Hesjedal and doping. Yeah, yeah, yeah ….
Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.
That was pretty much my reaction to the news Ryder Hesjedal doped 10 years ago when he was a pro mountain biker. I think I hit my limit on the “outing” process that’s been going on since the USADA Reasoned Decision came out over a year ago.
I already know most riders were on drugs during that time period and Hesjedal has been riding for Garmin for six years, the cleanest squad in the pro peloton. Even anti-doping curmudgeon Paul Kimmage said grudgingly that Jonathan Vaughters’ Argyle Army is probably clean.
So yeah, yeah, yeah. Who gives a flying fudgsicle? I’m already falling asleep, eyes glazing over as I read that the man who won the Giro d’Italia two years ago is really sorry and made some mistakes and he loves the bike and is happy young riders today don’t have to make the same difficult choices he did.
Yada-yada-yada, dozing off.
I have to check myself a bit here because full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of the Garmin squad. Personally and professionally, I think Hesjedal and Tom Danielson and the recently retired Christian Vande Velde and goofball Dave Zabriskie are good guys.
They made their mistakes and when they saw a chance to ride clean for a visionary team out to change the dynamics in professional cycling they jumped on board immediately.
Garmin proved to the world that big races like Paris-Roubaix and the Giro could be won clean and that is the biggest, most beautiful and influential thing in the sport other than Brian Cookson kicking Pat McQuaid out of the UCI.
So yeah, bummer that some clean mountain biker guys got knocked down a place or two or five. Maybe they didn’t get the win but they never have to question that black stain on their integrity and will always have the delicious satisfaction of owning the moral high ground. Chapeau to them.
Being an older guy now, I don’t see the world in black and white anymore; maturity has forced me to wrestle with all the miserable but unavoidable grey in the world. Am I a little disappointed in Hesjedal? — yeah, sure, we all like our heroes to be pure inspiration.
Then again, I’m uncomfortable around saints — I find them dull, inhuman and judgmental and they wear too much white.
When riders get outed for past doping mistakes, I look at it this way: what are they doing right now about clean cycling? Did they just keep riding for questionable teams and continue playing the cynical game and deny everything? I’d put guys like Scarponi and Pozzatto and Alejandro Valverde and the retired Vinokourov in that camp.
Was I just heart-broken to learn that Bobby Julich doped in the past? No, having followed the sport closely for 10 years, that wasn’t a shocking revelation. But was he working for a hardcore clean team like Sky and trying to make the sport better? I think so. I judge a Julich differently than I’d judge a Scarponi.
So while I’m a tad bummed to learn that Hesjedal succumbed to the pressures of doping in order to pursue his dream, I don’t feel angry or betrayed. I’m disappointed in the same way I am when I go to the mailbox to discover there are no checks, just bills and junk mail.
I shrug my shoulders, yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.