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« Doping then and now | Main | The other Moulton bicycle »

Monday Musings

Greg LeMond once said something to the effect that the Lance Armstrong story was either the greatest miracle of all time or the greatest fraud of all time.

By the way, does anyone remember Greg LeMond once had his own successful brand of bicycle built by Trek, and Trek stopped making LeMond bikes because Greg kept on insisting that Lance Armstrong (Who Trek were sponsoring at the time.) had doped.

Not good when a man has a business ruined and a steady income taken away from him for saying something that turned out to be right all along.

The other person I find myself having some sympathy with is Floyd Landis. Although far from "Lilly White" himself, the poor guy really got screwed. When it was found that he had doped, he was immediately stripped of his Tour de France win in 2006 and suspended for two years.

Other riders serve out their suspensions then return to the pro pelotons, but not Landis; his career was over. Compare the way his case was handled to that of Alberto Contador.

Contador also found to have doped in the 2010 TDF, was not immediately stripped of his win. In fact we didn’t even know of the positive test for clembuterol until the fall of that year, when someone leaked the story of a positive lab test.

The UCI (Union Cycliste International.) then managed to drag out the case for another year, and Contador was allowed to ride and win the 2011 Giro d’Italia, and compete again in the 2011 TDF. Eventually Contador was found guilty, stripped of his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro win.

However, his two year suspension was retro-active all the way back to the end of the 2010 Tour. After only a little over six months out of competition, Contador is now back riding in the Vuelta a Espana. So it appears there is one set of rules for the rich and famous, and another for lesser riders like Floyd Landis.

Lance Armstrong could have helped Landis out and put some money his way to pay his legal fees. He could have also given him a place on his team after his suspension was over, or used his influence to get him back in the pro ranks. Not being a little kinder to Floyd Landis is probably one of the biggest mistakes Lance Armstrong made.

We have not heard the last of this saga. I am now reading stories that the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD.) regularly tipped off Armstrong when random drug test were about to happen, and that the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who he regarded as a personal friend, pulled strings for the rider.

Another story of a drug raid by French Police on a hotel where the US Postal team was staying during the 2005 TDF. That raid was mysteriously called off at the last minute as police were actually outside the hotel waiting to go in.

Only when the full extent of the corruption that there appears to be in this case, is revealed, and top officials including those at the UCI are held accountable, can the sport of cycling start to become fair and clean.

On a totally different subject are you following the Vuelta a Espana? It is turning out to be one of the best of the Grand Tours this year, and with almost two weeks to go the race is still wide open. Above was the highlights from last Saturday’s stage.

Today is a rest day, you can watch the Vuelta live on Steep Hill TV. Go to “Live Coverage” click on EuroSport.





Reader Comments (13)

Great post as usual Dave. Landis should have just come clean straight away (instead of 2 years later) had a nice chat with LA and been back in the peloton. However, we would then not have heard the truth from him and maybe not from the others either. His eventual outspokenness along with a mountain of circumstantial evidence is the base of the USADA case.

LA is a nasty piece of work proven by his treatment of Lemond and anyone who stood up to him. I wonder what Sheryl Crow is thinking about all this?

BTW, definitely going to tune in to watch the Rest Day :-).

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJW

I too feel badly for Landis. I think he held out admitting to doping to protect his team. If he'd confessed right away and implicated everyone else who was doping, he could have opened the floodgates long ago. Also, he was accused of using testosterone, whereas he admitted to blood doping instead. Was the testing flawed? Makes you wonder. Meanwhile, Vinokourov, unrepentant after a 2-year suspension, goes on the win the "amateur" Olympic road race.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

<Sigh> More bad press for Lance.
So it now appears that - what? - every TdF winner from 1991 to 2005 or so was doping, as was most of the peloton. Do I care? Not really, it's their bodies and their careers. Was the playing field "fair" and level? It's my guess that it probably was at least as level as it is now. The 90's and early 2000's featured some of the most exciting racing I've ever seen. That's why I watch cycle races, not to make heroes of these guys.
I'd prefer it if everyone were definitely and provably clean. Ain't gonna happen though. In the meantime, I will keep watching and loving races like we just had here in Colorado.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

The sub head to Paul Kimmage's op-ed in The Guardian reads:

Since Tommy Simpson's death in 1967, 86% of Tour de France winners have been tarnished or implicated by doping

Holy spokes, Batman. The conversations attributed to Armstrong aren't flattering. And, there was a sidebar link that suggests his foundation isn't as supportive of actual cancer research as some folks believe.

Have a feeling, before all is said and done, one would need a case of silver polish to get the tarnish off Lance Armstrong. In the organization of the world, I'm not sure Armstrong cares. At this point, why would he?

But, that statistical claim about TDF winners kind of blew me away. If that's correct, might as well open the floodgates and say, anything goes.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

I used to think that Lemond was bitter, maybe envious of Armstrong's success. Then I read an extended interview with Lemond in Rouleur and it presented a much more sympathetic view of him. Perhaps the interview is available somewhere on line. Had Lemond just kept quiet, he would probably still have his bike line, but principle prevailed.

Sam Abt's article in the NYT is an excellent view on the whole affair.

On a lighter note, we been debating who the removed Armstrong titles should now go to. I think most or all of the second place finishers in those years are also proven dopers, so how far down the classification do we go in identifying the "winner"? Failing to identify winners for those years, we've just decided to award all of those titles to PeeWee Herman.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTimJ

I am not sure the UCI will strip Armstrong of his titles. They did not strip Riis after he confessed to doping during his time in the peloton.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

I have the feeling that the UCI is going to tell Travis Tygart and the USADA to pack sand. Why? It boils down to a U.S. Government agency telling the French what to do. The French do not like that - heck - nobody does.

Sort of like the Freedom Fries vs French Fries during the George W. Bush years and the early invasion of Iraq.

So we will see but this Tale of Woe is definitely not over. At least Lance can get on with his life.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber


Been following your blog for several years now (even before you quit) and we generally agree on most things, but we disagree on this one.

Whether Lemond was right (Lance doped) or he was wrong (Lance didn't), what does it matter? Really? Were you watching in 1999? 2003? 2005? Was the whole world watching and cheering him on in all of those years watching him DOMINATE a peloton full of dope? So tell me how is it that he still destroyed everyone (2003 was the only year even remotely close)? Doped or not, for those seven years, he was the still the best.

Assuming he doped (and given that the only evidence against him is circumstantial and eyewitness hearsay from some largely less than reputable individuals), then the playing field was level. He still won. If we (USADA/UCI/the court of public opinion) want to crucify him now on evidence that wouldn't convict him in an American criminal court (i.e. beyond any reasonable doubt), then why stop there? How about we just wipe the cycling record book clean and start all over. No Merckx, Anquetil, Museeuw. We cannot be so naive to believe that no one was doping back in '86 either.

Lemond himself said that he felt that the peloton had changed after 1990, but the truth is instead of just a few, everyone was doing it. That didn't stop Indurain from crushing souls and cheaters like Delgado and Chiapucci and no one says Big Mig cheated, rather the talk about his physical prowess and dominance in the TT (sounds Lance-like huh?). Furthermore, there are fundamental differences between Lance and Landis. Landis got caught, lied about it, and took a million dollars of donated money to present his fraudulent case (and, by the way, he did return to pro cycling--no one remembers that part). Lance never got caught and it is curious how all of these allegations (from French Police, retiring cyclists, UCI officials) re-emerged 7 years later when everyone decides to pile on.

We will never know the absolute truth and frankly I will never care. I know what I saw and have personally (my family) received benefit from LIVESTRONG on four separate occasions. His cycling career is no longer for us or anyone to question and the sport of cycling won't benefit from us doing so. Let's move on.

Lastly, your comment on the Vuelta seems badly misplaced following a rant about doping and corruption, what with a screenshot of Valverde (doper) with Contador (doper) on his wheel.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeoff D

I really hope that this investigation continues and all of the evidence comes out into the open. From what has come to light the UCI and other official bodies that we rely upon to safeguard our wonderful sport appear complicit in Lance Armstrong’s doping/cheating. For me that is the most serious issue.
Pat McQuaid (who raced under a false name in South Africa during the apartheid era, against the rules of most if not all sporting bodies - what high moral values he displayed) continues to support Lance and rubbish any rider who comes out or speaks about doping and/or Lance. He and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen have a lot of questions to answer. If cycling is ever to move forward it needs a 'new' governing body, we need to sweep the ‘blazers’ away. McQuaid’s statements on the subject are incorrect (he should now his own rule book) and highly biased – he is an embarrassment to cycling. As a Brit I am so grateful for the incredibly brave stance USADA has taken – the US has once again shown the world how to behave.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjonnyvelo

Dave great post on the history of drugs in cycling.

I believe lance did use something. I don't think you can beat a field of dopers on a regular basis without doping yourself. The difference is just too fine to let some one get an extra 0.5% advantage, let alone a whole field. The problem is the holy grail is the testing. He passed all, was available for all. The rest is circumstantial from people who are coming out after being caught and have lied for years. So do we spread rumors about the next winner and his title is vacated? I don't know the answer.
Who gets the titles. %0th place finisher, 70th??
As for Landis, he doped. He finally admitted the fact after going on a I'm being persecuted fund raising tour and duping a bunch more people out of their money doing it. I don't feel sorry for Mr. Landis.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

I started feeling bad for people way back when Emma o'Reilly was getting vilified. Then Mike Anderson, then Betsy Andreu, and then the list just got way too long. That's when I realised there was definitely something in it.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCyclo Cross

Geoff D.,
it's not that before 1990 only a few doped, the vast majority were doing it long before then, it's that the dope that became available at that point was so much more effective that it started to become next to impossible for the few that didn't dope be competitive with those that did.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Strong

A long, drawn-out drama, this one. Competitive cycling will be tainted for a long time, though at least the prospect of some abatement now appears possible.
This is a subjective opinion, I'll admit, but I just like the sound of LeMond as a person. This is a good piece of journalism, in my opinion. Paints a picture, (pretty excruciating), of a guy going through the aftermath of separation/divorce, with his contact with LeMond giving him something to keep him going.
The issue of Armstrong's cancer is, I think, a separate one to the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs. He no doubt has done good things for fellow sufferers and their families, and that has been recognised.
On a more trivial note, I got this for a few hundred dollars about 8 months ago. Had only ever been on an indoor trainer since new in the late 90s. But that's completely (co)incidental.

September 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
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