Armstrong: The Fall of an Iconic Sporting Superstar?

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I remember reading ‘Its not about the bike’ as a young lad and thinking to myself, ‘Wow, what a brave man that Lance Armstrong is’. To battle back from the brink of death and to go on to win 7 Tour de France races. It’s incredible – no doubt. You all know the story about the man, the last thing you need is for me to regurgitate it again. It’s a script that even Hollywood couldn’t have dreamt up – though I’m sure they’re in negotiations.

Not only did we believe this amazing story. We have held it up as the beacon of light at the end of a dark tunnel – it offers hope and inspiration to so many, we need to believe in it to the extent that we willed it to be true. I still want to believe in his story even in the midst of the scandal that’s currently surrounding the greatest competitor that cycling has ever seen.

A great competitor

Armstrong is still a great competitor. I have read what you have no doubt read. I have watched what you have no doubt watched. Do I believe Lance took performance-enhancing drugs? I believe it totally. I don’t doubt the evidence put forward by the USADA, or the witnesses that have testified against Armstrong.

It’s a wider issue though, which changes the context. The USADA remark that Armstrong’s career was “fuelled from start to finish by doping” – yet they also refer to the issue being a lot bigger than Armstrong. I believe that Armstrong too will come out and argue that many others that he was competing against were at it.

Armstrong is a true competitor – drugs or not – you don’t win multiple titles in an elite sport, post-cancer on drugs alone – not even close, PEDs are the icing on the cake, they offer “the edge,” the extra few percent in performance. The faster recovery, ability to work harder and get results faster. Imagine being a hungry, competitive cyclist with only moderate success and now struck by cancer. Armstrong meets someone, they get talking and he says, “Hey, buddy, maybe I can help you find an extra few percent in performance that might take you from also ran in the your chosen discipline, to the best.” What’s a thoroughbred competitor, in a sport already using drugs, on the back-foot after cancer revealed his mortality, going to think – a man who faced death and survived?

One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Its better to be a lion for a day, then a rat for a lifetime.’ If you were a rat and someone offered you the chance to become a lion, would you take the gamble? All we know Armstrong’s character is a true fighter.

Is it ‘right’?

Does even a possible endemic usage of PEDs in cycling (we don’t know there is), combined with Armstrong’s character and circumstance make it right? It’s hard to answer this – it’s subjective. Personally speaking, no it doesn’t. It’s definitely not in the spirit of sport, but it is how ‘big business’ works. I believe the mounting evidence points to the fact that elite level has wider issues than Armstrong; take the recent cases of Alberto Contador and Franck Schleck, which spring to mind instantly. Lance is not alone – especially when compared to most other mainstream sports.

I believe wider usage gives Armstrong some mitigation, yet it cannot make correct, ethical or in the true spirit of fair play. There is a dark side to cycling. In fact, I believe that there’s a dark side to sport, a side that people neither want to believe or choose to ignore.

A dark side to football?

Let’s face it; cycling is not the only sport where drugs have emerged on multiple occasions. Baseball, boxing, athletics, NFL, horseracing, football. You name it, there are people at it – but only where there’s money – where there’s big business.

What about drug use in football? There is a history of it. A number of professionals were reportedly caught up in a performance-enhancing drug scandal (Jaap Stam, Edgar Davids, …) as well as a number who allegedly delved into recreational drug use (Maradona, Mutu, Bosnich, …). It’s there; all you have to do is look.

For example, have you ever wondered how some of the top Italian league players have played at such a high level for so long, this is a bunch of players at the top who are (or were, when playing) fast heading towards 40 and running around like someone in there early 30’s, and playing up to 80 games each season. Nobody, me included, can say that the club or the players are using illegal substance to enhance performance, but it does pose an interesting question, don’t you think? After all, it was in Italy too, where aside from Stam and Davids, there’s also the alleged actions of Fernando Couto, Frank de Boer and Pep Guardiola who in fairness had his charges over-turned – all failed drugs tests for the steroid Nandrolone. We know some top European clubs used or still use ‘vitamin’ injections – and there are organizations (like the USADA) who have been digging into it for over 10 years, to little avail, suggesting that there’s sophisticated cloaking of banned substances in ‘vitamin’ supplements, they just can’t get the evidence.

An England international told me about ‘vitamin’ injections that the England team were administered during the 1998 World Cup. This guy took one before the Argentina game and describes the feeling as though he couldn’t run out of energy. Vitamin C, maybe? I am not suggesting ‘foul play’ – but I do think it’s important to ask the question. Where there’s big money people will bend, manipulate or simply break the rules out of greed.

I was surprised to read about the fact that LA passed a number of random drugs tests. I was even more shocked to read that they’d cheated them and turned it into a giant game of cat and mouse.

My personal experience of drugs tests, as a professional athlete, is that they have only ever taken a urine sample from me. Only urine, in numerous tests over 10+ years of competing at elite level sport. Seems strange to me after reading about cycling’s procedures. Where they frequently test by taking blood from the athletes. Sometimes storing that blood for years. I have never had blood taken during my whole career! Although, I would think my urine and that of lots of other footballers, well be stored somewhere.

Finally, I have never had a hair sample taken. I didn’t know of this procedure until writing this piece and forgive me if I am wrong but doesn’t the hair hold on to the use of substances for a lot longer than urine or blood. For instance in recreational drugs usage, sometimes the said drug can be flushed out of one’s system within days, where as the hair follicles hold on to proof of the same drug usage for up to 3 months. Shouldn’t hair be tested? I mean if your clean you’re clean, right?

Surely, in a the most watched sport in the world, where hundreds of millions of pounds exchanged hands ever few months. ‘Is taking only urine, literally taking the piss?’

Google Victor Conte and BALCO. It’ll give you an insight into the mind of those who look to break the rules, to see a darker side to modern sports.

Big business and power pollutes ethics

Is all this any different from what bankers have done during the banking scandal? Is it any different to what estate agents will do, when you try to purchase a house? Is there a difference, when you call a mobile phone company complaining about your tariff and they subsequently lower your tariff or add extra incentives on to keep you sweet? Or when energy companies up your rate when you ‘roll-over’ at the end of your contract, or why your existing insurance company rarely ever gives you the best rate? What about the MP’s expenses scandal, bending, twisting, breaking the rules. Greed. Spending tax payers money on second houses and moats for ducks? This is cheating tax-payers out of money. Where there’s a will there’s a way. The business of sport is no different.

The few will always spoil it for the many. Most politicians, people, sports-stars, footballers are genuine, hard working and honest people. I believe that, I believe in the good of mankind and try to see good in people, I do – honest! I am also pretty skeptical person though, I ponder stuff, I never started out like that but my experiences have hardened me early – it’s been, well, a funny old game.

A lot of people might feel let down by Lance Armstrong, I can appreciate that feeling. It is disappointing more than anything. Is he a “cheat”, yes it appears so, and he’s far from alone in sport or in politics and big business. I hope the Armstrong case is a catalyst for more people to look themselves in the mirror, to create positive change.

Another fascinating and quite mind-boggling issue on the back of this, is Nike’s arrogance to stick by a man whose whole career appears to be built on lies and fraudulent actions. What does this say about one of the world’s leading brands? What kind of example does this set the youngsters of today? These brands need to take a real hard look at themselves and act accordingly to what’s going on around them. And one final point – since the allegations, donations to Livestrong have increased by more than 50%. Any publicity is good publicity. Apparently.

I for one though still believe in the inspirational Armstrong story of cancer survivor to battling competitor, a hero of character and hard graft, you can’t take that amount of effort away from him. Drugs alone don’t make you world champion, you still have to put the work in.

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163 comments
dimspace
dimspace

Joey, some while back, way down there somewhere I mentioned Operacion Peurto and the number athletes beleived to have been doping but only the 50 cylists ever named and shamed. The case comes to court tomorrow, but the Spanish Authorities are likely to try and prevent any evidence coming out that links the players of Madrid, or Barca or the World Cup Squad. Good cover article in the Scotsman today. Worth a read. http://www.scotsman.com/scotland-on-sunday/sport/other-sports/tom-english-fuentes-doping-case-silent-on-football-1-2761603#.UQVMG7PACos.twitter

ArrigoPinsuti
ArrigoPinsuti

Joey, I do agree with you on most of your thoughts, but why pointing your finger at Serie A players only?You know way better than I do that most professional players somehow enhance their own performances, and Ligue 1 or Premiership footballers are no exception.

BernardLozano
BernardLozano

,Pas de pardon pour la drogue dans le sport ,ni pour ARMSTRONG ,ni pour aucun autre ,on trompe des millions de gens ,on dénature le sport en général en agissant ainsi ,pardonner ARMSTRONG serait ouvrir la porte a d autres sportifs qui se dirait : On a pardonné ARMSTRONG ,on me pardonnera aussi .

eddylembo
eddylembo

j'ai cotoyer armstrong cet homme est un grand champion et le restera quoi qu'on dise sur lui!

Il n'est pas prétentieux comme on peux souvent l'entendre! Après avoir vaincu le cancer il a tout simplement peut etre pas envie de faire mille sourir à des abruti!!! de toute façon tout ceux qui ont finis derrière lui été aussi dopé

Lembo Eddy

eddylembo
eddylembo

j'ai cotoyer armstrong cet homme est un grand champion et le restera quoi qu'on dise sur lui

Lembo Eddy

GaryHoworth
GaryHoworth

Well balanced. Factual. Thought provoking. Agreed

fitzpatrickkarl
fitzpatrickkarl

As long as sport as had monetary or other comparable rewards people have always tried to cheat, to gain that edge. This dates back to medieval jousting, knights would digest opiates to disguise pain. However in cycling the issue of drugs as always been prevalent, in 1967 the British sports personality of the year Tommy Simpson died during the Tour De France, his death was linked to stimulant abuse and dehydration (they actually found tablets in his racing shirt). Therefore all the witch hunting of Lance Armstrong is wrong. His former team mate, Floyd Landis makes an interesting comment “ if lance had’nt have won another doped cyclist would have”. This doesn’t excuse the fact Lance cheated but he is far from alone in cheating. Another interesting fact is that on one of the winning time trials on the Alps during the 2011 tour would have just made 40th in 2001! Come on lets get off Lance's back, yes he as done wrong and rightly been stripped of his titles, but he has not killed anyone.

 

Regards blood and urine testing as Joey mentions above. A urine test is actually more thorough than blood testing when detecting steroids or social drugs. A blood test is specifically aimed at detecting EPO, HGH or blood transfusions, these methods are very expensive so that is why UKAD utilise these tests in sports where the above are considered used in that discipline.

TonyL
TonyL

If you do not speak Spanish this will be extremely hard to understand. However basically, former professional cyclist, Oscar Pereiro discloses PED use in Spanish 1st division football explaining to the nation on live TV that various Spanish football clubs have links to Dr Ferrari and Dr Fuentes, the two biggest names in the cycling drug scandals of the last decade. Ferrari was Lance Armstrong's 'coach', and Fuentes was the central figure in a doping scandal that hit cycling in 2006.  The bomb shell comes at the very end of the video where Pereiro shows secret filming of a renowned footballer ( Fabio Cannonarvaro?) on the eve of the UEFA cup final re-introducing blood into his body via tubes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgTQCdgKkZw

gorsafcanolog
gorsafcanolog

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more-sports/zone-lance-armstrong-bully-downfall-article-1.1188512

 

Doping might sometimes be a victimless crime, but not in the case of Lance Armstrong, whose drug abuse and illicit blood transfusions created a phony empire of wealth, adulation and power that had to be protected at all costs.

 

The Armstrong myth was so lucrative that suppressing the truth came to require an endless behind-the-scenes campaign to bully and intimidate people into silence. Some of it bordered on gangsterism. Some of it was dressed up in the respectable wardrobe of elite law firms. But mostly it was just hot air - a fact that by 2010 had become clear enough to Floyd Landis that he stepped up and burst the bubble, blowing the whistle on the whole big fraud.

 

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more-sports/zone-lance-armstrong-bully-downfall-article-1.1188512#ixzz29xfVDwJB

PystolPete
PystolPete

The England Football Team struggle to play two 90 minute matches a week. Yet in the Tour de France they cycle 4 hours a day on average over 3 weeks and only have 2 rest days! Can someone explain this?

gorsafcanolog
gorsafcanolog

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-860283

 

On Sept. 23, 2005 I participated in an event where Lance Armstrong came to Banff, Alberta, Canada to promote his foundation. There were two scheduled rides with contributors each who paid $ 35,000 (yes the amount is correct and not an error) to ride with Armstrong from Banff to The Columbia Icefields north of Lake Louise, AB. Following the ride, all participants including Armstrong were returned to Lake Louise by private luxury motorcoaches. I drove one of those coaches. Approximately 50 participants (riders/contributors) were involved in the event. While I drove to the pickup location where the ride was to end I passed the entire group including Armstrong and his "people". Armstrong was several miles ahead of the entire group of rider/contributors and appeared not to have any concern for their inability to maintain his pace. I thought that strange given that so many participants had paid so much money to ride with him, not several miles behind him. Upon reaching the pickup location I waited with my coach for the arrival of the group. Armstrong of course arrived first, literally throwing his bike to the ground and running to the other bus being used to shuttle him and participants back to Lake Louise. 20-30 minutes later the main body of riders arrived and shortly thereafter it became apparent that a group photo opportunity was being sought by the group as a whole. Armstrong finally emerged from the bus appearing agitated and annoyed by his requirement to be in the photo. Immediately following a very very brief photo shoot he "ran" back to the bus however was intercepted enroute by a lady with her small daughter. I was directly beside the woman and heard her ask "Mr. Armstrong would you mind if I took a picture of you with my daughter" Armstrong failed to respond however stopped to allow the photo and never uttered a sound to the young girl staring up at him. He then again raced to the bus and re-boarded for the 1.5 hour journey to Lake Louise. The group of participants split up with half on each of the motor coaches. I had approximately 25 people and throughout the entire ride all everyone spoke of was the unbelievable arrogance and ignorance of Armstrong. 3-4 people congregated around the driver area of the bus and engaged me in conversation. Several stated they wouldn't ride on the same bus with Armstrong even if it were the only available option. I then learned that many of the participants were extremely angered by their discovery that while each had paid $ 35,000 for their ability to ride with Armstrong they were only being provided with tax receipts for their contribution in the amount of $ 25,000. They had learned that only that amount was provided to the foundation and that $ 10,000 from each participant went directly "into Armstrong's jeans". I was stunned to learn this and later asked several other riders after the return to Lake Louise if they were aware they were only to receive a $ 25,000 receipt. All replied affirmatively and all I spoke with were disgusted at the discovery that so much went directly to Armstrong. Doing the math, he personally received $500,000 for going on a 3 hour ride where he really didn't even interact with the contributing riders. The ride was repeated the following day with another 50 different rider/contributors on a ride from Lake Louise to Canmore, Alberta. Although I did not participate in the transportion the following day I assume the same formula applied meaning that Armstrong had a million dollar weekend with only a little over 70% of the contributions going to the foundation. I applaude Armstrong for his efforts and contribution to the search for a cure to cancer however I believe it is unknown to most in the world how much he really personally makes for his efforts. While his involvement may be extensive it is certainly well paid. In closing, I wanted to add that my personal opinion is that I am skeptical as to whether Armstrong ever really was a cancer victim/survivor or whether this was another of his scams to fool the world, his followers and those suffering from the disease. While the foundation does incredible work their founder may be a fraud but for the ultimate goal the money is needed no matter what the source. I proudly wore a LIVESTRONG arm band for many years however cut it from my wrist after witnessing and learning of the Armstrong's attitude towards contributors and his lack of disclosure to and misconceptions sold to contributors of his iniatives. I am attaching a photo taken with the group moments after Armstrong's handlers pried him off the bus for the photo. I would be happy to discuss my experience with anyone should they require further information. Garry LEACH 

Chris Hall
Chris Hall

I do'nt like shooting down hero's and Armstrong was to me and many others.But his record prior to winning, was'nt great , he came from mediocre to meteoric and no one noticed ? and as Kenem points out he was a bully involving the whole team  

ReinerKesternich
ReinerKesternich

Ok, Nike deal terminated. Even they couldn't back up him anymore. One last thing is the Livestrong charity. There are people saying that not all money donated to it has finally been used for the charity. I don't know so I won't conjecture on it here... Just that I think at least, and to the contrary of his cycling attitude, he did something good. And I feel free to hope that this charity hasn't been raised in order to build cover...

nochain
nochain

So hes done all the tests? Some say 100/ 250. I dont know but all passed. So Maybe testers did not want lance to fail. But really??? No tester has come out and said we had to pass him. So again he passed. And border police!! They turned a blind eye. Please explain this people. Surley his team got raided as well.

kenem
kenem

It's a decent enough article on the wider ranging aspects, but people have their own personal reasons for admiring or disliking the famous. The reasons are usually based on impressions or hearsay, and only occasionally do we get such a deluge of reliable information. So now people can use this to inform their own stance on Armstrong.

 

My own dislike of Armstrong has little to do with the fact that he used PED's, a lot of riders did and my opinion of them varies from one to another. My reason for disliking him is that I have personal experience of a lying bully, who damaged a lot of people and ended many careers. It's clear that Armstrong is a lying bully who was intent on bringing people down. To see him brought to book and, in the process, see good people's stand against him validated gives me naive hope that good will prevail.

MaximeJacovella
MaximeJacovella

Joe,

 

Cheers for this interesting take on drugs and their misuse in the world of elite sports. You highlighted some very interesting points here and I would like to add that even Zidane, arguably the greatest footballer of the last 3 decades, had to face Judge Giuseppe Casalbore who was investigating cases of alleged drug use in the Calcio between 1994 and 1998. The products, as you pointed were "vitamins" such Esafosfina. Clearly, you have other facets to you than your brutish and thuggish behaviour exposed these past years, and that is good to see! Keep up the good work, I look forward to reading more of these refreshing and controversial debates.

SoccerLimey
SoccerLimey

  I think your suggestion that somehow Italian players in Serie A have managed to somehow "extend" their careers through use of drugs is false. Remember, that League plays at such a slow pace that a 10 year stretch there probably corresponds to only 7-8 in The English Premier League.  Do you recall that AC Milan team from a few years ago - Beckham, Maldini, Inzaghi,Seedorf etc that resembled a Masters side ?

 

  Interesting that you should point out Pep Guardiola's nandrolone prosecution from a few years ago. This I did not know. I have always thought that he would be Ferguson's successor at Man Utd. I wonder if that seedy incident will affect that situation ? 

DanMilne
DanMilne

The problem for me and I suspect many others is not so much that he did what he did it's that he lied and lied and lied just so much, he won the peoples hearts with lies and people hate that more than anything. People can forgive some huge mistakes but no one likes a pathological liar.

ChaseLewellen
ChaseLewellen

Joey,

 

A very well-written and smart article. I look forward to your punditry in a few years time, as I can already tell you will bring a refreshing attitude toward sport to the mainstream media. All the best. @chaselewellen 

PystolPete
PystolPete

Lance Armstrong had another advantage. The Tour de France was the only "Grand slam" cycle event he would compete in each year. I.e. in the years he won all his Tour de France titles he never competed in such events as the Tour de Spain or Tour de Italy as most of his competitors did. This enabled him to tailor his training specifically to the Tour de France and allegedly stock up his own blood supplies. Sure he did the hard work but his alleged drugs regime and stocked blood supplies would have given him a massive advantage in an endurance event such as the Tour de France. In the 2009 Tour de France at the age of 37 he came 3rd after coming out of a 4 year retirement.  In your late thirties you just don't recover nearly as quickly as someone in their 20's. That says it all!

RickyBlayney
RickyBlayney

As a cycling fan I've always been frustrated at the bad rap cycling gets from many while sports like football that do minimal testing gets away without question. Why isn't footballs media and fan base digging for the truth, or like the football authorities, is it better not to rock the apple cart? Should cycling have done the same in the 90's, testing minimally and pretended there wasn't an issue?

 

Joey, do you reckon if football was tested as much as cycling and held to task by it's fans would we have a massive scandal on our hands? I dare say so.

 

I've heard numerous stories of 'vitamin pills' being given to players. Wasn't Wenger a big proponent of this? I think it was Paul Merson's autobiography that highlighted it, yet not an eyebrow was raised in the media. One of the doctors on Armstrong's teams is also a doctor at Barcelona, yet nothing is mentioned. Numerous footballers were named in the Operation Puerto drug scandal of 2006 yet while cyclists faced media scrutiny and bans, not a single footballer got punished.

 

Double standards in a big way. And it's not just football. Tennis, baseball, the NFL are all as bad.

Daley111
Daley111

I've always loved you joey for all the wrong reasons but this piece, the first I've read of yours, shines a new light on you for me. An excellent read that poses many interesting questions which I could debate with those interested for many hours. Thank you.

Dean1977
Dean1977

I think I agree with some of what you're saying here but a few things spring up that I think warrant a question or two.  I accept that to come back from cancer and survive, in itself, is a worthy achievement, but the worth runs out at that point.  The full story of the behaviour and actions of LA  as detailed recently are those of a tinpot tyrant assuming a position of power and influence, to the detriment of anyone daring enough to try to oppose him.  You feel that is a battling competitor spirit but i just see a bully, it's possible they amount to the same thing i suppose.  And your assertion that to be a lion for a day is better than being a rat for a lifetime  Is a nice phrase.  My own view is that plenty of one-time heroes (marion jones, ben johnson blah blah you know the names) have had their day as  a lion and payed with their reputations at best , and their liberty at worst. 

 

Armstrong is the worst kind of fraud.  He sold people a lie and they thanked him for it.

MarkNicholson16
MarkNicholson16

I really didn't want to believe the allegations were true, but Lance now seems about as credible as Jimmy Savile.  The difference is, I still admire what Lance has achieved - but with obvious reservations.  With his single-minded focus, his ability to withstand pain, and the way he totally rebuilt and reshaped his body after cancer to be the perfect cycling machine, I wonder what he might have achieved without drugs.  Quite a lot, I suspect.  It seems pointless to award his Tour de France titles to other riders, as several of his main rivals have already proved to be drugs cheats.  In those days, superhuman feats of achievement in the mountains were quite common.  Today the time gaps between the leading contenders seem to be much smaller.  Perhaps it never was humanly possible to dominate in the mountains without drugs.

finnmo
finnmo

This is short and sweet but straight and true,DRUGS MADE HIM GO FASTER AS MOST DRUGS DO.

ReinerKesternich
ReinerKesternich

It is totally right that you don't achieve 7 TdF victories just by using drugs. Put me atop a bike and even with the best drugs I'll go to A&E on the first hill's slightest grades... So far I agree, Armstrong (and all the others in the top category of cycling) are very competitive athletes. Two days ago there has been a bunch of really crazy people who jumped into the water, swam 2.4 miles, sat in the saddles for another 112 miles and then ran for 26.2 miles during the Ironman Hawaii. I would love to believe that they all were clean ever during becoming the athletes they are now. I just can't. Back to cycling. Jan Ullrich once said that he didn't cheat on anyone. Correct as least as he did not cheat on his fella cyclers... But what about the people watching? The Fans? They surely wanted to believe that they all were clean but honestly you have to admit that you just couldn't expect them to be clean. And under the given circumstances I think you might even legalize the use of these drugs to the Pros under medical observation so everyone would have the same chances to succeed and not only the teams and athletes that can afford it... That at least would be open and some kinda fair to the Fans...

Kazhannaford
Kazhannaford

What sort of a message does it send to youngsters when drugs are used in any sport, what's wrong with wanting to win on your own merits and through sheer hardwork and determination, he is a grown man and he thought he was untouchable!

AndyyNugent
AndyyNugent

This is just an utter disgrace. I mean this man was a 'legend' for what he brought to cycling and then truth comes out. It doesn't matter what sport it is, but a succes story like this, is a path for a kids to follow and they can still belive that dreams come true and that sporting miracles can happen. This cheat is nothing but a waste not  just to cycling, but to sport itself.

Andy.

Twitter - AndyyNugent

tcr11
tcr11

I certainly think doping is a wider issue than Lance Armstrong himself, but he seems to have taken it to a different level. I am French, a sport fan and I follow every year the Tour with great interest. If Armstrong was popular abroad, his performance (and his team) raised a lot of eyebrows in France.

I think you can forgive cheaters especially in a sport where unfortunately a lot of people were (are?) doing it, but the L.A. case makes me feel really unconfortable about the man. He is not a "victim" of doping like many but an instigator and a bully (I agree with @dimspace who seems to know well the case).

 @David__83 , I sincerely hope team Sky are not using the same doping methods, that would be another blow on a sport which doesn't need another one. An internal investigation has been launched after photos of Sean yates and "motoman" were highlited (according to Hamilton and Coyle’s book and USADA’s documents, motoman is a french guy who started as L.A.'s mechanic and gardener while LA was in Nice and ended up delivering doping material to LA and his team on the Tour de France. He is although the owner of a high end bike shop near Nice, selling Trek, Oakley and Nike products -all linked with LA-).

Talking about other sports, it stinks elsewhere. Puerto, Ferrari, etc...

 

PystolPete
PystolPete

Why is it also that drugs seems to be considered the worst form of cheating and that we almost want to hang people who are caught? For example, a lot of footballers will dive to try and get a penalty. Apart from voicing displeasure if you are on the opposing side its all forgotten about by the following week but in my opinion its just as bad. I think Lance Armstrong is also a victim of his own success. Had he only won the Tour say once I don't think we'd all be here debating him.

PystolPete
PystolPete

@John McBride "Just for clarity please, what’s the difference between Lance Armstrong & Audley Harrison?" They've both been given a hard time but Audley Harrison never hurt anyone:)

PystolPete
PystolPete

Lance Armstrong also got into Sheryl Crow's knickers. The drugs couldn't have been that bad:)

RaRaRaRa_Radebe
RaRaRaRa_Radebe

Very good article Joseph.

In Tyler Hamilton's "The Secret Race" he says that Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral, a former US Postal Doctor who has since been found guilty by USADA and received a lifetime ban, told him that the cyclists were on nothing compared to the footballers. Now interestingly, Dr. Moral has, in the past, advertised the fact that he has worked with both Barcelona and Valencia. Additionally, Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, another infamous "doping doctor" claimed in December 2010, that if he ever spoke, the Spanish national football team would lose both their European Championship and World Cup titles. Despite these allegations and the football teams that were linked to Operation Puerto, nothing seems to be done. Football doesn't want to know about doping.

fitzpatrickkarl
fitzpatrickkarl

 @gorsafcanolog Floyd Landis also commented that Lance was not alone, Floyd himself doped and so did most of the other riders in the races that Lance won. This does not make it right, but i believe Lance did not have an unfair advantage.

dimspace
dimspace

 @PystolPete Football, Cycling, Apples and Oranges. Totally different sports and totally different way in which they are approach. Stages are more like 6 hours in the Tour but for a stage of the race a rider will only be at maximum power output for a small percentage of the time.

 

Take on one hand a sprinter such as Cavendish, on a 160km stage he will spend the vast majority ticking along at about 100bpm, 50% power output, he will only kick it up over the final 5km and its only the last 200metres or so he is working at max power threshold.

 

Simililary with GC riders, Wiggins on a 160km stage with 2 mountains, maybe 30km of climbing, so already hes only climbing and really working 20% of the time. The bulk of the cllimbs he is behind his domestiques and working at maybe 70-80% threshold, its only the final few km oof the climb that he is working at peak watts.  The nature of the race has to be taken into account as well. Riders may work harder in the mountains, but the next day on a flat stage will take it relatively easy. Joey would be a better one to comment on football, but I will imagine the amount of time you are at maximum lactate threshold is considerably more. The ecquivalent in football would be jogging up and down the sideline for 85 minutes and coming on for the last five.

 

 As an idea, heres srm data from Peter Sagan in stage 6 of the 2011 Tour. http://www.srm.de/images/saganStage6file.gif As  you can see, for the bulk of the 200km stage he isnt actually doing that much. Pedalling at about 50-70rpm which is pretty comfortable for a relatively fit cyclist. His power output rarely goes over 200 watts, again a pretty leisurely pace. Compare that with the final 3km of the race http://www.srm.de/images/saganStage6last3km.gif where he hits over a 1000 watts of power output in bursts, and the final 10 seconds of the race http://www.srm.de/images/saganStage6_200m.gif where he averages over 1000 watts.

 

So 200km, 5 hours of racing, and only the last 5km is spent at a high pace, and only the last ten seconds is spent at maximum wattage (he won the stage). Thats equivalent to a footballer jogging around the field for 90 minutes and making one flat out 3 second run into the box. Would be interesting to see a midfielder wear a hrm over 90 minutes and see the  data

tcr11
tcr11

 @MarkNicholson16 Well it is possible to dominate in the mountains without drugs: you simply need to be better than your fellow competitors, it is that simple. The problem is that some are spoiling the show with their greed. I want to believe a cheating free sport is possible. And this his is not only about filling the gap between cheats and anti doping thechnologies. This is all about mentalities and ethic: the fans, sponsors and athletes not accepting it.

Tom_Rogers
Tom_Rogers

@PystolPete two great points there, I completely agree.

PystolPete
PystolPete

 @saucyencounters If there was a competition for saggy boobs your website would beat everyone. In fact your website would wipe the floor with them! hahahahaha!!

Joey B
Joey B

 @RaRaRaRa_Radebe Thanks for the insight here mate, very interesting, this has really got me thinking, I will be doing some more digging ....

dimspace
dimspace

 @fitzpatrickkarl  @gorsafcanolog there is overwhelming evidence that the majority of the peloton in 1999 was not on epo. They retested 100 samples in 2005. 6 of Armstrongs tests came back positive for EPO, and only 7 other samples out of a hundred also tested positive for EPO. Its largely accepted that after festina in 98, and majority of the teams cut back their doping programs, except Postal. It was only in 2000 and 2001 when teams started doping again to compete against Lance. Ullrich has already pretty much comfirmed this as well.

dimspace
dimspace

 @PystolPete Which moves onto the theory of detecting doping in Footballers. In theory it is possible to calculate, but it would mean a researcher setting a standard on a) how to measure it and b) what the normal considered ranges were. In cycling its easy, vo2 max, power to weight are all commonly known things and for researchers like myself its relatively easy to produce sets of figures on a certain rider. We also have tangible comparisons to use, such as how long it took a certain rider to climb Alpe d'huez in 2000 v how long it took a different rider to climb Alpe d'Huez in 2012.

 

For football we dont have that tangible information to go on. There is a wealth of info on opta, and Im sure club staff measure players vo2 max, hct levels (levels of red blood cells in the blood - normal levels are around 38-45, but increasing offers large performance boosts), but there simply isnt the data there to analyise that there is in cycling. Partly because well, nobody has every published it, but partly because football doesnt really want to address the issue of doping. Not wanting to single out Spain, but its well known that in several sports Spain has huge doping issues. Fuentes was rumoured to have been a doctor for both Barcelona and Real Madrid. I watch Spanish football and what frequently amazes me is the sheer pace of the game from start to finish. Knowing what I know from cycling, some of the performances, notably when you see players in teh last 20 minutes of a match still as fresh as dasies, stands out to me as pretty obvious that they are resorting to illegal means.

 

An example, Manchester United, and this is in no way an accusation against Utd. They are currently by far the most succesful team in the last ten minutes of matches anywhere in Britain suggesting that their levels of stamina and endurance surpass those of the competition. This could be viewed simply as a improved fitness levels and increased endurance, or selecting athletes that have advanced anaerobic capabilities. If it was cycling, this is equivalent to a rider consistently being able to drop other top riders in the final few km of a cllimb and serious questions would be asked.

dimspace
dimspace

 @PystolPete there are probably three very distinct variations of doping.

Strength - use of things like Human Growth Hormone, Steroids etc that will build muscle mass and power. Of course with these effects come additional weight.

 

Endurance - Drugs that enable the body to maintain its full threshold for longer, this will include drugs like EPO or transfusions,  that increase the amount of red blood cells and in turn the bodies ability to absorb oxygen and carry it around the body.

 

Recovery - Will also include things like EPO, transfusions, but also cortisoids, testosterone etc.

 

All three varieties of doping will have advantanges to different sports. In cycling the vast majority of doping revolves around endurance and recovery. Epo, transfusions, testosterone, cortisoids. Very occasional use of HGH amongst sprinters to help develop muscle mass and power. In cycling its much easier to show the benefits of certain things. We have things like average race speed to look at, but one of the most widely used statistics is power to weight ratio. Ie. the riders power output, v his weight, which can be calculated from knowing time taken to ride a climb, vertical height of the climb etc. The resultant figure can give a good indicator of the riders ability and with that an indicator if they are reaching suspicious levels. But this is of course helped by knowing the specifics, weight, distance etc, and most riders have power metres on their bikes. Much harder to track something like this in football.Another key marker is Vo2 max, or the maximum oxygen capacity of the rider, the higher the natural vo2 max, the higher their ability and endurance. A rider with a very low vo2 max, who can constantly push out very high power to weight ratios is highly suspicious.

PystolPete
PystolPete

 @dimspace Thankyou for the explanation above - fascinating stuff! I wonder if it is also possible to measure energy output. E.g. very simplistically, someone who is doping will be more fully recovered for the next event and therefore should be able to perform better.

dimspace
dimspace

 @PystolPete  the same with say marathon running, 2 hour race, probably at all out peak threshold for maybe 20% of the time max. Most of the time, tapping out a stead rythm, running to a schedule. Wih occasional bursts of max wattage to get away from other runners or close down gaps.How is it, in football, that some teams are able to maintain their players playing at maybe 75-85% max threshold, constantly for a full 90 minutes. FA Cup is a great example, pro, full time teams maintain their endurance far better than a part time team. You frequently see in the last 20 minutes of matches, the pro team playing better.So how is it that certain pro football teams, seem to be able to maintain that pace better than other pro football teams.

dimspace
dimspace

 @PystolPete  Thats probably an over simplistic view, but the basic would probably be yes, Looking at the stage for the Tour featuring Sagan that I put the figures up for. An early breakaway tries to go away, the teams of the GC leaders dont like the breakaway so pull it back and do a bit of work, eventually a break is allowed to go away. The break builds up a lead of maybe 9-10 minutes, eventually the Liquigas team of Sagan will decide enough is enough and start working on catching the breakaway, maybe at around 50km to go. Sagan meanwhile will shelter in the peloton, doing relatively little, just cycling along at a regular pace. His Domestiques work for 40km bringing back the break and with about 5km to go Sagan moves towards the front, upping his effort, with 1km to go hes now at a reasonable level of effort, 500m to go, he kicks it up a gear and the final 100, he goes full out.

 

Take Wiggins as a seperate example. One day its a flat stage, he knows there a mountain stage the next day, he stays in the pack, pedals a steady 70rpm, sticks at around 200-220 watts. Finishes in the main group. The next day, a mountain stage, one big summit finish at the end. The first 130km, no pressure, just tap out a steady pace, the foot of the climb, his team come to the front, the front rider pedals at about 420w to make sure nobody can atack, Wiggins, five riders back behind his team pedalling at about 380w, benefitting from slipstream. Finally with about 3km to go his last teammate has gone, its him and the other GC contenders, 420w each, riding up the climb, someone attacks, maybe a 450w burst for 100m 200m, he responds, gets on their wheel, back to 380w again. its very hard to explain briefly, but a cyclists role is about conserving energy, and saving that energy for the key moment, which may be in the case of a sprinter 1, or 2km from the end of a stage, its the domestiques job to get them in that position, which is why a domestique may be in the lead group with 5km to go, but finish 3 or 4 minutes behind the winner, maybe more.

I would guess that a footballer would be at their peak threshold far more frequently during a match. Cavendish could be at 120bpm for 199km and 160bpm for 1 minute at the end, a footballer would have constant bursts of energy throughout the 90 minutes. Not saying footballers are fitter, but its a different type of fitness, bursts v endurance. Like comparing a 100m runner to a marathon runner.

 

It would be actually fascinating for Joey to wear a heart rate monitor for 90 minutes nad publish his values online to compare them with other sports.

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