November 19, 2018 § 16 Comments
When you are busted for doping you need to shut up. This is because the more you talk, the worse you sound. The best dopers are Eastern European because they say nothing when they get busted. And when they get through shutting up, you know what they do?
They shut up some more.
Sorry not sorry
I had hoped that posting about Steve Strickler and his sorry, cheating, doping behavior would help him do what he needs to do: Shut up. This is because when you are a lying, doping cheater, nothing you say is going to help your cause except exactly the thing you cannot say, which is this:
I am sorry for lying to and cheating my friends, family, fellow competitors, race promoters, and race sponsors. I am a liar and a cheat and I have tarnished all the people who believed that I was an honest athlete and who raced on my team. I am going to go away now and ride my bike and try to make sense of how I could be such a narcissistic, lying cheat.
Instead, Strickler chose to post this non-apology on Facebook, and yes, I will help break it down. It is pretty fucked up.
What it all means, line by line
- “It has been brought to my attention, that it is important for those connected to bicycle racing to understand the current situation about my recent ban.” Wanky interp: People are calling me out as a liar and a cheat, especially that asshole blogger Seth. I wouldn’t have said anything about this unless publicly pressured. I feel no guilt about this at all but I am going to re-direct you in case you have been paying attention to facts.
- “In November of 2017, I received a full knee replacement. On the direction of my doctor, and with standard testosterone therapy prescription I started to replace my low testosterone in March of 2018 to aid in my recover and for overall well-being.” Wanky interp: My cheating was medically necessary. Because my doctor prescribed me banned drugs for overall well-being, cheating is okay. Don’t you feel sorry for me now?
- “I had absolutely no intentions of racing in 2018.” Wanky interp: I didn’t plan to cheat, it just happened. Like rain.
- “Impulsively at a last moment I decided to go to the Dana Point Grand Pre.” Wanky interp: Doping is okay if it is done at the last moment and misspelled.
- “I knew I would not be competitive, I just wanted to be there to support the event and the cycling community.” Wanky interp: I was doping for YOU.
- “The results of that choice are now public and will forever be such. I can’t alter this bad choice.” Wanky interp: I got caught. FML.
- “This was the one and only race I attended this year.” Wanky interp: Cheating once is okay, and I never ever cheated before this. Really!
- “I was randomly selected in the field and yes, I tested positive for a banned substance.” Wanky interp: It was pretty unfair that I got caught.
- “I accept full responsibility for this choice and the ban that comes with my choice.” Wanky interp: I’m not going to apologize because I did nothing wrong besides getting caught.
- “However, I do not want this choice and set up circumstances to define me or my 30 years of cycling.” Wanky interp: I never cheated before, I promise.
- “I will seek to make something good from this, for me personally and for the sport that I love so much.” Wanky interp: No apologies, no refunds, just a vague promise to be a good boy while I sit in the corner.
- “I am asking nothing in return from anyone. I just feel this needs to be in context, to this situation, and was asked by someone I respect to provide that context.” Wanky interp: I didn’t cheat and my situation is really unique.
- “I am not excusing myself, just explaining.” Wanky interp: I did nothing wrong.
There are really only a couple of issues here that need to be addressed, as the whole thing is so absurdly self-serving as to barely warrant reading with a straight face.
First is Steve’s suggestion that this was a one-off, medically necessary step that he blundered into. He insinuates that the testosterone was medically necessary by juxtaposing it with a knee operation as if testosterone replacement therapy has something to do with knee surgery. Of course it doesn’t, and Steve admits that it’s simply a “well-being” thing.
This is a key part of his plea, the idea that at age 58 he suddenly needed the testosterone. He’s hoping you are stupid enough to think that putting “knee replacement surgery” and “standard testosterone therapy” in the same paragraph makes the two related.
If Steve were telling the truth, all he would have to do is find a neutral third party and authorize that party to get copies of his medical records for the past ten years, redacting them except as they show that he received the doping therapy only in March, 2018. Of course the problem with this approach is that Steve’s story may well be one big fat lie, and his medical records may well show that he has been doping for years. If he’s telling the truth, why not release the records? It would at least prove that he came to doping recently, and not, say, during the years when he dominated and, you know, won that national title. And all those races in 2017. And 2016. And 2015. And etcetera.
Second is Steve’s insinuation that he has never cheated before. As a fellow leaky prostate masters racer, why would anyone believe him? What is more believable, that he has been doping for years, or that this is the only time he doped? If someone gets busted for DUI, by the way, they have typically driven drunk 80 times before they get caught. With cycling, I’d argue that dopers use drugs even more because testing is so rare. People who wind up in the snare are much more likely to be in the Kayle LeoGrande mold than the accidental old fellow who mistakenly took the green pill instead of the white one.
It’s my opinion that Steve perfectly fits the profile of a career doper. 1) Great results. 2) Old dude. 3) Has the money to pay for the doctor and the drugs. 4) Best buddies with doping hacks like Rich Meeker. 5) Refuses to apologize. 6) Never admits to cheating even though he was caught cheating. 7) Claims it was a one-off deal. 8) Ignores the fact that he tried to cheat every other competitor in the race, and got caught doing it. 9) Claims to love the sport even as he destroys it by cheating. 10) Covers his tracks with a do-gooder foundation of questionable value.
Strickler’s education campaign on Facegag is less an exculpation of him than a Rorschach Test: How narcissistic are YOU, how much of a sucker are YOU, how deeply do YOU want to ignore facts in order to fit a phony narrative from some dude who you personally like and respect? Most importantly, how willing are YOU to admit you were completely wrong about a guy you liked? The #fakerace leaky prostate scene is irredeemable and either you see it or you don’t.
Third and most appalling is the suggestion that Steve is somehow taking responsibility by acknowledging a fact. Lance Armstrong never denied testing positive for testosterone, he simply said it was medically authorized. No athlete denies the positive test unless there was an actual problem with the testing, so saying that “I admit I tested positive” is NOT AN ADMISSION OF ANYTHING. The point is not for Steve to admit that he was busted and banned, it’s for him to apologize for being a drug cheat and all that goes with it. Lance at least finally came to grips with the fact that he cheated others, as did David Millar, Floyd Landis, and a few other notables. The rest, like Strickler, Meeker, LeoGrande, and Brandt-Sorenson, simply dissembled and slunk away.
By throwing in the bit about supporting the cycling community (through doped racing, no less), by emphasizing the random nature of the control (as if doping controls could work otherwise), and by saying that he’s not asking anything from anyone, Strickler has come up with what he thinks is the perfect formula to bring down the cognitive dissonance from its roaring boil.
Unfortunately, he does the exact opposite for anyone with even a shred of critical reasoning, namely: Cheating isn’t supporting the community, random controls work because they root out cheaters, and what kind of sociopath would be asking for something from the very people he had cheated? Isn’t it Steve who should be offering something up, like, say, an apology, a release of his medical records, and an admission of intentional cheating? What about refunding his prize money?
We all know that people who don’t apologize don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. If he was a 3-year-old, he’d have to cough up the words “I’m sorry for cheating” whether he wanted to or not. But that ain’t gonna happen.
So instead of blathering on with all the humbuggery, my personal advice to Steve is to STFU. Silence, baby, is golden.
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November 12, 2018 § 30 Comments
The worst thing about masters doping scandals is that there is nothing even vaguely scandalous about them. Outrage? At what? Some narcissistic, saggy old fart stealing money from other narcissistic, saggy old farts?
In the case of Steven Strickler, the latest in a hoary line of SoCal masters “athletes” to get busted for doping, there is not much I can add. I’ve raced with Strychnine for about ten years and have never beaten him when it mattered. He couldn’t climb but like Meeker the Beaker and Tatty-Poo LeoGrande, he could sure race an old farts’ crit.
The last few years I always wondered how a guy who looked well into his third trimester could consistently get on the podium. “Experience. Savvy. A lifetime of bike racing,” I always thought as I eyed his prodigious gut. It never occurred to me that aw-shucks, Gomer Pyle Strickler was a drug cheat, which is my way of saying “I am a complete fucking moron.”
This past year he stood on the podium a bunch, often on the top step. I was always impressed when he showed up with his monster gut, fit as a beach ball, and still somehow made the split. “Talent and a lifetime of bike racing,” It didn’t occur to me to add, “and a whole bunch of banned drugs.”
Although I always assume the very worst about anyone who races a bike, not limited to doping, Strychnine never seemed like a doper. First, my theory has always been that the vast majority of dopers are in the middle and end of the field. Second, the people who invariably get on my radar are the donkeys who grow the legs of a racehorse, like this wanker who I wrote about a while ago and is still just killing it. You know, the guy who can barely hang on one year and is dragging the field around like a tin can a few months later.
Strychnine was also disarmingly aw-shucks. Unlike The Beaker, who made you want to take a shower after talking with him, or like Tatty-Poo, who had the silent churn of a guy thinking about how to immediately exercise his 2nd Amendment rights, Strychnine was a grinning goofy dude who was savvy and quick.
Now I’m waiting for the team’s statement. Something along the lines of “Steve is a complete fuckhead for tainting all of us, ripping off promoters and competitors, and doing it in our team colors.” Uh, yeah. Ain’t gonna happen. Just like when The Beaker got the boot and everyone over at Amgen kind of mumbled and then went on about their business. “Rich who? Oh, the guy we’ve been racing with for ten years? Him? Uh, I dunno, man. I had noooo idea.”
What team is Steve on, you may be wondering? None other than the G3 Foundation, a non-profit that allegedly supports clean groundwater projects in poor countries. I say “alleged” because here’s the organization’s info on Guidestar. Oh, and super cozily, Strickler is also CEO of the company that shares the non-profit’s name. Lots of transparency here, folks.
As you cruise through G3 Foundation and Strickler’s FB page, they are simply carrying on as usual. No comment about Steve’s cheating, no comment about Steve tainting the entire team, zip. Why? Because no one on the team feels tainted? Racing with, sponsored by, and buddies with a drug cheat is no big deal? Huh.
But don’t get too bothered by this “business as usual” approach because it’s simply business as usual. Doping so thoroughly part of the SoCal masters racing scene that if it is ever eradicated, the fields will be thin, indeed. Oh, what I am I saying? THEY ALREADY ARE. As the threat of having to pee in a cup gets more real, gran fondos and The Stravver look lots better. Strickie is a cheat, a dude who would gladly dope for the thrill of a win, but what does it say about all the people who simply mumble and carry on?
Hint: Nothing good.
A brief history of SoCal Masters Doping
The illustrious list of masters cheats includes Rich Meeker, Nick Brandt-Sorenson, Kayle LeoGrande, and now Steve Strickler. With the exception of Brandt-Sorenson, whose “about” section on his clothing web site says that he “stopped racing 14 years later after competing against some of the world’s top professional cyclists” (AND WHY WAS THAT, NICKY?), these guys have won a whole bunch of races.
On the bright side, Strychnine’s demise may hasten one worthy goal, which is the total collapse of masters racing. Although I’m not hopeful enough to think it will spill over to the aged track cheaters competing for a “world champion” jersey as they out-dope two other feeble riders for their “world champion” title, perhaps this bust will add one more nail to the coffin of USAC-sanctioned masters cheating, uh, I mean, racing.
Chris Lotts, one of most offensive people to ever promote a bike race and therefore perfect for the job, had it right when he identified masters racing as the sport’s predominant cancer. Mast-holes suck time, attention, and money from the only area that can possibly sustain competitive cycling–juniors and Cat 5/4 racer recruitment and development.
Was I the only person who noted the sick contrast of having the #fakeworld #masterstrackchampionships at the same time that America’s underfunded, largely ignored elite track program was in town? The same program gunning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with #3 in the world omnium racer Daniel Holloway? Is there any incongruity there? Guess not … better hit the boards hard to get my rainbow jersey as I beat that other 70-year-old.
Witness the absurd lengths to which mast-hole road racing has metastasized, even as events vanish and new rider numbers implode. Mast-hole teams demand and get bikes, clothing, and equipment discounts when college clubs are groveling for $500 sponsorships to defray gas costs. National road champions like Justin Williams have to compete for resources with guys who “race” in the 55+ category.
But you can feel good about your membership on G3 because they are helping poor people get clean drinking water. They say. And what’s a few injectables when we are saving lives over in Africa? Africa is a country right? Well, they’re saving people somewhere.
If anything, everyone with a USAC license who is over the age of 40, if not 35, should shred his/her license and donate the money to a junior or a Cat 5/4 rider. Why? Because you can’t possibly have any reasonable doubt left that old fart races are rife with cheaters.
Probably would have lost anyway
The fact is that the winning dopers, without drugs, wouldn’t have won as much. But they still would have won. Bike racing is too much a combination of smarts and strength for a few injections to put you over the top. Look at Icarus Wankarus, the documentary that exposed the Russian Sochi doping program, if you want to understand the old adage that you can’t make a donkey into a racehorse.
Filmmaker and super donkey Brian Fogel did everything right in his quest to dope to victory and he still sucked. Why? Because he fucking sucked, and people who fucking suck can’t buy the podium with a syringe.
Strychnine, The Beaker, Tatty Poo, and Thorfinn-Assquat were good bike racers. If they had stayed off the juice they wouldn’t have won as much, and some of the glory would have been spread around a bit more, if glory is what you call winning $50 while standing atop a wooden box and being buffeted by a sandstorm in the desert as absolutely NO ONE looks on or gives two broken fucks.
Every year ya gotta re-up
No matter what anyone says, after a certain number of years #fakeracing bikes, you find yourself asking the hard questions as you contemplate forking over money for yet another overpriced USAC racing license. Questions like this:
- Why am I such a moron?
- What is wrong with me?
- What normal person could possibly enjoy this?
- Why can’t I quit?
- Would someone shoot me now?
As the circle of douchebag cheaters gets bigger and bigger, what possible reason is there to continue? The scenery at the brokedown bizpark crit?
For this worn out old shoe, there is no reason. At least I can thank Steve Strickler for finally showing me the door.
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May 29, 2018 § 3 Comments
When Chris Froome dashed away for a little 80 km solo breakaway and “pulled a Landis” to ride himself into the pink jersey at the Giro, it seemed a bit much, even for the severely disabled #fakesport of professional cycling.
I mean, a guy who is currently in the death throes of a doping investigation that will certainly find him guilty of cheating, suddenly vaulting himself atop the Tour of Italy, from whence he will be de-throned once his doping positive is upheld … doesn’t anyone see how this will play out?
Of course they do, but like an alcoholic who knows exactly which gutter he’s going to wind up in when he takes the first drink, pro cycling can’t help itself. So Darth Froome will not only win and then be stripped of his Giro crown, but he will also win the Turdy France and have that jersey torn off his back as well. This will inspire generations of parents to say to their children, “Don’t you fucking dare start bike racing.”
So that at least is a benefit.
After being stripped of his jerseys and publicly humiliated, some second-place schmo who didn’t dope as well for as long will be awarded Froome’s victories and say, “I’d rather not have won it this way,” when what he means is “I’m sure glad that Darth got busted and not me,” followed by “Where’s my check?”
Cynicism is the new optimism
Darth isn’t to be blamed for vacuuming up the spoils and sashaying onto the next grand tour. This salbutamol thing is vexing, to be sure, but it goes with the territory, and better to win a couple of tours and have them taken away than to stay home and not ever win them at all. And who knows? Tyler’s vanishing twin theory may actually be proven true this time, exonerating Darth fully.
Darth’s ride on Stage 19 in this Giro was summed up by Sean Kelly in one word: “Unbelievable.” It’s the most that he could have said without being sued for defamation.
But Froome, laughing all the way to Milan, made no bones about the fact that pro cycling fans are the stupidest humans alive. Refusing to share his power data, which would have shown how his Stage 19 performance really occurred, Darth instead said that “It was interesting to see yesterday I made up most of my time on the descents by the looks of it.”
Ah, yes, of course. He beat the world’s best time trialists and climbers on a mountainous stage at the end of the Giro by going downhill faster than anyone else. Who needs to see actual power data to confirm that? Not Froome, the maniacal marginal-gains data wonk, that’s for sure. “No, I’m not looking at the computer, I’m riding as hard as I can.”
Yes, old school, Eddy Merckx style, exactly what Team Vader is best known for.
Fortunately, Froome and Brailsford’s Trumpian “offense always” approach is already lined up and spit-polished for the Tour. According to Froome, “I’m certainly planning to go there and give it everything.”
And by everything, I’m sure he means, uh, everything.
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May 2, 2018 § 6 Comments
In a new tell-all biography detailing his twelve-year career as a domestique for the UCI Rather Pro Continental IV Substrata team Herndy-Doo, Belgian rider Wim van der Poop admitted that he had raced clean his entire career. “Of course I’m ashamed of it,” said van der Poop at the press conference announcing his book, Bread, Water, and More Bread. “But that’s how it was at the time. If you wanted to come in last, or near last, that’s what you had to do.”
The UCI has launched an investigation into the allegations, most of which center around team manager Donqui van Hoydonck. “Van Hoydonck knew that the riders were on a non-doping program,” van der Poop alleges in his book. “He simply turned a blind eye. His attitude was, ‘If the racers are clean, that’s none of my business.'”
When Cycling in the South Bay contacted van Hoydonck about these explosive new non-doping allegations, van Hoydonck vigorously denied them. “Van der Poop was never a major factor in any race, ever. Plus, why would we endanger our team’s reputation by putting him on a non-doping regimen? If our sponsors ever found out it would have been the end of the team, twenty-two people would have been out of jobs. You think I would have risked that just to put van der Poop on bread and water?”
Van der Poop’s book details the procedures through which riders were non-doped. “It was a complicated, very organized affair, perhaps the most extensive and corrupt non-doping system in the history of sport,” van der Poop writes. “In the morning we were brought into a cafeteria and fed large amounts of bread, eggs, bacon, and water. Some riders even received mineral water such as Perrier or San Pelligrino. I couldn’t ever bring myself to swallow the bubbles, but many did. I personally saw them do it.”
Team Herndy-Doo folded in 2017 after failing to find a sponsor when its top rider, Wouter Spouter, was expelled from the most important race on the Rather Pro Continental IV Substrata race calendar, the Tour of the Bill’s Plumbing Supplies Parking Lot. Spouter tested negative for thirteen different performance enhancing substance and was judged “physically, and perhaps mentally, unfit to race.” Team Herndy-Doo, a charter member of the Incredible Movement for Credible Cycling, was forced to withdraw its entire team under the cloud of suspicion that non-doped riders were participating in UCI-sanctioned events.
“There’s an omerta in cycling about non-doping,” says van der Poop. “But the madness has to stop. Until someone is willing to admit that riders non-dope at all levels of the peloton, we’ll continue to have people like me who chase their dreams only to retire, bitter and disillusioned, and facing a lifetime of not having a single drug addiction or horrible health-related disability as a result of never using banned drugs. It’s just not right.”
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April 23, 2018 § 27 Comments
“I’m looking forward to devoting myself to the many great things in my life – my five kids, my wife, my podcast, several exciting writing and film projects, my work as a cancer survivor, and my passion for sports and competition,” he added. “There is a lot to look forward to.”
That’s the sound bite from Lance Armstrong expressing his satisfaction at shaking off the last chokehold remaining from his years as Public Doping Enemy No. 1, as he settled the government’s lawsuit against him that had threatened to crush him with a $100M civil fine. But like all sound bites that Lance crafts, this too was simply a mask. In my opinion, the heart of the matter is likely this: He is, for Lance, flat fucking broke.
When you peer into the press photos, to say nothing of the facts, what you see is an old, beaten man carrying the haggard skin from his decades in the pro peloton, and the sunken eyes of a frightened defendant torn between pouring millions into the maw of his rapacious lawyers on the one hand, and living in terror that losing his case would mean complete financial annihilation.
Although various analysts have called Armstrong’s settlement a “win,” to his credit that’s a truckload of bullshit he doesn’t try to foist off on the rest of us. Better than anyone else, Armstrong knows that just because you didn’t get kicked off the team, it doesn’t mean you won the Tour.
Why did he settle?
The most common statistic I hear bandied about, and the one that jives with my own experience, is that less than one percent of all civil cases go to trial. There are three reasons for this: Money, money, and money.
Small cases don’t go to trial because they are too expensive. No one spends $25,000 to make $5 grand.
Big cases don’t go to trial because they are too expensive. No one wants to put their financial future into the hands of a “jury of their peers.” There’s always the chance that these are the peers who elected Trump, and everyone knows it.
That leaves, for the most part, medium-sized cases. They, however, only go to trial under a narrow set of circumstances. First, both sides must have a strong and viable theory of the case. Second, both sides must be able to financially afford a worst possible scenario outcome. Third, at least one of the two sides must be ideologically and irrevocably committed to their own sense of justice, so much so that nothing short of total vindication at trial will suffice.
Armstrong’s case was a big one. By the end of the summary judgment phase it was clear that $100 million in damages was never going to happen, but some lesser multiple of the $32 million that USPS had paid Armstrong was in play, and there has never been any indication that he could weather a financial Armageddon of that degree. More about the likely precarious state of his finances later, but he recently claimed that his doping travails have already cost him in excess of $100M. Various sources have said that before the fall Lance was worth $125M, and another similarly made-up amount puts his net worth at half that. If these numbers are even sorta-kinda in the ballpark, there is no way that Lance could have survived losing this case. Therefore, there was virtually no way the case would have gone to trial.
But even if it were a medium-sized case, it would have faced huge obstacles getting to a jury. Both sides did have strong and viable theories. Lance’s argument was that USPS got more than it lost, and he had expert testimony that would substantiate the claim. He also had the subsidiary argument by implication that a quasi-governmental agency accustomed to billions in annual losses could never prove that Lance’s doping had inflicted any meaningful loss to its bottom line.
The problem that Lance was going to face was the lineup of witnesses who the government planned to call, each one testifying, in effect, to the fact that Armstrong was a liar, a cheater, a bully, and an asshole. It is certain that Armstrong’s attorneys had exposed focus groups to the government’s arguments, and it’s hard to see how the average juror wouldn’t be disgusted by his personal behavior. That’s not supposed to sway the jury’s evaluation of the facts, but it invariably does.
The government had a good argument as well, namely that the negative dollar value of the bad press was greater than the amount they paid for the sponsorship. As long as the government could show they had a net loss of so much as a dollar, then Armstrong would lose. The government also has a nifty track record in False Claims Acts cases — 95%. Good odds, I would say.
But there were some turds floating in the government’s punchbowl, too. The feds have a terrible record getting convictions against doped athletes, and although this wasn’t a criminal case, seeing Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens walk likely played out in the government’s analysis as well. Moreover, Armstrong was going to level the howitzers on the government’s economic analysis, and you can bet neither their experts nor the witnesses for the USPS were looking forward to being cross examined about the state of that august agency’s financial health–before, during, or after Lancegate.
All of this is another way of saying that as far as their theories of the case, both sides had a strong and viable argument, and both sides knew that their own position had some some hair on it. A jury trial couldn’t be ruled out, as these are precisely the scenarios that go to trial.
But after eight years of litigation, one of the parties absolutely could not afford a worst-possible case outcome. That party was Lance. If you think this hasn’t crushed the life out of him, look at his photos. He has aged immeasurably in the last eight years, and the word “careworn” comes instantly to mind. He was highly motivated to settle this case because as he repeatedly said, a loss would “put him on the street.” Finally, neither party was ideologically committed to the righteousness of their cause. Lance has spent so many years admitting his wrongdoing that even though he still believes the case was “unfair and without merit,” there was zero fire in his belly. Lance the champion who always played to win had become the beaten down old man who now understood that sometimes you really don’t get a second chance.
Likewise, the government no longer seemed to much care about anything other than saving face, something that wouldn’t happen with a defense verdict. Even their wording was lackluster, as assistant U.S. attorney general Chad Readler announced the settlement by saying it “demonstrates that those who cheat the government will be held accountable.”
Given the amount of the settlement–$6.75M–and the amount that we’d heard for the last eight years that Lance was potentially on the hook for–$100M–the settlement demonstrates anything but. To the contrary, the settlement demonstrates that both sides were staying up late at night worrying about a bad outcome, and no amount of tequila was blotting out the demons.
It’s impossible to conclude that the settlement was anything but lose-lose for both parties who were facing the potential catastrophe of Armstrongageddon. The U.S. government wasted untold millions because it swallowed the USADA lie that, with regard to Armstrong’s doping “The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
Kind of falls flat after you learn how to say “Grigory Rodchenkov” and realize that compared to the state-sponsored doping of Russia (not to mention East Germany), Lance’s antics were those of a third-rate bully in a fourth-rate sport. And it falls even flatter when you look at Chris Froome. “Lance Armstrong was the worst cheater ever until the next Tour champion,” may ring with something, but it’s not indignation or righteousness.
Anyone who thinks Lance came out a #winner is a bleeding fucking idiot. A quick look at the docket report on PACER shows no less than nine lawyers representing Armstrong’s interests, lawyers who presumably bill at $800/hour and up. Eight years of litigation involving four non-party respondents, a private plaintiff, the U.S. government as intervenor, and ten defendants would have cost Lance in excess of $2M per year simply to deal with the filings and appearances of the other parties, as well as litigating his own defense. A one-month trial in which half of the government’s witnesses were called could have easily cost Lance another million given the payroll of his legal battalion, and my guess is that they don’t take PayPal or IOU’s scrawled on the back of a napkin.
If Lance started with something around $125M, and lost $100M including legal fees, it’s easy to see that the only money he has left are his two homes ($9.25M in Aspen, $7.5M in Austin), and the balance that he has stuck away in retirement accounts to insulate himself from bankruptcy should he really lose all the marbles. In fact, in his settlement agreement, he promises to make the payments within one year and to put a lien on his Austin home as collateral, guaranteeing that he will make the payments. Should the home sell before his settlement payments are made, he will collateralize his home in Aspen, again as a guarantee. I don’t think that Bill Gates would have to put a lien on his home to pay a $6M fine.
All of this strongly suggests that Armstrong is anything but cash rich. Far from being able to reach into his hip pocket to satisfy the settlement, he is plainly dependent on the sale of his Austin home to make good. And none of this takes into account the outstanding legal fees he surely has yet to reckon with. So for the Betsys and Kathys and Gregs of the world, you can all take solace in the fact that Lance is having to hustle for every spare coin under the couch cushions, pretty much like everyone else.
Landis, a pithy guy if ever there was one, said it this way: “Lance benefited the most, but he has paid the most.”
The real financial crunch is the one that’s coming
On the other hand, getting this beast off his back is only the beginning. Lance now faces that most pedestrian of life challenges, commonly known as “getting a job.” His press release points us to all the great things that lie ahead:
- My five kids
- My wife
- My podcast
- Several exciting writing and film projects
- My work as a cancer survivor
- My passion for sports and competition
I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but the five kids and the wife (minor detail: Lance is single) are definitely not going to help with the income generation part of the equation. In fact, accustomed as they are to a $7.5M home in Austin and a $9.5M home in Aspen, my hunch is that no one is going to be particularly happy when Poppa Lance announces “Beans for dinner!” for the third time this week.
Which brings us to the podcast. Inconveniently, this appears to generate zero revenue. More inconveniently, it sucks. I struggled through his first Tourcast last year before concluding that the “brash young kid” from Texas was now just an “annoying old asshole” blabbering from a trailer. You can package it any way you want, but no one is making a fortune off of podcasts, although rumor has it that one especially enterprising old blogger pays for his coffee habit with $2.99 subscriptions to his cycling-related blog. Said old blogger will be happy to offer Lance some advice. For a fee, of course, and unlike those other lawyers, this one does accept PayPal.
Of course the podcast idea lurches from ridiculous to sad when we read that Lance has “several exciting writing and film projects.” This has BOLD-FACED LIE stamped all over it. Why? Because no one in the history of the alphabet has ever found writing to be “exciting.” Drudgery? Sure. Compulsive? Absolutely. A horrible albatross? Every time! But if you think writing is “exciting” you have never come up against rejections, deadlines, editors, editing, audiences, markets, costs, advertising, reviews, critics, social media, and the discipline of churning out shit in the hope that it will somehow become, if not a diamond in the rough, at least salable manure in the garden section of Home Depot. In other words, if it is “exciting,” you are not a writer. You are a delusional moron with a word processor, which, come to think of it, is pretty much the same thing.
Work as a cancer survivor? My memory is dim here, but I seem to remember that Lance unceremoniously resigned from the cancer charity he created when it became clear that he had lied for years about his doping. What will the new foundation be called? Livesomewhatstrong? Livestrongish? And how will it generate enough money to add a loaf of white bread to the beans? Speeches and lectures? “How I ruined my career as a lying cheater, blew through a marriage, Sheryl Crow, Kate Hudson, a ranch, $100M on lawyers, disappointed a generation of cancer survivors, and came back to thrive as a champion of cancer survivors.” I hate to sound cynical, but this is exactly how cynicism sounds.
Last and least we come to Lance’s passion for sports and competition. Again, my memory is foggy, but hasn’t he been banned for life from cycling? And although he is now allowed to compete in non-cycling events, it’s hard to see him gaining traction in the shot-put, pole vault, or synchronized swimming. But you never know.
And in this case, neither does Lance, because his sports company, WEDU, is yet another known unknown. Or is it an unknown unknown? From the Washington Post:
He’s working on a sports-endurance brand he calls WEDU. Though a formal launch isn’t expected until later this year, the company has already staged endurance rides in Texas and Aspen, Colo., and sells hats and shirts on its website. It eventually could encompass training, a charitable arm and more original content, like the two podcasts Armstrong hosts.
I am afraid I read that right. Lance is going to rebuild his fortune staging endurance rides, and by selling hats and shirts. Now, then. I have a friend who stages an endurance event, singular. Note to Lance: My friend still has a day job.
Additional note to Lance: I also have a friend who makes a living selling t-shirts. He works about 50 hours a week DOING NOTHING BUT THAT. And as a side note, he’s been doing it for 30 years.
These #fakeplans beg lots of questions. What will the rest of the “WEDU” slogan be? “Drugs”? And I hate to call a non-sequitur a non-sequitur, but how is a charitable arm going to make money? I thought that charities gave money away? The idea that WEDU will “encompass training” is about as tantalizing and novel as the idea that WEDU will encompass an app that lets you track your rides, compete with others, enroll in premium services, and award KOMs and QOMs for segments.
And I suppose that when you are the Washington Post, on deadline, and getting paid to write non-sequiturs, you totally let it slide when Lance says he will have “more original content.” Never mind that a real journalist would have asked:
- Written about what?
- Written by whom?
- Purchased by whom?
- Purchased for how much?
- Delivered through what medium?
- Paid for through advertising, subscriptions, or a combination thereof?
Rather than wait for WaPo to, you know, do its job, I hustled over to the WEDU web site, and I’m sorry to report that it consists of a Shopify storefront with hats and tees, and a signup for a century ride in Texas and a 50-miler in Aspen, both of which have already occurred. This is either the sign of someone who a) isn’t serious about anything, b) someone who doesn’t need the money, or c) someone who doesn’t have a fucking clue. I’m guessing a) and c). Your opinion may vary.
In any event, I’m available to advise Mr. Armstrong should he need direction regarding how to generate original content. And my first piece of advice will be: DON’T.
Original content, along with a can of beans, is what’s for dinner. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
April 15, 2018 § 6 Comments
So, imagine this: A USAC licensed racer on Team Lizard Collectors comes up to an unlicensed rider and says, “Here, put this in your water bottle. You’ll go faster.”
Freddie says, “What is it?”
Doper McDopefuck says, “It’s like 5-hour Energy. It will speed you up.”
McDopefuck stuffs a handful of small packets into Freddie’s trusting hand and moseys off. Freddie mixes the powder with water and the next day takes off on a ride with a friend. Freddie notices unusual speed and power and extreme stimulation. After an hour Freddie’s heart feels like it’s about to rip out of the ribcage.
Freddie, who has high blood pressure, gets off the bike and lies down. Freddie can’t breathe and thinks a cardiac event is about to kick off. “What’s wrong?” Friend asks Freddie.
Freddie tells Friend about the powder and after recovering enough to make it home, goes online and checks the label on the packet. Surprise! It’s a legal supplement that contains a relative of DMAA that is on the WADA list.
Shit just got real.
Dopers in the mist
The first part of the problem is simple: What to do about Doper McDopefuck and any other buddies who are loading up on DMAA and its banned cousins?
Answer: Report them to USAC’s clean cycling program and get on with your life. They will hopefully be surprised one day with a pee-pee test and get run out of the sport.
And don’t tell me it’s the board’s job to out people. Only USADA/WADA/national anti-doping bodies get to sanction dopers. That’s why Chris Froome is still racing and about to enjoy a big win in the Giro and another in the Tour.
For those dopers who don’t race and who dope to win group rides or Strava, well, they are fucked up, but as Thorfinn-Sasquatch taught us, recreational doping is a very real thing. Pity the cycling club that starts to weed out its non-racing members who are taking drugs, because the vast majority of cyclists take some kind of drug at some point that is on the WADA list.
Inhalers, pot, ecstasy, amphetamines, viagra, testosterone, and a plethora of legal drugs are regularly consumed by members of your cycling club. So what? They may be using it to get an edge on the group ride, or they may be using it for the purposes that it was prescribed. The first purpose is hardly illegal, and the second may well be medically necessary.
Anyone who joins a cycling board and wants to play narc is going to find himself in a full-time Inquisition, resulting in a club roster of 1.
The problem I have is with the Doper McDopefuck who pushes the drug onto the unknowing recreational rider. Those riders can suffer serious health consequences. The licensed racer taking a banned substance and passing it off to another rider deserves to be invited to go away and never come back.
I’ve never heard of a club that has a drug education policy. We need one, and your club does, too. In the same way that we advocate for safety, for nutrition, for good training techniques, and for fair play, we need to advocate for drug health. That means talking with our members about doping, about why it sucks, and about why it doesn’t comport with the goals of our club.
The next time an unsuspecting rider takes a drug pushed off on him by someone who is doping, and that unsuspecting rider dies or gets horribly hurt, it won’t be enough to say, “We didn’t want to harm the reputation of our club.” To the contrary, doping is everywhere in cycling and in life, and we have a duty to educate so that people can make informed decisions.
For those who think that the reputation of their entire club has been harmed because they admit to having a doping problem, well, your reputation is going to be harmed a whole lot worse when someone dies or winds up with a USADA sanction like Meeker or LeoGrande. Tackle the problem head-on, don’t sweep it under the rug. It’s easy to be smug when someone on another team gets caught cheating, less so when it’s your own group of friends and riding pals.
For those who dope to cheat others in sanctioned races, rat them out and send them packing. There’s no shame in having lying, cheating, sonsofbitches in your midst. The shame is not doing anything about them.
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March 16, 2018 § 3 Comments
Justice continues to be meted out with a firm hand in the great sport of cycling. Cyril Fontayne, 43-year-old masters mechanical doper, was criminally convicted of misdemeanor attempted fraud and sentenced to sixty hours of community service. In addition to his criminal conviction and sentence, Fontayne was banned from competition for five years and ordered to pay fines and restitution of 89 euros.
Lance Armstrong: No fine, no criminal charges.
Alberto Contador: No fine, no criminal charges, allowed to come back and win the TdF.
Chris Froome: No fine, no criminal charges, no suspension. If found guilty of doping will still be allowed to keep all titles in between the time of the positive test and the finding of guilt, meaning if he wins the Tour and Giro in 2018, he will keep both titles if his case is not resolved before then.
Etc., etc., etc.
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