Doped.

November 23, 2013 § 147 Comments

Lokalmotor Richard Meeker tested positive for steroids at the 2012 national masters championships and was sanctioned this week with a 2-year ban.  Rich claims that he’s never intentionally doped and that the positive result came from a tainted supplement. He does this through a press release. A press release? From a 50+ masters bicycle racer?

I don’t believe him.

Can we please stop saying “shocked”

Rich’s press release says he was “shocked” to find out that he’d tested positive. I’m not sure it shocked anyone who regularly races masters cycling in SoCal, unless, like me, they were shocked that USAC finally nailed a masters racer who’s a pretty big deal. To the contrary, the positive simply confirms rumors that have swirled around Rich for a long time: that he wins races in part due to banned drugs.

The sad thing is now watching people who like Rich personally — I’m one of them — as they try to distance themselves. Folks, you don’t have to distance yourselves. He cheated, he doped, he got caught, he hired a lawyer, he fought it for fourteen months, and now he’s issued a non-apology proclaiming his innocence using one of the oldest, silliest, least credible, most embarrassing excuses possible. It’s the excuse that comes with the pre-printed “How to Dope” drugs from China, I’m sure.

“If to find doping caught violation, please to excusify on official protocol testing about mix product bad tea contamination and to a herbal remedy vanishing twin,” or something like that.

The “tainted beef” excuse, Rich, has been used by better, more famous, and more credible racers than you. Still, it’s okay to insult our intelligence. We’re bike racers after all.

What I want to know isn’t how his friends will react. I know what they will say because they’re already saying it. “Let’s wait until all the facts are out.” [Hint: they are out. He doped, got caught, and has been sanctioned.] “Those drugs don’t even make you go faster!” [Hint: they are still illegal, so you're still a doper if you use them.] “Rich would never do that.” [Hint: he did.]

What I want to hear is something from his team, “Breakaway from Cancer,” which is sponsored by Amgen, which was founded by Thom Wiesel, who has a long and sordid history of turning the company into the major player of doping in cycling in the “Armstrong Era,” as if doping in cycling was limited to some tiny sliver of time when bad ol’ Lance ruined everything.

This may come as a nasty “shock,” but until Breakaway from Cancer and its team management make a strong statement about this, they’re going to be tarred with the amateur wanker doper brush, too — and so will their entire team. That’s a shame because it’s now reflecting on guys who truly are beyond reproach, guys who, if they tested positive, I would quite literally shake my head in disbelief.

That’s the press release I want to read, the one that says, “Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer masters cycling team condemns doping in sport. Richard Meeker’s positive test is proof that the system is being applied fairly to catch drug cheats on all levels. He will not be riding for our team in 2014, when his ban ends.” And then, in furtherance of the clean sport that Rich talks about in his press release, I’d like to see the test results he claims he carried out, along with the name of the supplement.

Indeed, now’s the time for his team to demand the release of that data in order to protect all cyclists out there who are buying unicorn powder in the hope that it will fill in the gaping cracks left by age, inability, genetic slowness, lousy strategy, weak legs, too much beer, insufficient training, and general sloth.

Just the facts

Rich has long been one of the top masters racers in the country, and although I’ve raced with him, it’s not exactly true to say I ever raced “against” him except for a couple of times, because he was so much better that I could never follow his wheel.

Throughout 2012 he was virtually unbeatable. He won time trials, sprints, crits, road races … in one race he went off from the gun, raced in a two-up breakaway in a hard, hilly road race, got caught, then destroyed everyone in the sprint. After the race no one would have been surprised if he’d done 10,000 push-ups, dragged a 747 down a runway by his teeth, and bench pressed a small ox.

The only time I  was in contention for a finish against him was at the end of 2012 in a ten-man break at a CBR race. Sitting behind him and looking at his legs was enough to make me want to quit. He looked like a professional road racer with 0% body fat combined with a track racer combined with a weight lifter combined with the Six Million Dollar Man combined with Bo Jackson.

My stolen youth, stolen by dopers

Unlike Lance, who is responsible for everything bad that ever happened to me, Rich is in a different category. You see, Lance stole my dreams. He forced me to become a lawyer. He made me fail my algebra tests and ruined my career as a pro cyclist (I would have won the Tour and the Nobel Prize in physics if he hadn’t doped).

But Rich Meeker?

He didn’t ruin shit. To the contrary, the only times I’ve ever talked with him he’s been an exceedingly kind guy. Unlike certain steroid-crazed, punch-throwing drugheads on the SoCal masters circuit, Rich is as nice as they come. It just so happens that he doped.

So? Our ranks are quietly filling with ex-pros who’ve been sanctioned for drugs, not to mention ex-pros who raced higher than kites and never got busted.

If you race masters in SoCal and you don’t understand that drugs are rampant here, you are an imbecile. Too many riders turn in unbelievable performances not to understand that the sport is rife with drugs. However, unlike pro racing, which actually matters in some weird alternative universe, masters racing is like vanity book publishing.

No one gives a flipfuck. Even if you’re the greatest masters racer in the history of Planet Earth, YOU’RE STILL A FUCKING MASTERS BIKE RACER. In other words, you are over the hill at best, one foot in the grave at worst.

It was a pretty good year

Rich is a national masters champion whose USA Cycling results for 2012 make you want to burn your bicycle and your racing license. National crit champion, national road silver medalist, SoCal Cup 1st, Ladera Ranch 1st, Paramount Crit 1st, Manhattan Beach GP 1st, Rosena Ranch 1st, Jail Circuit Race 1st, District road champion, Barry Wolfe GP 1st, Arco Crit 1st, Dana Point GP 1st, Avenue of the Flags 1st, Redlands 1st, Ontario Series 1st … you get the picture. If you were racing 45+ in 2012, you were racing for second.

This is different from catching some 65-year-old wanker in a Florida time trial who placed fifth out of five entrants. SoCal masters racing is a national benchmark, and the guys who sit atop the leaderboards here are the best of the best when it comes to elderly, delusional wankers whose lives revolve around bicycle racing.

Rich insists that he took a tainted supplement, but he has refused to name the supplement. He’s long been one of the top masters racers in SoCal, and it’s possible he’s telling the truth, just like it’s possible that Tyler had a vanishing twin, that Alexi drank tainted herbal tea, or that every other tawdry and poorly conceived and cheap-ass lie coughed up by every drug cheat ever was true.

Whether he is or isn’t, though, it doesn’t affect me much, because I’ve been beaten by guys on drugs and I’ve been beaten by guys who are clean as a whistle. My enjoyment of the sport has a little to do with how I place and a lot to do with the friends I make and the experiences I have.

At the professional level, where careers and sponsor dollars and prestigious victories are at stake, it makes a big difference whether people dope. At the masters level, it’s more sad than it is outrageous, although if I were a sponsor of an amateur bike team, pumping money into bikes, clothes, entry fees, and clean supplements, I’d be flat fucking livid. There are a lot of businesses out there who sponsor small time masters racing because they like bicycling, not because they’re expecting a big payday.

Life, and cycling, have a lot more to offer if you take them head on and accept your race results for what they are: nothing more than how you did on a certain day in a certain race against certain people.

My guess is that when Rich’s ban is over, he’ll be the same affable guy he’s always been, and he’ll still be kicking my ass, supplements or not. I just hope he drops the facade and takes his beating like a man. Silly as we are, even bike racers don’t believe what’s written in a press release.

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