Tour de France 2005 - 20e etappe
  • mzungu

    What’s the point of erasing him off the history book? There is still a lot of guys in that era that is still in the show,

    Alberto Contador being one… then there is all the team owners and trainers…. It is still the same bunch. just the drugs are different, and they are more careful.

  • Rodrigo Diaz

    This analysis is interesting, but I don’t think we’re ready to “close the book” and start counting. Specifically, we know most of the “B’s” but the “C’s” are still being tallied.

    – How do you count the sponsors that, 5 years from now, won’t touch cycling with a 10 foot pole because of LA? Sure, there’s other dopers. But there was no greater cycling celebrity and there was no greater collapse as well. Let’s look at this in 10 years, maybe.
    – How do you tally the damage on athletes that are living in the fallout? Thrown urine at? Punched? I don’t like Sky and specifically Froome, but beyond this go into a general sports forum (e.g. Yahoo) and people are being called dopestrong, Tour de ‘Roid, etc. Not all Lance’s fault, but again the largest example.
    – Livestrong is a mess after LA’s fall. Would they have been more resilient with him as a charismatic non-doper cyclist who beat cancer but didn’t destroy people and lied continuously? Maybe.
    – LA’s deep tendrils as a business entity are still being unearthed. CIRC not withstanding, it still looks terrible that the UCI could be “convinced” to contravene its rules and let him return to the TdU. And see the mess with the USCF and his old associates.

    And so on. There is a time-scale that we can’t ignore for these effects. We’ll talk about it when the dust settles!

    • Exactly. Also, to put a dollar amount on “C”s is impossible. Missing “C”s — kids turned away from cycling (loss of potentially better athletes), spectators turned away from cycling (imagine more viewers along the road).

      • Push Bike Writer

        Difficult, yes. But not impossible.
        – C1 $ costs of LA doping (lost income and sponsorship to non-doping riders) = Tally the prize money and bonuses LA won during his career, and also the sponsorship value which are all on public record surely?
        – C2 $ costs of lawsuits initiated by LA against individuals = on public record too mostly.
        – C3 Decline in LA sponsorship and cancer charity $ post doping admission = a simple analysis of $ donated pre and post?
        – C4 $ costs of lawsuits initiated against LA = we know the figures here too don’t we from the SCA and Landis cases, and the others are on public record?
        – Your examples of kids and spectators turned off cycling = it would require making some big assumptions (bigger than for the above costs), but again probably not impossible to calculate a figure based on pre and post Lance periods.
        Craig Fry

        • Michele

          It’s a good can of worms that both you, Ankush and Rodrigo [and others] have opened up Craig :)

          I’ve tried to narrow his influence down to just one event. I’ve used the example of the TDU. But even focussing on this one race can be difficult.

          – We know the TDU started before LA made his return from Cancer. There’s little doubt LA was a major reason why the TDU went for WT. But would this have happened a year or two later than what it did if LA wasn’t around? Does the race even need to have WT status? [Waiting in Dave’s comment :)] Provided the race attracted a few WT teams, would it get just as many spectators?

          – We know the SA government paid a lot of money to LA to come. And, in isolation, it appears that they got a good return on investment. I did media work at the TDU pre, during and post LA, and there’s little doubt that the contingent of press was significantly greater whilst LA raced – especially from overseas journos. But since LA retired / got busted – the amount of fans standing on the side of the road, and visiting from interstate is comparable to before he came down to race. Would these figures be the same now even if LA never raced the TDU? Could he have actually scared spectators away, and these figures are lower than what they could be?

          A lot of speculating. Maybe I’m looking at this from the wrong angle. Less Micro and more Macro.

          But a good topic to discuss nonetheless. Good on you for putting in out there Craig.

          • Push Bike Writer

            Thanks Michele. It is good to see the considered discussion here about the questions I raise. You’d know more about the TDU than me from your first-hand experience, and there may be other more detailed figures/analyses out there, but this source shows the very clear and massive increase in economic impact of TDU from 2008 ($17.3m ) to 2009 ($39m) to 2010 ($41.5m).

            There are other interesting figures in the above source too which show a clear ‘Lance effect’. My guess would be the TDU figures today would probably be lower than had Armstrong never set foot in SA. But the other thing going on of course in Australian cycling around that time was the rise and rise of Cadel Evans, which surely also helped boost interest in pro-cycling here.

            You’re right though, there’s ample speculation about these things. And I also agree it’s a topic worth discussing. So, thanks again for taking the time to think and write about it. Glad you liked the piece.
            Craig Fry

            • Michele

              Yep – it’s interesting.

              Here’s the 2015 TDU “ROI”:

              In 2015 the Santos Tour Down Under saw 786,022 spectators line the roads of South Australia to watch local rider Rohan Dennis take victory, with more than 37,000 visitors from interstate and overseas. The event generated $47.9m in revenue for the state’s economy and contributed to many communities across the state.

              I have little doubt these government-generated ROIs are somewhat ‘inflated’. Hopefully they’ve used the same inflation value when factoring, so we’re comparing apples with apples :)

            • After reading the discussions, I’m now interested in the findings of this statistical exercise when completed. There’s no doubt that Lance made The Tour (pro-cycling) more popular globally, I too knew about him before even following pro-cycling. But as we can see at this Tour that his doping revelation has a long-term impact. For example, in C3 — the lost sponsorship revenue could be huge when extended over many years.

              Also, there are so many other factors which might have lead to cycling’s popularity indirectly. Just as a hypothesis: 2001-08 saw a period of global economic boom enabling people in non-cycling countries to travel to Europe and get exposed to cycling culture. More money meant that they could afford imported bikes. Also, the rise of internet allowed people to watch races online thus drawing them to the sport.

              I believe that there are many factors involved and a careful “economic analysis” is required.

        • Steel

          When we look back there will no doubt be debits and credits when the final sums are tallied. I’m not going to quantify them, but my strong suspicion is that the increase in cycling and all its concomitant benefits on health, livability of cities, community participation and involvement, and emissions leaves the world as a net outcome – a better place for Lance.

          I strongly suspect that is why the UCI turned a blind eye to what was clearly being laid out in front of them in late 90s early 00s.

          I’m not giving Lance any credit for it though. It’s a bit like saying hey – out of WW2 we developed jet turbines, morphine, computers, NATO, the UN etc…

          That’s a dramatic comparison, while Lance was the leader and main beneficiary toward of the wider cycling movement toward institutionalised doping, he was not the devil in this regard, many others were doing it too.

          I just think there are much better ways of achieving the same outcome, and at much less human cost too. Lance ruined people’s lives in pursuit of his own glory and therefore this is not something which should be looked upon as a success. I’d hate to think what that would mean as a model for expanding competitive and transport cycling in China and India by ignoring potential cheating from up and coming riders from those regions.

          • Push Bike Writer

            I agree with you Steel. The ends alone don’t justify the means (see my response to John Seymour above). And yes, LA wasn’t the only one, and as he said himself at one stage, he didn’t invent doping in cycling. But we have to be able to say more than this don’t we?.

            We need to say something consistent and sensible about the other riders who doped (before, during, and after Lance’s time), and who remain in the sport, and celebrated in some way. As I’ve argued before, I just don’t think the current mixed messages and double standards that exist in pro cycling are defensible.
            Craig Fry

            • Steel

              Yep. Despite the to and fro here, I think we’re on the same page in this debate.

    • Push Bike Writer

      All fair points Rodrigo – thank you for this considered input. I agree. Craig Fry.

      • Shane Stokes

        Hi Craig, interesting points. However if weighing up health effects, what about possible future health effects on riders who felt they had to dope to keep up with US Postal? Several teams have said they had backed off on/stopped doping after the Festina Affair but had to start again once USPS came along and started dominating via doping.

        • Push Bike Writer

          Fair point Shane. We’d need long term prospective cohort studies to monitor the health outcomes of pro riders who doped, and we’d need to be able to separate out doping related or caused mortality and morbidity from other factors and causes. Craig Fry.

  • Mark

    Back to the original question. Have you quantified the “.. 20 years of cardiovascular medicine” to compare to? The Lance effect would be a very small ripple.

  • Nath

    A cost benefit analysis over simplifies the issues by limiting them to a monetary value. Run the analysis, but no matter the result the follow up question should be ‘does the end justify the means’. Surely we can be mature enough to acknowledge the positive and still realise he is a sociopathic narcissist who shouldn’t be celebrated merely because the dollars stack up in his favour.

    • Push Bike Writer

      Agree entirely Nath – not everything that matters can be counted, as the saying goes. I guess time will tell as to how the assessment of Lance Armstrong goes, and whether or not he is celebrated in the future again. Craig Fry.

  • Marc

    May be it’s a good idea to read the USADA report again before writing about LA. As much as LA wants it to be, and as much as a lot of people buy into it, LA is not like the other cheats of his era. They ‘only’ used PED’s. LA also was a dealer in PED’s, assisted others in the use of PED’s and forced others to use PED’s. In AFL-terms, he was not only an Essendon player, but also performed the roles of James Hird and Stephen Dank.

    • Michele

      Whilst that is true, LA was not the only rider who was a user/dealer/pusher of PEDs. He’s just the only one who’s faced such scrutiny.

      T-Mobile – and I would suspect CSC – ran systematic team-wide doping programs.

      If you wanted to ride in support of Vino at the 2003 TdF, you had to be on Vino’s doping program. Vino was heavily involved in rider selection fort this Tour.

      I would imagine this is also the case when he rode at Astana in 2007. Remember he, Matthias Kessler, Eddy Mazzoleni, Andrey Kashechkin all got busted during 2007.

      Another example; Dave Millar’s book. He recounts the continual pressure he felt from a non-named team mate to get into a doping program.

      Now these examples don’t prove Vino turned anyone onto drugs, but there was considerable pressure placed on riders – by their peers to dope. If T-Mobile / Astana / CSC etc., were investigated to the extent LA / US Postal was, then we’d discover Lance wasn’t the only ‘dealer’ in the game.

      Doesn’t absolve LA from his actions. Just shows we’re so fixated on him, that a lot of others have escaped far more serious outcomes for their transgressions.

      • Marc

        Not true. CSC and T-Mobile had a program run by the team. Jan Ulrich for example was a user, but didn’t provide the drugs, forced others to use and assisted them in the use of drugs. Same with CSC. You can blame Riis, Godefroot, Pevenage, but not so much the riders. Except for their own use of PED’s of course. Don’t fall for the LA propaganda that it was a level playing field so he would have won anyway, and everybody else did exactly the same. Both claims are absolutely false.

        • Michele

          Can you please show me where I said it was ‘a level playing field, so he would’ve won anyway?’

          Nor am I falling for any LA propaganda.

          I do know [and not from LA] that Vino, in 2003, went to other riders on the T-Mobile squad and told them unless they were doping they wouldn’t be riding the TdF. Yes, Godefroot may have been controlling the doping, but Vino was a major player in pushing PEDs in his team.

          So this ‘claim’ is not absolutely false. The above is factual.

          Have you read Dave Millar’s book?

          However, the other point I was making was speculative: You don’t know with 100% certainty exactly how / who influenced the doping program at T-Mobile, CSC, Cofidis [which does appear – from the outside at least – to be driven by a core of riders], just as I don’t know.

          All I said was if these squads faced an investigation the likes of what US Postal did, then we might discover that there may be an instance or two, or more, or none at all, where a high profile rider from took a young rider under his wings, told them they had to dope to succeed, showed them the drugs they were on, how they worked etc., gave them some to try – despite their reluctance to want to do so – and got them in touch with their ‘supplier’.

          So I can’t see how you can call this point absolutely false. You don’t know, just as I don’t know.

          I guess I could make a generalisation and say that you’ve fallen for some anti-LA propaganda that insists LA was the only dealer in pro-cycling. But such assumptions are unfair.

  • Rowena

    People all over the world wore yellow bands around their wrists that said livestrong. I can’t think of another cyclist who has had that impact on communities all over the world. People raised money for cancer because Lance inspired them, regardless of what was right or wrong it is important to acknowledge that his reach was so big. And his reach started things that are still happening today, it may not be in his name but he was the catalyst that rolled the ball.

  • Ruben Da Costa Pereira

    The Lance Armstrong effect is still in progress, even though Lance is a flawed character. What many people fail to ununderstand is that in LA’s era more than 50% of the peleton were doping and probably are still doping. Yet he still beat every single one of them. To me LA as much as he is distasteful to many in the sport, still has a lot of weight behind his name. UCL, WADA USADA could do a whole lot more with him on their side than against him. Lance will always be known as the tainted Tour de France winner. But where cycling is today in terms of popularity is not because of Eddie Mercx or Miguel Indurain or Greg Le Mond it’s because of Livestrong, it’s because of Lance Armstrong.

    • John Siviour

      Unfortunately also worth considering is remorse not to mention honest recognition of ones errors, restitution and reconciliation. Lance was a confluence of several unpalatable behaviours and the resulting impact has left insidious and likely unidentified negative long term consequences.

    • Murray

      And to this day, if I were to have a child that came to me and asked if they could go for professional status as a cyclist, my response would be “no”. The list of names in the article of those who have cheated and been forgiven needs to be stacked up against the list of names of people who participated in the sport and died due to the side effects of their blood doping.

      The last thing I want to hear from people is that everyone was doing it so it was an even playing field. LA and his money could afford the close medical care and testing that was required to keep his doping relatively safe. Many in the peleton trying desperately to get up/ahead as it was the only way died because they didn’t have that same financial backing/success. Sucks to be them huh?

      The VERY likely fact that the peleton and most of the amateur peletons around the world have very real ongoing issues with doping makes me more convinced that the sum total of LA’s contribution to the sport is firmly negative. I STILL don’t watch the TDF as to me it is the equivalent of watching the WWE. FAKE.

  • This article…

    It’s not about being bitter with Lance but it’s the futility of the exercise to quantify his “positive” impact on cycling.

  • Derek Maher

    Well lance was a good one day racer in his earlier carreer before he contracted cancer.Perhaps the recovery therapy introduced him to the benefits of steroids and Testostorone and put him on the dark path.In the 80s tours. teams started experimenting in recovery methods.Saline drips for the riders after a stage for rapid rehydration.The old PDM team got very sick when a contaminated saline batch was used one year.Cocktails of vitimin B injections high altitude training came into vogue and it was not long before EPO came along.and its benefits were quickly recognised.Over the counter medicines like sudafed were found to help breathing.Then asthma relievers Salbutamol etc used by non sufferers gave them a breathing boost.
    The media and fans loved the great battles in the mountain stages and sponsership rose to new heights as the super charged riders fought it out.
    The post tour crit circuit fuelled by amphetimins was another crowd pleasing spectacle.Kimmage a very ordinary rider left the scene and got a job with a sunday newspaper and blew the whistle.Cycle racing was booming in Ireland and collapsed overnight and has taked decades to recover.
    Lance quickly adapted to the scene and realised to be number one a rider needed to have a high natural ability and good training regime and to win the dope race to get to the top.his exploits on the tours brought him adulation and huge sponsership deals.Young would be cyclists all wanted to be another Lance Armstrong and he was a huge role model.His charity work attracted vast amounts of money a good cause backed by his fame was a winner.
    Now after the whistle was blown and the whistle blowers are looking for huge amounts of cash from Lance apart from getting amnesty for their own drug taking.Only the charity survives perhaps the one good thing to come out of the whole debacle.
    Many people in the media world are still making a good living witch hunting for would be dope cases.Although looking at the 2015 Tour and the amount of riders who look very second hand the media may well be wasting their time.
    A couple more Tours of a lacklustre nature and we could well see the end of the big stages in cycle racing as normal riders prove unable to provide the grand spectacle anymore ?.These being the first in a series of substance free tours since the races began ?.

    • Sean Doyle

      Lance was taking drugs well before he even set foot into Europe for racing according to quite a few people. Here say, but lets not be naive about all this.

      Why is the Tour less of a spectacle at more human speeds. IMO it is more of a spectacle knowing they are not robots.

      • Derek Maher

        Hi sean.Its not the speeds so much its the pure lack of competition in the GC category.It ends up like a formula 1 race a procession with huge time gaps.Now given dope free racing how can one level the playing field and make the race interesting to watch.Shorter stages perhaps or a handicap based on V02 max.A heavier bike for the racer gifted by super lungs ?.

        • Sean Doyle

          That’s the whole point. It is not meant to be a level playing field. Everyone brings something different to the table. It should never be about even one having an even chance of winning. May as well watch NASCAR if that’s the formula you want. Even the UCI mandate that a race outcome should never be decided by equipment where possible. Which flies in the face of what we see pop up daily on the web with tech development.

          Everyone racing for a handful of seconds does not make for interesting racing as they all sit in each others wheels hoping they can make that last dash to the line and gap the others. I’d rather see maybe slightly shorter stages so that the guys can attack each other daily and get bigger gaps so that the other guys are forced to attack further out to make up the time. Piss off the radios and the power meters and let them race on feel and nous. Then you’ll see much better racing. IMHO.

          Handicapping the best in the race is just absurd. Why the hell would you bother training to be the best in the world when you get given a saddle bag full of lead to carry around. May as well do ‘the River Loop’ and go sip coffee as you’ll know everyone will be dragged down your level under the handicap system.

          Again this is athletic endeavor not motor racing. It’s meant to be a method of proving who has the better genetic gifts and hardest working so they can beat their chests and feel good about themselves. That it’s a pro sport and they make money from it is a bonus.

  • pedr09

    Is that Floyd riding behind Lance?

    • Michele

      Yep it is. ;-)

      Shortly after this shot was taken, LA turned around and said ‘Ride like you stole something Floyd!’.

    • MMAster

      No, that’s not FL…I suspect you’ll need a winter parka in hell before those two will be riding together

  • John Brown

    MY main problem with trying to analyse LA’s positive $ contribution to the sport has one quite substantial elephant in the room… That is, what would other riders (possibly clean), done the success stolen by LA. Could they have founded their own charities? Or perhaps, funded communities, funded scientific discoveries? We’ll never know, but for me it’s enough discredit all of LA’s activities.

    • Michele

      Possibly clean? The GC riders from all the major teams in the 2000s were doping.

      I used to think that if the UCI showed the gumption in 1999 to kick LA out of the race for doping than the LA factor would never had happened.

      But then you quickly realised that doping would’ve just continued on it’s merry way if LA made it as a pro or not.

      • John Brown

        I meant it as more of a hypothetical thought experiment. For example, Had LA not been there, a clean rider may have come 4th instead of 5th. That 4th place may have brought that clean rider the extra attention they needed to elevate their career to a higher level.

        That’s considering finishing results. What if we also consider the riders careers that were damaged by LA intimidation – A lot of whom were pushing for clean races. How might their careers have progressed?

        Thirdly, by the use of peloton intimidation, LA was almost advertising doping amongst the riders. He was happily pushing the notion that taking drugs are ok, and expected if you wish to be great.

        Anyway, as I said, it’s all hypothetical.

        • Michele

          Yeah, good points John. Especially 2 and 3rd paragraphs.

          Sightly off topic, but Sandy Casar made some really interesting points about doping and how it falsified results. Here’s a link:

          Made this really good comment:

          “We can’t know what might have happened in other circumstances. When a whole team is doped, it can control or block a race, it can pull back breakaways,” Casar said. “Maybe I sometimes even benefited from their work without knowing it. In effect, everything was falsified. One of the terrible things about doping is that we don’t know who really was good and who wasn’t.”

          • John Brown

            Interesting article. I do feel sorry for new riders in that era. The pressure to dope must have been enormous, so there’s bound to be riders that did cave to the pressure and dope. They probably experienced real psychological afflictions that come with cheating and continually dodging the authorities. Especially when it’s your livelihood.

  • Faz

    Wonderful article and something which mirrors my thoughts on Armstrong. Sometimes the devil is the saint.

    Just in relation to the the 2nd last paragraph: “But I also believe that if we’re going to do that, to be consistent we should do the same with all the other dopers and cheats in this sport.” Again this has really nailed it for me. Armstrong is such an uncomfortable topic to discuss because cycling has allowed just him to be the fall guy while so many others still enjoy their time in the sport. If we can move away from that double standard, then I believe cycling can really start to show its clean self without the blemishes it has now.

  • erin_2503

    My hackles were raised and I couldn’t care less about Lance’s doping. Use an inflammatory title and follow it up with some pros and cons, then admit that you lack expertise to be judged on veracity of the points you make is a lazy way to get lots of comments. Unfortunately I feel obliged to comment because of how insulting it is to read that the inspiration of 1 cyclist may (I use ‘may’ because the author didn’t address or commit to this statement) have been more important to cardiovascular health than 20 years of cardiovascular research. I’m a cardiovascular research scientist, fully aware of the health benefits of cycling, and fully aware that the dedication and commitment of researchers, health professionals and the CV health network ‘might’ not be outweighed than the inspiration of one cyclist.

    • Push Bike Writer

      Thanks erin_2503. The aim was to generate considered discussion not a high comment count. That cardiovascular question was the kickoff point, not the main focus. It was a question from a friend, and while I wouldn’t frame it in those exact terms, I believe it is reasonable to hypothesise about the health impact of Lance Armstrong – it is pretty clear he did inspire an upswing in recreational and sport cycling participation, so it’d be interesting to know what the impact of that has been.

      My lack of expertise is around the methods of running a cost-benefit (or similar) analysis on Armstrong’s impact. You don’t need to be an expert in those methods to argue why it would be interesting to know what the net LA impact has been.

      The real experts in this area can judge the veracity of my very simple equation, and in the piece I invite that. I really would like to see a health economist or similar expert tackle this. I’m prepared to be told that it is an impossible calculation to make, but if that were so it still wouldn’t mean the question of how we think about Armstrong’s impact is also null and void.

      l understand these issues are controversial, and I expect and welcome critique of my arguments. If you also want to throw in things like ‘lazy’ and question my motivation for writing such things that’s fine too. But in that case please use your full name so I can see where this is coming from.
      Craig Fry

  • Nic Lowe

    Mr. Armstrong remains completely unapologetic of his actions during his racing career. This means nothing much other than the fact he is not sorry, just sorry he was finally brought to book.

    Speaking for most of the cyclists I know, the continued hatred of Armstrong has less to do with his cheating and more to do with the denials of guilt and bullying of those who accused him over the years. He has made token apologies to some of those he wronged but they remain as meaningless as a tabloid apology on page 27.

    The bottom line with Armstrong; He is a horrible human being who just happens to have been a very useful bicycle racer. If his success popularised cycling in the USA at least some good has come of his lying/cheating/bullying.

  • John Seymour

    Thanks for approaching this highly emotive topic in a more objective light and trying to quantify net effects. However, even if we grant you a net positive effect (which personally I doubt), then we are still left with the methods used. So in one respect it boils down to “the ends justify the means”. If we were discussing a politician’s or business person’s legacy in this manner, but they had used fraudulent, deceptive and illegal means to achieve their goals, would we see that as acceptable? I am sure there is a formal term for the philosophical approach to ethics that uses this structure, but personally I do not accept, even if there is a net positive effect, that this is morally or ethically supportable.

    • Push Bike Writer

      Thanks John. In philosophy, arguments around whether ‘the ends justify the means’ fall under the banner of consequentialism – looking at the consequences of our actions as the basis for judging right or wrong. Probably the most familiar theory here that we’d all know a little about is utilitarianism. A reasonable overview can be seen here:

      I agree with you (and others here) that there are other important considerations, such as the nature of the behaviour itself, and the character and values of Lance Armstrong. The ends do not justify the means in my view.

      On the question of what we see as acceptable or not in professional cycling, it is interesting that many people switch arguments around how they judge what is ‘right and wrong’, depending on the case their talking about. I guess I’m making an argument for consistency, for a full consideration of the relevant issues, and for cycling to rid itself of the mixed messages and double standards on the doping problem.
      Craig Fry

  • 2getgeorge

    Don’t forget to calculate the cost of all the lost revenue of people’s lives that he (and coconspirators) ruined by strong arming them to hide his doping. All the people he blacklisted like Lemond.the tarnishing of his name in the business.
    Due to the sheer magnitude of the lie, I think it will take decades to forgive. The whole institution is guilty, from the top to bottom, there had to be insider involvement to mask it for that long, there was a lot of people protecting the lie for the sake of the sport. LA’s arrogance through the years is what will curse him.
    In sure LA will forever be asking himself why was I so greedy, if I stayed retired would they still love me.

  • krashdavage

    The simple fact is, Lance Armstrong DID have a positive impact on the popularity of cycling, raising awareness and money for cancer research. In my view the “reasoned decision” and his admissions on Oprah do not undo what good was already done. Trek riding MAMILs didn’t suddenly give up their beloved sport or burn their bikes did they? No.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those revelations did not do harm. Very much so. But the good WAS done. Did Lance really do any of that good with a willing and open heart? Probably not. The good done was mostly a by-product of his personal drive and success. The main reason everyone still hates Lance so much is that he was/is such a c*nt. THAT is what people can’t forgive.

  • A_C

    “B1 = $ raised for cancer research
    B2 = $ from LA impact on profile of cycling (e.g. cycling club memberships, bike and equipment sales, international and national race appearances (e.g. 2009 Tour Down Under)
    B3 = $ earned by all the journalists and authors who have written about LA
    B4 = $ made from LA by Nike, Oakley, Trek, Anheuser-Busch, other sponsors
    B5 = $ saved from reduced mortality and morbidity due to people cycling because of LA”

    I’m not sure I would put these entirely in the ‘plus’ column without making some substantial subtractions for:

    B1- $ raised in the name of cancer awareness but appropriated for personal gain by LA and others
    B2- $ from an appearance at the 2009 TDU that did not comply with the UCI’s anti-doping protocols but was heavily lobbied for by the TDU and then SA Premier and was permitted on Pat McQuaid’s say so
    B3- $ earned by journalists and authors who had turned a blind eye or actively attacked those who tried to tell the truth
    B4- $ made by Trek and Oakley specifically because they actively involved themselves in not only lying about LA’s doping but also attacking those like Betsy Andreu who told the truth and threatened the LeMonds before being true to their word, destroying Greg LeMonds bike business
    B5- If you count this in the ‘plus’ column on the basis of reduced cost to public health, don’t forget to put an entry in the ‘minus column’ for the US taxpayers $ that were sunk into LA’s team by the US Postal service and USAC, the latter of which at best failed to act on reasonable suspicion or at worst was complicit in the cover up.

    I don’t hold LA solely responsible for the mess pro cycling is in, but let not downplay the extent and nature of his behaviour but adding a ‘but’. LA behaved appallingly and did massive damage not only to the sport but also individuals who deserve a sincere apology and compensation and are still waiting.

    No buts.

    • Push Bike Writer

      All good points A_C. Thank you. I wasn’t making a case for LA’s forgiveness, or forgetting the harms he was responsible for. One aim I had was to use his case to highlight the full set of issues we might consider if we care to even ask the question: What’s the cost-benefit outcomes of LA? As we’ve seen in the comments here, some folks just won’t go there, some point out (rightly) it’s not all about the $ and the countable ends, and others want to focus on the harms and costs.

      These are all fair enough positions I think. But then my other aim in writing the piece was to ask how we think about LA as a doper in cycling, and again use that case to highlight the important follow-up questions: How should we think about all the other dopers still in and around cycling? What should we do about this?

      People clearly differ on the value (or not) they place on thinking and acting consistently on this issue. You see this in the comments pages, in pro-cycling, in some media commentary, and in the way that the governing bodies of cycling (national and international) ‘handle’ the issue. I believe this is the crux of the ongoing doping problem in cycling, and I want to shine a light on it.
      Craig Fry

      • A_C

        I thought there was something familiar here… For the record, I am vehemently anti-doping so found your piece ‘Bring truth into play by saying yes to drugs in sport’ a few years back equally challenging. I remember getting quite riled by it at the time! Anyway, we’re having the discussion so fair enough I guess.

  • Pat Fogarty

    Lance and doping aside, this is a fascinating idea! Can we (or should we) measure sporting investment in terms of benefit-to-society? It could really shake up funding at our Insitutes of Sport! Rather than analysing it from an economic viewpoint ($ gained here vs $ lost there), perhaps studying it as a public health intervention makes more sense.

    How do we measure public health? Well, in most cases it has to be done indirectly (we can’t ask everyone to undergo VO2max & EKG test on the third Tuesday of August each year) so we have to choose something we _can_ measure that has a relationship with the thing we _want_ to measure. We extrapolate the scientific finding “People who ride bikes experience a range of health benefits” (regularly demonstrated by studies) to a population level “If a greater proportion of the population are cycling, then the population will be healthier” and measure cycling participation in the population, rather than the cardiovascular health of all the individuals. Increased cycling participation is a standard target for governments (here in NSW the state government has a target of doubling the mode share of bicycle trips by 2016). Does professional sporting success translate to increased participation? News reports would have us believe so, but perhaps it’s something that deserves more rigorous study. Assuming it does, we need to prove that participating in a given sport leads to improved health. Cycling would get a clear tick, but what about others like boxing? Should we fund sports that have a health risk? Further, shouldn’t we give preference to sports that would have the most positive impact in the population? Given the huge gender gap in cycling participation in the population, there’s an argument to be made that most cycling funding should be going to the women…

    To look at the “Lance-effect” I’d suggest the most relevant measure of cycling participation would be membership numbers of USA Cycling, and the question becomes: “Did membership of USA Cycling increase more during the Lance-era than would have been expected otherwise?” This is still not a simple question, since we need to quantify “what would have been expected otherwise”? We could look at trends in USA Cycling membership prior to ’99 (unfortunately their website only shows figures back to 2002), and see how things differ in the Lance-era, or we could look at participation rates in other countries over that period and make the assumption that a US sports star isn’t really going to inspire French/Aussie kids, or use a combination of both historical and control data to derive a statistical model that will show whether there really is a Lance-effect. Perhaps we’d see two effects: an uplift in participation in the English-speaking world as cycling breaks new ground in these markets, and a drop in Europe as cycling-mature markets are turned off by the doping rumours? Get the membership data and crunch the numbers and you should be able to put a number to the “Lance effect” (this could be an interesting exercise – I’d be happy to help if anyone can get the figures out of the various cycling bodies).

    Then, to borrow from the terminology of clinical trials (it seems appropriate) you can compare your new drug (Lance) against “other drugs on the market” (building cycle-lanes, bike-share schemes, financial incentives like UK’s cycle-scheme). To be worthy of approval your new treatment has to be more effective than others, with fewer side-effects. Now it becomes a question of perspective. If you’re a government who wants increased cycling rates for no money down, you’d take your shot of Lance, and you’d probably see the side-effects as a bonus, considering the law suits and media frenzy as good for the economy. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of cycling, you’d fork out for the cycling infrastructure every time. Spend enough and you could get the same or better uplift in cycling participation, the benefits would be spread across the entire population instead of just sports-fans, road congestion would be eased, and fewer people would die beneath car wheels.

    Disclosure: I am a member of (and have been a candidate for) the Australian Cyclists Party, so I have a clear agenda when it comes to improving cycling infrastructure. I have worked as a statistician in public health and clinical trials, and think that with the right data and methodology we could answer the question “How many kilometres of cycleways make a Lance Armstrong?” No matter what the answer, I’d always opt for the cycleways.

  • Patrick Van De Wille

    Craig, a couple of points about your article. First, I should note that the first, and most quantifiable and salient, example of “benefit” to the sport has been “$ raised for cancer research.” But this is in fact incorrect: the Livestrong foundation has not, to my knowledge, given a cent to actual research. The goal of the organization is “cancer awareness,” which presumably included paying Lance Armstong to fly around as paid talent, talking about himself and cancer, not unlike how Dave Thomas of Wendy’s restaurants was paid to appear in his own company’s commercials.

    Secondly, you equate doping as it existed in the past with doping as it exists in its current form (since the advent of blood products) as if they’re just examples of one and the same phenomenon. They are not: the dope riders did in the past (until the 90s) was mainly amphetamines, some steroids, and other products that, frankly, have not been proven to improve performance – and were in fact mainly avoided by the top racers in the top events because of the risk of being caught. Their main function was psychological and cultural, and to help a minor racer well down in the pack make the time cut after a hard day. But since 1990, the doping products have become absolutely essential components to top performance, making a 10% difference in performance at least. So it’s more difficult to “forgive” a rider whose performances were largely manufactured. It’s been impossible to identify, since 1990, who the top rider would be without doping, while before then there’s no doubt that riders like Merckx, Anquetil and others would have been the best of their generation, regardless of the presence or not of doping. That change makes “forgiveness” and “legacy” much more difficult to aspire to.

    • Push Bike Writer

      Thanks for the comments Patrick. Livestrong does fund research, see: There has been some commentary here: around the relatively small contribution, but it funds research nevertheless. Even ‘meagre’ contributions, if thats what some people regard them as, would have to be counted as a benefit.

      I agree that the nature and substances involved in doping have changed over the years. But the ‘doper’ today and the ‘doper’ of yesteryear are doing the same thing – breaking the rules in order to gain advantage.

      I don’t agree with your claim that modern doping manufactured champions, or made race horses out of donkeys, while the other substances you mention up to the 90s just gave the champions of yesteryear a psychological boost. It is clear that “amphetamines, some steroids” do indeed improve performance. Your suggested cultural function? I’ll give you that – I agree.

      In any case, I don’t believe the distinction you are trying to make between modern and historical doping is the reason why we see some dopers forgiven and others not. I think it has more to do with the culture of professional cycling, attitudes towards race rules, and the continuing practices in this sport of keeping ex-dopers in the fold, celebrating their wins, and ignoring their past.

      But I expect we could argue about that all day. Thanks again for joining the discussion.
      Craig Fry

      • Patrick Van De Wille

        Thank you for your reply, Craig, and you are of course right, we could debate this all day, so I’ll limit my comments to this. My career covering professional cycling started from the later half of the 1980s and continued until the year 2000, so I was in a good position to see the transition. While none of the racers at the top level could possibly be called donkeys, the new drugs did allow riders to completely reshape their performance characteristics. The most obvious example is Bjaarne Riis, whose career is helpful in that it crossed the eras. In the old regime, his talent enabled him to earn a good living as a strong domestique. With the transition to blood products, and an appetite for health risk, he was able to beat a five time Tour winner (who himself was doping, but not to the outrageous limits of Riis). There are a number of similar examples, but the fundamental change is that things that used to be inalterable aspects of talent, like cardiovascular capability, became things that you could indeed alter. Since the 1990s, cycling is purely a function of the quality of a medical program, to ensure you dope to the accepted limits and don’t make a testing mistake, and weight loss. If steroids and speed pills had the same effect, then the East bloc riders (the biggest users, certainly of steroids) would have dominated when they joined the pro ranks. But that was far from the case.

        But in any case, thanks again for a thoughtful article and for acknowledging my comment.

        • Push Bike Writer

          Thanks for clarifying your point Patrick. I see what you’re saying now. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

    • jack
      • Patrick Van De Wille

        Is it me missing something? On that link, which both you and Craig supplied, I can’t see any mention of the word “research” – only “programmatic funding”. Anyway, it’s a minor point.

  • jack

    I loved Greg, and as a kid emulated his technique, and as an adult can say the same for Lance’s cadence. He put cycling on the map for so many. Its sad to know it was such an impure act in such a pure sport that I dearly love, and the heart breaking facts are so solidly rendered in retrospect that it is hard to trust.

    Food for thought: Who destroyed the indigenous tribes, or promoted and perpetuated slavery, or dropped the second bomb, or is rapidly creating global climate change with new carbon fiber bikes and boundless consumerism on the internet?

    Hmmm… Did “we” do that? Are “we” doing it again?

    It’s time to remember and forgive and learn and move forward.


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