Image from Hennie Kuiper
This post is a bit of a tangent from our regular pieces on bicycling, but I just couldn't resist with the news that's just been made public about Lance....
20 years ago I raced bicycles competitively and I loved it! Cycling was my life. I did well and made it onto the U.S. National Cycling Team of young riders in 1993, the year Lance Armstrong won the World Championships (above) before the world knew his name. But in the sport of cycling he was already a god. I thought to myself, "One day I want to be like that".
After racing in Europe (along with guys who would eventually become Lance's teammates) I came back to the U.S. completely annihilated and demoralized. Although I was a young rider, and assumed that racing would be hard until I got more years under my belt, I couldn't believe the speed of the best racers. I remember during one race I was struggling on a climb when another cyclist passed me while singing. He was literally singing aloud like a yoddler--I couldn't get my head around how far I had to go to become competitive.
On Wednesday, October 10, 2012, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released over 1000 pages of documents and testimony demonstrating that Lance Armstrong used banned performance enhancing drugs during his career. "The evidence...includes direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding." Paging through the documents it's clear that using performance enhancing drugs in the sport was common.
One particular banned drug named EPO (a blood booster) took off in Europe in the late 1980's, a few years before I got my feet wet over there. Could it be that my own racing experiences were tarred with drug-enhanced racing speeds? There's no way to be sure, but when someone passes you on a climb while yodeling, it makes you wonder.
I'm happy to know that our government really cares about sports, and that it's willing to defend a fair environment even when it's not convenient to take down a lion like Lance Armstrong. If there were less cheating in the sport I bet more honest cyclists would stay in it (though I don't know if I would have). How many cyclists quit because they decide they don't want to cheat or risk possible negative consequences to their own health? How many more good people might stay in all sports if they had an honest chance to feel the success of a healthy competition or an occassional win? When cheating is tolerated, more cheaters flourish while honest athletes are forced out. And if honest people quit, then who are we left to look up to? At that point our "hero" may be the winner of the race, but he lacks the heart and the integrity of a true champion.
Thank you USADA for your hard work!