The dominos are starting to fall
The truth. Everyone has a version of their own. Tyler Hamilton has his version. Lance Armstrong has his. Even Alberto Contador has his own. There’s the old saying about truth – your side, their side, and the truth.
Last week “The Secret Race” by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle hit the bookshelves. To say it caused a stir is an understatement. Within hours people were asking, “Have you read it yet?”
I sat down and plowed through the book. I’m not naïve to how doping is organized in professional cycling, but even I was taken aback by the descriptions of how doping was organized. Hamilton didn’t hold back and named names such as Bjarne Riis who admitted to doping. However, Hamilton goes a step further and says Riis, his former director at CSC, actually introduced him to the infamous Dr. Fuentes. Riis is admittedly denying Hamilton’s claim. And that’s just some of the blow back The Secret Race is causing.
Johnny Weltz, current director of Garmin-Sharp and past assistant director of the U.S. Postal Team, is named as someone who supplied doping products. Weltz denies Hamilton’s claim that he brought George Hincapie doping products when they were all living in the same Girona, Spain apartment building. However, it looks like Jonathan Vaughters took issue with his director’s assertion that he had nothing to do with doping.
“Jeezus… Now it seems I need to have a talk with Johnny Weltz about just letting this crap end and to stop BSing people.. #thedaygetslonger,” is what Vaughters tweeted. That was followed up by, “As long as Johnny decides to be honest, tomorrow, I will support him.”
Speculating it seems that JV is having, or maybe at this point already has had a serious heart to heart conversation with Weltz regarding past doping experiences. I was waiting for either a retraction from Weltz stating his doping past or dismissal from the Slipstream organization. For a moment let’s imagine if Mr. Weltz admits that what was written about him in The Secret Race is true.
According to the Tyler Hamilton book, Weltz hand-delivered doping products to George Hincapie at the Gerona apartment. Hincapie hasn’t said anything one way or another regarding allegations of doping. In the recent past his only statement was that the Armstrong investigation was ongoing and he couldn’t comment.
The day after Armstrong announced he was no longer fighting USADA’s charges I asked Hincapie for a comment. As he stood outside the BMC bus before stage 5 of the USA Pro Challenge he told me that he’d issue a statement soon. I’m not sure what that statement will be: innocent of the accusations or guilty with a story similar to that of Hamilton and Landis. As long as it’s the truth I think George has a great book ready to be written about his experiences as a 17 time Tour de France participant. It’s time for that type of story.
As the dominos continued to fall Vaughters “accidentally” outed three of his current riders. Now the UCI wants to investigate these claims by Vaughters and determine if any rules were broken. If so there could be sanctions.
The fact that an increasing number of experienced riders are admitting to doping has also reached the younger generation of riders.
Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Sharp finished the Vuelta a Espana in seventh place, showing he has the chops to be a grand tour contender. In an interview with Velonews’ Andrew Hood he makes a curious statement.
“A second part of that is I also believe that fans and journalists owe it to us to believe in us, because we have never given them a reason not to.”
I’m not going to immediately declare that every winner of a European race has doped, however the sport’s history is littered with examples of why fans and journalists are skeptical of certain athletic performances. This is why fans and journalists don’t always believe - so you have to excuse us for being a bit gun shy. When Vaughters formally admitted to doping that blew some people’s minds.
I know Talansky is young - just 23 years old - but that type of statement combined with a tweet he sent out, “Don’t care what you think of @lancearmstrong, USADA really shouldn’t repeatedly accuse someone of something with ZERO hard evidence,” appear to indicate he doesn’t understand the long history of doping in the sport. Later he deleted that tweet.
To be clear, I think Talansky meant well, but he doesn’t fully understand the context about which he is replying to. The majority of his Velonews interview and his points I agree with. But the climate professional cycling finds itself in now is hypersensitive to these type of off the cuff remarks. By deleting his tweet regarding USADA showed he realized “hard evidence” comes in many different forms.
People want a smoking gun of evidence like in a television show - a photo or video showing someone shooting EPO into their veins or laying on the floor of the team bus as they transfuse blood. That isn’t going to happen. The hard evidence is going to be confession after confession in the form of riders and directors telling their eye witness accounts of what happened. In the criminal court system, eyewitness accounts are good enough for a conviction as long as that person is creditable. While people may not think too highly of Floyd Landis or Tyler Hamilton, when you start reading accounts from Jonathan Vaughters a person needs to start thinking there is some truth in all these stories.
Will this satisfy everyone - heck no! There are going to be believers and haters on both sides of this very polarizing affair. The Livestrong organization has helped people and they feel a debt of gratitude, which is then transferred to Lance Armstrong by association. Others hold onto the Armstrong myth purely for financial reasons or they have supported the now disgraced rider publicly and have backed themselves into a corner - they can’t get out without looking like fools.
In a couple of weeks USADA is going to disclose all their evidence and we’ll get to see that “hard evidence.” Will it be enough to satisfy everyone? I’m not sure. But one thing you can be sure of: There will be more dominos falling.