LanceGate – what strikes me so far

October 12, 2012
  • USADA speaks of the bullying and coercion to get riders to dope. Although there are prime examples of that (Zabriskie for example), it seems a lot of riders were not forced by USPS to dope but were already doping before they teamed up with Lance & Johan.
  • While some needed bullying and coercion, many others seemed to have been pro-actively seeking out the various options. They don’t wear the victim cloak very well.
  • Releasing all the evidence by USADA is both awesome and awful. It reads like a crime novel, but it’s not fiction. People got hurt, their careers trampled, their life made a hell.
  • Furthermore, many people are mentioned in the documents but not charged (either because they fell outside the scope or because the evidence wasn’t strong enough). Yet they will now face the court of public opinion indiscriminately.
  • This release of evidence is unlikely to be the closure some may have hoped for; instead it will probably be the start of a huge cleanup. Will the public opinion be able to generate enough pressure to make that happen?
  • Will those who doped as a rider and then supported/encouraged/administered doping as a staff member or manager be taken out of the sport for good?
  • USADA calls the USPS program “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”. But I’m mostly struck by how amateur it all sounds. The methods and products seem to be pretty standard for the era, a lot of riders seemed to be storing and administering the drugs and blood themselves, and for many races they had to beg the team to set up a proper program so they didn’t have to do it themselves.
  • Take Tyler Hamilton, does the part in his affidavit where Bruyneel sends him to Del Moral for blood doping sound more sophisticated than when Riis sends him to Fuentes? None of it seems too sophisticated or professional. Definitely not when compared to Balco for example, with designer drugs, etc.
  • The USPS program also appears quite sloppy, it’s rather shocking nobody ever got caught. Yet as soon as these riders went to other teams and kept doing the same things, they got popped left, right and center. There are a lot of inferences about Bruyneel knowing in advance of tests, but no real mention of USADA that this is the case or how that may have been achieved. So for now we’ll just chalk it up to USPS being extremely lucky and riders leaving the team being extremely unlucky.
  • This affair forces a lot of people in cycling to say something, and it is rather revealing. For every thoughtful response from Marcel Kittel or Fabian Cancellara, there are ten that beg belief.
  • Sky’s refusal to deal with the Leinders issue has come back to bite them in the ass. Instead of looking like the progressive, zero-tolerance outfit that they’d like to, they look reluctant and non-committal.
  • Back in the CTT days, I suggested to the UCI that instead of having 18 large top level teams, it would be better to have 25 smaller teams (better match for smaller sponsorship budgets at corporations, as well as a host of other advantages but that’s for later). I remember one of the responses was “where would we find 25 competent management teams?” USADA seems to agree with my reply of “where would you find 18?” Half the current team managers seem to have some explaining to do about themselves or some of their staff.
  • On the positive side (no pun intended), Iwan Spekenbrink of Argos-Shimano continues to impress me. Great team, well-run, and he seems to give his riders the freedom to express themselves and they do so very well (I am not sure if these riders are naturally worldly or if the team also helps them in that regard but it’s either great selection or great education on Spekenbrink’s part).
  • Will this report spark a look into the dropping of the federal investigation and the people who dropped it? With this much evidence (tons of which was also known to the Feds), it seems somebody there has som explaining to do as well.
  • Will the media, sports federations, WADA, etc dare to admit that USPS is not so special, that the same happens in other sports? It is well-documented that Ferrari, Del Moral, Fuentes and others worked with other sports too (and it would be ridiculous to think that these people would restrict themselves to cycling, instead of pushing their services onto any athlete who can afford them).

71 Responses to “LanceGate – what strikes me so far”

  1. Paniagua Says:

    Hincapie and Levi seemed like pretty eager cheaters. We are lucky Novitzky forced them to spill the beans with threat of perjury.

  2. Paniagua Says:

    Though I have to give credit to Hincapie and Levi for talking to USADA. They didn’t have to do that. Many of Lance’s former American teammates (Livingston, Casey, Julich) kept their mouths shut. And we shouldn’t forget that.

    • Quentin Says:

      Julich won’t say anything as long as he’s on Sky’s payroll. “Zero tolerance” policies always have a way of producing unintended consequences, and Sky comes out of this looking very naive.

  3. Why do competent team managers have to be former riders? I would beg that we not have former riders, because they will most assuredly be from the era we need to distance the sport from. Was JB’s greatest asset his access to the best doctors or did his former racing career give him dramatic insight into the sport that no non ex professional could have?

    I miss CTT.

  4. David Says:

    Gerrard, well reasoned & balanced as ever & I too have been wondering the same as in your 2nd last paragraph.

    If the USDA evidence is so concrete, why was it dropped by the federal investigation?

    I think there’s much more of this still to play out

    • Mike_Yanagita Says:

      Because the standard of proof is higher for a criminal case than for a rule violation?

      • I think there is more to it than that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they reopen some parts or at least go after the defrauding USPS or perjury parts. And of course there is the SCA case.

  5. Ancker Says:

    Maybe you can shed some light on something I just can’t get my head around.

    In 2007 Ivan Basso was banned for two years for “Planning to dope”. Yet, these gentlemen admit to actual doping and get a convenient 6-month ban over the off-season.

    I’m not doubting that Lance doped, but as an outside observer I can kind of start to see how Lance might think USADA/Tygart has a vendetta against him. Maybe it’s because of the arrogance or maybe Tygart had a crush on Sheryl Crow, but how can one guy get a lifetime ban and stripped of results, and almost the entire rest of the team get a mild slap on the wrist?

    It seems the message from USADA is this: USPS was the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen. But none of the riders will be punished. (Except for Lance.)

    • Paniagua Says:

      Perhaps if Basso had cooperated with authorities and told them everything he knew he would have been able to cut a deal wherein his prior results are stripped but he can race again sooner. For a variety of reasons he chose not to cooperate. I think it would have been difficult for a big hitter in the prime of his career to spit in the soup in 06/07.

    • Planning to dope was his statement, that’s not necessarily what the panel believed and convicted him for.

      And it would stand to reason he didn’t do anything to warrant a reduced sentence, whereas the others did. I’m not a big fan of the 6 month sentences, and serving them in the off-season is a disgrace in my opinion. It’s not good for USADA, and it’s not even good for the riders. It makes people believe that to this day, they are only in it for themselves, that every step of the way they think about what’s best for them. That may be unfair, but it’s an understandable conclusion to draw

      • USADA has no jurisdiction over Basso. Basso is registered as an Italian rider, hence answers to the Italian doping body, not the US and therefore totally separate and independent. Although, all ultimately both answer to WADA. Named riders got a reduced ban for providing testimony.

    • Joe Papp Says:

      It’s fairly simple – the WADA code provides for a maximum reduction in sentence of up to 75% for an athlete who provides “substantial assistance” to the anti-doping authorities (which entails more than just admitting to your own doping violation). In the case of a potential lifetime ban, the substantial assistance reduction can “only” shorten the sentence from life to 8 years – which is what I’m facing, for example (w/ 4 down and 4 to go!).

  6. ancker Says:

    Another question: What if Lance had cooperated and/or confessed? He surely would have still been stripped of results and banned for life as that seems to be USADA’s goal in all of this. But what of the cooperating riders? Do you think they would have received the same penalty or been given the lenient 6-month ban for helping get Lance?

    • Paniagua Says:

      Tygart claimed some months back in an interview that had Armstrong cooperated and told what he knew they likely would have only gone back to 2004 (statute of limitations). So he would have kept 5 of his TDF titles.

      • ancker Says:

        That said, he’d still lose those results and likely receive a life ban. What about the others?

        • Paniagua Says:

          Tygart did not comment on the others then (their identities were still not yet known to the public and there was no discussion of their sanctions at the time). We can speculate that they would still get a lenient sentence for cooperating. That is typical in USADA cases (see their many decisions in other Olympic sports).

        • Rod Says:

          According to a couple of news channels (Cyclingnews is one), all of them are listed to be stripped of results from different time period.

          “As per acceptance of sanction documents released by USADA, Danielson has been banned from September 1, 2012, and loses all results from March 1, 2005 through September 23, 2006; Hincapie has been banned from September 1, 2012, and loses all results from May 31, 2004 through July 31, 2006; Leipheimer has been banned from September 1, 2012, and loses all results from June 1, 1999 through July 30, 2006 and from July 7 through July 29, 2007; Vande Velde has been banned from September 9, 2012, and loses all results from June 4, 2004 through April 30, 2006; and Zabriskie has been banned from September 1, 2012 and loses all results from May 12, 2003 through July 31, 2006.”

          Of course, none of these are the same as losing a TdF title, but from first impression Hincapie loses his stage win. So at least they lose some results, for what that is worth. So the notion that “Tygart had a crush on Sheryl Crowe” or that “none of the other riders” will be punished just detract from discussing real issues. Such as the sweetheart deal – was that too lenient? I think there’s a case for that. But maybe this will produce a precedent – confess and we get you minimal punishment, don’t and get the full book thrown at you. That happens in the judicial system, too.

          The suspension is lenient in my opinion, too, but I’m happy they’re running JB, Martí, Del Moral, and Ferrari out of cycling. Lance should have taken the deal and confessed.

    • Paniagua Says:

      Also, it is important to note you don’t get a reduced sentence for “helping get Lance,” as you put it. You get a reduced sentence for assisting the authorities and being forthcoming about what you know. This case was clearly about more than Lance. Don’t forget Johan, Ferrari, del Moral, Marti, Celaya.

      • ancker Says:

        I didn’t say it was for sure “help get Lance”. I’m just saying I can see how it would appear that way. The consequences of what these guys did seems to be erased by the fact they were “willing” to assist.

        You’ll note how none of these guys ‘came forward’. They were threatened with perjury. Being forced to spill the beans to a federal investigator is hardly an honorable act worthy of extreme leniency.

        • Paniagua Says:

          They didn’t have to testify to USADA. Some people (LA’s first wife, Sheryl Crow) reportedly testified to the US Attorney’s office, but did not then talk to USADA.

      • This is a good point. Getting Lance for the past has some “benefits”, like showing people that if somebody with that power can’t pull it off, nobody can.

        But it’s more about getting some doctors and managers out of the sport.

        • djconnel Says:

          How about getting McQuaid out of the sport? Only that will show cycling is serious about changing. The UCI upper management is deeply implicated for comical neglect if nothing else, and likely far more.

      • Evan Shaw Says:

        It is very likely that none of the USPS riders would have spilled the nasty beans if not to save their bankrolls. Like Hincapie, for example, he shat on Betsy Andreau in order to silence her. He turned on his good friend Frankie. He rode that gravy train until the end. And waited for the executive reduction. USADA likely had to do it to secure their testimony. They are not victims nor are they sorry except about being outed.

  7. Andy Says:

    Given that Bruyneel has elected to go to an arbitration hearing, one assumes that some of the additional evidence against him has yet to be published to the public domain, especially with regard to how he knew about the timing of tests.

  8. Kiwirider Says:

    Gerard – to answer your last question:
    As I am sure you’ll be aware, one of the items that is being discussed between the owners and the players association in the current round of NHL contract negotiations is the drug testing regime.

    The fact that this is even on the negotiating table seems to be getting as much press attention up here as if the players were asking for tea and biscuits after each of their training sessions.

    As a result, I don’t hold out much hope …

    • As usual, the problem isn’t doping. It’s positive doping tests and bad publicity that are the problem. To avoid confusion, I’m being facetious.

      • Kiwirider Says:

        That’s the version of facetiousness that is spelled “c-y-n-i-c-a-l-ly h-o-n-e-s-t”, right??? ;-)

        • Syahmi Naim Says:

          Love the last comment – the sad part is not the past but how naive SKY have been – Leinders and Yates – this is going to become harder to comprehend.

          Let’s face it though when you ride your bike sometime today and enjoy the wind/rain/sun just kick back and enjoy its still the greatest sport in the world. Do we really care that these people are going to shorten their lives in the long run through drug abuse ? I am extending my life on my bike and glad that our friend Gerard created an icon – now to get the money to buy one lol

  9. Joe Papp Says:

    w/o reading the previous comments (sorry) the principle advantage of the USPS program was not designer drugs or research compounds (b/c, in fact, there were none) it was the external corruption of the anti-doping system to provide both an understanding of how to defeat the controls, and warning in advance of impending out-of-competition tests that might otherwise have tripped up unsuspecting dopers. the five primary doping compounds or methods for success in pro cycling have been EPO, testosterone, HGH, corticosteroids and, of course, blood transfusions.

  10. XC Skater Says:

    The not getting caught part: please don’t tell us you forgot Tyler’s and Floyd’s recounts of Lance bragging of basically owning the UCI and not having to worry?
    There are account of speed bags to get Hct under 50%. Any decent amateur normally in the low 40’s would fly on 50, let alone if he were over!
    The not getting caught was in fact part of the sophistication. Ferrari did some, connections and forced donations the rest. It was a total cheating package. The weakest link was Lance himself. His character. Had he takeen better care of his ex-teammates, he’d now be winning Hawaii Ironmans, and more or less being considered a hero still. He could have been a gentleman about his crimes, but elected to hardly ever be one. If he could hold a grudge and get revenge, he did. If he could be jealous and seek ego compensation, he would. It was the perfect crime scheme, almost… Made it himself, broke it himself. No one to really take credit for it.

    • Paniagua Says:

      Very interesting point about Lance’s temperament being his undoing. I see some truth to that. With just one change in the script–give Landis a ride on RadioShack in 2010–this whole thing might never have gone this far.

      Then again, maybe it takes the iron fist to get the 7 TDFs in the first place.

      • XC Skater Says:

        Then try this change: Lance actually being a good guy. Actually sending as much cash to cancer research. Being faithful to his wife. Not going after people who distrusted him publically. Not spent million and millions on legal costs. Not went as far as betting on himself in the SCA case and then perjuring himself just for a few more millions. He could have been so much… Some people actually think he is, but imagine what could have been…
        The winning part required the doping, but the getting in trouble is all his own character. Sick MF. Should be locked up, and with all those crimes, legally even should be.

        • djconnel Says:

          Livestrong doesn’t fund cancer research.

        • XC Skater Says:

          I know that the cancer research was a one-off early thing. Incredible how the sheeple liked that idea though, genious markting phrase. Just painted a picture how with better character traits, Lance could still have been fimly on his trone, and knighted in dozens of nations.

      • Rod Says:

        Maybe there’s all sorts. I sincerely doubt that Indurain was squeaky clean (Banesto was mentioned to have had a doping programme by Davy, an ex-rider. Unzue still doesn’t seem that keen on antidoping to this day), and yet he has generated very little animosity. He still has 5 tours, and I don’t see him being mentioned seriously in any discrediting articles.

        Maybe being a gentle giant helped him to avoid most of the shrapnel.

        • XC Skater Says:

          You also don’t see Indurain crowning himself Lord of all that is good and sincere, while pummeling every entity questioning. Indurain dug into his cave, and kept silent. Didn’t create a brand he called charity to effectively be paid millions for chest (and celeb) pounding. Bet he also paid all his taxes to the dime, no suspect deductions. No suspect donations. Do I need to go on? :-)
          Lance is personified indescretion and controversy.

          Not saying Indurain was clean though, not possible in that era. Wish he’d started together with LeMond, fighting head to head.

    • Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. It’s my writing style.

  11. Evan Shaw Says:

    Something aint right here. It took a federal investigation, millions of dollars, many many person hours, international cooperation, a grand jury, perjury and the guts of the USADA to accomplish this.

    Why? Because there is still big trouble out there. I am afraid this will all come to Zero. Watch I think this will all go away ALL

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Point 1: I’m fine with reduced bans if people cooperate. But, when 5 out of 6 months of the ban is during the off season, it is ridiculous. As Vaughters said, his guys are only out of the cyclocross season.
    Point 2: Re the lack of good management, had the chance to speak with a highly respected, former owner/manager of a recent, not defunct top level team. Among the things he said was that finding good managers in pro cycling was virtually impossible.

    • XC Skater Says:

      Did you note the results and return of prize money over several years? Fishy though, is that magically all ex-posties decided to quit “doping” in 2006. And it turns out, they didn’t get any slower! Yeah right…

    • gerardvroomen Says:

      Was I that former owner/manager of a recent, now defunct top level team? Although, you also said highly respected!

    • Mark Says:

      I’m not too concerned about the small punishments, I assume that’s the minimum value, as what we need is to understand what happened, how it went undetected (for some value of undetected :-) and most importantly what needs to be done to ensure something is learned from it. What needed to be done to get that understanding is of lessor importance than getting it and acting on it.
      As any punishment is not going to help those that we negatively impacted I think that the punishment would have been better if it benefited someone disadvantaged. For example requiring them to provide talks, training, etc., to some grass roots cycling organisation in a disadvantaged area, at their expense.

  13. Evan Shaw Says:

    Gerard one of your best pieces! Each and every point you raise is not only important but not being raised elsewhere, at least not yet. And maybe it won’t ever, as my fear posted above.

  14. Evan Shaw Says:

    Does Armstrong/Livestrong/Bruyneel/UCI/Those who were on the take to give USPS warnings and make things go away have a plan to undo this whole investigation? Why did the fed investigation go away? As a forensic professional I do not see a lack of evidence to convict criminally even with a sympathetic jury pool. Will there be international criminal follow up for Bruyneel, Amrstrong, and other Team managers, i.e., Riis, etc.

    • gerardvroomen Says:

      Well, it’s speculation, but regardless I would say things have changed. It would be much harder for people to make this go away now than before any evidence was public. While it may not ensnare everybody that it should, it won’t go to zero either. Likely it will be the messy middle, such is life.

  15. MaLóL Says:

    well written gerard, although it seems like you forgot to mention the hidden positive tests;

    – Are u scared of UCI too?

    – I guess lots of riders doped, but that’s kind of fear if they had no other choice. BUT, not all of them, AND I think UCI has been the biggest cheater here so far… What do you have to say to this?

    • When you look at the report, there is actually very little in there about hidden tests. Some bragging here and there. But not to worry, you have to remember that Bruyneel elected to go to arbitration and he was the linchpin in all those stories.

  16. Evan Shaw Says:

    Prediction: UCI will send USADA to WADA under the cover of “Something of this importance should be given the highest form of credibility so it goes to WADA”. Perhaps the only reason this would NOT happen is that they are afraid WADA might investigate them.

    • I don’t think that’s an option. The only option they have is to appeal to CAS. But it is clear that Lance is doomed, so the only reason for the UCI to appeal would be if there was something in the report that was too negative to THEM.

      And I think, seeing Verbruggen’s report, they are satisfied that the report does not implicate them in any wrong-doing. Now, 99% of the people may not agree with that assessment when reading the report, but that doesn’t matter. Only McQ and Verbruggen have to be of that opinion.

      Which may create the irony that Bruyneel electing to go to arbitration kept some things out of the report that would be objectionable to the UCI. With that removed, they may not appeal and after that decision, with Lance done, the real sewage comes out in Bruyneel’s arbitration (or the reasoned decision against him once he realizes arbitration is a lost cause).

  17. Old Crank Says:

    I think about what I would have done if I was a young talented rider in that era. Could I have resisted?

    I’m an athlete…a highly competitive, cocky young guy. I get my first pro contract. Look out world…here I come. I join my new team.

    On training rides I suffer badly while the others ride along chit chatting about the weather and their girl friends. At races I keep on getting popped off the back. My confidence and self esteem begin to really suffer. I wonder why I suck so bad. I begin to notice and see and hear suspicious things related to doping.

    My initial opinion of doping is correct and proper. It is cheating and something I would never consider. But as time goes on, I come to see doping not as a way to gain unfair advantage but as a way to avoid being at an unfair disadvantage…because it seems that so many are doing it. How am I supposed to compete with guys who have boosted their red blood cell counts and accelerated their recovery from yesterday’s stage with HGH and testosterone?

    So when an older rider, DS or team doctor/trainer bring up the topic of my considering taking a little something to help my “recovery”…I’m ready to listen. After all, I do want my contract to be renewed and that’ll only happen if I generate results.

    As long as riders think that many in the peleton are doping, the problem will not go away because riders don’t want to be disadvantaged. Perversely, when doping was rampant, it may have created a kind of level playing field.

    • Evan Shaw Says:

      We all make choices in life. Best not to claim victim hood when actually it is our own greed and indifference to others that is the real reason. Betsy Andreau has it right. No one had to dope. It was not a level playing field. You doped to get the big gravy. Just like wall st and the housing fraud. Crime is crime. Criminal thinking is ignore consequences to others I want what I want.

      • Evan Shaw Says:

        Personally I was becoming a pro rider in the 80s. I quit when I was told to get so called B12 injections. I got what was being asked. Half my family was murdered in the holocaust. My family brought me up to never forget to always care at least as much about others as myself. I was not tempted. It was more than wrong it was repulsive. I needed the money but I said absolutely not. I knew how reprehensible that life would be.

    • You are absolutely right. It is very easy to say you would never dope when you suck so badly it wouldn’t make a difference.

      But how many people can say they have never cheated, at nothing, in no way whatsoever? Who has never had his lawn mowed and paid cash, or stolen an apple, or whatever it is that applies to your case? People who claim that are actually pretty creepy, like a TV reverend pre-fall-from-grace.

      Of course some forms of cheating are worse than others, but just because we never doped doesn’t make us better people, we have to look at whether we stayed the course when we were tempted in an area that was relevant to us.

  18. moskowe Says:

    Pretty funny how you said your next blog entry was not going to be about doping. I guess you get emotionally caught up in all this as much as the average fan does…
    Regardless, the repercussions from this are going to make the next few months very interesting.

  19. Ken Says:

    I’m a bit surprised most of commenters here cite second hand new sources, seemingly unaware of the original material right here:

    The maximum 75% reduction in sentence as well as the confessing riders’ records from different time periods being stripped are all described in the Reasoned Decision. I myself am in the middle of the document. It’s not an easy read, though.

  20. John Says:

    Now that Matt White has resigned from Orica Greenedge the pressure on Team Sky will only increase. I heard Sean Yates interviewed on BBC Radio on Thursday and his “I saw nothing, heard nothing,” line sounded increasingly desperate in the face of the evidence. As you note above, although the 6 riders and ex-riders have been suspended, the questions are only just beginning – White appears to be the first casualty.

    I also think that, having had to pay Lance substantial sums of money, a number of media organisations are going to spare no expense in forensically dissecting the USADA evidence file and much more will be coming out in due course.

    A great blog post, one of your best.

  21. Evan Shaw Says:

    Gerard read the Betsy Andreau piece on Amazing !!! She has it right. Like you she sees the disingenuousness of claiming victim hood. Most poignantly she described the callousness of Hincapie. The blaming of this so called friend. The destructiveness of Armstrong and Bruyneel. Her ideas are very close to yours about what needs be done and why.

    She sees how they did not need to dope. They did it to be on a gravy train. It is a lie to call it a temptation. That they had no choice. And they should not be taking positions now that should go to clean riders. JV might be the exception. He stood by them hated doping. Stopped and is actually working to change it. But the rest I say be gone. Like the crao Matt White writes. Total BS

  22. Evan Shaw Says:

    Lance Armstrong: Was He Doping or Experimenting with Science? by John Eustice

    Gerard, how prevalent is this?

    Read more:

  23. PeterB Says:

    Is it at all possible the Fed case was shelved due to public sympathy for Lance Armstrong. How do you get a jury conviction against such a celebrity under the circumstances at the time. Is it possible the case was shelved so that the USADA could do its work.? To soften up the jury base by having the real Lance outed in the most public way. To show the world he was a drug cheat.

    Now if the Fed case was to be reopened there is surely a bigger chance of gaining a conviction for fraud if the public believed he was firstly a drug cheat.

    There would be method in that madness.

    I would like to think that is more the case rather than Lance having used his political clout to have the investigation shut down.

    In any case whichever way it is there is now a much greater chance of him being convicted for a criminal offence now that he has been outed as a drug cheat (not criminal).

    • Evan Shaw Says:

      Having served as a forensic evaluator in some big cases I really think it was unlikely they closed it for jury problems or they would never have investigated. The evidence appears to be pretty damming. So perhaps it was BOTH his political allegiances AND an election year. At any rate it just might go forward now.

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