Wednesday, 5 September 2012


On vacation I wound up reading a bit on the doping business. I have a few thoughts.

First, I can't decide if my strong dislike for Lance Armstrong, which makes me want to see that which I know he took through cheating taken away from him, is what makes me want to see him punished. Vaughters' outing of CVV, DZ, and TD yesterday was surprising for its timing but not its content. You always knew those guys had a past, but they're more sympathetic figures regardless of clean or dirty. I saw a quote from Prentice Steffan yesterday that said "assholes like Lance dope, and nice guys like Tyler dope." Nice guys like CVV, DZ, and TD engender more sympathy. Their narrative of joining Slipstream and going clean enhances their standing in my eyes. Actions count more than anything - they apparently made the choice to go clean, where Lance came back and apparently was just as dirty as before. He was a complete asshole about it, too, as he's pretty much been all along.

I don't care about the titles or record books, I think it would just be nice to have Lance fully exposed for the fraud, cheat, bully that he is. One of the things that I hate about how the world works is that if you steal a little you become a prisoner but if you steal enough you become king. I know people who have achieved incredible wealth and power through cheating, lying, gaming systems, and what have you. These aren't victimless crimes. Two guys I know are busy sailing all over the damn planet, running unbelievably expensive race programs (which cost on the order of what a top domestic Pro Continental team would cost - so this is a fucking huge money endeavor for one guy to bankroll), having "retired" from careers in which their actions caused calamitous losses to investors and taxpayers, but from which they profited to crazy degrees. To me, that's worse than what Lance did; the world needs financiers, the world doesn't need pro bike racing. I still lump them all in the same boat, though. Narcissistic fucks.

My basic premise is that Lance brought a story that would open up America to cycling, brought Nike and Oakley into the game in a big way, and this quickly made him in some way too big to fail. He's a good looking guy, with a name that DC Comics couldn't top. The entire package was a marketing dream, and he opened up the money stream (river?) for UCI and cycling in general. If he had been booted from the '99 Tour as it seems certain he "should" have been (if the rules were ever meant to have been obeyed), the cycling cabal would have missed an unprecedented decade long cash haul. The whole thing was staged, and with each year of his success the importance to entrenched interests of maintaining the story grew. Some posit that his retirement after '05 was actually a suspension, which is plausible to me, but at some point the story of Lance gets stale. The producers of this show really had it right in '03, with Lance vs Jan hitting a peak. I was engaged as shit that year. I remember I was driving to Canada, calling my wife (fiancee, at that point) for updates on the final TT. It was exciting, and it was also completely false. There probably was the actual risk of Lance losing, and if Jan hadn't slid out he might have won. '03 is the year when Lance had to overextend himself to beat Mayo in the Dauphine, and as we now know, Lance feared Mayo's program and dropped the dime on him. Jan wasn't such an easy target.

I somehow empathize with Tyler. He wound up the pawn as the reward for doing basically the same thing Lance did. Sorry kid, you're not a superhero and the price for that is a big big fall. He got too good, presented a threat, and that was pretty much that. There's a huge difference between being this breakthrough American with a perfect backstory, and being another in a burgeoning queue of Americans who threatened to take "the American cyclist thing" well past the point of diminishing returns in terms of engaging the American market, while simultaneously alienating the sport's traditional core of European fans who at that point were probably a little sick of hearing about Americans. And Lance fucked Tyler's wife, which is just cold.

Transfusions turn out to be decades older than what we thought, as a technique. There's evidence that riders as far back as Anquetil were using them, and in any case it is clear that Finnish runners had developed the practice to the point of extreme potency by 1976. I wonder if the nexus of EPO and transfusions wasn't really responsible for the extreme periodization that Lance really started. The cycle starts after the Tour, at which point you rest up, go on an EPO-assisted red blood cell regeneration deal, clear the EPO, and get a big blood withdrawal for later use. It should take 6 to 8 weeks to recuperate from that but EPO turns that into days. So you're back into training soon, developing both your physical capacity and your stores of good blood for next year. And so on. You can't really race when you are on this cycle so no Worlds or Lombardia, etc. I've become pretty convinced of this. The development of the EPO test put more emphasis on transfusions, so during Lance's early years transfusions wouldn't have been so important, but by the time his hegemony was really established you needed to be aware of what was in our pee when the doctors came - just being below 50% wouldn't cut it.

The heads that are going to roll as a result of this are insane. Today, Vaughters outed CVV, TD, and DZ as casually as you'd say you smoked pot in college 20 years ago. Discussed what TD was doing and why it didn't help. In doing so, by the way, he further obliterated the whole level playing field belief, which I've always thought was a tragic pile of bullshit. In any case, UCI, USAC, Tailwind guys, pretty much all the DSs - these people are all going to be exposed and the conspiracy will prove that the naivety with which we've approached this thing has been nothing shy of legendary.

It's to the point where I kind of wonder if there will even be pro cycling in a year. It's that profound, and the dam is just seconds away from completely failing.

This blog has a smaller audience than it ever had, so this post is more to record m own thoughts on the deal rather than present them. I might revise it 10 or 100 times or I might never touch it again. If you are a reader, just be aware of that. Primary source, this is not.

1 comment:

Geoff said...

How did Vaughters obliterate the "level playing field" justification for doping? His New York Times editorial seems to support it: (paraphrasing) you can level either with dope, or without.

Well-written blog, by the way.