So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer Reading

I've always tried to take some time during the summer - vacation - to read some different books from the staples I enjoy during other times of the year. A couple of my recent acquisitions grabbed my interest from the bookshelf of the local major chain bookstore.

The first, Positively False: The Story of How I Won the Tour de France, is Floyd Landis' cycling autobiography, as well as his take on life as a member of the US Postal Service cycling team under Lance Armstrong and Phonak Hearing Systems cycling team under Tyler Hamilton, and life as a team leader while at Phonak. Landis talks in great detail about the meltdown in Stage 16 of the TdF, his evening after the meltdown, and his Stage 17, which has been heralded as the greatest one-day comeback in cycling history. After reading Positively False, I haven't changed my take on the use of performance enhancing drugs. I'm not completely certain that Floyd didn't take PED, but the procedural screw-ups on the part of the French anti-doping laboratory, WADA, UCI, USADA, and all of the individual parties involved within those organizations makes the Stage 16/17 episode, as well as the implications of PED use, a conspiracy theorist's fantasy. I began to tally in my mind the number of former associates of Armstrong who have been dinged for PED/doping: Frankie Andreu, Dr. Michele Ferrari, Tyler Hamilton, Roberto Heras, possibly Floyd this the European cycling establishment's attack against an athlete blessed with fantastic cardiovascular gifts and the ability to literally outride all comers, or is it proof that professional cycling is dirty, through-and-through?

It's one reason I cannot speak well of a local sprinter, who happens to be an Olympic medalist and took a coach known for doping infractions after he earned his medal...later earning a two-year ban for PED. The operating question that comes to my mind isn't so much 'what the hell are you thinking!?' No, there's too many words there. 'Are you thinking!?' Yeah, that's better. Poor guy's busting his @$$ doing local public appearances and all, I think he'll be helping to coach one of the local high school athletic teams, too, while he's serving his suspension. I hope like hell he gets up in the morning and kicks himself squarely in the @$$ each day. It would beat having someone like me stand by and remind my guys/gals that they, too, are vulnerable to testing.

Athletes who take PED, and the coaches and trainers who actively or tacitly tolerate or encourage its use, are engaging in fraudulent acts. Ignorance of the law (or the conconction being taken) is no excuse.


I think the World Anti-Doping Agency and it's US counterpart, USADA, are failing on the procedural side of the issue. Let's begin to take a look at doping as a criminal act - fraud - and use some legal ground rules on evidence, guilt/innocence, right to counsel, and punishment befitting the 'crime.' I wonder if I could get away with a bumper sticker that says, 'TEST THIS, USADA?'
The second book, From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Contreversy at the Tour De France, is a follow-up (in English) to the broad-brush attack by Irish sport columnist David Walsh on Lance Armstrong. His previous book L.A. Confidentiel: Les Secrets de Lance Armstrong, was co-written with French journalist Pierre Ballester, and has not been translated into English as far as I can tell.

Walsh continues to interview the increasing circle of former Armstrong associates and teammates. I've read the first three chapters, and find the pace to be very slow. If Walsh has an argument forthcoming, he is developing it in a very cautious manner. Does he have an axe to grind against Landis? I cannot tell at this time. It's evident he has one against Armstrong.

Reading Daniel Coyle's Lance Armstrong's War, Landis' book, and even in Armstrong's two biographies, you can tell Armstrong has little time for former associates (especially whose who parted on less than friendly terms) and seems to hold a grudge against persons he feels have done him wrong. The only book - books - I've seen so far that holds Armstrong in a completely positive light would be Brad Kearns' How Lance Does It and Chris Carmichael's training books, co-authored with Jim Rutberg and Armstrong.
Is Armstrong - or any of us - an absolute saint? Not hardly. We all are subject to hard days, hard weeks, errors in judgment, slips, falls, single (or multiple) tokes over the line. The best lesson I can pass along after reading Landis, is to provide a simple, truthful story, at all times. It might not make for entertaining press, but it keeps them from coming back and saying to you: 'you said (fill in blank with lame-@$ excuse) last (fill in blank with time interval), now you're saying (fill in blank with new, improved, but still lame-@$$ excuse)...'

It's always easier to remember the truth.

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