Friday, May 4, 2007

Cycling's latest disaster - Mimitig

Or as I might have titled this: Who's Next to Break my Heart?

When I read a while ago, that Ivan Basso had been signed to Discovery, my heart sank. He had been hugely implicated in Operacion Puerto, he had withdrawn (or been withdrawn) from the 2006 Tour de France, the new drug-free European teams wouldn't touch him and yet, yet, Lance Armstrong's team took him on. This week we here he's "resigned" and will take no further part in the ProTour. What stronger admission do we need? What is happening between the Spanish police and other bodies is not known to me in any detail, but the revelation that Basso may be required to give DNA suggests that the investigation has taken a further turn. His decision to "retire" from competition this year can only lead me to a negative conclusion.

Proof must be decisive and open before any condemnation is made, but as with Jan Ullrich's decision earlier this year to retire from the sport, it does not make for happy reading. If these riders are innocent of the accusations made against them, why would they turn away from the sport they have both loved and earned their livings from?

I have always seen the best in road and track cycling, but in these last years, so many times my heroes have been found wanting. Marco Pantani, the Elephant, was one of my great favourites. I followed his exploits with awe and admiration. When questions were raised, I was at the forefront of his defenders. I couldn't believe he would cheat. But he did, and paid the greatest price - his life. Going back in the history of cycling, others have paid the same price. Tom Simpson was one of the first that we absolutely know gave his life for his wrongly judged quest for success.

And this brings me back to my heartbreak in a sport that I still love. Lance Armstrong signed Ivan Basso. Basso appears to be a drug cheat - though that is still to be proved in the courts of law, if not in the courts of the media. Lance was, and is a cycling hero. He did what no-one has done before - he won the Tour 7 times. Allegations of doping have been an integral part of Lance's career (mostly led by L'Equipe), but there has never been any proof against him and I always believed him to be clean. Sadly, his support of the tainted Basso has caused me to question his ethics, if not his career, and that, for me, is the ultimate betrayal.


bluedaddy said...

Death by a thousand cuts. Someone make it stop!

nesta said...

Cycling. Well to be honest I know little about it. I have never read a Cycling magazine and the only articles I have read have been written by the Australian press, your good self or Phil Liggott.

Phil has commentated the Tour de France downunder for as long as I can remember. We call him the Richie Benaud of cycling. I remember Basso being led a merry and very painful dance through the Alps by Armstrong on several occasions.

I saw a documentary on le Tour once - I cannot recall it's name - but the agony those guys put themselves through on a daily basis, is madness.

Your article has implicated Lance by association and as a big admirer of Armstrong's story I think you are being a bit hard. Understandable of course. We all despise carefully managed deception. Like I have already noted, my knowledge of the ins and outs of Pro cycling is extremely limited. So take no notice if you think I'm writing rubbish.

To stain Lance with the deeds of his employees or team-mates would require him to be aware of their cheating.

What if Lance asked before signing Basso if he was clean and Basso lied. Cheaters live a lie. Lance, from my observations is a man of incredible integrity.

I also value integrity and honour and many atime people have let me down because I believed what they said is truth. Everyone gets the chance to prove themselves. You have to give them the benefit of the doubt. You get let down often but you soon find out who can be trusted and who cannot.

Maybe Lance knew but then again maybe he did not. If Armstrong took illegal enhancements he would have been caught. The whole world watched his every move for near on a decade. The French wanted nothing more than to humiliate this super human American. They failed. There was no smoke or fire. Only gossip, jealousy and innuendo.

I worked with and employed a very disturbed, bitter and evil individual. That didn't make me one. I can assure you.

As far as I'm concerned Lance Armstrong has set an example to us all in how to conduct yourself under extreme adversity. No matter what mud is thrown, in my opinion he is one of the greatest sportsmen of my lifetime. An example of humanity at its finest.

He is worthy of your love.

offside said...

Does anybody seriously believe any of them, Lance included, are clean? And I'm not saying he isn't. He may be. I didn't care about cycling before the scandals and I don't care now. And it's not a moral stance either. I've probably done more drugs than the whole peloton. That's probably what's clouding my judgement. I don't know. Does anybody really know what's going on? For me, the recent enduring image of cycling as a whole is that fridge full of blood. Chilling.

offside said...

* Although, it must be said, I've never put anything directly into my bloodstream. Tales regarding that whiskey drip were wildly exaggerated.

MotM said...

Mimi is right to question Lance's judgement in associating himself with a friend, but a tainted friend. Lance has form in this area with the Italian doctor (Conconni)? I remember a superb piece in procycling by Jonathan Vaughters defending his friendship of a drug-user - fine humanity, but poor sport.

The sport is lost to me I'm afraid, and I know Mimi thinks otherwise, but I just can't face it.

Cycling has many very fine documentaries: "Death on the mountain"; "Pour un maillot jaune" and another one I can't recall are beautiful, terrifying films.

jonnyboy71 said...

Nice one mimi.

nesta, I think the film you're looking for is "Overcoming"; it's not a badly translated porn as the name suggests, it's a biopic of the CSC team's 2004 season, when Basso joined etc.. Amazing TV.

mimi said...

thanks jonny. My other cycling pieces here are The World of the Velodrome and 7 Gold Medals. Both in April sections - can't remember which, but you can find them here easily enough.

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