You don’t have to be a psychologist or expert in human behavior to figure out Levi Leipheimer is pretty pissed off. First, he finally admits to doping in the past and then his Omega-Pharma-Quickstep squad terminates him.
The firing points out the continual difficulties for pro riders on the subject of drugs and honesty: damned if you do and damed if you don’t — and we might add far poorer.
As usual, USADA CEO Travis Tygart hit on the truth of the matter. “It seems really clear he’s being punished,” Tygart told Velonews. “We really hope that teams out there will appreciate what’s at stake right now… At the end of the day, the last thing the sport needs is an attempt to silence those who had the courage to come forward, because that’s the only thing that’s going to allow the sport to move forward.”
You think any rider making serious money will want to come forward now because his conscience is a little heavy? Have to be stupid to get yourself cut. Wait until retirement and then maybe never.
Doesn’t matter that OPQS team boss Patrick Lefevere had admitted to using amphetamines and other doping products in his own career as a rider. Doesn’t matter that his big classics star Tom Boonen tested positive for cocaine in 2008. Doesn’t seem to matter that Lefevere ran the team when Johan Museeuw was doping his way to several Paris-Roubaix wins.
Tygart is quick to remind us of the systemic problems in the sport that encourage riders to resort to doping. The short sighted attitude, the sponsor instability, the lack of leadership.
“I think it’s the narrow-sighted lack of leadership within the sport that has led to the problem to begin with,” he said. “It’s disappointing. We have shown what the culture was, the pressure that kept it… to see it crop up so instantaneously just further perpetuates the problem.”
When Leipheimer was terminated, it took Joe Lindsey and 50 other bloggers about five minutes to figure out the additional reason for terminating Leipheimer. It was a convenient way to free up the serious budget required to sign sprinter Mark Cavendish. A ruthless grab for the Manxman masquerading as ethics.
Want to see team leadership in action? Garmin-Sharp is sticking by their riders Dave Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson. And why shouldn’t they? Those riders were sick of doping and came to the squad precisely because of the extreme anti–doping policy. They are the guys that provide the inspiration for the next generation.
If people want to get high and mighty and complain about riders waiting until retirement — read George Hincapie — before telling the truth, well, now you know why. Even though it’s been eight years since Leipheimer stopped doping, he’s taking the fall.
There’s a lot of critics out there that take a black or white attitude about the riders who confessed. Kick them out forever, throw them in jail, fuck ’em all. Just doesn’t work like that and it’s a case by case judgement — which is exhausting but mandatory.
Our feeling is, what are these riders doing now to clean up the sport? That’s the deciding factor for us. Garmin-Sharp — including Zabriskie, Danielson and Vande Velde — is proving to riders on every team that you can win grand tours and one day classics without resorting to doping. Their recent no-needles rule is just another example of leading the sport into the light.
We can’t make the same argument for Leipheimer but what was he doing just this week? Speaking at a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency science symposium held last weekend in Atlanta. Was that part of his testimony deal? Who knows, he was there, helping the science geeks get a better handle on how to stop doping. A little belated, sure, but do you see Hincapie doing that, for example?
Now that we’re on a roll, what about Allen Lim, who is once again under fire based on claims by Floyd Landis that the sports physiologist helped him dope? Again, the rule we apply is not kick them out forever, it’s what positive things have you been doing lately. You have to judge the whole body of work.
Now, first we’ll admit that we really like Allen Lim. We’ve interview him a half dozen times in the last few years at the Tour of California and Colorado. He’s always been generous with his time and he has fascinating things to tell about human performance.
I think Floyd is probably right about Lim but the last few years Lim has worked with guys Tejay Van Garderen, Taylor Phinney and Craig Lewis on how to win clean. His sports nutrition company Scratch Lab and his Feed Zone cookbook are great ways to keep us all healthy — from racers to 55 old guys like myself. I don’t know that it serves the sport to take Allen Lim down.
Did somebody say Matt White? Yeah, another guy thrown under the bus with the hope that the bad PR goes away and nothing else much changes. The story is always the same — the rider pays the price but not the team or the cycling federation or the sports governing body. I call bullshit, as Gerard Vrooman likes to say.
Yes, White goes down but who pays at the top? It’s the question anti-doping expert Michael Ashenden asked after White was sacked “”With obvious exceptions such as Armstrong, I consider them to be victims of a broken system, rather than evil-doers. It’s time the organizations who oversee cycling are held accountable for what has transpired, and nowhere is that more evident than here in Australia.”
By now you’re probably thinking, well, what about Lance Armstrong? Do his monumental good works in fighting cancer earn him a get-out-of-doping card? Sadly, no. We would argue that the Boss was not a victim but an instigator.
It is overwhelmingly clear from the USADA rider testimonies that Lance was a leader who encouraged doping, enfaced doping within his team, bullied those who didn’t and intimidated and persecuted those who spoke the truth. He has done nothing to make cycling a cleaner sport, not then, not now. His astonishing and damaging denials prevent the sport from moving on.
Anne Gripper, former head of anti-doping for the UCI, had this to say about Armstrong’s role. ”Two things have really come out – that approach he took to perpetuating the issue and aggravating and influencing; [and] the hypocrisy of the continual denial. It’s that leadership role in a practice that was clearly completely unethical and against the spirit of sport.”
It’s a messy world and shit happens and we don’t feel too bad for Levi Leipheimer. One way or another everybody pays their price and it’s not usually a fair one. What we take issue with today is Omega-Pharma Quickstep demonstrating why the sport has such a hard time being progressive. Terminating Levi was cynical and myopic.
Now, USADA’s work is largely done. It’s up to the sport’s governing body and teams how it to proceed. “We’re at a juncture, I think,” Tygart said. “We’ve done our job, we’ve handed it off. But they’re at a pivotal point in their history, and we only hope they go in the right direction.”
Patrick Lefevere, a man with a bad sense of direction.