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For those that paid the price, an Armstrong apology will never be enough

  • By Neal Rogers
  • Published Jan. 17, 2013
  • Updated Jan. 17, 2013 at 3:37 PM EDT
Matt DeCanio lost his last contract in 2005 over his outspoken and aggressive anti-doping websites. Photo: Matt DeCanio

DeCanio: ‘I will never truly respect him’

Former racer Matt Decanio watched his last pro contract dry up in 2005 after he posted inflammatory comments about Armstrong on his website, Stolen Underground.

A talented young American who once wore the race leader’s jersey at the Tour de Beauce, DeCanio made waves throughout the cycling community in the summer of 2004 when he admitted he had used EPO during the 2003 Tour of Connecticut stage race. Though he had never tested positive, DeCanio’s guilty conscience overtook him. He sat out the 2004 season and began posting controversial, staunchly anti-doping screeds on his website. Topics varied from his own doping experiences to highly personal admissions of depression, as well as specific accusations directed toward pro riders, including Armstrong.

In November 2004, he signed a contract with the domestic squad Ofoto-Sierra Nevada for the 2005 season; however, he was released from that contract before he ever pinned a number to an Ofoto jersey. According to a team spokesman, team management had a verbal agreement, as an addendum to DeCanio’s original contract, that his websites would not “become a forum for debate and accusations” on doping. When DeCanio refused to go along with the team’s policies, citing the First Amendment, he was asked to resign. It would prove to be his last chance, an unceremonious end to a promising career.

As he did nearly a decade ago, DeCanio feels Armstrong’s influence in the sport led to his dismissal, and he still harbors anger over the way his career ended.

“Lance was obviously doping. David Clinger, who was on the U.S. Postal Service team, told me about the doping on the team,” DeCanio said. “I got to the point where I felt I had to do it. I shouldn’t have done it. And that shows the power of being a leader, like Lance. When things get hard, it’s so easy to follow a leader like that.”

DeCanio knew that accusing Armstrong of doping had marginalized him within the pro peloton, but he said his militant position was aimed toward deterring young riders from making the mistakes he’d made.

“So many people doped back then, and Lance was destroying everyone who was speaking out against it, making an example of anyone he could, using his abilities to destroy anyone who stood against him,” DeCanio said.

Asked what an Armstrong apology would need to look like in order to be accepted, DeCanio said, “For me to respect Lance, he would have to be completely honest. He would need to say, ‘When I was this age, this person told me I had to do this, this person enabled this.’ He would have to out every person involved, and expose the secrets of the whole system. There’s a lot of stuff that has not come out yet.

“If Lance were to do that, and dedicate the rest of his life to helping find a cure for cancer, and stop caring about his own life, and caring about wanting to race — if he could be selfless, instead of selfish, if he could prove he is trying to make a change — I would respect him more. But I will never truly respect him. He was an idol of mine, and his dictatorship over the sport… I can forgive, but I cannot forget. I want to forgive him, and I want something good to come out of it. But he has so much work to do, and I don’t see that he is willing to do it.”

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Neal Rogers

Neal Rogers

Neal Rogers is editor in chief of Velo magazine and VeloNews.com. An interest in all things rock 'n' roll led him into music journalism while attending UC Santa Cruz, on the central coast of California. After several post-grad years spent waiting tables, surfing, and mountain biking, he moved to San Francisco, working as a bike messenger, and at a software startup. He moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 2001, taking an editorial internship at VeloNews. He never left. When not traveling the world covering races, he can be found riding his bike, skiing, or attending a concert.

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