Monday, October 15, 2012

Why Honesty Has To Be The Only Policy

I didn’t want to do it—I really didn’t.  I’ve tried to avoid this for a while now, tried to keep my eye on the ball, as it were, writing about things I thought were more currently relevant than everyone’s favorite Texan.  It seems unavoidable though.  I had hoped that this issue would pass, like a minor sinus infection.  I wanted to just be able to move on, to get on with the sport I love, but alas I have to look this thing in the face and deal with it.  Here is my obligatory Lance post:

Yeah, we're not happy about it either Lance.  

I have never really been a “Lance guy,” if there is such a thing.  I have a propensity to root for the underdog, making the whole of the Discovery/US Postal gang a little too dominant for my liking.  I decided a long time ago that the circumstantial evidence surrounding the situation meant that it was likely that there was some kind of doping going on. 

But I’m not mad about the doping.  I’m really not.  Doping is surely wrong, and should be punished, but what really gets me depressed about the state of the situation is everything surrounding the doping.  The completely ubiquitous nature of the doping culture is what is most surprising about this week’s revelations. 

As a naturally cynical person, I wish I could believe that the state of the doping culture in the peloton was not so complete.  USADA's report confirms what I only scratched at in my most pessimistic moments. 

When you get down to it, I don’t really think many people care that their heroic Texan cheated his way to utter dominance in an era where this was commonplace.  I think what is really crushing is just how unwilling he is to come clean.  It is insulting.  It is insulting to every fan that trusted the sport was clean.  Still, in the face of overwhelming evidence, Lance rails against a total hurricane of damning doubt.  Like a lie detector  will save any shred of integrity that he still has with any actual fan of cycling that is not living in complete denial. 

It’s going to be painful, but the only real way out of this going forward is complete honesty—on the UCI’s part, and on current riders’ parts.  I’m not really interested in what Mr. Armstrong has to say about it going forward.  To be honest, Lance is the least significant variable in this equation for cycling as it moves forward.  The most pressing issue here is that cycling still seems to have a culture that tolerates dishonesty. 


Take the UCI’s response:  “The sport has moved on.”  I’m not convinced it has.  The UCI’s plight in all of this is more depressing than any single rider.  Who is worse:  A rider who dopes in a culture where it’s the norm, or the governing body who sanctions such a culture?  Dick Pound, former president of WADA,said, “They can’t be so blind to not know this was going on.”  I agree. 

Former WADA leader, Dick Pound.

This doesn’t just speak to the sports past.  This is just as much about the current state of cycling.  The UCI lived in a state of constant denial of any US Postal doping allegations, so how am I to take Pat Mcquaid’s assertion that “the sport has moved on?” 

So what about the current riders?  Leipheimer said in the Wall Street Journal Thursday, “I am sorry that I was forced to make the decisions I made.”  And though throughout his statement Levi does his best to own his decision to dope, I really hate that previous sentence.  “I am sorry that I was forced…” David Zabriskie said in his statement, “I questioned, I resisted, but in the end, I felt cornered and succumbed to the pressure.” 

Lance and (former) friends 
To me this is such a huge shame.  Time after time, scandal after scandal, everyone in this sport passes the buck.  I’m not trying to say that these guys admitting to doping was a bad thing.  I’m the one sitting here preaching about honesty.  I just want someone—anyone—involved in this to come out and really own what he did.  I want someone to say, “I doped because I wanted to win. Not because someone forced me to, but because I wanted a leg up on the competition.”  Everyone likes to play the victim here, but they were miscast, and they’re doing a hack job to boot. 

Look at a case like Christophe Bassons, who was literally asked to leave the sport by none other than Lance Armstrong when he spoke out about widespread doping in cycling.  Take Emma O’Reilly, Armstrong’s former masseuse, who he sued for a million Euros when she spoke out about US Postal’s doping program to author David Walsh.  Think of all the riders whose potential was wasted because they refused to dope in order to be successful in cycling.  These are the real victims of cycling’s profuse dishonesty.  Honest lives were ruined by people too small to face the truth of their own moral failures. 

There are times in my life where I feel as though I am getting sick.  I should probably go to the doctor, but I really don’t feel like it.  It is such a hassle.  “Maybe it will pass,” I think.  One week later I have a full-blown sinus infection complete with pink eye. 

Cycling has gone one step further.  We are lying on a hospital bed with a serious case of pneumonia and are still refusing treatment. 

Maybe I’m jaded.  Maybe I’m over-reacting.  Maybe this sport is clean now, or we are at least on our way there.  But maybe not.  The tide may have turned, but it’s too soon to say for sure.  Only time will tell how honest we all really are.  

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