The last week or so saw the exposure of the secret of Lance Armstrong’s success and turned his legacy to cycling from a positive one to a majorly negative one.
The press and TV here have been full of his misdeeds and tarnished the image of cycling from a positive one to negative one and I wonder just how far it will go? Already today I have heard of the pulling out of cycling at the end of this year of the one long term major cycling sponsors, the Dutch team Rabobank. The reasons given being the recent revelations about drugs in cycling and they see no short term improvement of cycling’s image and they don’t want to be associated with it. I wonder how many more pro teams will follow the same line? Thanks Mr Armstrong for your legacy. But I guess you are OK with the millions of dollars you stashed away in your drug ridden career, Leaving cycling to pick up the pieces. I see that Team Sky have taken some kind of initiative asking their team and support staff to sign a document to say they are clean of drugs and always have been and if they don’t sign they are off the team. If they are subsequently found to have lied or taken drugs since, they will be fired. This would always have been the case anyway, anybody found guilty of drug use in team is usually fired but its a step to try and clear the decks.
Here in the UK it had been a wonderful year for cycling with Brad Wiggins and Team Sky’s major race successes in the Tour de France, Criterium du Dauphine and Paris – Nice race, finishing off with the Olympic Gold in the time trial. There were also the great successes of the mens and womens track cycling teams in the Olympics. All of these successes raised the profile of cycling here in the UK to enormous heights and everyone was impressed with it and the uptake of cycling here was tremendous. Now all you hear in the media is about the disgraced Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Team. Anybody that talks to me about cycling now is asking about Lance Armstrong and his misdemeanours. There is nothing the media like better than the opportunity to dig up a bit of dirt.
They seem to ignore the fact that all these revelations are about historical events back in time and in recent years cycling is steadily ridding itself of the drugs in the sport. You only have to look at the faces of cyclists as they finish the stages of races these days to see that. Also there are no more wins on mountain stages by enormous margins like there used to be Lance Armstrong’s racing days and by Lance Armstrong himself as well as others. No more do riders have a bad day one day and next day break away from the peloton and go flying up the mountain on a solo break.
Whenever that type of stage win did happen then it would arouse my suspicions and I would await the revelation of a positive drug test on the rider. It would usually happen, sure as night follows day. However it appeared not to in the case of Mr Armstrong, he never failed a drug test as has been well publicised recently. However that turns out to be untrue as not only did he fail drugs tests it appears he then entered into all kinds of subterfuge to keep the results hidden. He was also, somehow able to get advanced warning of impending tests and take some kind of medical or other avoiding action to mask the results. I don’t know how or what was involved in that exactly but it happened judging by the sworn statements of team mates of his in US Postal team who had been drawn into his web and threatened with all kinds of retribution should they (a) not take part in drug use so as to be able support him in races and (b) prevent them from disclosing what was going on.
Another tactic that I think helped Armstrong avoid detection was the fact that he never rode a full season of events like most other riders do. He would only seem to specialise in riding the Tour de France and maybe one warm race beforehand. He wasn’t a season long rider whereas most are. The early and late season classics were not for him, neither the other major tours apart from on one or two occasions. By doing this he avoided post race drug testing opportunities presumably
I dont know how it has affected cycling in the USA or will do in the future but I am sure Armstrong was probably responsible for a major upsurge in cycling there as his successes built one on the other as has been the case here this year and was probably set to continue. There must be some very disappointed cyclists out there not to mention the major sponsors of him who have dis-associated themselves from him one after the other. Who knows what the future holds here and in the future for cycling ?
A lot of the problem also comes from the UCI (Union Cycliste International). They seem to be in denial and to this day have not accepted Lance Armstrong did anything wrong despite the thoroughness of USADA’s report. The former UCI president, a Mr Verbruggen is quoted as saying that Lance Armstrong never failed a drug test. The present president Mr Pat McQuaid is saying nothing, yet! Oh and by the way Lance Armstrong donated the drug testing machine to the UCI’s testing laboratory that they use. Now that in itself seems a strange turn of events in itself. I think there is a lot more dirt waiting to come out about the whole affair yet and it will be interesting to watch it unfold. Disappointing but interesting, lets hope everybody gets just what they deserve out of this for what they have done to my sport.
Having said all that, Cycling is by no means the only sport with a drugs problem. I know athletics(Track & Field) has one and also football (soccer) by all accounts and I am sure you know of plenty of other sports to add to the list. Cycling though appears to be the only sport that widely publicises its drug test failures giving the impression it is the only ‘dirty’ sport among all the others. Not so my friends. Cycling does this to expose and shame the drugs cheats whereas other sports appear to try to hush things up. It does slowly seem to be dragging cycling out of the gutter and I am sure it will do so eventually. Maybe not 100% as there will always be cheats in any sport exploiting the rules and chemistry to their advantage. Drugs tests can only test for known drugs and masking agents so I guess somewhere there will always be a chemist beavering away on some new development to keep ahead in the dirty war.
None of this detracts from my continued enjoyment of jumping on a bike and riding for the pleasure and benefits it endows on me. Hopefully all the other ‘ordinary’ cyclist feel just the same way and will continue to do so for as long as they want to.
There are several ‘truths’ that apply here, If something seems to good to be true then it usually is.. Cheats never prosper.. Be sure your sins will always find you out..