The cycling headlines this fine Friday are as follows;
1) 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador held a press conference to deny that he ever used dope. Read HERE
2) Discovery Channel Cycling Team has disbanded due to lack of sponsorship. Read HERE
Let's first dispose of doper Alberto Contador. If you watched the Tour this year you were amazed that a 24 year old kid riding in his first Tour de France was kicking everyone's butt in the mountains. Other than a known fellow cheater, Michael Rasmoosen, and suspected doper Levi Leipheimer, no one could stay close to Contador in the hills. Right after the mountains he rides one of the fastest time trials to secure the yellow jersey. Fun viewing, to be sure. But could it be real? Most young riders drop out of their first three or four Tours. Even super doper Lance Armstrong failed to complete his first few Tours.
OK, superstars do exist in real life and maybe, just maybe Alberto Contador is one of those once in a generation guys. But then you have to look at the fact that his name is listed as a client of the cycling witch doctor Fuentes. This Fuentes fellow is a physician who helped numerous pro cyclists with their doping programs. Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, to name a few. However smart Fuentes was with developing doping protocols he apparently is an idiot when it comes to labeling blood bags, faxes and doping schedules. This moron was putting the riders initials on this stuff. Like we could never figure out who "JU" was. How hard would it have been to assign a generic name and number to each rider so that it wouldn't be so obvious? Something like; Lance 1, Lance 2, Lance 3, Lance 4, etc.
Anyway, Contador, in the classic Lance Armstrong way of deflecting the truth and making statements that are designed to impress the press and confuse the public says that he will offer his DNA as proof that he didn't dope. But here's the problem; he wasn't using Dr. Fuentes for blood super-charging, he was using him for a recovery program. Steroids, testosterone and the like. Why is this important? Because Contador would not have given blood to the doctor for these purposes. Offering his DNA as a sign of proof of his innocence is just more dishonesty. He knows that there is nothing for the authorities to compare his DNA to. It may sound like he's just trying to help but all he is doing is tossing out a red herring. There really is a reason that they call this stuff dope.
Contador refused to take any questions after reading his prepared statement and quickly exited the room when his speech was complete.
Just one thing Alberto, you mentioned in your statement that you would seek legal action against anyone making defamatory accusations in the future. To that I say this, "Alberto Contador is a liar. A cheater. A doper. His existence in the pro peloton is bad for the sport of cycling. His willingness to cheat clean riders out of their opportunities and then to lie about his cleanliness makes him a jack". The future is here my friend, sue me.
Ahhhhh! Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team is dead. And now I will kick it. The list of riders that went through the Discovery team and were later found to have doped is almost too long to list. Hamilton, Basso and Landis are the names that everyone recognizes. Lance Armstrong was found to have used EPO when he won his first Tour in 1999 and although EPO wasn't well enough known to be on the prohibited substance list it's use proves that Lance was a cheater. That he didn't win fair and square. This became standard operating procedure for the team.
Team manager Johann Bruyneel, if he wasn't intimately involved with his cyclists doping programs surely knew of their existence. He did nothing to stop or prevent doping on his team and he profited by it. In many respects his culpability is greater than that of a young cyclist who seeks advice from his manager. An impressionable 24 year old cyclist has little choice but to dope if a cycling head-of-state like Bruyneel tells him that to ride on a pro team you need to dope. Where Bruyneel could have had a positive impact, he failed. Contador is just the latest in a long list of riders that Bruyneel ruined. Bruyneel failed his riders, his sponsors and the fans. For the sake of the sport let's hope that no other team hires him.
Here is my question regarding Discovery's failure to secure a new sponsor; why couldn't the cache of Lance Armstrong at the helm get this done (Lance is part owner and face of the team's management firm)? $15 million per year is peanuts to major corporations. They spend this much advertising during one Superbowl. The US Postal Service, when they were the sponsor had an annual budget of $66 billion dollars. $15 million was nothing. You would think that having Lance walk into the board room at a potential sponsor would seal the deal. Could it be that his reputation as a doper has finally caught up to him? Could it be that his personality gets in the way? in any event, the name Lance Armstrong, once an asset, has apparently become a liability.
It has been my contention for some time now that Lance Armstrong cares about one thing; Lance Armstrong. He gives lip service to the sport of cycling but does nothing to support it. Just think what a grand ambassador for the sport a 7-time winner could be. Here is his comment on the failure of the team, "Things need to improve on many levels, with a more unified front, before you would see us venture back into cycling". What the heck does that mean? Typical Armstrong gobbledygook. It seems that he is suggesting that the sport of cycling is not worthy of the participation of his team. Things need to improve. Before we venture back. What crap! Once, just once I'd like to see Armstrong speak the truth about something. Apparently it's too hard for him to say things like, "As hard as we tried, we just could not find the right sponsorship for our team". Or better yet, maybe he should keep his mouth shut.
As for my part I think this is a good thing. If the team that produced eight wins out of the past nine Tours de France can't find a sponsor other pro teams are certainly struggling to stay afloat. The sport is in shambles. Maybe we are finally going to hit bottom. Why is this good? Because nothing changes until the money runs out. If money goes away because sponsors are afraid to align with the dopers that make up the sport of pro cycling maybe the culture will change. The cycling community can no longer turn a blind eye on the doping problem. Or maybe the cyclists should unionize, ala American baseball/basketball/football, so that they can dope at will with no regard for rules.
All of that said, it remains true that the US Postal and Discovery years will be remembered fondly. Our friends and families had at least heard of the Tour de France, thanks to Lance Armstrong. And cyclists are no longer looked at as a bunch of fags riding around in lycra. We can shave our legs and be proud. We can don garish clothing and hop onto fifteen pounds of carbon fiber that cost $4,000.00 and not be ashamed. It's OK to stand around the office water cooler and discuss the merits of Powerbars, recovery drinks and clipless pedals. Thanks to the resurgence of road cycling the amount of new and improved equipment available to us mortals is astounding. Even Wal-Mart sells hand built Italian carbon fiber bicycles now, see HERE. July was the best time of the year thanks to Postal/Discovery. Watching the Tour de France was pure entertainment.
It was a fun ride Discovery Channel, but with all of the cheating and fraud it was more akin to an action film than it was to real life. Thanks for the memories. I miss you already.