Monday, October 15, 2012

Cycling. Even at its best, it's the worst.


Last week, as news about USADA's reasoned decision hit the internet, I sheepishly ignored the news, and chose to sell my cycling sombreros instead. Always an attentive group, Cycling Inquisition readers were quick to point out via email that I too was choosing to bury my head in the proverbial sand, like so many other journalists. Receiving these emails brought me great joy, as it let me know that at least two of you think of me as a "journalist". While nothing could be further from the truth, I think it's certainly time that I confess a little something myself. I don't do this to take away from the numerous doping confessions that have come out in the last few days. I do so because it's the right thing to do.

My confessions are as follows:

1. I like sandwiches with peanut butter and pickles

2. Perhaps less horrendous, but still worth mentioning, is the fact that yes.... I was a client of Eufemiano Fuentes. For proof, see the image below, which is not Photoshoped, and appeared in many Spanish newspapers. Apparently, my rival bloggers were too busy to notice this.




With regards to this confession, I have two things to clarify:

1. As unusual as it may seem, peanut butter and pickles are delicious when put together in sandwich form. Also, I should tell you that I have not eaten any such sandwiches since (you guessed it) the summer of 2006.

2. My association with Fuentes is not at all what you may think. He was, and remains, a fantastic gynocologist, and I simply consulted him and transferred funds for blogging advice. Plus, I also needed help with my lady-time of the month.

Be that as it may, I know that rival bloggers will make outlandish claims in what will only amount to a witch hunt, or more specifically, a Klaus hunt. They will say that the above average quality of my insightful (and at times humorous) blogging has come about through the use of banned substances. Not true. First of all, the blogging in Cycling Inquisition has been well below average and seldom humorous for many, many months (some may say it's actually been years).

Still, I'd like to think that I've produced some quality work from time to time, and would like to explain this further. While I admit that I didn't do it pan y agua (to use the modern doping parlance), I can proudly say that I did it pan y mantequilla de mani, y pepinillo y agua (which translates to bread and peanut butter and pickles, and water). As for what that blood bag with my name was doing in Fuentes' refrigerator...uh...well...it was probably someone's code name. Yeah, that's it.

Fuentes leaving his office. Before any of you point out that he's carrying a bag that is branded with the logo of a coffee maker, and that this may prove his association with me (as a Colombian), allow me to remind you that Colombians don't really like coffee much.

My possible doping missteps aside, allow me to more closely examine last week's "revalations" (I put this last word in quotes, as my way of letting you in on the fact that I'm a well-informed fourth-tier blogger who is in the know, and I therefore think that anyone who finds these "revelations" to be news is certainly inferior to me).

For my informal review of the facts, allow me to start by giving you a piece of data that may at first seem to have nothing to do with the matter at hand.

The winner of Paris-Roubaix earns $39,000 (€30,000) in prize money.

A caddy (not a golfer, but a caddy) who works for someone that wins the PGA Championship gets $145,000 (€111,685).

Steve Williams was at one point the top earning caddie in the world, with a reported income of 1.27 million dollars. That's more that Phillipe Gilbert made last year.

Why am I telling you this? Because it shows cycling's ranking within the scope of sports around the world. It also helps underscore what last week's USADA file told us:

That the "most sophisticated doping program" in cycling consisted of little more than a few fumbling guys with cell phones who tried their best to keep a ragtag operation together. An operation that included such amazingly state of the art techniques as: using a bent coat hanger to maintain your blood bag elevated, taping a blood bag to the wall of a hotel room, not really being sure if the police are coming, and thus throwing out thousands of dollars worth of doping products into the toilet of a team bus. And if you're Tyler Hamilton, "sophisticated doping" also includes having a doctor who is suffering from dementia mixing up your blood bags, and giving half of the peloton the wrong blood.

In the end, we now realize what a "sophisticated doping program" looks like in cycling. It looks like a rejected script for a Pauly Shore movie. Which brings me to the most painful fact that should now be abundantly clear to all cycling fans. No, not the fact that the sport has and probably remains rotten to the core, or that I eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. I'm talking about something far scarier.

Performance enhancing drugs kept in a sophisticated medical receptacle: a cookie tin. As seen in the office of Eufemiano Fuentes. Still from the Spanish Guardia Civil's footage taken during the Operacion Puerto raid.

For years, decades maybe, cycling has been a lowly and forgotten sport in most countries. TV viewership is relatively low, sponsors come and go, and those who practice the sport on their own time are hated and sometimes assaulted by moving vehicles. Be that as it may, we could always count on the fact that cycling excelled at one thing: cheating. That was the one flower on our proverbial lapel. While cheating has always existed in all sports (even in Monopoly, if you end up playing against me), I think it's fair to say that cycling has always been known in the press as the dirtiest sport. That, I would argue, was the one thing that cycling and cyclists excelled at.

Sadly, that's all gone now. With the affidavits presented by USADA, and Tyler Hamilton's book, everyone knows that cyclists aren't even all that good at cheating.

Luckily, we still have plenty to brag about. For one, there's the great amount of diversity and nuttiness that exists within the sport. Consider the text below, which is part of an open letter written by Ezequiel Mosquera, the former Vacansoleil rider who is currently serving out a doping suspension. Not surprisingly for a guy who's Biblical name means "the strength of God", Mosquera's unusual letter seems to largely dwell on Biblical themes, and speaks a whole lot about the Spanish Inquisition (I requested via text message that he change it to "Cycling Inquisition", but he said that doing so would mess with the "nice flow" of the letter).

Ezequiel Mosquera (Photo: B. Geerts)

As unusual as Mosquera's letter is (which you can read in its entirety through Google Translate here), it serves to show that cycling is still number one at one thing: weird half-apologies. After all, how many other athletes speak about ecclesiastical institutions in the Middle Ages in open letters about their doping? By the way, also note the fact that Mosquera refers to himself as a "heretic", not a sinner. He did not do wrong (sinner), he remains a believer that stands in opposition to some beliefs that are commonly held by the Church/governing body/peloton (heretic). Thanks to my brother for the heads up on Mosquera's letter.

It is not my intention to proclaim a similarity between the atrocities of ecclesiastical institutions of the Middle Ages and the highest levels of cyclists today. I mean that things are not bad in perspective, and injustice is in excess.
 
From my point of view, the law of cheating and fraud is not a matter of culture, it is installed in the human beings as something that comes standard, and throughout history, there have only been cheating and swindling that triggered the great struggles, if not the disproportionate and excessive repression inquisitor dark purposes.
 
Although cycling is undeniable sin, in which no one has the absolute truth, a public confession of the defendant would do little for the prosperity of a sport that has already seen some, and only served to fuel more disbelief. It would, on the contrary, to prop up a system with margins impenetrable and unknown purposes.
 
However, a sacred and divine confession, repentance would be at all levels, not just the defendant.
Words of a heretic.

If you remember, a few paragraphs ago I mentioned that my reason for sharing part of Mosquera's letter with you was not merely to have you gasp in awe. Oh no. I said I was doing so in order to show you the level variety that exists within today's peloton. In order to do that, I direct you to the following text which comes from Dave Zabriskie's affidavit (which you can download here). The following lyrics go to the tune of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze", and were sung by Zabrizkie in the US Postal bus.

EPO all in my veins
Lately things just don't seem the same
Acton' funny, but I don't know why
'Scuse me while I pass this guy. 

So don't despair. While cycling may not excel at any one thing, professional riders are out there everyday, trying their best to show how varied the peloton is, and working hard on weird semi-apologetic letters that reference the inquisition. And this, I believe, is all the sport has at this point. It's not much, but we must learn to embrace it. That means that we have to all agree that Zabriskie is in fact funny, and that his facial hair is unbelievably un-annoying.

'Scuse me, while I seductively stroke my mustache.

So in closing, and to further illustrate my point, I hereby share this picture with you. It shows how Colombian professionals, unlike many others, like to relax in the off season. Family, and a pack of Marlboro reds. Rigoberto knows how it's done.

- Words of a sandwich-loving heretic.



12 comments:

  1. Maybe I should try this pickles + peanut butter sandwich, so that someday I could write such a perfect post like this one. Meus cumprimentos (from Brazil)

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  2. Shopping list:
    - Milk
    - Bread
    - Peanut butter
    - Pickles
    - Marlboro reds

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  3. Not best post but your other post more than make up for it. I have been interested in latin american road racing since witnessing my first race in Guanajuato, Mexico when I was ten years old. Not until years later did I understand different groups of riders we passed on road were stragglers, the main back, and the break in which riders were putting the hammer down. Years later in 86 I had the pleasure of hosting a couple of riders from Bolivia who were in Colo. Springs for world championship. Hearing what they trained and worked two jobs to save money for trip to worlds made me appreciate what it means to really love racing a bike. Keep up the good work. Guillermo Garibay

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  4. Peanut butter and pickle? Try cheese and (mashed) banana toasties (jaffles / brevilles). So good.

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  5. I prefer peanut butter and bacon...

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  6. Congrats on keeping up a blog for four years. I'm a general cycling fan, but I sometimes find an interesting post here.

    btw, a few weeks ago in St Louis, I was standing near a female cyclist in Columbian colors (from the standings, it looks like it was Diana Carolina Penuela Martinez (Colombia National Team))

    I thought about asking her if she'd ever read the Cycling Inquisition blog, but I didn't want to distract her right before the race (of course since she was a girl, there was zero chance of me actually trying to start a conversation with her anyway :)

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  7. Agravaine,
    Nice! I doubt she reads the blog...I do have readers in Colombia, but most seem to use Google Translate, or are Americans/Europeans living there. But hey, you can always mention Lucho, Fabio Parra, or Ramon Hoyos to any Colombian cyclist (male or female) and watch them light up like a christmas tree as a result!

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  8. Very good post, love it. Though no pickles and peanut butter for me. Yeuch.

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  9. Anna,
    I hereby denounce peanut butter and pickles. I mean, I partook in such sandwiches, but have not had one since the summer of 2006, and hereby want to join a the anti-pickle and peanut butter sandwich movement. I want to be part of the solution.

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  10. Where did you get photographs/footage of the Guardia Civil raiding Fuentes' clinic?

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  11. Anonymous,
    I would love to say that I have some inside source...so if you want to think of me that way (as being important and having inside sources), you can believe that. But really, the first still came from a Spanish newspaper, the second one from a TV report from Spanish TV I think, but it was also shown in the recent Four Corners investigative TV show in Australia.

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  12. Post is nice.i have enjoy after reading post.

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