Posted by: Travis | June 22, 2010

Raving and Ranting Part 3: The Landis Mess

It’s been the best of times and the worst of time for Pro Cycling the last few weeks (editors note: this was written in late May).

The Tour of California was undoubtedly the most exciting and competitive edition yet. The move to May helped a ton, but i’d still love to see a true mountain top finish, and more use of the high mountains.

The Giro was the most exciting grand tour i’ve ever seen, though i have to admit that following the Tour of California and the Giro d’Italia for a week, all while trying to work a normal job, train, sleep, eat, and make sure my dog and girlfriend got adequate attention was a bit of a challenge.

Overshadowing all of that, however, was the bombshell that Floyd Landis dropped – admitting to doping and accusing pretty much every top level American cyclist in the last decade of the same, including some guy named Lance Armstrong. I find that most people are just hearing what they want, looking for confirmation of what they already believed. For those who view Lance as a god that can do no wrong, Landis is a liar who has lost everything and is trying to take everyone else out in a blaze of glory. To the Lance haters, this is just confirmation that Lance represents all that was wrong with cycling during the last decade. There’s not a whole lot out in the blogosphere that deviates from those two lines of thought. However, there are a few takes worth reading. While i may not agree 100% with either, i found opinions from The Service Course and Adam Myerson to be reasonable and worth reading.

Had this happened 5-6 years ago, when i was first getting into cycling and a list of my cycling heroes was an almost perfect match for the guys Landis has accused (Armstrong, Hincapie, Leipheimer, Landis), i would have been totally devastated.  Every time i rode, i thought about those guys. They were the reason i rode, and they could do no wrong. I viewed them the way the Lance fanatics view Lance. Luckily, now my obsession with cycling runs deeper than the American guys and i realize that they are human and they all have their faults. Hell, my obsession with cycling runs deeper than pro cycling. At this point i’m so deep into cycling, that even if the bottom fell out of of Euro Pro-Tour cycling, sure it would suck, but my love for the bike wouldn’t be diminished at all.

With a federal investigation being run by the guy that brought down BALCO getting ramped up, this thing has potential to get really ugly. We thought Festina and Puerto were bad? This situation has potential to be even worse…or it could turn out to be nothing. Given the detail of the accusations, if something did happen, i’m pretty sure that they will find a bus driver or soigneur who will wilt under oath and corroborate the allegations. At this point i’m hoping that Landis is just a disgruntled guy that has lost everything and fabricated this whole thing. But i’m also trying to prepare myself for the possibility that everything he said is true.

I’m not saying that all of the Landis accusations are true, or even some of them, but there’s a chance. Look at the number of former Postal riders that got popped for doping after leaving the team (Landis, Hamilton, Heras, etc), the former Postal riders that have either admitted to doping or hinted that they doped (Andreu , Vaughters), and the former soigneurs who have accused the team of doping. Observe that these guys dominated the sport when everyone else was doped to the gills. Add in George Hincapie’s non-denial, and a few close calls – Lance’s retroactive supposed positive test for EPO on 1999 urine samples from a few years ago, testing positive for cortizone in 1999 (?), then producing a doctor’s note, and it’s at least worth looking in to. I’m a fan of all of these guys, and they are certainly innocent until proven guilty, but given cycling’s history with doping, all i’m saying is that it’s worth looking into.

I can even kind of see how they got there if they did dope. You spend your whole life working for the chance to race in Europe, and remember that these guys were pioneers of yanks racing in Europe. You finally get there and realize that everyone is doping. What are your options? Go back home? Most of these guys skipped college, so they don’t really have any options, they put all of their eggs in the Euro racing basket. I wouldn’t do it, but i’m not driven like these guys. There’s no way i would skip college and bet everything on being a pro bike racer, but these guys did. The competitive spirit it takes to become an elite athlete among elite athletes, especially in a sport like cycling, is beyond the comprehension of most normal human beings, but i’m sure it plays a huge role in the rationalization of doping. I’m not saying it’s right, or that i would do it, but i can understand how a highly driven athlete could rationalize doping, especially if everyone else was doing it. But still, there’s a well defined line of what you can put in your body and what you can’t (UCI banned substance list), and most of the guys in cycling that dope know exactly what they are doing.

At this point, i’m not really sure what to think. There is some smoke, we’ll just have to see if the feds find any fire. I hope there isn’t any fire to find.

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