Armstrong: Should Riders Speak Up?

Monday, 27 August 2012

Voigt Media

The news that USADA has sanctioned Lance Armstrong has generated plenty of comment, taking talk of pro cycling from the back pages of newspaper to the front page, to the opinion page and on to TV and beyond. The media, fans, bloggers… it seems everyone has an opinion.

There are strong arguments on both sides, for example those satisfied to see a cheat caught could express their relief, versus those concerned about USADA’s handling of the case raising procedural questions.

But one area of calm is the pro peloton as few riders have said anything in public. Should they?

There’s a tendency to place a rider on a pedestal. We admire their ability on the bike and it can be easy to assume a fluent pedal stroke is matched by an articulate voice. Only this isn’t always the case and when the mouth opens the pedestal turns out to be a two-legged stool and the hero quickly stumbles.

This Armstrong case is complicated and having a ready view is hard. Remember if you’re visiting this niche blog then you are probably a keen follower of pro cycling and there’s a good chance you’ve followed the Armstrong case closely. But it’s still leaving many scratching their heads. There’s probably a good number of riders who can’t tell USADA from the USOC or USAC and how many have ever read the WADA Code? Given USADA’s sanction doesn’t come after a positive test for Lance Armstrong the case is more complex, with grey areas and debates normally reserved for lawyers, not cyclists. True, it’s not the first time, for example Richard Virenque was banned only after a saga and no positive test either, but this doesn’t make it much easier. Make a mistake and fans – or even lawyers – will quickly fire back. No wonder some riders want to avoid the subject.

Wiggins media

Wiggins reacts to news of the Higgs boson discovery during the Dauphiné

This however isn’t an excuse for all to hide behind. The peloton does have some good voices and besides, riders can express views with some blunt Wiggins-style language. But the complexity of the case can explain why some are struggling. Here’s David Millar:

Extend the argument and should all Americans have a view on Obama and Romney? When you last visited a bank, did you asking the cashier for their comments on the viability of the Eurozone? Probably not. But should American cyclists be asked about the Presidential election? Should riders paid in Euros have a view on monetary economics? When phrased like this it’s less obvious why riders should be expected to talk about subjects even if they are relevant.

But I think we need to go back to more basic principles. Let’s ask ourselves what a pro rider is doing:

  • they win races, try to win or support others in their attempts to win
  • they represent the brands of their team sponsors

None of this says a pro has to have a view on doping cases. Indeed as advocates of a brand, it can be argued that the last thing a sponsor wants is a rider opening his mouth. They want TV airtime for the brand, glossy pictures of success and other related imagery. Riders are hired for their legs and lungs, they are rolling billboards. Indeed surely it’s only when things go wrong do they have to tread the moral minefield of doping-related stories, whether the need to shut down whispering campaigns like Wiggins did in July to having to face a press conference once a team mate has been named, as with Jens Voigt pictured above.

When Riders Do Have Views
When some do have a view there’s no guarantee it’s worth a great deal.

What really irks me are riders saying “I prefer to concentrate on the future, not the past”.

That’s Gerard Vroomen, founder of Cervélo bikes and a former pro team owner. In a good piece on his blog he laments how some duck out of a comment claiming the Armstrong cases is about the past, since it covers those still active in the sport today. But I think quotes of “it’s in the past” to “no comment” to “it’s bad for business” share a single motive: “I really don’t want to deal with this“.

Take Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas who handily captures many of the arguments from above. He wrote about this in a blog for British broadcaster BBC but ends up leaving a mixed message.

Part of me thinks “won’t all this time, energy and money be better spent on the ‘here and now’ and the future?” Accusations against Armstrong are old news and hopefully a line can be drawn under the issue and cycling can continue to grow and move on.

Of course, nobody wants bad news. He’d much prefer to be asked about the thrill of winning Olympic medals instead of being asked to explain about past mistakes. Imagine an American tourist on a dream vacation to Rome who gets asked to explain Guantanmo, it’d soon spoil the fun.

Past Precedent
There was a queue to insult Riccardo Riccò but when a star name goes down things are usually much quieter. In general things are not personal, riders condemn doping but often don’t want to say harsh things about the doper. Similarly if riders have reservations about USADA’s process right now, few are speaking out. Some might have private concern about the principle of strict liability that caused Contador so much trouble (and will give Frank Schleck two years to spend fishing) but they’re not going to say a great deal on the topic in public. Most riders just want to race their bikes.

Summary
It feels like everyone’s got a view on the Lance Armstrong case except the pros. The sport revolves around them so their silence seems odd.

There are expectations that a champion rider should also be a spokesman for the sport. It’s harsh but dealing with the media is part of the job and just as some can corner better than others, some handle the media better too. Perhaps a quick sentence here and there is easier than a long discourse? Think of an autograph where riders quickly sign notebooks, jerseys and more but the handwriting is often indecipherable.

We’d all like to see riders speak up against doping, taking a strong moral stance. But the more you at look at this case, the more reasons you see for riders not to speak out. The Armstrong is complicated and remains divisive. When Contador was in trouble nobody said a great deal either, whether to slam him or bemoan WADA’s strict liability principle. For now if USADA has issued its sanction, we’re all still waiting to find out the details behind this. If few pros want to talk now perhaps they will have a view once there’s more detail to review. Let’s hope this proves true. Just don’t count on it.

HGJohn August 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm

When I read Millar’s book, “Racing through the dark” I was disappointed that he sat on the fence about the Armstrong issue and said so in my review: http://irontwit.creativeblogs.net/2011/08/02/racing-through-the-dark/ I also tweeted him last night, but wasn’t seriously expecting a response. Clearly at the time Armstrong was still in full litigation mode about people speaking out so he would have had to be very careful what he said but it’s surely time that leaders among the peloton started to speak out about the “dark years”, and by that I mean much more than just Lance. My view is here: http://irontwit.creativeblogs.net/2012/08/25/truth-and-reconciliation/

Sam August 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Re Millar’s book, there is no way that his publishers – or rather their lawyers – would have let him put in what he could have said re Armstrong in Racing Through the Dark. Libel laws here are pretty strong – look at how much the Sunday Times had to settle with Armstrong for publishing extracts from David Walsh’s book. You have to read what he did write about him challenging Armstrong on the eve of one of the Tours (2008), and read between the lines.

LauraLyn August 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm

The UK is a monarchy with subjects (no “citizens”). The press is all controlled and the courts work for the government.

This is reflected in cycling and the build up to the Olympics. Look at Sky Team. Nothing real there.

alan August 30, 2012 at 8:21 pm

uh-huh

Esplen August 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Sorry, have to correct your opinion in this instance – the UK press is not controlled by the government, if it was then the Leveson Inquiries would not be in process as they wouldn’t be required. The BBC is strictly controlled, yes, but against bias, or demonstrating bias, whilst the free press is controlled but by the owners and the advertisers not the state.

Secondly, the UK courts, by that I think you mean the judiciary system, actually control what the government can and can’t get away with, one could argue that in one of the world’s oldest democracy the judiciary have stronger controls then the electorate.

As for the comment about Team Sky – I’m confused, what do you claim is ‘unreal’? What flabbergasted me about Team Sky is that none of the opposition were flexible enough to adopt tactics to counteract the repetitive nature Team Sky’s strategy in the second or third week.

However we digress – your rant against the UK is irrelevant to this conversation – let’s focus on should riders speak out? Speak up, yes; speak out, no. Regretably in this instance the UCI has been shown to been used as an agent of the cheats rather than as a controlling entity. I believe at the TdF it is the ASO who are its government with the UCI being the judiciary.

LauraLyn August 31, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Fair enough. You are correct to suggest we stay on topic, and I was off topic. Thank you for your correction (even if we may still disagree with the substance, but no big deal on that).

We may agree also on the UCI, though not with the limitation of “in this instance”. Regarding the ASO, I think you give too much credence to anyone being its judiciary.

Would you accept that the media has played an important role in covering up doping in sports?

The Inner Ring August 27, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I think there’s been a double-premium on the mention of Armstrong in cycling books. One author reports how he was told simply not to mention him as the publishing house and its lawyers had cold sweats but it was hard to contemplate this given the book was about the Tour de France. Yet there was no similar concern about any other rider.

Tom August 28, 2012 at 12:29 am

There was an interesting discussion published on ESPN today (http://espn.go.com/olympics/cycling/story/_/id/8306910/lance-armstrong-million-questions) where writers discuss getting personal calls from Lance after mentioning him in articles.

alex mackay August 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm

no i dont think so,i think its unfair to hammer the cyclist about doping considering that was the culture then.since the tour began riders have been on something.times have moved on and the sport is going in a differant direction away from doping.i also think its a joke to strip titles from riders caught up in the whole affair.it should never have been allowed to happen.move along that was then this is now.i certainly dont think less of a cyclist from that era.

Sam August 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I admit that at first I was looking for some pros to speak out, and was pleased to see that Gustav Larsson did so in an interview quoted on Cyclingnews yesterday. But you’ve made me think more about this issue with the points you make. People are ready to leap on every single word that they utter and react to it in what arre sometimes extreme ways. Its interesting that you’ve used Geraint Thomas’s blog on this piece – his PR rep tweeted the link to it on his behalf yesterday, and from her subsequent tweets it seems that as a result they may have received some abusive tweets. I would put good money on many of them being from the very people who are calling the riders cowards for not making statements. If you’re a rider, why would you want to bring that on yourself and those around you? I can clearly see why riders want to keep their thoughts to themselves.

Sam August 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm

sorry, this was a reply to Inner Ring, not to Alex’s posting

Julius Kusuma August 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Perhaps we are seeing a generational gap. Many top cyclists today started their pro career 7-8 years ago, meaning 2004-5. And they were in their junior years in the 90s. And of course, top cyclists get more press coverage, and a taller soapbox, to stand on when they comment.

The younger ones seem more supportive than the more senior ones, but it’s not like I surveyed any reasonable number of them ;-).

And on David Millar, he’s busy building his own brand. What better occasion to speak out again on doping than now?

Bash August 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Going deeper still – I think it’s fair to say that most professional sportspeople at the top of their game live in a bubble. This is out of necessity – to avoid the negative press and other distractions, to have the support of tens of people around them at all times, being waited on hand and foot, not having to think about anything other than the next race/competition/match.
David Millar mentioned it in his book – in the world of pro cycling you’re never really given the chance to grow up. He felt ill-equipped to deal with the real world when he was given his doping ban.
Most of the peleton haven’t had access to higher education, because they’ve been riding bikes. They’ve not needed to develop an analytical or political viewpoint, because they’ve been riding bikes. That’s not to dismiss these athletes as stupid, but we’d got to understand that to do anything other than ride their bikes at this stage in their careers is a distraction from becoming the best athlete they can be.
It’s easy to throw blame at a rider for not speaking out, for not having an eloquent and reasoned viewpoint, but it’s not necessarily fair.
The riders have a duty to ride clean, of course they do, but the ones who must ensure that they do are the UCI, the team DSs, doctors and of course, us, the adoring fans, must never accept that ‘doping just happens’. It shouldn’t.

Igam Ogam August 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm

There is also the element of normal human distrust. When somebody starts banging on about something with a moral underpinning most people tend to think — what’s he/she trying to hide?

The riders are in a “catch 22″ situation even if they are eloquent enough to say something.

ChrisO August 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm

The thing is (and I say this as someone with many years of journalism experience) all the riders have to do is say “I don’t have a comment”.

I’ve seen some politicians, if they’ve made clear they don’t want to say anything on a certain subject and you go ahead and ask them, just blank you – say nothing, no reaction, thousand yard stare. Most journalists however will accept the no comment – it’s one of the unwritten rules.

The riders need a bit of basic instruction at how not to say anything – it’s better than coming out with some cliche or stupid comment. And as for G’s suggestion, it’s on par with telling the police they should be catching real criminals not drunk drivers.

Owain Glyndwr August 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm

It’s not just the riders who need advice: it’s their PR agents too. In G’s case I’m consistently amazed by the poor quality advice he gets: she seems to have forgotten the most basic rule of all “engage brain before speaking”. One wonders how much of this stuff actually ever gets written by these riders but by PRs who feel the need to be part of the news. Fine, but come out with some decent comment rather than the equivalent of supporting a child abuser because they had done some good work in the community…

Chuffy August 27, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I can sympathise with the riders – yes, it’s a complex issue to be commenting on, but also there must be a lot of guilty consciences and skeletons in various closets. Who wants to shoot their mouth off, knowing that their DS, or team manager was once one of ‘those guys’?

Re: the younger riders. I seem to recall Talansky saying something stupid in connection to LA recently, and this is a guy on the same team as Millar, Vaughters, Zabriskie etc. Vaughters later said that he’d given Talansky a bit of a bollocking for it – which goes to show that just because we (obsessive fans) have read every last story and rumour, the young guys can be blissfully ignorant and just see LA = 7 times TdF winner + legend.

As for Ricco, surely the reason he got fried by his peers was because they all absolutely hated him. There was no comeback from hating on Ricco.

Chuffy August 27, 2012 at 6:15 pm

That said, I’d love to hear more riders speak out as openly and as well as Gustav Larsson.
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/larsson-applauds-armstrong-decision

The Inner Ring August 27, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Well done to Larsson but right now he’s making a name as “the guy who spoke out”, almost nobody else is joining him. The lonely position could just cause him problems.

daniel August 29, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Jimmy Engoulvent is the only other rider I have seen speaking out, even having a Twitter conversation with Geoffroy Lequatre about it – (link to translated Tweet content) http://forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php?t=18326

Nico Roche + Gesink had some respectable things to say about the ban, though weren’t as damning as Engoulvent and Larsson.
If either of the two line up at the Tour of Britain I’ll seek them out and thank them personally.

daniel August 29, 2012 at 11:21 pm

On the other hand people who have made comments such as Hayden Roulston don’t deserve the time of day..
“i feel there needs to a massive change. If wada and the uci dont catch the cheats within a certain timeframe, then it should be done and dusted.. because whats just happened now makes our sport have no credibility whatsoever. my thoughts are if the cheats arent caught after 6 months, then its done and dusted..”

6 months statute of limitations?! If anything the threat of retesting samples from the recent past needs to be heightened. Giro 2008 CERA, Tour 2009 AICAR – these are both things that the UCI have refused to retest.

Riders say “lets look to the future and forget about the past”. How can they say that when Bruyneel, McQuaid etc are still involved with the sport?
Ridiculous.

casualpedlar August 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm

It doesn’t seem right that any rider should feel that they have to speak on these sort of issues if they don’t want to. At the same time though the best voices in the peloton will actually have something useful and relevant to say, Millar and Voigt being two good examples. Well thought out views like the ones we will hopefully see from David Millar actually would fit in with representing the sponsor’s brand as well – if eloquence is a skill you possess then using it should be positive.

Geraint Thomas’ blog on the BBC did not seem to give the right message at all, talking a lot about cycling being “dragged through the dirt”. Does this not seem to hark back to days of total silence about drugs and doping?

Adrian Holman August 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I have been quite intrigued by the pro’s responses (e.g. Rogers, Cavendish) to recent questions on Lance. But I am not surprised that they don’t have much to say – If I was an active pro rider in 2012 I’d be focussed solely on my current or next race and the year ahead, not on a retired rider.

Hello to my fellow UAE resident and INRNG commenter ChrisO!!!

Sergio August 27, 2012 at 6:39 pm

As long as the sport management don’t change, I would not say a word.

It’s like in my company an old CFO, now retired, has found guilty of manipulating economic data in the company books to control the stock price of our company, beware not to damage it but in such a way some big stakeholders of the company, such as the CEO, the President.. made profits.

And while some people in power at that time, who took profit from the wrong doing of the CFO, are still in charge you want an employee still subjected to those bosses to talk out loud against the retired CFO?

Everybody saw. Few talked. The ones who paid the biggest price of the cheating were the cyclist being cheated. The few who incredibly made it thru the dark years, those old guys that started to appear in the top ten rank since 2008 now should talk while their blood and urine are in the hands of those conspiarators? They made a positive test disappear. They can make one appear.

Come on, let’s put in their pants: I wouldn’t talk. Who will?

Jim August 27, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I think the issue with riders offering opinions on the Armstrong case is that at this point the case is very ambiguous. Did he acutally dope or not? Was USADA out to get him? What is the evidence? What of riders giving testimony for leniency? Who else is implicated?

Without established facts, an outspoken rider can only offer what he “believes” to be true. There may be wisdom in withholding comment until the sanctioning process has run it’s course.

walt August 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm

You honestly think the case against Armstrong is “very ambiguous” and have questions whether he “acutally [sic] dope[d]“? Time to get your head out of the sand, my friend.

Jack August 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Nice metaphors

DG August 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm

” The sport revolves around them so their silence seems odd.” ?Huh?

How about: “Perhaps we can expect to hear more from current riders when the regulatory body takes a clear stance on doping.” The recent flailing by McQuaid tells the riders to keep their heads down for the moment.

Ken August 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm

An active rider would have to be crazy to come out and blast the UCI, the WADA, or the USADA. As the sport is structured today, they have unchecked power.

Simon Fielder August 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I think their are perhaps 3/4 senior riders you would look towards for a view on this. The most obvious one is Millar. Considering the context (his past) and subsequent roles such as the one on WADA then he really should speak up.
For others I think not. It’s a profession at the end of the day and no one should risk speaking out when the facts aren’t clear.

Chuffy August 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Millar has said (on Twitter) that he can’t say what he wants to in 140 characters and is working on something longer. I think Millar has mixed feelings about LA – he was clearly a friend and fan in the early days (don’t forget, LA was one of the few people to send him a supportive message after his drugs bust, go figure….) but he is also the only person I know of who stood face to face with Armstrong and bawled him out about about his stance on drugs in cycling.

daniel August 29, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Kimmage, among others..

Jesse August 27, 2012 at 8:21 pm

In this current age, it’s hard to begrudge an athlete for not saying anything, when everything they say is picked apart. Imagine how much people dissect and analyze comments made that really have nothing to do with anything at all, and how they are blown our of proportion. I don’t blame athletes for being guarded nowadays. If you talk to much you risk either saying something stupid, or being branded a spotlight seeker. If you express and opinion, then that will be argued for and against no matter right, wrong or indifferent. If you speak off the cuff about anything, then things are almost always taken out of context.

The world is tweets, soundbites, clips and moments. Wobble for just a second, and your entire brand can be ripped apart within days. I’d like to look at them as stewards of the sport, but it’s so hard to place certain expectations on them, because the smallest of things can ruin a career. It’s too bad, because when something big like this comes about, and it’s something that they should be able to talk about, they’ve become so gun-shy to the feeding frenzy.

Julie Fast August 27, 2012 at 8:51 pm

I think that Lance was busted for being an ‘arrogant liar’ as I have heard him called. The US is a country that likes apologies- Lance refused and was punished. Like Roger Clemens- his disdain for the process and his appearingly bold faced lying led to this- not his doping. Just my opinion! I also have friends at Nike who do not speak highly of Lance- one was his guide for the day at a marathon in New York. The one word she used for him was arrogant.

Julie

Dean August 27, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Alex Mackay: spot on.

Buddenbrook August 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm

It’s not the cyclists that bear the moral burden here – it’s the managers of the sport: UCI, ASO, the various anti-doping agencies, the team managers etc. The UCI’s record has been especially appalling and it sounds like there is more to come out. Do they want a clean sport? If so (and it’s unclear to me) will they put in place a tough process to get there? If not then the McQuaid’s of this world should move over.

We all need to hang on to a key idea: clean racing means a more level playing field, which means better racing. Whatever the Armstrong years were, they weren’t great racing.

Bryan August 27, 2012 at 9:26 pm

The general attitude and lack of positive comment from the UCI, organizers, pro tour teams, riders, managers, directors and journalists says everything about the current dire state of our sport. I have only seen one positive comment from a pro tour rider. From the rest, the same old idiotic mantra – it seems little has changed.

Armstrong is/was just a sympton of the scale of the problem our sport still faces.

We need new, respectable people in charge of both the UCI and teams, to have any hope of change.

bikefoolish August 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Hmm I think many people here are missing the point. Lance never failed a drugs test…however with all the evidence we already know and what USADA is likely to present we know he doped (dont have time to go through it all)
That leaves us with only one conclusion he was aided by those who were supposed to be looking after the sport. My hope is that USADA’s crusade is about bringing down those who are still in the sport supporting and profiting from PED’s in one form or another.
If we follow this line it is unfair for us to ask riders to have an opinion when those who regulate and make positive tests disappear (or appear) are still very much in control. When the evidence comes out and an external governing body outside the sport such as WADA, USADA or IOC throw their backing against the UCI and others involved we can expect riders to come forward and all hell to break lose

Redeye August 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Totally agree (see comment below). I’ve no doubt this is going to end up at CAS and a massive legal wrangle. Who wins probably won’t be as important as what happens along the way.

In a way, riders feeling able to speak freely and openly about condemning Armstrong may well be the sign that the battle against dopers (and those who make it happen in cycling) is being won. Until then, there’s a lot to be done…

DanB August 27, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I’d suggest that some of the journalists direct questions to themselves first

The Inner Ring August 28, 2012 at 12:57 am

A fair point. But note some might have known certain things but getting agreement to publish was another as editors often said no, fearful of lawsuits.

daniel August 29, 2012 at 11:26 pm

The editor of CyclingNews told me that ‘sponsors’ are the reason journalists aren’t asking cyclists why they’re not condemning Armstrong.

Redeye August 27, 2012 at 10:03 pm

For me the reason for the riders’ lack of comment is much darker – there are many people who’ve been involved in the “USPS conspiracy” who are still involved in or even running the sport. There aren’t many (any?) riders who can afford to risk their careers by speaking their minds because they don’t want to annoy the UCI and make themselves a target. They saw what Armstrong did to riders who crossed him, they know the UCI and others were complicit in much of what he did and now isn’t a great time for a sudden career change.

This is the biggest problem with Armstrong not contesting the charges – the omerta lives on and many of those involved remain hidden and able to carry on in the sport. He’s effectively taken one for the team. We can only hope that when Bruyneel contests his charges that some of it comes out, particularly the bits involving the UCI. I cannot think of any other organisation in which Pat McQuaid would still have a job after what has happened in the last few weeks (okay, maybe FIFA!).

mark rushton August 27, 2012 at 10:07 pm

No-one wants to really say anything because everyone is close to it. Jens Voigt may be clean but look at the teams/people he’s been with? During the Armstrong years everyone was making out like bandits as Lance catapulted cycling into the public awareness. Trek/Oakley/Giro/Shimano/HED/Carmichael/Lightweight/Bontrager/Nike all increased their brand so they were happy to be part of it. When Bassoni or Simeoni spoke out the peloton asked for quiet since salaries and sponsorship was on the rise.

Amy August 28, 2012 at 1:29 am

If we just look at two of the times at the USAPRO Challenge, they ride for teams that Lance has a direct ownership in …. How many of you guys want to critcize a the company you work for or a company that you might want to get a contract with in public?

Buddenbrook August 28, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Read Voigt’s biography (with the unfortunate title ‘Man Muss Kaempfen’). Not a word about doping.

daniel August 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm

I remember Jörg Jaksche recalling the conversation he had with Jens during the 98 Tour in which Voigt asked him what his team was doing with their “stuff” because GAN were burying theirs and picking it up after the race.

jamie August 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Speaking of speaking out, now that the case is stopped/on hold, what happens now to the active riders who testified about their own and Armstrong’s doping?

regsf August 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I can’t say anything because of the omertà.

Rick R August 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I agree with Sergio in that, at the end of the day, the only thing the rider can control and can know, are his or her own actions and words. These have to be chosen carefully. The Omertà works by penalizing anyone who would stand against it by whatever means possible. Add to that milieu is the fact that there is a great deal of pressure to obtain results and, quite frankly, the insistence of ‘controllers’ to take these steps to keep up or conquer their competition, it is little wonder that anyone would want to jeopardize their career by ill-chosen words.

David August 28, 2012 at 12:02 am

Professional riders who rode with Armstrong and Hincapie in earlier years and were instrumental in keeping up the pressure to bring “truth” to the USPS era, were asked about what they thought of Big George as reported recently on cyclingnews.com. “Professional”, “good guy”, “honorable”, were tossed around by guys sitting in a room next to each other waiting to tell their story to the Feds or USADA and getting amnesty. I suppose there has to be omerta for “clean” cycling to flourish.

SilverSurfer8 August 28, 2012 at 12:15 am

I have to say, I understand riders not speaking up right now. When someone asks me what I think of all this, I honestly don’t know what to say. I think it’s the lack of information and a clear, coherent story. There’s not a lot of “hard facts” to hang an opinion on. We know there were several witnesses, but since they haven’t had their day in court, the story feels incomplete. Maybe we’ll get a better picture when Bruyneel goes through his arbitration…IF he goes through with it.

Tom August 28, 2012 at 12:24 am

Let’s say someone spills the beans and says that there was systematic doping at US Postal from 1998-2004. Although that may knock Armstrong down a notch, take a look at all of the other team members it implicates:

Michael Barry, Tom Boonen, Julian Dean, Ekimov, Ryder Hesjedal, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, Matt White Dave Zabriskie and others.

There was quite a who’s-who of athletes (and busted athletes) who were on USPS at one time or another.

daniel August 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm

You know that Hincapie, Leipheimer, Zabriskie and Vande Velde are witnesses who have given evidence against Lance/Bruyneel/Ferrari/etc right?

FAQinc August 28, 2012 at 12:34 am

A very valid point Inrng.

But to everyone who still wants to continue rambling on about Armstrong I would like to quote cyclingtips.co.au who probably quoted someone else

“now that we all know that Santa Clause is not for real, we can all get back to enjoying Christmas.”

Ken August 28, 2012 at 12:40 am

The biggest casualty of all this may be drug testing. Pro cycling has placed a very big bet on the ability of a strict, technical drug testing regime to convince fans and sponsors the sport can be clean.
Now the USADA comes along and says drug testing does not prove innocence. Maybe that’s true about the Lance Armstrong era, but is that true now? We’ve seen some evidence in the last two Tours that the riding, though not perfect, may be a lot cleaner. Technical progress takes time, and the laboratories are getting a lot smarter. In fighting old battles, the USADA may be hurting the credibility the testing regime.

The Inner Ring August 28, 2012 at 12:55 am

When athletes like Marion Jones claim they’ve been tested X time and never tested positive they are appropriating the credibility of the testing regime for their own ends.

Some of tests in the US Postal Conspiracy case relate to a time when there was no EPO test in place, they could catch other things but not EPO. Things have changed although it’s always a game of catch up for the testing with the authorities. Richard Virenque never tested positive and nor did so many others in proven doping cases.

Tests are necessary but they’re not sufficient. Necessary because without them things could go wild but not sufficient because they cannot control for everything. The answer with tests is probably more testing, done more intelligently and with the use of more tools like the bio-passport.

Evan August 28, 2012 at 8:39 am

hurts the credibility of testing? This is akin to suggesting that police damage the credibility of fingerprinting each time they fail to find prints at a crime scene.

Dean August 28, 2012 at 1:09 am

Either we invest in improving tests – and trust them – or admit that we will leave our sport to the mercy of any lawyer trying to make a career. Forget about LA for a second and think of what it means to move away from hard, imperfect but continually improving science to human (always imperfect) judgement.

Evan August 28, 2012 at 8:46 am

pray tell what lawyer is trying to make a career on the back of this case? It seems that Lance’s lawyers have made a career of destroying lives and extorting money, so I’d say there are lots of easier things to do in life than engage Lance in legal battles for one’s own advancement.

There is a constant investment in improving tests, and if your memory extends back to 2008 you’ll recall all the riders who were busted for CERA as soon as the test came out. The bio passport is another initiative that’s moving in the right direction. But no, tests will never be trustworthy if you mean that a non-negative test can be assumed to indicate a clean athlete. Tests only prove guilt, never innocence. “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”

Dean August 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I’m not talking about LA but cycling. It is a sport. We put rules in place and follow them, the sport will thrive. We allow room for lawyers to interpret our rules (as opposed to scientists delivering a ‘simple’ thumbs up/down) and we will replace one mafia (some say it’s the UCI) with another (the various ADAs), while effectively telling any non-cycling specific sponsor to look elsewhere for opportunities. We can & should continually improve the tests & bio-passport or whatever dependable method scientists can come up with in the future. But that’s it.

If you are serious that you don’t understand what guys external to cycling, like Tygart & Novitzky etc are driven by, I can’t really show you. Sorry.

doubter August 28, 2012 at 1:18 am

Ummmm………the answer is so obvious I can’t believe nobody has stated it…..

As in years past, the majority of cyclists won’t criticize his doping……..because they are/have also doped. And they don’t want to arouse suspicion.

Think about it, if you’re clean, and you absolutely resent the dopers around you, aren’t you going to say something critical of riders caught doping. Someone……..anyone?

Jack August 28, 2012 at 2:31 am

I wish riders would speak more clearly against what appears to be a serious doping program by the Armstrong. The Inrng and others might find this piece here interesting. I thought it was spot on on just about everything related to the Armstrong case.

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2012/08/the-armstrong-fallout-thoughts-and.html

Ryan August 28, 2012 at 6:05 am

Whistleblowers are essential to policing drugs in cycling. Riders and staff with eyewitness accounts of illegal activity cannot be ostracized or feel like their jobs are at risk by speaking out. It should be the job of cycling federations to support whisleblowers. In the past, riders who speak out have been attacked by the petron(s) of the peleton and all the other riders have followed his lead or kept quiet. This has tangible negative impacts on whisteblowers’ livelihood, it’s immoral and it’s bad for cycling. Until we see riders and staff freely reporting on doping violations we only have testing and its ever-growing bureaucratic process to depend on.

grumpyoldman August 28, 2012 at 10:43 am

I think that you raise an interesting point about practitioners of an activity (in this case cycling) not necessarily being the people best qualified to comment on the wider social and political implications of events within that activity.

Furthermore, pro cyclists, even if they have something sensible to say about doping, are in a difficult position inasmuch as if they come out strongly against it (à la Wiggins) there will be a queue of people lining up to say, “The lady doth protest too much methinks”.

That said, there are a couple of issues on which all decent-minded followers of the sport, including riders, can have a reasonably clear-cut view.

Firstly, Armstrong’s relentless bullying of those who, like Christophe Bassons, did not follow his lead, was monstrous. Careers and livelihoods were ruthlessly destroyed in order to save Armstrong’s skin.

Secondly, the authorities can make an enormous contribution to cleaning up the sport by simply expunging from the record the names of those known to have doped. That way, even if a rider gets away with doping to win an event, he will know that in the event of the testers catching up with him, total oblivion awaits.

This would represent an enormous disincentive to profit from the latest developments in doping science.

Because in the final analysis, the war against drugs will never be won. It’s just an ongoing arms race between the regulators and the chemists.

Larry T. August 29, 2012 at 12:22 am

+1 I only argue with your last claim, but that’s based on the definition of WIN. I think the war will be won when racers no longer believe everyone else is doping – so they must do it too. There will always be sociopaths and egomaniacs like BigTex and they will always try to cheat, but making them a small minority will be victory enough for me.

LauraLyn August 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Please explain how you see anything believable in Wiggins on doping:

I just can’t understand what Wiggins says: http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/07/news/bradley-wiggins-has-a-few-choice-words-for-those-who-doubt-racing-can-be-clean_228247

Wiggins in The Guardian on Friday morning, 13 July : “I don’t care what people say, the attitude to doping in the UK is different to in Italy or France maybe, where a rider like Richard Virenque can dope, be caught, be banned, come back and be a national hero.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2012/jul/13/bradley-wiggins-dope-drugs

Wiggins to a news conference on Friday afternoon, 13 July, after David Millar wins the 12 stage of the TdF: “David Millar is a national hero.”

Read the Wiggins sickening blog in The Guardian of 13 July. He does not say a word against doping. He only says what would happen if he was caught. Reads just like Floyd Landis or Lance Armstrong before being caught.

If you really believe Wiggins won this year’s tour clean and Sky wasn’t doping, then watch this interview: http://www.sporza.be/cm/sporza/videozone/MG_Tour/MG_vive_le_velo/Tour2012_dag_1/1.1374958

Doping is more rampant in professional cycling now than ever before. Sky Team makes US Postal look prehistoric.

kayaker August 28, 2012 at 11:04 am

I agree that the silence is deafening from the Vuelta/US Pro tour. Hardly one current DS or rider appears able to acknowledge the damage the doping culture he perpetuated caused. I agree with the comments that many benefited from Armstrongs legacy through better salaries or longer careers. Riders appear clean now but it appears to me that this is only because they believe reliable monitoring for EPO/autologous transfusion exist. My concern is what happens when the next undetectable booster comes along? This current peleton appear to lack the moral compass to resist its use.

Alex August 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm

1204 words when all you needed was one – omerta

Alex August 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I hadn’t seen that Geraint Thomas article before now. But then we all know he isn’t the sharpest tool in the box, what with his bioflow bracelet endorsement.

On the subject of speaking out, it is striking when riders who used to take a stance go quite. Wiggins and Gilbert both spring to mind.

Oliver August 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Remaining mum in the face of such important and momentous news (i.e. the fall of the house of Armstrong) is testimony to the fact that not that much has changed in the world of Pro cycling.
The code of silence still rules.
And this leads one to ask why, and then to realize that there is something still to be silent about. The culture has not changed because the practices have not changed. The day any pro riders can routinely and freely criticize Armstrong for the crook and mobster that he is, is the day that the UCI which allowed and supported Armstrong, is profoundly reformed and has new leadership. In other words, keep waiting!

Symo August 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Looking forward to Millar’s response, I am expecting something well thought out and perhaps damning of Armstrong and those who covered up for him.

Buddenbrook August 28, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Is anyone else shocked by Nike’s response and their support for Armstrong? Do they know anything about what went on?

Sam August 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Certainly wasn’t surprised by Trek – look how LeMond was done over by Armstrong and Trek. Seems like the sponsors are standing by him without waiting to see the follow up to be provided by USADA. Too much vested interest, too many business relationships with Armstrong…its all an indivious network of self-interests.

DanB August 29, 2012 at 8:41 pm

No and don’t know but during the federal investigation documents were requested by investigators from both Nike and Trek
http://www.velonation.com/News/ID/5185/Nike-and-Trek-cooperate-with-Floyd-Landis-investigation-hand-over-documents.aspx

DanB August 30, 2012 at 12:50 am

…eek…I was meant to say Nike’s behaviour is appalling but I’m not surprised

Piet Pompies August 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Bassons and Simeoni tried, see how far that got them

bluesky August 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm

The pro peleton…… a closed shop…..the silence….breaking the ‘code’….traditionally and ironically a sport built on weakness…… its only going to improve if the pros get support in a positive way from their sponsors….money/security/selfishness dictates who says what……………..

daniel August 29, 2012 at 11:47 pm

“Extend the argument and should all Americans have a view on Obama and Romney? When you last visited a bank, did you asking the cashier for their comments on the viability of the Eurozone? Probably not. But should American cyclists be asked about the Presidential election? Should riders paid in Euros have a view on monetary economics? When phrased like this it’s less obvious why riders should be expected to talk about subjects even if they are relevant.”

Can’t help but see this as a straw man.
Doping and cycling are intrinsically linked, unlike cyclists and economics (Pozzovivo aside), people who work in banks and the complicated world of high finance etc..

Cyclists and team managers talk time and time again about how clean things are now and that things are moving forward, yet nobody wants to condemn dopers?

I notice we haven’t heard a peep from Sky about this (apart from Thomas), despite all their proclamations about being clean. Remember how Wiggins was so against dopers a few years back? Complaining about leaving the Tour because of Moreni, saying how dopers have cheated him out of his rightful position in races for years?
Lance was 3rd in the Tour in 2009, Brad was 4th, cheated out of a podium place. Haven’t heard a peep about this.
Not that it’s surprising, as Brad’s anti-doping stance has vanished aside from that PR piece this Tour (in The Guardian?)

LauraLyn August 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Wiggins in The Guardian on Friday morning, 13 July: “I don’t care what people say, the attitude to doping in the UK is different to in Italy or France maybe, where a rider like Richard Virenque can dope, be caught, be banned, come back and be a national hero.”

Wiggins to a news conference on Friday afternoon, 13 July, after David Millar wins the 12 stage of the TdF: “David Millar is a national hero.”

Read the Wiggins sickening blog in The Guardian of 13 July. He does not say a word against doping. He only says what would happen if he was caught. Reads just like Floyd Landis or Lance Armstrong before being caught.

If you really believe Wiggins won this year’s tour clean and Sky wasn’t doping, then watch this interview: http://www.sporza.be/cm/sporza/videozone/MG_Tour/MG_vive_le_velo/Tour2012_dag_1/1.1374958

Doping is more rampant in professional cycling now than ever before. UCI and the media are all complicit.

Sam August 30, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Got evidence for your strong belief that Wiggins and Sky are doping that’s based on more than this and the fact that Wiggins hasnt said Armstrong needs to go to hell? If so, take it to the UKAD or UK Sport. No? Ok, you carry on.

LauraLyn August 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Sam, just explain the two contradictory statements in one day’s time.

No one has said there is evidence. We only have the words of Wiggins himself. If you believe him, fine. If you see a great athlete in him, then that is fine for you.

Apologies if somehow your hero worship was intruded.

Sam August 30, 2012 at 7:01 pm

possibly the laziest response you could have made.

so any time someone responds to call-out on the most spurious claim that a rider must be doping (and his team) because he and they have had a great season etc etc…its because they hero-worship? Ah. Stunning intellectual come-back.

Boonen and OPQS dominated the Classics this year. He hasn’t denounced Armstrong. Ryder Hesjedal won the Giro after never having podiumed in a GT before – not a word from him on the subject of doping, or questioning of his performance. Or how about Peter Sagan, winning 5 stages at ToC, 4 stages at ToS, and 3 stages and the green jersey in his first Tour? Where do you want to go with that?

LauraLyn August 31, 2012 at 11:13 am

Sam. Agree with you. And apologies for being lazy. I just can’t understand what Wiggins says: http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/07/news/bradley-wiggins-has-a-few-choice-words-for-those-who-doubt-racing-can-be-clean_228247

You are right about the other riders. See my post below.

Much appreciated.

nahantonrambler August 30, 2012 at 9:22 pm

I think that the opinion of a random American about Obama Romney is a little bit different than asking a professional bike racer his opinion of Lance. More like asking a member of the House of Representatives about his opinion of Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky saga.

Comparing pro cycling to successful American pro sports, perhaps the lack of a coherent rider / fan media connection contributes to some of the problems in the sport. Cycling is my real sport of preference, but for spectating it would be NBA and NFL. Much of the interest in following the pro teams comes from developing an interest in the players’ stories and personalities. NE Patriots- humble, hardworking, unselfish descendants of the Pilgrims. LA Lakers- showtime, baby. Etc. You get it. And the players in these leagues seem to have alot more leverage than pro cyclists relative to the actions / inactions / sanctions / nonsancstions of their governing bodies.

I think pro cyclists should be talking. Each one has a unique perspective, a story to tell, and right now is a moment of truth for the sport that should not be allowed to slip away. If you got popped for doping, fessed up and returned to the sport, then say “I did it, and Lance should do it too.” After all, isn’t the cycling experience all about the endlessly unfolding landscape of new places, days, mountains, people that you meet on the road? Personally I’m in favor of hearing more from the riders, not less. As long as they are talking about their stock in trade, and not about Romney or Obama.

LauraLyn August 31, 2012 at 11:09 am

Politics aside, you are on the money.

This is a small window of opportunity for the riders, for the gladiators. It is difficult to believe they can ever get a leg over on the circus owners, but USADA is giving them a chance. Of course, it is full of risks. Really huge risks.

Eddy Merckx’s support of Lance Armstrong is the biggest disappointment in the whole affair for me. Even knowing he doped, he was still a hero for me. No longer. His lack of courage (regardless of Axel’s current involvement with Lance) just condemned the sport to another 100 years of doping.

And doping is just unacceptable. No rider ever wanted to dope. No athlete ever dreamed of winning by cheating. The circus owners, the sponsors, and all the machinery around them pushed them there. But they are still the only ones that can save their sport. Not WADA, not USADA, and surely not their own organizations.

The athletes should step off their bikes at the start line of tomorrow’s stage of the Vuelta and say, We are not riding one mile further until you empty our bags and hotel room of dope and blood, until you fire our corrupt doctors and sports directors, and until you allow us to race the way we dreamed of racing. No young cyclist should ever hear again: “The only way you can be on this team is if you dope.”

Kasper Sørensen August 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm

On what basis are they supposed to comment? I understand that David Millar is not saying anything until the evidence has been laid out.

As far as I understand, everything is still speculations, right? There is actually still a 99.999% chance that he rode clean.

Unless these riders have been directly involved with Lance and his team, and yes, I know some of them have, but unless, they really can’t make any comment as long as we’re only speculating.

Not even the experts can agree if he should have taken his tour victories away. It’s understandable that the riders wouldn’t know what to think of this.

The Inner Ring August 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm

No speculation, USADA has ruled and sanctioned Armstrong.
http://www.usada.org/media/sanction-armstrong8242012

We await further details and the evidence but this is a formal ruling.

LauraLyn August 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Kasper: Clearly you have not followed this care and you have little insight into cycling, professional and amateur.

The suggestion was made to the athletes. They do know and understand well what they can say (and should say).

bluesky August 31, 2012 at 11:34 pm

who gets the podiums ? …… who gets the cash ? …….who gets the titles ? ……. answers on a postcard please…….. its a bloody mess if u forgive my french…………… LA ? ….. u’ve totally fucked it up !!!!

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