Saturday, July 29, 2006

So, what color is the sky in your world?

[photo caption] American cycling icons Greg LeMond (l) and Lance Armstrong enjoy a light moment following the 1999 Tour de France. (photo courtesy VG.no)

The public feud between American cycling legends Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong has flared up once again. This time, the fuel for the fire is the allegations that 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis produced a positive t/e test following Stage 17 of the Tour (a.k.a., "The Greatest Comeback of All-Time").

The LeMond v. Armstrong battle has taken to the airwaves in the past few days.

In an interview for Reuters on Thursday, three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond stated the following:
--LeMond hoped Landis was innocent but that the Phonak rider should admit guilt if tests on his B sample were also positive for testosterone: "Floyd, if he's innocent, he should absolutely defend himself. But if the sample is positive, I hope it's not denial, denial, denial like many other athletes have done. We need to clean the sport up."
--LeMond believes it takes courage [for the Tour organizers] to announce the winner is positive
--LeMond thought he saw evidence of a "clean" Tour this year: "Riders looked tired, they had bad days. For years you never saw any suffering in the riders."

Then, on Friday in an interview with ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong stated the following:
--Armstrong wasn't going to pass judgment on Landis yet: "I don't want to pass judgment until we have confirmation on the 'A' sample."
--Armstrong railed on those who had offered speculation: "I'm not going to speculate; you can get Greg LeMond to go on the air and speculate. I'm not going to do that...I'm not going south [on the sport] like Greg does. I believe in the sport, I'm a fan of it and I love it."

So, who's right?

Is LeMond right when he argues that the sport of cycling needs an enema? That there should be no tolerance of dopers and cheats in the sport? That those dopers and cheats who are caught should stand up and take their punishment like men?

Or is Armstrong right when he states that he believes in the character of cycling as a sport despite the recent deluge of doping scandals? That people, like LeMond, who question the sport's integrity are "going south"? That, when accused of doping, riders should do everything that they can to defend themselves by hiring expert doctors, talking to the press, and "suing someone"? That Armstrong didn't actually test postive himself in 1999 but was framed in an elaborate conspiracy involving a French laboratory, Tour Director Jean-Marie LeBlanc and WADA chief Dick Pound?

You decide.


Blogger (dis)pencer said...

for fear of law suit, i say Armstrong wins.

7 times.

...and 15 Hail Mary's

Sat Jul 29, 12:20:00 PM 2006

Blogger StevenCX said...

They're both wrong. LeMond for implying that a positive B sample necessarily means he was testosterone doping, and Armstrong for covering up his and others' doping and strongarming anyone who tries to expose it.

Sat Jul 29, 09:25:00 PM 2006

Anonymous Oliver Starr said...

I can't believe that LeMond has the audacity to point his finger at Armstrong and imply that Landis doped. As a former professional cyclist who has raced on and off road with LeMond, Armstrong and Landis it strikes me as somewhat extraordinary that LeMond thinks that we all have such short memories.

At Greg's prime, EPO was widely available as were a whole cocktail of other performance enhancing compounds that were impossible to detect by the then state-of-the-art doping analysis. I used to respect LeMond - he was one of my heros growing up and when I finally turned pro and raced against him I was awestruck at being alongside him in the peloton.

Days later, when the heavy, angry guy in the rainbow jersey finished off the back on yet another stage of Tour Du Pont I almost couldn't believe that this was the same guy that was supposed to dominate the sport.

Several months later a leaner, more well conditioned LeMond won the Tour De France. The progression from dropped to "Le Vainquer" was more dramatic than anything we've witnessed by either Armstrong or Landis.

Further, there was, at that time, no out of competition random controls, no police raids on team headquarters or hotel rooms, and no public scrutiny of everything the riders did, ate, drank, or said.

It's awfully easy for LeMond to assign blame and make outlandish claims about how great he was - the fact is by his own standards he should stop denying, denying, denying and prove that he never took EPO or Growth Hormone or Insulin or designer steroids or else he should shut the hell up before more people from his past - people that used to revere the man - decide to pipe up and tell the world that he's as big a hypocrite as he is a poor sport.

Furtthermore, this constant bashing of Lance is just ridiculous. People simply don't understand what his advantage was so they assume he doped. The man was the most tested athlete (and tested in the most hostile of circumstances with the greatest vested interest in finding an infraction) in history and there wasn't even a single questionable control during his entire career.

While defeating the old school testing was (as in LeMond's day) child's play for a biochemist (which I am) the new protocols coupled with equipment that is more versatile more sensitive and operated by more experienced technicians is very difficult to defeat under the best circumstances even a single time, let alone dozens, possibly even hundreds of times by a guy like Lance.

People like to blame the medications that Lance was treated with for cancer this is utterly absurd. However the cancer itself was Lance's greatest ally and the thing that made him great.

How so? Lance was always phenomenally talented, however his build and triathlon background were totally counter to his ability to win big tours. He simply had too much muscle. While he could ride with and beat just about anyone on any given day, hauling that mass over the Alps or Pyrennees was too much for anyone.

Enter cancer and chemo and the loss of virtually every ounce of muscle on his frame. Combine that with a VO2 of around 90, a will unlike any ever seen, a methodical plan to rebuild his body into a perfect Tour de France winning machine and the resources to carry the plan to fruition and you have what we've seen; a man capable of winning the Tour seven consecutive times without a single positive control.

I'm sorry I know it's tough to accept but it is possible to do everything exactly right and win big races without drugs. Extraordinary? Yes. Impossible. Lance has proven no.

Now to Landis. People think that because he had a bad day on the 16th stage that he must have doped to win the 17th. This is stupid. Especially the drug they're claiming he used. Testosterone provides no short term gains of any kind. No one would use that drug in that way. It's worse than an amateur mistake it's idiocy and these folks aren't idiots.

In fact, Landis' explosion on 16 was what likely made his great ride the next day possible. To give you a simple metaphor it's far easier and less damaging to the body to lift a thousand pounds ten pounds at a time than it is to lift a thousand pounds in a single effort.

The riders who took time out of Landis on la Toussiere went flat out at the end of a very hard stage. In so doing they wasted reserves that are hard fought to restore on a subsequent day in the mountains. Landis was too tired to bury himself and thus didn't accumulate the same amount of fatigue even though he looked far worse.

The next day his competitors didn't realize the gravity of the situation until Landis, riding his own race and able to maintain a steady pace on the climbs and flats gained enough time that it became evident he was once again a threat. By the time the peloton realized this, they were too late to up the pace sufficiently to do anything about it and the contsantly changing pace as people attempted to get away alone added further injury to the fatigued leaders who hadn't recovered from the prior day.

Once again it was a great ride for Landis and a great day for the tour. But just because it was great and nearly unbelievable in its outcome does not mean that the outcome was decided because of something that came in a vial and was administered with a syringe.

Oliver Starr

Mon Jul 31, 11:02:00 PM 2006


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