Un Racconto di San Gregorio il Pio Ciclista

by Rant on February 15, 2008 · 33 comments

in Doping in Sports

… Or, A Tale of St. Gregory the Pious Cyclist

(With apologies to anyone fluent in Italian. The headline was translated into Italian through Google’s language tools.)

It takes a certain quirk of personality — a particularly sick one — to take pleasure in others’ pain. And yet, that’s exactly what a certain St. Greg seems to be doing, when talking about the current state that his “beloved” sport of cycling is in. An article in today’s San Jose Mercury News quotes the patron saint of the road bike as saying,

“I’m very excited about this year’s drug scandals,” Greg LeMond said this week by phone from his home in Minnesota. “It’s what was needed to happen to bring the sport to its knees.”

Cycling is on its knees, begging for credibility, because of an unending stream of doping scandals. LeMond, the original American champion, has become a voice for honesty in his beloved sport. LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France – he won three times – is scheduled to speak Sunday night at Santa Clara University on ethics in cycling. The event is unrelated to the Tour of California, which begins at 1 p.m. Sunday with a prologue in Palo Alto.

“Cycling is falling apart at the seams,” LeMond said. “It could take years to revive. I think it can, but only through drastic changes.”

I take no pleasure in the fact that cycling has been so under attack over the last few years. Many people are responsible for the state that the sport is in, including cyclists, team management, some of the promoters, the governing bodies and others both inside and outside the cycling establishment. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Even if this is what needed to happen in order for the sport to come clean, it is nothing to take pleasure in. Far from it. The current turmoils hurt real people. Some of them guilty, and some who are collateral damage. And some of the current turmoil is happening for reasons far removed from what the general public is led to believe.

No doubt, doping exists. And here’s a newsflash: It has been a part of professional cycling from the beginning. At least, performance enhancement has. The idea that some of it was cheating is newer than the idea of using whatever techniques one can find — short of killing oneself — in the eternal quest for better, stronger, faster athletic feats of derring-do.

For some, the sport is falling apart at the seams. Especially for those who aren’t willing to look further than a poorly-written, poorly fact-checked article. There is also much happening at the moment that points to a better future, no thanks to people like the subject of this story.

It’s easy to criticize and point fingers and say, “Oh, look over there. So-and-so is corrupt.” It’s much tougher to actually find solutions to the problems. Or even attempt to find solutions to the problems confronting the sport. And yet, people like Dr. Paul Strauss and Paul Scott, in founding the Agency for Cycling Ethics decided to do something positive. And a bit more than a year after they founded ACE, we have Slipstream/Chipotle and Team High Road (formerly T-Mobile), two high-profile teams, using their services as part of a comprehensive program to discourage doping.

And over in Europe, there’s Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard, who’s doing the same thing for Team CSC and Team Astana. These are people whose efforts may actually improve the lot of cycling over the years to come. Did it take the current troubles to spur these folks to action? Perhaps. The old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention” didn’t just come from nowhere.

Just this week, the Tour de France announced it was banning Astana – the new team of last year’s winner Alberto Contador and reigning Tour de California champion Levi Leipheimmer – from the 2008 race because of past doping involvement.

“I’m optimistic and surprised,” LeMond said. “The line is being drawn. People who aren’t for change aren’t welcome in the sport.”

ASO’s public reason for not inviting Astana has to do with the behavior of former members of the team, not anything that Contador, Leipheimer or the team’s manager Johan Bruyneel did. (Although, Contador’s name has been connected to cycling’s current albatross of a doping investigation, also known as Operacion Puerto. But the evidence against young Contador is pretty scant — unless someone is holding something back.)

What the ASO seem to be saying is, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” And to go a bit further (quoting The Who), they’re saying they “won’t get fooled again.”

It seems a bit odd to be punishing the current team and current management for actions of the previous administration. But it’s the ASO’s party, they can invite whomever they want. Just don’t expect me to be watching this year, Mr. Big Money advertiser. You’ll find me spending time watching Superweek, rather than the Tour. Heck, I might even take part in some of the master’s races … if I get into good enough shape.

Right. Well, we’ve veered a bit away from San Gregorio, haven’t we? So St. Greg is, at least the way the article presents it, casting aspersions on both Contador and Leipheimer, by suggesting that they are dopers who aren’t for changing the sport. Does he have any direct evidence for this? Their previous employer was a team with a pretty spotless record when it comes to anti-doping results. Unless, that is, you happen to believe Johan Bruyneel is a mad genius who’s just brilliant enough to have successfully avoided getting caught over the last eight or ten years.

Or is it just a poorly written article, tying two unrelated items together? That’s always a possibility, too. In the paragraph that follows the second quote, the writer promoted Will Geoghegan to Floyd’s lawyer. Will G may be many things, but the last time I checked, he wasn’t a lawyer. He was, however, Floyd’s business manager before the infamous phone call last May. That’s a far cry from being a lawyer. And the way the call was described at the hearing sounded more like a horrible prank gone horribly wrong than a real attempt at blackmail.

That whole event was terrible. And it shouldn’t have happened. Not much more can really be said about it. But when I read this:

“It was the meanest, cruelest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life,” said LeMond, 46.

A part of me wondered: Really? Worse than the abuse you suffered as a kid? Wow. As awful a thing as what Will did, I would think what happened to LeMond as a child was much meaner and crueler. That stuff appears to have scarred him for life. I hope, for St. Greg’s sake, that some day he’ll be able to put the whole incident in May behind him, and maybe even find a way to forgive Will.

Of course, we’re served up a heaping helping of the whole Armstrong-LeMond feud. Are the these two going to become the Hatfields and McCoys of the American cycling world? Inquiring minds want to know.

As the writer notes:

Armstrong’s defenders will say that he never failed a drug test. And it’s true that Armstrong made a clean getaway from the sport, despite the endless allegations against him.

But it is also true that the sport was rife with performance-enhancing drugs during Armstrong’s era.

Was rife during Armstrong’s era? Lady, I’ve got news for you. Cycling has always had an element of doping. It was just as rife with doping during the era of Lance as it was during the vaunted heyday of our patron saint of the big chain ring. There were cyclists doped to the gills back in St. Greg’s day, too. Even some using EPO, dare I say. In fact, over a period of several years in the late 80s to early 90s, somewhere around 20 otherwise healthy professional cyclists died mysterious deaths, which quite a few people believe were linked to EPO abuse.

LeMond knows firsthand how cheaters tip the scales in a race. The end of LeMond’s career coincided with the proliferation of the blood-boosting drug EPO among cyclists. After winning the Tour in 1986, and again in 1989 and 1990 – after a remarkable recovery from gunshot wounds in a hunting accident – LeMond found himself left behind. In LeMond’s era drug testing was so new if cyclists wanted to cheat they probably could get away with it.

According to LeMond, the use of EPO exploded in 1991 and he could never keep up with the peloton, ultimately causing himself permanent damage by overtraining.

This is one of my favorite all-time LeMond canards. Couldn’t keep up because of the EPO? Damaged himself by overtraining? Yeah, right. Guess something slipped his mind. Like his story in the mid-90s (covered in this post) about retiring because he was suffering from mitochondrial myopathy.

Something doesn’t add up between those two stories. LeMond was all over the papers (including this Sam Abt story from the New York Times in December 1994), explaining how his muscles just couldn’t work that hard anymore. It fit what happened during his last few seasons to a “T”. But it seems that in the ensuing 14 years, the memory has become a little more selective. So I guess that leaves us with the EPO being his current excuse for retiring. Doesn’t exactly add to his aura of credibility, though, does it?

By casting doubt on Armstrong, LeMond has been flattened by the speeding peloton of dopers. He found himself vilified, not only by Armstrong and his legion of supporters – fans approached me atop Alpe d’Huez during the 2004 Tour to express their hatred for the first American cycling legend – but also by the corporate structure that was cashing in on Armstrong-mania.

Or, perhaps he’s ruined his own reputation by speaking out on things when he didn’t really have a dog in the fight? It’s always wise to know when to pick your battles. Even back in his heyday, some thought of St. Greg as a whiner. I wasn’t among them. Then. But over the years, he’s really done a great deal to discredit himself.

Does LeMond care about the sport? I think so, after a fashion. But sometimes, St. Greg the Pious Cyclist has a funny way of showing it. Taking pleasure in the current troubles strikes me as odd. But perhaps that’s just me.

I often wonder whether the old coot is vying for a seat at the anti-doping table. Perhaps with ambitions of being the next Richard “Dick” Pound. I think I’ve heard something that would sum up such a possibility, and it goes like this:

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss…

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ludwig February 15, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Rant this post is full of mischaracterizations. First, it’s absurd to say Lemond isn’t doing constructive things to help the sport–he’s one of the only actors in this game who have actually taken a stand on principle that has hurt them financially. Make no mistake, retribution and payback for disloyalty to omerta exist in cycling. Second, your points on a lack of evidence implicating Bruyneel are weak because the same thing could have been said about Saiz (before Puerto) or Riis (before his confession). Not getting caught by a corrupt cycling establishment is not evidence you aren’t involved in doping–that ought to be clear by now. It’s hardly necessary to be a “mad genius”, but Bruyneel is clearly intelligent enough.

It’s only human to take pleasure in the downfall of those who have hurt you and have hurt what you care about. As for EPO causing an early retirement–Lemond is not the certainly not the only cyclist to make this claim.

Finally it’s far from inaccurate for the writer to state that PEDs were “rife” during Armstrong’s era. And you seem to be discounting the consensus that post EPO-doping was stronger than its prior forms, which accounts for why certain cyclists were forced to leave the sport and became upset about it.

Morgan Hunter February 16, 2008 at 12:12 am

Rant,

I do believe you are angry. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

Lemond is pathetic – but he is true to his nature – may I point out that he was once a blond? OKAY – that was a rather cheap shot – even if it is the truth.

As to what ASO or CONI/WADA/UCI/National Federations may think – it is also true for some of us that – “”Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me, WE won’t get fooled again.”

The battles between reason and chaos are never clear, clean or pretty. As you so very clearly point out in your commentary.

You all hang in there – everything that has a beginning – also has an end.

Morgan Hunter February 16, 2008 at 12:46 am

Ludwig,

The only clear thing about your “reaction” to Rant’s commentary is that you only see it from the perspective – “that it is against anti-doping.” read it again.

Rant is angry and rightfully so – While you may think than Lemond is an angel of gleeful vengeance – part of rants rancor with Lemond is that he is too ignorant to see the “harm” he is doing by flapping his gums the way he does. Rant is discussing “motivation and gain” – not making an argument for or against “doping.”

Thom February 16, 2008 at 6:37 am

See you at Superweek! I’m fed up with le Tour’s sanctimonious overreactions as well.

ddt240 February 16, 2008 at 7:04 am

Back in the 80s GL was one of my heros, but the man has completely lost all integrity and credibility as far as I’m concerned.

Not only has he changed his story on why he retired in the first place… but how does a man who has stated in the past that he has never actually been part to, seen or had first hand knowledge of anyone engaging in doping practices be as knowledgeable as he claims to be about how widespread doping is. How can someone be such an expert on something that he has stated he knows nothing about?

ludwig February 16, 2008 at 8:09 am

I object to misrepresenting the facts. If Rant is upset about Lemond talking about doping, he should criticize him on that front. Since Rant objects to Lemond’s violations of the omerta code (as it seems clear from the post), or to “flapping his gums”, he should defend the value of the omerta code on its merits, rather than launching into petty personal attacks. All these pro-Landis PR organs keep on attacking Lemond ad hominem without engaging the substance of his statements beyond saying ‘the authorities haven’t confirmed it’.

Here’s a suggestion. Since Rant is now so concerned about “credibility”, let me issue a challenge. Rant, tell us, what voice in cycling is “credibile” and which deserves credence? Who are the clean riders that the corrupt doping (or anti-doping as it were) establishment is pursuing? How can we support them?

I have no idea if Lemond rode clean during his career. But I think anyone who is actually against the doping culture has to support Lemond’s efforts to speak truth to power–again and again Lemond has been vindiciated as correct in how he has characterized the culture of the Armsrong years and beyond. It doesn’t really matter if the man is a saint or not, he’s right that cycling’s house of lies deserves to fall.

Rant February 16, 2008 at 8:14 am

Ludwig,
Greg LeMond wasn’t forced from the sport by EPO. At least, not if you believe what he was peddling back when he retired. He had a real condition which made it difficult for him to keep up. Remember, two of his wins in the Tour took place in 1989 and 1990, years in which EPO was already in use by unethical types in the peloton. If it had really been the root of his problems, he would have struggled mightily and in vain then, too Before EPO, however, there was the old-fashioned form of blood doping, which is pretty darn effective, too. No, I’m not suggesting that EPO is no worse than what went on before. Far from it. But the way the article is written, you would think that doping only became a problem after EPO was invented, which is far from the truth. EPO made blood doping easier, but blood doping and other forms of cheating were there for years before. Just ask the members of the US Olympic cycling team, circa 1984.
Sure, being an outspoken opponent of doping is doing something. But unlike you or me, where writing about it or urging others to do better is about the limits of what we can do, LeMond has the opportunity to use his name, power and influence to actually support the efforts of ACE or Rasmus Damsgaard or others. Not only could he bring a substantial amount of investment to the table, if he played his cards well, he could bring a substantial amount of credibility too. Talk is cheap. Standing behind your words through action, that’s more impressive. And LeMond has the ability, to draw much more attention to things like ACE than I do. (I doubt that either of the two Pauls would get more than a laugh, marketing-wise, about receiving the “Rant Seal of Approval”.)
As far as his business woes go, no doubt, his outspoken anti-doping stand has cost him some. But don’t be fooled, he’s not had the greatest of reputations in the bicycling industry since long before the dust-ups between him and Lance. The problems go back to when he was still racing and his father was acting as his “business manager.” Bob (that’s his dad) thought he was a tough businessman looking out for his son’s interest. The rest of the cycling industry thought he was pretty much of a jerk, making demands that couldn’t possibly be justified. More than a few deals either went sour or never happened because of his dad’s management. (I know this, by the way, from my own experience in the cycling industry during the late 80s and early 90s.) That cost Greg and his businesses dearly. And still does, to this day. There are many who have long memories about things that happened so long ago. The Armstrong-LeMond feud, by comparison, is fairly recent.
As for Johan Bruyneel, I do believe that he is intelligent enough to figure out how to beat the anti-doping system. The same is true for you and me. I think anyone who’s determined to do so can. Most people, however, understand that it’s wrong to try and beat the system and never try. For Bruyneel to be as successful at it as some give him credit for, I’m not so sure. I’d like to see much more solid evidence than what currently exists before jumping to that conclusion. You’re right, though. Lack of evidence could easily have been argued about Saiz and others. Just because the government could never prove Al Capone was running the Chicago mob doesn’t mean he wasn’t, to dig a bit further back into history. That’s pretty well an established fact these days. We’ll have to wait and see if anyone can prove Bruyneel is such a genius at doping that he beat all the systems. If so, I’d sure like to know how he did it.
ddt240,
Right on! Exactly how is someone who claims to be Sergeant Schultz when it comes to doping during his era able to know so much about what went on back then?
Thom,
See you at Superweek! Much closer to home, and more exciting to watch (especially the race on Downer). I’ll be endeavouring to not be part of any “negative breakaways.”
Morgan,
You got it.

bitch slap me back! February 16, 2008 at 8:23 am

Ludwig,

You say “I object to misrepresenting the facts. ” yet that is exactly what YOU are doing. Your assumption is that ” Bruyneel is clearly intelligent enough” to beat the doping controls. So now that is your take: if you are intelligent you must dope? And thus only dumb cyclists either 1) don’t dope ’cause they don’t know how or 2) do dope and get caught.

I guess this means, using your line of reasoning (if you could call it that), that if you walk on a team bus and see two cyclists reading, one a Penthouse and the second “War and Peace”, that the Tolstoy fan is the cheater while the guy with the boner is clean. Right??

ludwig February 16, 2008 at 8:40 am

Bitch slap me back,

Yes, I think the facts indicate widespread doping at the elite level. If the sport wants to change, it does not seem wise to reward the people who brought the sport to this state.

Rant,

You yourself concede that payback has been exerted on Lemond for talking about doping. In this light it’s also instructive to see the case of Frankie Andreu, who was sacked as Toyota director right after he admitted to doping on Armstrong’s team. As for whether Lemond should work with or support the ACE, I don’t have any answer. Many ACE peeps are associated with Landis as you know. So the ACE may want to steer clear of Lemond. Or maybe Lemond doesn’t think they are acting entirely in good faith. Clearly Lemond wants fairly radical changes for the entire sport, and so far anti-doping programs have been able to provide that.

Finally, I don’t believe you are being honest if you think “most” elite level cyclists practice the philosophy “that it’s wrong to try and beat the system and never try”. They may even believe doping is cheating and deception, but that doesnt’ stop them. Neither empirical facts (number of winners and podium finishers associated with doping) nor statisitcs (actual speed numbers) support that conclusion.

The omerta obstructs a reality-based-discourse and demands discourses based on fabrication—that’s why it needs to go.

ludwig February 16, 2008 at 8:47 am

Rant,

On EPO and when it made its impact, one interesting anecdotal account comes from Andy Hampsten. This letter is worth reading in full
http://www.dailypeloton.com/displayarticle.asp?pk=6730

Money quote:
“Like Greg, I too saw what I believe were the effects of EPO when it entered pro cycling in the early 90s. In the first years it grew from a few individuals reaping obscene wins from exploiting its “benefits,” to entire teams relying on it, essentially forcing all but the most gifted racers to either use EPO to keep their place in cycling, quit, or become just another obscure rider in the group.”

trust but verify February 16, 2008 at 9:07 am

One of the problems I have with the way the situation becomes presented is the claim that doping was “rife” during the “Armstrong Era”, leaving unstated whether it was rife in the “immediately pre-Armstrong” era, or in the “LeMond era”, or in the “Hinault Era”.

I think it would be naive to say that doping began with “The Armstrong Era”, indeed, it is clear that the EPO use had begun during the “LeMond era”.

A reasonable person might conclude that doping was as “rife” during the era LeMond was racing as any other era. The methods may have changed, but the reality that some proportion of riders were cheating was the same. Thus the previous era wasn’t “clean” or even “cleaner” than the ones that followed.

If doping is cheating, then there were likely as many cheaters in 1987 as there were in 1997 and 2007.

That is a problem with LeMond’s posturing argument.

TBV

Jean C February 16, 2008 at 9:26 am

Rant,

The curve of pro-cycling power output on TDF don’t show a measurable use before 90 (just watch cyclismag).
As many new stuffs, the drug are first “tested” by amateur riders who have die in first. People who have money and goods prefer the wait-and-see attitude.
The curve shows a progressive and constant improvement of power for the Indurain era with a summit with Pantani, Ullrich and Armstrong, I think riders shooted them just on race at the beginning, then they increased the dosage and frequency, a wise approach with a new product. EPO Prices were expensif too.
Last year Rasmussen and Contador were the strongest riders of all time during their fight in Pyrenees… they were stronger than in Alpes despite more race days. MIRACULOUS… Lourdes is not far of Pyrenees!

Evidence against Bruyneel : easy, US Postal rubbish. US Postal never denied the garbage because they answered that Actovegin was for one manager member who had diabetes!!! But for what could use a team 200 syringes by day?

If you want to restore authority on a group, what you do? You just have to remove the strongest bad guy… and the weakest will respect the authority after. That is what has done ASO. Pull out the worst team and DS.

If Lemond don’t need respect for what he is trying to do…

Morgan Hunter February 16, 2008 at 10:18 am

Ludwig,

You write – –“If Rant is upset about Lemond talking about doping, he should criticize him on that front.”

First off — Rant is NOT UPSET about Lemond talking about doping — YOU ARE THE ONE MAKING THIS CLAIM! — Rant doesn’t. Rant is upset at the METHOD and the ways and means that Lemond is using his STATUS. With the implication that Lemond is doing it for his “personal gain.” As I read it — but then I may be “reading a different article then you.”

As to your so called “challenge” — answering you your question would put Rant in the same group as you stem from — A group that sees pro racing as a “justified target” for “personal opinion” attacks — under the guise that they are of substance. In my opinion — Rant is not going to do it, and shouldn’t.

I am most surprised that you do not have an “idea” that Lemond rode clean or dirty in his career. You seem to be absolutely certain in presenting yourself as an authority and source of knowledge in everything to do with “pro cycling.”

But then — you shouldn’t be to upset if Rant doesn’t express himself like you do — SINCE — you yourself have a very consistent method of “ignoring” challenges to your “opinions.” I would think that what is good for you — may be considered fair for everyone else.

Oh — by the way — In Rant’s rant — there is no attempt at being a part of any “omerta” — which by the way means – “an omission by silence” — I do not think that Rant or anyone commenting on this blog — desires to conspire against “revealing” that doping is a problem. What we do all seem to “object to” is the METHODS being applied. I don’t happen to think that these are “fair or just.” But since I present this opinion — you will of course consider me – aiding and abetting those rich doping racers that you like to go on about.

ludwig February 16, 2008 at 11:19 am

Morgan,

Most of the criticisms could be more fruitfully applied to your own arguments–you make plenty of assumptions and accusations based on personal opinion. Moreover, I am criticizing ad hominem reasoning here, not endorsing it. In any case, I do my best to make conclusions based on facts–it’s fair to object to the specificity of the facts I cite or the reasoning I use, but if you attack me personally you are just demonstrating your bias.

As for Lemond, he is hated because he speaks frankly about doping in the peloton. The origin of Rant’s rant was….because Lemond is speaking frankly about doping in the peloton. Instead of confronting Lemond’s assertions, Rant’s strategy is to question his credibility (as has been the Armstrong/Landis strategy all along). But this is kind of silly given that the status quo encourages cyclists to lie all the time. It’s perfectly fair to ask Rant to provide a list of clean riders because he is implying that Lemond is smearing or disgracing them by speaking out.

Omerta exists. Whether it is justified by appeals to self-interest, nobility, dignity, status, whatever–it exists. Fans either support it or they don’t. There are plenty of decent people who love cycling that think omerta is the best thing for cycling at the moment. I happen to disagree with them.

the Dragon February 16, 2008 at 11:55 am

Ludwig,

I grant you that St. Greg speaks frankly, the more salient question is does he speak truthfully?

St. Greg has had several instances where he could PROVE his veracity in a Court of Law. In one instance he withdrew his comments, in another, the Will incident in Malibu, he could have been the complaining witness in a witness tampering case, convicting Will and PROVING he had spoken truth. Did he put his money where his mouth is? NO, he ran home and hid. He had a Golden opportunity to prove his assertions, and give them the credence of Court verdict, yet again, when given a forum to vindicate himself, he chose to turn tail.

Regards,

Morgan Hunter February 16, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Ludwig,

Yes — I do make personal assumptions — which I do tend to keep to myself — and yes — I do make direct accusations — but seldom on my personal assumptions. My comment to you is not meant personally — but since you insist on making them so — I respond directly to you — we won’t play that game.

What ever you may assume my thoughts and assumptions are — this will still not present a response to what I did say. — “First off — Rant is NOT UPSET about Lemond talking about doping — YOU ARE THE ONE MAKING THIS CLAIM! — Rant doesn’t. Rant is upset at the METHOD and the ways and means that Lemond is using his STATUS. With the implication that Lemond is doing it for his “personal gain.” — there it is in black and white.

So that your short-term memory is jogged to function — I repeat —“First off — Rant is NOT UPSET about Lemond talking about doping.” In the article he wrote.

The fact is — there it is in black and white – YOU ARE THE ONE MAKING THIS CLAIM! But as many of your assertions — they are false.

Let me also place before you — my summation. — “Rant is upset at the METHOD and the ways and means that Lemond is using his STATUS. With the implication that Lemond is doing it for his “personal gain.”

As to the truth of whether Lemond is speaking “the truth” — no one needs me or YOU to take a stand on this — I would encourage them all to make the search and find out for themselves, simply take the time and look at the written history of his actions and words.

To respond to your favorite soapbox — omerta, I do believe that you think this is a definitive phrase that suits your ends, and I would even pay attention to you, if you ever are able to apply it with significance. I am not so easily swayed by repetition.

As to your persistent need to insult the character of cyclist — most people will simply ignore this in you as in bad taste — I do not.

Rant — forgive me for taking liberties and assuming to be able to “explain” your intentions — I hope you and all others realize that my repost to Ludwig is simply based on what he is “implying” and attempting to reinterpret.

Rant February 16, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Ludwig,
First off, thanks for the link to the Hampsten interview. Good read. Now, about St. Greg’s retirement. I don’t doubt that he may have noticed the effects of EPO during the last few years of his career. I would be more surprised to hear him say he hadn’t.
But when he retired, he did so because he couldn’t keep up — not because of EPO, but because he had a real, medical condition that prevented him from doing so. LeMond, at his best, was a very dominant racer. That EPO helped various people do better than they would have is undoubtedly true. But LeMond, at full strength, was strong enough to keep up. With the mitochodrial myopathy, the energy factories of his muscles were no longer working properly, and thus neither were his muscles. His VO2-max dipped quite a bit over the last years of his career, to the point that he was about as capable as your average Cat 2 or Cat 3. That’s just not enough to keep up in the pro peloton, regardless of whether you dope or not.
LeMond speaks frankly about what he believes. No arguments from me on that. But is he truthful or credible? Depends on who you ask. Some of what he’s said has turned out, at least in broad brush strokes, to be true. No arguments. The story he now tells about retiring from the sport is not, however. One merely has to go back and look up the articles of the time to see that. Are you going to honestly argue that LeMond didn’t speak about his true reason for retiring due to cycling’s omerta? Once he’d retired, there was nothing for him to fear. His cycling business was already in shreds, not because of his outspoken comments about doping, but because of poor business management. Trek bought up LeMond’s brand at a bargain price, in part because of that. (Although, he does get a royalty on every bike sold.)
The blowback he’s gotten because of his comments on doping has come from people voting with their pocketbooks more than anything else. People who’ve owned GL products over the years and who no longer buy anything with his name on it.
Morgan is right. What gets me riled up about LeMond is not that he talks about doping. We’re all entitled to free speech. What gets me riled up is that he’s got the ability to do more than talk about it — and he doesn’t. He does things that get him in to the spotlight. Some is good. Like encouraging youngsters not to dope.
But he can do more, and he doesn’t. And at the same time, he finds pleasure in the travails of the sport he professes to love. I take no pleasure in the doping scandals that tarnish our sport. I’d much rather see people like Dr. Strauss and Paul Scott, developing programs to discourage doping. And I’d like to see them get more publicity for their efforts. They’re the ones finding solutions. All St. Greg seems to be doing is getting his name in the paper and continuing to fuel his feud with Lance Armstrong. If he wants to go after Lance, I say let the two meet on the road, go for a long ride and see who comes back upright.

Sara February 16, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Rant, excellent posts!!!

I agree with everything you said. Keep up the great work!

ludwig February 16, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Morgan,

You can twist my words all you want. But Rant wrote this post because Lemond spoke and Rant didn’t like what he had to say. The petty personal attacks on Lemond will never stop until stops “flapping his gums” (invariably people have to use words like “shut your trap” when talking about Lemond). The point is Lemond speaks and people don’t want to hear what he says. Social pressure, legal threats….this is how omerta works.

Omerta means the code of silence. If you think there isn’t a culture of silence on matters of doping in cycling, then you don’t understand this sport. Breaking omerta is what the whole anti-doping fight is about–if enough people started talking about how doping is and why people do it then workable solutions might emerge. At present, omerta serves the interest of the doping teams, so silence remains the rule of the day.

Omerta is the core of the problem because it forces society to confront a problematic issue–whether a sportsman has the right to refuse to lie in order to practice their profession.

Rant,

Consider this–if Lemond is correct about the doping culture in cycling (and I believe he has been proven correct in the past), then is it or is it not incumbent upon him to speak out? You talk about how he could be doing “more”…but who is doing more? I’m sure Dr. Strauss and Dr. Scott are fine men, but do they have a record of speaking truth to power on this subject like Lemond has? Can you point to any major figure in cycling who is doing more to fight for the integrity of American cycling? Would you favorably compare Lance Armstrong to Greg Lemond when it comes to their attitude towards doping? In general, do you think Lemond would be behaving in a more ethical manner if he remained silent?

Look I don’t think he’s perfect, but I react strongly because I hate to see an honest man bullied for doing what his conscience tells him to do. I have sympathy for every decent human being who has been bullied by Armstrong or other monied dopers.

I understand you don’t like him. But the reason you don’t like him because he tells you things you don’t want to hear. You would have a basis for hating him if he was saying untrue things…but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’m not sure what your basis is for concluding that Lemond is engaging in Schadenfreude…but if he is then so what? So you’ve never taken pleasure in the downfall of anyone in this sport?

Re your statements about Lemond’s retirement–what people say to the public when they decide to retire is not necessarily true all of the time. What I can’t get around is that Lemond’s belief that EPO was hitting the peloton in the early 90s is consistent with the facts we have, and that other athletes tell a similar story.

I believe his retirement came up briefly in the interview with Competitor’s Radio, but it’s been a long time since I’ve heard it…(incidentally this appears to be the same interview that set Landis off and he posted for the first time on DPForums on a thread related to this).

http://www.competitorradio.com/details.php?show=21

William Schart February 16, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Let’s face it, Lemond has no more personal knowledge of the nature or extent of doping in pro cycling today than you or I. He has not had any direct involvement in the sport, so basically, he just knows what he reads in the papers etc. He may have his suspicions about Landis, Armstrong, or any other rider, or about the sport in general, as do probably most of us here, but unless there is something I am not aware of, he has no direct knowledge of whether or not Landis, Armstrong, or any current rider is or has doped, outside of those who have confessed. Will, I guess we can give him a break regarding Landis, who has been convicted by the arbitration panel. But at the time of his pre-hearing statements, he had no more knowledge of things than those of us who frequent Rant, TBV, DP etc. But, due to his fame arising from his historic wins in the TdF, he is seen by many as some grand expert on all things cycling. If he makes a statement about doping in the peleton today, many look on it as gospel truth, not just one man’s opinion.

For that matter, IMO, he does not have all that much direct knowledge of the nature and extent of doping in the early 1990’s, around the time of his retirement. Did he personally witness riders he suspects doped shoot up? Did all these riders come up to him and say “Oh by the way, I’m on EPO”. I rather doubt it. Rather, I think what he is doing is looking at riders that he thinks are performing “too good” and so “they must be or were doping”. Well, by that standard, what about his 1989 win? Wasn’t that rather miraculous, considering he had come rather close to being killed in a hunting accident, and subsequently missing 2 years? Obviously, he must have doped.

Rant February 16, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Ludwig,
Speaking truth to power is only part of the solution to the current doping crisis in cycling. People like Rasmus Damsgaard and the guys behind the ACE program aren’t approaching the problem from that perspective. They’re finding creative ways to put pressure on people to compete clean. And creative ways to nip problems in the bud. That, in some ways, is even more important work than anything you or I or even St. Greg has done for the sport. It’s certainly worthy of praise and support.
For the record, my opinion about St. Greg doesn’t come from his saying things I don’t want to hear. My closest friend (other than my wife) is someone whose opinions on just about everything are diametrically opposed to my own. We have some interesting and challenging discussions whenever we hang out together. The only thing we really agree on is that riding bikes on or off road is a blast and should be done as often as possible — regardless of the season.
As much as this might surprise you, I actually don’t hate Greg LeMond. As a racing cyclist, I have respect for the man. I think he can do better than just mimicking Dick Pound. We don’t need another one of him. One’s enough, thank you very much. LeMond has the presence in the cycling world to actually do more than just draw attention to the problem. He could, if he put his mind and abilities to it, really help improve the sport. LeMond has the presence and connections to help some innovative programs get off the ground, if he put his energies in those directions. Rather than talking to journalists about being excited about the doping scandals, he could be excited about being involved in a more positive way. If he wants the role of elder statesman in American cycling, which I believe he does, then he needs to behave that way. And that’s why I take him to task. He could be a uniting, positive influence — if he would only apply his energies in that direction. It’s a shame he doesn’t.

Luc February 17, 2008 at 3:50 am

It’s been a while since i’ve read through a full rant and comments but, my my things have gotten a little titchy since the last time. Rant, as always, you are the voice of reason. I agree that Lemond, a hero to many of us in his early days, has continued to suffer from self inflicted wounds and had he received some good professional guidance he could and should have been so much more in his retirement. Had he someone like yourself to suggest times to comment and times to shut up he would have a greater positve impact then the mini-Pound he is turning out to be.

Rant February 17, 2008 at 8:10 am

Luc,
Glad to see you back. I’d been wondering where you’d vanished to…

ludwig February 17, 2008 at 8:45 am

William,

If what you say is true, the why would Landis and Armstrong be so upset about Lemond and so determined to silence him?

Rant,

That’s a fine answer, but you didn’t answer any of my questions. Specifically, given what Lemond believes about the sport, is it not justifiable for him to speak out?

The bottom line is Lemond is doing a lot more for a clean sport than any of us, and more than just about anyone else I’m aware of. Dick Pound, similarly, had done much more than you or Ramsus Damsgaard to expose the doping problem. You’re right that speaking the truth is only part of the solution but it’s a start, and I don’t see many other players doing this.

It doesn’t take a genius to see you are biased because he has played a role in exposing riders and teams your routinely defend on this blog.

The first step towards helping cycling heal is free speech and ending the omerta. I would be much more likely to buy into your propositions that Lemond has gone astray if it wasn’t so obvious that the omerta he decries is ruining the sport.

Morgan Hunter February 17, 2008 at 9:14 am

This is not meant as an attack on Lemond – and it is based on assumption. It is nothing more then an attempt to understand why Lemond is acting the way he does.

There is a good possibility the Mr Lemond is merely being true to his learned character. How many years was he in denial about his abusive relationship with his uncle? Denial is one method that certain types of individuals who have split lives tend to employ to deal with “responsibility problems.”

I am left wondering if Mr Lemond is once again merely in denial? Lemond was in his youth a cocky racer who thought of himself as being able to challenge the old guard and – he did – succeeding. We all cheered for the guy for doing it too.

When he quit – he quit because he said he had mitochondrial disease – There is no reason to doubt him on this.

What could be asked though is how Lemond deals with “life changing events in his life?”

Having to “quit” pro racing must have been a terrible emotional blow to Lemond – then to find out that he is a carrier of the disease himself – the man has what? Three children?

It is merely an assumption – but it is possible that Lemond finds it easier to “accept” that he lost his “ability” to race – to doping – then to what his doctors had diagnosed him. Combine this with the sense of parental responsibility and possible guilt feelings toward his children – it could very well explain his actions and words now, in the present.

Mitochondrial disease is something that is passed on from the parent to the child.

the Dragon February 17, 2008 at 10:06 am

Ludwig,

Why might Armstrong & Landis fight back? Quite obvious to me. If you or I post something inaccurate, we DO NOT have a platform to make any media/public impact.

St. Greg can get his thoughts out into the media, and with his TdF wins, anything he says is given currency. So he is peddling inaccurate information about Armstrong & Landis, his remartks have the ability to defame if inaccurate.

IF St. Greg was actually telling the truth, which he could actually prove (rather than rumor and inuendo), why did he cut and run when challenged? Reasonable conclusion is that it was either untrue, or unprovable.

Regards,

ps: Since the Omerta bothers you so much, WHY don’t you damn the WADA World Omerta? Is it because you approve of the WADA World Omerta because it furthers your personal goals?

Rant February 17, 2008 at 10:17 am

Ludwig,
LeMond is certainly free to speak his mind. The bigger thing that I defend, rather than specific riders and teams — because that’s not what this is about in my view — is the idea that everyone must play by the same rules. If athletes are expected to not dope, and are held accountable when caught, then the other side must follow their own rules, too. If they don’t, then we’re in a system where the enforcers believe that the ends justifies the means. That’s what this blog stands for, most of all.

ludwig February 17, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Fine then. So are you prepared to take back the misleading remarks in your OP?

All Lemond is doing is giving voice to what most people who follow cycling already believe. That is, that the system does not work and forces the riders to lie and cheat on a regular basis. Those who dissent (like Lemond) are to be bullied and ridiculed, just like in your OP.

But I don’t have to tell you all this–you are well aware of it. Nonetheless you continue to defend those at the top of the rung in this corrupt system and hone their talking points. Just look at your next post.

Enough. Thank you for treating me with respect and giving me the opportunity to test and elaborate my viewpoints on your blog.

Dragon,

I certainly don’t identify with WADA–I don’t even believe cycling should be associated with WADA or should aspire to Olympic sport status. Where I do defend WADA is to point out the absurdity of blaming cycling’s problems on WADA (which has only existed since 98) and to defend WADA officials when they are unfairly defamed by unscrupulous athletes and their legal and PR organs. I don’t think it’s possible to look at the facts and say there is a system of organized deception in WADA that is in any way comparable to what goes on in pro cycling with regard to doping.

the Dragon February 17, 2008 at 4:43 pm

Ludwig,

I think you misunderstand the criticisms of WADA World. I think if you read carefully, neither I nor any of the other posters are blaming cyclings problems on WADA.

I think ALL of us recognize there is a problem with the athletes. What you seem to regard as protecting the athlete from criticism is rather a recognition that athletes seek an edge and cheat. I/we just don’t think we should close our eyes, cover our eyes and mouth to what is obviously a WADA World who CHEATS just as aggressively as the athletes.

IF WADA World had such iron clad science, the best lawyers in the world couldn’t knock down that fact. Problem is, WADA World is the emporer with NO Clothes. They hide everything, they only find rules to punish the athletes while protecting their own deficient behavior.

I submit if you are willing to accept substandard science and testing, what good is your anti-doping programs anyway. When you can justify and explain to me HOW the test that got Landis into arbitration which was found to be unsound/inaccurate, but that fraudulent test (my words) get the arbitration started which then allows the arbitrators to go on a fishing expidition. IF the test had been done correctly, NO arbitration, end of long ago.

Maybe you should care that the testing is of high standard, as I wish it were, rather than WADA World protecting their collective behinds.

We don’t disagree on the problems of doping, only that you seem to accept the help of one set of cheats to catch another set of cheats. I believe if you have to cheat to catch a cheat, you are no better than the original cheat.

Regards,

Rant February 17, 2008 at 7:24 pm

Ludwig,
On some points I suspect we will just have to agree to disagree. But if you look at the next post carefully, I’m not defending the corruption within the system. In fact, I’m pointing out that an unintended consequence of the AEG’s rule could be manipulation by corrupt individuals — including less than honorable leaders of various teams (though I’m not pointing fingers at any particular team or leader, merely pointing out the possibility).
I’ve never said that Greg LeMond can’t speak publicly. In this country, that’s his right. But anyone who takes public positions should expect that they may be open to criticism. Myself included.
I certainly respect your opinion that the “omerta” within cycling is a big player in the doping problem. No one really questions that point, I don’t believe. I do, however, think that without a general amnesty, it will be a cold day in Hell before most who’ve been doping will ever speak publicly about what they’ve done. (Truth be told, I suspect that you might even agree on this point.) Why would anyone admit to that otherwise? The risks are too great. Until such day comes, none of us will ever truly know how widespread a problem doping really is. It certainly seems to be a big problem, as so many people are discussing doping in the sport. And that’s a good thing, as painful as the dialog may be.
What’s not good is the “us versus them” mentality that seems to divide the cycling community. I think we all ultimately want the same thing. We just need to find common ground on an approach that can ultimately lead us to the goal of clean sport. No one who posts here doubts the goal. But as I said, we all have different opinions on how to get there.

ludwig February 18, 2008 at 8:56 am

Dragon,

Again, I don’t put much stock in testing as the final answer to cycling’s problems–not until the testing is more reliable. That doesn’t mean I think all the tests are bad or scientifically indefensible. In general, I’m for openness, ending omerta, truth and reconciliation, radical change of leadership in the UCI, actively campaigning for sponsors to dump doping DS teams, and toleration of certain drugs.

I just see absolutely no evidence that WADA has cheated anyone, and although you keep asserting this, you haven’t provided any evidence. I do, however, see plenty of evidence that the Landis team has engaged in fraud and deception.

Rant,

I’m for a general amnesty, as long as it is accompanied by confessions and reform (ie, something like a Truth and Reconciliation commission). Why don’t you write more posts demanding just that? You are probably aware that the UCI leadership has consistently opposed such an amnesty. Why do you think that this?

Again, as long as you continue to give the omerta a pass, as long as you don’t demand integrity from the UCI, but instead focus your anger on precisely those actors, who, however awkwardly, are trying to tell the truth, all I can conclude is that you are for omerta. Ultimately, opinion should be based on action, not words. If you want to be considered anti-doping, then start attacking the doping culture and its enablers. Start criticizing people like Landis when they tell the USA Today that “there is no doping culture in cycling”. Start giving your readers facts about how widespread doping is and how the doping culture works. Until you actually take a stand against the house of lies that enables doping rather than defending Rock Racing’s right to start unapologetic dopers, then you have no justification to claim you are for clean cycling.

D February 19, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Humorous thought:

Ludwig has repeatedly gone back to his talking points that criticizing Greg LeMond is the same as supporting omerta and doping, and that you were all telling GL to shut up because you hate him and what he says. I read through it all and I didn’t get that from anybody’s posts. It was starting to drive me wacky, how he continually harped on it, twisting or ignoring what other commenters wrote while claiming that you all were twisting his (Ludwig’s) words.

What I am saying is, the man is, ahem, really deeply invested in St. Greg the Martyr. Really, really deeply. So much so that I propose this hypothesis: Ludwig = LeMond. Nothing we can prove, so it will stay a hypothesis.

Rant February 20, 2008 at 7:32 am

D,
Interesting hypothesis. Unless Greg L. has relocated to a different part of the country, however, I suspect they’re not one and the same. Ludwig’s posts don’t come from the scenic, metropolitan Wayzata, MN. At least, not as far as I can tell.
That said, conspiracy theorists might note that there are as many letters in “ludwig” as there are in “lemond”. 😉

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