Status Updates

News & Results

12/25/2012| 0 comments
by Neil Browne
Lance Armstrong Fotoreporter Sirotti

Status Updates

What are the updates on the suspended riders? I've got answers and a few guesses.

When the conversation about doping comes up people ask me what I think the next move will be for the suspended riders or what Lance Armstrong’s next move is. I can only speculate from what knowledge I have, talking to riders themselves or fellow journalists.

George Hincapie and Michael Barry retired when their suspensions were made public.

Locally Hincapie’s clothing company is title sponsoring a U-23 squad. George and his older brother Rich have a knack for finding talent and past Hincapie-sponsored riders have gone onto professional cycling careers. It’s good to see that in 2013 the Hincapie company is going to continue its title sponsorship of a team.

The brothers Hincapie have also branched out into hotel ownership. They bought a vineyard in the Greenville, South Carolina area and are in the process of converting it into a hotel for a sport-minded clientele. I suspect guests at the still unnamed hotel will have the opportunity to ride with George. If anyone knows the good loops in the area, George does.

In the Toronto Life, Michael Barry states that he is under contract for another book. I hope the author of the now ironically titled, “Inside the Postal Bus” is really going to write what happened on the bus when the door swung shut and the curtains were drawn. But I doubt it.

From reading his Q&A interview Barry is still embracing the omertĂ  and will only say that the evidence against Armstrong is “pretty damning.”

I’d like to steal a quote I saw from the @NyVelocity Twitter account, “I’ll say one thing: Dede Demet Barry ain’t no Betsy Andreu.” Turns out the Athens silver medalist knew that her husband Michael was using the family fridge not only to store milk, but EPO as well. While Betsy was reading her husband Frankie the riot act about doping, Dede steadfastly defended Michael against doping charges. Did I mention that Dede won silver in the time trial at the Athens Olympics at the same time her husband was storing and using EPO?

The Garmin-Sharp riders that were suspended and are not retired are all taking a different approach to their time on the bench. I saw Garmin-Sharp’s time trial specialist David Zabriskie at the George Hincapie Gran Fondo in October. We exchanged a handshake, asked how each other was doing and that was the extent of our interaction. I did notice that Zabriskie was wearing a non-team issue kit with “Chain Gang” printed on the jersey during the ride.

For those who may not have a deep historic knowledge of the Tour de France the term “convicts of the road” was coined by the French journalist Albert Londres in 1924. Londres wasn’t a sports journalist and wrote about the French penal colonies, but got the Tour assignment. Much like the convicts he had written about, he discovered that the Tour de France riders weren’t the most honest types. In the 1920s, professional cycling was awash in doping and cheating – just not the EPO type – hence the phrase “convicts of the road.”

I’m not sure if Dave knows the cultural significance of that phrase or if he just thought it was funny. Either way he must have thought it was appropriate to wear it considering his six-month suspension.

Tom Danielson has been keeping busy leading various charity rides in his home state of Colorado, USA. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge stage winner also has a core workout book hitting the shelves early next year. He’s also put his focus on a training camp in Malibu with actor Patrick Dempsey. If you have to ask how much it costs to spend a week in Malibu at an exclusive resort with a famous actor, you can’t afford it.

I haven’t heard much from Christian Vande Velde since he got suspended. In fact I’d forgotten about him until a buddy asked if I knew anything about what he is currently up to. And maybe that’s how Christian wants it to be. He, like Zabriskie, made a guest appearance at Hincapie’s gran fondo, but turned around very early in the ride and jumped into a car. I was told the reason for his departure was he had an early flight out of town.

Dave, Tom and Christian will serve out their suspensions and return to the Garmin-Sharp fold with the three being certainly named on the short-list for the team’s 2013 Tour de France squad. I really don’t see a lot of blowback onto those three. They’ve made a public contrition and are moving on with their careers.

The last I heard about Levi Leipheimer he was still looking for a contract for 2013 and was being mum on how the search is going. His documentary, “The Levi Effect” was on the big screen and will be available for purchase in late January. In the flick he briefly discusses his doping admission as the news was just released while the documentary was in post-production. Not a lot has changed since then anyways. Of course his gran fondo in Santa Rosa, California is attracting huge numbers and I don’t expect that to change at all.

I’m not sure what will happen to Leipheimer. In a video interview with Eldon Nelson, AKA Fat Cyclist, Leipheimer said he still had a couple of good years left in the tank. Jonathan Vaughters was asked if he considered hiring Levi and he answered he thought the three-time Tour of California champion had maybe one-year left in him, so he was going to hire from within his U-23 squad, which has just folded.

My gut says a team is willing to take a chance on Leipheimer. Will it be a WorldTour squad or something domestic I don’t know. Levi can still win America’s grand tours (Tour of Utah, Colorado, California) so maybe a well-funded US-based squad could pick him up? It would be a matter of whether Leipheimer wants to take a step down from the WorldTour.

Finally we get to the rider people always ask about – Lance Armstrong. We all know he can’t admit to doping as he has given sworn testimony and would be slapped with perjury charges if he did. The disgraced rider could face prison time if he admitted to all the doping shenanigans. I don’t expect to read that he’s admitting to anything more than over-watering his lawn. However, he did tweet several weeks ago about a lunch with author Doug Brinkley. Armstrong called the lunch with Brinkley “insightful.”

Brinkley interviewed Armstrong for Vanity Fair magazine back in 2008 when he un-retired and was making a return to the Tour de France. It’s a good interview and, as I read it now, kinda funny as Armstrong mulls over running for a political office in 2014. In his defense we have elected far shadier people than Armstrong, so maybe not such a crazy idea.

Other than a journalist, Brinkley is a professor at Rice University and has written numerous books from politics to profiles of musicians. Perhaps it was nothing more than a friendly lunch between the two, but I think Brinkley could write the official tell-all Armstrong book.

As I mentioned the only hold-up is his sworn testimony stating he didn’t dope. Right now Armstrong’s personal sponsors have left him behind much like he did his opponents during the dirty Tour years. Plus he’s being sued by the London Times for over a million dollars. Let’s not forget the billable hours that it’s going to cost Lance to keep his cadre of lawyers processing paperwork.

Maybe he admits to doping, spills his guts about everything, and makes some restitution? Armstrong gets Brinkley to write the mother of all tell-all books and paint him as a victim. “Everyone was doing it. I never forced the needle into my teammates’ veins, etc…” There is no shortage of examples of Americans giving a public figure a second chance. Could the general public overlook Armstrong’s past of doping coercion and forgive?

Only a small percentage of people took the time to read the rider affidavits in the USADA report and probably don’t know how much the former Tour winner strong-armed his teammates to get on the team’s doping program. If you look at any article, Facebook or his Twitter timeline you can still see Armstrong sympathizers leaving comments bashing USADA, WADA, ex-teammates, or leaving statements that he passed 500 tests so he must be innocent.

It’s a long shot I know. This possible scenario is ticking down like an egg timer because Johan Bruyneel is going to an USADA arbitration hearing in the new year. What if Bruyneel just gives up all the dirty laundry before Armstrong does? He needs to pull the trigger first and get that book out there! Of course this means throwing his Belgian director under the bus, but I don’t think Armstrong would lose a minute worth of sleep over that.

Speaking to someone familiar with the case they believe that while in theory Armstrong could face perjury charges, it’s unlikely anyone would pursue them, and the statute of limitations may have expired. At most he could be sued again and they would have to get in an ever increasing line of companies wanting a piece of Armstrong.

I think by this time next year we could be looking at another autobiography from Armstrong. And yes Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.

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