Ah, Mark Cavendish. The most divisive rider in the pro peloton has a new book out.
He seems to have decided that the best way to publicise it is to spend several pages trying to roll back the years on behalf of everyone’s favourite sociopathic doper, Lance Armstrong, coming out with a stream of claptrap that leaves the reader in no doubt that he’s definitely had one crash too many.
Now before we get to an investigation into the warped thinking expressed by Cavendish in print, I’ll ask that you watch this short extract from a very interesting film released earlier this year about the OmegaPharma-Quick Step team (warning: there is some strong language used in the video).
When I first watched this I was a little taken aback by the force and severity of Cavendish’s reaction, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt, figuring he must have been on a bad day and had perhaps been asked a similar question several times.
However, the extracts from his new book wash away those benefits, and leave the reader in no doubt that Cavendish not only wants to forget the past, he also believes that the man about whom he says has an incredible charisma didn’t really do much different than anyone else in that era.
“Like everyone else, I was well aware of the doping rumours that had swirled around Lance,” writes the Isle of Man native, “but never dwelled on them: firstly because I hadn’t been competing against him between 1999 and 2005; and, secondly, I had gathered from riders who had competed in that era that doping had been widespread if not endemic.”
‘Never dwelled on them’? Just because you’d never competed against him before?
But you would be just a year after the time that you speak of meeting him, in 2009 during his comeback.
That doesn’t seem to be worthy of a mention thought in Cav’s mind, despite the fact that USADA reckon there was a one in a million chance that Armstrong rode the 2009 Tour de France clean.
And then there’s the statement about how in that era, “doping had been widespread if not endemic.”
Ah, that old chestnut.
Way beyond its sell-by date is that particular nut.
LA, as we all know, not only doped his arse off, he also brought others into doping through various means and went after any of those riders –and indeed anyone at all – who later claimed he had doped with the single-mindedness of an assassin.
He wrecked careers, almost ruined a marriage, preyed on the desperation, hope and need to believe of cancer sufferers, but hey it’s ok, because Cavendish has chosen to “simply concentrate on the present.”
But the present, you see, is a product of the past. See how that works? You get here ‘cos you came from there. In life we learn that to solve problems almost invariably means we must work out the cause.
Not in Cavendish’s mind though. “To me,” he says, “it’s gone far beyond the point where the soul-searching has become useful to the sport.”
Soul-searching? Is that what this is?
I thought that what the majority of fans – people who are fed up with being cheated and taken for fools long enough – were after was a thorough investigation into just how we ended up in this state.
I thought they wanted to know role the major players had exactly, and then to work out, once that knowledge has been acquired, how the flip to sort this out so that the next generation of riders can escape the turmoil that so many have been led into by the very people they should have been able to trust with their health, safety and welfare.
But no. Apparently it’s soul-searching.
How dismissive that term is, describing something the sport truly needs in such a way that it seems lame, pointless, and almost teenage in its scope.
Yet what it really does is to reveal Cavendish for the apologist that he has become.
Cavendish though is not quite clever enough to thread together a credible argument on this one for two reasons.
First, there is no credible argument to be found here.
Secondly, he and his ghost writer, if he used one, just are not clever enough and they eventually expose the slackness in Cav’s logic.
“Now we’re asked to comment on Armstrong and have our morals judged on the strength of what we say, when a lot of us are, rightly or wrongly, too preoccupied with the here and now to have an opinion. Even though I was watching those Tours that Lance won, wide-eyed and innocent, I also can’t pretend that I’m eaten up with resentment or feel betrayed now [that] I know it was a big charade,” he writes.
But you say we should focus on the now, Cav. Then say that people who do that are “too preoccupied… to have an opinion.”
And yet here you are dishing one out, a feeble, apologetic one that attempts to reclaim some of the shine of the now impossibly-tarnished reputation of LA.
Apparently the thrills Armstrong dished out then under the guise – delivered whenever possible with a mighty bellow – of riding clean are still of greater worth than the revelations of the rampant and institutionalised doping that LA was a leader of.
Before trotting out the old argument that cycling has done more to bust drug cheats than any other sport and that tennis, football and others need to look at themselves in the mirror, he reveals that no matter how much Lance doped, the lasting memory for Cav will be of glory, not, as it should be, of fraud and deceit.
“As unjust, as distressing as it may be, as hard as it is for us to accept, I’m sure that Lance still feels that no one and nothing can take away the emotions of those seven Tours at the time, and the same really goes for those of us who were watching.”
This from the same man who said of the disgraced Italian rider Ricardo Ricco, this:
“The sport’s better off without him,” Cavendish said at the time. “He’s not a problem that the sport faces, he is the problem that the sport faces.”
Uh, like Armstrong was you mean?
“He doesn’t mirror a lot of riders, he’s a special case and I think we’re better off without him,” Cavendish continued.
“Obviously I hope he does recover well [from an adverse reaction to a blood transfusion], but I really do hope he becomes someone’s bitch in prison.”
Lovely stuff. But where’s the consistency? Do we forgive LA because he in fact DID reflect a lot of riders at that time?
Sorry, Mr. Cavendish, but these excerpts are nothing but evidence of very sloppy logic, and you’re wrong on all counts. Just plain wrong.