Taylor Phinney is known for his strong anti-doping stance, refusing to even take aspirin to mask pain.
That hard-core position against medications was taken to new extremes after his horrific crash in the USA Cycling Professional Road Race championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Paramedics rushed Phinney to the emergency room at the Erlandger hospital where doctors immediately operated. However, Phinney refused all pain medications despite the complicated surgery to repair a broken left tibia and fibula.
“He was in excruciating pain, but when the anesthesiologist arrived, Taylor yelled at him to get out of the operating room,” said doctor Adam Borstein. “There was blood everywhere and we were dealing with shattered bones but I couldn’t even talk him into a Tylenol.”
Moaning in agony on the operation table, Phinney nevertheless told his medical team there would be no pharmaceuticals involved in his treatment. “He kept saying, ‘No, we’re doing this old school, Civil War style. Cut me open, do what you gotta do but no meds,'” said Borstein.
Desperate to offer some pain relief, the medical team apparently handed Phinney a bottle of Tennessee whiskey but the BMC rider also turned down the alcohol, pouring the liquid onto the floor.
“He was adamant about the painkillers,” said Borstein, who performed the three hour surgery. “All he asked for was a leather belt to bite down on. We were able to get a thick brown belt from one of the tech guys.”
According to several witnesses, one nurse passed out as she watched Phinney writhe and scream despite the leather belt gag. However that dramatic story was countered by Borstein. “Yeah, he was gritting his teeth pretty hard but he’s a tough guy. I’m working the scalpel and drilling in some screws but he’s still on his iPhone sending out a tweet.”
Later on the hospital nightshift staff were also surprised to discover Phinney crawling down the hall to the bathroom. “He said he didn’t need no help from nobody,” said nurse Leticia Jackson. “He was moaning pretty good but when I tried to get two orderlies to carry him to the bathroom, he said ‘No biggie, I got this.'”
A few days after the surgery his physical therapy team made an impassioned argument for medication to help alleviate his suffering. Phinney then grabbed the pill bottles and ran over them with his wheelchair, grinding the pills into powder. He was quoted as saying, “Didn’t you see me ride Milan San Remo back in 2013? Didn’t you see me in the snow and ice and freezing temperatures as I bridging solo to the winning group? I don’t need no stinking pain pills. I’m a bad-ass muthafugga.”
However, Phinney did lose one argument. Doctors ignored his request for no bandages. “He was going overboard on that one,” said Borstein. “He didn’t even want a bandaid or wrap or brace or crutches.”