what’s my beef with ex-dopers?

the world has never been anything other than what it is. mean, lean, brutal, angry and vicious and yet paradoxically beautiful, serene, peaceful and a plain old wonder. it is the breathing, heaving definition of contradiction. nothing is mutually exclusive when it comes to this planet. even amidst war and death there is a burning and vivid beauty, a living, dying parable of exhaustion and renewal, of the coming and going, of the fleeting and the eternal.

as a kid though our elders strive to keep all this from us. we’re instead offered myths like the Easter Bunny, Santa, gods, in some cases, and (not all that much different from be-sneakered saints) sporting heroes. the real realities of life are hidden under carpets, stuck in the back of kitchen drawers and muffled into whispers when the little ones appear.

if we are lucky that is. some of us had raging parents  and other relatives to deal with, adults who were no more equipped to deal with life themselves than they were to shield us from it.

but for many of us, looking back on our childhood brings a warm sigh and a wistful smile, for its warmth still emanates like some auburn light from a promised land, long gone but still visible with a glance over our shoulder. as often with remembrances, the truth may in fact have been a little different, but that doesn’t make the memories any less tangible.

we can, most of us, mark certain dates and events along the line of our lives as moments in time when the edifice of that safe and relatively trouble-free world began to crumble. a bully, perhaps, or stress from school reports, or the emergence of a confusing awareness of the sexual.

in a sporting sense, i had two that live large in my mind. one was when i was 11 years old. i was playing for the Sydney Firefighters in the semi-finals of the regional soccer championships. we were one goal down with a minute remaining on the clock. we got a penalty after a hand ball, and as the usual taker, i stepped forward. as i hit the ball my studs caught the turf and i mis-hit the ball terribly, watching it scud and dribble hopelessly wide of the post.

cried all the way home, a two hour drive. it was 8 years before i took another spot kick. i laugh about that one now. it seems sweet, that it all meant so much to that little boy.

the other memory is not sweet at all, never even got close. it was an absolute and definitive moment in time that smashed a hole clean through my vision of what sport was, and, more specifically, destroyed the Olympics for me for evermore.

the moment came when Des Lynam, the BBC sports commentator, appeared on television one day in the summer of 1988 and announced that the Canadian Ben Johnson had tested positive for steroids.

‘i’ve just been handed a piece of paper here,’ said Lynam,’ that if it is right, it will be the most dramatic story out of this Olympics, or perhaps any others.’

i’d grown up with sports my whole life, swimming, soccer, running, hockey, cricket, baseball, rugby – you name it, i tried it. my dad had been close to a pro soccer contract before damaging his knee days after a trial with Blackburn Rovers, and a champion swimmer in his youth. it was in my blood. there was nothing more fun to me than to be playing a game and trying to win, but,then as now, it was how you played that mattered most. winning by cheating never even entered my mind.

what would be the point? cheating wasn’t in the rules of any game i played  – maybe if it had been, i would have been ok with it.

soccer and the World Cup was my first love but the Olympics came a close second. the history blew me away, all the way back to the Greeks, incredible. the Olympic flame seemed to symbolise all that was good and eternal about sport, and though it may have been a fairytale, it was one i could actually see, right there on the tv screen. it united people, brought them out onto the streets to cheers its passing, to congratulate the carrier.

and then Johnson came and destroyed it all. it was that brutal. i’d never liked Carl Lewis and his arrogance, he was way too smooth and disparaging of his rivals. in Johnson i saw the perfect underdog, this stuttering, shy individual who used to get beat by Lewis hands down, who suddenly turned into a superhero and ran like the wind.

but then, on that day, with the news delivered by Lynam, it was all over. the Olympics died for me that day. athletics ever since has failed to capture my imagination. i was 16.

i’d been cycling for a year, a day or two after Roche and Delgado battled on La Plagne at the ’87 Tour de France. i was pretty decent too, winning my first race, then the next, all the while getting deeper and deeper into the amazing history of the sport, becoming infatuated with reading about the great races and the legendary riders.

but just about the time that Johnson’s positive became known, i read about Eddy Merckx testing positive way back in ’68, ’74 and ’77. then i read about Tommy Simpson dying on Ventoux, a mix of alcohol and amphetamines discovered in his blood at the autopsy. then i read about Anquetil saying basically ‘yes of course we dope.’ learned about Marshall Taylor taking nitroglycrine, about the early Tour riders on cocaine, about the rider caught with a balloon of someone else’s piss under his arm at a testing procedure.

and on and on it went. it was quite obvious to me at that time, aged 16 and three months, that if i ever wanted to become anything but a mediocre professional rider i would have to take these kind of substances. it also dawned on me that, if so many cyclists were on the dope, and that if, as some said or at least alluded, you had to take drugs to compete, then there must have been others on that start line with Johnson that were taking steroids.

then came the news, hitherto unknown to me, that the East Germans and Russians were rumored to have a comprehensive doping system.

i had, i could see, been naive, but then if i was guilty of that then so too were millions of others before that fateful 1988 100m final. where so many of those who were shocked at the news of Johnson’s positive failed themselves though was by believing for so long that only Johnson was dirty. that same head-in-the-sand mentality allowed Armstrong to get away with it for so long also, even after the death of all those young Dutch riders thanks to EPO in the early 90’s, after Festina, Puerto, and on and on.

so there i was, 16 and a half, in love with the actual act of cycling and racing and wanting to dedicate my life to it, dreaming of one day riding in the Tour, yet increasingly aware that the whole thing was filthy. proper dodgy, riven with doping, decimated by cheating.

i rode for another year, still getting good results, then, halfway through the 1989 season, just before i turned 18, i quit. i never regretted that decision, and the fact that i was able to restart my racing career at 37 was just amazing, but what has never left me is the anger i feel for those who dope. i’ve had teammates since i returned to racing that have told me they used EPO when they were younger, and on hearing about their heart tremors and their fear of latent illnesses, i had zero sympathy.

i don’t live my life in black and white, and i try, hard as it is sometimes, to not judge others because life can be damn hard, but when it comes to cheating i do not see any excuse for crossing the line. once it’s done you never come back. those that cheat and dope destroy everything that is to be cherished in sport and in competition. perhaps they accept reality better than me, but if that is real i want no part of it.

i’ve met enough ex-dopers (and, though i didn’t know it at the time, current dopers) to know that something dies in you when you dope. you can see it in Vinokourov’s dead smile, sense it in Armstrong’s cold eyes. once caught they mew and bleat like pathetic lambs, but the truth is no one wants to hear from them. they come back like reborn sinners to tell us that they want to help rebuild the sport, but what they have to grasp is that they have reneged on the agreement implicit within the core of all sport – that is, that you do not cheat.

all a little holier than thou? i don’t think so. i am full of inconsistencies and have made, and still do make, hundreds of mistakes in my life. but i, like millions of others, won’t cheat to win. and i look at it this way: if i had broken the rules in some other area of life and been kicked out, i wouldn’t have the nerve to think that i deserved to be accepted back.

you reap what you sow, brother. never a truer word.

you may love the sport too, but you lost your seat on the bus, son, when you broke the cover on the vial.

yes this is a cruel world at times, and yes our parents may be misguided in the way they attempt to shield us from the realities of existence, but there is a reason why the rules of sports, of these games we play, are so hallowed and should be respected: because they offer us a glimpse of what we can become. they offer a vision, and even a reality, of greatness within the human spirit, in and amongst us.

that’s why it matters. and that is why it has to be clean.

52 comments

  1. Mike

    Thanks for taking the time to put this down. You express my exact feeling about never crossing the line. What you say can’t be repeated often enough. I also cycle and am surrounded by ambivalence regarding breaking the rules, cheating, “wise-guys” and it stinks. I shudder at what values these guys pass on to their children. Well said. Appreciated.

    • crankpunk

      thank you, Mike, I really appreciate the comment. I guess at the end of the day either you will, or you won’t, you do, or you don’t. for those who say we should just open the floodgates and let everyone dope, i wonder at what age they decide to put the srynge into their talented kid’s skin? like i said in the article, i don’t want any part of that, if that is sport.

      but it isn’t. this is our sport, loving the bike, and riding clean, and, with all due respect (well, actually, with none), screw ’em…

  2. Rick

    An excellent and entertaining explanation of why doping matters. On an amateur level I never understand what satisfaction one gets from winning by cheating because you know the truth. However , when sports are your profession and your motivation is to make money many athletes , just as many businessmen , are willing to lie and cheat to get ahead . Sports loses its magic and purity when this happens and is no longer special.

    • crankpunk

      thanks for that Rick, and yeah, completely agree. when it’s for money it’s not really sport anymore is it, and yet, still so great to watch, and the true meaning of it all does come through from time to time. it’s a complicated situation and it all leaves me a little troubled…

      but, as ever, we shall crank on!

  3. Chance

    “What’s my beef with ex-dopers”, 1st comment is from an ex-doper, awkward? Does this mean Crankpunk is reaching his target audience? Do ex-dopers have a website where they talk about their beef with Crankpunk? Why is it that no matter how many times I wash my Hincape Sportswear bibs they never get clean? Everything I read about doping just leaves me with more questions…Jokes, this is a great article.

    • crankpunk

      yeah quite ironic, struck me too Chance 😉 i didn’t mean to needle anyone but if it helps them to get the point, well… I certainly didn’t intend to be vial to anyone either…

      great idea tho for an article, ‘Get Cleanies Out Of Cycling’…!

      cheers for the comment too, much appreciated

      • Chance

        Whenever I see an anti-doping article by an ex-doper, it comes across as a bit haemocritical. Given you obviously already had the (correct…?) view of cycling and sport in general that doping was rife, what was your reaction to the USADA Armstrong reasoned decision?

    • Joe Papp

      nothing really that ironic, is there? thought it was an interesting article that I wanted to share but w/ more than just a link, hence why I asked the author if they were willing to summarize the post.

      i personally have been talking to/interacting w/ fans of cycling and people in general about doping in sport and anti-doping in cycling for…idk, at least six years. I don’t hide from this stuff.

      ciao

  4. crankpunk

    all i can really say is thank Eddy for Travis Tygart. it is not his responsibility to clean house in the entire sport, that is the UCI’s, but someone had to bring down LA and he was a brave man to go for it, regardless of what drove him. it was all way too late and too little of course, and a travesty that cheats like Leipheimer and Hincapie got out of it all so relatively softly.

    and what really has the UCI done since? zero. any new initiatives? apologies? nothing. i get a little nauseous just thinking about it…

    • Joe Papp

      Idk that I would go so far as to characterize TT as “brave,” as he was firstly just doing his job, secondly has had a hard-on for Armstrong for at least seven years if not longer (for as long as I’ve interacted w/ USADA), and thirdly, stood to gain personal prestige and enhance USADA’s reputation and perceived relevance by securing a “conviction” against Armstrong for doping (just look at how enthusiastically you refer to him here). But hey, you’re certainly entitled to feel that Tygart’s effort was a positive one (although I appreciate that you justly qualify the sanctions given to the others as being very light/soft). One thing, though: USADA is not exactly lillywhite, and while I’m sure they are above board in most all cases, there have been documented instances of behavior on the part of USADA going back to the beginning of Floyd’s case that could be troubling for anyone who believes the agency must hold itself to an unimpeachable standard, given the tremendous burden faced by athletes in the anti-doping process.

      • Chance

        So why do you oppose doping (*cough* present tense *cough*). It’s it all alturism or is it the personal prestiege of your 7000+ social media followers? As Crankpunk alluded to in the above blog, things aren’t always black and white (lilly or otherwise). As a cycling fan, working a regular job, not even a remote possiblity of racing professionally as you once did, I am entitled to think Travis Tygart’s effort was positive. I think I am also entitled to feel offended that someone who doped is telling me about the morality of USADA, or is getting upity because he didn’t get a soundbyte for his anti-doping crusade. It’s a bit like a theif who stole my tv, coming to my house and telling me how bad stealing is and how he is working to stop it and also the police aren’t 100% bonifde doing their job because they love me.

      • Joe Papp

        Hi. Firstly, I didn’t stop by here to argue with anyone or otherwise seek or encourage conflict, so I hope that any discussion can continue free of rancor. Secondly, I don’t recall for asking for anything from anyone apart from a summary of the post to share with followers on social media. And I don’t know what you’re referring to with respect to a “soundbyte,” or what you mean in using the word “upity” towards me, as if I was some negro field slave and you were a white cotton plantation overseer who felt that I had no right to express myself in your presence. Thirdly, I definitely have not sought to deny anyone the right to their beliefs or opinions, and have simply shared my own perspective. Fourthly, I’m sorry that you are offended that I characterize USADA not-infallible, but I think you confuse this with an attack on the morality of anti-doping, which is not the case. Fifthly, my support for anti-doping is strongly influenced by my own negative experiences practicing doping (primarily direct and indirect physical health complications, and indirect adverse emotional effects), and by the utter devastation wrought upon my life (professionally and personally) through the anti-doping adjudication process. I would never wish for anyone to experience the wholesale upending and destruction of their entire world such as what follows involvement-gone-bad in doping, and so any effort I can muster to dissuade others from making the same mistakes as me, I will. I wouldn’t present my support for anti-doping as originating overwhelming from moral or ethical concerns, since such a platform would be easier to discredit, as you note, given my admitted moral and ethical failings. Instead I focus on conveying the severity and the totality of the potential cost to the individual from their involvement, although of course it’s impossible to not address the ethical or moral aspects of the phenomena. Finally, with respect to your analogy, (“It’s a bit like a theif who stole my tv, coming to my house and telling me how bad stealing is and how he is working to stop it and also the police aren’t 100% bonifde doing their job because they love me.”) maybe you’re projecting somewhat? Because all I’ve sought to do is encourage anyone reading my comment to consider that – as you yourself say – neither doping nor anti-doping is “black and white” and it does a disservice to the goal of clean sport to fall back on convenient, dualistic modes of thinking in which there are irredeemable “bad guys” and unimpeachable “good guys.” Acknowledging this doesn’t somehow invalidate the basis for the anti-doping movement. Rather, by admitting that they’re susceptible to the same temptations/faults/motivations as any other humans (and human organizations), it allows you, the public, to better hold accountable the anti-doping agencies like USADA, the anti-doping labs, the governing bodies and other stakeholders and ensure that they “practice what they preach” when pursuing cases that they characterize in terms of not just rules, but morals.
        Cheers. JP

  5. Joe Papp

    To “Chance,” above, re: “the personal prestiege of your 7000+ social media followers” — trust me, I don’t see that as prestige, but rather, infamy or notoriety, and I’d gladly be rid of it in exchange for total anonymity (but I’ll never have that luxury, and I also didn’t bank the kind of money of someone like Armstrong, so the notoriety is a genuine and extremely damaging limiter that severely compromises one’s ability to rebuild a life in the wake of a doping scandal).

    • Chance

      Hey JP, Could you post an abstract for your post, or a summary version? Just the basic point(s) would be great. Thanks.

      Anyway, you telling me about your anti-doping activities is just totally laced with irony and personally I would just totally appreciate if all ex-dopers would conduct their anti-doping activities in a less vocal manner. For a cycling fan who stuggles to watch any race and not doubt riders performances it feels like salt in the wounds a bit.

      • Chance

        Also, I think you can conduct grass-roots type anti-doping activities without having to be all over the internet and social media with it. I would wager most cycling fans on facebook etc. know that cheating is bad and not to do it.

  6. Chance

    That comment is full of Rancor (capital R because I’m not using the word as an adjective but as the monster from star-wars). You are right, I’m not interested on a lenghty discussion on doping via this comment thread on the internet. What would be the point of me engaging in that though? I consider myself well informed on the subject through the articles I have read and consideration I have given, but if I was to discuss these with you would I be able to change your mind on the topic or the appropriate course of action? I think it’s far more likely that you would purport your life experiences as someone who has been “inside” the issue to out-rank my conclusions. The input from your experince is valuable, but on the other hand, I have come to the conclusion that cheating is wrong by myself, I managed to see the adverse repercussions of cheating without hindsight, so in that regrd, I don’t need your input. Again, I still think your input is valuable but try to see things from my perspective. I realise I’m making judgements and assumptions here that might not be fair to make from posts on a blog, but these are the things I have taken away from your comments. Anyway, speil away on why I’m wrong. Na-now if you’ll excuse me Sah, I have slaves to attend to

    • Joe Papp

      “but if I was to discuss these with you would I be able to change your mind on the topic or the appropriate course of action?” — sure dude, maybe – why not? I’m the first to admit that my perspective is greatly influenced by experiences taking place w/in the existing power structures of elite sport and global anti-doping, and that conscious effort is required to understand how these events might be perceived differently by public stakeholders who haven’t shared the same direct personal involvement but care equally for sport. We don’t have to have a dialogue or anything, but I wanted to make sure you understood that I was happy to engage on the topic. Cheers.

      • whatever

        JP, everything you’ve posted here just sounds like veiled sour grapes. There really is no need to discuss “doping vs anti-doping” because the only excuse you guys can ever offer for your cheating is that “everybody else did it, too, so I shouldn’t be punished”. And frankly, that is an infantile excuse that only works with other morally decrepit people like yourself. You can hear this bs excuse from any ex-con or Wall Street executive, too. Cheating is cheating, just deal with it and stop trying to justify yourself and your hero, Lance.

      • Joe Papp

        “the only excuse you guys can ever offer for your cheating is that “everybody else did it, too, so I shouldn’t be punished”.” (whatever – APRIL 16, 2013 – 8:16 AM) —

        Mr. Whatever, I think you may have me confused with someone else, as at no point in the past 6-7 years have I tried to evade responsibility for having doped or sought to avoid punishment. And I haven’t asked to be “excused” or otherwise campaigned to justify the cheating to anyone, although I’ve explained to those who asked what the mentality was at the time both individually and within the groups with which I was involved. So it’s quite simply false to allege that I’ve ever said something as outrageous as “everybody else did it, too, so I shouldn’t be punished”.

  7. crankpunk

    i think all this would have been unnecessary Joe had you said ‘hey can you summarize this so that i can share with the people who follow me on Twitter.’

    instead, it seemed either like a) you didn’t understand what i’d written or b) you were trying to be clever and to draw a reaction. then, once denied, you turn around and say ‘oh well i was gonna get you a potential 7000 readers, now i won’t.’

    can you see how it looked like that? now, if you are really keen to extend the dialogue on doping, you could have just linked my article. or even summarised it yourself. at best it was naive, at worst a little petty. not to mention lazy.

    and one other thing:

    doping is theft, absolutely, on several levels. it robs the athlete of self-respect and the respect of others, once he/she is caught – robs others of wins, and positions on teams – robs the fans – robs the sport of finances when sponsors eventually get pissed off about doping – and continues to rob people of their hard earned cash when they are stupid enough to go buy some ex-dopers book. robs people of dreams. robs young fans of innocence. robs the sport of a governing body we can rely on to foster fairness. robs history of results.

    so yes, theft is absolutely the right word.

    and one more, one last thing – doping IS black & white. it’s blue pill/red pill.down the rabbit hole or not.

    you take it, or you don’t.

    cheers.

    crankpunk

    • Joe Papp

      “i think all this would have been unnecessary Joe had you said ‘hey can you summarize this so that i can share with the people who follow me on Twitter.’” — sure, I definitely should’ve contextualized my request rather than just dropping it in there like I did on the spur of the moment!

      “If you are really keen to extend the dialogue on doping, you could have just linked my article. or even summarised it yourself. at best it was naive, at worst a little petty.” — again, it’s regrettable on my part that I was so random in the request. i’d actually been reading summaries of articles and opinion pieces in a foreign policy journal earlier, and thought it would be neat to share not just a link back to your post, but a summary or teaser for it from the actual author himself. So I apologize for not being more courteous and clear in that first comment/post.

      No hard feelings (I hope) and good luck ongoing w/ your blogging.

    • uvb76static@gmail.com

      To crankpunk at “April 16, 2013 – 5:05 am” –
      Dude, I love this article that you originally published at the beginning of this post. I’m so sincerely sorry that the post/responses since then have spiraled down to whether doping is right or wrong. It seems to me that the point of the article was to help articulate exactly how doping impacts the fans and the other athletes that do not dope. How it shatters the dreams and the motivation of the non dopers. Shortening your article in any way, would totally diminish the totality of what you where trying to conveyed.

      I would like to add something though.
      In regards to the posting time above, you forgot to mention that it robs:
      The teammates (those that are not doping) of the confidence that they have in their other teammates (that are doping).

      It robs the clients of their trust and motivation that they have in their coach (that is doping).

      It robs the racers (in the cat 2’s-5’s) that are not doping, of both their trust and their money, when they are racing against others in the same field that are doping.

      But mostly, it robs the racers that want to make it into the pros – and make it their clean, of their dreams, and their motivations. That’s what it did to me. When I realized that everyone around me was on something, that I was working my ass off everyday, spending all kinds of money on races and equipment, I realized that no matter what I did or how good I got, there would always be some asshole that did everything I was doing, but also doped, and that person would always get the win. That’s why I got out, because I realized that my dreams where unattainable unless I was willing to sacrifice my ethics.

      Thank you again for your article crankpunk, and best of luck to you in the future.

      • Joe Papp

        “When I realized that everyone around me was on something…”

        Sounds like you succombed to the same belief in near-universal doping that I experienced, but admirably were able to “get out,” as you say, rather than sacrifice your ethics. It’s a sobering reminder that there may be an entire underrepresented class of former riders who haven’t had much of a voice because they simply walked away, vs. the majority that I knew who willing threw-in with cheating.

        It’s unfortunate there’s not reliable data on % of a given category or age-group of athletes who have sought an illegal advantage through doping. If it was revealed that the # of masters in SoCal who were doping was miniscule, actually, then it might make participation in the sport viable for those who would otherwise assume they were in the minority, racing clean. This is where the athletes who want to compete cleanly can have an impact, however, by lobbying the promoters of the events in which they compete to include at least token drug-testing (which, unfortunately, the riders themselves would end up having to subsidize out of prize money or entry fee surcharge), but also by lobbying both USADA (in the USA) and USAC to dedicate some testing resources ongoing to non-elite racing (which they have been doing for several years). A third thing that clean athletes can do is actually denouncing non-elite athletes who they suspect of doping. USADA investigates all reliable tips…

      • crankpunk

        hey uvb, thanks for the comment amigo, very much appreciated. yes that tale is unfortunately only too common, and i guess that is, as Joe alludes to, the tipping point at which you say ‘screw this, i’m out,’ or, ‘screw this, i’m in.’

        and yeah, everyone gets cheated. the list could go on. parents, brothers, sisters, friends, kids, i mean, imagine coming home and saying that you’ve been a cheat for the past 5 years or whatever.

        then there’s a;so the health of the ex-dopers. many have heart attacks, strokes, all kinds of other stuff too, not to mention the emotional impact. i do not envy them.

      • crankpunk

        but Joe, that’s kind of like charity. the government spends billions on defence and war and what have you yet it is the people who attempt to make up the shortfall in money that is needed to keep people fed, clothed and housed.

        this should not be necessary.

        and it is similar with the UCI and other federations, it is THEIR responsibility to start being proactive, to be bringing in heftier penalties and to challenge more powerfully the pervasive culture within the sport.

        yes, we have to do something but i would rather we didn’t – this is their job. and so far, they – the UCI, many race organisers, managers and other federations – have, i have to say, been sorely lacking.

  8. Neil Keleher

    Well I made a comment on Facebook but Lee said to comment here (dammit.)

    wow, as a yoga teacher I’m of half a mind to say forgive and forget. But on the other hand, chance has some good points. Cheating is wrong. How can you not know that.

    But then again, for those who haven’t been brought up with such clearly defined lines, maybe it helps to have someone like JP speaking out against it. He’s been there, he knows the after affects, not just the during the cycling affects, and so he could be a force to help prevent some people from stepping down the same path.

    He (JP) seemed pretty reasonable. But then again I might just be supremely gullable (or whatever that word is… oranges?)

    Thinking about the whole issue, drugs in cycling, I have to ask, why? Is it just to win and if so why? For the money, or for the fame? If so then you really aren’t doing it for the love of cycling.

    But, is hating on dopers (ex or otherwise) also for the love of cycling or just a handy group of people who present an easy target on which to vent? I like to think that in any even, winning is sort of a bonus, the moment comes and goes, but whether you are racing or riding, what really counts is were you the best you possible.

    If so then winning doesn’t matter. (and if it does because it means that you did or didn’t get the cash prize at the end, then you aren’t doing it for the love of cycling.)

    • crankpunk

      Neil, as a non-cyclist your response is very interesting to me, as we in the sport tend to get so sucked in to all the intricacies of the thing that we might be guilty of losing sight of the forest for the trees – but you nailed it here, in one swoop:

      “…drugs in cycling, I have to ask, why? Is it just to win and if so why? For the money, or for the fame? If so then you really aren’t doing it for the love of cycling.”

      (and btw, it’s ‘crankpunk’ 😉 )

      • Victor Major

        It is for the money of course. Love of cycling gets you into the sport, but once it becomes your life you feel that you have no choice but to play the game to the fullest. Culture of doping, along with a complicit or incompetent governing body, complicit or naive sponsors, abundant supply and peer support (I do not buy into the peer pressure crap – “they made me do it….234523 times”) make it inevitable.

        Winning makes money for the winner, winning sells bikes (or floor coverings, or bricks or natural gas – apparently), winning makes heroes and that grows the sport. One could, and I am sure many did, make an argument that professional cyclists would be rather unprofessional if they did not dope given these circumstances.

        …and not to bless just cycling with this, any professional anyone (hyper competitive sportsman, soldier, whoever) whose livelihood depends on their ability to endure untold physical stress over and over again will do whatever they can to keep going. Fairness, love of the sport or the job does not rate very highly when what you are doing is your life…and you feel or know that everyone else is doing it and they are better than you…

        As you can see I have a rather dim and grim view on the entire doping situation. Keep in mind that this is not Dogma, just my views.

        I do not know what the solution is, but appealing to ethics, love of the sport or social responsibility will unfortunately not do it. Testing and retrospective banning for life might as long as they catch the majority, but I think that we are still very, very far from that.

  9. James Machin

    If you want to know what winning while using PED’s is like do this – go out and buy a very expensive computer game, down load cheats, play and complete. Complete waste of your time, zero gratification and you are left wondering what’s next, do it once and you’ll keep doing it. Especially when you get stuck.

    Like Crankpunk grew up in the Ben Johnson scandal and the Maradona “Hand of God” win. It left me empty, I’ve never watched the Olympics or a football match since.

    I was brought up believing that sport was sacred, you didn’t cheat, you conducted yourself in a gentlemanly fashion, you respected the judges and umpires, and you never mixed it with politics.

    There is no grey area or right time to doping, the laws and rules are clearly laid out.
    I race, I’ve taken title and no doubt my son and daughter will race at some point as they both have a passion for bikes, but my feeling is I don’t want ex-dopers preaching about it in sport, I’m sorry there are just to many that gained financially while doping and now after their confessions, (JP) maybe paying for it but the vast majority are still milking the system.

    I want my children to learn from those that stood their ground, stood by their moral codes and said NO, I WILL NOT CHEAT and then took what the system threw at them, the loss of contracts, jobs, slots on teams but still did not crumble because that tells the greater story and are heroes worthy of our praise.

    • Neil Keleher

      Reading the last two comments gave me pause to think. When I was studying mathematics I used to cheat. I’d look at the answers, and then practice until I got the answers right. Then when it came time for the final exam I did pretty well. I got an A. Okay, maybe that’s not really cheating but it could be.

      I think Lee posted an article about a non professional who tried some performance enhancers. He tried them, and then decided that he’d rather do it without.

      Another point is about money. We all need money to survive and one thing that really pissed me off was when al gore made a big deal about someone who wouldn’t fess up because he was worried about losing his job.

      I think the doping thing has roots that in part extend beyond cycling. (off course.) and so maybe part of the solution isn’t just to say that drugs are bad and cheaters suck (they crank suck?) maybe part of the possible solution is a athletes who are (like some artists used to be) supported (i forget the artsy term for it) not to promote a product but fo r the love of the sport. Funnily enough that sort of thing used to (or maybe still does) exist in the (British) army. People who were good at sports got paid to train for their sport. Imagine if you didn’t even have to be in the army to get such benefits.

      Yes, I’m sure that’s pie in the sky, but I think there are enough commentors commenting about how bad drugs are. I wanted to throw in an alternative.

      Crank punk yeah!! or punk crank!!! or something like that.

  10. Lesli Cohen (@CyclismasEditor)

    This is a really interesting and heartfelt piece; thanks for sharing it. I’d like to point out that there is quite a bit of disagreement by historians over whether or not Major Taylor actually took nitroglycerin or it’s just speculation on the part of some zealous Wikipedia biographers. So maybe you can be encouraged by the thought that one of your childhood cycling heroes may still be just that to you, and not a doper or a cheat.

  11. Roberto Pascani

    I have to say a couple of things. First off, Lance Armstrong was never my hero, but I do understand the choices he made. Unlike most of the people, that want to see cheating as black and white, I know it’s not. I don’t like cheaters, but I also don’t think it’s fair, to ask someone to throw away their whole life, and all their dreams, so they can say they were clean. We don’t live in a perfect world, and it’s not right, to force someone to try and live up to the image of Jesus Christ. Who to the best of my knowledge, is the only perfect person i’ve ever read about. Cheating has been going on since the dawn of time. I don’t think we’re going to suddenly bring that to an end. And I don’t look at all cheaters, as people that are tarnished for life. Just like I don’t look at non dopers, as if they are all good righteous people. They may not take dope, but maybe they beat their wife. You can’t just crucify these dopers, and say they are worthless, unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. And the last thing I want to say, is Joe Papp was right about one thing. Travis Tygart had a lot of ulterior motives. He wasn’t trying to clean up cycling. Just like a senator or congressman, he had to justify his existence. And destroying someone he hated, was the way to do that. Don’t believe everything you read, he is almost just as big of an ass, as Lance is.

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