if you’re coming to find the original version of this article you are out of luck. it’s disappeared. here is the article as best as i can remember it.
Coppi and Bartali, Anquetil and Poulidor, Anquetil and the lock on his stepdaughter’s bedroom door, Hinault and Lemond, Lemond and Lance, Cipollini and Soul Glo, Lance and The Truth, Verbruggen & MacQuaid raging against common decency as ‘up to 100’ (Phil Liggett’s words) riders died in the first decade of EPO, cycling has seen some cracking rivalries over the years, epic battles that remain threaded through the tattered, grubby tapestry that is professional cycling and all its dystopian ‘glory’.
As I was sat not riveted to the telly last week as Chris Froome and Alberto Contador smashed ten bells out of each other in the hills of Andalucia, I listened to the commentators gushing bukkake-like all over ‘this enthralling rivalry’ and I wondered if it was really that enthralling and even if it was a rivalry at all, and then concluded that I don’t care that much anymore anyway.
Contador has 6 Grand Tours under his belt and is hailed as the finest climber of his generation and one of the finest in the history of the sport. He took that natural climbing ability and then added to it a truckload of TT work to become one of the foremost riders against the clock in multi-day races, and he showed in the 2009 Tour that he has some serious mettle, as he withstood the barrage from the twin barrels of Bruyneel and Armstrong.
After that race, Contador said that “Armstrong is a great rider and did a great Tour, but on a personal level I have never admired him and never will”, with Armstrong responding that “a champion is also measured on how much he respects his teammates and opponents.”
So, Conty knows a thing or two about reading folk (though to be fair Armstrong is not exactly a book, more an ingredients list on the back of a packet of Fruit Loops – brief, uninspiring and full of chemicals), and Armstrong’s quote?
Well, another classic from the non-winner of 7 Tours.
But I’m wandering. Froome is not exactly a pushover, has to be said. He’s won one Tour and just about every other race he entered in 2013 and many feel he should have claimed the 2012 Tour also, had it not been for team orders and a certain Sir Wiggins being team leader.
Froome’s miraculous upturn in fortune seems to have coincided with the surgery to remove his biceps. I guess the loss of .00257 grams can make all the difference.
If you’d heard the commentators gushing and frothing all over their mics as Conty dropped Froomey and then the reverse happened that day after, you’d have thought that all the bad things that have happened in our sport just never did.
Now, I’m not saying Froome is not clean, nor that Conty isn’t either. Anything, as they say, is possible.
However as I sit there non-entranced to the screen listening to the gooiness oozing from these guys mouths, I’m reminded that we’ve heard it all before. Liggett was all over Lance back in the day, we heard it with Landis, Hamilton, Valverde, Basso, on and on and on.
Here we have a guy that was busted for Clenbuterol who carried on riding and bringing the sport into disrepute (a la Kreuziger) when he should have done the right thing and stepped away until his case was cleared being led out by a guy (Basso) who was himself suspended for dodginess on a team started by a confessed doper (Riis) and now run by one of the seediest guys in the sport (and that is saying something) and staffed by an LA apologist (Yates) and riding bikes supplied by a brand with a healthy record of sponsoring dopers competing against a guy from a team that empolyed Leinders even though the word was out that he was about as clean as a poodle’s arse hair and had a teammate (JTL) that half the world and my Gran suspected of doping way before Sky signed him, and STILL you ask me to stand and holler and whoop and get excited?
I feel sorry for the genuinely clean riders, I really do, because they have a crap time of it, but they have to take responsibility and stop letting riders like Mark Cavendish reinvigorate the Omerta once again. I’ve been saying this for years, they have got to unite and to find a voice to make the work of the authorities that really do want to beat back the dopers easier, to find a way to demand true transparency and to accept that yes, crap as it may be, the son bears the guilt of the father.
No longer can the excuse that they may lose their jobs for speaking out be valid as there are plenty of companies that would like to sponsor a truly clean team – and I don’t mean a Jonathan Vaughters-style clean team, a hey-we’re-clean-well-if-you’re-gonna-threaten-us-with-perjury-and-prison-then-ok-we’re-not-really-clean-but-we’re-sorry-we-had-to-cheat-our-way-to-wins-medals-cash-and-fame kind of clean, but seriously clean.
And not like a Sky ‘clean’ either, not with questionable staff and suddenly improved new signings and the like, with TUE kerfuffles and rumors of ‘special’ bidons containing opiates.
Magazines and websites continue to run endless articles on Armstrong, giving voice to his defenders, Astana continue to churn out a doper a month, the old boy network of former dopers still reigns, the guys commenting on TV continue to overflow with sycophantic adulation that spews out like bilge from a busted sceptic tank, and the fans, a huge chunk of them, still remain rapt.
Last week I heard someone saying how awesome the action was when EPO use was truly rampant in the peloton, and I just sighed.
Here’s an article from Outside Magazine about doping, featuring the former head of WADA, Dick Pound, and an epidemiologist and expert in sports doping from Penn State, Charles Yesalis:
It may be impossible to ever know the true pervasiveness of the problem, or the guilt or innocence of riders. Further, gene doping, a science that would render current tests irrelevant, looms on the horizon. Throw in an event like the Tour de France—and the dollars at stake—and an immensely challenging picture emerges.
“It’s an elephant,” sighs Dick Pound, president of WADA. “There are very heavily entrenched entities in this, and a lot of economics involved.”
The two realities of the Tour—its enormous popularity and the specter of corruption—persist side by side. “If there was a large boycott—no one watching on TV, no one cheering along the side of the road—then maybe things would change,” says Yesalis. “But I don’t think the fans really care.”
This is from an article from 2004.
Some things, it seems, never change.