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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I haven't read everything that has ever been written about doping since Lance got busted. I have a few questions that I am sure others here have discussed ad infinitum and can help me understand.

Personal opinions below; feel free to skip to the bold text if you want to jump right to my question(s).

First, my actual position on doping is this: Doping is wrong. What we should want to see is athletes (in any sport) competing at the natural limits of human ability. Doping can and should be effectively prevented and punished consistently across the board.

However, this isn't what we actually want. What we really want is to see people breaking records. We want to see Superman climbing the Col du Tourmalet like a bullet out of a gun. The fact that this is what we want to see makes doping profitable - as much so for the governing bodies and team and owners in the sports in question as for the individual athletes. When you can generate amazing performances in your sport this raises interest and awareness and profitability. Look at what Michael Jordan did for basketball. Look at what Tiger Woods did for golf. Look at what Lance Armstrong did for cycling. (I'm not suggesting that athletes mentioned are/were doping, just that the high-profile nature of the feats performed in their respective sports generated massive amounts of public interest and BIG, BIG money. For everyone involved.)

So, maybe this is why the governing bodies of many sports can't seem to figure out how to effectively combat cheating.

Having said all of that, I used to assume a couple things:

1.)Everyone at the top levels of professional cycling is doping.

2.)If everyone is doping, then the best athlete still wins, they just look better and make more money while they do it.

And, so finally, my questions:

Lemond has stated that the way he figured out so early on that Lance was a big, fat cheater was because his VO2 max wasn't good enough for him to be a top level competitor. This doesn't make sense to me. We know that many of LA's biggest rivals, including Jan Ullrich have admitted to doping during the period in which Lance was winning.

If Lance was a sub-par athlete, then why did cheating, supposedly just like everyone else was doing, allow him to rocket to the top and remain there?

Why didn't other cheaters have a "fair" chance against him?

So, U.S. Postal was the only team with organized, institutionalized cheating? I don't buy that. So, by the time Lance won his second, or third, or fourth Tour, no one decided to step up their cheating to compete?

I don't know enough about this. I'm not trying be controversial. I haven't even been on this forum long enough to know what is or isn't considered inflammatory.

I liked Lance. I loved watching him race. The fact that I actually have friends to ride with these days is largely as a result of the popularity he brought to cycling in America.

Lance gets a lot of criticism for not only cheating, but for vehemently defending himself and his position while he was King of the Mountain. Was Lance an a**hole? Yep. But, honestly, what would you have expected him to do differently? Once you have decided to lie and cheat, not defending yourself as vigorously as an innocent person would be.... wishy-washy? Maybe?

Besides, this whole idea of "well, he should have cooperated better and we would have been nicer to him" is BS IMHO. Punish everyone who cheats consistently.

I hate to see what Lance was able to do to Greg LeMond, for example. I ride one of his bikes. I'm glad to see him returning to a position of popularity now that he has been vindicated. I'm not as familiar with the stories of other people who may have been negatively affected by Armstrong. I just wonder what he should have done differently.
 

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If Lance was a sub-par athlete, then why did cheating, supposedly just like everyone else was doing, allow him to rocket to the top and remain there?

Why didn't other cheaters have a "fair" chance against him?

So, U.S. Postal was the only team with organized, institutionalized cheating? I don't buy that. So, by the time Lance won his second, or third, or fourth Tour, no one decided to step up their cheating to compete?
I just wonder what he should have done differently.

They were not all cheating the same. Lance wasn't cheating the same as the rest, he was cheating far more, as much as humanly possible at the time.

He had control over the doping testers, the UCI, everyone. He couldn't fail a test because he basically owned the entire system, it was all corrupt. Lots of money spent and threats and such to keep everyone quiet.

He wasn't winning just because he was doping more, he was also paying others to lose. It wasn't just drugs, it was also money and intimidation and such.

He says himself what he should have done differently:

https://youtu.be/anXNPuYdMDc?t=3m46s

He didn't just cheat, he lied, he conned, he intimidated, he tried to destroy people personally, he took it too far personally.
 

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As long as there is something to gain, either intrinsically or extrinsically, there will be people that forsake all else in pursuit of that gain.

This is not a sporting issue, this is a human (animal) issue. That's the root cause and no organization at any level in any arena will be able to ever effectively combat that to the degree necessary to ensure pure sport.

And that doesn't really matter, because it's so prevalent in any and all facets of life. So in any case, attempts to level the playing field are the best we can hope for and those attempts will hopefully improve things over time so that the most egregious offenses are dissuaded.

As for your questions; there are levels of doping and the playing field is not and has not ever been level, just like it's not level with most things.

There's also the matter of being responsive to the doping. LA was apparently a superresponder, as was Tyler Hamilton and others. Not everyone responds the same way, however.

No one has ever said Lance was in any way a subpar athlete. Lemond's vo2 assessment and the corresponding wattages he proposes are essentially made up. No physiologist or sports scientist or knowledgeable trainer agree with the seemingly random numbers he's asserting in regards to Armstrong's physiological capabilities.
 

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1.)Everyone at the top levels of professional cycling is doping.

2.)If everyone is doping, then the best athlete still wins, they just look better and make more money while they do it.
To the first point, I'm really not naive, but I don't think that's true. I'm really suspicious of anyone who wins a grand tour. I'm less convinced that winners of one day events or shorter stage races have to be doped up.

To the second point, the issue is that doping helps some more than others. Riders with naturally high hemoglobin and T levels will not benefit as much from doping as those with lower levels. You can only dope yourself to certain levels before health issues and the risk of testing positive outweigh the benefits of more dope. So the genetically disadvantaged have more to gain from doping.
 

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So the genetically disadvantaged have more to gain from doping.
To be clear, because this statement really isn't, no one at the protour level (or elite level period) is "genetically disadvantaged".

Cycling performance doesn't hinge on one point of one physiological marker. All of those guys are super genetic freaks. Other than that, yes, as mentioned, some respond better to drugs than others (as some respond better to altitude, some better to intensity, some to nutritional aspects, etc).
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Okay so Lance happened to respond really well to his drugs, and he had a really effective cartel backing him up. I still don't understand why T-Mobile or Astana or Phonak or somebody didn't also have an evil empire going.
 

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Okay so Lance happened to respond really well to his drugs, and he had a really effective cartel backing him up. I still don't understand why T-Mobile or Astana or Phonak or somebody didn't also have an evil empire going.
They did, but it wasn't nearly as effective as LA and his teams. Plus, no one else had the narrative LA had - comeback from cancer AND win 7 straight TDFs. That narrative was too much for anyone to pass up, which translates to $$$. LA being on top wasn't just good for him, his team, and his sponsors - the entire sport was at a whole other level. Mix the terrible things LA and crew did plus all the money on the line for everyone is a recipe for widespread corruption, which is what that period of pro cycling was. These days? Still doping, but probably not at the levels of the LA era because there isn't a AAA celebrity in the mix right now. Truth is, pro cycling would kill to have a "clean" LA (again.)
 

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Lance (and by extension, Postal) had Ferrari, who was by most accounts the most sophisticated doping doctor in the world. He was scientific, precise, and very careful. The other contenders were left with sloppy doctors like Fuentes. The test for EPO was in use, so blood transfusions were back in vogue, which required next-level resources. Certain teams (like the French) backed away from institutional doping after Festina. Others were much more conservative. Some kept driving forward.

Lance and Postal were the perfect storm of drive to win at any cost. The organization behind them, and the personalities behind it, were the inevitable culmination of years of the doping arms race.

Is the peloton clean now? I doubt it. Cleaner? I think so. There are still a lot of questionable characters in the sport, and more than a few riders want to win no matter what. The nitrous oxide they used to run on has been replaced with less-easily detected substances, but they're still there. That's the nature of the sport within the sport, and it's always been that way. Someone else will find a loophole to increase performance and a lot of others will exploit it until the testers get wise. Then they'll find another way.

I think it's a battle worth fighting, even if it never ends.
 

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To be clear, because this statement really isn't, no one at the protour level (or elite level period) is "genetically disadvantaged".
Taken on it's own, no. But in the context of this thread it's clear enough. This thread is about professional cyclists and even among the gifted there are those with better genetics to carry more red blood cells and higher levels of T. To spell it out, the professional athlete with a 200 ng/dl T level and a 39% hematocrit is more likely to benefit from doping than a pro athlete with an 850 ng/dl T level and a 47% hematocrit. That was my point. Of course professional cyclists are not disadvantaged compared to mortals like us. That's obvious.


Cycling performance doesn't hinge on one point of one physiological marker. All of those guys are super genetic freaks. Other than that, yes, as mentioned, some respond better to drugs than others (as some respond better to altitude, some better to intensity, some to nutritional aspects, etc).
Yup. More obvious statements. Not sure if this was in response to my post and if so I can't figure out how it relates to it but thanks anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Taken on it's own, no. But in the context of this thread it's clear enough. This thread is about professional cyclists and even among the gifted there are those with better genetics to carry more red blood cells and higher levels of T. To spell it out, the professional athlete with a 200 ng/dl T level and a 39% hematocrit is more likely to benefit from doping than a pro athlete with an 850 ng/dl T level and a 47% hematocrit. That was my point. Of course professional cyclists are not disadvantaged compared to mortals like us. That's obvious.




Yup. More obvious statements. Not sure if this was in response to my post and if so I can't figure out how it relates to it but thanks anyway.
I got what you were saying. Not the biggest genetic freak among a pre-selected group of freaks. :)
 

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Yup. More obvious statements. Not sure if this was in response to my post and if so I can't figure out how it relates to it but thanks anyway.
It was in response to your quip about being "genetically disadvantaged". Even if they had low hct or low T or something of that sort, they are not genetically disadvantaged or they would have never been in that echelon of sport to begin wtih.

They are, however, better suited to upping those particular chemical components with drugs. But any one particular component is still just one component of one factor of which many are necessary to become a professional bike racer.

More to the point, drugs won't do **** for the average peon in regards to getting them to the pro level. If you're already there, then genetics are very much on your side.
 

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It was in response to your quip about being "genetically disadvantaged".
I was speaking about those particular things that I spelled out for you in my second post. The OP got it on the first try. Sorry that you didn't.

Edit:
I just noticed this post of yours over on the thread about the two masters in Texas who were busted:

"There are certainly those that respond more than others (those with lower hcts and all get a bigger boost). "

That's exactly what I'm talking about. I'm talking about genetics in relation to those specific markers. I think we're saying the same thing but you thought I was making a broader statement about some pro athletes being genetically disadvantaged, but I wasn't. I've trained pro athletes for a living for 10 years and I've been training athletes in general from the average, to D1 NCAA to pro for almost 20, so I have a pretty good grasp on the differences between the pros and the joes.
 

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However, this isn't what we actually want. What we really want is to see people breaking records. We want to see Superman climbing the Col du Tourmalet like a bullet out of a gun. The fact that this is what we want to see makes doping profitable

I don't believe this is true. We enjoy the competition itself; record breaking is just a side effect.

And, so finally, my questions:

If Lance was a sub-par athlete, then why did cheating, supposedly just like everyone else was doing, allow him to rocket to the top and remain there?

Not all people respond to the same drugs in the same way to the same level. Perhaps Lance had a magic combination of personal physiology combined with the right drugs.

Why didn't other cheaters have a "fair" chance against him?


In addition to my suggestions above, he cornered the market on the best doping doctor, and had a management team that implemented an excellent doping program. There are good ways to cheat and GREAT ways to cheat.

So, U.S. Postal was the only team with organized, institutionalized cheating? I don't buy that. So, by the time Lance won his second, or third, or fourth Tour, no one decided to step up their cheating to compete?

Again; the other teams, or at least individuals, were cheating, just not receiving the benefits or subject to an poorly administered program. And, if you're the team leader and the only one doping, you are left with support riders lacking the doping enhancement to provide team assistance to your team leader. With Postal, it sounded like you were either on board (on the team's doping program) or you were off the team. That's simply part of management's GREAT program.

"Once you have decided to lie and cheat, not defending yourself as vigorously as an innocent person would be.... wishy-washy? Maybe? "

It's one crime to cheat; and if you get caught you're the only one who suffers. It's another, additional crime to destroy the careers and defile the character of other, innocent people to hide your crime. These people suffered emotionally as well as financially, while Lance continued to earn a tremendous income. How do they reclaim what was lost?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
However, this isn't what we actually want. What we really want is to see people breaking records. We want to see Superman climbing the Col du Tourmalet like a bullet out of a gun. The fact that this is what we want to see makes doping profitable

I don't believe this is true. We enjoy the competition itself; record breaking is just a side effect.

And, so finally, my questions:

If Lance was a sub-par athlete, then why did cheating, supposedly just like everyone else was doing, allow him to rocket to the top and remain there?

Not all people respond to the same drugs in the same way to the same level. Perhaps Lance had a magic combination of personal physiology combined with the right drugs.

Why didn't other cheaters have a "fair" chance against him?


In addition to my suggestions above, he cornered the market on the best doping doctor, and had a management team that implemented an excellent doping program. There are good ways to cheat and GREAT ways to cheat.

So, U.S. Postal was the only team with organized, institutionalized cheating? I don't buy that. So, by the time Lance won his second, or third, or fourth Tour, no one decided to step up their cheating to compete?

Again; the other teams, or at least individuals, were cheating, just not receiving the benefits or subject to an poorly administered program. And, if you're the team leader and the only one doping, you are left with support riders lacking the doping enhancement to provide team assistance to your team leader. With Postal, it sounded like you were either on board (on the team's doping program) or you were off the team. That's simply part of management's GREAT program.

"Once you have decided to lie and cheat, not defending yourself as vigorously as an innocent person would be.... wishy-washy? Maybe? "

It's one crime to cheat; and if you get caught you're the only one who suffers. It's another, additional crime to destroy the careers and defile the character of other, innocent people to hide your crime. These people suffered emotionally as well as financially, while Lance continued to earn a tremendous income. How do they reclaim what was lost?
Well put. I think I agree with you now. It really is a crime the crap LA put innocent people through.
 

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Lance gets a lot of criticism for not only cheating, but for vehemently defending himself and his position while he was King of the Mountain. Was Lance an a**hole? Yep. But, honestly, what would you have expected him to do differently? Once you have decided to lie and cheat, not defending yourself as vigorously as an innocent person would be.... wishy-washy? Maybe?


LA not only vehemently denied his doping, but also aggressively sued those who stated the obvious; that nobody could get THOSE sort of blood numbers unless the WERE doping. Then, a couple of years later, he has his "mea culpa" moment, and hopes that all will be forgiven.

No. Lance Armstrong is undoubtedly the biggest @$$hole/d0uchebag of this whole sorry episode, and deserves not only to have every prize he won stripped from him, he also should be imprisoned for perjury. And banned from any form of cycling for life.
 

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Lance (and by extension, Postal) had Ferrari, who was by most accounts the most sophisticated doping doctor in the world. He was scientific, precise, and very careful. The other contenders were left with sloppy doctors like Fuentes. The test for EPO was in use, so blood transfusions were back in vogue, which required next-level resources. Certain teams (like the French) backed away from institutional doping after Festina. Others were much more conservative. Some kept driving forward.

Lance and Postal were the perfect storm of drive to win at any cost. The organization behind them, and the personalities behind it, were the inevitable culmination of years of the doping arms race.

Is the peloton clean now? I doubt it. Cleaner? I think so. There are still a lot of questionable characters in the sport, and more than a few riders want to win no matter what. The nitrous oxide they used to run on has been replaced with less-easily detected substances, but they're still there. That's the nature of the sport within the sport, and it's always been that way. Someone else will find a loophole to increase performance and a lot of others will exploit it until the testers get wise. Then they'll find another way.

I think it's a battle worth fighting, even if it never ends.
THIS.

This is why almost every star domestique for Postal that was hired by other teams ended up getting popped soon after on those other teams. Why, because the other team promised them star top spots to glean the Postal doping protocol. The what, when and how. But the problem is, those domestiques weren't doctors and therefore couldn't provide the entire protocol so ... whoops.

Heras with Liberty
Hamilton with Phonak
Floyd Landis with Phonak
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
THIS.

This is why almost every star domestique for Postal that was hired by other teams ended up getting popped soon after on those other teams. Why, because the other team promised them star top spots to glean the Postal doping protocol. The what, when and how. But the problem is, those domestiques weren't doctors and therefore couldn't provide the entire protocol so ... whoops.

Heras with Liberty
Hamilton with Phonak
Floyd Landis with Phonak
This was a very enjoyable thread for me. I learned a lot about doping. Reading back over it a second time has been enlightening.
 

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Read Tyler Hamilton's book for perspective. While a great many of the books out there focus solely on the Postal team's program, he gives a wider view of the culture of doping and how it escalated in the '90s and '00s.

I'd love to hear the stories of guys like Andreau and Vaughters to see how they line up with Hamilton's, but they're still navigating the treacherous political waters of cycling. Frankie's trying to be a journalist and Jonathan is trying to keep his team afloat. I doubt we'll ever get a complete, public story out of either one of them. That generation of riders saw the arms race go into overdrive, got swept up in it, and have a viewpoint that is unique among those that came before and after them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Read Tyler Hamilton's book for perspective. While a great many of the books out there focus solely on the Postal team's program, he gives a wider view of the culture of doping and how it escalated in the '90s and '00s.

I'd love to hear the stories of guys like Andreau and Vaughters to see how they line up with Hamilton's, but they're still navigating the treacherous political waters of cycling. Frankie's trying to be a journalist and Jonathan is trying to keep his team afloat. I doubt we'll ever get a complete, public story out of either one of them. That generation of riders saw the arms race go into overdrive, got swept up in it, and have a viewpoint that is unique among those that came before and after them.
I've been thinking about picking up some of those books. I have limited time for recreational reading, so a recommendation is nice. I wish I could get them on Audible.
 

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THIS.

This is why almost every star domestique for Postal that was hired by other teams ended up getting popped soon after on those other teams. Why, because the other team promised them star top spots to glean the Postal doping protocol. The what, when and how. But the problem is, those domestiques weren't doctors and therefore couldn't provide the entire protocol so ... whoops.

Heras with Liberty
Hamilton with Phonak
Floyd Landis with Phonak
Hamilton was doping with CSC, not just Phonak.
Plenty of the Spanish teams had dope programs long before they hired postal riders
we have already learned how Rabobank and T Kom had programs as well
Had Lance died of Cancer we'd either be talking about how Jan was the greatest tour rider of all time or how TKom had the most massive doping program of all time
It was an arms race, somebody always wins

Lance was a doper, as they all were, he just also happened to be an a hole
 
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