Thursday, October 11, 2012

The other cleat drops: USADA Report out on US Postal

Patrick O'Grady nailed this topic a decade ago. 
With permission of
Moving on from lycra-clad vs. "normal looking" cyclists to yet more cycling irrelevance, the big story in sport cycling is the release of the USADA report on the U.S. Postal Service Bike Racing and Pharmacological Experimentation Team. I've linked to the VeloNews copy, but its elsewhere. Not exactly news that doping was going on, but the depths and extent of the operation, according to USADA,was pretty impressive.

Back when I was a Cat IV in Honolulu, one didn’t have to worry about doping. We looked for an edge in races by experimenting with Gatorade vs. Cytomax and banannas vs. BanannaWham. Gosh, we were lucky to be so low level and pure. When I went off the back in a race, I knew it was due to my own lack of training and talent, not that my competitor was racing on hi test and a needle in the arm.

What this investigation is showing is how drugs were an intrinsic part of the sport from top to bottom, all teams, all the time—if anyone is still that naïve as to doubt it. Its a public health issue more than one of cheating. Since so many top teams have been implicated as cheaters, it seems like a level playing field to me, at least "level" for those teams that could afford to develop good doping operations–the hidden competition was amongst the team doctors, team owners, and team leaders.  (As Ian has accurately commented, other, non-doping cyclists could come in last or find other jobs--and be ostracized along the way, for example, Christophe Bassons). The real question is this: do we really want people who are coming up in the sport to have to inject to win? That’s where it gets sickening.

The pro cyclists have to clean this mess up themselves, since they are the ones being cheated the most. Its really a working conditions argument, kinda like giving coal miners EPO and testosterone so they can hammer away in the mines for longer hours a day than the competition and boost coal output for the bosses, only to find the miners down the road are also running on chemical overdrive. Where is the cyclist’s union on this? If there ever was a workplace justice issue in cycling that screamed for labor action, it’s the notion that to have a job, you have to have arms that look like a junkie’s and break the law. These guys were either co-opted or cowed and cowed by their own teammates, which is even sadder. Its all about the money, and I’m not sure the cyclist would be paid any less if they were all going a little slower by the end of three weeks.

How Armstrong Beat Cycling’s Drug Tests


Ian Brett Cooper said...

"Since they all cheated, it seems like a level playing field to me..."

It's simply not possible that 'everyone' cheated. There had to be professional cyclists who didn't cheat. But they simply didn't get to ride professionally, or if they somehow found a team that didn't insist on cheating, they always came in last.

Clearly, there was a lot of bullying going on in the big name teams.

The level playing field was only for those who were willing to break all the rules, for the bullies and for those who allowed themselves to be bullied. That is not something anyone should be defending.

Ian Brett Cooper said...

I think there needs to be severe repercussions for the teams and sponsors if athletes are caught cheating. It seems to me that the athletes get all the risk and the teams, doctors, trainers, managers, corporations, etc., get none. If the entire team and the corporations that sponsor it got a lifetime ban when one of its athletes was caught cheating, I guarantee that would stop the problem right quick.

Khal said...

"... There had to be professional cyclists who didn't cheat. But they simply didn't get to ride professionally..."

I know one who abandoned ship in Europe rather than dope and came home to a career (not in cycling) and a family. In Tyler Hamilton's book, Tyler describes others who walked away.

"... If the entire team and the corporations that sponsor it..."

Yep. Something like that.