Daniel Benson at Cyclingnews has written an amazing profile of doper-cum-dealer-cum-informer Joe Papp. Benson’s skill as an interviewer and ability to remain neutral is in full force in the profile. Before you read any further, please read it here. I’m not normally one to write response piece (though it has happened), but this is one occasion from which I cannot restrain myself.
Let’s recall that Papp is a rider who began doping to pump up what was a third-rate career as a pro and that he nearly died from a gluteal hematoma following a crash. Doctors drained an incredible 1200ml of blood from the wound.
Was this enough to get Papp to stop doping? Heck no.
He was popped for testosterone at the Tour of Turkey in 2006 and suspended through July of 2008. Was that enough to get Papp out of doping? Nope.
He turned state’s witness so-to-speak and testified at the Floyd Landis CAS appeal. In his testimony he admitted that he had used testosterone gel, steroids and EPO. The only drug he ever tested positive for, recall, was the testosterone. What Papp didn’t admit at the CAS hearing was that he was trafficking in doping products—primarily EPO—to other riders. So obviously, testifying wasn’t enough to get Papp out of doping.
Then, in 2008, the story broke that Papp had been dealing in doping products. It was a shocking turn of events following his 2007 interview in VeloNews. He was asked, “How do you respond to naysayers who complain you’re just a small fish making a big stink, that you were a low level pro who is onlyspeaking out after he was caught?”
Papp’s response: “I don’t have to respond to them, do I? (laughs) Seriously, I don’t have anything else left to lose, so I’m in a position to be able to speak out without fear of retribution, unlike someone like Basso, who can still earn millions after his suspension. It all comes downto money – when a rider still has the chance to earn more money through cycling than another profession, it is in his interest to deny specific charges against him or general claims of doping in sport.”
Once caught, Papp not only faced increased sanctions from USADA, but federal charges in his home state of Pennsylvania. To say he began singing like a stool pigeon is to say Michael Jackson could dance. What did all that singing get him? Well, it kept him out of prison. He’s been under house arrest and thanks to his plea agreement with prosecutors, he’s only receive house arrest. That’s quite different from the sentence of 10 years he faced.
Papp told Benson that he’d like to find a role within cycling on his release, that he’d like to work as an anti-doping advocate in the sport.
I don’t see the point. He told Benson, ”I can tell you that I absolutely at no point wanted to go to prison and that at no point was I going to do anything less than the absolute maximum to help myself.”
Beyond what he has told authorities about his customers, I’m not sure I see a way he can be of use. But that’s not really the point. Papp has proven that he’s got no moral compass, that he’ll do whatever he needs to just to save his ass, but he doesn’t really think in terms of the good of the sport. The chance to say out of prison is a powerful incentive. People have invented whole fictions just to reduce the amount of time they spend in prison. Telling the truth is a good deal easier.
He told Benson, “There’s nothing noble in accepting a prison sentence.”
See, that’s where Joe’s wrong. Had he told everything he knew just for the good of the sport, just because it was the right thing to do and then accepted prison time, what ever the appropriate sentence of someone who didn’t cooperate was (so I’m not suggesting the maximum), then I’d believe he did it for the good of the sport. In cooperating to saving his ass from time behind bars, he put his own interest ahead of any other consideration. I’m not suggesting he wasn’t honest, just that his honesty was purchased just like the EPO and growth hormone he sold.
I think he’s still rather clueless, a point driven home by this quote: “I don’t think I’ve lost the right to enjoy the actual act of pedalling a bike as a fitness endeavour, and something that is therapeutic.”
No, Joe, no one is suggesting you deserve to lose the right to ride a bike. We just don’t want to see you pin a number on again or anywhere near anyone who does.
Joe, here’s my offer to you: I’ll give you the opportunity to tell the readers of RKP why I’m wrong, why you really can offer the anti-doping fight long-term assistance. Personally, I think you’re a blight on cycling and even if you were offered a job by USADA to do this, you’d jump ship to the first bike shop willing to pay you more, but I’ve been critical and am willing to hear you out. Drop me a note: info [at] redkiteprayer [dot] com.
So Joe Papp is back in the news. This time it’s for a guilty plea in connection with selling doping products. Specifically, he plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy to sell EPO and HGH over the Internet.
As much as I’d like to ignore this and hope he fades into forgettable obscurity, I don’t think that will happen just yet. And because RKP has written so much about doping, we are rather obliged to give this more of a once-over than two Tweets about the subject.
Papp netted more than $80,000 between September 2006 to September 2007 selling these drugs. That’s a tidy income, especially for what I suspect wasn’t a lot of work. After all, he didn’t have any of the traditional marketing costs associated with a sales enterprise, so people found him, 187 of them, to be precise.
The income isn’t the issue. It’s the time period. It was during this same time period that USADA trotted him out as a star witness at the Floyd Landis hearing. His purpose? To testify on the remarkable recovery that one can enjoy when using synthetic testosterone. That Travis Tygart (then counsel, now CEO) of USADA didn’t vet Papp more thoroughly is deeply troubling.
Papp disputed VeloNews’ contention that he testified against Landis. He told them, “The matter for which I publicly acknowledged my guilt today in Pittsburgh had nothing to do with my appearance at the Landis hearing. I didn’t testify against Floyd Landis in that hearing,” Papp noted. “My testimony was about my own personal experiences with the drug testosterone and how it is generally perceived within the peloton. That was it. I told the story of how testosterone works and can help you as a cyclist by enhancing recovery.”
Papp’s point splits hairs. Semantically, he may be correct, but he was an instrument in the process of convicting Landis. The problem I have with this is that he was presented as a reformed doper, someone who would be candid as a result of his changed ways. Candor is an important part of establishing credibility, and Papp presented himself as someone for whom performance enhancing drugs were strictly past tense. We have learned that was not the case.
So what should Papp’s sentence be? He could be banned for life from cycling, and that ought to happen; he shouldn’t be allowed to coach or advise other cyclists given his recent industry. He also stands to serve as much as five years in federal prison when he is sentenced on June 25. Hopefully, that June date gives him enough time for him to finish his graduate degree at Chatham University, where he is a student, and (we hope) not focusing on exercise physiology. No one should be forced to starve and Papp needs a good way to reinvent himself in order to stay away from the racing end of the sport.