Which is Better? Private or Public.

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Being down in Austin, about everything that Lance Armstrong does or says gets printed. In today’s local paper, The Austin American Statesman, this article talked about the ongoing Federal Investigation into drug usage by cyclists. Pretty much the same article came out on Cyclingnews.com yesterday, which can be found here.

I’m not sure I got what Lance was trying to say. I don’t like what I think he was saying, but I’m not sure that is what he meant. Here’s the quotes that I’m having trouble with.

Other sports have done a good job ignoring whatever issue they may or may not have; or dealing with it internally, or dealing with it through a players’ union or teams’ union or governing body.”

”Our [issues] most of the time play out in the public eye, [with] people popping off in the press. As long as that kind of anarchy exists we’ll never move forward.

Like I said above, I’m not sure to what Lance is referring. The article is about a Federal Investigation involving drugs in cycling and how it is affecting him. I think, if I’m reading it correctly, that Lance is saying that it would have been better to ignore the problems of drugs in cycling or deal with it behind closed doors, than allow it to play out legally and through the media. I must be missing something here. That just doesn’t sound like something he would/should say.

I had to look up the word anarchy, to make sure that I knew the definition. I did know the definition. But, I’m not sure how it applies here. Here is the definition of the word anarchy-

Anarchy (from Greek: ἀναρχίᾱ anarchíā, “without ruler”) may refer to any of the following:

* “No rulership or enforced authority.”[1]
* “A social state in which there is no governing person or group of people, but each individual has absolute liberty (without the implication of disorder).”[2]
* “Absence of government; a state of lawlessness due to the absence or inefficiency of the supreme power; political disorder.”[3]
* “Absence or non-recognition of authority and order in any given sphere.”[4]
* “Acting without waiting for instructions or official permission… The root of anarchism is the single impulse to do it yourself: everything else follows from this.” [5]
* Anarchy is the basic rule of a no rule society.

Sports in general, and especially cycling have been overwrought with drugs for a very long time. That is a fact. But, it was getting worse and worse as the drugs got better and better. Up until the late 90’s and maybe a little longer, it had gotten so bad that there was close to anarchy with the enforcement of rules and laws concerning drugs in cycling. It was systemic. Whole teams on systematic programs of drug abuse. The Festina affair brought some of it to light. But, it was other teams also. PDM, Telecom, etc. Every rider on most of the Tour teams were on the program, with virtually no enforcement by any governing body. Anarchy.

I think that exactly the opposite of anarchy is happening now. Finally. We allowed the governing body, the teams and the riders to have their way and it finally got to a tipping point. When that tipping point occurred, others got involved. First, the police and governments of many countries. And the media. Then WADA and other organizations that, in theory, have no ties to the UCI. This is what is changing the atmosphere surrounding drug usage in cycling. The “old guard” is publicly applauding the efforts, but privately they are resisting. It is going more and more underground. Like I’ve said before, riders that sit out their 2 years, never seem to have a problem getting rehired and resuming their career as soon as their suspensions are over. You have to really go against the grain, such as Michael Rasmussen, to have problems reentering the sport.

Lance says later that, “You can never come to a consensus, which is fine. But some of it should be dealt with behind closed doors – among the teams, among the riders who [must] come to a solution that should be the approach they move forward with. But it’s not. People walk out of these meetings and immediately … start popping off [to the media].”

The media is an important part of transparency. In politics. Business. Now in sports. Suggesting that the media should be excluded from the process is not well thought out.

If Lance thinks that the Pro Rider’s Union (CPA) or Teams (AIGCP) are the channels to address the problem of drugs in the sport of cycling, he needs to rethink this notion. They had their opportunities and it came to this. Also, I’m pretty sure that those organizations have little or no budget. And, why would the riders themselves what to probe into drug usage in the sport of cycling? It doesn’t make any sense. Behind close doors? Wow.

So, I’m hoping that a lot of this interview, which was done for an Australian newspaper, was taken out of context and that it isn’t really what Lance wants to convey to the general public about the problem of drugs in our sport and how to eradicate it. That must be the explanation? Lance states later in the article that he has no voice in the sport now that he “is 40”. He is wrong in this regard for sure. He has the loudest voice we have in cycling. I hope he uses it wisely.

12 thoughts on “Which is Better? Private or Public.

  1. h luce

    Well, if drug use is as widespread as you think it is, then cleaning up the sport would mean coming very close to destroying it, in the sense that lots of big-time riders, big commercial draws, would get kicked out. You’d be left with a lot of people no one’s ever heard of. Cycling, at least in the US, is a pretty marginal sport, anyway, so if you get rid of the big names, it’s over, not only for the events, but for the manufacturers who get tons of advertising from the events, from having their EPO-augmented guy motoring up the mountain with their logo on his side. Keeping the whole thing quiet helps the big names who got their fame by cheating – but it also keeps the events and the manufacturers going. Cold hard cash is a great impetus to sweep stuff under the rug, secret deals avoid the “Tell us it ain’t so, Joe” kind of controversy – and embarrassment. If cycling now were as big as baseball in 1919, you could have a Kennesaw Mountain Landis appointed as “Commissioner of Cycling” – but baseball then was nowhere near as corrupt as cycling is now.

  2. Neil Kopitsky

    I think Lance is frustrated that cycling is not “controlled” the way other sports are (hence the unintentionally ironic use of “irony.”
    Cycling gets the bad wrap, but consider NFL football:
    According to the Collective bargaining agreement (negotiated by the strong NFL Players Association) ANY testing is prohibited from the end of the season to until the end of March (“Cycle Up, Boys!”)
    Every team has Fourth Amendment secured compound (training facility) unlike a bus or car which is subject to searches crossing international boarders.
    Testing is “random” by a couple of guys on each team and if someone is unlucky enough to test positive (despite having tremendous resources for sophisticated doping) they get a four game suspension, a two line report on ESPN and are welcomed back without humiliation. And NO ONE talks about it.

    So I understand Lance’s point. What is so disappointing to me is not just that cycling has a problem, but Lance sounds like he wants to just accept the problem but have the problem virtually ignored like every other sport.

    Why not use his resources to strive to make cycling a beacon of FAIRNESS and LEGITIMACY?

  3. rman

    How about just ride your bike for fun and not worry about this shit anymore
    He’s basically saying that everyone cheats and lets just get used to it.
    I’ll take my trails in the woods anyday over that type of lifestyle
    still did/doing a lot for cancer though

  4. Jason

    H Luce- I don’t know Mr. Tilford, but I suspect that his feelings on drug use in cycling are spot on. This is a quote from your above post,”their EPO-augmented guy motoring up the mountain with their logo on their side.”. Have you seen the new Team Leopard jerseys? Did you see the sponsor prominently displayed on the front? Actually you couldn’t because their isn’t one. There is a big empty space where there should be a sponsor’s name. I will accept that part of the no sponsorship problem could be economically justified, but I will contend a large part is because of the drug problems in this sport. These problems need to be aggressively addressed and dealt with to gain credibility and marketability. They don’t need to be hidden and “dealt” with via some sacred omerta.

  5. WildCat

    I don’t accept the “is 40” statement as you (obviously) don’t either. But really, aren’t you the REAL loudest voice in cycling?

  6. dirtyworks

    >cleaning up the sport would mean coming
    >very close to destroying it

    What would be destroyed is UCI’s role in doping enforcement and along with it some of the UCI’s policy makers. For some powerful reasons, you are committed to the current system.

    Something more transparent can and should take its place.


    A little clarification, WADA passes results back to the UCI. The UCI then decides what to do with the results. UCI is acting as a broker between WADA’s findings and riders. It is well known by now that positives are not handled by the UCI equally. (ex. the last few clen positives)

    The UCI’s doping actions inspire no confidence in their ability to rid the sport of doping.

  7. dirtyworks


    No, ‘everyone’ doesn’t cheat. Some cheat and do so willfully and in full view of others while denying their cheating. The framework of the sport is thus destroyed.

    ‘Everyone cheats’ killed quite a few very young cyclists when they were being given so much EPO they would have heart attacks. There’s no doubt better PED’s will follow. Will it be okay to kill more athletes with those too because ‘everyone cheats?’

    Let’s just institutionalize the PED use and start with children like Carmichael and Wenzel did. They didn’t kill anyone. But some of their athletes had some pretty weird illnesses including cancer. Still okay?

    Laws regarding the transport and distribution controlled substances aren’t important either because ‘everyone cheats.’

    Those are just a few of the consequences of letting the cheating go. Still okay?

  8. Paul

    Just stop paying people to ride bikes. If someone wants to assume the risk and expense of doping to win pies, they have bigger issues than just wanting to cheat.

  9. h luce

    I’m not advocating “omerta” or corruption at all, but I’m saying that the effect of really and truly enforcing anti-doping regs will take out most of the big-time riders. They’re big time because they made the decision to cheat. Of course, being realistic, they had no choice; it was either cheat and become a big name, get the race wins and the headlines, or become a domestique (if that). Steve has always raced straight and honest, and he could have been where Lance Armstrong is now, if the sport were not as viciously corrupted as it has been over the length of Steve’s racing career, and I’ve known Steve for more than 30 years now. It’s not that Steve lacks the skill and the physiology necessary to make the big wins at the big races, it’s that he and others like him made a conscious decision to ride and race honorably and not cheat, and by so doing forfeited the advantage conferred by PEDs which could have enabled him to become (say) a TDF winner. But there was always big money riding on these things, millions of dollars of deals going on, and so it’s like any other sport which draws big money and gets corrupted by it. I think the practices that gave rise to this scandal should be brought out into the full light of day, and each and every rider who ever cheated and made a career from dishonor should be fully exposed for who and what they really are. However, the consequence of this will be that the sport will be destroyed as a commercial draw, and a lot of people will be ruined financially. I’m just saying that any sort of reform will cause a great financial sacrifice for a lot of powerful and rich people, and they won’t stand for it – so without concentrated effort over a period of years, or a massive change in attitude or consciousness by the great mass of riders, there’ll be no reform.

  10. Jason

    h luce-
    Sorry if I misunderstood. I say blow it up. I think it is corrupt to the core and it needs to be cleansed from top to bottom. I know a lot of people will get destroyed in the process, but I think they deserve what they have coming. I would rather have a clean sport that I can’t see on Versus, than a filthy sport that hurts many and financially benefits a few.


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