Don’t Let the Door Knob Hit Ya

by Rant on December 17, 2014 · 4 comments

in Cycling, News and Views

Not that often that working journalists covering a particular beat will pen what is, essentially, an opinion piece. But The New York Times’ Juliet Macur does just that, with her latest article about the pending departure of USA Cycling’s (current) CEO, Steve Johnson.

I say finally — and hooray — because it is high time for Johnson to exit the national federation, stage left. Really, he missed his cue a few years ago.

A big hook should have dragged him out of his corner office in 2012, when Lance Armstrong was found to be the kingpin of systematic doping on his United States Postal Service teams, and when nearly every top American rider of the past generation admitted to doping to help Armstrong win. Armstrong and those riders — men like George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie — all rose through the ranks while Johnson was at U.S.A. Cycling.

Speak her mind, she does. What more can you say, except, “Don’t let the door knob hit ya where my darn dog shoulda bit ya, Steve.”

Not sure who the next CEO will be, or who the candidates are, but if Bob Stapleton stays true to character, it will be someone much more capable and with more integrity than the departing Johnson.

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MattC December 19, 2014 at 8:36 am

I see Rico (the Cobra) has written a book…guess that’s what he’s got left considering his 12 year ban (he’ll be 40 when his ban runs out). Still not sure what to think of him…for a while I was rather NOT a fan whatsoever…(mostly due to his doping)…but as I look back on the entire era…well, not to say that “everybody” was doing it, but MOST probably were…not that it makes it right….but he had the misfortune of being a pro in that era, so he had the same choice…dope and have a shot, or don’t and go home. I guess I REALLY need to stop ‘judging’ people and just worry about myself…(as the old saying goes: never judge a man till you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. That way you’re a mile away AND you have his shoes).

Rico says that it’s impossible to win a Grand Tour without doping. That was a rather interesting statement from somebody who’s been in the high-end of cycling.
Anyway, here’s the link to the Velo News article:

http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/ricco-its-impossible-to-win-a-grand-tour-without-doping_356359

Rant December 23, 2014 at 8:52 am

Matt,

I’m not surprised Rico says that. I think during his racing years most of his competitors were doped to the gills. Those Grand Tours are brutal. I’m sure that by modern standards (EPO, hGh, blood doping, etc.), some Tours might have been won “clean”. Greg LeMond supposedly did, and they were harder back in his time than today (distance-wise), but not speed-wise.

I think it was Jacques Anquetil who pooh-poohed the idea that the Tour could be won just on “bread and water.” And that was a long time ago.

Looks like Ricardo will need to find a new way of earning a living — unless his cycling days made him independently wealthy. 😉

Ann Marie Ackermann December 23, 2014 at 9:58 am

Interesting post, Dan. I feel a bit out of the loop regarding the political scene. What do the doping politics look like in the European cycling world?

Rant December 23, 2014 at 11:22 am

Ann,

The doping politics in Europe are pretty interesting, actually. The sport’s governing body, the UCI, is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. So basically, what’s going on in Europe has a pretty direct impact on the UCI and the sport as a whole. Last year, I believe, the old entrenched network suffered a pretty big loss when Pat McQuaid, then head of the UCI, was voted out in favor of Brian Cookson (who’s from the UK). In large part, McQuaid was voted out because of a desire to rid the sport of years of corruption at the highest places (including, some say, in McQuaid’s office or inner circle).

So far, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Cookson is certainly shaking things up a bit, but the sport has a long way to go in order to get past it’s reputation as being full of dopers. That said, most sports have their share of dopers, and cycling is probably no worse than any other. But cycling has become a focal point, perhaps because of efforts to root out the problem. Other sports haven’t been as aggressive, so we hear less about athletes (like professional tennis players, say) who are embodying the phrase “better competitive results through chemistry.”

One approach in Europe, which makes me cringe a bit, it to actually make doping illegal, with the possibility of severe fines or prison time. What makes me nervous about such policies is that the testing is less than perfect. And that could lead to an innocent person suffering legal penalties on top of the sporting penalties. I’m not sure that’s the right approach, but I’ve got to give credit for politicians over there (and not just the people running the sports) trying to find a solution to the problem.

Definitely interesting stuff happening, especially within the orbit of Lausanne. Over time, it will be interesting to see how well Brian Cookson can change the sport’s culture. And if he’s successful, the impact will be felt not just in Europe, but everywhere pro cycling events happen.

And then there’s the politics of who gets invited to the Grand Tours… and the other big races. That’s a whole other political kettle of fish.

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