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« Chasing Charlie | Main | Fiorenzo Magni: 1920 – 2012 »

Too good to be true

There is an old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” As I reflect on the whole Lance Armstrong saga, in retrospect that old saying should have been applied but wasn’t.

The Fairy Tale story of a young athlete who almost died of cancer then came back to win the Tour de France seven times, has now been proved to be just that, a Fairy Tale.

The thing is I knew it was too good to be true; which is why now I feel pretty stupid. Not because I really bought into the Armstrong story, but because I sat safely on the fence, not having the balls to take one side or the other.

Had I taken the stand that Armstrong had doped; (Which is what I suspected.) back when I started this blog in 2005; LA was just coming off his Seventh TDF win and I probably would have made far more enemies than friends. However, I would now have the satisfaction of saying, “Told you so.”

On the other hand had I preached along the lines that Lance was the greatest cyclist ever who never took dope; I would be looking even more stupid now. So like many others I took the safe neutral ground and said nothing.

It is easy to speak out against the “Big Tex” now that everyone else is, but it brings little satisfaction. We should have all spoken up years ago. When I say “We” I mean everyone who writes about the sport of cycling.

I am just an old guy who used to be in the bike biz, with a blog that gets a couple of thousand hits a day; I am not pretending to have a huge influence on anything. But anyone who writes about cycling has a responsibility; from the independent blogger all the way up to the mainstream media.

It is usually the mainstream media who expose wrong doing; it is their duty to keep people honest. From Watergate to more recently the Catholic Church and Penn State, the media did it.

But Armstrong was different; he manipulated the media. He shut out those who asked tough questions, and silenced others by suing them. It took a government agency to bring LA down.

Those who spoke up about Lance Armstrong doping before this story broke; good for you, you are a hero. If you are a blogger or journalist who supported Armstrong over the years; it is not enough that you jump in the band wagon now and condemn him along with the rest.

There needs to be an apology to the few who did speak up but were ignored even vilified. And if like me you sat on the fence; we are not much better because we did nothing. This is by way of my apology.

This weekend Five major European newspapersThe Times, Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad and Le Soir, French title L’Equipe and Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport – have today joined to launch a ‘Manifesto for credible cycling’

This is huge; these big national newspapers have a real influence on sports, and can hold governing bodies like the UCI accountable.

If I did not speak up about Armstrong, I have always said here that the UCI has failed the sport. (Click on the UCI tag and scroll down to read previous articles.)

The nature of any sport’s governing body is that the mini-politicians who run a sport, are often former failed or at best mediocre athletes who once in office are hard to remove, and become entrenched in their own importance and power.

Pat McQuaid, the current President of UCI, and “Clown Prince” of Cycling, is a typical example. The media was split when USADA report was first released, with many coming out on Armstrong’s side. Most have since recanted, but a few stay on LA’s side.

But through all this I have not read a single article that supports McQuaid or says he is doing a good job; there are calls for his resignation from every quarter. In spite of this McQuaid refuses to step down.

This just goes to show the arrogance and ego of the man, that he would refuse to step down when there is practically a unanimous call for his resignation.

Pat McQuaid (Picture top on right.) and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen (Top left.) looked the other way as Armstrong and others doped; they cannot say they didn’t know.

Like many who have been caught in recent years doing things they shouldn’t have, those who knew they were doing wrong but did nothing are just as responsible. McQuaid and Verbruggen must resign if cycling is to move on from this.



Reader Comments (11)

Agree. It's hard to move forward when key figures in creating "fairy tale realities" remain in control - and they get paid for preventing positive changes!

October 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack

There is this story in the NY Times about some bloggers and bike forums who had some effect on the fall of LA.

October 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Well, there's "didn't know" and "didn't want to know." I have more experience with the latter than the former. Once invested, it takes a real effort to hear what you'd be happier not knowing. It gets repeated often enough, but is still appropriate, here, wrt McQuaid:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it! -Upton Sinclair

Plausible deniability is a get out of jail free card for most with political ambitions regardless of profession. A person's ethical center gets defined when their personal self interests collide with those they are supposed to serve. By turning a blind eye to the circumstances of doping in cycling, McQuaid has already defined for us where his ethical center is. Given that, I wouldn't expect him to step down; he might be forced out but I don't seem him leaving voluntarily without a nice "buy out" of some sort. These kinds of guys don't leave without a parachute to break the fall. It's all about them; everything else - and everyone else - is just a prop on their personal stage.

Nice to read about those media centers that can bring pressure to bear on the UCI. I might - to be a curmudgeon - observe that this is a nice way - perhaps - to expiate their own sins of omission wrt the presence of enhanced performance drugs in cycling up until now.

I might quibble along one dimension with you, Dave. It's not at all clear to me that the media - as a whole - was all that instrumental in bringing us the stories of the Catholic Church's coverups, or those of Penn State and Jerry Sanduskuy. Without doing a sufficient amount of research to support the claim, I will assert that my memory tells me that it was the dogged efforts of a few folks, some of them affiliated with the media, who were determined to bring those stories forward. The mainstream media might have been the place where the general public reading "the story" was finally willing to give the story credibility, but it would be unfair to not acknowledge those few-and-far-between folk who coursed their suspicions until they chased them out in the open.

October 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

I guess someone once told me I was gullible and I believed them. I just have a deep sense of disappointment about LA and McQuaid. Trust is a fragile thing.

October 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarge

In regards to those in control, like the UCI, Orwell says it best: "A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial. That is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.”

October 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack

When I first opened this post, I thought for a moment that Verbrugge was Greg Lemond! Wouldn't it be great if McQuaid was replaced as president of the UCI? I wonder how the president of the UCI is selected.

October 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim J

The UCI needs a full shake up - along with pros, team directors, etc - that still subscribe to the old school way of thinking.

Huge kudos to Greg LeMond, who publicly stuck his neck out for years - losing his bike company in the process - over the Lance. Greg was right all along.

October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

Yes someone like LeMond sounds like a good choice as the image of American cyclists have been severely harmed.

An opinion piece at VeloNews: U.S. cycling must lead the global fight against doping

October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Greg LeMond lost his place in the bicycle business largely for having the guts to suggest the possibility that Lance Armstrong's feats could be the result of PEDs. In doing so he faced the wrath of Lance Armstrong, who was Trek's golden boy. Armstrong basically told Trek (who manufactured LeMond bicycles), "End your association with Greg LeMond or I will end my association with YOU". Trek prompty told LeMond to apologize and keep his mouth shut about Lance. A few more comments by Greg LeMond regarding Armstrong were all it took for Trek to kick LeMond (and his line of bicycles) to the curb. Nothing eats into profits like someone bad-mouthing (i.e. telling the truth about) the company's poster boy. It is hilarious now to see Trek throwing Lance under the bus because HE has become bad for the bottom line. At least Trek is consistent. But will they apologize to Greg LeMond for drumming him out of the bicycle business for saying things about Lance Armstrong that just happened to be true? I'm proud to have a LeMond in my road bike collection and equally glad NOT to have a Trek....

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRandy England

Randy, I'm kind of torn... got a TREK-made LeMond. Gotta see the funny side of that. (-:
Apropos your very readable post, a work colleague decided to pop in to a large TREK retail outlet in the north/west of Sydney suburbia. To buy socks, no less; funny in itself. He was a little taken aback to find the usual in-your-face wall collages of LA and TREK, TDF link-ins etc... all taken down. To reveal, by the sounds, a rather forlorn-looking retail space. These things come back to bite, eventually.
And yep, that stuff you describe would have taken its own toll on LeMond, but I'll hazard he's always slept better than LA. Well, maybe they've both slept OK. One with a conscience, one without.

November 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul (Australia)

Revisiting this, as an obvious point eluded me at the time. How could anyone who was not immediately party to goings-on where these behaviours were alleged to have occurred, have possibly been able to form an opinion. Remaining agnostic/undecided was not an unreasonable thing for even an interested fan of the sport. There would have been many, of course, who were closer, (employees of the teams, functionaries, gophers, whoever), who would have had a good idea. The level of intimidation would have been an effective gag on these people. A conspiracy of silence form people who actually did know, it seems.
What struck me about the interview with Tyler Hamilton was how matter-of-fact he was when relating the goings-on. Here was a guy who didn't give a rat's anymore about what he said. Now. But then it must have been a different story.

November 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
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