Turning Point

The effect of the release of USADA’s “reasoned decision” and the accompanying documents has been rather like a Hollywood special-effects explosion. Debris has been raining down from the sky long after the explosion itself has ceased to reverberate. Some of us continue to wince and duck because we know there’s more in the sky than just blue. With a single download George Hincapie has gone from one of the United States’ most beloved riders, to one of its most vilified. Johan Bruyneel has gone from genius mastermind to evil genius. So many characters from the heyday of American cycling have been thrust into the role of criminal that Tyler Hamilton’s one-time team director Bjarne Riis—an enigmatic figure if ever there was one—has the enviable position of occupying a kind of moral purgatory where people aren’t really sure just how to feel about him.

Reams continue to be written about the USADA case, Travis Tygart and, yes, Lance Armstrong. Some of it, like Charles Pelkey’s recent Explainer, will be reasoned and objective. Some of it, such as Malcolm Gladwell’s piece for Business Insider, will get the conclusion wrong due to a lack of understanding of the facts; simply put, Gladwell doesn’t understand that the public wants a clean sport. Unrestrained doping results in deaths, and deaths are bad for the sponsors. Others, like John Eustice’s piece for TIME, hails from an outlook of such moral ambiguity one would prefer he didn’t speak on behalf of the sport; his attitude is a great example of what got us into this mess. This is no time for more of the same. The biggest surprise came from Competitive Cyclist’s “What’s New” blog, which is the most unapologetically ambivalent piece I’ve been able to find. Unfortunately, cycling fans don’t seem to be willing to entertain negative capability where Armstrong is concerned. As a result, no one I know is ready for nostalgia.

One wonders about the curious silence of Sally “Lance Armstrong is a good man” Jenkins, the Washington Post columnist and Armstrong biographer who has been known to take on a sports icon directly, such as when she wrote, “Joe Paterno was a liar, there’s no doubt about that now.” And then there’s the astoundingly politician-like flip-flop of Phil Liggett who has been far more effective as a PR agent for Armstrong than Mark Fabiani was. His statement that he finds it “very hard to believe Lance Armstrong did not dope” falls rather short of the more definitive, ‘I believe Lance Armstrong doped’, was nonetheless a shocker for those who watched him on the Four Corners program on Australian television, and re-broadcast by CNN in the U.S.

No matter what faults readers may find with the print media, they cannot compare to the sin committed in the orchestrated  slander of Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis by Liggett and co-commentator Paul Sherwen. In allowing Armstrong to join them as an investor in an African gold mine, they gave him their short hairs, and the last vestiges of their objectivity.

The outrage about Armstrong is really understandable. His seven wins in the Tour were a Ponzi scheme that even Bernie Madoff would admire. How Armstrong managed to do what he did, why he did it, why others aided him, all of that is easy to process. It’s a word I keep coming back to: coercion. At some level, everyone who succumbed felt pushed by forces outside their own will. What has been harder to understand is how the reception to the Armstrong story changed over time.

In 2001, almost no one wanted to hear any suggestion that Armstrong wasn’t clean. For a long time, David Walsh was treated as if he was running around in a tinfoil hat. Even in 2005, once the allegations were out there more firmly, the cycling world still seemed to have their hands at their ears, collectively yelling “la-la-la-la I can’t hear you.” But by 2009 it was apparent, based on—if nothing else—comments here on RKP, that a great many serious cyclists had come to the conclusion that Armstrong wasn’t clean. It was also apparent by that time that a great many stories had emerged of just what a domineering personality he was. I’ve often wondered just how much peoples’ dislike of Armstrong greased their ability to conclude that he was a doper. Once a villain, then why not all-in?

So while the Friday Group Ride is a few days away, I’d like to pose a few questions to you readers: When did you come to the conclusion that Armstrong was a doped athlete? If the tipping point for you came before the USADA Reasoned Decision, what served as your personal tipping point? Also, if your change of opinion came before the Reasoned Decision, did the release of those documents change anything for you, even if it was only to cause you to hate Armstrong even more? Finally, for those of you who have been outraged by what was detailed in the Reasoned Decision and its supporting documents, why did it anger you in a way the same allegations made previously did not?

Now, having asked all that, I’ll make a final request: This is meant to be a conversation, not an occasion to vent self-righteous spleen. We want to hear from as many readers as possible, so we ask that you try to keep your comments both brief and civil. Thanks.


Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Rich Wilson

    Whenever my non-cycling friends asked me “the question” I always replied with: a) lots of people have passed lots of doping tests, and been caught other ways, and b) he’s not the most tested athlete. That said, I just don’t know.

    But my turning point came with that breakaway with Filippo Simoeni. That didn’t convince me that Lance doped, but it convinced me that he was a bully, and I never felt ‘good’ about him again.

  2. Arthur Alston

    I’d love to say it came on Mont Ventoux in 2000 when he bridged across to Pantani and even Liggett and Sherwin were left virtually speechless and could only utter “unbelievable”.

    But for me the turning point came when Big George spilled the beans. They were room mates after all, best buddies and side by side during all the good years. Once he confessed, I had to finally change my mind.

  3. Dingbat

    I was sitting with my wife watching the Tour; it must have been ’06 or ’07. Versus did a little audience poll, the call-in or comment-online type, put up onscreen on the way to the commercials, with the simple question, “Did Lance Armstrong dope?” A half-hour later they put up their results–I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I remember Phil in his chipper way, saying, “Well, there you have it, 20 percent of you don’t believe Lance and 80 percent think he was squeaky clean!”

    And I don’t recall whether my wife or I said it (because we were both thinking the exact same thing), but we turned to each other and one of us said, “Well, maybe not _squeaky_ clean.” And at that point it was clear: If he wasn’t squeaky clean, he was dirty.

  4. Rod Diaz

    The links to Ferrari, after reading “LA’s War”. That for me clinched it. I had just recently learned about the famous “EPO is no more dangerous than orange juice” quote. I think this was in 2004. Then shortly afterward there was the Simeoni chase…

    That was it for me. I already knew that passing the tests meant little, since I a lifelong baseball fan. But I still wanted to believe until those episodes.

  5. Michael Birdsong

    My suspicions began after reading “Lance Armstrong’s War” when it was published. They grew as he came out of retirement a second time, made such a scene about intending to publish all test results, and was on the 2009 TdF podium. Floyd Landis’ e-mail released in May 2010 was the nail in the coffin.

  6. Reid N.

    When did I first figure it out? Hard to say with precision. I distinctly remember when one of my riding buddies came home from France where he had attended the 2004 Tour and was sporting a black baseball cap with a yellow “6” on it, and I told him, “Come on. You know he’s doping right?” I had been tallying up, on my own, the doping convictions of Armstrong’s competitors and former teammates, and as the list got longer and longer it was hard not to conclude that Arsmtrong was doping too. I also have a recollection of the “Actovegin” incident and thought, at the time, the explanations (the need for doctors to drive an hour away from the bus to dispose of trash) was suspicious. I guess the absolute tipping point was probably the L’Equipe expose, “Le Mensonge Armstrong” which detailed the after-the-fact (blind) testing of 1999 Tour urine samples using the newly developed EPO tests and the independant matching of those samples with Armstrong’s rider ID number, and the dates of the positive samples corresponding with signficant Armstrong performances in the 1999 Tour. As the reasoned decision points out, it is impossible to disregard this as conclusive evidence of Armstrong doping. [Although, somehow, the “independent” Dutch attorney hired by the UCI to investigate, came to the opposite conclusion and instead called for an investigation of the the lab that did the testing]. But Walsh’s book, LA Confidentiel, and its American version, From Lance to Landis, and the stories there of Emma O’Reilly and Besty Andreu just confirmed it. And finally, about three years ago, I published a comment on Velonews’ website questioning why Jonathan Vaughters had never been publicly candid about his time on the US Postal Service and his own expereience
    “playing with the hotsauce.” Vaughters actually e-mailed me back and said, in words or substance, that he could not be candid, because he was fearful of retaliation from Armstrong and that in any event it was not useful to dwell on the past but made more sense to focus on a clean future for the sport. Whenever friends would doubt my statements that Armstrong was a doper, I would show them that e-mail, and they too would then believe.

  7. Troutdreams

    Excellent piece.
    I suspected (strongly) Armstrong was dopping shortly after his return to the sport. Just too much “smoke” not to have a fire. And I found Landis, Hamilton to be credible when they started speaking frankly about their own drug use and the teams. Just so little to gain, and at such a great expense. The often repeated claim that these men were know liers meant little to me…can people not both lie and then later tell the truth?

    I started despising Armstrong when all the incidents he had with other riders, support staff and members of the media started adding up. Especially LeMond. I have no use or compassion for personalities like his. It makes me question his motives for Livestrong, addmittedly an organization filled with dedicated and caring people. Such a shame. He’s damaged so much.

  8. grolby

    I didn’t start following the sport closely until 2006 (yeah, I know, right?), so most of the Armstrong era for me was learned of after the fact. I obviously heard things, but didn’t know enough about the sport to put it together – there was still a very large and vocal pro-Armstrong contingent drowning out the skeptics at that point. It was Floyd Landis’ revelations in 2010 that sealed the deal for me – it had the ring of truth, and the idea that, having lied about not doping before, he now must be lying about having doped and seen Armstrong dope, never had any logical coherence, nor any relationship to actual human psychology. I believed Landis from day 1, and from that point on Armstrong’s eventual public downfall seemed to be more of a matter of time than a question of truth.

  9. armybikerider

    I’ve actually “met” Armstrong a few times at races (if speaking for 45 seconds and getting an autograph constitutes “meeting” someone) and he was always outgoing, engaging and friendly to me and those I was with. The first in 1993 when he showed up for a local Texas mountain bike race in his World Championship jersey. I was an awestruck bike shop employee and again – he was was this outgoing friendly professional racer who just beat “Big Mig” for God’s sake!
    I dismissed Landis and Hamilton, even some of the other riders’ allegations, but when I read what Hincapie said…..that pretty much sealed the deal for me. But even now, with all the viral hatred and especially the evidence spread out for all to read, I still find myself, while not a “fanboy” or disbeliever of facts – I get he’s a doper, being a little empathetic for Armstrong based upon my personal interactions with him.

  10. Ransom

    Hard to pinpoint… I think somewhere along the way, when combined with all the allegations, the number of people who were doping made it seem that the chance that he was beating a field doped to the gills while remaining clean himself was vanishingly tiny…

  11. cormw

    Personally, I started to question his results when he won #6. Why had no one else in the history of the sport won more than 5? Seemed suspicious to me. The Reasoned Decision didn’t really do much to surprise me and didn’t change my opinion of the situation.

  12. Adam

    I’ll admit, my doubts started long before I fully delved into road cycling. It was Mr. Armstrong’s testosterone positive. I was younger then, I think i was 16 and naive, but it just didn’t seem right to me. Not every allegation holds court with truth but it looked like a-, sounded like a-, and performed like a-…

    Truthfully, the turning point was when Lance announced his comeback. Cycling was hot on ‘Berto’s heels, staking high claims that he was the next 7-time Tour victor for the future. Lance, the too proud Mallard, could not let that happen. He let greed get in the way of potential. Even if potential proved to swim in the same dirty ponds.

    It was less smoking gun evidence, more testament to his lack of character. This was my turning point, when I started to see Lance not as an icon but as a sad figure of cycling’s dirty past.

  13. the other Adam

    I think I really started to think he was guilty in 2004. Everyone remembers Floyd blowing the lid off things saying everyone’s guilty, but Jesus Manzano was doing the same thing in 2004 saying the doping in Kelme was systematic.
    At the same time you had Lance winning a sprint stage at the Tour of Georgia (stage 3, 2004) and then within a handful of years you had four prominent riders move away from USPS and all get busted: Heras in 2005 Vuelta, Hamilton 2004 Vuelta, Floyd 2006 Tour and Beltran 2008 Tour.
    I remember thinking it couldn’t be a coincidence.

  14. Q

    I raced against Julich in Colorado as a junior, and I think Lance & George showed up at one of our local races as well in 1989 or so, so I followed both of their careers with great interest. I remember watching 1999 rooting for both Julich and Armstrong to do well, given both of their strong grand tour results in 1998. Armstrong’s victory was more than I could have ever hoped for. By 2000 and 2001, there were some allegations making the rounds and I really hoped they weren’t true, but I was concerned. By 2004, I was getting bored of it all and wishing Armstrong would race the Giro once in awhile or return the favor to Heras in the Vuelta, but I hadn’t made my mind up about the doping allegations. The defining moment for me was the “Simeoni incident” in 2004. Lance’s actions confirmed that he was a bully on and off the bike, and I couldn’t imagine any other interpretation of his actions other than that he was a doper.

    I honestly thought he was clean during the comeback. I figured he knew the sport was getting cleaner and wanted to prove to himself he could still win. The USADA evidence seems to show that he just wanted to prove he could still beat the system with the new blood passport.

    There are a lot of dopers in cycling, but only some of them are true sociopaths. Lance is one of them.

  15. Aki

    By end of Tour 1999 I was very suspicious. He went from being killed in the TTs and mountains to slaying all. I figured he was clean for his ’93 Worlds win but I attributed that to a combination of weather (the rain), aggression (he took risks on the descents), and the fact that he was a non-favorite. If he’d started winning various classics and such I’d have believed it. For him to win the Tour was almost a farce, it’s like if Museeuw or Bartoli suddenly won the Tour. A non-climber, non-time trialer, out-climbing and out-time trialing the best? Come on. I stopped buying bike magazines and race tapes about that time. Only in 2006 did I feel that things were better. Yeah, oops.

  16. Thirdwigg

    After the 2002 race, I started putting on “hopeful blinders.” The 2009 podium made me pretty sure. The Reason Decision made me certain, and made me understand how deep it actually went.

  17. Scott

    Simeoni; potentially the only confession we’ll ever get from Lance… Most disgusting television I’ve ever seen – interupting my favourite sport made it that much harder – there’ll be no forgiveness.

  18. Martin Ward

    I wanted to believe it all,from 1999 to the end of the comeback.I still do. I look back now and see how naive that was. What finally made me turn the corner for good? George,Levi,Tommy D. , Dave Z. J.Vaughters and Tylers book. You can stick your head in the sand for only so long before you need to come up for a fresh breath. They were all standing there when that time came,no going back.The level of cynism and lack of moral action is astounding. Winning clean is one thing and an ideal to work twoards for all.For me to care again there needs to be a revival of sportsmanship and honarable action.

  19. thom barry

    P – I had to think about this for awhile, and I realized that It was just a long downward slide.

    I idolized Lance when he first won. I was 17. I worked in a trek shop and rode a 5500 with a right side STI lever and a left downtube – just like Lance. I taught myself to spin a high cadence – just like Lance. It was like one of those albums that somehow goes totally under the critical radar and changes your life – like it was made just for you and nobody else knows about it.

    He won again, and this time I was talking about it with everyone – Lance was cool. My family in rural maryland started accepting that I shaved my legs and wore my purple lycra team kit –
    because all of a sudden bike racing was cool. He avoided the sophomore slump and finally that band is getting the cred they deserve and you can say that you were at those first shows…

    Then, the sellout. #3. Honestly, I hardly remember it, I had gone to college and life was changing. But really, it was that Lance had made bike racing boring. Everybody wanted to talk about the Tour, but only the Tour, and only Lance at the Tour. Not George at Roubaix, not even Lance anywhere else – because, in essence, he only raced the Tour. That was the first straw, he made cycling one-dimensional. The yellow wristbands were like the sex pistols on pandora radio – the original passion had been completely tamed and commodified.

    But so far my dislike was all about me. It took something else for me to turn on Lance.

    When I worked in the shop I rode with a guy who had been on Motorola with Lance, who knew him when he got sick. I felt like I had a tiny personal connection with him and I remember the photos of when he was in the hospital with Kristin by his side… when I first learned about him he was a symbol of how even those of us in peak physical shape are still human – so very mortal. I know it’s sappy, but there was a time when Lance was spoken of as if he were a dead man. His story (which he still sells through Livestrong) is about survival and coming together in the face of insurmountable odds, it’s about encouraging individuals and families to have hope and to persevere.

    Which is why I still remember how disappointed I was when I heard that he had divorced his wife. I won’t even bother to do the google search to get the list of women that he went through after her, and I won’t do a bunch of moralizing about it. But it was a clear sign to me that something was rotten in the state of Denmark – that the story we were being sold wasn’t quite true. It was the second and final straw. When friends asked me then if I thought that he was doping – I would usually say I that I didn’t know and that he had lost 10 pounds blah blah…

    But the truth was that I totally lost faith in him when he left Kristin. Everything from then till the reasoned decision has just been another nail in the coffin. Everything just another slip down that ‘greased’ slope – as you said.

    Now, I’m older, married and divorced myself. It’s been touched on a few places in the wider conversation about l’affair d’Armstrong – but what toll must the doping, cheating and lying have taken on their relationship? Hindsight is 20/20 but looking back their separation really does seem like one of the first symptoms of the disease…

  20. Doug Page

    I felt from the time LA contracted cancer he had taken steroids, and that is why he became ill. Too many young athletes are tempted to build their bodies using drugs, and some pay a high price. I believe those who have literally built an athletic body using drugs cannot “reform”, and compete fairly, because their bodies have forever changed. To add the icing to this toxic cake, LA gets cured of cancer and thus provides the worst sort of example possible for youth entering sport. Not to mention the naked aggression he showed to anyone who opposed him, which is diametrically opposite to the values of sportsmanship I was raised on. I will be elated to bury the LA legacy.

  21. puck monkey

    Dr Ferrari said “EPO is not dangerous; it’s the abuse that is. It’s also dangerous to drink 10 liters of orange juice”. Lance said he worked with Ferrari. It was that simple.

  22. Kevin McTighe

    Knew how to get steroids when in High School, over 40 years ago. Since then PED use has tainted many sports, how about the Olympics as an example. Festina was systemic doping, right ? And speeds continued afterwards ? Article about “Big Mig” running into Armstrong in an elevator then picking Armstrong as a favorite BEFORE his TdF wins was my tipping point.
    I don’t hate people, especially those I don’t know. Worked in government so it takes a cattle prod to “shock” me. Athletes are the little folks in the PED mess. Athletes are younger, poorer, less worldly than those in charge. The change needs to be made top down. Does the name Bud Selig tell you why I’m cynical this will happen ?
    Fearless Kevin

  23. AH

    2001. It was obvious to anyone paying attention with a real understanding of the sport.

    Which is why many of us are so angry at the cycling “journalism” establishment for their feigned surprise these last couple months. They were either completely out to lunch or financially dependent on Lance’s success. End result was the same: They perpetuated the lie.

  24. Dan

    The possibility that Lance doped was introduced when Lance was associated with Dr. Ferrari. However, I always just assumed Lance just pushed the legal limits (e.g. hyperbaric chamber to achieve the same results as EPO/blood doping) rather than doping. It only become fully apparently to me that Lance doped the day Lance stopped fighting.

  25. gmknobl

    For me, it came when FL and TH confessed to their activities. I’m always willing to give a person a break and believe them when they say something, apparently sincerely. So when Armstrong said he didn’t dope (use drugs or simply save & reinject high hemocrit blood) I believed him in the absence of proof to the contrary. When FL said he didn’t dope, I believed him initially. When TH said it was phantom twins, well, I had some doubts. To me, none of these people had good reasons to dope, morally, as the risk to health and credibility was too high. But they did it, some because they felt they had to to hang with the others and some for money and some for both. It still doesn’t make much sense to me and I still want real proof (that we have now) and more than just because someone says so for me to believe any horrible accusations. I believe in innocent until proven guilty in all things. And yes, I have children.

    So, I initially didn’t believe then when more and more people accused, then confessed, I had real doubts. When FL and TH both confessed and Armstrong’s reactions were so negatively strong, I felt he did dope.

  26. Craig Larsen

    By 2004 I could no longer accept that the Postal Train could be so dominate without doping. LA always seemed like the win at all cost type of guy, and PED’s fit in to well. Lance Armstrong’s War put the nail in the coffin for me. The Ferrarri connection is to much smoke.

  27. Sidamo

    I was always fairly sceptical as his achievements were so outlandish, but once I heard he was working with Ferrari I was convinced he was a doper. The intervening years have just been a case of waiting to see if he’d really get away with it.

  28. Reid N.

    Reading the other comments reminded me: Simeoni. Not only did that shameful episode confirm my suspicion that he was a doper, it made plain to me, and anybody else who was watching, that he was the biggest goon enforcer of the Omerta. With his “zipping the lips” gesture, he was sending the message that anyone who spoke out against doping, against Ferrari, would never win a stage in the Tour, and would be relegated to lousy results and second rate teams. I presumed then that it had a huge in terrorum effect against anyone else speaking the truth. The arrogance and the absurdity of Lance intimidating a rider while on world-wide television was beyond belief. I am still convinced that the refusal to invite Simeoni’s team to the Giro (when he was Italian National Champion) was based on pressure from Armstrong who had suggested he would ride the Giro that year (but likely told the organizers, “I will come, but only if you don’t invite Simeoni.”). The Simeoni incident, from my perspective, took his doping beyond the “everybody does it” level to the level of “Lance is the chief organizer and proponent of doping and serves as the dopers’ biggest protector.

  29. Bob Sillars

    I came to the conclusion slowly. I had suspicions in the early 2000s. I never quite bouhgt the then common notion that the allegations were all about French jealousy of and American winning THEIR race. I went to the tour in 2004 but remained largely in denial. The suspicions became stronger after Tyler Hamilton got busted in 2004, and then Heras in 2005. I had always bought into the notion Hamilton would be the last guy to dope. I always had thought that doping by Lance was more likely than Tyler. When Tyler got caught, I moved from accepting the idea that maybe Lance doped to the idea that Lance probably doped. But it was when I read Walsh’s Lance to Landis book in 2007 that I became fully convinced.

    One of the most disturbing things for me was the way Lance (and Trek, at Lance’s behest) treated my real cycling idol, Greg LeMond.

  30. Bryan

    For me, it wasn’t a single incident that made me realize Armstrong was a doper. I had strong suspicions beginning in about 2004. As top cyclists (Pantani, Jan, Basso, Floyd, Tyler) were busted, I came to believe they were all doped. Lance had doped too and, as Ben Johnson might say, “fair is fair”. After reading Kimmage’s interview with Floyd Landis on NYVelocity, I was certain that he doped.

    When he came back in 2009 I believed the peleton was much cleaner than it was in 2005. I believed that his real reason for the comeback was to prove that he could win the TDF “clean”. But after the statements from USADA and Ashenden regarding his blood values in 2009-10, I feel disgusted that he came back to a cleaner peleton, and immediately cheated.

  31. bongo

    For me there was always the question, but I was one of those who looked for the positive test result. I also felt that Landis was just out for money or revenge and Hamilton, well I don;t know. I guess I just wanted to believe. It was Hincapie’s blog post that sealed the deal for me.

    I don’t hate Armstrong, I hate what he did, I hate how it is affecting our sport, I hate the fact that so many riders were caught up in the whole mess. I do have to say though that like it or not if it weren’t for Lance there would be a whole lot fewer folks riding bikes right now. I only wish …

  32. Paul

    First, I enjoyed watching Lance’s run. Those images are real and forever a part of cycling but I’ve always believed the Andreus’ account in their (2005/’06?) depositions. Armstrong’s legal team has always countered their, and all-comers, point with name-calling. That reaction is juvenile, groundless and off base in regards to truth seeking. Betsy Andreu’s published statements and interviews reveal her to be intelligent and incapable of BS. She was not to be intimidated and I applaud both of them.

    I can accept a flawed competitor. Our culture has difficulty embracing reality, or a “hero” who competes at a high level but brings some baggage. Baggage that in a lot of cases speaks to the hero’s willingness to win at high costs.

  33. Paul

    I remember the allegations that the Postal team had dumped medical waste. I hoped that Lance Armstrong wasn’t doping, but I didn’t know. The turning point for me was when the anonymous 1999 samples tested positive. I was disappointed but went to the ‘everyone else was doing it too’ camp.

    Floyd Landis’s point about the Swiss test was the first outrage I felt. (of course I felt the Floyd Fairness Fund was a bit too far already). Doping is frustrating and probably inevitable, but getting caught and paying your way out is just too much.

    I had read enough in the Cycling News Clinic forum so that Tyler Hamilton’s book and the Reasoned Decision were more explanatory than shocking.

    I wouldn’t say I hate Lance Armstrong (confession: I stopped at Mellow Johnny’s in June) but I just cannot stand the rhetoric, lies, and BS from his camp and followers, especially the immoral and arrogant “winners can cheat because they’re winners” excuses. Reading the pro-Lance anti-USADA bile that’s come out this year makes one wonder how bad it was back when Lance was on top.

  34. Joe

    I couldn’t read “It’s not about the bike” without coming to the conclusion that Lance had to be a calculating, systematic doper.

    The aggression and obsession that oozed from the pages told me there’s no way this guy would sit by while all his competitors got juiced to the eyeballs. He had the killer instinct, million dollar bikes (that were thrown in the trash) weren’t off limits, so why would drugs be?

  35. STS

    His story coming back from cancer to win the TdF after he had not even come close to winning it before he got cancer was always to good to be true for me. So, I was pretty sure that he was not riding “clean” right from the beginning of his “era”.

    But the point when I lost any doubt about it was the day in 2001 when he won a TdF stage up to L’Alpe d’Huez for the first time. I knew that climb very well, I had witnessed the race from the side of the road (and on TV, of course) coming up numerous times and I knew the winning times that where achieved before and after 1991. I had often compared my best times on that climb to them.

    LA’s time in 2001 was some 38 minutes compared to 41 something minutes ridden by Lemond and Fignon in 1989 when they were also really racing up that climb. Then I knew without any hint of a doubt that Lance was one of those guys with high octane gas in his venes. There simply was and still is no other explanation for such an tremendous increase in power to weight ratio over the time of just one decade.

    Interestingly when Pierre Roland won in 2011 at the end of a rather short stage he also only managed a time of 41:xx minutes. Back to the level of performance from 20 years ago despite all the undeniable progress in technology and the science of training, nutrition, etc.

    The revelations of the USADA report and from Tyler’s book have not made me angry or changed my attitude towards Lance in regards to his sporting achievements since it only confirmed what I was already sure of.

    But especially Tyler’s book revealed something that – astonishingly in hindsight – I had not understood before: I’m pretty sure Lance Armstrong is a psychopath because of some typical signs of this “illness” in his behaviour.
    And that insight made me feel for him in a way when before I was predominantly feeling a strange mixture of callousness and admiration for him.

    I really hope our beloved sport manages to get some trust back from the broader audience. Because the development of the last three or four years shows that a real change is going on. But so far this development has not been noticed by the bigger public. Hard to believe that will change in a few years’ time after that story came out.

  36. Nick

    I was late to the game. If I’m fully honest, it was only during his comeback that I began to let myself believe he had doped. More than anything else it was the combination of seeing that so many of his old top rivals had tested positive for drugs and his own dominance over those very people who were doping that made me no longer able to believe the myth.

    1. Author

      Everyone: Thanks so much for your comments. It’s been terrific to read about the personal journey each of you traveled with regard to him. This is a great example of how the comments section can really host an enlightened conversation rather than devolving into invective and name calling.

  37. Running Cyclist

    Paul Kimmage’s interview with Floyd Landis changed my opinion about the entire sport, including Lance. But it wasn’t until the Reasoned Decision that I gained perspective that it was so much more serious than “one doper among many.”

  38. SteveW

    I tried to bury my head in the sand. I never spoke up to contradict my cycling friends because I knew I would have come off as stupid. When non-cyclists asked my opinion I always replied “innocent until proven guilty.” I was hoping against hope that Lance was telling the truth, that his detractors had dispicable motives, that there was some some explanation, and that a cancer survivor, not matter that I would wan’t him as a friend, really could come back and win 7 tours clean.

  39. Ken

    I couldn’t find the exact post, but I think it was 2009 or maybe 2010… A discussion at “Cozy Beehive” blog (http://cozybeehive.blogspot.jp/) helped me realize I was sticking my head in the sand, although I had had a moment of doubt before in 2004 when I watched the now infamous incident with Simeoni in Stage 18 of Tour de France that year.

    Reading “Reasoned Decision” didn’t make me hate Armstrong more or less, but I just can’t help but wonder that his characterization of his accusers such as Betsy Andreu, Floyd Landis or Tyler Hamilton as vindictive, bitter, vengeful, jealous, liar, etc. seems perfectly match his own personality traits. Did he chose those words because he is?

  40. Mike

    I came to realize Armstrong doped after reading “it’s Not About the Bike” and talking to my niece’s oncologist. In the book he talked about the great care his doctors took to assure the drugs they provided him did not leave long term side effects. After discussing that with the oncologist he came straight out and told me what was truly implied in the way the book was written, was there was a clear indication of not only EPO use, but other drugs he mentioned I don’t recall.

    I raced against LA when he was coming up the ranks…more personality than talent. Changes like he went through dont happen overnight. It’s like when Tommy D, who i raced against when he was Ft Lewis college became a superstar almost overnight. I remember keeping him in the gutter and the next season we couldn’t even touch him.

  41. Flogger

    The Simeoni thing and the way he defended Ferrari planted the first seeds of doubt for me. Then, I wondered how he could utterly dominate the Tour for seven straight years, never an injury, never in the hurt box, all too easy. All the acts of witness intimidation over the years – in my business (criminal defense lawyer), only guilty people do that. His arrogance during the comeback pretty much convinced me. But the tipping point didn’t come until the release of the USADA brief, particularly the testimony of so many teammates and the ongoing connection to Ferrari (over $1,000,000.00!!). Guilty. And I don’t buy the ‘everybody did it’ defense. Not everybody did do it. He was the ringleader of a massive decade-long fraud and he was and is a pathological liar. For the life of me I do not understand why the US Attorney did not follow through with a criminal prosecution. I wonder what the USPS and Discovery knew when they withdrew as sponsors.

  42. Aki

    I’d like to add that when my mom “visited” me in Sept 2000 from Spain to see a doctor she asked me if I could lend her a book. I had mostly WW2 and Tom Clancy-type books but I did have an advance copy of “It’s Not About The Bike” that my bookstore brother sent me (complete with typos and such). I don’t remember exactly when I gave it to her but it was at night, in the hallway, and I think it was the evening she flew in with my dad.

    I should point out that when she talked to her physician/surgeon (an extremely close friend – he and his family were designated our guardians if my parents died) he told her to meet her at the hospital before she came to my house. Dutifully we went to the hospital on the way back from the airport and he ran some tests (on a Friday night – 7 or 8 or 9 PM – at the start of Labor Day weekend). I figured she had some virus or something and she wanted to see our family friend doctor instead of seeing some unknown in Spain.

    Absolutely clueless I lent her Armstrong’s book that evening.

    I didn’t realize that she had a very good idea that she had some kind of cancer, and she was right. After a few days of intensive testing – I drove her to maybe 10 labs/doctors over Labor Day weekend – we had a diagnosis: super advanced colon cancer.

    Armstrong had just won his second Tour earlier that year and there was this huge Armstrong craze going on. She asked me, while reading the book, if I thought Armstrong was doping. I told her that she should focus on the things he shared about cancer, that his riding was not relevant. I hated that I couldn’t tell her that, yes, I thought he was doping, but I know she knew. I’m her son after all.

    She was really bad off. The surgeon (my mom asked him to operate on her) had an ob/gyn stand by, the idea being that if there were a lot of cancer cells in her uterus and/or ovaries they’d remove them and whatever else. Well when they opened her up all her internal organs were just gray, not pink like they should have been. The ob/gyn just looked helplessly at the surgeon and left. The surgeon removed only the major tumors but had to leave a lot because, in his words, “there would have been nothing left if I removed all the cancerous cells.” The surgeon/friend actually pulled us family into the “death room” (my name for the conference rooms near ICU rooms) to let us know that my mom may not make it through the night.

    Incredibly she survived that night.

    She had many of the same experiences as Armstrong – snow storm x-rays, brain and lung tumors, no nausea or hair loss with some treatments, hair loss and nausea with others, veins burning from the inside, weakness, exhaustion, EPO (yes she had to take EPO once), it was all stuff that was in Armstrong’s book. She focused on his battle with cancer, his determination, his battle to recover.

    She ended up living at my house for a couple years before moving back to our childhood home (one town over) when the end was inevitable and she would require hospice care. She died in August 2003.

  43. Rick

    I was suspicious after victory number 2 or 3, but when Big George won at Pla d’Adet in 2005 it really hit me that everyone on that team was juiced.

  44. Eto

    For me the revelations about “unrealistic” results in professional cycling began in the early 1990’s with the Gewiss team(s). It continued through the Mapei years all the way to Museeuw’s so called confession that he only cheated in the final years of his career. Right. So much of this is chronicalled in the many World Cycling productions I own including the Ardennes Weekend performances of the Motorola Cycling Team that included LA and others we still know. The year was 1995, the year before their sponsorship ended.

    Specific to Armstrong, I was motivated and excited by his comeback year from canser and the toughness he had shown. I bought the screen of how meticulously he trained, ate, studied the parcours and his competition, and finally surrounded himself with the best people similar to Michael Schumacher. How could one argue with that? He made everyone else, especially his arch rival Jan, look like ameteurs.

    Any suspicions were confirmed after reading David Walsh’s book LA Confidential. I thought that if even ten percent of what he found and wrote about was true, Lance was guilty. I continued to watch him compete and enjoy the performances just like I watched Museeuw and his team(s) all this years. If anything, all tihis recent enlightenment hasn’t jaded me as much as helped me enjoy my own cycling performances (as human as they may be).

  45. Steven

    For me it was a fairly gradual process, and I was still conflicted about it up to the very end. Initially I was sure he was clean, that he was just a fantastic athlete with some ground-breaking training methodologies. I bought into all the stories about his high abnormally lactic-thresholds, his unique focus on the Tour, his revolutionary collaboration with his equipment sponsors. And of course there was some of the “support the home team” mentality, which helped me to dismiss the early doping allegations as jealousy.
    As I became more serious about cycling, I watched all the old Tour footage while training in the winter (I’d largely ignored the Tours while Lance was actually winning them), and the 2003 Tour where he battled with Ulrich became my favorite edition, which I’d watch once or twice a year. At the same time, though, I began to hear more disturbing stories about Armstrong from the people I was riding with: about his arrogance, his capability for viciousness, and his colleagues getting busted for doping. I still thought he was clean and a fantastic rider, but some moments of doubt started creeping in about his integrity. Over the next couple of years as more and more of his peers were either caught, or admitted their use of banned substances, I realized one day that I didn’t really believe that he was clean anymore. But I still wanted to believe; I still loved the story. I still didn’t think badly of Armstrong, either: I wasn’t fully prepared to admit to myself that he’d doped, and I cut him some slack because of how endemic doping was during the era he raced in.
    Ultimately, by the time all of the rumors about the investigation started coming in, and Vaughters and several others publicly admitted their doping, I was positive he wasn’t clean. I told myself that the expected testimony from Hincapie would be the final nail, but I already knew. So I wasn’t surprised in the least when the USADA announced it’s verdict, although oddly I was irritated they were pursuing him at all. I felt like they were chasing him down just to bag a big name, and were dragging up things from over 6 years ago with little solid proof.
    When the Reasoned Explanation came out though, I was genuinely surprised and angered. The one thing I hadn’t expected was that Armstrong was still doping during his comeback – I thought for sure he’d recognized that he was coming back into a cleaner peloton with far better doping controls, and that he’d try to do things the right way. I just couldn’t believe he had the audacity to drag his old practices into what I’d thought was a new era.
    I do still miss that fantastic story. But some things are just too good to be true.

  46. Drago

    I was pretty damn sure the top 10 or so were doped when I saw an interview with Julich: he was hanging with all the best climbers, and I think he was 3rd that year in the TdF. He said something like , It was easy, then checked himself and said, “Well, not easy, but I just paced so-in-so and hung on”. Ultimate confirmation when George friggin’ Hinkapie won a mountain stage– how does that happen?? In the Tour where the lightest, zero-percent-body-fat-climber-jockeys with 90% VO2 have been keying on that one day for an entire year, and some 6 ft 160 pounder wins…let alone is in the same group?
    Also, friend of a friend who was In always spoke about , “He’s on a good (air quotes) medical program”
    Turns out my top 10 theory was way off….

  47. Carl

    I think that once it was clear that Jan Ulrich had doped, one could only conclude that the guy who always beat the perennial number 2, and a bunch of other guys who were doping, was hugely unlikely to have been able to beat them racing clean. I really didn’t think it was so widespread as it was within the teams . . . I thought surely if George was doping, he’d be doing more winning. And given their vehement denials, I really questioned whether Floyd and Tyler were being truthful now or just trying to bring others down with them.

    I like Phil and Paul, but they sacrificed their objectivity early on, if ever they had it. Sportscasting seems to accept this sort of thing.

  48. nuovorecord

    For me, it was when Greg Lemond spoke of his concerns. I had wondered, but never allowed myself to believe that Lance was doping. I had bought the yellow bracelets, had friends with cancer that he had inspired, etc. But, I respect Lemond immensely and if he felt that there was something amiss with Armstrong’s “victories,” that was good enough for me. Turns out my faith in Greg was well-placed.

  49. WV Cycling

    2006 Boston Marathon.

    No matter what, any man who can ride 200km could punish himself enough to get a better time on a 26km marathon. Armstrong said he had shin splints so bad it crippled him. More than likely he did, but with the past accusations about doping, it made me question whether or not he was juiced enough or at all for this marathon. His time with Matthew McConaughey and whatever Olsen twin he was trying to seduce displayed his attitude which I mistook for playboy-chic, but now realize it filled well into the DSM-IVTR’s taxonomy for sociopath.

  50. Dan O

    I enjoyed the hell out the Lance Tours, watching almost all the coverage on cable. There was always some doubt, but I elected to wait until something was proven – considering how many others were caught doping. Even with the doubts, some hope that maybe he did race clean.

    I forget which Tour, but at the time my parents – not cycling fans – were staying with me and my family. There was some talk about Lance’s taller black socks and my folks were joking, “That’s where he hides his dope”, which I now think back on as ironic and hilarious – in a sad way.

    The USADA report and Hamilton’s book proved it to me. What really did it was Hincapie though. If George said Lance doped – Lance doped. That 110% proof for me.

    If Lance came out now and admitted it, then assisted with cleaning up the sport in some way – that would be huge. Lay it all on the line and attempt to grow something positive out of all this.

    I doubt that will happen, considering his reaction so far and people’s commentary on his personality. Maybe, eventually, this will happen. Remains to be seen…

  51. Tracy

    As doping use accusations and indictments against an overwhelming majority of fellow TdF podium finishers accumulated towards the end of the last decade, the idea that LA could have beat them clean was shattered. Certainly, any rider can win on any day, but to do so with such consistency against so many riders we now know were cheating, and in such a methodical manner surpassed believability for me.

  52. Jogy

    I really became suspicous in the 1999 tour on that epic stage when LA changed a 6 minutes backlog to Pantani and Ullrich to a 4 minutes victory over just these guys on the last mountain climb. (was it Ventoux? I don’t recall)

    And a couple of years later there was a remarkable interview from Ullrich when he was trying to explain his deeds: “I never cheated…… my competitors”. That was a good lough…

  53. randomactsofcycling

    I was first suspicious when I heard the famous “There’s nothing to find” press conference. Then When all the ex team mates kept getting busted. Oh and George’s win in the Alps….if he could win an Alpine stage, surely his Team Leader is on it too?
    But the final nail in the ‘coffin’ so to speak, was the Marion Jones confession. I really admired here as an athlete and if she could succumb to the dark side and never get caught, well anyone can.

  54. JDB

    The doubts crept into my mind during Lance’s comeback years because of the vocal, non-doping stance that he took followed by his backing away from some of the standards he set for himself. The LUG tried to send me a hint during a stage of the TdF about Lance in a side conversation, but I did not want to lose my feel good story. I still held on to Lance’s innocence until the bitter end. When the evidence began to be published and the riders (Hincapie, etc) began to release their statements, I could no longer deny it.

    The whole thing feels like getting out of a bad relationship. Initially, it hurts. As time goes by, I see how it makes my love of cycling stronger and better; I see how my denial was harmful to the sport(and me).

    Thanks for your coverage.

  55. Petros

    Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Barry Bonds, Ray Lewis, Lance Armstrong…all great athletes, but each of them a ‘certified’ a$$hole. The singular focus on success and winning at all costs brings glory in sports but alienates people. Everyone says Lance is a sociopath. Everyone says he is a bully. Everyone involved in USPS cycling says they were ‘coerced’.
    I buy that he may not be a ‘nice guy’. The world is full of them not-so-nice people. So what? If you don’t like someone, don’t hang out with them.
    I don’t buy the coersion story. None of the people involved was under eighteen. They were all adults. They knew right from wrong. They CHOSE wrong. Tyler and Floyd stayed quiet because Lance and the doped out cycling culture was their meal ticket. They only fessed up because they were caught and were mad as hell and they were taking THE MAN down.
    My teachers and my parents taught me that doing the right thing is hard. But it should be done not when everyone’s watching, but when nobody’s watching. All of these guys (Lance included) did not do the right thing right away. Unfortunately, our society has degenerated to the point where you can (figuratively speaking) commit murder, get caught, say “Ooops, I’m sorry, I was wrong”, and move on. The emphasis is no longer on doing the right thing. It is a culture that is now embedded in our life. I don’t think that it will change anytime soon, but I remain optimistic.
    As far as when I knew that Lance doped: I was one of the fools that believed he outworked everyone else. I read the first edition of “It’s not about the bike” in one sitting. I was fascinated with his story. I am still fascinated about his beating cancer. I also remember one year thinking “I sure hope he’s clean, because this is freakin’ awesome!” OK, I was duped. Like another comment said, when TREK brushed Greg LeMond aside in favor of Lance and all the million$ that went along, I lost all faith.
    I love the sport. I love the Tour, the Giro, the Vuelta, and the Tour of California. I love listening to Phil and Paul. I will not stop following cycling, and I will not get rid of my bikes.
    I will, however, continue to NOT treat sports figures as heroes. Because they are not.

  56. Aar

    For me it was gradual. The lawsuit in which the Andreus and LeMond came out started it. His constant statement of “I never tested positive” sounding like a tacit admisssion kept it going. It built through his constant use of Ferrari. When he failed to deliver upon making his blood values public during his comeback and his really unnatural appearance at the 2009 Tour where he was so thin and his skin was unnaturally tight got me closer to accepting it. Articles about the majority of the people he beat being dopers clinched it.

    The USADA Reasoned Decision, while it only confirmed further conspiracy I suspected, hit me like a ton of bricks. It brought to the full light of day that he is probably the most effectively doped athlete the world has ever known. His use of bullying to force his teammates to dope is particularly loathsome. Yet the worst things I realized upon reading the USADA decision are that his doing all of this stole careers from riders who never doped, stole from his sponsors and, worst of all, stole from cancer patients (what percentage of Livestrong money actually goes to cancer research vs the American Cancer Society?).

    From a pure bicycle racing fan perspective, how many podiums or wins in The Classics would he and George have racked up if he had left Tour GC riding to those so gifted and focusing on the type of riding he was so naturally gifted at. I dare say that I would much rather have witnessed that. Tyler’s book, the USADA Reasoned Decision and reporting since lead me to suspect that those results would not have required as much doping, if any.

    Through all of this, I’ve frequently thought that Johan was the one with the initial connections, influence and plans who coerced, enabled and steered the “willing victim(s)”. A close read of Hamilton’s book and the already released USADA Reasoned Decision hint at that. I’m interested in learning more as that particular case reaches its conclusion – arbitrated or not…

  57. Duffy

    I started riding in 2004 as a senior in high school largely due to watching the 03 Tour. I was a good runner and cycling had always seemed a natural corollary. Lance and made it look epic and, after spending a summer working two jobs, I bought a Trek 5900, the only bike befitting a future champion (did I mention I was a good runner? Little did I realize bike racing was a little different 🙂 I spent 2005 in Italy racing and it was there that I was first confronted, personally, with drugs in cycling. In 2007 I took another year of school to race for a continental D3 squad in Spain and it was on the roads there that my still young dream died. Riding in a pro European peleton where talk of loading and doctors was normal, where it was common knowledge that the team paid for the best riders to travel to Barcelona for ‘testing,’ after a couple weeks of which they would come back with thresholds five, seven, or ten percent higher. The first time I was given ephedrine I was getting dropped out of a grupetto doing 320 Watts 30 minutes into the last climb of the day after 5 hours of hard racing. I was told by my director that it was aspirin and I believed him until I was laying in bed that night unable to sleep, my usually slowly beating heart pounding. It only got worse from there. When I came back to the US, I didn’t touch my bike for five months. I couldn’t look my girlfriend, whose cycling dreams had always paralleled my own, in the eye. Our relationship fell apart soon after. Friends who expected great stories were surely disappointed; I had nothing for them but bitterness and self loathing. I now know my heart broke that night, in a hotel bed in Cartagena, and that with it my belief in the unsullied beauty of this sport died. Knowing that Lance likely had a similar moment makes me pity him. That he then forced that moment on others makes me hate him.

  58. Randall

    When I started cycling in 2009, my friends asked what I thought about Lance. Honestly, I figured if he was guilty, they’d have busted him by then. My moment was when I started to read the reasoned decision a few weeks ago. Thing is, I never cared enough to look it up, and I still wouldn’t if I had a choice.

    The real question I have is: which new Americans have a chance at the Classics next year?

  59. jorgensen

    When I read the book, “It’s not about the bike” his comments on the anxiety of the surprise tests seemed very genuine and while a nuisance, not in proportion if he did not have something to fear.
    Asserting that all the tests are “clean” was less definitive than “I don’t”.
    Beyond that, I figured most of the peloton was amped up. So, at worst he was just insuring he was on the same level of playing field.
    The way he approached racing was similar to what Dennis Conner did with the Americas Cup, look at everything, leave no avenue unexplored.

  60. Evan

    I had two aces others may not have had. One, as a neo pro, at the very beginning I had team mates pressure me to take “vitamin B12 injections, wink wink” My family, half murdered by the Nazis, parents who taught me to care about others and myself, I was horrified and quit. A big dream gone, took me quite a while to realize this was the whole sport headed into the crapper.

    As a result, I saw that the “new speed” of the peloton, Armstrong 8 minutes faster on Alp d’heuz than Lemond, and riders like Virenque with VO2 max of 78 retested after EPO with 95, was NOT ENTERTAINING AND EXCITING like it was for so many new fans who did not realize what this really meant.

    And I read David Walsh and Kimmage, and was utterly horrified. It all made complete sense.

    Two, I was in graduate school to become a Forensic Evaluator and researcher. So I saw the entire pattern of LA as an extreme sociopath, yes extreme. There are different degrees of this and he was in the destructive and sadistic end of the scale, i.e., Betsy Andreu stating he did not just want to intimidate and stop you, but he enjoyed destroying you.

    Padraig, thanks for moving forward as you are! This is a pivotal time.

    If you and other journalists read Walsh’s new book, on Amazon now, it details how the UCI was not only complicit, they actively suppressed findings, paid doctors to dope athletes, and many other horrid things, which are factual not theories.

    And that McQuaid, himself guilty of being barred from all olympics after false identity to ride in S. Africa during apartheid, and having dragged a very young Sean Kelly there also

    Is NOW trying to corrupt the so called independent commision by choosing a IOC fellow with a terrible history and who tried to sue Dick Pound of WADA.

    Stay the course Padraig!!!!! TY

  61. Evan

    Padraig and fellow cyclists, fabulous new compendium by Walsh, Kimmage and others reveals new depth and facts about USPS, and most importantly the UCI. Very worth while and quite empowering to read regards how to have a clean sport that we love and wish.

    Thanks for this site love it!

    Lanced: The shaming of Lance Armstrong [Kindle Edition] David Walsh and others

  62. GatorGene

    During LA’s comeback, when he didn’t publish blood values as promised, I started reading cycling message boards. I became astounded at the number of small pieces of evidence that collectively made the answer clear. I think I went from strong doubt he was clean to absolutely convinced he was dirty when one commenter wrote something like, “of course he out-worked everybody, no one can train hard for 8 hours day after day after day without doping. The doping allowed him to out-work his opponents.”
    At that point I knew that his desire, work ethic, and determination weren’t at odds with the argument that he cheated medically, they all pointed in the same direction.
    What saddened me most, and what still bothers me though, is the difference between Livestrong.org and Livestrong.com. It was when I found out how much money went into Lance’s pocket versus how little goes to actual anti-cancer research that I removed my yellow bracelet. Cheating to win a competition is unethical. Cheating anti-cancer donors of well-intentioned donations and purchases is monstrous, if not also fraudulent.

  63. Mike

    In the early 2000’s I had a business colleague from France and we used to debate frequently about Lance – he felt Lance doped and I adamantly defended his honor (“He’s the most tested athlete in sports – there’s no way is ever doped!”). Sound familiar?.

    I read LA Confidential sometime around 2006. The arguments David Walsh made for Lance being a doper were just too compelling for me to ignore, despite my being a fan of his at that time. A year or so after that I was training in Boone, NC and our group was joined one day by a former elite rider who “knew someone who knew someone” and he shared some convincing, yet anecdotal, stories of Lance doing things he shouldn’t have been. I guess it was during this timeframe when I began to see the writing on the wall.

  64. TominAlbany

    I was the typical US fanboy. I loved Lemond but could only follow on weekends on ABCs Wide World of Sports. I began following intensely when Lance began his rides. Prior to that, I followed Big Mig and the rest via newspapers etc. I wanted to believe in Lance. I have European a work colleague who was certain Lance must be doping. I hadn’t even heard of the ‘hemorrhoid steroid cream’ he got the TUE for. I was just naive and enjoying it all. Then, Charles Pelkey, while still with VN, told me via private message while LUGing, about the test and a lot of the other stuff. That’s when I finally became open to the possibility. I didn’t finally accept the liklihood, though, until the Feds and then USADA dug up the dirt.

    I don’t hate Lance for doping. Disappointed? Sure. What I intensely dislike, though, is the bullying. The coercion. I’ve met a few people like that in the past. I avoid them like the plague! Not just because I dislike that behavior but, because I can be bullied and coerced. Good thing I was never good enough/fast enough to race.

  65. Shawn

    The Reasoned Decision’s affect on me: It made me giddy. That’s because I intensely disliked him ever since meeting him on rides/races in Austin pre-cancer.

    When did I first suspect LA doped? Always, but certainly the first time I heard him respond to questions about doping by saying that he had never tested positive. I believe there were many instances of that very early on.

    When was I reasonably sure? 2000. “Activosomething”

    When did I know? When L’Equipe reported about the testing of the 1999 Tour B samples.

    I had a theory that the metastasis of his testicular cancer was hastened by HgH and anabolics. We know now that EPO has similar tendencies. And recently I read that Dr. Ferrari became more conservative after reaching a similar conclusion about the cancer spread…

  66. Evan

    Rather than adopt a moral tone, just a comment on the legal nature of LA actions. Although totally understandable, it is not really sufficient to characterize his actions as merely coercive and bullying. Actually many of the situations in the report really talk about fraud, extortion, assault (threat of harm and actual harm in various forms), harassment, and misappropriation of funds.

    It is very alarming that he could not have done these things if he was being looked at and matters looked into even minimally. There were many people who could and should have stopped him.

  67. Mike L.

    Personally, I stayed positive since the beginning (~2000) until 2010; call it hope that in a sea of lies, cheats, and partial (mis)information there was one hero. We all love to have heros even if we don’t admit it. The last couple years showed, however, that doping was prevalent, if not mandatory, to be competitive at the highest levels of the sport. Logic concludes that ‘everyone’ juiced if they maintained a position at the sharp end of cycling.

    The USADA decision did little to change my mind on ‘reality.’ However, the further reports with respect to the UCI’s fradulent behavior and LA’s ‘masterminding’ of doping and covering up of said activities I found shocking. Quite frankly, at this point I hope serious questions are asked in a court of law and those that allowed this all are displayed in public for the scoundrels they are.

  68. Hans

    I’ve always had suspicions about Lance since the controversy of the million-dollar Triple Crown days. But after the nightmare Tour of ’98, and seeing him return from cancer and perform well in the Vuelta, I had a change of heart. I met the woman who is now my wife on the day he won the prologue in ’99, and that first Tour coincided with our initial courtship, so they were pretty heady times. Nobody expected him to be able to defend his title in 2000 against the likes of Ullrich and Pantani, but he did. But gone was the humble cancer survivor of ’99. His increasing arrogance year after year reminded me too much of the Lance in the first half of the ’90s, and progressively drove me away.

    I did believe he was “legally” clean if using dubious training and medical practices though. He simply had too much to lose (sounds a bit like Wiggins’s argument, no?). It was the revelation of the suspicious donations to the UCI which nobody could ever remember the exact sums or dates of transactions that piqued my interest, and introduced me to the hysteric but convincing “Clinic” forum over on that other website that finally turned me.

  69. Pablo

    I tuned in to cycling in 2008 when I started riding a bike for exercise and the TDF was on soon after. What got me initially was the scenery! Then of course I discovered Lance Armstrong, read the books, watched all the DVDs etc. I was transfixed. I’d heard about the accusations and the cortisone incident etc. but I was a believer, it was all new and exciting. It didn’t occur to me to read what the accusers were saying, not because I didn’t want to hear, but because it was so much fun and negative stories just didn’t interest me at the time. I was always open to the possibility that Lance cheated even though I was a fan. But I didn’t see the point in condemning him when I wasn’t in possession of any proof that he had been doping. I mean how the hell would I know? I wasn’t necessarily comforted by the “never tested positive” defence, but I’m inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt. There were always seeds of doubt back there, like when I read about him chasing down Simeoni and threatening him. While I didn’t fully understand it then, it seemed an odd thing to do for someone who declared themselves a clean rider and was very methodical in how they went about their business.

    I was late getting in to cycling and my lack of knowledge of the sport made it easy for me to miss the indicators that seasoned people did not. Now after reading the USADA report and many articles, I can see how it all worked and why some people smelled a rat and didn’t let it go. Thanks to people like Lemond, Kimmage, Walsh, Simeoni, Bassons and the Andreu’s, we all know now what was going on.

    Sure I’m very disappointed in Lance but like many others, the cheating is one thing, but the bullying is another. I can’t stand a bully. Has it affected my love of cycling? Not in the slightest!

  70. wiloughby

    I started having doubts about LA when I read about LeMond’s phone call with him in ’01-’02. When the L’Equipe article came out about his ’99 urine samples coming up positive for EPO, I was convinced. When Floyd Landis started talking it totally made sense and I was sure about it then. I followed the sport back in ’93 when LA turned pro and from the beginning I was ambivalent towards him. On one hand he was talented and had big rider charisma but he was also arrogant and abrasive, which was a turn-off. I enjoyed it when he won but I found his combative attitude annoying. When he came back in ’99 to wear Yellow, I really was excited and thought it was because he lost weight and his strength to weight ratio went up. I didn’t realize that it was a combination of that, EPO, testosterone, HGH, cotisone, actovegen, etc.

  71. Khal Spencer

    As far as having doubts about whether Lance et al were clean? From today’s NY Times article: “…From 1980-90 to 1995-2005, the average speed of the Tour increased from 37.5 kilometers per hour to 41.6 k.p.h. How come?..” Those numbers, like Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and modern day 340 lb offensive linemen, sounded fishy. Innate biology has been supplanted by “better living through chemistry”.

    So for me, the revelation was a snowball rolling down hill, picking up speed and diameter, moving faster and looking bigger. When other Tour winners were popped, one could surmise that Lance was superman or that he too was racing stock modified production. The USADA report was just the last and final shoe to fall.

  72. Rain Man

    The USADA “Reasoned Decision” was just the confirmation of all of the rumors and suspicions. The truly sad thing is this; if the top 50 (or 100, or all of them) were juicing, OR were clean, the outcome of the race(s) would be the same. Cyclists are still the best athletes in the world.

    As for the USADA, their investigation revealed 2 very disturbing things: they are incomptetent at catching real cheaters, only the dumb/unsophisticated and the “inadvertent ingestion” cases are caught (their investigation proved that the tests don’t work), and, they (USADA) are doing a disservice to all clean athletes, as the clean athletes are depending on USADA/WADA to catch the dopers and get them out of competition quickly, not 2 years down the road, not 7 years down the road, and certainly not 14 years down the road when the doper(s) have already retired. We deserve better than what USADA/WADA are currently doing.

  73. Drew

    I wanted to believe for a long time at Lance was just a genetic freak and trained harder than the Ullrichs and Pantanis. But then I read about Bill Strickland changing his mind. The reason why, though never stated explicitly, seemed to me that Hincapie turned Lance in to the grand jury investigation. That was enough to tip me into the camp of disbelief.

  74. Hautacam

    I first doubted when Pedro Delgado tested positive for a drug that was on the Olympic banned list but not the Pro cycling banned list (probenecid?).

    I started questioning when the PDM team abandoned the TdF en masse. The story was that they had some bad food, but even then it seemed more likely that they had a bad bag of blood or some sort of IV feeding that went wrong.

    I became more cynical when the USPS team (or was it Motorola? Can’t remember) threw out a bunch of trash that turned out to have drug waste containing Actevegin (sp?), which was then an experimental substance — I believe made from calfs’ serum — intended for use in newborns who had surgery, to promote the growth of red blood cells. I think that incident pre-dated LA’s run of TdF victories, but I can’t be sure. Someone else with more interest will have to recreate the timeline.

    That was about the same time that a lot of pro cyclists suddenly seemed to develop receding hairs lines or male pattern baldness — a condition sometimes referred to as “nandrolone forehead,” which pretty much explains itself. See, e.g., B Rijs, M. Pantani, etc.

    Does anybody else remember the video clip of Allan Peiper telling the video camera in ’92 or ’94 or so (while on the bike) that Chiappucci showed Peiper his heart rate monitor on a TdF climb, and it read something like 87, at a point when Peiper’s heart rate was something like 187? Wonder what Chiappucci’s hematocrit was at that day.

    Then there was LeMond getting dropped like a schoolboy by the whole peloton in the ’94 tour. That just didn’t seem right.

    Then there was the Festina affair.

    I really began to believe the bad news when Betsy A first gave her testimony — under oath — way back when. She spoke to a unique moment when LA had nothing to lose and everything to gain by telling the truth; his health, and quite possibly his life, was at stake. And what on earth would she gain from lying? Nothing. It’s not like she sold her story to some tabloid, or optioned a Hollywood blockbuster script. And it was likely to cost her husband a lot since he was still in the pro cycling world.

    I was pretty much sure by the time that all of LA’s primary competitors and contemporaries had been busted or outed — Pantani, Ullrich, Rasmussen, Vino, etc. Stands to reason that if you repeatedly beat a bunch of known juicers, you were probably juiced yourself. I think the final straw for me was Ullrich’s killer time-trial at the end of the Tour de Suisse after sucking wind for most of that race, right before he was chucked out prior to the TdF start. (I may have my chronology a bit wonky here.) It was plain that no one could go from zero to hero at the very end of a stage race the way he did. There was only one answer.

    Finally, there was the cluster (!) of pros who suddenly chose to “prepare” for the TdF in Girona around the time of Operation Puerto, and then LA’s robotic “I never took performance-enhancing drugs” statement. The turn of phrase was so precisely repeated over so long, and in so many different fora, that it seemed scripted. I figured he was using some sort of recovery-enhancing substance instead.

    I’m not sure precisely when, but I know that I had given up hope well before Tyler was busted and before Floyd imploded. Those incidents pretty much confirmed my own belief about doping in the peloton. Plus reading (somewhere . . . can’t recall where) that a remarkable number of pro riders have “prescriptions” for inhalers to treat exercise-induced asthma. Asthma?! In those guys? Yeah, right. We know what those bronchio-dilators are for.

  75. Seano

    Petros makes some interesting points.

    I was one who never really believed it – I mean, this kid who went out and beat men in the prime of their careers in triathlons before switching to cycling? The one who did do more preparation than many had previously riding every stage & every climb in training? This guy who’s body was ravaged and stripped by cancer who was now riding much, much lighter?

    Hate him? Not at all – on many, many levels, Lance has delivered more to people than ever promised. Teammates bullied into doping? I don’t see them cutting checks/handing back salaries/handing back prize money. Team managers, sponsors, hangers-on all had a helluva ride and only abandoned him when the political pressure became too much to bear. I’m not sure, but I would guess he’s done more for disease research and inspired more people than any single pro athlete. Hate him? Not at all.

    These types of relavations are always a bit

  76. Matt

    When I read in ’08 that every fellow podium finisher ’99-’05 alongside Lance had been implicated in doping (except Escartin in ’99) but somehow Lance managed to beat all of them. Seemed inexplicable. There were 21 available podium spots from ’99-’05. The same 4 men occupied 16 of 21 available spots & the remaining 5 positions taken by Zulle, Rumsas, Vino, Kloden & a never-implicated Escartin. It’s the definitive who’s who of dopers. It’s not rocket science, it’s inductive reasoning. When something is not what it appears to be, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, & quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

    The most amazing Tour result over the past 20 years would have to be Fernando Escartin’s undoped 3rd place in ’99!

  77. SusanJane

    I wanted to believe. I defended LA to my family. I bought into the charisma, the survivor and the American hero. But each Tour got more and more boring. Anyone who had any hope were crushed one way or another. The media circus pissed me off with the same stories, the same quotes, and the same high volume of denial whenever anyone dared to stay anything about anything that LA did not approve of.

    But it was the omissions and the strange way Levi and the rest started talking. One of them I could see doping or covering for LA (although I didn’t want to). But I put the names together and saw the pattern. Then they all went underground when the first investigation started. No media. No race results. A few excuses but mostly silence. I got it then and started looking back. LA never doped alone. He needed a whole team to keep him protected and seeming innocent. He needed to control the peleton. He needed others to be guilty as well.

    I can say one thing, even though those results were bogus, some of those that followed weren’t. Levi and some of the others have raced clean and won. And it wasn’t easy. They really had to work for it. Maybe guilt was the fuel they really needed. But I can say that I’m so glad this is out. It will never be over. Too many lies. Too many deaths. Too many careers destroyed because they wouldn’t keep the big fat lies hidden and LA destroyed them.

  78. Tom

    One doper can force an entire sport to follow suit. Lance was not the first doper, but he brought to the sport a team of doctors and trainers and raised the science of doping to whee it could not be ignored. Would someone else have done this if Lance had not? I have my doubts, the sport lead by the riders have made major strides in reducing the influence of doping. This is why it was imperative to hold Lance accountable. If not given the harshest sanctions those 7 Tour would have stood for all time as proof that the system can be gamed. But the governing bodies, media and team management are still clinging to the past and resisting change. We need to take this moment of clarity on the important issue to not only change the rules, but the system.
    And it is up to us to provide the answers and the motivation to advance our sport.

  79. honest person

    George Hincapie is a cheater. His net worth is estimated at $40 million dollars. It is “stolen” money. How can we let him get away with this?

  80. Christopher Clark

    Greg LeMond and David Walsh made me take notice in 2001. When Lance divorced his wife in 2003 I was certain you could not believe one thing he said..The guy even lies about his height, his weight, and what size bike he rides.

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