The Program – the movie

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I watched the movie The Program last night.  I wasn’t really that interested in watching it, but it kind of just happened.  If you don’t know about the movie, it is about Lance and his career, mainly related to his doping in the sport, which was nearly constant.

I think they did a pretty good job covering nearly a 20 year period.  Obviously it just hit on the main craziness and extent of his doping.

The movie started when he was wearing a World Championship jersey, so it must of been the spring of 1994.  He is lined up at a race and there is Johan Bruyneel lined up telling him that he is going to get smeared.  It goes on to show him driving over to Switzerland with a some other riders to buy EPO.

That is the only part of the movie that I think is really off.  And it really is the only part that I have any first hand information on.  You see, when Lance called me a couple years ago, I got into a discussion about when he started doping.

He said that he was racing in 1993 “on bread and water”.  That the Triple Crown, where he won a million dollar bonus, and the World Championships, were his god-given talent.  I told him that I couldn’t believe that.  I was at all 3 races at the Triple Crown and those performances were super suspect.  More than suspect, just ridiculous.

Anyway, I was in California when Lance called and when I got home a couple weeks later, there was the book “Cycle of Lies” sitting in my pile of mail.  I didn’t read the book, but was flipping through it and saw the section that was about John Hendershot.

Hendershot “Shot”, had been the soigneur for Len Pettyjohn forever.  He was working domestically.  Then he moved to Europe to work for Motorola.  In the book, Hendershot is quoted as saying that by 1993,  “Armstrong was using all of those substances”.   Those substances were “bags filled with the blood booster EPO, human growth hormone, blood thinners, amphetamines, cortisone, painkillers and testosterone”.  He said he never personally administered EPO to Lance but was “aware” that he was using it.  Here is a link to an article to Shots whole statement.  

So, anyway, I don’t know why in the movie they imply that Lance was clean when he won the Worlds.  And why Lance would tell me that he was clean then?  Seems weird.  I definitely believe John Hendershot over Lance.  John has no reason to lie.

Anyway, when you see it on film, guys using syringes and taking drugs, it brings it to reality.    I can’t imagine how many times that occurred throughout his, or their careers.  It is creepy.

If you’re interested in the whole deal, it isn’t a long movie.  It is entertaining enough. I thought it was hilarious when I heard the actor that played Lance, Ben Foster, doped during the movie with PED’s, to get into character. Go figure.  I’d just as well like to forget the whole thing.

Lance winning the World in 1993.

Lance winning the World in 1993.

Tucker is now into playing with old tires.  This might work out so well?

Tucker is now into playing with old tires. This might not work out so well?


28 thoughts on “The Program – the movie

  1. old and slow

    That has been the last line of defense ever since Oprah. Somebody still doesn’t want to admit that he was doped like a madman (enough to get cancer from it, ultimately) and bribing the rest of the peleton to win the triple crown. Which is also exactly why he doesn’t want to cop to the hospital room statement with Frankie and Betsy.

    Otherwise why bother at all?

    Besides if this domino falls, then it goes all the way back to Carmichael, Wenzel and the USCF junior program. (Which I always assumed was the case anyway when Lance went after Strock as that whole snake pit was being litigated in 2002 or thereabouts.)

  2. channel_zero

    He was doping as an “under 23” with Carmichael and Wenzel, 1991. Sorry Steve, I know you look more favorably on Carmichael, but you would have us believe Wenzel was doing it secretly?

    One of ESPN’s articles from years ago goes into great length about his never tested positive values ignored by USA Cycling at the time.

  3. Jack Sparrow

    Of course it goes back to Carmichael! Wasn’t there an out of court settlement for juniors getting “vitamins” in the 90’s?

  4. older and slower

    Yes, I was informed by people who know that Carmichael paid $30,000 to get out of the lawsuit between Strock and USA Cycling.

  5. Bolas Azules

    I sat with Lance in the summer of ’92 as he just was making a full go as a neo-pro and he was getting shelled and by his own admission it wasn’t going to happen for long – he was either going to get onboard or come home. Let’s just say he stayed.

    The doping in the U.S. up until then (1978’ish – late ’80’s) was pretty simple stuff – old Eastern European stuff, speed, off season ‘roids and whatever the ex-continential pro boys brought back with them as ‘suppliments’ or vitamins. The new $ kicker from deeper pockets, your Federation dues ($) hard at work and the new ability to hire some of the dirtiest people in sports medicine changed the game. Yeah the money took it from experimentation and dabbling to full 200+ days a year programs. His own definition might be he wasn’t on a full program so therefore he wasn’t doping and maybe he didn’t come clean because of the Triple Crown $$$ he ‘earned.’

  6. Krakatoa East of Java

    BTW, there was an “injection culture” surrounding the US national team going (at least) all the way back to the early 80’s. It’s very hard to say when the actual line was crossed in regards to PEDs, but even when no legal lines had yet been crossed, the “win-at-all-costs” culture and mentality was already well cemented. They just hadn’t found their magic substances yet. Ironically, I remember Alexi running afoul of Eddie B’s crew when he refused an injection at either the Olympics or some other international event. I think Alexi simply preferred preparing his own concoctions. Back then, almost everyone had their own secret substances (most of which were completely benign).

    Even as a junior in early 80’s SoCal, I was seeing people who were willing to introduce virtually anything into their bodies, based solely on fads and rumors that they might get some kind of benefit. One thing is for certain: People were heavily experimenting then (and all by themselves).

  7. Bolas Azules

    Good post and right on the money. I do like the term ‘injection culture’ and it was alive and well once the Eastern European influences arrived and got to work by the mid-to-late 1970’s. I ran afoul of it and was shunned for my ‘fear of needles’ but I do say, I myself and my children are 100% healthy all of these years later. So much cannot ne said for those that didn’t share my fear of needles.

  8. mark

    That whole deal with Greg Strock and Erich Kaiter will burn those responsible eventually. Carmichael can’t dodge these bullets forever.

  9. mike crum

    “And why Lance would tell me that he was clean then”? cause hes a fuckin liar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. you dont know this by now? past and present..

  10. Barb

    The Lance era is a dark cloud on cycling for sure, but the fact is, efforts to win by cheating were happening long before the Lance era, and are still occurring, and will continue to occur long after Lance’s demise, just with different names and faces. For example cross rider Femke Van den Driessche was found to have a motor in her bike, along with two dozen other pro road cyclists who were sanctioned or suspended for doping in 2015. One big reason Lance fell from grace is because he was a complete jerk to a lot of people, and his downfall was a direct result of people not liking him personally, since he made no effort to treat others with respect, and worse–bullied a lot of them, and the ego there ultimately came back to bite him in the chamois. In reality however, what he was doing as far as the doping wasn’t much more of a scandal than what tens of dozens of other pro road cyclists had already been doing for decades and what all of his competitors were also doing, in all fairness of keeping his “crimes” in perspective. It was just on a more sophisticated level during his era than it ever had been in the past. Sadly, all of the cheating, both then and now, kind of ruined pro cycling for me, as before– in my ignorance–I used to really enjoy watching and getting into following the races, especially in Europe. Oh well.
    All I have to say about this post is, I love your dog. :p

  11. old and slow

    “And why Lance would tell me that he was clean then”

    A. Because he still controls the mythology just a little bit. I would submit that this nugget of misinformation was the whole reason that LA had reached out to Steve in the first place. Kudos for the measured “who TF do you think you are kidding,” response to that one, Mr. Tilford.

    Certainly not as much control as back there in the heady days of “I’m the most tested athlete in the history of sport,” but I suspect that when you have run a global con job of that magnitude then it’s simply quite hard to go cold turkey afterward.

    B. If you actually believe this cock and bull story then a whole lot of people are automatically exonerated, almost all of them American citizens who could be subpoenaed & many still quite prominent in the sport.

    C. The only thing worse for Lance since 2013 would be if every last man woman and child on earth now believed that he got the cancer from doping at the very edge of the envelope from a very young age and then shamelessly built a charity empire from it. Even though Dr. Ferrari thought so himself.

    Charles Ponzi would sit straight up in his grave and applaud that one. Like I said, “look I was clean through 1994, I HAD to do this stuff to keep up ” is clearly the last line of defense.

    D. Because the UCI hasn’t yet taken his rainbow jersey away and everything else in his entire career is now tainted with either state of the art PED use, suppressed positive tests or else widely acknowledged collusion between teams. (The latter otherwise known as insurance fraud and Lance certainly went THERE again too, uh huh?) After all Lance may end up “broke” but he’s still not a convicted felon.

    Something that’s fascinated me for quite a while now. Pretty much from when he wouldn’t confess to the Andreau version of the hospital room in the Oprah interview after he had owned up to absolutely everything else including motorman.

    Now as for why the screenwriter and director bought into it hook line and sinker, well I have absolutely no idea at all. Could be as simple as someone trying to dictate what the history books will say about it all fifty years from now.

  12. Krakatoa East of Java

    Lance’s people went so far as to engage a specialist PR firm to try and derail doping-related discussion boards where “people in the know” would congregate and share information. Yeah, there really were college interns paid to overwhelm discussions and label detractors as cancer-loving negative people. His battle to stay on top of the story was VERY hard fought. Take that fighting attitude and combine it with the best drugs, and you get a 7x champion. I’ll say this for certain, the dude could fight.

  13. Spinner

    Around-the-houses crit in a small northern Illinois city. Cat 1/2 race. About 60 starters. I was there and in the race. I finished 12th. The winner was a friend. His drug of choice was ‘speed’. Took him four hours to come ‘down’ after finishing. He was very talkative during that four hours and he told me what he was doing in regards to “using”. Wonder when this occurred? 1975…….He used the same crap to break the hour for a twenty five later in the season…….He told me he thought I was the only clean guy in the top twenty….Made me very sad to have him tell me this stuff and even sadder now when I think of it……Keep riding….

  14. channel_zero

    n reality however, what he was doing as far as the doping wasn’t much more of a scandal than what tens of dozens of other pro road cyclists had already been doing for decades and what all of his competitors were also doing,

    And that goes back to the federation enabling the doping. If the federations had any interest at all in containing doping, most athletes would make different decisions.

    Did you ever find it funny the number of riders that would leave Lance’s team then suddenly test positive? Doping wasn’t the same everywhere for all riders, that’s for sure.

  15. old and slow

    The biggest thing I can say in his defense is that he never really had a chance to keep it all at arms length like Indurain did. The whole doping thing had a life of its own by the first rest day of his first tour victory. His career spanned from to twitter, it just wasn’t going to happen.

    After that first rest day and the post dated prescription snow job , it was full attack mode as you note.

    I even gave him the benefit of the doubt until he personally tried to intimidate Strock. Which made absolutely no sense at all for an innocent man in the same position. I do remember the hired message board a$$clowns you describe both before and after. Long on cancer rhetoric very short on cycling knowledge. So who on earth advised him that he could get away with that crap forever? (Because he almost did too…..)

  16. Glenn Sanders

    Huh? I was a member of the US National Team from 1983 through 1989. Not once did I see a needle nor was I ever offered an illicit drug. There was just one known drug user, whom I will not name. There certainly was no culture of drug use then – it was generally regarded among the elite of the time as idiotic and counterproductive.

    Glenn Sanders

  17. KrakatoaEastofJava

    Well Glen, I know people who did see it. They named names. Bravo to you for staying clean. The dirty enablers had a way of sensing who’d be down with it and who wouldn’t. I’m guessing you were in the latter category. Shit dude, I remember seeing shots being administered myself (always supposedly b-12). People back then thought of it as “high tech scientific”, not illicit or suspect. So long as the “spin” was good, people believed. They even made casual mention of it in “Winning” articles sometimes. Grewal even mentioned offered injections in his post Olympics interview with them. He even mentioned spitting out his caffeine pill during the race after chomping it out of a plum.

    I sat in a room with fifty other people when Dave Grylls told us (in straight terms) the expectations put on them in the weeks leading to the games.

  18. channel_zero

    So who on earth advised him that he could get away with that crap forever?

    Thom Wiesel? Allegedly. That’s a crazy guess.

    Seriously, what is known is both USA Cycling (Wiesel/Johnson) and Verbruggen at the UCI treated Armstrong differently and Armstrong knew it. Just like Paula Radcliffe at the IAAF, they have institutional support for doping and more support for hiding the doping.

    I’d believe I could keep the lies going forever if I knew the UCI and USA Cycling were protecting my fraud scheme.

  19. Barb

    The point was, doping has been endemic to cycle racing for decades, and apparently in many other sports as well. Lance didn’t invent it, he just reinvented it. The snowball of his downfall ultimately began when he wouldn’t let Landis on the Radio Shack team after Landis was caught doping, and his subsequent Ouch team wasn’t invited to the Amgen tour. So Lance was a serious transgressor yes, but Landis outed him out of spite and that’s what started the entire exposure. In spite of how ugly it all got, cycling pros are still getting caught even today. What kind of Americans are these though, I agree with your point too, they’re not showing America’s best face to the world that’s for sure. Many others from America on the other hand, do….and those are the people no one notices. Can’t any Americans win without drugs??

  20. Krakatoa East of Java

    Some of us remember the days before he was a European “pro” asshole, and he was either just a regular domestic “junior” or young senior “espoir” asshole. This fucked-up mentality started well before ’93 worlds.

    But don’t blame it all on him. He was taught how to dope from a young age.

  21. Ramble On

    Great comments! Simply because you can follow the whole timeline all the way back. I was racing during my University time in what was then West Germany. My coach was a former track star, 72 Olympic Medalist and multiple World Champion (Track), Six Day guy, and did his Road pro stint under Peter Post for TI-Raleigh, friends with Merkxx the whole nine yards. He ended his career due to “injury”. Well, that’s what they called it back then, when you got “popped” like he did in the Vuelta, you had to be a really bad repeat offender to leave, you just kinda left the sport and said it was an injury if people asked. No suspensions, no fines, you just went quietly and found a barstool somewhere like he did. A friend intervened and got him sober, and back in the racing game, running a bike shop and starting a team. This was the early 80s, and so the only noteworthy Americans europeans talked much about at the time were maybe Jacque Boyer, George Mount, Beth Heiden, Sheila Young. Other Americans were considered ‘Exotics’ and not taken seriously.

    My point is, the sport was filthy dirty back then, way before the Lances’ of the world caught up to it, it just didn’t have the pharmaceuticals and technology it has today. So, when the USA decided that cycling was the next cool thing we wanted to win at, we went and imported the same culture to come over and develop the stars of tomorrow back then. Like an earlier post above points out, “the win at all cost mentality was already cemented in.” That’s true. Look, the United States would not have made the gains in an old established european game it did without an accelerant like dope, the learning curve was way too steep. To the outsider, it looked like good old fashioned american perseverance won the day. Let’s compare it to it another old european game football (soccer). The USA (I’m speaking only about the men here) are still trying to figure out soccer forty years later, and I don’t see the USMNT winning a world cup any time soon, at least not in my lifetime!

    If you weren’t getting asked by a coach or trainer or team doctor to take anything, that means you probably weren’t HC.

  22. Mickey McMook

    Steve, Lance has admitted that he took Synthacten the day he won the Worlds in Oslo.
    When I see that pic I always think of the late, great (and clean) Steve Larsen, who did yeomans
    work that day to help Lance win, despite falling 3 times on the ice-slick roads.

  23. Max Berlin

    In one of Lance’s other films, maybe ‘stop at nothing’ Lance is incredulous when talking about doping methods in 1993. The core of it being “we didn’t even know what EPO was in 1993”.

    This is a pile of disingenuous horseshit.

    In 1989 -1990 we all knew about the Dutch riders dying in their sleep and the cause being EPO and ‘thick blood’.

    I wasn’t noteworthy as a cyclist (but might have been on the needle) but had a friend that worked in a dialysis clinic that was willing to provide me with leftover vials of epo if I chose to use them as early as the fall of 89. (I did not).

    Rich McClung’s article is one of the best on what happened at that time.

    I personally believe that most riders that came in touch with the usual suspects in USCF used 1 or more doping methods or substances during the 80s and 90s.


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