It’s clear from your recent blog post on your site that you’re not happy with your 10-year ban from cycling. Big surprise.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: The rest of the world isn’t happy with that ban, either, but for reasons I suppose are very different from yours. You see, we all think you should have gotten a lifetime ban, just like your favorite son, Lance. He earned a lifetime ban and to most of us, your sins were just as great, your guilt just as proven, your responsibility even greater, so your punishment should have been just as high.
Here’s another newsflash (I should mention I have a few more after this one): Your case before WADA regarding your role as the mastermind of the U.S. Postal Service team’s doping program has been as anticlimactic as the news of any of Hollywood’s elite walking out of court-ordered rehab after only a weekend. We all saw it coming, and in that, it was just as unsurprising as your reaction.
That you have been banned from the sport for 10 years isn’t really news. That Michele Ferrari and Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral received lifetime bans for their efforts isn’t really news, either. And what of Dr. Pedro Celaya and Jose Marti’s eight-year bans? Definitely not news.
Were this a movie about your former team, this would be footage you’d run under the credits.
This is why your exhortations about USADA’s lack of jurisdiction over your career are falling on deaf ears. We don’t need anyone to explain the various agreements and bylaws that allow an organization in the United States to sanction a Belgian living in London. There may not be much in cycling we have faith in, but we do at least believe in those sanctions.
You, like Lance, have lost the plot line. The public wanted clean sport and plausible deniability. It’s much the way we want government. We want no corruption and plausible deniability so that we can at least claim we have a working democracy.
What neither you nor Lance seem to understand is that we, the public, recognize you rubbed our noses in your lies. The spell is broken. No matter how thrilling those Tour wins were, that entire era is now, collectively, the ex we can’t be in the room with. As breakups go, this was epic. We don’t want to see Lance on a bike ever again. We don’t want to see you speak into a microphone, anytime, anywhere. If we hear the word “win” come out of your mouth, we’re going to scream. All of us.
Your statement on your blog opens really well. You say, “I do not dispute that there are certain elements of my career that I wish had been different. Nor do I dispute that doping was a fact of life in the peloton for a considerable period of time.”
It’s such a great start. But you don’t go on to tell us what those things you wish were different were. You don’t confess your misdeeds. You don’t admit that you coerced numerous riders who would not otherwise have doped into doping. You don’t confess that you pitted the media against each other. You don’t reveal how you co-opted people into supporting the myth your team was built on.
And you continue, “However, a very small minority of us has been used as scapegoats for an entire generation. There is clearly something wrong with a system that allows only six individuals to be punished as retribution for the sins of an era.
Did the US Postal team really operate ‘the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping program that sport has ever seen’? This headline-grabber has helped create a staggering industry of books and movies, but reveals only USADA’s talent for self-aggrandizement.”
Dude, there’s this thing called hyperbole. It’s a handy device for getting a point across. You should check it out. All the cool kids are using it. Whether or not the USPS system was the most sophisticated—or not—is an unanswerable. It stands to reason that if there has been a more sophisticated system, we haven’t learned of it … because it was more sophisticated. But that, as they say, is beside the point.
Which brings us back to you and Lance and your inability to comprehend public sentiment.
Johan, here’s the deal. We don’t care if this was a kangaroo court that dismantled you and your legacy. The truth is out. Despite Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen calling Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis scumbags, their stories have carried the day. And trust us, you’re not scapegoats for an entire generation, you’re just the tip of the iceberg. Whether the CIRC—the UCI’s attempt to do a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission—drills down far enough into the past is a separate matter, but one we will take up with them, not you.
I’m tired of writing about doping, tired of seeing someone cross the finish line and immediately calculating the odds of whether he was clean or not. I’m tired of defenses that continue to play the public for fools.
You should go listen to some Bob Dylan. The times, they are a-changin’. Early this spring I spent a day interviewing a bunch of pros with the Cannondale team. The one truly interesting, truly surprising thing anyone said to me that day came from Ivan Basso. And you know what he said?
“The young pros—they don’t ask about doping anymore.”
Not only does the public want clean sport, even the athletes want it. Your failure to comprehend this most basic of truths is why your 10-year ban was not long enough. Even if you learn that lesson, there is zero chance we will ever trust you again, and that’s why your ban should have been for life.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International