Rush Limbaugh has his . . . well, here is mine. This is my record of news stories and issues that interest me. You can also find more headlines at the site where I serve as editor: The Common Voice.

Friday, August 24, 2007

From Lance to Landis

My thoughts on the book, From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France by David Walsh.

Perhaps the part of David Walsh’s expose of the doping culture in professional cycling – and American cycling in particular – that gripped me most was the author’s note at the conclusion. Here in a book published before the 2007 Tour is an afterthought that mentions an event that would help turn that Tour upside down.

Walsh writes, “Four years ago, I traveled to Milan to meet a young American who had recently moved from Colorado to Italy. He told a story about a friend of his, a European-born professional cyclist, who had asked this young man to bring to Italy a pair of favorite cycling shoes he had unintentionally left in the United States.” He explains how that the young man agreed to help his friend, but he had to open the shoebox in order to fit the shoes into his luggage.

Walsh continues, “Inside the package were eight cartons of bovine hemoglobin.” This, of course, was used at the time for illegal doping. Then after writing how the young American asked him not to reveal the name of the rider, Walsh describes him, “I follow the rider’s performances each year, and, over the last three seasons, he has become quite a star. He has won stages of the Tour de France and is expected to claim another in 2007.”

The rider? You already know his name, Michael Rasmussen.

If you paid attention the Rasmussen affair during the 2007 Tour de France, then you have experienced Walsh’s book in miniature. All the conjecture, his word against some other person’s word, protestations of “I have never tested positive,” and no silver bullet are all part of the book.

Walsh puts his focus, not on Rasmussen (who is not mentioned at all in the book), but on Lance Armstrong. He connects the dots of conjecture, brings in the interviews of those Lance will tell you are only trying to bring him down, tries to show that indeed Armstrong HAS tested positive, but in the end he offers no silver bullet.

Does he plant some doubt? You betcha! How does he do it? He builds a very strong case from interviews and actual events to show the culture of doping in professional cycling. He then shows how Lance fit in the profile of those who doped.

He also makes compelling arguments to show the need to dope in order to be competitive in the sport. The jump in speeds of the tour during the time EPO was introduced to the sport and the way it was measured by those clean cyclists who dropped their jaws in amazement as last year’s human riders left them in the dust just 12 months later.

Still, the word on Walsh is that he looks for a doper under every rock. Can he be trusted to be unbiased? That is the word that his detractors put out. “He’s just trying to bring down the sport. He has a personal vendetta against Lance.”
My thoughts? Did Lance dope? I don’t know – I haven’t seen the silver bullet. However, I sure can say that because of Walsh’s book I’ve seen the shell casings. Does professional cycling have a doping problem? I would say the answer is, “Without a doubt.”

I want to believe in such teams as Slipstream and those riders who have come out vocally opposed to the culture (and so does Walsh). To me, the danger for cycling is not the doping, but the lack of trust that the dopers have created. Do I want to get behind a team like Slipstream? Do I want to believe young riders like Craig Lewis will avoid getting sucked into the culture? Who can you trust?

After reading From Lance to Landis, I’m going to have to let some time pass before my level of trust will return.

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