Respect, Or Not

Last night I watched CNN’s hit piece, sorry – ‘documentary’,  titled “The World According to Lance Armstrong”.  What a steaming pile of bravo sierra. You can almost see producers running around, peeing on themselves in their excitement to jump on the trash Armstrong bandwagon.  You would think a “news/documentary” would at least make an attempt towards an objective view – but I guess that standard is long gone in today’s pseudo news world.

Do I think Lance used performance enhancing drugs? Probably. It would be hard to remain competitive without it during those years.  Does it diminish what he accomplished? Not even in the slightest. The news makes it sound as if you take a drug and the pedals will practically turn themselves going uphill.  To compete as a cyclist at that level requires a massive amount of natural ability and a physiologic make up to take in and transport oxygen that you’re either born with or you’re not.  Not to mention a level of commitment to training, diet, and discipline that few people posses.

There are other factors that play into being a succesful pro cyclist as well. It’s a team sport. You cannot win without strong team members performing at the same level as you.  It takes a certain amount of luck to not get caught in a crash, puncture at the wrong time, and remain healthy when traveling non-stop.  Most of all, and what I think draws so many of us to be cycling fans, is a willingness to endure a level of pain and suffering that us mortal humans can’t fathom.  Running a marathon?  A triathlon?  That’s cute – go compete in one every day for a month and then we can talk.

I’m so saddened for US cycling.  I think that the way the USADA approached the problem has done a tremendous amount of damage to the sport and possibly doomed its future for quite some time.  Good luck finding corporate sponsors for teams or events.  How many parents are going to be excited for their kids to get involved in cycling now?  Yes, there’s a problem in the sport that needs to be addressed.  But if you kill the sport while trying to save it what was the point?  Valid or not, the USADA went after Lance with a vendetta and single-minded purpose to bring him down.  I suppose to make an example out of him?  So you bring down the media figure that probably single-handedly brought US cycling to the level that it is.  Hmmm, brownie points for you I guess.

So what about respect?  There are all kinds of problems with “laws of silence” and it’s certainly not something you want to encourage.  At the same time, the old saying is true – nobody likes a snitch.  Especially when you were happy to benefit from something… until you get caught.  To then start portraying yourself as a proponent of “clean” cycling or to write a tell-all book (looking at you Vaughters and Hamilton) is cause for a loss of respect.  To wait until the end of your career to say something and then take a sweetheart deal to keep your records intact – sorry lost much respect for you Hincapie.

And as for sponsors… so much for loyalty.  Happy to make truckloads of cash off of an athlete for years and years.  Hints and rumors of the doping scandals have been around for years and you were happy to look the other way.  The media starts making an issue of things and you run like you encountered the Ebola virus?  Sorry Nike, Trek, et al… I have zero respect for you as company.  I understand the need to no longer continue with a tarnished brand, but I think there were much classier ways of handling it other than issuing a two sentence press release.  Oh well, ultimately it is all about money.

I took the time to read much of the USADA’s decision.  Some of its believable, some of it’s not.  I don’t think much of it would ever hold up in an actual court… but they’re not held to that standard so I guess it doesn’t matter.  There’s an excellent article about that here: Armstrong – Truth, Justice, and the American Way    Bottom line, it’s clear how bad the problem is in cycling.  While I don’t think most true cycling fans are shocked by it, it still tarnishes the sport.  I would much rather have seen the USADA put the same effort into working with the retiring “old guard” of cycling to get them to promote and encourage (as hypocritical as that may be) clean riding for the next generation.

The way they went about it and the wreckage it caused… I probably won’t watch the grand tours this year.  And that saddens me.