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Mailbag: Lance Armstrong and the November issue of Velo

  • By VeloNews.com
  • Published Oct. 25, 2012
Reader feedback has overflowed since our November issue hit newsstands. Photo: Patrick Kovarik | VeloNews.com

Editor’s note: After each issue of Velo magazine hits the newsstand, we receive numerous letters of feedback from you, our readers. In this special overflow edition of the Mailbag, we feature a number of reader letters relating to our November issue and our coverage of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

Shifting blame

Admitting your mistakes is commendable. Admitting your mistakes while shifting blame is deplorable. So, enough of the “Lance made me do it.” Tyler, Floyd, Levi, Dave, and all the others need to take off their diaper and MAN-UP! Doping was their decision.

Monte Montello
Charlotte, North Carolina

Staff answers to stripping Lance of his TDF titles

Interesting… with the exception of Thomas LeCarner, the higher one was on the food chain, the more likely they were to vote for stripping Lance of his titles (in the November masthead question).

I would like to have seen the results of a poll on the entire staff to see if this theory holds up.

Mike Casselton
via email

Turning Point

I read the November issue of Velo with great interest after the revelations and aftermath of the USADA case against Lance Armstrong. As a fan of cycling and an amateur racer, I am hopeful that the sport will indeed move beyond its seedy past. It is a shame that this time of reckoning has come to pass without the sport being prepared to deal with the aftermath.

Clearly, the sanctioning bodies in the world of cycling realized that the Armstrong affair would have broader implications than just Armstrong and the members of his former teams. In recent years, the sport has progressively sought to minimize doping, but the governing bodies were not prepared enough to tell this story as well as they should. The national governing bodies and the UCI need to be proactive in educating the general public and the mass media about the latest developments in testing and the processes and procedures implemented by the drug testing agencies. With the advent of the biological passport and advanced testing methods, the likelihood that cyclists will be enticed to dope will be greatly reduced. Professional cycling has a positive story to tell regarding these efforts and needs to do so to counter the negative perceptions brought about by the Armstrong affair.

Cycling is comprised of individuals, and no individual is perfect. Some will continue to try to cheat but will eventually be caught. The teams and governing bodies need to establish a method by which past transgressions can be dealt in a fair and balanced manner so that this great sport is not destroyed from the inside out. Some are advocating for a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to judge past transgressions. If such a commission is formed, it needs to be represented by not only the governing bodies but also the team management and riders. Each segment of the professional cycling needs a voice to ensure that each individual is treated fairly. I believe that each case should be dealt with on its own merits and that a uniform approach would not allow for the consideration of mitigating circumstances. Once past transgressions have been acknowledged and appropriately handled, the cycling body needs to examine greater levels of punishment for future offenses to further discourage doping.

Cycling is a beautiful sport and one in which the fans can become engrossed in the battle of man and machine against the elements. Fans long to see the professionals battling each other on the greatest climbs or watching them push their limits in a race against the clock. We long to see riders collapse in exhaustion after a breakaway succeeds much like David Millar did in the Tour this past year. The past few years cycling has been more believable as we have seen it more parity among the riders.

Cycling will survive the Armstrong affair. We only need the whole of the cycling community to confront its past, establish a process by which the past can be rectified, promote the positive steps the sport has taken, and acknowledge more that can be done. I will not let the Armstrong affair diminish my love of the sport.

Timothy E. Valentine
via email

Truth and Reconciliation

Bravo for your article on proposing that cycling follow the template set by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee as a way to clean up the sport. As a South African expat I have long thought that this should be the path forward. And while you are correct to say that doping in cycling is in no way similar to the horrors of Apartheid, I do believe that the only way to make a clean break from the past is for all the guilty parties to come forward and expose the ubiquitous nature of the problem.

The strategy of going after individual riders is pointless and patchy at best. In many ways we are all culpable. We the fans, who wanted to see super human performances and who cheered when U.S. Postal devastated its rivals. You the media, for abiding by the law of the omerta. The riders, the doctors, the team managers, all are guilty as charged.

Truth be told, I believe that many of the riders who doped were unwilling participants. When one’s livelihood is on the line, when money and sponsorships are at stake, when there is easy access and a supporting structure, when there is pressure to dope, who can blame them? In order to protect up-and-coming riders like Tejay (van Garderen), Taylor (Phinney) and Joe (Dombrowski), the system and culture of cycling needs to fundamentally change and I think the TRC template is the best way to do that. This would also set a shining example to other sports that are dealing with this problem. Would the Mandelas and Desmond Tutus of cycling please step forward?

Sharon McDowell-Larsen
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Disgusted

So I am sure enough that Lance is guilty, but at what cost have we reached this conclusion? We get a book from a confessed liar that claimed that he had an absorbed twin. We get a confession from a man who, in my opinion, defrauded the public into supporting him financially while he defended himself against allegations that he later admitted to. Levi has now been fired and suspended for six months, Hincapie’s reputation is ruined and for what? To clean up the sport? Bullshit.

On the cover of the issue that Velo pontificates and opines on this very subject, attempting to lead us to What’s Next, you exclaim that Contador is back. Back from what? A drug suspension that he denies, in spite of him having been proven guilty. We make heroes out of liars, and persecute those who we THINK are guilty, proof or not.

It’s all just bullshit. Frankie lied, Tyler lied, George lied, Levi lied, Eddy probably lied, Lance lied, that lying Menonite lied, Contador lied, Riis lied, Jan lied, they all lie. And then you guys let them get away with it. You really do. Contador is the perfect example, but the list of guys that got caught, did their time and rose again is at least half-full of guys who still deny their guilt.

And who can blame them? Look at the prosecuting bodies. They seem just as disgusting as the riders and their doctors. Anything to come out on top.

Well I have had it with all of you. I worked as a mechanic for 11 years, I even helped out a major manufacturer at InterBike a few years [ago]. But I started to drift away when all this stuff started to go down. I loved cycling, racing, reading about it, working on bikes, trying to, in my opinion, make a better world through bikes. But now I am just sick of it. It stinks, it always has, and it always will. It just took me 15 years to realize where the smell was coming from.

I will still ride my bike, but I am cancleling Versus, USN, NBCSports, and this magazine. I will not race and I will not attend races any longer. And the only people I will miss are Phil, Paul, and Bob.

Bobby Gray
via email

Cheats

Hey. I get it… Lance made his bed and now he needs to sleep in it. What I don’t get is… people painting the riders who testified in the case against him as victims and courageous individuals who needed to come clean for the sake of the sport they love. Give me a break. Does anyone really believe any of these guys would have done so if not for being involved in the case against Lance? George, Levi, Tom, Christian and the rest of the cheats are as guilty as Lance. P.S. How much of a kickback is Velo getting from plugging Tyler Hamilton’s book?

Hopefully you’ll give Lance the same opportunity when his tell-all book comes out. Just think of all the money you’ll make.

Glenn Medeiros
Burlington, Vt.

I no longer believe…

Tyler Hamilton wanted me to “Believe Tyler Hamilton” and now wants me to believe what he has to say after he admitted he lied. Floyd Landis wanted me to believe and to contribute to a “Fairness Fund,” and now he also wants me to believe his word after he admitted he lied. Lance Armstrong wants me to believe in “Miracles.” Pros who now admit to doping want me to believe that they have raced clean since 2006. The UCI, WADA and USADA have demonstrated that they are ill-equipped to detect doping but want me to believe that pro cycling is now cleaner than it has been in the past.

I no longer believe.

Anthony Tortorelli
Westport, Conn.

Turning point?

Your November issue, filled with claims by insiders (admitted dopers among them) that cycling has cleaned up its act, leaves me feeling angry and skeptical. As a human pursuit, racing a bicycle has no parallel. As a sport, professional bicycle racing epitomizes the worst in human character, especially the willingness to cheat and lie for the flimsiest of reasons. Why believe now?

The refrain that “everyone was doing it” is an ethical challenge that most teenagers manage to sort out before they reach adulthood. But the cheaters and liars in professional cycling seem incapable of reasoning their way to the right choice. Swaths of cyclist are cheating to win, somehow convincing themselves that this is actually winning. Worse, the athletes who dope are supported by teams that help them cheat, by coaches that match training to doping schedules, by doctors who play god with chemistry experiments and by anti-doping agencies that randomly prosecute some while looking the other way or offering immunity payoffs to others.

And what has come of the cheaters? These people still run the sport. They have become the supposedly “clean” team managers and coaches to the next generation. They try to save their legacies in retirement with claims their doping stopped years ago. Their names adorn products sold to the public on the backs of careers built on lies. They write the articles we read and announce the races we watch on TV. They sell their tell-all books and patronize fans with hollow apologies. They may feel better, but I don’t.

I am disgusted by the ease with which so many people in all facets of the sport convinced themselves that cheating and lying was the right thing to do. When I look around, a lot of them are still here.

Brian Cincera
Allentown, Penn.

Lance Armstrong’s reckoning

Thank you for your years of covering professional cycling. In your most recent article, Matthew Beaudin discusses the “human cost” of Armstrong and Bruyneel’s extensive and systematic cheating. I would like to help you put a face on this.

I will never read your magazine again. Please stop emailing me. I will never watch a bicycle race again, neither televised nor live. I will not introduce my son to the sport. I will ride my bike, and my son will ride his, but it will not be with you. Or with Lance Armstrong, or Johann Bruyneel or Phil Liggett or Paul Sherwin or Bob Roll. Not with Vaughters or Hincapie or Hamilton or Andreau. Not Pound or McQuaid or Tygart. None of you. I will not listen to anything any of you have to say. You are all, to a man, liars. The entire sport is a disgusting disgrace, and there is no one — not one human — who has worked in, on, or around professional cycling that I would trust with my wallet.

I raced bikes when I was young. I have followed the sport religiously since I was 16 years old. I remember shaking Greg LeMond’s hand. I remember running to catch a glimpse of Lance Armstrong. I bought posters, bracelets, shirts, and hats. I read all the blogs and magazines. And I trusted you. Velonews. Along with everyone else.

So that’s it. This is the end. Goodbye forever, and may you all, every last one of you, be held accountable by something or someone less shameful than USADA.

Mark Edward Hornish
via email

Cadence revisited

Please consider the following submission for the magazine or web letters to the editor. I think it raises an interesting question that highlights the legacy Lance left in the sport.

During the Armstrong era a great deal was always made about Lance’s high cadence pedaling style. I began to doubt Lance’s results and innocence the day he chased down Filippo Simeoni. I have since wondered if his high cadence approach was particularly useful because it relied most heavily on aerobic capacity instead of leg strength. Given the clear evidence that Armstrong doped to improve his aerobic capacity, it seems time to revisit whether a rider with normal hematocrit levels would benefit from riding a cadence above 95rpm as was suggested for years?

Doug Thompson
Gales Ferry, Conn.

2006 Tour de France

The recent revelations which came to light in USADA’s case against Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton’s book cast a new light on Floyd Landis’ allegations that Oscar Pereiro doped during the 2006 Tour and when he was Floyd’s teammate on Phonak before 2006. Floyd’s allegations about Pereiro and others doping during the 2006 Tour, and Pereiro’s denial in the VN story published on February 1, 2011, sound eerily similar to all the admissions we’ve read in the USASDA file and Hamilton’s book. Don’t those allegations deserve to be investigated in light of what we know now? Is it fair to see Pereiro’s name as the first “clean” rider to win the Tour de France after seven years of blank history for the Tour?

It’s not easy to know where to stop when it comes to digging through the mess of cycling’s dark past, but there’s something very distasteful about reading Pereiro’s past statements about Floyd and latest statements about Lance and the UCI when he may have been just as guilty.

Lenny Katz
via email

Singling out Armstrong

Oh, how we in America do love to take down a hero. Next thing, Lance will be found to have caused global warming and the Great Recession.

I’m no fan of the doping he did, but I’m also no fan of singling him out when it’s clear all the other top riders were doing the same thing. Doping or no doping, he really was on his bike six hours a day.

Joyce Polance
via email

Battling cancer, and the Tour

Lost in the headlines of the Lance Armstrong scandal is a central truth that might well explain the evolution of his behavior. In allegedly doping, cheating, and using all means possible to get ahead in his victorious cycling career, Armstrong harnessed all of the behaviors most needed to triumph over cancer.

When you’re diagnosed with cancer you do everything within your power to get an edge on the disease. You pull in every conceivable favor to cut the line and see the top doctors. You battle your insurance company, lying if you have to, to get a little more money for tests. You willingly consume dangerous cocktails of drugs you’ve never even heard of. The rules that apply to everyone else, at least for the time being, no longer apply to you.

Lance Armstrong had never won more than a couple of stages of the Tour before he battled cancer. Afterward, apparently using all means possible, he won seven [Tours]. While I’m in no way condoning his actions, isn’t it conceivable that the behaviors that became commonplace during the two years Armstrong’s life was consumed by fighting off cancer became so ingrained that they came to rule his cycling career as well?

Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
via email

A neglected perspective

I’m writing to ask you to do a story on some of the “could have been” riders affected by “the Armstrong Affair.” These are the riders that either made it, or almost made it to the top echelons of cycling but then went nowhere when they refused to dope and were either excluded by cartels like Bruyneel/Armstrong or just could not compete. We all feel duped and lied to, but these are the riders who perhaps could have been famous but are now flipping burgers or lost in middle management. With a little research this would be a compelling story about a somewhat neglected aspect of the damage that doping has done to our sport.

Robert R. Quickel, MD
Hennepin County, Minn.

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