Ashenden, Armstrong, Kimmage

Somehow I seem to have a rather high googlerank if you are searching for the Michael Ashenden interview from NY velocity in which he examines the evidence around Lance Armstrong and his 1999 Tour De France samples and the states that:

“So there is no doubt in my mind he (Lance Armstrong) took EPO during the ’99 Tour.”

There’s now an additional article which discussed in more depth the possibility of the samples having been spiked: Read more of Michael Ashenden’s explanation of why it is unlikely the samples were spiked.

As a journalist it makes my heart race when I read articles like those two. It feels like a story unfolding right in front of your eyes on the page. It also races because, as someone who struggled with science at school, it looks terrifying and difficult to explain in simple terms. It feels frustrating that it has taken a blog to go into this sort of depth and present the evidence in a way which seems compelling. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is one of those “must-read” articles, regardless of where it is published.

I’m currently working my way through another “must-read”, Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride, in my effort to better understand where he’s coming from. I’ve read excerpts from it before but never sat down and worked my way through it to fully appreciate his position. In a way I felt scared that he’s such a forceful writer that I would end up cowed into agreeing with him about everything. So far I haven’t been fully swayed but I feel I much better appreciate his perspective on the sport.

I’m at the point in the book now where I’m confronted with a question for which I struggle to find an answer: when did we go from a position where the riders were compelled to dope as victims of an unjust system to one where they protagonists and every bit as guilty as the system and those that control it?

My feeling is that somewhere between Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong it changed. In part this is down to L’Affaire Festina and the revelations of Willy Voet and others, but I’m not sure how exactly the revelations flipped the situation to where we are today.

The sport got rid of the split stages, the excessive calendar, the long stages. The riders eventually got a minimum wage and now pick and choose their specialisations. We lost Bordeaux-Paris and other epic races, yet the problem didn’t go away.

Or, is it as simple as this: Festina gave them the perfect opportunity to clean the slate and almost everyone involved; from the UCI to ASO to Armstrong to the press making a living from the sport; decided that grasping the nettle was too painful to contemplate and condemned the sport to another ten years for the sake of courage and bravery, those values so engrained in the fabric of the sport.

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