Cycling's integrity in doubt, again
The cycling spectacle sweeping through California this week could not leave the Golden State without exposing its ugly underbelly.
It seems whenever professional cycling begins to gain momentum in the U.S. the weight of performance enhancing drugs slows the peloton to a crawl. The thrill of seeing some of the world’s top riders on our streets Tuesday was dampened on Friday with the latest PED-use accusations flying at Lance Armstrong.
The most decorated Tour de France competitor of all time has heard these claims for a decade. But the pride of American cycling took a devastating 1-2 punch this week from some respected sources.
The most shocking accusation came from George Hincapie, who is still a big name in the sport and is the leader for the BMC squad at the Amgen Tour of California. Hincapie was a longtime Armstrong teammate and friend, but that relationship is sure to change today, when 60 Minutes airs a story that includes reports that Hincapie testified to federal investigators that both he and Armstrong used EPO, an endurance-boosting substance, and testosterone during their careers.
Tyler Hamilton, another former Armstrong teammate, is also accusing Armstrong of cheating in an interview that will air on 60 Minutes tonight.
Armstrong continues to insist he has never used PEDs. The seven-time Tour de France champ, who retired from cycling last year, has never failed a drug test.
Floyd Landis, the man who was stripped of his Tour de France title for cheating, had been labeled a bitter liar by Armstrong after he made the same accusations as Hamilton and Hincapie. Now the votes are coming in and he’s looking like the Jose Canseco of cycling at this point. He may be a shady character, but it appears there were plenty of those in the peloton over the past two decades.
It’s looking more and more like virtually every competitive rider that had a chance to make a decent amount of money was using drugs, blood doping, or cheating in some way from about 1990 to 2007.
Is it still going on? Maybe, maybe not, but the shadow of doubt from this week’s news is enough to taint what should be a true American sporting gem this week. It’s a sad realization for fans who admire the strength, skill and sheer will it takes to compete in major stage races like the Tour of California.
I want to believe that the amazing athletes we watched this week were unaided by performance enhancers. But recent history is making that difficult.
Even with all of the Placer High football program’s success under Joey Montoya, the Hillmen have not seen many players take their games to the college level. That seems to be changing.
Collin Burnett signed with Sacramento State earlier this month, becoming the first player under Montoya to sign with a Division I program out of high school.
At UC Davis, Asher Gotzmer landed a scholarship after impressing coaches during his redshirt season last fall.
Meanwhile Michael Gray and Dalton Dyer could be headed to D-I programs if their career arcs continue upward. Gray transferred from Sierra College to American River, where he’ll likely be the featured tight end next fall. Dyer filled in admirably at running back at Sierra and should get an opportunity to star in 2011.
College coaches will be stopping in at Placer practices often over the next couple of years. Eddie Vanderdoes is a big-time prospect as a defensive lineman, though football scouts may have to steer him away from the baseball diamond, where he’s a special talent.