Reading the Reasoned Decision

5:30 AM

I am about halfway through The USADA’s Reasoned Decision. 

(Wait…does this count toward one of the two books I want to read in November?  Nah…it really is a quick read…I just started it last night over dessert and coffee.)

But back to the Decision…I should begin by saying that the graph that shows my interest and love of cycling demonstrates a direct and proportional relationship with my awareness that Lance Armstrong probably was a cheat.  So when this all broke last month and storms of metaphorical poo were flying about those who supported LA all those years I wasn’t feeling smug or victorious, just happy that the comments section of VeloNews wouldn’t be clogged with that tired debate any longer.

I came to the Decision not expecting to be surprised by anything; after all, if you have read about that period in cycling history you are well aware of the numerous techniques employed by athletes and doctors to push performance and avoid detection.  But by the end of my first hour of perusing the Decision (told you, quick read) one realization really took me unawares. 

I’m sure most of us have a traditional doper narrative in our head that goes something like this: young athlete shows great promise in local races, works his way up through the ranks until he is noticed and tapped for the Big Time.  He makes a splash through his hard work and talent, but slowly becomes aware of whispers on the edge of his consciousness.  Then there comes the Moment when he is presented with the hard reality of the cycling life – dope or die – and (after grappling with the decision with appropriate Greek-tragedy-like suffering) our Hero joins the omerta and begins to dope.  Of course, he gets caught, gives a tear-filled press conference, and disappears from the spotlight. 

In the narrative provided by the USADA what quickly becomes clear is that LA came back to cycling in 1998 determined to organize a detailed and sophisticated doping program designed to win the Tour.  Everything was organized around one rider – training, nutrition, camps, and EPO.  I guess what I was unconsciously expecting was some attempt to race clean and a slow development of the Postal drug system, which doesn’t appear to have been the case.  In all the testimony that corroborates the existence of the system, it is extensive from day one.

There is no information provided in the Decision about his activities pre-1998, so perhaps the more traditional narrative took place at Motorola.  Maybe there was a time when LA was more than just a victory-hungry team leader, controlling and coercing his teammates into the system (the information on Zabriskie and Vande Velde was pretty heartbreaking).  Maybe.


So, I’ve finished the Decision, and I’m left with two questions.  One: what is next for LA…are we going to hear his side of the story?  (He must be more than what is presented in the Decision…)  and Two: what is next for the UCI?  The report paints them as either complicit or incompetent…maybe both? 

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