The fans have the right to be certain that they are cheering for human athletes rather than rolling pharmaceutical billboards, and clean riders have the right to a fair opportunity to stand on the podium.
-Greg Lemond, commenting on Floyd Landis’s accusations
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Floyd’s allegations has been the responses. Radio Shack issued a statement, ostensibly on behalf of the team, but really just on behalf of Lance. (But then again, is Radio Shack really anything but an attempt to house Lance’s massive ego within the confines of a team? Except Lance’s ego can no more fit within the confines of a team than Pam Anderson can fit in a training bra.) The Radio Shack statement was clearly written by an attorney (or perhaps Bike Snob NYC), as it was four times as long as it needed to be and exceeded its quota for superfluous, four-or-more-syllable adjectives in the first paragraph.
Needless to say it was an outright denial of the attacks on Lance coupled with an ad hominem attack on Landis.
Perhaps more interesting is Zabriskie’s choice not to make a statement directly, instead relying on this rather ambiguous non-denial from team manager Jonathan Vaughters regarding their conversation when the story broke:
Our conversation was fairly short and succinct. Dave is a very private and quiet person. I simply expressed to him that I believe he can win this race, currently, clean, and that we’re going to support him doing that. And that we can withstand any level of scrutiny anyone would place on us in that regard. I think Dave is going to focus on winning this race clean, along with the rest of our team.
In other words, Dave is racing clean. Now. We believe Dave can win clean. Now. No comment on how Dave may or may not have raced when he was Lance’s teammate with US Postal.
Hincapie’s sentiments were also much more ambiguous than Armstrong’s (or rather Armstrong’s lawyers’):
I have been a professional on the circuit for 17 years – which is one of the longest careers in the peloton. During that time, I have earned the respect of my peers and a reputation for working hard, honestly and honorably. I’m really disappointed to hear these accusations.
So what does all this drivel from JDs and PR types mean? Who the hell knows. Trying to interpret whether one of these statements is a hedged denial or an obtuse confession is like condemning beer drinking as violating a covenant of belief when your own scripture clearly says that beer is just fine—you simply can’t do it if you’re using the actual text as your justification.
Getting back to Lemond’s statement about rolling pharmaceutical billboards, the great irony of all this is that it came out during the Amgen Tour of California. I won’t, yet again, delve into the irony of the world’s leading EPO maker sponsoring a major cycling race. Suffice it to say that Amgen pays lip service to the notion of their drugs being used ethically. Only problem is that there’s a really easy way to ensure this would happen: include a clear and distinct marker in the drug that would be harmless to a legitimate patient but would trigger a distinct and unquestionable positive result in doping controls. As yet, they have been loathe to make such a move and would apparently prefer to live in a world best described by this dream/nightmare Johan Bruyneel monologue penned by the Unholy Rouleur:
The truth? You can't handle the truth. Son, we live in a world that has hills like walls, and those walls have to be ridden up by small men on bikes.
Who's gonna do it? You? I have a lower natural Power:Weight ratio than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Damiano, and you curse Virenque. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Armstrong's doping, while tragic, probably saved time. And doping's existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves time.
You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want skinny Italian guys flying up that wall, you need them rocketing up that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty, CERA and Autologous blood doping. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent riding something. You use them as a punchline.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain these things to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of propaganda white noise that Versus provides, and then questions the manner in which Versus provides it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a needle, lose a lot of weight, and climb a hill faster than your unaltered hematocrit permits. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.