Friday, October 26, 2012

The Lance Armstrong Debacle: Part 1

There is so much to this story that there would be no possible way (Without a mutiny anyway.) for me to write it in one long drawn out post. So I'm going to break it up into a few. For my sanity as well as yours (You're welcome.)

Just to get the ball rolling I want to say a generalized statement for how I feel about all of this.

This ordeal does not change the way I feel about cycling as a whole.

I love this sport. I'm in. All the way baby. Warts and all.

I will continue to ride and race my bicycle.

I will continue to watch and take an active interest in professional cycling.

I will continue to wax poetic, rant and scream, be frustrated, and be joyful for a sport that is pretty damn important to me.

I wanted to say that ahead of time because this rabbit hole gets pretty deep and dark.  And the thoughts and feelings I have about all this may make it seem like I believe there is no hope. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

As some pretty serious bad ass old dude once said, "A little revolution now and then is a good thing."

So let the revolution begin!

I sincerely hope cycling's infrastructure does have a revolution, get torn down and built back up. Learning from the mistakes of the past in order to help it's future along the way.

But I wouldn't hold my breath...

The history of cycling is a also a history of cheating.

If you read anything at all about the history of professional cycling you will see a huge string of cheating.

The very first person to win the Tour de France (Maurice Garin) was caught hopping a train during a stage of the tour.

He must have been really excited to get a hug from the guy with the hat.
Stories of using opiates, cocaine, and alcohol were common place in the early years of the 20th century (And later 19th century as well.) during races.
After WWII came along, the drug of choice switched over to amphetamines.  Because of all of our fly boys leaving them over there (They used them to stay awake during bombing runs.). To be able to go harder and longer (Huh, huh) in an endurance sport was a big advantage.

And just so we are all clear, a ton of the major champions were doped to the eyeballs at one point or another. Fausto Coppi, Jacque Anquetil, the great Eddie Merckx and a myriad of other great riders either admitted to doping or were straight up busted throughout the years.

I'm not advocating or trying to make excuses for dopers or doping. I just want all of this new crap to have some context.

I believe a certain amount of cheating in endemic to the sport. I know that sounds jaded. And maybe it is a little. But if you look at the facts. If you look at the history. About once every ten years or so we have a major scandal. Things seemingly get straightened out and the people in power at that time claim a new "clean" beginning and the process starts all over again.

But why does it start over again? Why doesn't it really turn around?

Good questions (Thank you.).

Part of it is just what I said. Cheating is built into the sport. If you're not pushing the rules and doing everything that is within your power to win then you're not trying hard enough. You can't have the same people that bent the rules, that looked the other way, or out right broke the rules being the one's in power for the next generation.  It's like having a grandfather beating their son. Then that son grows up and beats his own kid... A lot of this behavior is taught generationally. We have to break that cycle.

And if you think we are doing that now. Just take a look at some of the new (Or old for that matter.) directors for some of the teams (Katusha and Astana come to mind.). Do you honestly think that these guys are going to be the ones to teach a new generation how to race clean!? Please...

The second part of the equation is the structure of the governing bodies of cycling. I've never seen a bigger mess in my life. We have in a lot of cases a minimum of three different governing bodies trying to keep their fingers in the pie at any one given moment. And it's constant power struggle between them on who gets what and why. It's ridiculous.

We can have the UCI, WADA, ASO, the national cycling federations and their anti-doping governing bodies, the team associations, plus the non-existent professional cyclists union all trying to make the rules for everyone else to follow.

The UCI is the worst offender. Which I will get into in Part 2 on Monday.

But until then. You all have a little homework (Hey! Quiet down back there!) to do.

I want you to read this blog piece by Robert Millar.  For those of you that don't know who he is. He was the first Englishman to win the Poke-a-dot jersey in the Tour de France in 1984. A pretty serious bad ass climber and up until Wiggo's win this year the highest finisher for a Brit in the Tour. In other words, he has street cred.

It's a very well written article and with the exception of disagreeing with him about the "Old omerta" not being able to stop the new generation from speaking out (Just look at how speaking out worked out for Levi Liepheimer, Bobby Julich, and Matty White. Not so good...). Its a very worthy read.

Thanks for reading!

Rubber side down,

Big E