Amgen Tour of California attracts enthusiastic fans and Barry Bonds?
In an awkward twist of sport viewing this week Barry Bonds took in the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California. As this epic and highest rated international racing in the United States rolled from the frozen Lake Tahoe to Thousand Oaks to the joy of Californians that enjoy a good spectacle and bike racing fans from around the world. Then it happened, as it has time and time again. The DRUGS IN CYCLING stories erupted in the races limelight.
First, Tyler Hamilton published an open letter about his upcoming appearance on 60 minutes where he confesses to the sins of his past. This gold medal winner was giving back his medal and giving up the name that prosecutors have been long looking for, ARMSTRONG. Tyler reported an eerily familiar recounting of events, that seem to match the discounted recollections of Floyd Landis on drug use within Lance Armstrong's teams during his unmatched 7 Tour de France titles.
Here in the moment of celebration of the great sport that is cycling, the harbingers of doom raise their ugly heads once again as to say, "Don't celebrate too soon." As this is playing out, during the week of great racing, more revelations seem to come from the prosecutors, that even the most faithful of Lance Armstrong's lieutenants, George Hincapie has dumped on Lance. George has allegedly revealed how drugs were used to secure Lance's wins and how you can be tested 500 times and still walk away with the best sponsorships/salaries/adulations that being at the top of cycling pantheon provides.
It just puts into perspective how awesome cycling is and how far it has to go. Festina affair was 1998 and too many claimed that this was the cleansing that cycling needed. Then it was the biological passport and tougher testing. But if Tyler and Floyd are to be believed, then even getting caught is not that serious if you can pay off UCI chiefs as has been alleged. If Lance tested positive and worked with the governing body of cycling to make his failure disappear we have to overhaul more than just the attitude of riders.
It is an overhaul of the system itself. More transparent sporting governance with more rider protections and the correct level of punishments from a uncorrupted sporting body. Rider management has to get better and the image of the sport can recover, as rider's can compete fairly, without taking unimaginable risks with their health and future well being. When you look at Tyler and Floyd you can see the promise of pro athletics and how the system failed them as young men. True, they failed themselves by falling to temptation, but they have suffered the type of losses in their personal and professional lives that you would not wish on your enemies. Now they seem to have rid themselves of the burden of lying and freed their souls to begin recovery and a semblance of normality they everyone deserves.
That takes me back to Barry Bonds showing up at a bike race where a drug maker of EPO is the sponsor. A more awkward moment you could not prepare. Was he there because he loves the drama and sporting aspects of cycling that made the tens of thousands of fans line the route? Or was he there and not smiling but smirking. Could he be thinking, "Novitzky scuffed me, but he is going to hammer you." I don't see Barry as a leader for pushing change to remove drugs from sports, but it also seems unlikely that he would go through the effort to attend, just for a Cilo Green FU moment. Let's hope he likes cycling the way us cycling fans do and is ready for the other shoe to fall, so we can finally clean out the closets of deception and get back to racing.
Photo provided by Charles H Brandt, no duplication or re-use allowed without permission, all rights reserved.