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Dear fellow cyclists and cycling fans,
Like many of you, I have read Greg LeMond’s recent comments regardingdoping in cycling and his interactions with Lance Armstrong. Forthose not up to speed, see thisconcise account of Greg’s statements in English.The originalcomplete text in French appears in Le Monde.I admire Greg’s courage to speak his mind on the doping problems thatstill 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 theriders’ health, but also for the sake of returning our sport to the truthsof human spirit, valor and talent.The English version of the Eurosport article makes a huge point of Greg’spersonal experience with Lance and the resulting conflict. Obviously, Lanceand Greg have their own private relationship. While I know and respectboth of these champions, having raced with both of them over the years,their personal interaction is none of my business. Speculating on conflictbetween the two only distracts from the bigger and more important issueof 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 professionalcycling has been and, regrettably, still is rotten with drugs.Greg has put himself into personal and business difficulties by speakingout 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 hecan to return cycling to a healthy level. I want to see the same. Sincethe early 1990s 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 froma few individuals reaping obscene wins from exploiting its “benefits,”to entire teams relying on it, essentially forcing all but the most giftedracers to either use EPO to keep their place in cycling, quit or becomejust 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 Classics, 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,Andy Hampsten
And now, some of your responses to Andy’s letter. –Editor
Thank you Andy
Personally, I care greatly about cycling and its history. I shape thisview as I’m now over 50 and as someone once said, to understand the futureyou have to learn from the past. The tragedy is that drugs in cycling hasmoved from the tragic to the scandalous. Unfortunately, we ‘ve never learnedfrom the death of Tom Simpson in 1967 and it seems that it’s even worse.So, I applaud the statement made by Andy Hampsten. The points he makesare about the most important they could be because he talks about the grassroots.He distanced himself from the dispute between Lance and Greg. So, he can’tbe classed as some embittered ‘never was’ who wasn’t good enough. Whatwe forget is that his main bone of contention is very serious and morallycorrect and has been lost in the more public fight between LA and GL. Hecares about it because he doesn’t want to see young kids come in the sportand then get nowhere because of drugs. My son is 14 and the tragedy forme is that I’m glad he’s not interested in cycling as a sport. Why, becauseone day he could end up like some parent who’s son doesn’t wake due toEPO. For those who are parents they will understand what I mean, the worstthing that can happen to you is for your children to die before you do,and in cycling there have been some tragic grieving parents.Insofar as Ferrari is concerned, then if it’s true that he said EPOwas no more dangerous than drinking orange he is morally corrupt. He’splaying with peoples’ lives. So, Simeoni if he is telling the truth isdoing us all a big favor because the name of cycling as a sport has a prettylow rating with many people, and especially in the UK. People think it’spopulated by drug taking cheats.As for David Millar; on the one hand he deserves a ban for cheating,on the other I applaud him for admitting his guilt. He’s no longer in deniallike most of the peloton. He never failed a drug test. All he had to dowas keep his mouth shut. So, I admire him for coming clean and abhor hisweakness for letting himself down. And that’s not me standing up for aBrit as I’m ashamed he’s brought the name of cycling in to disrepute. But,he’s not as disreputable as those still in denial.The more people who speak out, the happier I will be. I don’t want thepeloton to become a secret society of cheating drug takers. The more that’whistleblow’, the more chance our kids have of taking part at the topwithout risking their health and lives.Andy Hampsten – A very big Thank You.Kevin Blackwell
Andy’s right, Greg’s wrong, and Lance . . . well . . .
I agree with Andy Hampsten (one of my all-time favorite riders) that cycling has problems and needs to clean them up. However, Greg LeMond takes too big a leap in my mind to from “cycling is dirty” to “Lance is dirty.” To go from the general to the specific requires more than suspicion, especially where such a big name is concerned.
Those things being said, Lance has made it too easy for critics to pick on him. As a friend of mine put it, when asked, “Have you ever used performance-enhancing drugs?” the answer should be, “No,” and not some wording that sounds like it has been cleared by the Tailwind sports legal department.
I can’t get an image from the last Winter Olympics out of my mind. I was watching the end of the 50km cross-country event and Johann Muelhegg pulling away so easily from world-class athletes. I wanted to feel awe at this amazing display of endurance but could only think, “That ain’t natural.” Turns out I was right – it wasn’t nature but blood boosters.
I hope Lance is clean. Because there are times when I look at him and think, “That ain’t natural.”
Buffalo, New York
Lacking evidence to contrary, Lance remains inspirational
To Andy Hampsten: First, let me say that I admire your intentions and efforts to rid the sport of cycling of doping. The riders are human beings, and their health is important. Your kind of leadership is needed, especially when dealing with young people who often cannot fathom their own mortality.
At the same time I have a concern about the treatment of Lance Armstrong. You were vague regarding your thoughts, but seemed to agree with Greg LeMond on Armstrong’s guilt without coming out and saying as much. If I misjudged your position, I apologize.
In the eyes of many, Armstrong will always be guilty of doping. There is no possible way of proving innocence. He can go a lifetime without a positive drug test, yet will be credited for a successful cover-up rather than his natural ability, innovative training/outlook, team building and personal drive.
Is it wrong for an athlete to consult with someone with controversial views? Would saying he disagrees with Dr. Ferrari make Armstrong “clean” again?
Cycling’s big modern star will never again have a good reputation. Many of the same people who wax nostalgic about past heroes you can only see riding in black and white refuse to let a similar man exist today.
It’s acceptable that those riders could single-handedly crush opponents, but it should be impossible for Armstrong to do the same, even with the help of an incredible team.
And they dismiss the technology, biological science and tactics. They say no person should be able to win so often even when it is the only thing he truly trains for all year.
To date the evidence against Armstrong includes hearsay, and his possession of a level of excellence the doubters say is too great.
I’ll save my disdain for Armstrong for when I see evidence. Until then I will remain inspired.
No accusations without proof
Andy Hampsten may very well be correct. However, the problem I (and others apparently) had with LeMond’s comments to a publication was that he directed them at a specific athlete, without any direct and reliable proof beyond “guilt by association” with Dr. Ferrari.
No doping revelations in professional cycling or professional sports in general will surprise me anymore. LeMond’s and Hampsten’s opinions about the general health and legitimacy of professional cycling could very well be accurate in my view. Each “David Millar” episode will only further erode the confidence of the fan base. (As an aside, the most fun I had as a sporting spectator this season was watching my 9-year-old son’s Little League team make it to the championship game and win in an extra inning; that was as good as it’s gotten and all I really need!)
However, to repeat, the issue most of us had with LeMond’s published comments is that he shouldn’t have accused a specific athlete in a public forum without direct and reliable proof. Thanks.
Hampsten’s off base in defense of LeMond
I am a huge fan of Andy Hampsten. He gave America some of our most memorable moments in cycling history, and he will always be remembered as a champion. But in his open letter regarding Greg LeMond, he completely missed the point of the whole debate.
I doubt that there is a person reading this who would disagree with Andy regarding the urgent need to continue cracking down on the use of banned and unsafe performance-enhancing drugs in cycling, especially when it comes to the use of those drugs by juniors. I think that Andy and Greg are to be commended for their deep passion regarding this issue.
However, in his letter Andy seems to suggest that just because LeMond’s motives are pure, it is okay for him to publicly single out another rider and to suggest to the world that Lance has taken performance-enhancing drugs when Greg has not a single shred of evidence to offer up as proof. Andy is, in essence, saying that the end justifies the means, and in that, he is flat out wrong.
If Greg is truly motivated only by a desire to clean up the sport and protect the health of athletes, it seems to me that the best way for him to accomplish that would be to work with the UCI to push for even more rigorous testing procedures and stiffer penalties for those caught doping
Andy, I respect you tremendously, but in this case you are wrong.
LeMond’s outrage comes a little late
Greg LeMond’s statements reeked of sour grapes, not courage. I have no doubt there’s a serious doping problem in cycling (and many other sports) but LeMond comes off poorly in his criticisms.
Where was the public display of outrage in the 1980’s? I have heard people accuse LeMond of doping, too. How could someone magically go from washed up in the ’89 Giro to winning the ’89 Tour and world’s?
Cycling needs to address its drug problem, and if Armstrong is guilty he should be punished. But unless LeMond has absolute proof, he should shut his mouth in that matter.
By the way, I own two Ti LeMond frames and have a picture of him cruising down the Champ-Elysees to his ’89 miracle win on my wall – a win I believe is still the fastest non-prologue TT in Tour history (drugs, anyone?). And I took up cycling in 1986 partially because of Any Hampsten and LeMond, so this isn’t coming from someone that would normally bash either one of you.
Fargo, North Dakota
Class acts like LeMond and Hampsten are missed
For long-time cycling fans, Andy Hampsten and Greg LeMond represent true class in American cycling. I cringe when I read sophomoric comments about LeMond’s opinions being the result of jealousy. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that such accusations surprise LeMond as well.
LeMond’s career still represents the breakthrough of big-time cycling for Americans in Europe. Jealousy is surely beneath him. It is possible that some fans forget or are not aware of LeMond’s own unbelievable comeback. LeMond was a returning Tour champion. The pressure in 1989 must have been incredible for him. If he had finished second or third that year, the talk would have been that he was done, he would never win again.
Armstrong, prior to 1999, was never seriously considered a Tour contender. If he had finished second or third in his comeback, it would have been considered a huge success, a huge story. There’s really a different context for each comeback, and each was incredible.
Perhaps if we were to tone down all of the hero worship regarding Lance, he wouldn’t feel compelled to launch frivolous lawsuits with great fanfare against anyone who would dare to question his deification. I hope cycling journalists apply the same weight of coverage when that lawsuit is quietly dropped, as it surely will be.
Maybe if the public treats the man like a man instead of a god, we’ll get to see the real man. And maybe then Lance won’t chase me down in the Ride for the Roses next year in retribution for writing this letter.
We miss ya, Andy. Thanks.
LeMond may be on to something here
Thank you, Andy and Greg, for your determination to stand up for your morals and convictions. I have a question for Lance and his coach, Chris Carmichael. How come past Tour champions have had bad days, losing minutes, yet Lance defies the odds? I am not talking about when losing a minute in a time trial, but having a really bad day climbing in the Tour.
Come on, is it really Lance’s determination and Chris’s carefully crafted training schedule? Heras, LeMond, Hinault, Roche, Riis, Ullrich, Beloki, and Pantani all suffered in the mountains. Yet Lance can win any stage, especially in this years’ Tour, and never loses a lot of time to his rivals.
I think Greg LeMond is on to something, especially with David Millar’s confessions. Greg will always be a greater champion than Lance. Lance will never come clean about this issue, because he is the poster-boy for corporate America, and money means more than convictions.
Hampsten, LeMond have selective memories
After reading Andy’s open letter, I was left with two somewhat-conflicting feelings. First, I believe that Andy and Greg are concerned about the sport. I believe they want it cleaned up. However, they both have suggested that during their time, riders did not use performance-enhancing drugs. They want to “bring racing back to a natural level of honest riders racing to their limits.”
We all know that this is a case of selective memory – drug use was rampant during their era, and even much earlier (remember Anquetil, Simpson, etc.?). Today, they are just using newer drugs.
As David Millar has demonstrated, just because you never test positive doesn’t mean you aren’t.
What about doping in the LeMond-Hampsten era?
If our associations in life are the standard in which we are to determine innocence or guilt, then maybe Andy Hampsten and Greg LeMond should reflect on all of those times that they turned a blind eye to the doping that was taking place around them. They rode in silence, made their reputations and then moved on.
What makes them any better than Lance? Time? Guilt? Is it true that you are whom you associate with? I certainly don’t know. But it seems to me that there is more than enough blame to go around.
Save the accusations and push better testing
Let me first start by saying that I agree with Andy – performance-enhancing substances have no place in sports. I would love nothing more than to see all cheating athletes caught and banned for life. But making allegations without hard evidence to substantiate those allegations doesn’t help athletes or our sport.
If LeMond truly wants to eradicate drug use in cycling, that is fantastic. Accusing Armstrong, directly or indirectly, of being a doper and a liar, doesn’t help cycling. If LeMond feels that cyclists are just beating the tests, which may be the case, then developing new or better tests should be his focus.
Yes, I am a Lance fan, but if he is proven to be a cheating doper I will be the first to denounce him and his accomplishments.
And ban those who fail for life
I miss the days of watching and reading about the Tour when the articles were purely about riders, teams, and the champions. I would like to hope/believe that the international cycling community is not as drug-riddled as the recent articles lead or want us to believe.
In the real world, people who take a banned substance lose their jobs, permanently (especially those with security clearances). If the UCI wants to “clean up” the peloton, then it needs to rethink its punishment. If a rider admits to using or tests positive, he should be permanently barred from the sport. Furthermore, he forfeits all previous victories and prize money.
Maybe this would make a rider think twice about using a banned substance when the penalty is losing one’s career. If you don’t think this doesn’t work, ask Pete Rose how much he misses baseball.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Thanks for Hampsten’s courageous letter
Thank you so much for releasing the wonderfully honest and courageous letter by Andy Hampsten, my all-time favorite cyclist and one of the few I truly believe never used drugs to better his cycling abilities.
I will never watch another Tour de France until I am completely convinced that the competitors involved are as clean as Andy Hampsten and Greg LeMond. Thanks, boys, for your efforts to save this once-great sport.
Tim S. Maros
Courageous? No, he’s an ass like LeMond
Another former champion makes an ass of himself. By defending Greg LeMond’s remarks about doping and ignoring his slander against Lance, Hampsten has put himself down in the gutter with LeMond.
Why can’t these guys shut up and quit talking about things that might have happened 10 years ago? “Why now?” asked Andy. I ask the same question of him. A bit of jealousy yourself, there, Andy?
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Have the guts to name names
Like many middle-aged cycling fans I have long admired Andy Hampsten as one of the only “nice” guys in professional cycling.
But to me his letter is so circumspect that it begs all kinds of questions. He writes “I am writing to support him (LeMond) in this fight.” Okay. Does that mean you believe Armstrong is taking drugs and lying? If so, why don’t you just spit it out?
If all you are saying is that performance-enhancing drugs are bad and that you wish riders would stop using them, please mail your letter to Nancy Reagan (“Just say no.”). What are you going to do about it? Andy, somebody has to have the guts to stand up and name names. If you don’t, then please bite your tongue.
Albert Lea, Minnesota
Bravo, Andy Hampsten
Good for Andy Hampsten for speaking up and not leaving LeMond hanging out there. Andy was a truly gifted rider and one of the great American cyclists.
Huntington Beach, California
Hampsten offers a voice of reason
Leave it to your local convenience store to save the day. If I need milk late at night, I can always count on it being open. If I need a voice of reason between LeMond and Lance, leave it to former 7-Eleven rider Andy Hampsten to step up to the podium.
Andy is brilliant in his way of getting to the point of the problem at hand – drugs in cycling. There are no accusations regarding Lance and drugs, and more importantly, Andy does not waste our time weighing in on the Lance vs. LeMond debate.
I do admire LeMond’s three victories at Le Tour and his crusade to rid cycling of drugs. However, I do not appreciate LeMond’s insistence that Lance does drugs. Likewise, I am inspired by Lance’s victories and his efforts to battle cancer, but I am less than impressed with his vindictiveness and his association with Dr. Michele Ferrari.
As much as America needed LeMond to promote cycling and Lance to carry the torch, we need Andy Hampsten to be the voice of reason. Lance and LeMond have nine Tour de France GC victories between them, but if Andy can clean up the sport and bring harmony between Lance and LeMond, the whole cycling world would be the winner!
San Antonio, Texas
Hampsten’s defense of LeMond disingenuous
With due respect to Andy Hampsten, I find his support of Greg LeMond disingenuous at best. Andy says that “since the 1990s doping has gotten out of hand,” and talks about “returning our sport to the truths of human spirit….” Doping has been rampant in the ranks for decades, certainly since well before 1990. Perhaps Andy has selective memory regarding all the riders who used illegal drugs when he was riding and before. This hasn’t been a “pure sport” for probably over 50 years.
The hypocrisy in all this discussion is incredible. I would submit that for Greg to have a shred of credibility, he should undergo a lie-detector test to prove that he never took drugs. Until then, he has no courage whatsoever and this whole episode takes on the veneer of a vendetta. True, Greg, there was no EPO during your career, but there were plenty of other drugs (e.g., anabolic steroids).
So, Greg, prove that you didn’t take drugs, admit that you did, or get down off your high horse.
Thanks for mediating, Andy
While I have always been a fan of Lance and Greg, Andy has always been my absolute favorite cyclist of all times. Mr. Hampsten, thank you for your remarks.
My initial response to Greg’s remarks was anger and disappointment. I was one of the many who allowed my enthusiasm for Lance’s recent success to disrupt my logical thinking. I thought that Greg was digging at Lance as a means of attacking his character during his greatest hour, coming across like a jealous old man.
I should apologize to Greg, because what I have seen now is how the media can create a slant to everything in hopes of sensationalizing anything and everything it wants to. As a doctoral student of sport, I have done a lot of reading on drugs, drug testing, and the like, and I will admit that I am sick to my stomach of the way things are now in this country. I believe in my heart of hearts that Lance is legit, and I really do hope that nothing ever comes out to prove me wrong. With this in mind, my focus was distracted from the real problem.
Andy, thank you for playing the role of the mediator, and keeping us focused on the problem at hand. It shouldn’t be whether Lance is using, or if Greg is bitter, or anything between them. The issue is that there is a very real problem, and that far too often we are witness to sporting fraud.
When aspiring young athletes reach the higher levels of the sport, their innocence comes up against the notion that they have to use drugs in order to be successful. As a high school track coach, and an athlete for nearly 20 years, I know what hard work can bring, and I just hope that I am not leading my youngsters down the path that ultimately asks them to be forced to cheat to succeed.
LeMond, Swart were there, and just maybe they know something
As an insider and a leader of the peloton, I’m sure Greg LeMond knew what went on in cycling. So when he says, “Tell the truth, Lance,” how can we assume he doesn’t know what he’s talking about?
Steven Swart was a solid cyclist. I never read anything negative about him in the years he raced under the eyes of the American cycling press. So why is he saying there was doping on the Motorola/Postal team?
When Lance is “protecting the peloton,” is he being a liar, just like David Millar when he denied doping accusations at the beginning of the Cofidis affair this year?
Yellow is a perfect color for all who try to prevent others from telling the truth. Wear it well.
Those who cannot remember the past . . .
Browsing through a popular bicycle-racing magazine from 1992 I came upon an article on a well-known Italian cyclist of that time. The article spoke of how this rider had “turned things around” and now lived up to the potential shown earlier in his career.
The “turning point” was when he met Dr. Ferrari. A victory in a 1990 race signaled a comeback “after three poor years.” The rider explained thusly: “It’s all thanks to Dr. Ferrari. Following his advice I changed the way I prepared…” In 1994 this cyclist and two teammates rode away from the field in a spring classic.
Imagine reviewing the body of pro-cycling interviews and quotes of the past 20 years. “Looking back” can often provide an enhanced perspective on current topics.
Lance is human, but unique
In my small town there seem to be 100 times more Lance Armstrong fans than before. Buddies from our local cycling club talk about being leaned on at work, in the grocery store and by distant family members for details about the Tour and Lance. I see TVs in public venues tuned into stages of the Tour. I overhear Americans sharing information with each other on how cycling works.
Nay-sayers, stick-in-the-mud types and devil’s advocates make their points. He is questioned concerning doping and doubted about chasing down a rider said to be unpopular in the peloton. After all is said and done, he remains human. But as an actor on the stage of history, he is unique.
Look for a saint if you require saintliness
To all the letter writers regarding Lance, deal with your need to find a squeaky-clean idol to worship. Lance is a human being just like all the rest of us. His actions in regard to Simeoni stem from a personal rift, and only they know the true extent of it. It happens every day at work for all of us. We only got to see it because Lance’s workplace is on display to the whole world. Get over it! I challenge you to find someone to look up to in any other sport who has not faced similar situations.
As to all the accusations about doping, it happens to every cyclist who is on top. Witness Eddy Merckx in the Giro when he was ejected for a positive dope test. Does that diminish his greatness? No, it does not.
All this will subside as the years go by. As to the present, if you must seek out someone to worship, perhaps it would be best if you selected a saint. Lance isn’t one and doesn’t profess to be one. He’s simply a survivor.
The Mail Bag is a Monday-Wednesday-Friday feature on VeloNews.com, but will appear daily during the Tour. If you have a comment, an opinion or observation regarding anything you have seen in cycling, in VeloNews magazine or on VeloNews.com, write to WebLetters@InsideInc.com. Please include your FULL NAME, HOMETOWN and STATE, or NATION if you live outside the United States. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.