I wish Lance Armstrong would go away; I am tired of looking at his face. I’m even tired of being tired of looking at his face and reading about him…. At this point I hesitate because here I am writing more about LA, adding to the shit pile, so to speak.
But I always find writing is great therapy; better to write the shit out, than to hold it in. To hold it in is emotional constipation. So this is simply an exercise to release my own frustrations, and possibly you will release some of your frustrations with a comment at the end.
I am frustrated with people who still say, “Lance doped in an era when everyone doped, therefore it was okay, and the playing field was level.” It is not okay. If the old cliché, “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” has any truth to it, then everybody and his brother doping sure as Hell doesn’t make that right.
It means that anyone arriving new to the professional ranks has two choices. Take dope, not necessarily to win, but to keep from being shot out of the back of the peloton. The other choice is, not participate, and don’t become a professional cyclist.
In my teen years and early twenties I had dreams of one day being a professional cyclist. I made it to the top as a Category One amateur, it never entered my head to dope, and I never knew any other amateurs who doped.
It later became clear to me that I was never going to make it to the professional ranks; I simply did not have what it took. Also at the time, the mid to late 1960s, if I was really serious about a pro career I would have to move to France or Belgium, and that was not going to happen; I was married and had a family to support.
I continued to race for the competition, for the exercise, but mainly for the pure fun of it. There was always a great sense of friendship and camaraderie among British riders. There was always a great deal of humorous banter, and light hearted ribbing and joking going on in “The Bunch.” We never called it a Peloton; that was a French word reserved for races like the Tour de France. Not amateur races limited to 40 riders held on English country lanes.
Because the races were held on open roads with normal motor traffic, each rider looked out for everyone else; shouting out a warning if the was a car approaching, etc. No one made any dangerous moves that would jeopardize the safety of other. If they did they would be ostracized by the other riders.
There was an occasion when my chain came off during a race, and two other riders, complete strangers to me, grabbed my jersey and towed me along while I reached down and put my chain back on the chainring. Those riders knew if I were dropped from the bunch for something as stupid as an unshipped chain, my whole day would be ruined. Plus by being forced to stop in the middle of a bunch. I could have caused a pile up.
When I arrived in the US in 1979, the racing was no longer on open roads with real hills to climb, but were Criteriums, races round a city block that had been closed to traffic. A lung bursting sprint, 100 yards down a city street, then brake, followed by another sprint. I was now in my early 40s and this was not for me.
Also gone was the sense of camaraderie and looking out for each other, instead there was a nasty, mean-spirited competiveness. People making downright dangerous moves in an attempt to win at all costs.
Worst of all guys were openly snorting cocaine before the race; I mean passing it around on the start line. I was no slouch, but there were guys riding touring bikes with pannier racks and fenders riding past me in the finishing sprint. I quit because racing was no longer any fun.
Some of these races were piddling little club races with no prizes, which in my book made winning at all costs even more pathetic. I would never race as a veteran; you can be sure there are those out there using Testosterone, and Human Growth Hormones, because these can be readily prescribed by any family doctor.
In any race, or in any sport for that matter, there are only a handful of competitors capable of winning; the rest make up the field, and without them there would be no race, or no game. There would be no Tour de France if there were only 20 top riders, there has to be a field of 150 riders for the top 20 to emerge from.
Back in Roman times, Gladiators fought to the death. Fun for the spectators; not so much for the competitors. Modern sports are combat without killing, or war without tears. Sports should teach children that life is a struggle, and it takes hard work and dedication to get ahead. But you can still have fun doing it.
It should also teach children about fair play; it is not okay to cheat, or bully your way to the top, with a win at all costs attitude. People who do that in real life are called “Assholes.”
Right now Lance Armstrong is King of the Assholes, and people who say what he did is okay are saying it is alright to be an asshole. Thanks for allowing me to vent.