Those Magic Moments

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I was sort of irked a couple days ago when someone left a comments asking me, it’s “unclear where you obtained your moral high ground” concerning doping. I felt it was a slam. I felt it was a slam because I didn’t think I take any different stance than every other bike racer out there that doesn’t use drugs to race. I just state mine publicly.

I understand some of the reasons that people use to dope in the sport. None are justifiable. And I don’t understand all the excuses that others use to forgive the riders that “had to” dope.

I still race bicycles for a lot of reasons. But one of the main reasons because I think I understand, at least I believe I have the knowledge, to recognize small, magical moments that occur constantly during a race. The reason that I like to race the hardest, highest category event I can do, is because this moments occur much more often than at a local event or a masters race.

Observing the moments, the “I can’t believe he just did that” actions, is moving. It is intellectually and emotionally relevant to me. And when I have the ability to actually initiate the moment, then I take pride in possessing the abilities and showing the other competitors what can be done at certain times. It helps confirms the reasons I spend such a large portion of my life in the sport.

Cycling attracts me because it is not all brute strength. Many times, a weaker rider can win an event because he used his wits to accomplish something that all the other competitors couldn’t. I love those moments. I give as much respect to a smart rider, actually more respect to a smart rider, than one that is just physically strong.

I believe someone that studies the sport of bicycle racing, participates in the sport, is somewhat of an artist. All artists have their own individual styles and abilities, plus many can recognize greatness in others. When a rider dopes, he has shown that he isn’t comfortable with his own abilities, so he steals his way into the sport. He creates moments that aren’t real. I have no interest in unreal moments. I hate them.

Doping in the sport, ruins special moments that never occur because some jerk has thrown paint all over a newly painted canvas before we all get a chance to see it. He has taken away potential moments because he can.

Anyone can pick up a bucket of paint and destroy a work of art. Anyone can dope to win bike racing. They are both very easy and should be given the same amount of acknowledgment. None.

This whole thing can corrupt you if you let it. I try my best not to allow that to happen, but it does have a way to work its ugly way back in. This is probably when I take a “moral high ground”.

Cycling fans are an easy mark. They want to believe. I am concerned that doping in cycling isn’t going to change. More than concerned. Because then, the sport has no interest for me. I have no desire in watching a bunch of artist wannabes, making photocopies of others work.


30 thoughts on “Those Magic Moments

  1. Rad Renner

    1: extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience
    2: being beyond comprehension
    3: transcending the universe or material existence
    4: universally applicable or significant

    see Steve Tilford

  2. Inga Thompson

    Wow! Thank you, Steve! Hold to your ideas a beliefs. Strength of character is revealed especially when the critics come out. Strength of Character to continue to speak out against drugs when many want to just pass it off, saying let’s move forwards. The fight to continue to speak out against drugs is necessary because the penalties for those who cheated was simply a slap on the wrist. And they continue to keep their fame, make money with book deals, coaching, B&B, etc. Capitalizing on their fame obtained by taking PED.

  3. channel_zero

    hen a rider dopes, he has shown that he isn’t comfortable with his own abilities, so he steals his way into the sport. He creates moments that aren’t real.

    Not true. It’s real to them. Doping IS their real abilities unlocked or whatever excuse the doper dreams up. They sleep okay at night and get the win. What’s not to like? Which reminds me of a certain owner of a certain American cycling federation.

    Also, it’s important to understand typically, the cheater regrets getting caught, not breaking any rule. If the rules mattered like they do to a clean athlete, cheating would not happen. The goal of bike racing is to win and not test positive to a doper. That’s a more complicated game that some see as a challenge.

    I hope it’s clear I’m not defending the dopers, just posting some better insight.

  4. tilford97 Post author

    channel_zero- I agree with you completely. I remember reading a study of something like 200 athletes that asked if they could take a drug and be 100% guaranteed that they wouldn’t get caught, plus win every event for 5 years, would they do it. I believe it was 197 said yes. So, the quandary is getting caught, not the decision making of doping.

    I definitely saw a pride in Lance when he was talking about the measures he took not to test positive. It was a game to him, a challenge, that he liked to play.

    I guess I fall into a very small group, because the getting caught part wouldn’t be high on the reasons to dope or not dope.

  5. Toby Stanton

    Hi Steve,

    I agree with your views, that’s it. As the director of a good junior team, I’m constantly explaining my position on doping to athletes, parents, people that think I’m a cognoscenti. Your views are well articulated and I appreciate them. I would like to hear your views on the reformed dopers. I’m of the opinion that an apology and a suspension are not enough. I think that a lifetime ban, from all aspects of competitive cycling, is the only way to begin to cleanse. Someone who knowingly dopes, i.e., EPO, gets an advantage from the strength gained on that drug that, in my view, never goes away completely. Even if it’s 1/2 % it’s cheating. I know there are those who feel that reformed dopers have something to offer, all their experience, etc and to me, I don’t care. The fans don’t care, they want to see interesting racing and don’t care that it’s David Miller or Levi or any of them. I say let it be the new, young guns we have coming up now that are clean.




  6. e-RICHIE

    I think that a lifetime ban, from all aspects of competitive cycling, is the only way to begin to cleanse. Someone who knowingly dopes, i.e., EPO, gets an advantage from the strength gained on that drug that, in my view, never goes away completely. Even if it’s 1/2 % it’s cheating. I know there are those who feel that reformed dopers have something to offer, all their experience, etc and to me, I don’t care.

    Agreed atmo. No second chances. And you can’t own a team either if you catch my drift…

    (PS I hope the HTML tags work ^ .)

  7. Dana Hill

    ^ if that is the Inga Thompson that use to race I’d like to say that one of my best memories was riding your wheel up the climb in the lake shore race at Super week. You were amazing on the bike.

  8. channel_zero

    Toby and E-richie,

    At least in the U.S., the problem starts at the very top of USAC. Thom Wiesel. Doping allegations have followed that guy around since Eddie B. As it turns out, he’s the owner of a cycling team that systematically doped riders and whose foundation, USACDF, delivered a number of dopers to the elite peloton.

    The problem with first-time lifetime bans is the real possibility that it is a false-positive. Or, as was the case with an American long ago, something banned in a supplement and the product was not labeled as such. The tests are heavily biased against false positives already, but it still can and does happen.

    Maybe as a compromise, triple the ban for needle or transdermal delivered doping? Inhaler-based stuff is steroids anyway and the tests for those are pretty good. My understanding is TUE’s are handed out like candy at Halloween for those, so I’m willing to defer that skirmish.

    Most of the real stuff can only be delivered with an injection and the conversion to an oral delivery is not possible in most cases. So, if the athlete tests positive for an injected drug, triple the ban.

    The AAF’d athlete definitely needs to be forbidden from participating in another role in the sport. Definitely!

  9. SD rider

    If 40 years of clean high level bike racing doesn’t give you the moral high ground what does ?

  10. Bobby

    Thank you for stating your stance on doping publicly Steve. You do seem to be a true artist of the sport. Not everyone is like you however.

    Some have decided on cycling as a profession and hence seek to be well compensated from their profession. Hence, they do what their employers (sponsors, team managers) ask of them (win races, get publicity, endorse their products). Sometimes in order to accomplish their employers goals, they “do whatever it takes” to get results. Including cheating/doping. I certainly don’t look up to these clowns, but many still do.

    I see the whole doping in cycling issue very sad because it has now worked its way down to amateurs, weekend athletes and club riders. In this era of cycling coaches, high technology bikes and components, $500 bike fits and the like, there is no doubt that the win at all costs mentality exists for Cat 5’s 4’s and gran fondo “riders.”

    They just want to emulate “the pros.” And, unfortunately they are also using testosterone, epo, hgh and other crap to enhance their performance. If only they could enjoy the sport like you, for its beauty and artistry. Compete with their own abilities and look for other (real) ways to become a better racer. Perhaps they could also be satisfied with giving it their best and awaiting those magic moment.

    Steve, here’s hoping that you remain a voice of honesty in the cycling world and that there are many more like you!

  11. Toby Stanton

    Hi Steve,
    I agree that injectables and patches and the like are different than whatever it was that Scott Moninger tested for. I do understand that the system is unfairly weighed towards guilty. I think Jonathan Page is the one and only person to successfully defend himself against USADA when he missed a test because of a crash and being in the hospital. For me it’s the ones that boosted to fit in, to be one of the ones in the front, JV, George, Levi, Christian, Tom, on and on and on. They are contrite as they sit in nice houses paid for with doped earnings. They made connections with the well to do that never would have happened had they remained domestic pro’s because without the drugs they wouldn’t have been noteworthy European professionals at that time, and still want to make a living from cycling. I can’t get past that part. The money will never be returned, they say we need to look forward, not back. I say they have little to offer that can’t be found in the new generation.

  12. Scott McKinley

    Steve this is one of the best things I’ve read on the subject, and certainly of your best posts. On this one I echo your point of view to the letter.

  13. Roberto

    Toby, the reason they wouldn’t have been European professionals, if they hadn’t doped, is because everybody in Europe was doping. While I agree with most of what Steve said, some of you are making some pretty crazy statements. Ban them from anything cycling related, forever?. Everyone on this planet makes mistakes, and you’re saying they deserve no forgiveness. What kind of people are you. If a guy who works at a newspaper, gets in an argument, and kills someone. When he gets out of prison, they don’t stop him from working at the newspaper again. And that’s a far worse crime. He serves his time, and tries to move on. We may not like the penalties a lot of these guys got, but they serve whatever suspension they’re handed, and should get to move on. You act like Lance and the others, personally stole something from you. Were you really that naive. And were you that angry at your parents, when you found out they lied about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

  14. Toby Stanton


    I understand that they probably wouldn’t have made it in Europe clean when everyone was doped. It is, however, no excuse to say, “they were all doping and I wanted to race so I had to dope too.” Doping is not a mistake, it’s fraud. Your use of a newspaper person committing murder is nonsensical. Use this example, if a Wall street guy is caught and convicted of insider trading he is not allowed to ever work in the industry as a trader again. Apples to apples. I’ve not made my argument personal and I don’t know you choose to. Lance, et al, did steel from all of us. They robbed a generation of clean athletes. Look at the last several Olympic teams for the US. Tell me how many clean athletes raced versus doped.

  15. Inga Thompson

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. When a banker commits fraud, white collar crime and convicted, he’s not allowed back into the industry. He still has the right to work, just not in his chosen field. When a Pedophile is convicted, he too may come back to work after he pays his dues, just not allowed to work with children. So why should an athlete, coach or director be allowed back into his field of chosen work after committing fraud? Our system is too lenient towards dopers. Had the penalty been stiffer from the beginning, they might have thought twice (probably not….) Pedophiles know it’s wrong, they know the penalty, as do bankers…..(At least the bankers have the government covering for them if they are big enough….) I digress….we all know that almost none get caught, so when they do actually get caught, it’s 6 months. What is wrong with this picture. I do know that some are innocent of ingesting something that they weren’t aware, they proved their point and are released. I’m speaking of the serious stuff…

  16. Bill K

    The idea that dopers can “win” a six month “time out” by rolling over on the Large Fish, makes me laugh.

    To be completly honest, if I was young again, and had 10 times (make that 20) the amount of talent that I have, and my “dream job” depended on it, I might be willing to bend the rules to keep that dream going…. I’m sure that there are hundreds of Pro riders, or soon to be Pro riders who feel that same way.

  17. channel_zero

    Toby, the reason they wouldn’t have been European professionals, if they hadn’t doped, is because everybody in Europe was doping.

    That’s an awful excuse that permits the dopers and doping. What would have happened if USAC wasn’t developing dopers? Pretty much like the post-Festina scandal French riders. Very, very little results. That’s the only path to legitimacy.

    USAC at the senior level does not support dope-free racing. Further down, I know there are well meaning people. But, at the top, the premise is “win and not test positive.”

  18. channel_zero

    Hey Mike,

    We have this new cool “unlimited” category in cycling where all the money is made by riders.
    You might die from doping.
    You will probably be hospitalized for not doping correctly
    You will experience severe health issues for the rest of your life.
    You will take part in totally uncontrolled human experimentation.
    Are you ready for that? You get to go to Europe and race!!! Awesome! You are first Mike! Lucky you!

    Best of all, we see your Son/Daughter has a gift for cycling. She has to start doping as a teenager in order to be far enough along when he/she is 21, that’s assuming she/he gets that far. Oh, and she/he will probably have lifelong complications.
    When do you start doping your kid? How long are you doing the injections?

    The UCI thinks she/he should start with some peptides and testosterone recovery doping. As we get closer to racing season, she/he will need to be on EPO continuously. But, not too much, otherwise she/he will die of a heart attack.
    You are first Mike! Lucky you! Your son/daughter is next! Ready for that tough guy?

  19. Bill K

    You can never “know” something like that, for sure. If you’re on the bubble, and you stay clean, and get cut, how will you feel if the rider on your team who didn’t get cut because he was riding “hot”, turns out to have been “using”.
    This is why it’s so hard for the Professional “Pack Filler” to stay clean.

  20. Jim

    It still amazes me that Scot Monniger was suspended for two years for accidental “doping” yet the guys who use the REAL stuff (Zabriskie, Leipheimer, VandeVelde, Hincapie, etc.) get 6 months in the off-season. OUCH!!

  21. Mike Barman

    Steve: I think you missed discussing the magical moment when you beat a doper and they know your clean!

  22. Davidh

    Great post, Steve. From the heart and so right on.

    I think I’m with Channel Zero on tripling the ban for injectables. At this point, anyway, that seems like a bright line that would be difficult to cross without understanding the magnitude and consequences.

    As to the 6-month-ban gang, I feel very ambivalent about their return. If they are really interested in redemption I’d love to see them pool a personally “meaningful” amount of their earnings to support a development and/or women’s team. The catch would be that they would neither own the team nor use it as a personal branding/vanity project.

  23. Toby Stanton

    Hi Channel_zero
    I know that they wouldn’t have made it clean because most in Europe were doped. It is an awful excuse for doping but it’s not one I’m making and I’m not excusing them for making that choice, quite the contrary. I’ve spent the last twenty-two years working with juniors, trying to change the system through evolution, not revolution. Anyone who knows me and my team, knows that I would rather lose than win cheating. It’s never been an option for me or my team. If you look at my old riders now at the top level, you will see men of honor and integrity and more on the way. This is why I’ve stayed doing what I do, at the age group I work with. This is a critical time to teach them right from wrong.

  24. Roberto

    Saying they wouldn’t have made it in Europe, because all of Europe was doping, wasn’t an excuse. I wasn’t excusing their doping, I was just saying they wouldn’t have been there. Inga and Toby, I have no problem with someone who encourages others, and who delivers doping products to others, being banned from the sport. But I can’t say I feel the same way about the athletes. I don’t think it’s apples to apples. Lance might be the exception to this rule, but i’m not positive. Someone provided all those drugs to Lance, and somebody informed him of what everyone else was doing, and what he would have to do, if he wanted to win in Europe. That’s the guy I want punished.


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