Its been a while since my last post. Its been an insanely busy summer and I'm still behind on a bunch of stuff. But my season has continued, with some success to boot!
For me personally, this summer has been up and down. I'll write later on some issues I faced with mid season training. I did manage my best results during July however, with a 9th at the state crit champs and a 2nd and 3rd at the Utah City Crits. I'm making final preps for LOTOJA as well. The Tour de Park City grew by 50% over last year and we had some great racing out on the 157 mile course. We've got an awesome line up of late summer races as well with the Powder Mountain Hillclimb on Sept 1st and the Harvest Moon Crit/Cross weekend on Sept 22nd and 23rd.
On the professional side of things, we had an awesome Tour of Utah and the US Pro Challenge in Colorado has seen some exciting racing so far. But the big bomb that was dropped obviously was the news that Lance Armstrong has decided not to go to arbitration and fight USADA's case against him, at least not fight in the way USADA has laid out.
Again, I'm pragmatic about the whole thing. I was, and still am, a huge Lance fan. In my mind it has never been about if he doped or not. I have no delusions he did not. But why am I a fan then?
Johnathan Vaughters confession to doping sheds some light on why I'm still a fan. As he so eloquently stated, it was either dope or give up on the dream of racing in the bigs. Doping was part of the game and if you wanted to play the game, or least play it well, you had to be doping. Lance, being the fierce competitor that he is, played the game. There are some good charts out there showing the history of doping amongst the top 10 riders at each of Lance's 7 tour wins and podiums. Its filled with allegations, bans, investigations, confessions, half confessions and tainted beef. Lance proved to be the best of all the dopers.
Of course rules were broken and these riders cheated. But if everyone is doing it, is it still cheating? The part of me with integrity says "yes, of course". But what we have seen is that doping, and not getting caught, was truly part of the sport and succeeding in the sport. It even had a name, Omerta. Its kind of like pornagraphy in Utah. Hear me out... It is actually illegal to sell porn in Utah. As the law is written however, enforcement of the law is left up to the "standards of the community". If the community accepts the creepy smoke shop downtown that sells porn, then so be it and nothing is done about it. Obviously, the standards of the pro cycling community were to dope and it was accepted. Riders, team directors and I bet even sponsors were ok with it. It you weren't, you got out the game. I think even organizers and sanctioning bodies were probably complicit to an extent as well. Sure, some came out of the closet like Frankie and Betsy Andeau, but they ended up like the do gooder family who tries to rid their neighborhood of porn. On the outside no one wants porn in their neighborhood, but deep down most of us are glad its readily available. Its sad but as we find out that all of our heroes were juiced, we either cheer for them and the game or ignore the winners and cheer for the those competing for the Lanterne Rouge. But who's to say they weren't doping too?
This is what brings up the most frustrating parts of the Lance ordeal. I won't go so far as calling him a fraud or liar, again, because they all would be fruadsters and liars. Yes, some are reformed fruadsters and liars, but we can't single out Lance. But the frustration comes from how USADA went about this whole ordeal. I'm a USAC liscense holder and so I'm totally down with USAC rules and USADA's role in those rules. But here we have a dozen or so teammates and friends of Lance who have allegedly squealed in exchange for some immunity for their own doping offenses. Supposedly this list of people includes, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and Christian van de Velde. All these guys are still riding, still racing and still holding on to their results. Are they really OK with Lance taking the fall for all of them? Vaughters held on to his secret for a decade and just because he was eloquent in his confession he gets a free pass? It looks very much like USADA had a vendetta against the guy since they were so willing to let others get off in order to catch Lance. It just so happens Lance had the most to lose from playing the game.
I'm also frustrated that we'll never get to see any of the evidence. I think its crazy that USADA had evidence of doping during the comeback years and waited until now to do anything. It also shows that testing doesn't work. Especially if they are going to convict someone without a positive result. Yes, there are some issues with Lance's samples from years past, but independent investigations have proved those results unreliable.
Am I justifying the cheating? No way. But I am saying I cheered for these guys and got some great enjoyment and entertainment from doing so. I'm still a huge fan of pro cycling. But, lets face it, all of my cycling heroes were cheaters. Tyler and is broken collar bone, Floyd and the huge solo comeback. The whole gang were guys I jumped out of my couch to cheer for. I guess it was always in the back of my head that they were juiced, but I guess we all had that feeling. But to be a fan in the 90's and 2000's required that kind of perspective. I truly believe we have a cleaner peloton to cheer for nowadays. The only real positive I can see from this ordeal is that maybe Lance will now be a great example of how not to get ahead in sports.
Cycling is still one of my top 3 favorite sports, right up there with sailing and skiing. Doping does not take away the beauty of the scenery, the excitement of the tactics or Phil Ligget's classic one liners. I hope we can all move on, look forward and keep training and racing. There's really nothing greater.