Dear Fellow Cyclists and Cycling Fans,
Like many of you, I have read Greg Lemond's recent comments regarding doping in cycling and his interactions with Lance Armstrong. For those not up to speed, see this link for a concise account of Greg's statements in English:
The original complete text in French appears here:
I admire Greg's courage to speak his mind on the doping problems that still plague cycling. Like him, I feel that this problem is out of hand. Something needs to be done to clean it up, not only for the sake of the riders' health, but also for the sake of returning our sport to the truths of human spirit, valor, and talent.
The English version of the Eurosport article makes a huge point of Greg's personal experience with Lance and the resulting conflict. Obviously, Lance and Greg have their own private relationship. While I know and respect both of these champions, having raced with both of them over the years, their personal interaction is none of my business, and speculating on conflict between the two only distracts from the bigger and more important issue of doping.
What I found more compelling was the complete Le Monde text. It clearly shows Greg, who remains unquestionably the father of the modern era of American cycling champions, standing up and declaring that professional cycling has been and, regrettably, still is rotten with drugs.
Greg has put himself into personal and business difficulties by speaking out and getting involved with the issue of drugs in today's cycling. Voluntarily placing himself in this position shows me honesty and bravery far beyond what most of us could muster. Lemond could instead follow the cycling world's expectations for past champions and sit around "a fumer le pipe" ('chilling' in cycling slang) in silence. But, his legitimate concern for the health and lives of today's athletes and future riders drives him to do what he can to return cycling to a healthy level. I want to see the same. Since the early 90s both doping and the medical excesses placed upon riders' health have gotten out of control.
Most of us will probably need to put aside our Tour time emotions and resist making the judgment that Greg is trying to gain something personal or is simply jealous of being eclipsed as the dominant American cyclist. I saw Greg race as a champion through the 80s, and into the 90s when the cycling community as a whole turned a blind eye towards doping and consciously ignored the onslaught of EPO in the peloton.
Like Greg, I too saw what I believe were the effects of EPO when it entered pro cycling in the early 90s. In the first years it grew from a few individuals reaping obscene wins from exploiting its "benefits,” to entire teams relying on it, essentially forcing all but the most gifted racers to either use EPO to keep their place in cycling, quit, or become just another obscure rider in the group.
I had the honor of racing in eight Tours. Being happily retired, I can reflect on my small part in that race and enjoy seeing it motivate kids just as it did me. So like Greg Lemond, I cannot just sit idly by watching our sport continue to suffer from cheating. It's time to tell the truth.
Why now? Remember that while the Tour de France is the pinnacle of cycling, it is also the leading force in fighting drugs in cycling. Right now, while public attention is still on the Tour, is a good time to address the problem of doping.
Dr. Michele Ferrari is known to have supported the use of EPO to increase his riders' performances. In '94, while his riders dominated the Ardennes Classic, he publicly ridiculed making rules against EPO saying it was safe to use and should not be made illegal in cycling. I believe behavior like this and the use of these products should not be tolerated. Violators should receive meaningful bans from the sport, bans that significantly outweigh any perceived benefits.
Many aspiring racers have confronted drug use as they rose through the ranks. Unfortunately, their silent answer to this insanity is often to quit racing at this level. Otherwise, they risk succumbing to the conventional wisdom that "since everyone takes drugs to be competitive, you should too.” This must not continue to be the choice facing promising young racers.
Now, in his retirement, Greg Lemond is fighting to bring racing back to a natural level of honest riders racing to their limits and living a long life to talk about it. I am writing to support him in this fight.
Both Greg and I are involved with a junior racing team, so this matter continues to concern us as we support and urge kids to go as far as they can in the sport we love, both for their own personal rewards, and to keep cycling growing. It is irresponsible for us to encourage kids to race and potentially turn pro without doing all we can to change cycling back to a sport where they will not likely be asked to take drugs that could ultimately destroy their natural good health, their characters, and their bodies.
Thanks for listening,