Being in the cycling world, being a cyclist myself and knowing a few professional cyclists the number one topic of conversation lately has been, "Do you think Lance doped?". Since the 60 Minutes show with Tyler Hamilton confessing his doping sins to the world, friends have asked my opinion about the whole doping bruhaha in cycling.
This is what I think....
If you, as a once high level professional cyclist doped that was your call. You had every right to say no, there are many serious Cat 1 riders who are there because they chose to do it cleanly. That being said, throwing all your other teammates under the bus is not good for your image or the sport of cycling. It makes you look jealous, petty and bitter. Just say No!
If Lance did dope at one time or any time during his career I believe he did not take the victory away from any one else, because apparently his teammates were all doping too. I like to believe Lance did it clean but right now that's between Lance and God. No one can take away what he did for the sport of cycling. I will be disappointed if it comes out that he was doping but not because of some hero worship fixation. I will be disappointed that he didn't come clean before wasting millions of dollars and years of bad press for the sport. I pray Lance is honest. Only time will tell.
Dopers are two years ahead of dope control at all times. It will have to come down to an honor code among cyclists to simply do it right, do it clean -- everyone!
Everyone pays the price for doping. Cyclists win and lose races, the negative cloud over the sport of cycling is ominous, millions of dollars burnt on testing and masking could be used to actually grow the sport of cycling in a positive manner. And some day, these dopers will have to reckon with the call of poor health due to years of abuse. Who knows the effects these drugs have on cyclists long term.
If that's the grim reality of the professional cycling world in America and Europe is there any hope for the sport? Yes, a resounding yes....Africa.
Friday afternoon when I was driving in to Kigali for the Saturday start of the two day Stage Race celebrating Kwita Izina, the naming of the baby gorillas, I saw wave after wave of young men and some girls riding beat up single speeds across the hills of Rwanda to get to Musanze, the start of Saturday's amateur single speed race. I honked the car and waved as most cyclists know the worn out red Ford Explorer with Team Rwanda stickers on every side that we drive. They waved back smiling. These young kids with nothing but the cycling clothes (thank you to Butterfield Robinson for a huge donation of jerseys) and little packs with most everything they own strapped to their back were coming to Musanze for their BIG race.
These kids have nothing, no electricity, no water, no one who comes out to cheer for them, they barely have a bike, a forty pound worn out rebar reinforced single speed. But they all have hope. They see Adrien, they know Adrien, they see they can be someone, they can have a life that doesn't involve hauling produce until the day they die.
When we were in the Thule store in Johannesburg a few weeks ago purchasing a bike rack and trying to get a discount we mentioned we were from Team Rwanda. The young man behind the desk lit up. "Adrien Niyonshuti, he does us black people proud, he is so humble, so good." Two days later I stopped back in with Adrien and you would have thought it was the second coming of Christ. The young man yells, "Adrien, Adrien Niyonshuti in my store!" He grabs a camera shoves it in my hand and I take a picture of a South African cycling enthusiast with his Rwandan hero.
This is cycling in Africa. Adrien is meticulous with his diet and his training. He is a student of the sport and all his coaches in South Africa with MTN Qhubeka love working with him. Everyone who meets Adrien wants to see him succeed, because Adrien will do whatever it will take to succeed except dope.
Gasore and Nicodem just returned from seven weeks at the UCI Training Center in Agile, Switzerland, transformed. They are the next generation to give hope to all the kids, any kid with a bike in Rwanda.
I managed to snap a few pictures between stages and the ones below are from the start of Stage 2, Saturday afternoon in Musanze. Musanze is the home to Team Rwanda and as you can see, the fans came out in masses. Even the guy from the market where I buy my 180 eggs a week was there to see the boys.
This is cycling in Africa.
So, my thought is this. How about taking the millions of dollars wasted on all these Federal investigations and helping out some kids in Africa? Racers who dope, do these kids in Africa a favor and start racing clean. Be a role model....be an Adrien Niyonshuti...someone that makes all of us, white or black, proud!
|Team Rwanda bikes lined up along the ditch with the every growing masses closing in. Rwandans just want to get close to the bikes, touch them, they know the riders, they just want to be part of the Race Moment|