So in case you all missed it the line of those accusing Lance Armstrong of doping is getting bigger. The latest accuser is Tyler Hamilton. Like Floyd Landis before him, Hamilton was a prominent member of Armstrong’s US Postal Team, a faithful lieutenant who left to pursue his own Tour ambitions and then tested positive for his own doping offences. As has been pointed out by a variety of correspondents on Twitter these sources are hardly whiter than white but at least they are spilling the beans. Meanwhile Larry continues to trot out the “I’ve never tested positive” defence as if it is bulletproof and turn scorn on his accusers via Twitter tirades. Read my previous few posts and either he ignores the totality of the war on doping and the circumstantial nature of evidence employed in some cases or he has done something to put the dogs at bay. You can make up you’re own mind which. Some might say this is the ultimate time to admit cycling is corrupt. So is it time to give up?
In my view as just another ordinary Joe who watches from the roadside is no. I’ve done quite a bit of soul searching and I can confidently say that my life would be missing something without cycling and without pro-cycling in particular. Some would say I am obsessed. I can’t plan much in July because of a certain race around France. I stay up to watch highlights of obscure races from around the world. Some would say I am strange. I watch men in lycra battle it out with each other. I delight in the pain of the battle, I relish the uphill fight and I want to see them hurt. Yet without these small pleasures, life at times could be pretty rubbish.
As I’ve indicated before, friends keep telling me cyclists are all doped. They ask me why I watch the sport with such devotion. They wonder how I can live with such deceit. I’ve tried to defend it. I’ve tried the “no they don’t all dope, it’s a minority, line. It never felt convincing. So I tried to tell them that cycling is changing only for another scandal to come along. I’ve even tried to convince them that it only has this image because it is doing something about the problem. None of it washes. I couldn’t care about the people I’m trying to convince. Many of them watch professional footballers with relish and sweep under the carpet behaviour which is far worse than cheating to win a race, behaviour which harms the lives of others. Yes folks, this is life. Its not always nice and everything is relative.
So in the same way that Tyler Hamilton has penned his own confession, this is mine: I love cycling and I’ve got to the point where I don’t really care. Yes, that may shock some people but I’m tired of making a defence to others. Just as in motor-racing developments are made in order for cars to go faster, so cycling adopts other means of enhancement. Listening to the Flammecast’s interview with Festinagirl I must admit I increasingly can’t see what the lines of distinction are between administering health care to riders and performance enhancement. We know the extremes but we don’t know the happy medium.
What I want to see is racing. I want attacks, I want climaxes. Sure, if people dope they should be caught and I want the authorities to do their bit in providing a level playing field, one which includes them playing by the rules. But do I care if Bertie ate a contaminated steak? Come off it. Does it matter if an ex-doper manages or coaches in the sport? I doubt it very much. But I care about the riders. I care about the people involved in the sport. They provide my entertainment, and just as we had painful sorrow last week at the death of a rider, there are too many victims in this whole sorry mess. The comment has been repeatedly made on Twitter that both good guys and bad guys dope. The good guys ultimately confess (for whatever reason). Having lived with my own set of masks I learnt to my own cost how destructive they are and what a relief it is to finally drop them. In doing so I’m sure they have been through pain and relief too. So I’m actually going to stop pointing fingers at the innocent. However, where Larry differs is the venom of the attack and the willingness to destroy. In this way he is the premiership footballer who has affairs behind the screen of a super injunction rather than the mere cheat who won a cycle race. For all he’s done for the sport, he is doing his best to undermine.
Cycling won’t die. I will still follow it. You will still follow it. Riders will come and go, some will dope whilst others ride clean. Whilst these remain misdemeanours I’m afraid I’m going to have to turn a blind eye. I merely hope they catch the nasty, corrosive and destructive elements that have burrowed into the heart of the sport. Getting rid of them might just give us a basis to be truly proud. Until then I’m taking my moments of happiness in life and trying not to worry about the rest.