Moving past the anger
This past week Lance Armstrong proved that he didn’t really care about helping out the anti-doping cause by not cooperating with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Through a statement by his attorney Tim Herman, Armstrong hopes for “an international tribunal formed to comprehensively address pro cycling, an almost exclusively European sport.”
This was not a huge surprise to many people, but heck, a lot of us didn’t think he’d admit to doping either, so you just don’t know which way the ongoing Armstrong drama may take us - he cooperates and then he doesn’t cooperate.
By snubbing USADA, Armstrong has given up the chance to have his lifetime ban reduced so he eventually would have had the chance to compete again in triathlons, marathons, and any other sport with an anti-doping charter. Well, there’s always disc-golf. Hmm ... actually I’m not sure about that either.
While this revelation was just hitting the news, I was attending the 5-Hour energy/Kenda cycling team camp, a squad directed by Frankie Andreu. I asked him about Armstrong’s decision to not play ball with USADA. Andreu wasn’t surprised and speculated that was the Texan’s plan all along. Remember, initially Armstrong was given an additional two weeks to meet with USADA officials to discuss the nitty-gritty about doping.
The next move for the disgraced rider is to hunker down with his attorneys and figure out how to deal with the mountain of lawsuits coming his way. The Texas company SCA Promotions wants its money back - a bonus they paid Armstrong for winning five Tour editions of the Tour de France. In total a sum of US$12.1 million plus interest.
But the big bomb was the Justice Department is joining Floyd Landis in a Whistle Blower case against Armstrong and co. In doing so it legitimizes the claim by Floyd Landis that the US Postal cycling team was defrauding the American government. If the Feds had declined to join the Whistle Blower suit, Armstrong’s mouth pieces could have used that in the court of public opinion saying that the lawsuit had no merit. Regardless, Landis could and probably would have gone forward with the suit. The Justice Department joining the suit is good news for Landis. However, this case will grind on for years before it reaches a conclusion.
Before the Feds threw their hat into the ring, it was reported that they had been in negotiations with Armstrong to settle, but were tens of millions of dollars apart on how much the settlement should be. Remember, the government doesn’t get mad, it gets even.
Now Armstrong is looking down the barrel of a potential 90-million dollar lawsuit with Landis getting about 30-million. Some people ask me if Landis is crazy. I tell them he’s crazy like a fox.
Now queued up to take Armstrong to court is the Justice Department, SCA Promotions, and a couple of guys in Sacramento, California who want their money back for buying Armstrong’s book “It’s Not About the Bike.” Two out of those three suits are going to be a real pain in the butt for Lance.
Circling back to Armstrong his lack of cooperation shows he’s not about righting the amount of massive wrongs he’s participated in, but is in full cover-his-butt mode.
Like I mentioned earlier, I visited with the 5-Hour Energy/Kenda squad this past weekend. In addition to the questions I had regarding the team, I went a bit off-script. When you’re in a van following the team as they ride, you have plenty of time to discuss various topics. In addition to the usual team goal stuff, doping questions, and how funny it was that I passed a kidney stone a couple of weeks ago, I quizzed Andreu on if he’d take certain riders onto the team - some were riders that were currently suspended and others had been retired for almost more years than I’d been alive.
Andreu’s answers ranged from, “Too much baggage” to “Sure, I’d take Merckx.” The lesson learned is that there’s always room for a Merckx on the team.
I also put the question to Andreu about riders, who now have the black mark of doping on their career, yet still celebrate their Tour accomplishments. The 5-Hour Energy director still considers that he completed nine editions of the Tour de France, even though he doped in two of them.
Before asking Frankie I posed the same question to a buddy, who then went on to ask a few more people. The general consensus is that while the athlete in question doped throughout his career, he finished those Tours against a peloton that was also widely doping.
My takeaway from listening to Frankie, as well as my buddy, is that their accomplishments are tainted but that was the era cycling was in. Wiping away a rider’s participation from the record books doesn’t do the sport any favors.
I can see some of that argument. However, it still bugs me that some riders are still celebrating their accomplishments - even those accomplished while they doped. As the Armstrong lawsuits continue I guess I’m going to have to come to grips with the fact that the past generation will always have the doping taint on them and we have to hope that the new generation has a brighter future.
I asked Andreu if he thought this “new generation” of riders is facing a cleaner sport.
“I do believe it has changed. The mentality of journalists, fans, media are not going to tolerate what happened before. They are going to investigate and find out the truth. It’s healthier and gaining back its reputation, but it’s going to be a long process because fans were burned for such a long time, so you aren’t going to get their trust back.”
That’s where I’m at - trying to get my trust back in a sport where I had riders tell me to my face, empathically, they did not dope. I wasn’t the only one. Other journalists as well as you, the fans, were lied to and at a certain point we need to move past the anger of being duped in order for us to be able to get back to why we loved the cycling sport in the first place.