Lance, Doping Bubbles and Collateral Damage

Luke Batten, Jonathan Sadler and Todd Simeone

When we started Tenspeed Hero we decided this would be a Post-Lance blog. We wanted to write stories about every day bike love, imagining pictures of bike parts and to encourage young artists + designers + and interns to find their voice. Big Tex and Doping in general just did not fit. After reading the USADA’s 200-page Reasoned Decision, a week later we are experiencing the minute dissection of the doping bubble that surrounded Lance Armstrong, US POSTAL, and Johan Bruyneel. It is not too different than the Housing Bubble. Take a few unscrupulous lenders (Lance + Johan), rating agencies (Phil and Paul), a bit of irrational exuberance (Bob Roll), reality shows on flipping condos (Versus), and soon you have so many people involved looking for easy-money (corporate sponsors) that you are bound to find many sinners and plenty of collateral damage (wives and girlfriends) when the bubble bursts.

To maintain the doping bubble, to save it, it must keep growing. It seemed to grow comfortably by victories, personal largess, charity (Livestrong) and uncomfortably by a simultaneously relentless legal and PR machine that took care of anyone that chose to exit the bubble. Throw in some old fashioned bullying tactics with actual threats and you will find Betsy Andreau, Frankie Andreau, Greg Lemond, Emma O’Reilly, Filippo Simeoni and Jonathan Vaughters among the notable injured parties who dared speak the truth.

Before we continue, à la Bill Strickland, we must we state firmly that we were there in 1999 jumping up and down as he cruised to his first Tour win. We think Livestrong is a good thing. We also must also admit we enjoyed Lance’s arrogance in the post TDF stage press scrums even if we knew he was a dick. Lance wrapped his cocksureness with a touch of humor we thought, like when at a pre-TDF press conference he said “anyone can win the Tour de France” and then added with his neutral Texan drawl, “well, not anyone.” Dare we say we even snickered at the mafia tactics of Lance, “I was just following wheels” Armstrong chasing down Filippo Simeoni in the 2004 Tour for testifying that Lance’s coach Michele Ferrari was a supplier of EPO. Watching Lance enforce “Omerta” was like watching the Soprano’s and sadly we turned off the TV and did not really think about it to the degree we should have. We imagined he did dope at some point in his career but we also imagined with each international doping crisis and new drug test, Lance and Company must have felt pressure to race clean or at least clean-er.

To think we encouraged the doping bubble, even as spectators, is embarrassing. We are not specifically talking about condoning the individual(s) who decided to take and push performance enhancing drugs but what we are most concerned with is standing by while the bully worked his way through the playground as if it were his sole domain. It is an ugly thing to watch. It (what’?, blind adoration, love for the bully?) is the one part of maintaining the doping bubble that makes Lance’s corporate sponsor’s seem clueless with their unquestioned support.

Every few weeks Johan Bruyneel’s favorite pastime on twitter is to celebrate the bounties of life (and Reasoned Decisions) with a well-timed twit-pic of 100-dollar bottles of wine. On October 5th it was a 1998 Tinganello. Life’s rewards we suppose. Lance’s favorite pastime is to awkwardly celebrate dropping off his kids at school three times a month to be followed by a “What’s up Toronto?” the following day and a shout-out to fresh snow in Aspen the next. To Tenspeed Hero these tweet musings on success and parenthood are the saddest part of the bubble these days, but then again it appears the bullies still have an audience. 

As we move forward beyond our own musings, beyond Lance we are reminded how easily we find ourselves in the mix. If we are to maintain any post-Lance credibility here we now say, at the very least, we watch our World Cycling Productions dvd’s with a dose of humility. For now, thanks to all who escaped the doping bubble, stood your ground and spoke honestly.