USADA finally published its evidence in the Lance Armstrong doping conspiracy case yesterday. For many of us cycling fans, it was a long awaited major punch with a real potential to actually do away with the hideously moral-corrupting omerta that has ruled the sport for far too long.
First off, my salutations and hats off to the likes of Paul Kimmage, Gilles Delion, Nicolas Aubier, Graeme Obree, Christophe Bassons, Scott Mercier, Andy Hampsten, Greg Lemond and other long suffering clean riders that I had never heard of because most of the fame and news coverage they might have earned were stolen from them by the dopers who, some more understandably than others, chose the ends over the means, results and personal gain over moral integrity.
These guys did the right thing and had to suffer a lot for it for a long time. Most were shunned out of their beloved sport as 'traitors'. Even the successful ones like Greg Lemond; his business was quite destroyed when he voiced his suspicion about Armstrong's doping. I have been riding my bike 200 or more miles a week since the beginning of the year and have made it a point to never run any red light (well, I did run a red light during the Giro di San Diego last month, but only because I was caught in a fast moving peloton that seemed bent on running all the traffic lights along the way. It was a matter of either going with the flow thru that first red light before sneaking my way out of the group or hitting the brake and cause a hideous bunch crash right in the middle of the intersection. I chose the former). It infuriates me when I see other cyclist run a red light and when I hear people generalize all cyclists as 'red light runners'. I imagine it's the same thing (but on a more frustrating scale) for clean pro cyclists when they keep hearing people blithely say that 'oh, they are all dopers anyway, so the field was always level.'
And thanks to the ex-dopers who have reformed themselves and have came or are now coming forward to break the silence. I've read Paul Kimmage's Rough Ride and Tyler Hamilton's The Secret Race and realize that choosing to not dope would have been very costly, perhaps seemingly too costly for them to be a viable option (after all, I've been young once and know how young people often have a hard time looking at things very far into the future). I also understand why a lot of angry cycling fans are now calling for no leniency for those who confess and now tell of theirs and others' doping. I wonder how they (the angry fans calling for life time ban and stripping of all results and prize money and endorsement) think that such a thing would encourage the emergence of any more eyewitness to this doping problem... Real life isn't black and white. A lot of crimes would go unsolved if plea bargaining isn't an option.
With due respect to Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, and other prominent cyclists who are wishing that we would now all just 'look forward rather than back' at this doping thingy because today's peloton is supposedly clean. I digress... Remember why Frank Schleck didn't finish the tour this year? Honestly. It hasn't even been a month since another pro cyclist, Steve Houanard, got busted with a positive test. I have no doubt that PED abuse is rampant in other sports as well, perhaps even worse than in cycling and that cycling is cleaner today than it was in the 1990's and 2000's, but my brain isn't yet quite addled enough to believe that cycling today is now free of doping problem! Frankly, I'm getting suspicious of people who are trying to get people to look away from this exposé just one day after it came out... Is that how people who really want the sport to get cleaned up would act?
On the other hand... no cheer at all to those who still choose to root for team Lance against the world, including all those triathlon event organizers who keep inviting Lance Armstrong, even after his USADA sanction, to compete in their event in order to reap financial gain from his publicity. I don't care if the money they get out of it is then used for worthy charity work. The message they are sending to young athletes and to their audience - we don't care if you cheat and lie and try to destroy anyone who call you out for it as long as you can make us a lot of money - is still ugly and the very antithesis of what a sport is supposed to instill in people. Winning or losing isn't what matter, but how one plays the game. The end doesn't justify the means.