April 30, 2014 § 16 Comments
Confessed doper, drug cheat, sporting fraud, mentor to young cyclists, and really nice guy George Hincapie has released his memoir of cycling during the Lance Armstrong heyday, “Confessions of a Clean Racer.” WIth a foreword by Michele Ferrari, excerpts have already detailed explosive revelations about the depth and breadth of non-doping practices within the top echelons of the sport.
Cycling in the South Bay was able to reach Hincapie at his villa in the Hamptons for an exclusive interview.
CitSB: Your new memoir, “Confessions of a Clean Racer,” is sure to destroy a lot of long-held perceptions about the pro peloton.
GH: Well, that was the intent. It’s finally time for someone to come clean about the non-doping practices in the sport.
CitSB: Can you be more specific?
GH: Sure. There were days, and once before Lance’s first Tour win in 1999, even an entire week, in which no one doped.
CitSB: No one?
GH: Not a single rider. Not me, not Lance, not Frankie, Tyler, or even Kevin.
GH: Yes, and by the time I moved on, the team had incorporated an entire system of non-doping, strategically placed around Christmas and New Year’s. It was systematic.
CitSB: How did it go from being a one-off “clean day” to organized, methodical, and systematic non-doping?
GH: It was a process. We started off the way everyone does, thinking we could win by taking a full doping regimen. Subcutaneous EPO. Direct injections into the veins and stomach. Kotex sopped in vodka and wedged up each others’ bottoms. And then we realized that if we were really going to compete at the highest level we’d have to race clean. Not every day, certainly, and for sure not even most of the time, but every now and then we’d have to forego the transfusions, corticosteroids, test patches, even the Kotex.
CitSB: So what started as a way to level the playing field … ?
GH: … became a slippery slope that we all slipped down, especially after a couple of beers and some Vaseline. Before we knew it, we were all riding clean at certain points to be prepared for our ultimate objective, which of course was the Tour.
CitSB: When were you first approached about riding clean?
GH: Well, as a junior I’d seen clean racers, I knew they were there, but we didn’t pay attention to them. They were losers. I remember telling Eddy B when he pointed out a couple of guys with very suspicious results and a complete absence of tracks on their forearms that I’d “never stoop to racing clean.” Those were my exact words. And then as a young pro it became clear that there was a handful of riders, the very best guys, who had clean periods during the season. We had a nickname for them, the “Kleenexes.” Get it? Clean? Kleenex?
CitSB: I get it.
GH: You always kind of wondered, “What would happen if I rode clean a day or two a year? Would it supercharge me that much?” And then when Johan took over, he took me aside and was totally blunt. I remember it like it was yesterday.
CitSB: What did he say?
GH: He told me that I could either lay off the daily visits to Ferrari, the wire transfers, the funny little guy on the moto carrying EPO in his panniers, lay off that stuff once or twice a month or I could find myself a new line of work. “Postal Kleenex don’t wipe snot,” was his motto.
CitSB: What was your initial regimen?
GH: One day a month. I started with weak doses of non-doping.
CitSB: What was the effect? This what every SoCal masters racer really wants to know about racing clean.
GH: At first you couldn’t notice it. But then as you upped the dosage of non-doping, as your body got used to detoxing the pot Belge, the Actovegin, the clen, the random shit that the pharmacist mixed up in his garage and carried around in an empty whiskey bottle, you know, gradually you got stronger, until finally you couldn’t race without a clean day, sometimes even a couple of them in the middle of the race.
CitSB: So the team was actually riding clean for periods of the Tour?
GH: Oh, yeah. It was crazy stuff.
CitSB: Weren’t you afraid of getting caught?
GH: Dog, yes. One time a French TV crew followed our soigneurs after we’d had a clean session and videotaped them dumping all of the non-doping substances in a trash can behind a church. They fished out the garbage bags and it was a cornucopia of clean: kale, organic chicken bones, whole milk, banana peels. Then they showed it on prime time TV and called it “How Postal Goes Bananas on the Big Climbs.”
CitSB: You must have thought the jig was up.
GH: Dog, yes. We were terrified. Another time the UCI sent in testers immediately after we’d had a three-day regimen of non-doping. We were so scared we’d test negative that we were shooting up everything we had, hoping it would hit the bloodstream in time for the testers. Lance is the only one who came up negative, but fortunately he got Dr. Moral to backdate a prescription for rest, vegetables, water, and some bread. And Hein Verbruggen accepted the backdated scrip.
CitSB: Pretty funny, but also scary. Weren’t you worried about the health effects?
GH: Yes and no. We had docs, we trusted them. They seemed convinced that even if we were clean up to 50% of the time our bodies could recover from it with the proper administration of the right potentially lethal doping cocktails.
CitSB: When did you realize that USADA was going to bring down Lance, along with you, Levi, Jonathan, and the rest?
GH: Of course we had all gotten used to Betsy’s tirades; people had been accusing us of non-doping for years. But Lance seemed to have it on lockdown, she was portrayed as this crazy woman with a vendetta, kind of an Internet-troll-meets-National-Enquirer-meets-Joan-Rivers-at-a-Tweeker-party, right? And the media bought it. But then when Floyd admitted to non-doping and the Feds got involved, shit got real. We had to decide whether we were going to keep pretending that we’d never raced clean, or take what was a very sweet deal.
CitSB: And you took the deal.
GH: Obviously. We were all perfectly happy to finger the guy who had brought us all our success and fame if all we had to do keep our jobs and our money was admit to non-doping. I mean, Levi’s laughing all the way to the bank. So am I, by the way. Okay, not laughing. But certainly smiling.
CitSB: So where does this put you in 2014? There are a lot of people who believe that George Hincapie and people like him have no place in the sport today.
GH: I can see their point, but I look at it differently. Cycling gave me everything and I want to give something back. I’ve learned from the bad things I’ve done, I’ve admitted to having raced clean, I’ve been punished, and it’s no coincidence that I run a U-23 development team. Someone who these kids respect has to be able to tell them that times have changed, that it’s no longer acceptable to non-dope, and that when the time comes — and it will come — they’ll have to stand firm against the non-dopers. Because they’re still out there. Not as many as there once were, but it’s a part of the culture, unfortunately.
CitSB: Thanks, George.
GH: You’re welcome.
CitSB: If I mail you one of my cycling jerseys would you sign it for me?
Did you know that you can subscribe to “Cycling in the South Bay”? Your donation will go directly to paying for investigative reports like this one to help fight non-doping in cycling! Plus, everything here is true except for the parts I’ve made up, which is all of it. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. I’ll be glad you did.
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 13, 2012 § 35 Comments
Slated for release on September 18, Wankmeister received an advance copy of Tyler Hamilton’s tell-all illiterography, “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs” As Told To Daniel Coyle In Very Simple Words And, Where Necessary, With Little Stick Figure Pictographs.
Coyle is known to seven or eight other people as the author of “Lance Armstrong’s War,” The Tale Of A Writer Who Couldn’t Come Up With A Decent Title So He Stole One From Someone Else.
I was flattered to receive the advance copy, and immediately put down the important task of tweeting salacious recipes to @mmmaiko and devoted fifteen solid minutes to reading the book, which is subtitled “My Penis” to reach the cycling demographic that also reads books like “50 Shades of Grey.” CU Tomorrow? Legit Girl? Bump’n’Grind? Yeah, YOU.
Does America really need another disgraced doper’s kiss-and-jail cyclography?
After reading “My Penis,” I phoned author Daniel Coyle to get some background material on the impetus for the book. “When Tyler and I started talking, I realized this was an historic opportunity for me to pay rent,” said Coyle. “Note the way I use ‘an’ with ‘historic.’ Isn’t that cool?”
“Uh, yeah. Go on.”
“No one’s ever had a ticket behind the wall of silence, behind locked doors, onto the team bus. I mean sure, there are books with that name, books by Kimmage, Voet, Landis, Joe Parkin, every legit book on the history of cycling ever written, TV documentaries, reams of public testimony, arbitration proceedings, detailed scientific evidence, and every kind of proof and testimonial known to man. But this is different!”
“Like, how, dude?”
“Over the past two years, in more than 200 hours of interviews and trips to key locations in Spain and France, Tyler has given me complete access to his story. Emails. Home videos of his dog. Sexts to his wife. Phone messages from his dentist. We even had a seance with his vanishing twin.”
“You don’t believe that shit, do you?”
“You bet I do. To verify and corroborate his account, I’ve also talked to numerous independent sources, including former teammates, several of whom are going on the record for the first time, immediately prior to sentencing. This is a classic tale of human ambition and the consequences of trying to win at any cost.”
“Uh, what were the consequences?”
“Well, for Tyler it resulted in an Olympic gold medal, wins in the Tour, and buttloads of cash. But in the end he was banned for life from bike racing.”
“But wasn’t his career over by then?”
“That’s not the point! It’s a classic tale of human ambition! And the consequences of trying to win at any cost!”
“Sounds like a winner’s game plan to me, dude.”
Straight from the horse’s mouth
Next I called up Tyler. “Yo, dude, this is Wankmeister. Remember me?”
“Hello? Who’s this?”
“It’s me. Wanky. From PV. You came out here three years ago and did the Donut Ride. I fucking crushed it. Remember?”
“I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong number.”
“No! Don’t hang up! I want to talk about ‘My Penis’!”
Having lost my source, I went to Cyclingnews.com, where I steal most of my shit from anyway. They never disappoint! Here’s the blurb they had. And I’m not making this up:
“Hamilton explained that his time in front of a grand jury during the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation into Lance Armstrong’s alleged doping practices he realised that there was a story that needed to be told.
“‘I kept it all inside for way too long and I realized it was a story that needed to be told. I think when people learn how it really was – how it worked, how we did it, what it felt like – they’ll see that this story is bigger than any one individual in the sport. It’s really about making choices when you’re pushed to the edge and deciding what you’re willing to do to compete. I want to take people inside our world so they can understand the lives we lived.'”
In other words, the dude’s flat fucking broke, and rather than get a job gluing on tires or flipping burgers he’s decided to hire someone to write a book for him while they job around Europe getting drunk, riding bikes, and licking the pussy.
So these are the consequences of blind ambition? Fuck, where can I get some?
Back to My Penis
“My Penis” begins with Hamilton’s discovery that no one will take him to the prom except Jonathan Vaughters. They dress each other up (Jonathan dresses up as a boy, but it’s totally unconvincing), and afterwards they make passionate love and symbolically bury Jonathan’s bike in a field and water it with their urine. A lovely rose bush grows on the spot, and they can often be found frolicking naked around its blossoms in spring. But that’s a different story.
After getting recruited by the evil and dastardly Team Dope, Tyler loses his childhood dreams to a dirty, nasty, hairy, fat, toothless, balding, sweaty, unwashed French masseuse with long and unkempt toenails. Francois intends to inject Tyler’s stomach fat with EPO, but misses and hits his penis instead. Tyler’s twelve-day erection earns him a number of nicknames on Team Dope, none of which are printable, even in a nasty, uncouth, sophomoric blog like this one that revels in saying words like “pussy” and “cock” and “cunt.”
First the breakout, then the rash
After his breakout season with Team Dope, Tyler catches the eye of the evil and cruel dictator of the peloton, Lance Strongstrong. Strongstrong, who has just won the Turdy France after a miraculous comeback from a lobotomy, entices Tyler onto the team bus with an offer of candy and a trip to EuroDisney.
The next thing he knows, he’s sitting in Strongstrong’s lap, Johan Squatneel has forced him to sign a multi-million dollar contract, forced him to take drugs, and forced him to ride with the most famous American team in the history of completely unknown and forgettable and forgotten niche/kook/dork sporting teams.
Tyler and Strongstrong part ways upon the death of Tyler’s favorite pet newt, Newton, when Strongstrong makes disparaging remarks about salamanders, particularly the juvenile forms. “That newt was more than a son to me!” Hamilton cried.
“Only person ever liked a Newt was Callista, and she’s a two bit whore anyway,” Strongstrong shot back.
“Fine! You bad man! I’ll go ride for team Phoneycrack!”
Team Phoney Baloney
Unceremoniously kicked off the bus along with his little plastic newt cargo case, Tyler was picked up by Tubby Rihs and Doctor Evil Ochowicz, or “Doc Ock” as he was called by his clients. With his medication properly adjusted, Tyler was forced to win more big races, world championships, and gold medals. He was desperately unhappy at living the lie, and eventually couldn’t take it any more.
“The guilt became so great that after I was busted I confessed,” he says in the most moving passage of the book. “Of course it took a few years to confess, as I had to first deny everything. But that’s how badly I was hurting inside. It felt so great to finally admit the truth.”
Hamilton points out that just because you admit the truth due to running out of legal defense funds and the threat of federal prison doesn’t mean you didn’t really want to tell the truth all along.
“It was freeing,” he adds. “So much so that when I finally came back to cycling I could dope again, get busted, and get banned for life. It’s a beautiful story. The passion. The pathos. They mysteries of the human soul…it’s all right here.”
The book retails for $29.95, but will be available at Half-Priced Rubbish and Discount Records and 8-Track Tapes and Books in October for $1.99, or free on Amazon’s Kindle.