I get that question a lot. Since writing and releasing Chain Reaction, I frequently am asked certain questions. Of course, most refer to Chain Reaction itself, “How long did it take to write?” Two years. “Is it about you?” Hell no. I was a good rider, an OK amateur racer, but a distant cry from the hero, Cal, in Chain Reaction. “Why did you write it?” I was a bored non-fiction writer and thought I would try fiction to see if I was able to do it. “Was it hard?” Not much harder or more painful than slamming my hand in the car door.
Of course, everyone wants to know about America’s favorite racing hero, Lance Armstrong. Questions about him doping pop up with the regularity of, well, the regularity of investigations and allegations about him doping, which, to tell the truth seems like all the time. Now the US Anti-Doping Agency, USADA, is on his ass and a full scale investigation is in the offing unless Armstrong’s lawyers can stop them.
Most people asking about Armstrong don’t think I really know the answer. I don’t. They want to offer their conclusion or belief. Hiding beneath the question is a plea, “Please tell me that he didn’t do it.” I’d like to offer that kind of reassurance. I really would. But, I never told my kids that the tooth fairy existed and the Santa Claus myth was abandoned when they were two years old.
And, as I said before, I don’t really know. But I have my suspicions… suspicions based on lots of evidence, albeit all of it circumstantial, hearsay, opinions of experts, and a profound cynicism and disbelief that one man can be so dominant in a sport in which all of his competitors are guilty of using performance enhancing drugs.
I understand why some people, many people in fact, refuse to accept that Armstrong was juiced. They believe that Armstrong was a superhero and trust that his good works in the fight against cancer have come from a solid place in his heart. I’m not certain that the two things, being a superhero and doing good work in the world of cancer prevention and treatment, are inconsistent with being a doper on a bike. But, some people like their heroes unblemished. That’s their problem not mine.
And then there are a lot of people, probably even a majority, who say, “who cares?” Well, I do, and here is why.
My son is racing bicycles now, and he sent me a link to a story about one of his competitors who just tested positive for EPO after winning the Gran Fondo of New York. Now, this guy, David Anthony, is a cat 3 racer in the 45 – 49 age category. That’s right. He is old, and he isn’t very good, at racing that is. Probably not very good at doping either, since he got caught. You can read his sorry-ass, “I’m so ashamed of myself” confession here. http://nyvelocity.com/content/features/2012/david-anthony-tests-positive Don’t overlook the fact that his confession was offered only after he tested dirty. I think that matters.
What bothers me most is that this sad sack of shit was a Cat 3 amateur. I mean, amateurs? Doping? In local races where the winner gets a jersey, twenty bucks and a few tires? He was going nowhere, coming from nowhere, and had only his delusions of his racing prowess to justify his cheating ass. I repeat, this guy was an amateur. And he was cheating. And the people he was cheating were also amateurs.
Which takes me back to the folks who feel that the USADA investigation of Lance Armstrong is a waste of time and money, a travesty, a case of selective prosecution, and even worse, a insidious conspiracy to bring down one of America’s heroes. And it may be. But when I hear about pathetic characters like David Anthony and his attempt to ride the EPO train to the top, I can’t help but feel that it’s another example of the fish rotting from the head. Amateurs emulate the pros. We watch to see what they are riding, how they are training, what they are eating, and, too obviously, what they are taking to get the edge on the competition.
And that’s the reason that the USADA investigation needs to continue, despite the cost and the possibility that another icon will bite the dust. Of course, Armstrong is using all of his competitive fury to stop it before it gets going. You can’t expect anything less from the man, certainly not contrition. He will continue with his denials, fighting the fight with all of the tenacity he brought to the climbs of the Alps. But in the end, it is only with an authentic and clean vetting of the accumulated evidence that we can finally know the truth. Cycling needs that. Sport needs that. The fundamental of competition is fairness and the statement needs to be made. Hopefully, making that statement will stop the David Anthonys, even if it’s only because they are afraid of getting caught.