Bookends

October 21, 2013 § 47 Comments

I just finished reading “Tour de Lance” by Bill Strickland and “Breaking the Chain” by Willy Voet. Voet was the soigneur/drug dealer who was busted by French customs officials as he crossed over from Belgium into France with a load of goodies destined for the Festina team a few days prior to the 1998 Tour. The bust and its payload of EPO, among other things, resulted in the exposure of French star Richard Virenque as a doper, and got Festina booted from the Tour.

Strickland is one of the worst hacks in the world of faux cycling journalism, and his hagiography of Armstrong is fully revealed in the title. “Tour de Lance” is one fanboy’s masturbatory fantasy as he follows the team bus and watches Armstrong try, and fail, to win his eighth Tour. For Strickland, the project was a win-win. Either Armstrong stood atop the podium and the book could conclude “greatest athlete ever,” or Armstrong didn’t win, and Strickland could piously intone that Lance was now “more human. More like us.”

Either way, there would be a mountain of used Kleenex to get rid of.

Justice for Lance

With each disgraced doper retiring into comfortable fame, the accusation of Armstrong as “the most evil person to ever live including Hitler and Stalin” becomes sillier to read and more ridiculous to maintain. When Michael Barry begins publishing soporific, sappy little magazine tidbits that exhort us to “never forget the fun of cycling,” I have to choke back down my breakfast. This is the same Michael Barry who doped throughout his career, and we’re now supposed to take anything seriously that he has to say about what’s important in cycling?

Of course the most egregious offenders are George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer, who run successful businesses and ragingly popular Gran Fondos that are successful due to the fame they achieved as cheats, liars, dopers, and sporting frauds. And when Christian Vandevelde or Dave Zabriskie hang up their cleats, their cheating legacies are mere asterisks, nothing more.

But Lance, of course, is different because he exterminated the hopes of countless 12k dreamers. He personally directed the deaths of millions as a leader in the Khmer Rouge and as a henchman to Idi Amin. Plus, he was really mean to Betsy, so we should pursue him forever, no matter what. If Lance hadn’t lied about drugs, I’d have won the Tour, I know that in my heart.

The real culprits

We all know who the real culprits in the doping saga are. They are the athletes who cheat. They are spectators who uncritically adulate. And they are the media who refuse to act like journalists and instead act like PR shills.

“Breaking the Chain,” written shortly after the Festina scandal, is a short, punchy, brutal look at the rich history of drugs in cycling. When Laurent Fignon piously intoned in his autobiography that in his day doping methods were minuscule, he is contradicted by Voet’s detailed description of the methods, means, and effects that had been around for decades — including the years in which Fignon raced (busted for doping twice, in ’87 and ’89).

Although it only plays a vaguely minor scale to the tune of “Poor, poor, pitiful me,” Voet’s book reveals an old truth. The mules and drug dealers and soigneurs will get hung out to dry long before the stars. At worst, Voet was a bottom feeder and a drug addict himself who worked assiduously to master the black art of obtaining and administering drugs to racers. At best he was a tiny cog in a nasty, evil machine, culpable perhaps, but nothing on the level of the real villains.

And such a real villain is Bill Strickland

If you can get through “Tour de Lance” without alternating bouts of rage, incredulity, revulsion, and despair, you are made of pretty stern stuff. Here’s a guy who writes for Bicycling magazine as its editor at large, writing nine years after the publication of “Breaking the Chain,” and who can’t do anything other than hang around the Trek team bus and insinuate himself into the good graces of the mechanics and Bruyneel and Lance himself in order to uncritically accept every spoon-fed lie that is doled out.

The book isn’t even about Lance, it’s about Strickland and his fanboy fantasy as he revels in being on the inside even at a time when no critical writer could have accepted the plethora of lying denials regarding Armstrong’s doping. To make it even more sick, there is a post-script that mentions Landis’s confessions and accusations regarding drugs on Armstrong’s US Postal team, but even with that Strickland can’t bring himself to do anything more journalistic than jerk himself off one last time as he slobbers about how much more human Lance has become in his failed comeback bid.

And Strickland’s motivations for refusing to acknowledge the truth are just as base as his motivations for writing the fanbook in the first place: He’s simultaneously working on another lickspittle book that hoists up Johan Bruyneel as the greatest race director of all time — “We Might as Well Win,” and it simply wouldn’t do to take the wind out of that sail. After all, we’re talking money here. Bill’s money.

As we all found out, the people who threw Lance under the Postal bus the quickest were the very media whores and corporate rapists who had deflected all criticism and refused to investigate even his most incredible lies. Strickland is now back to his old business, writing puff pieces about the joys of bicycling even as Lance pays for his sins — and pays, and pays, and pays, and even as Lance’s former cronies continue to profit from their ill-gotten gains, gains made possible by people like Strickland.

The juxtaposition of “Breaking the Chain” and “Tour de Lance,” especially when read in sequence, tells you everything you really need to know about how it all happened, why it all happened, and whether it’s happening still. And no matter what the fanboys say, it is.

Armstrong tots expelled from preschool

September 8, 2012 § 16 Comments

After the Chicago Marathon today rejected the 2012 entry application of seven-time Tour de France champion strippee Lance Armstrong, the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas, announced that preschoolers Olivia Marie Armstrong (2), and Maxwell Edward Armstrong (3) would be expelled from the church school, effective immediately.

Reverend Bollixy Snead, acting principal of the preschool, announced the institution’s unprecedented step at a press conference held on the steps of the state capitol building. “The Chicago Marathon, sanctioned by U.S.A. Track and Field, is obligated to abide by the anti-doping codes enforced by WADA, USADA, and NASA,” said Reverend Snead. “We felt that as a precautionary measure our church should follow suit. He appears to be a very dangerous man.”

Bewildered classmates speak to national media

Tubby Williams, a classmate and best friend of Maxwell, or “Max,” burst into tears when he heard that he would no longer be able to sit next to his best friend. “But he’s my best fwiend!” wailed Mr. Williams.

Georgina Pettigrew, one of Olivia’s colleagues in the Totties & Potties after-school toilet training class, was similarly distraught. “We was gived a peanut M&M if we poopied in the potty!” she complained. “I wike the gween ones!”

Doping issue polarizes preschooler parents

Disgraced dean of the UT School of Law Larry Sager, whose son Knuckles attends Good Shepherd, was incredulous. “Okay, so they boot him out of some marathon in a freezing Midwestern city that no one lives in unless they have to. I get that. But kicking the tykes out of preschool? It’s guilt by association. They haven’t even started doping yet.”

Mildred Bulges, another parent, sharply disagreed. “Lance Armstrong is a murderer. I read on a Twitter blog Facebook social media thingy that he’s killed more people than Idi Amin. And you know what’s worse? He ruined that poor woman Betsy Andeu’s whole life. Just ruined it.”

A brief scuffle broke out when another parent pointed out that Andreu’s life was ruined long before her battle with Armstrong, as evidenced by the fact that she was already married to a professional cyclist. Said Dave Snibblington, whose son Biffy enjoyed chocolate milk breaks with Maxwell, “That broad married a pro cyclist. How much more of a fucked up life could she have? Come on.”

Cycling journalists weigh in on controversy

Bill Strickland, former Armstrong fanboy and current nuanced reporter of the inimitable complexity of life and cheating, was reached at his ashram and pilates retreat. “Expelling the children?” he asked. “Very gray. Fifty shades of gray, at least.” A muffled fapping sound was heard while he spoke.

Rupert Guinness, former Armstrong fanboy-turned-critic-once-everyone-else-turned-critic, spoke to PVCycling from his local pub. “Who? What? Fuck, I don’t know. Who cares? What does everyone else say I should think?”

Samuel Abt, disinterred from the local cemetery, was momentarily confused when informed of Armstrong’s current status as Tour de France champion strippee. “Well, of course he fooled me, like he fooled everyone. Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Longtime critics of Armstrong David Walsh and Paul Kimmage were reached as they worked their way through the seventy-fifth case of champagne since the USADA decision to strip Armstrong of everything, including his underwear. “‘E’s a murdrer!” roared Kimmage. “A fookin’ murdrer! E’s worse ‘n Stalin ‘n Hitler ‘n Pol Pot ‘n Victoria Principal all rolled into one bloody sausage! E’s killed our byootiful sport! Killed it! An’ his children an’ their children and their children ’til the bloody end of time should bear the mark, aye, the mark of the scarlet beastie cheater doper meanie!”

Walsh, although clearly supportive of the preschool’s decision, was more circumspect. “Clearly, his children are a danger to society simply by having his DNA, not to mention associating with him around the dinner table and such. As I’ve been telling people from day one, the man’s a cheat, but did they listen? Oh, no! ‘Walsh is a crank!’ they said. ‘Walsh is batty!’ they said. ‘Walsh doesn’t wear clean underwear!’ they said. Well, what are they saying now? Eh? Eh? Eh?”

Armstrong has until September 8 to appeal the expulsion. His legal team has indicated they are reviewing their options. According to spokesman Mark Fabiani, “Lance is a fighter. He fought cancer. He fought doping. He fought the Tour. He fought the French. He fought USADA. He knows he won those tours. His competitors know who won those tours. His teammates know who injected those blood bags. Lance’s children have never failed a test. Except that one ABC quiz they sprung on Max last week. And we got that anulled because he had a note from his mom.”

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