The Death of a Professional Cyclist
Showing character doesn't mean you are perfect.
To say that the cycling world has been turned upside down is an understatement. No longer can anyone preface an introduction to Lance Armstrong as “accused of doping.” Any introduction should now be “disgraced professional rider Lance Armstrong.”
When the USADA report was released journalists and pundits studied the USADA report like it was the Dead Sea scrolls in an effort to interpret any and all nuances of information, whether it was text or video. The home video that Kevin Livingston shot during the Tour de France, in hindsight is creepy. The footage, shot innocently enough, shows the Postal riders as young and eager. George Hincapie looks relaxed as he shows off his hotel room with music blaring from a boom-box. Just a young guy with endless potential enjoying life. Livingston's footage includes the post-Tour de France party with the Postal Team doctors in attendance. With a wink and a nod one of them tells Livingston to see him later so he can help him recover. That statement made partly in jest after probably a few celebratory drinks says a lot.
After reading USADA's Reasoned Decision and affidavits from Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie it was once again a mix of repulsion and feeling sad for the riders.
All of these riders had the raw potential to be accomplished riders. Would it have been enough for them to ride at the World Tour level they're at now? I don't know.
What I do know is that they were faced with a hard choice and they, of their own admittance, chose poorly. They lived with the secret, which I can only imagine caused some degree of guilt, shame and embarrassment to some or all of them. The one person I don't think felt any of those feelings is Armstrong. I believe that deep down he knows he cheated, manipulated and ruined people's lives, but still believes he did nothing wrong.
Each of those riders to some extent issued an apology letter that seemed to come from the same template. I'm sorry, these were my own choices, I feel bad for my family, friends and fans, and I'm riding or did ride clean since 2006. Some of the riders might have stopped doping in 2006, but I have a hard time believing they all had a “come to Jesus moment” and stopped. Why should they? They had a routine, they were keeping their places on whatever team they were a member of and the excuse “everyone was doing it.”
Following the USADA report release, as the days went by people I know called or texted me asking if I felt vindicated. Honestly - no. I had lost writing jobs and money. Some teams black-listed me so I couldn't interview any of their riders or ask even the most innocuous questions like early season goals or how did they feel about the upcoming Tour. Living here in Greenville, South Carolina - home of Hincapie - friendships became strained.