggins. Everyone’s happy that the Tour was won by a clean rider, right? Even if we don’t find suspicion in his rather human VAM numbers, one MUST wonder about his season. No one in history has won more stage races spread over more time in a single season than Wiggins. He won Paris-Nice in March, the Tour of Romandie in April, the Criterium du Dauphine in June, the Tour de France in July, not to mention the TT at the Olympics. This is probably better handled in a post, but such a collection of wins has never been amassed in a single season before. I find it extremely suspicious. Yet when I wrote in “Wiggins’ Winning Ways” that Wiggins’ season begged the sort of suspicion, the sort of questions that Paul Kimmage was asking, there was a great deal of push back from RKP readers. Again, I think we have a hero the audience wants left untouched.

  15. Lachlan

    Hey Padraig, yeah I think that’s a fair point – I remember the 94 Fleche moment all too well.
    I think we all knew what it signified!

    Although I still feel like in reality it’s not the UCIs of the world that develop (or even should try to) develop tests for EPO, or anything else – that’s more in the realm of the labs/uber sporting organisations like IOC or today WADA. The resources surely aren’t there, but I agree the demand or ‘ask’ for it should have been, and of course the will to implement them once they are available.

    Equally while individual sporting bodies like UCI should of course follow up on claims – so, even more so, should the organisations that don’t have a vested interest in the specific sport… IOC, WADA, COINI, USADA etc. Surely they are equally culpable? (current efforts excluded).


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Lachlan: Remember, prior to the formation of WADA, unless the IOC paid for a test to be developed, it was up to the UCI to get the job done. In 1994, EPO wasn’t a known problem in the Olympics the way we were beginning to see it was for cycling, in part because the Olympics were still the domain of amateur cyclists, so the IOC didn’t have the impetus to chase a test for EPO yet. So it really was up to the UCI. Now, we finally have improved on that conflict of interest, though the system is not perfect. WADA needs much better funding.

  16. Lachlan

    Agree with that – Apart from anything else the problem is so sophisticated from an analystical and science point of view the more the money can be pooled in to a non partisan, cross-sport resource like WADA should be, the better.

  17. Joe Ruskenbro

    I kind of enjoyed your articles until you made this big confession.

    The first logic I used was that that Greg Lemond seemed to be a person of integrity, and there would be no reason for him to be lying. If he was a doper he wouldn’t have gone after Lance. He had three tour wins, so the ole “sour grapes” accusation didn’t make any sense. The fact that your were once Lance’s attack dogs on Greg makes your a pretty sorry guy.

    When it was fashionable to be on Lance’s side, you were on Lance’s side. Now that it’s fashionable to confess, you do that. You talk for a living, that’s what you do. Riding bandwagons as they pass your way.

    All the things you said above in your confession don’t say much for your ability to process information. By all appearances, you were one of Lance’s enforcers, repeating after Lance. Lance said, “Haters!”. You said, “Haters!”

    The former Lance enforcers deserve to be disrespected much more than Lance. Lance enforcers had the character of a thug, just like Lance.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Joe Ruskenbro: You can call me a thug and a sorry guy. That doesn’t change the fact that being at that press conference where LeMond confronted Armstrong was wildly inappropriate, not to mention an incredibly uncomfortable event to witness, and I had the good fortune not to be seated next to LeMond like VeloNews’ Neal Rogers. Nor does it change that what I’ve written about Armstrong was never the fawning copy that many wrote about him. But I’ll also admit that I liked watching him race. It’s funny how many people have completely disavowed him as a valued part of their past. Again, it’s okay, you can say I rode a band wagon; what it really shows is that you haven’t followed my work.

  18. Evan

    Padraig, not here to destroy you nor be a judge. Consider this. Each and everyone of us fails somewhere at least once in our lives. I have! I resisted seeing it fully no matter how much I tried, and I wanted to as my conscience is deep and real. I see you have one, a genuine one!
    It took a very good friend and my willingness to hear him over time to finally totally accept how and why I failed and what were the real reasons inside me for it. And this alone is what freed me, total ownership.

    I see you headed there, just as Reid, N affirms. From the fellow traveler’s perspective, I hope you continue to look inside yourself for why you allowed yourself to be silenced, and by being silenced they got you to tell have truths, no truths, and perhaps worse to side with the aggressor.

    As my parents taught me by not speaking the whole truth and nothing but, one commits moral turpitude. This was hard, perhaps the hardest thing in my life to face as I have lived a life serving others often at great peril to myself. I almost always prevailed, changing occupations rather than not speak out. But there came a time when I did not and it took everything I had to look deeply.

    Only you can know truly why you choose to stay a journalist and be silenced. None of us have the right to judge you nor tell you why.

    I think if you do, you will know what any healthy reasonable person would wish of you as you go forward now, that is simply arm yourself with being totally self honest and move forward to amend and correct by being the person you will be having learned from this thru that honesty.

    So, allot, most, almost all is fantastic.

    However, the stuff about Lemond, is entirely defensive. Inappropriate? OK, this is tough to hear from all these folks. I cut you genuine slack. But, my goodness, what would have been appropriate? He is one person. He knew no one was listening. He has severe dyslexia and cannot give a speech to save his life. He had the total courage and guts to ride TDF with no or hostile teams in a country where they wanted their national champ to win. LA is successfully killing 35 million potential dollars from his business, lying, cheating, destroying people besides him and killing a sport that is the one pure thing in his previously abusive life. And you criticize him and are embarrassed to be near him? I think you might want to revisit you perspective here.

    What do most people want of any of us when we fail is to take a real inventory. It is amazing how people embrace if so, and question if not totally or not so at all. For example, John w. apology, excuse this, but it was NOT an apology, but a rationalization for everything. Don’t accept it. Yours I do! Thank you so so much! Keep with it!

    And yes TY. I am totally concerned about Wiggins and Sky. Who here can say if they want to see things that this is very very worrisome. Did we not hear the very same things from USPS, lost weight, trained better, more aero, recovery, the whole spin fast thing that we know is only possible by having a liter of extra blood in you.

    Padraig you and I know that a clean athlete never stays at peak for months and months, NEVER.
    But testosterone, steroids, and blood do produce this and nothing else does.

    Yes at 6’3″ Wiggins was gaunt 150 lbs. But it was not his climbing speed that was the biggest worry, although a worry, but his every single day power never waning. Even if the competition was not doping their would have been days he struggled and they sped ahead.

    My heroes are my great grandmother who alone with six kids fled Jew haters in Hungry and provided by alone to all the kids. To my parents who defended us in WWII. And my mentor who taught me to speak truth and quit if I could not.

  19. atlaz

    Patrick – The issue here is that you, along with a lot of journalists, seem to abrogate their responsibility here. If you knew or suspected systematic doping in cycling you should have done more to speak out against it. Even if you feel that was beyond your means, did you write negatively about Lance and the rest of the peloton when they destroyed Simeoni and Bassons or did you remain quiet? If it’s the latter you were tacitly lending your voice to the support of doping and ignored the damage it would, and has, done to cycling.

    I appreciate the coming clean, but the whole article smacks of someone who still feels the right thing was to do nothing and to say nothing.

    I’m happy to believe that pro-cycling and the specialist press will change, but until people stop writing articles trying to “do a mcquaid”, you will come up against fans who are concerned about the future.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Had I been writing about pro cycling much during that Armstrong era, I might have done things differently. The fact is, from ’99 to ’02, I really wasn’t writing about pro cycling at all. From ’03 to ’05 I was publishing a lifestyle magazine and covering pro cycling wasn’t part of its editorial mission. While I have occasionally been told that investigative work should have been my mission, that is just as random as saying I should have not been publishing a cycling lifestyle magazine, but a running lifestyle magazine. But back to the larger point, what I should have done, I honestly wasn’t in much of a position to do write what I thought. The reality of being a writer (rather than simply a journalist reporting facts) is that you have to write about a subject with some frequency to learn what you really think about it, to figure out what your relationship is to the subject; it’s not until you write about a subject consistently that you develop a responsibility to it. Because I’ve chosen to make pro cycling and doping part of RKP’s mandate, I’ve taken on this subject matter as honestly as I approach anything else.

      I’ve done my best to illustrate the concerns and challenges of reporting the Armstrong story as I see them. I don’t see anyone else out there even making an attempt to talk seriously about how the story was allowed to slip for so long. Bill Strickland wrote a post for his blog “The Selection” that was both hilarious and revealing. Few others have shown any real courage in addressing how they approached Armstrong. Those of you who want to hold me personally responsible for not doing “my job” as you see it, have you considered that your anger would be better aimed at publications like VeloNews that did enjoy fantastic success due to the “Lance Effect”?

      RKP is just more than three years old. In that time we’ve reported rather ferociously about doping. I’ve been pretty merciless to Alberto Contador at times, even after meeting the man, riding and sharing a meal with him. He’s not a bad guy. But he got popped for doping and his appeal, had it been allowed to succeed, would have been very bad news for cycling, and I didn’t hold back one bit on that. One of the realities of being a writer is that some of the audience will always disagree with you. Regardless, I’m going to continue to chase the subject to the best of my ability and to empower guys like Charles Pelkey to do the best work they can. We won’t be perfect, and hell, we may not even be liked at times, but we’ll do our best to be honest.

  20. Pingback: Quote of the Day | 1103 « net eamelje

  21. Rick

    This, from rockyhillside.net, seems right to me:

    “The public, based on the pandering accolades of the cycling press, gave their faith, adoration, and their dollars to a con man. The writers got published, and the public got screwed.”

  22. Evan Shaw

    Padraig I don’t really agree with atlaz. However I think I see why he concluded that. The first piece you wrote is IMHO a genuine attmept at mea culpa and with genuine regrets. The subsequent responses however become rationalizations and some blaming and diversion onto others.

    What my wife said was important. She very much liked what you said originally. But she was extremely concerned that you cannot see the true courage and perhaps heroics of a vilified Lemond having the guts and willingness to get slaughtered by speaking out agsinst Armstrong.

    That in her words you not only fail to see a true hero but are demeaning him to this day knowing all you know now. She feels you are still connected in some way to a protective rapture of him. She is pretty upset by this and hopes you see into this and stop it. She like the site and your writing.

    For many reasons personal and professional I saw LA as a destructive narcissist from the get go. My wife did not early on but not too long after did. She now is disgusted and horrified by memories of how false and smarmy his so called ridesmofmraging up mountains were. So no she does nor enjoy these memories.

  23. Land Shark Steve

    Greg’s boorish approach hurt him in the eyes of the public and the industry was making too much money to acknowledge the truth. But major kudos to Greg, Betsy and Emma.

  24. Lachlan

    Most highly funded news organisations these days can not even begin to journalistically “investigate” rudimentary facts on things like a presidential race or global warming. So its kind of unfair to expect the “big-bucks” world of cycling journals to have conducted real investigative journalism.

    However the same logic of resource and ability is the same one that for me means that even if inexcusably uninterested, it’s highly doubtful and essentially unrealistic that the UCI could have done anything particularly effective within the bounds of the law and likely legal repercussions had they gone off of rumor and unsubstantiated claims. Only real law enforcement involvement prompted the weight of witness based evidence that USADA was able to capitalise on. No journalist and no sporting body ever had that power.

  25. Joe

    I have been a long time fan of cycling and was disappointed many times by the confirmed use and stories of the supposed use of drugs in the sport. Perhaps like many others I did not want to believe that it was so prevalent. Perhaps I was too blind because as a fan I loved to watch the heroic superhuman battles atop the highest peaks of Europe. One day after LA won his last TDF, my wife who knows nothing about cycling and could care less, asked me how many times LA had won the Tour–I told her that was his seventh win–she then asked me how old he was and I told her. As she was leaving the room she said “oh he must be using drugs or something.” Was it really that easy for an outsider to see?

  26. velomonkey

    Padraig,

    Count me in the group of – dollar short and day late. sure it’s a nice piece, well worded, but to those that paid any attention – you were, like the rest of them, part of the problem. But let’s move on.

    You say even now that LeMond confronting Armstrong at a press conference is “wildly inappropriate.” Let me get this straight, that press conference was in 2008 – when Lance had the audacity to come back and proclaim “Hope Rides Again” and since, what, 2000 – LeMond has been saying this guy is a cheat. LeMond had everyone, yourself included, dragging his name through the mud. Were you asking the hard questions to Armstrong? Let me answer for you: you weren’t. So what is the guy to do? Lance cheated his way through seven wins and he came back for more. So LeMond took the fight to him knowing all too well you and your brethren weren’t going to do it. And you complain how uncomfortable it was?!?! Dude, get real.

    You were wrong, you at some crow, glad to see that, but you need to keep eating crow and not second guess the people who for over a decade knew there was something up and went after the truth. It is NEVER wrong to go after the truth and expose a bully and a cheat.

    Something tells me you still don’t get it.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Velomonkey: I’ve said what I need to on this subject, but I need to respond to two points in your comment. First, you say I dragged LeMond’s name through the mud. Based on this assertion, I have to conclude that you didn’t read the open letter I wrote. I’ve not suggested it’s wrong to go after the truth. There’s some mileage between being critical and mudslinging. I was absolutely respectful. As to “exposing a bully and a cheat,” LeMond didn’t expose anything that day. We knew how he felt. No new ground was covered. Further, there was actual news to cover, such as what Armstrong’s plans were, the hyperbolic language notwithstanding. What races Armstrong planned to do, how long he expected to remain in the sport, those were all legitimate questions my colleagues wanted to ask. Meanwhile, there was never a moment in which anyone engaged in reality expected one of LeMond’s questions was actually going to elicit a confession from Armstrong. Like I wrote, inappropriate.

  27. Land Shark Steve

    Agree with Pdraig on this one. It was just not the place or the time for Greg to make his point/speech. He may have been more effective by just sitting on the front row and not saying anything. And/or calling his own press conference immediately after Lance’s event.

  28. Rick

    I agree with VeloMonkey, though I don’t think that Padraig has eaten any crow. I don’t think I’ve read Padraig saying he would or should have done anything differently.

    The press’s treatment of LeMond — just that alone — should be provoking some soul searching. LeMond is the greatest American cyclist, and most of the press dismissed him, following Lance’s lead like lemmings, as a jealous old man. Really shameful. The press demeaned and dismissed a genuine hero and replaced him with a cheat and a con man. Nice job.

    theboy also makes some good points, too.
    http://www.rockyhillside.net/Blogs/index.php/2012/11/01/lance_bashing
    http://www.rockyhillside.net/Blogs/index.php/2012/11/05/the_padraig_principle_s

  29. Pat

    All this talk reminds me of the song lyrics ” if I coulda, woulda, shoulda.” Kinda reminds me of the recent Gen. Patreus story. Us Americans really like to apply absolutes to others that many of us could never meet. The quest for perfection is a fool’s errand, and this hand wringing, accusations, rehashing the past, and paralysis does nothing to improve the sport of cycling. What do I think? I think we need a truly professional cycling organization that is not influenced in any way by the UCI or any national or international anti-doping agency using WADA guidelines. Also, pro riders would NOT compete in any amateur races.

  30. Evan Shaw

    Padraig you fail to see what is not only appropriate, but courageous. Lemond is an athlete for god sake, and one with severe dyslexia, which verbally makes him grasp for words, in short he is not a great speaker. You sir are a journalist. You have responsibilities, he has none.

    Yes, on that day you could be embarrassed and even view it as you do.

    But today, you owe it to him, us, and the sport to view it as it is known, a courageous act by a desperate person to get you all to ask questions, the hard ones, to investigate. A massive amount was known if you had read it. It does not take all that much to see a high index of suspicion over and over and over. You look into it.

    At the very least you revise you views now that you know better.

    Padraig, it smacks of defensive self justification now to even comment on this while wrestling with you own regrets and responsibilities.

    Leave him the hell alone and look at yourself. Frankly, this aspect of your apology, lacks muster. The rest if true and good and I applaud you for it. I practice this in my life, progress not perfection.

    I am talking plain here to you. If you feel I have gone to far, despite all efforts to be balanced, it is your site and I will refrain from posting here.

    But Lemond is an exemplar, one of the very few who despite the real threats and harm to him stayed the course. When you state things like this, it is as if you are trashing my son, brother, family.

  31. ali

    Greg is a winner of the tour de France and is the ONLY American winner.

    Padraig fancies himself a journalist and like Lance, he likes to stand behind something, not in front of it.

    Net, net: you got some explaining to do. Count me in as disappointed.

  32. Evan Shaw

    Yes. Padraig. Lets have the John Eusice model. Better living thru chemistry PharmcylingLeague. Amgen Johnson and Johnson sponsors. TDF owned and operated by LA.

    It is too much to expect head of CIA to not endanger us and cyclists to not defraud.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Evan Shaw: Where do you get this “leave him the hell alone” when it comes to LeMond? Dyslexia has nothing to do with anything I’ve ever written about him and to suggest that I’d pick on him for something that is related to a disability is to paint me with a pretty evil brush; you’re way off base with that. I doubt very much you saw the one piece I published with regard to LeMond’s actions at the Armstrong press conference, so the persecution you think I’ve subjected him to is seriously delusional. This is your final reminder that the comments section is meant to be a space for constructive conversation. It’s not a place to lecture me or anyone else; you’ve no right to stand in judgement of anyone here. Similarly, you can leave the sarcasm for the forums.

  33. Reid N.

    Padraig,

    Any chance you can post a link to your article on the Lemond confrontation at the Armstrong Press Conference? Thx.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Reid N: I’d have done that ages ago if it was still available. The piece wasn’t about that, I might add; it’s only mentioned it. It was a larger suggestion to LeMond to reconsider baiting Armstrong publicly. The way I saw it then, and I still see it this way, is that public conflict between the two cheapened them both. At the time, whether LeMond was right or not wasn’t something the cycling public was concerned about. LeMond came off looking badly. I suggested it would have been better for him to take his analysis regarding Armstrong’s numbers to the UCI or WADA, was my opinion. History has shown that I was wrong about approaching the UCI with doping allegations. History has also vindicated LeMond with regard to his charge that Armstrong was doping. But in the meantime, it was an ugly, mudslinging mess in which both came off looking badly. History also shows that Trek’s action against LeMond proves that it would have been smarter to treat his beliefs with more discretion than he did. He might still have a bike company had he listened to me. There’s no getting that bike company back now. And think about it, in LeMond’s household, which do you suppose was more important: keeping his bike company or being right that Armstrong was doped?

  34. Evan

    Padraig, You mistook my stating about his dyslexia as blaming you, sorry but I wrote that only because I can see that he can sound pretty out there and mistake that for inappropriate. Greg has a very hard time with words and it can frustrate him so much he sounds like that. NOT blaming you.

    Lets agree to disagree. That is not being judgmental. But yes, sorry, I do think the press along with LA demeaned Lemond, and characterized him in ways that crushed him.

    Inadvertently, I am saying, NOT judging, but saying calling him inappropriate for speaking out calls up for me the same stuff in a way.

    So sorry it sounded harsher. I probably sounded bigger because I rode with him, know him and has been a horrible experience watching him gain weight, and suffer in a myriad of ways like the Andreus and others.

    Again, sorry for the tone.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Evan: I’m really done with this, but I’m going to say one last thing: I’ve never demeaned LeMond. Never. I’ve been critical at times, but I’ve always been respectful. That said, I think it’s high time you go to the publications that actually demeaned him and criticize them. We never did it here; we don’t deserve your ire.

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