Was going to post on this issue before the Tour started, but didn’t get around to it…and wasn’t sure if I cared enough! The run-up to the Tour this spring was, of course, filled with lots of talk about whether Lance Armstrong (LA) would be leader/win again/etc. Scratching the surface, however, there was also mounting evidence that things could get ugly in the next year if Greg LeMond’s (GL) lawsuit against Trek continues to move forward.
The basic gist of that one is that GL is suing/counter-suing (I’m sparing you the details) Trek bikes claiming that they intentionally screwed up his bike brand (which they owned) because LA was angry about GL’s comments about LA and allegations or doping – stretching back to the early years of the LA Tour dynasty. Trek claims the opposite, that LeMond wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain on promotion, etc., thus undermining Trek’s business interests. Whatever the cause, LeMond bikes no longer exist.
The reason this has gotten uglier and uglier is in GL’s insistent collection of evidence in support of allegations that LA did indeed using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), at least at some points in his career (both pre and post cancer, most likely). Nothing here is radically new for those who have followed the David Walsh-style investigative inquiry into LA: most of the same evidence and arguments (positive result at ’99, multiple positives for EPO in analyses run on Armstrong’s “b” samples from earlier Tours, multiple confessions/convictions by former teammates, lots of talk about doping methods at Postal by others in the biz, etc.). To his credit (or folly, depending on your perspective) GL simply hasn’t backed down from this and, in fact, has really intensified his claims now that the gloves are off with Trek and LA. Most notably – and in questionable moral and legal judgement – LeMond released a detailed phone conversation he secretly (and in direct contradiction to what he told the other party) recorded with a woman who worked for Oakley as LA’s personal liaison and was apparently in the room during the notorious LA confession to his doctors about PED use as part of his very original cancer diagnosis and work-up. The short story is that she had told people privately that LA confessed to PED use while in the hospital (the same story repeated by Andreu husband and wife, who were there), but ultimately testified that he did not. However, in GL’s phone conversation, she admits that she lied under oath, for understandable reasons (single mom with a long-time job at stake, etc.).
What I find most intriguing/perplexing in all this is the underlying irrationality of someone like LA thinking that he could actually control information so completely as to eliminate any possibility that the truth would eventually sneak out. My view is obviously motivated by my belief that Lance Armstrong did indeed use PEDs and other forms of doping (e.g. blood transfusions). On sporting grounds, this does not really bother me – but this is the subject of a future post. What bothers me is the self-serving deception on the part of LA. Choosing to dope does not seem strange or surprising, but why would you think that you could actually conceal this forever, particularly as you become one of the most famous sportspeople in the world? It just doesn’t compute; after all, LA knows about this confession issue, and there are likely a good number of people in the know about transfusions and other funny business from the Postal years.
The only answer I could really come up with before the Tour is that LA is essentially a sociopath – or at least has a good dose of anti-social personality. I am by no means the first to suggest this, but it just seems clearer and clearer the longer things go on. Suffice it to say, I was thrilled to see Contador beat the crap out of Armstrong in the 2009 Tour. Contador was amazingly poised, attacked when he needed to, and then presided over a pretty dismal time trial by Armstrong in the final week (a tt he absolutely demolished). Now, a bit more of the behind the scenes stuff from the Tour and Astana is trickling out, and things sound much, much worse than they appeared during the Tour. In a translated article from El Pais posted by nyvelocity, we see all sorts of powerplays by LA at Astana. In light of these revelations, Contador’s performance is even more impressive. I only hope he can find a good enough team for support next year, just to come back and serve LA’s ass on a platter.
The entire LA comeback strikes me as fundamentally sociopathic. Here the guy has the greatest record of all time in the Tour, fame, fortune, etc. and probably the knowledge that there are many out there who hold his secrets. Yet, he decides to reopen all of these issues and relationships by deciding to comeback in order to promote his supposedly morally-driven crusade. This is hubris of a stunning sort. The guy quietly knocks up a girlfriend, has a baby a month or a bit more before the Tour (which, by my reading, has NEVER been discussed), rules with an iron fist in the team when, in fact, he is the weaker rider, and then engages in all sorts of sneaky behavior to undermine Contador. This, to me, is anti-social behavior. And, the sooner LA is gone from cycling (again), the better.