Astana & Armstrong. Same story?
Woke up laughing.
How else to react to the silly and manipulative news that the Kazakh Cycling Federation considered shutting down the Astana WorldTour team of Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali.
Yeah right. Hah-ha-ha. Trying to float that kind of bullshit is almost brilliant in an old school, crude propaganda kinda way. Sounds like something Vino would have hatched with his buddies at the Federation. “Great idea, Darkhan. This will make Cookson think we’re really “serious” about anti-doping.Let’s get this out to the media and I’ll throw in some quotes about integrity. We’ve got ourselves a nice spin campaign.”
Yup, here it is now, love from Dubai and the Astana team presentation down there in the desert. “We want to get our credibility back as a matter of urgency,” Vinokourov told Sporza. We couldn’t even eat breakfast because we were laughing to hard.
In reality, we have two manipulative spin campaigns going on right now: Astana and Lance Armstrong.
Lance has been back in the news since last week with his BBC interview. The ex-boss, ex seven time Tour de France winner, ex-mythical figure was out stumping to end his lifetime ban from sport. There he was sitting across from interviewer Dan Roan with a carefully rehearsed set of talk points and set phrases, reminding everyone that the entire peloton doped and why should he be singled out.
As part of his campaign, he got his Aspen riding buddy and former US Postal rider Scott Mercier to also get the word out. Mercer delivered his quotes that Armstrong had been punished enough. “It’s time to consider letting Lance out of ‘time-out’,” said Mercier.
Armstrong and Mercer presented the same argument — that Lance should be back raising millions to fight cancer. In Mercier’s words — “He is a polarizing figure and always will be, but I believe he can be a catalyst for good; not just for cycling, but especially for those who suffer from cancer” The cancer shield was always a successful strategy for Lane and it’s back again.
Now, Scott Mercier is a terrific guy on many counts — and his own credibility is without question. He was one of the few Postal riders to say no to doping, instead choosing to retire rather than pedal down the EPO road. So what he has to say carries a lot of weight.
That said, we think there’s a distinction here that always needs to made between Armstrong’s transgressions and those of the rest of the peloton. We were reminded of that need when this Mercier quote where he talks about Lance not forcing him out of the sport: “No-one forced me to leave, I left of my own free will.”
That’s true for Mercier, a man with a proven code of ethics and a strong moral compass. Most people — and most riders — didn’t have that kind of strong character. We’re talking about a number of young guys like Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde who were essentially kids. In the USADA testimony there are heartbreaking passages about Zabriskie looking up to Bruyneel as a father figure. It’s always easy to make the free-will, personal responsibility augment but there’s also the culture of doping. Lance and Bruyneel created that atmosphere on US Postal and manipulated riders into making bad choices. There’s a big difference between drug takers and drug pushers
On our mind, the lifetime ban is based on three factors: the way Armstrong bullied and threatened other Postal riders to get on the doping program, his relentless, nasty persecution of those who spoke the truth about his doping and finally his refusal to testify to USADA. Those are three major strikes that put him a category of his own.
We’ll see how these two spin campaigns work out. Both are designed to put pressure on the UCI and spin public opinion. In Armstrong’s case, there’s the hope of a ban reduction and over at Astana, the gamelan is to keep their WorldTour license intact no matter what happens with the Italian Padua investigation — which alleges the team ran a doping program.
In the meantime, try to stop laughing. Obvious media spin is always a hoot.