Saturday, October 13, 2012

The next generation that the devil has been exorcised from the peleton, it's time for the next generation to do their thing. But my thoughts on it are this: not much has really changed. For one, there's still enormous amounts of money and fame for winners. Nothing has changed on that front. So, how about the PED's? The biggest problem I see is that they WORK. Like it or not, agree with it or not, they simply WORK. That much has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. And with that knowledge in hand, the young athlete (in any endurance sport) will have a choice to make. To cheat or not to cheat. Sure, that's an easy distinction for us spectators. But maybe not so much for the athlete doing the work...who maybe sees a very small difference from all the other things they are currently doing that ARE legal (supplements, altitude tents, etc).

I can't say how hard that decision was/is, because I'm not in their shoes. But just looking at the evidence thus-far provided, and the nearly total peleton participation in years past, it would seem making that decision hasn't been all that hard. And sure they're all extremely sorry AFTER being caught. It's easy to say 'everybody else was doing it and I had to if I wanted to be competitive'...and then to beg forgiveness and say you are so sorry, blah blah blah. But not necessarily so sorry before that...not sorry enough not to do it in the first place.

Maybe to dope or not to dope is an easy choice for those who are naturally at the very tip-top of the game, whether genetically or through enormous amounts of hard work and discipline. But how about those who are destined to be the also-rans? Doing what they love, yet with a strong desire to win....but not quite able to notch that big one that makes a career or gets you noticed by the pro teams. Nothing has really changed on the blood doping's out there, it's available, and it works. Yes, it's detectable by testing, but yes, it's also OBVIOUSLY hard to detect if used (and I use this term very loosely here) 'properly'. It would seem a given fact that nearly the entire peleton has been doing just that for at least 15 years now, and possibly still. How would we know? It's not like the testing program has been much of a deterrent thus far.

And so we have the NEW peleton. PED free. Or not. Just the name alone is quite the lure to someone....performance enhancing. THAT is a powerful name when you are talking about world-class athletes, always looking to be just a tiny bit better than their competition. And let's face it...most of these athletes are just kids. Certainly at the beginnings of a pro career most are barely of legal age to drink here in the US (if that). Sure it's easy to play the morality/ethics card and say that it's black and white...doped or clean. But if that comes down to win or lose, therein comes the gray area and the decision is much harder.

I'm afraid for the next generation of pro cyclists...because they are all just human beings. Mostly kids who have one way or another arrived at the European peleton ready to do battle. There is no such thing as a level playing field...and I'm not talking doping here either. In any timeframe of any sport there are those who are better than everybody else. And if there is a way for the underdogs to slightly level the playing field in their favor, they will be sorely tempted. I think that's just basic human nature. If somehow we could magically be absolutely SURE the entire peleton was PED free right this very moment, well... that would be awesome. But how long would that last? Due to the nature of people, and the basic fact that the PED's do exactly what they promise, it's only a matter of time before they creep their way back into the fold. And once one person starts using, I believe it would cascade from there until most everybody has the choice to keep-up or go home. And we'll be right back where we were (are?).

I certainly don't know how to stop it. All the testing seems to be a good idea. But it simply hasn't been working very well, and the athletes are light years ahead of enforcement, as has been proven. Lifetime bans for a first offense sound like a great idea...but ONLY if you can promise that there will be ZERO false positives....which I don't believe is possible.

So...where are we now? Is there currently the same pressure to dope in the peleton that there was 15 years ago? Maybe...maybe not. I'd like to think not, but we have no real way of knowing. And even if there is less pressure, I just don't think it will last very long. The PED's currently available are just too good. They TRULY offer better performance. It takes mental giants to say no and continue to say no under these conditions. But sadly, the athletes are just people from all walks of life. Look around....people make mistakes all the time. That's what makes us human...we're fallible. I think very few can resist the temptation in the long run to roll the dice for a chance at money, power and fame. I wish this 'new' generation of cyclists lots of luck, because I think they're going to need it. 

And my final question is this: how do we know the winner is clean?


  1. I've had to think of some of this more philosophically because I might lose my mind otherwise. I mean, these are people I KNOW. I can look in my contacts and call them - they will answer! But to curb the sadness and disappointment I decided to focus on how it all affected ME - it's all about me now! If it hadn't all hit the news years ago the way it did, I wouldn't have paid any attention to the sport; I would not have become interested in cycling journalism; I wouldn't have covered races for years at my own expense before I got a paying gig; I wouldn't have traveled to France and Paris to join throngs of cycling fans in day-long picnics and celebrations; I wouldn't have met people who have become some of my closest friends (including this blog group); and most importantly, when my husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, I wouldn't have immediately known where to call. But it all did happen and I can't change the circumstances, but truthfully, I wouldn't change my experiences - they were priceless and important to me.

    So I'm sad, I've enjoyed a working relationship with many of these people, partied with them, planned events with them, celebrated wins and been bummed with losses. For almost 10 years now they have been vitally important to me, and I still deeply care about them and know that life ahead for them might be quite rough because of things they did in the past. But those were decisions they made, so that's the way it is. I've always said I take the sport of cycling warts and all....I still do.


    1. Very well said, Cathy. It is hard to know what to think. But I do know that this whole mess is heart-rending and a rift in the space-time continuum of our sport. But we will make it through.

      And Lance won those effin' races. I watched him do it.


  2. Hey Cathy...glad to hear you are still out there...was wondering how you are doing with all this. I'm totally torn up over the whole brew-ha-ha, and I've never even MET any of these guys! I can't possibly imagine how you must feel.

    But it is what it is...we can't change any of it...and no matter what happens in the end (if there is an end) I'll still be tuning into the races next year, rooting for my fav's and hissing at the villains (anybody who is a threat to my fav's is a villain).

    And yes, I'll still be riding my bikes, reveling in the good days, anguishing and making lame excuses for the bad days.

    And TJ, well said yourself!

  3. Eghads - Levi....

    Time to reread your earlier post on this Matt. I need some clarity because this fallout all makes me feel blah.

  4. Wow...thanks for the update Jessica...heard it here FIRST! Read about it today during some dull moments in various places. Bet he wasn't expecting THAT.

    Teams firing guys for being honest about their PAST. That's really gonna help clean up the sport.

    And Cathy! Sure hope all is well at your place and you're not in danger...just saw on the news there's a fire in the Painted Cave area.

  5. The fire was named Lookout Fire because it started on Lookout Road in Painted Cave - guess which street I live on???!!! We were evacuated for much of the day and my son Conner was fighting the fire. He is part of our very well trained PC Volunteer Fire Dept but hopes to be attending the fire academy at Allen Hancock in January. Got a room to rent out during the week for a few months? We moved our animals and stuff out of the area but were able to go back in mid-afternoon. It looks much better for today, but it's much windier today. It put the cycling stuff in perspective for me, that's for sure. Plus a friend's brain lesions are back - cheating in cycling will have to take a back seat for awhile.

    On a bright note, we've named a new general manager from within the team, a really great young man that has a clear vision for the team. It's exciting that he got the post. Onward!!

  6. Cathy, I recall what a pain that was for you a few years back during the last fire up in your area to evac all your animals and stuff. I'm also assuming being as you were allowed back that everything is ok on your property. Wow, that must be terrifying! I can't imagine leaving my house wondering if it will still be there when we return! Sure glad it all ended up ok for you!

    And cool about the new Team GM...and yes, onward is about the only direction things can go from here...can't get much further down, that's for sure!