Last week was one of the most dramatic in years from a cycling point of view . In the Giro nothing went to script and on what should have been a pretty straight forward longest stage most of the favourites missed a huge split after 20k and lost over 12 minutes . Then on Wednesday Emails from Floyd Landis which detailed his drug taking during his cycling career were ‘leaked’ . His admission alone would have been newsworthy , but when he also named Lance Armstrong ,George Hincapie , David Zabriskie among others including BMC Team owner Andy Rijhs the whole media world exploded .
Lance and his supporters have basically said that Floyd is a nut case and that it’s all a load of bullshit – to quote Lance himself . Floyd has said he wants to clear his conscience , but that’s not the real motivation either . The whole thing is much more complex than that .
Lance Armstrong is the great American hero . He survived cancer to come back and win the Tour 7 times . He is a hero to millions of not just cycling fans but sports fans in general , and more importantly cancer victims . His Livestrong foundation appears to be doing more to fight cancer than any other organisation worldwide . I look down at my own wrist as I type and see a yellow band , a livestrong band . Is this because I am a Lance Armstrong supporter and fan , no , it’s my link to someone lost to cancer . The yellow band is a symbol of hope for those with cancer and a reminder of the person who did not win their own personal battle for those who lost someone to the disease .
I know a person from a small town in Ireland with no interest in cycling whatsoever who was given Lances autobiography ‘It’s not about the bike’ when he was first diagnosed . The book was his inspiration and gave him hope when the doctors were being ‘realistic’ , and he fought Cancer and won .
Lance Armstrong is meticulous in all of his preparation . Whether it be his bike , his helmet , his position , pedaling technique, or training programme he leaves nothing to chance . Would this level of extreme preparation include a finely tuned performance enhancing drug programme ?
If much of what Lance achieved was on the back of a highly organised system of doping where does that leave the cancer victims ? Has he lied to and cheated Cancer victims or have lives been saved due to what he may have done ?
Floyd Landis had a very puritanical upbringing . He began cycling as an escape route just like many others and discovered that his appetite for extreme volumes of training made him a successful cyclist . He was one of Lance’s most trusted domestiques and they were friends . Did he look at Lance and ask himself why Lance got all the money and fame while he was just a donkey who had everything taken from him ?
There are drugs in all sports , especially those with money involved . The media glare is always on cycling with regards to performance enhancing drug taking so cycling has been forced to clean up its act . Journalists seem very slow to dig around in other sports as much , why is this ?
Most top athletes and sports people were not born with a silver spoon in their mouths . Many grew up poor and sport was their way to a better life . Whether it be a Russian Salt Mine or a Texas Wall Mart , once they get the pro contract they will do pretty much anything to avoid returning to their plan B . When a young clean pro shuffles into a lift after 14 days of a grand tour with every muscle in his body aching and is joined by a fellow competitor who bounces in and says ‘ aahh you no preparation , me gooood ‘ , the temptation is there .
So how do you eliminate drug taking in sport ? I think the only way is to make it illegal in a big way . No governing body of any sport will ever be able to do much about it . It’s all too political and too much of a tight knit group where everyone knows everyone . That’s why it needs someone from totally outside sport in general . A federal investigation in America brought down Marion Jones . The same investigator is now supposed to be looking into the Landis case . If that happens then I for one would not like to be in Lance’s Nikes .
Cycling is a very pure activity . Racing should be too . These guys are doing a lot to help that happen www.bikepure.org
This controversy may just be a huge turning point in the sport in general or it may just fade away , only time will tell .