December 22, 2015 § 11 Comments
After Amaury Sports Organization refused to register its races as Pro Tour events, choosing instead the lower HC classification that will exempt it from reforms put in place by the UCI, both sides met to resolve the impasse. However, the rapprochement fell apart after neither side could agree who would be photographed with rider-team representative Jonathan Vaughters.
CitSB sat down with Christian Prudhomme of ASO and Brian Cookson of the UCI to discuss the failed negotiations.
CitSB: Is this the end of professional cycling?
BC: I’d have to say that it is.
CitSB: Can you elaborate?
CP: Green suit jacket with green vest and green tie? This is a monstrosity, an insult to all things tasteful and French.
BC: We still haven’t gotten over clown red dorksuit, really.
CitSB: Oh, the gray tweed with the argyle wool sweater and bright red tie on pink shirt with white floppy tubey collars? Yes. Yes.
CP: We could swallow that. It was difficult but we could. We did. And we overlooked the double-breasted powder greenish mini-pinstripe with green mini-check shirt and peach tie with green paisleys and the quarter-fold peach paisley pocket square.
BC: We didn’t overlook it. We vomited. Repeatedly. But that was a mere speck of fly tongue in the porridge as compared to the royal electric blue stooge jacket with broad candycane pinstripes murdered by a white-and-blue polka dot tie. (Retches.)
CitSB: Surely one more hideous outfit bought from a Men’s Wearhouse salesman on acid hasn’t wrecked pro cycling?
CP: Have you forgotten the houndstooth oversuitjacketvest? With blue mini-checks and a full beard? Have you?
BC: Or the diamond-end muttonchops?
CP: Followed by the laser-razer rapier stabbers?
CitSB: I still remember when a rider passed out from seeing his untucked pink check shirt flopping over a pair of long wool green plaid shorts. So there’s no hope of a resolution?
BC: Hell, no.
CitSB: I get it.
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November 2, 2015 § 27 Comments
Craig Hummer’s book, The Loyal Lieutenant, does a great job of revealing the character of George Hincapie. The book is filled with quotes by Lance Armstrong, Jonathan Vaughters, Frankie Andreu, Christian Vande Velde, Michael Barry, and Jim Ochowitz to name a few.
So what kind of guy was silent, loyal, smiling George?
“When we as a group made that decision to play ball, George and I, along with the others on the team, crossed over that threshold together.” Lance Armstrong, who wrote the Foreword to the book.
“I honestly felt I would never have to deal with my drug use.” George Hincapie.
“Milan-San Remo ended up being the final straw where [a number of us] decided we’d do it.” Lance Armstrong.
“I couldn’t compete on a level playing field without some assistance.” George Hincapie.
“I felt it was my only choice.” George Hincapie.
“I didn’t reach these decisions without careful consideration.” George Hincapie.
“I could tell from his tone and his protestations, that he’d already taken the infamous step, and that moment produced an epiphany for me. I had to do the same.” George Hincapie.
“Back then, those seemed like the only choices.” George Hincapie.
“I don’t have a choice. We have to do it to survive. Everybody’s doing it now. I don’t have a choice.” Frankie Andreu.
“I felt a little guilty.” George Hincapie.
“The thought of cheating never crossed my mind.” George Hincapie.
“I couldn’t make eye contact as I told them it wasn’t mine.” George Hincapie.
“I nervously asked for the drug.” George Hincapie.
“I exited the bathroom a changed man. I felt completely at peace.” George Hincapie.
“I also felt proud that I’d committed to the next level.” George Hincapie.
“I always tried to take the bare minimum.” George Hincapie.
“Where other teams had been good at simply cheating, we strived to be better at being professional in all aspects as required to win the Tour.” George Hincapie.
“I didn’t take any EPO that Tour because I started with a high hematocrit, or red blood cell count (my mother suffers from polycythemia vera).” George Hincapie.
“What also made Jonathan different, however, was that he was actively searching for new and better ways to dope.” George Hincapie.
“From a self-preservation standpoint, I felt it was important to know if there were any side effects.” Jonathan Vaughters.
“The biggest result of the 1999 Tour was that we started the gradual process of teaching a new generation of Americans about the sport, what it entailed, and what it took to make Lance the best.” George Hincapie.
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March 21, 2015 § 13 Comments
Thomas Dekker retired from the pro peloton yesterday, bringing to a close one of the most illustrious potential careers in professional cycling. Cycling in the South Bay sat down with him on the park bench next to the one he normally sleeps on to talk about what’s next.
CitSB: So you’ve decided to retire?
TD: Yes. It was a really hard decision and I agonized over it for a long time. It was so tough to make up my mind but eventually I knew it was the right thing. Sometimes when you’re turning something over in your mind for a long time, seems like there’s no good answer, then bang–the answer presents itself.
CitSB: Couldn’t find a team, huh?
TD: Oh yes, that was huge. You can’t imagine how tough it is to ride as a professional today without a team.
CitSB: Pretty expensive?
TD: Super expensive. Then there’s the whole thing about getting your own bottles, driving your own car as the DS, giving yourself massages, and of course being your own domestique and lead-out train. It’s very hard to do.
CitSB: You’re still not that old compared to, you know, real bike racers like Jens Voigt. Why do you think your career ended so soon?
TD: I’m older than Andy, remember. He quit at age 29.
CitSB: True, but he has a bike shop he’s going to open. So that was probably extra motivation for a former Tour de France champion to go ahead and retire. You’re not opening a bike shop, are you?
TD: No, but I think the main difference is that guys like Andy and I were from a different generation.
CitSB: How so?
TD: We grew up using massive amounts of drugs from an early age. Devoid of natural talent, work ethic, or drive, we were picked early by our federations’ sports-industrial complex and earmarked for success. Sheltered, pampered, overpaid, and feted, we grew up thinking that bike racing meant cranking out good numbers in a lab and winter training meant withdrawing oxygenated blood in December for later use in July.
CitSB: And you mean that there was more to bike racing than that?
TD: Not initially. Come on, we crushed it before they started cracking down on Lance.
CitSB: What was that thing with the hour record?
TD: I was hoping that someone would see how fast I was and offer me a contract. Simple. Kind of like Horner signing on with that junior high development squad and only doing the local CBR crits. I like that guerilla marketing stuff. “Grand Tour champion sprints for water bottle prime.” Freaking cool. Some big team is gonna snap that guy up soon.
CitSB: Surely some teams showed interest?
CitSB: What do you chalk that up to?
TD: As Jonathan Vaughters said a couple of years ago, I’m sort of an immature asshole.
CitSB: I think his words were “arrogant prick” and “hugely insecure guy.”
TD: I think that’s pretty close to “immature asshole.”
CitSB: Fair enough.
TD: So yes, that probably had something to do with me not getting another ride.
CitSB: What are your plans for the future?
TD: (Waves hands at park bench) This is the future, mate.
CitSB: Wow. These steel armrests must be pretty uncomfortable to rest your head on at night.
TD: Yes, but you know what? My whole life up to now was dominated by cycling, but I do not want to depend on my form, my equipment, my team, anyone or anything any longer. My cycling career was beautiful, ugly, intense, and edifying. I’m ready for a new step. Without my bike.
CitSB: That’s pretty noble, but as my dad used to say, how are you gonna eat?
TD: Could you lend me five bucks?
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January 21, 2015 § 14 Comments
So does the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“At the end of the day I know what I did and didn’t do.” Sad-faced Stuart O’Grady, explaining why he’s not bothered by accusations that he doped throughout his career rather than the “just a few times” to which he confessed. Cycling News, January 18, 2015.
He thought that the only cheating douchebag in the pro peloton was, you know, him.
“I had no idea. I didn’t want to think that the men I was racing against were cheating.” Disappointed with broken childhood dreams doper Stuart O’Grady explaining that throughout the “dark era of cycling” he thought that he was the only rider who had ever used drugs. Cycling News, February 26, 2014.
Except that an isosceles triangle has two equal sides. But that’s it.
“I didn’t know anything at all.” Doped up doper Stuart O’Grady’s former team boss Roger Legeay, who managed him for eight years, who was himself busted for doping in 1974, and who oversaw Jonathan Vaughters at Credit Agricole — the ambassador for clean cycling who admitted to systematically doping while on the team. Cycling News, July 26, 2013.
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August 23, 2012 § 19 Comments
In the same week that Lance Armstrong’s challenge to USADA got tossed out of court, Bicycling Magazine released an in-depth interview with Jonathan Vaughters about his doping past. The irony was exquisite.
On the one hand, Armstrong is in the final throes of being ground down by a long, tortuous process that punishes drug cheats. On the other, Vaughters has escaped all punishment, been rewarded as a hero and spokesman for clean cycling, and continues to make a comfortable living at the pinnacle of the sport whose rules he once abused with abandon.
Is it justice? Or is it Memorex?
To be sure, Armstrong still has a few cards left to play, but they’re certainly not face cards from a strong suit. At this point, however, it’s hard to imagine his athletic career and sporting legacy ever reviving. You just don’t come back from a lifetime ban unless you’re a zombie.
There is, in the anti-Armstrong camp, a sense of jubilation, or grim satisfaction, or plain relief that the doors of the doping jail are closing shut. What there isn’t, and what there shouldn’t be, is a sense of justice having been done.
Vaughters proves it.
Unlike Hamilton, or Landis, or Basso, or Ullrich, or Pantani, or Virenque, or Millar, or any of the numerous riders sanctioned for cheating, Vaughters walked. The same system that has zeroed in on Armstrong and made sure that he gets punished for cheating has turned a blind eye to Vaughters. It has done more than turn a blind eye: It has anointed him.
How can this possibly be fair, even in the weird world of pro cycling? The sops at Bicycling can barely even raise the question, let alone pursue it with the rigor of a journalist.
Lips moving? He’s lying.
In the interview, Vaughters contradicts himself with previous statements so quickly that it’s as if he doesn’t believe in the Internet. Here’s Vaughters, a scant ten days ago in the NYT:
If the message I was given had been different, but more important, if the reality of sport then had been different, perhaps I could have lived my dream without killing my soul. Without cheating.
Here he is today:
Obviously, I’m not a victim. The decision (to dope) was mine and mine alone.
Which of these two versions would he like to have for dinner? They’re mutually exclusive. If a rotten system forced him to choose between cheating and quitting, he was a victim. If, on the other hand, the decision to dope was his and his alone, he’s not a victim, but rather a douchey cheat. Sound confusing? It is, even to Vaughters. That’s what happens when you’re a habitual liar: You can’t keep your bullshit straight even in the same article.
Immediately after telling us that the decision to dope was his and his alone, he describes the process through which his team director, a devout and principled man, told him that henceforth he would be put on EPO. Vaughters:
I quickly figured out he was talking about EPO. As much as I should’ve said no, and as much as I was intelligent and should have said, ‘Wait, this is bullshit,’ in my mind he’d just spelled out that I wasn’t going to dope; we’d just make my hematocrit what it would have been had I not been riding my bike so damn much.
In this scenario, Vaughters was either forced into it by his team boss, ergo victim, or he knew what he was doing and did it anyway, ergo douchey cheat.
Let the ends justify the means
Vaughters flips back and forth between “I’m not a victim” and “The system made me do it” over and over, and he does so with good reason. Not only is the interviewer, Joe Lindsey, a patsy, but these mutually exclusive explanations are the only way out of the dense forest of logic and morality that has him hemmed in on all sides.
To be a victim is untenable because no one would believe him. To have done everything of his own free will strips him of the moral high ground he’s so desperately seeking to gain in the eyes of the cycling public.
Vaughters plays his readers for fools, and his interviewer for a buffoon, by talking about what a difference doping can make. Here, in the NYT:
How much does that last 2 percent really matter? In elite athletics, 2 percent of time or power or strength is an eternity.
Then, a few days later, he patronizingly lectures his audience that the true evil of blood vector doping is that it gives certain users massive advantages that are far more than marginal:
“He [Vaughters] goes on to explain that the largest gains in oxygen transport occur in the lower hematocrit ranges—a 50 percent increase in RBC count is not a linear 50 percent increase in oxygen transport capability. The rider with the lower hematocrit is actually extremely efficient at scavenging oxygen from what little hemoglobin that he has, comparatively. So when you boost his red-cell count, he goes a lot faster.”
Vaughters’s point for Bicycling is not that dopers dope for an extra two percent, but that they do it for potentially massive gains depending on their physiology. Which is it? Two percent? Or the logarithmic increase depending on your body’s natural capacity for scouring oxygen?
Does it even matter?
In the context of pushing for cleaner pro competitions, we can and should excuse this mumbo-jumbo that’s easier for Vaughters to say than, “I’m a lying douchey cheat, thanks for all the money.” But in the context of fairness, he shouldn’t get off so easily.
Or, since he has, maybe we should take a minute and deflate for a minute now that Judge Sparks has sent the Armstrong legal team packing. If Lance gets hung out to dry, and Vaughters is deified as the admitted madman running the asylum, was justice done?
Are we good with calling one douchey cheat a douchey cheat, and calling another douchey cheat a role model and hero?
Doesn’t that stick in your throat?
Just a little?
Sure does in mine.
August 11, 2012 § 59 Comments
Jonathan Vaughters has publicly admitted what we already knew, just in time for USADA’s supplemental briefing for Judge Sparks, which will almost certainly identify the eyewitnesses who will corroborate Lance Armstrong’s use of all kinds of nasty shit to win the TdF against dudes who were using the same nasty shit. Want to bet that JV will be on the list?
Too bad he doesn’t read my blog. I posted three form doper apology letters yesterday, and he could have sent in the “apologetic doper” form and saved himself a lot of work. He could have also saved himself some embarrassment. You know, the embarrassment from saying totally ridiculous shit that makes him look like a liar and a hypocrite, and that makes us look like tools for taking the time to read it.
Disclaimer: I’m not opposed to doping
Doping and drugs are fine if you want to do them. It’s a form of cheating, just like changing your line in a sprunt, cutting the course, lying on your upgrade request, entering a race while serving a suspension, racing in a category other than one stated on your license, or telling your wife that you’re not fucking your secretary.
And although I’d rather finish last (and often do) than cheat, it doesn’t bother me terribly that others break the rules any more than it bothers me that some happily married people are happiest in another woman’s bed. In fact, the hacker who beat me out for 56th thanks to his high-octane EPO protocol is probably a much nicer chap than some undoped asshole who intentionally chops my wheel and tries to take me down on a fucking training ride.
Which brings me to my next point: as Michael Creed so eloquently put it, even though doping wasn’t for him, he didn’t judge someone as a bad person for doping. There were plenty of dopers who he’d have been glad to have as neighbors, and other clean athletes who were complete douchebags.
So you’re condoning DOPING? Aaaaaaaaaahhhhgh!
No. But I’m not condemning it either. If you dope in some cheeseball masters crit and win $50, that doesn’t bother me. I wasn’t going to win it no matter what you did or didn’t take. If you dope in some big stage race and make millions as a cancer survivor while viciously destroying the lives and careers of people who call you a doper…that’s different. That’s evil.
But back to JV, and his sob-story about the evils of doping and how we must never again allow children’s souls to be killed through doping. Yes, he really said that.
I’ve bulleted his stupid anti-doping arguments, which he should have summed up by saying, “It’s cheating. Cheating is bad. So don’t cheat.” But nooooooooooooo…
- “Doping takes away childhood dreams.” Dude, childhood dreams die with childhood. Life is a nasty, brutish affair that ends horribly for everyone. No exceptions. It’s like the first time a young woman sees a big ol’ penis and gets told, “This is going in there.” Whoa! Major childhood dream massacre! Why should bicycle chasers be exempt from harsh reality? Answer: They shouldn’t be, and they aren’t.
- “Doping forces you to lie.” Whaaaat? Doping doesn’t force you to lie, being human does. Humans are liars. Batfuck, dishonest, conniving, duplicitous shits who will say anything to advance themselves. They may also tell the truth when it’s convenient, but hate to tell you, JV, people were lying long before EPO.
- “Doping forces young athletes to abandon their sport if they choose not to dope.” Wait a minute…that’s a negative? Trading in your stinky bibs for an Armani and a cubicle at Goldman-Sachs? Sign me up! Cycling is a cul-de-sac, and the only people in it are broken, or deluded, or drug-addled, or all of the above. The more young athletes who give up this ignoble pursuit as a profession and go get real jobs, the better. You can bicycle chase on the weekend.
- “Doping can make the difference in the TdF between 1st and 100th.” Not exactly. When most of the peloton’s doped, as it still is, the difference between first and one hundredth place is in your teammates, your tactics, your bike racing skills, the sophistication of your microdosing, and your ability to train far from the testers.
- “Riders who refused to dope, and walked away, were punished for following their moral compass.” Okay, everybody take off your stupid hats if that made sense. The whole point behind morality is to do what’s right, regardless of the consequences. In fact, it is only by taking the punishment of an unjust system that morality makes sense. You’re never punished for taking a moral stand, you’re rewarded for it because, asshole, morality is its own reward. Which is the main reason it’s so unpopular.
- “We’ve made huge strides. Just look at these Olympics!” No. I will not watch four Jamaican dudes run faster than the rest of the world combined and call that a celebration of clean sport. The only sport nastier than track and field is professional soccer, football, baseball, hockey, weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, basketball, horse racing…etc.
- “Athletes only dope because they just want a fair chance, a level playing field.” That’s like those dorks who say they want to win the lottery so they can make the world a better place. Next time you see them, they’re broke, drunk in a gutter, and covered in venereal sores. Athletes hate fairness. They want an edge, a leg up, a lighter bike, faster wheels, cyanide in their opponent’s coffee, anything to get ahead of the competition. Cycling was a cheat-filled sport long before EPO, and it will be one long after.
What I really wanted to write about was Mighty Mouse, Tree, Katie, and the other badasses who did Leadville today, not to mention their trusty sidekicks who made sure they were well fed and watered for this grueling event. Oh, well. Maybe tomorrow.
July 6, 2012 § 12 Comments
The international organization representing the world’s professional cyclists, or CPA, announced today that it would boycott the remainder of the Turdy France unless the organizers, WADA, and the UCI immediately cease the unannounced “Higgs testing” that began July 4 of this year.
With CERN’s confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson, or “God particle,” the World Antidoping Agency simultaneously announced that it had developed a “Higgs test” to determine the presence of the boson in human stool samples. Since the development of an effective test for EPO, physicists have observed that it was only a matter of time before lab testing caught up to what is known in the pro peloton as “Higgs doping.”
According to Peter Higgs, who first theorized about the existence of the boson in 1964, “It’s quite simple, really. The boson allows multiple identical particles to exist in the same place in the same quantum state. Think about it. A Higgs doper could, by injecting bosons into the bloodstream, allow multiple red blood cells to exist in the same place at the same time. A 49% hematocrit could be packed with three times the official reading’s worth of red blood cells, but never register as elevated.”
When asked if he thought that boson doping was in fact occurring, Dr. Higgs chuckled. “Of course it is. Brad Wiggins has been visiting the Hadron Supercollider in the off season for the last two years. The boy’s dumb as a box of biscuits; d’you think he’s hanging out to brush up on his calculus? That’s the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, and I think it’s clear he’s been climbing into the chamber and having them shoot bosons up his ass for months.”
Rider outrage at midnight testing
Mark Cavendish, reigning world champion, strongly disagreed with Dr. Higgs. “Fuckin’ dumbass,” said the typically blunt-spoken Cavendish through two feet of gauze from his latest finish-line crash. “We ain’t takin’ no fuckin’ bosons up the ass. We’re fuckin’ bike racers, not particle physicists.”
Jonathan Vaughters, admitted doper and anti-doping advocate, has sided with the cyclists. “The problem we have isn’t with the anti-boson doping programme. Gosh, I’m even willing to let them use the British spelling for ‘program.’ The problem is that these Higgs tests are highly invasive, are carried out late at night, and negatively affect the riders’ performance the following day.”
Adds admitted doper and anti-doping advocate David Millar: “Yeah, mate, that’s pretty much it, ey? Y’crack out 200km in the Tour and just as yer fallin’ asleep, some lab tester in a radiation suit comes in and wants to ram a supercollider tube up yer arse to check yer bunghole fer bosons? C’mon, ‘at’s bloody bullshit. Time they get the Higgs prod outter yer arse, yer wide awake, y’know? Then yer fuggin’ arse is so sore the next day y’can hardly sit on the saddle.”
Last-minute compromise in the works
UCI president Pat McQuaid dismissed the likelihood of a rider walkout. “Bunch of pussies, they’re always complaining about something. Radio bans, traffic furniture, preferential treatment of stars, riders getting killed or catastrophically injured, whatever. Back in my day we made five quid a month, slept on rock beds, sodomized each other between races, and was damn glad to have even that. Bottom line is that if they’re Higgs doping, we have to get to the bottom of it. And there’s no truth to the rumor that the UCI received money for a new supercollider from Team SKY.”
Jean-Patrick-de-Tuileries St. Pou-pou, director of merchandising for the Tour, was more circumspect. “We believe that we will be able to reach a compromise that satisfies the needs of all parties to not suffer another shameful doping scandal. There may in fact be a ‘two-speeds’ peloton, which would explain why the French riders are no longer in the top one hundred. But one cannot be certain.”