L.A. Confidential Excerpt

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by 'Dis Guy, Oct 8, 2004.

  1. 'Dis Guy

    'Dis Guy Guest

    Subject: Excerpt from LA CONFIDENTIAL – The Secrets of Lance Armstrong


    After making public his dislike of Lance Armstrong's trainer and
    confidante Michele Ferrari in an interview with The Sunday Times in
    July 2001, Greg LeMond expected the telephone call. Not only had
    LeMond, a three-time winner of the Tour de France, criticised Dr.
    Ferrari, he offered an opinion that would become the central question
    in the story of Lance Armstrong. "If it is true," said LeMond, "it is
    the greatest comeback in the history of sport; if it is not, it is the
    greatest fraud."

    Two weeks after expressing his doubts, LeMond travelled to London to
    meet representatives of the multi-national oil company Conoco who were
    planning to sponsor cycling. On August 1 he returned on a direct
    flight to Minneapolis-St Paul and was met by his wife Kathy. As he
    climbed into the driver's seat of Kathy's Audi station wagon his
    mobile telephone rang. Realising whom it was, LeMond mouthed "it's
    Lance" to his wife.

    Greg LeMond refuses to be interviewed about the conversation that
    followed as he has agreed with Trek, a major sponsor of the US Postal
    Service cycling team and the distributor of LeMond Bikes, not to speak
    publicly about his fellow American. There is nothing to stop his wife
    speaking about what she overheard and what she wrote down as they
    travelled from the airport to their home outside Minneapolis-St Paul.

    "While the call was going on I took notes of everything that was said
    by Greg," says Kathy LeMond, "and then recapped with Greg the comments
    by Lance immediately after the conversation was over. Some of his
    words I could hear because he was so loud while talking to Greg.
    Afterwards I pieced together the principal elements of what was said
    between them."

    LA: "Greg, this is Lance."

    GL: "Hi Lance, what are you doing?"

    LA: "I'm in New York."

    GL: "Ah, okay."

    LA: "Greg, I thought we were friends."

    GL: "I thought we were friends."

    LA: "Why did you say what you said?"

    GL: "About Ferrari? Well, I have a problem with Ferrari. I'm
    disappointed you are seeing someone like Ferrari. I have a personal
    issue with Ferrari and doctors like him. I feel my career was cut
    short, I watched a team-mate die, I saw the devastation of innocent
    riders losing their careers. I don't like what has become of our
    sport."

    LA: "Oh come on, now, you're telling me you never done EPO?"

    GL: "Why would you say I did EPO?"

    LA: "Come on, everyone's done EPO."

    GL: "Why do you think I did it?"

    LA: "Well, your comeback in '89 was so spectacular. Mine's a miracle,
    yours was a miracle. You couldn't have been as strong as you were in
    '89 without EPO."

    GL: "Listen Lance, before EPO was ever in cycling, I won the Tour de
    France. First time I was in the Tour, I was third; second time I
    should have won but was held back by my team, third time I won it. It
    is not because of EPO that I have won the Tour, my haematocrit was
    never more than 45, but because I had a V02 max of 95, yours was 82.
    Tell me one person who said I did EPO."

    LA: "Everyone knows it."

    GL: "Are you threatening me?"

    LA: "If you want to throw stones, I will throw stones."

    GL: "So you are threatening me? Listen Lance, I know physiology; no
    amount of training can transform an athlete with a VO2 max of 82 into
    one with a VO2 Max of 95 and you have ridden faster than I did."

    LA: "I can find at least ten people who will say you did EPO. Ten
    people who would come forward."

    GL: "That's impossible. I know I never did that. There is no one that
    can come forward and say that. If I had taken EPO, I would have had a
    haematocrit higher than 45. I never did. And if I have that accusation
    levelled against me, I will know it came from you."


    --------line break-------line break--------line break--------
    The 1993 Tour de France began at Le Puy du Fou, a cultural theme park
    in the Vendee. On the evening before the race began, the competing
    teams were presented to the public at a ceremony in the theme park.
    This was Lance Armstrong's first experience of the race, for he was
    then a 21-year-old in his first full season as a professional bike
    racer. Armstrong and his eight Motorola teammates waited off-stage for
    the announcer to call them into the limelight, chatting excitedly as
    they waited their turn.

    "As we stood there, Lance whispered in my ear," recalls Phil Anderson,
    the Australian who was then the team's most experienced racer. "He
    said: ‘This is what bike racing is all about. This is what life's
    about.' There were thousands of people outside, the guy on the public
    address was hyping it up, there was a band playing, a big screen
    relayed the pictures and Lance just loved every moment of that. He was
    this bright-eyed guy who was now exactly where he wanted to be. He
    carried himself well: very confident. Outspoken too, he had that Texan
    brashness. If he wasn't going to lead a bike racing team, he would
    lead in politics or in business or wherever. He was like ‘this is
    where I belong'."

    The years passed. Armstrong rode the Tour de France four times before
    being diagnosed with testicular cancer in October 1996. Although he
    was amongst the best one-day racers of that time, Armstrong's best
    finish in his four pre-cancer Tours was 26th. Then sickness came and
    threatened to take everything. By the time he had his enlarged
    testicle examined, the cancer was on its way to his lungs and brain.
    The surgery was risky, the chemo brutal, the prognosis pessimistic. He
    might survive but the days of elite sport seemed over.

    Twenty days from now, the 2004 Tour de France will begin in Liege,
    Belgium. Armstrong will be given the number 1 dossard (italics),
    denoting last year's champion. It is the number he has worn in the
    last four Tours. This year he will attempt his sixth consecutive
    victory in the race, a feat that has never before been achieved.
    Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain; they
    all won five. Armstrong is expected to go one further.

    It recalls a moment from the first press conference he gave at his
    first Tour, after winning the eighth stage into Verdun. "Your namesake
    and compatriot Neil went to the moon, how far can this Armstrong go?"
    asked a journalist. For a moment Armstrong was embarrassed, stuck for
    words. It was as if the question touched a nerve. He intended to go
    far: as far as the astronaut? Who knows? Maybe. Though to have said
    that would have been foolish. So, instead he just asked for the next
    question.

    Who knows from where it came? What made Lance Armstrong a sporting
    icon and a man who is inspiration to the community of cancer sufferers
    and survivors? He now earns around $20m-a-year, is routinely a
    candidate for Sports Illustrated Sportstar Of The Year and often the
    winner and after the break-up of his marriage to Kristin, he is now
    dating the rock star, Sheryl Crowe.

    Was it in the genes created by the coming together of Linda Mooneyham
    and a man called Gunderson? Linda, had been a hard-working and driven
    mum; a mostly single mother dedicated to her only child. If you don't
    give 100%, she would tell him, you don't make it. And as she moved
    from one job to another, always bettering herself, her life was a
    monument to earnestness. About Gunderson, we know little. He married
    Linda at the time of the pregnancy but the relationship was over two
    years later. Armstrong never knew his biological father and his
    subsequent indifference to establishing any kind of relationship
    reflects the hardness that is one of the pillars of his character. His
    view is that Gunderson provided the DNA; no more, an accident of fate
    that does not make him his father.

    Far more certain is the impact of Armstrong's lower middle-class
    background. His emotional toughness and his determination to make
    something of his life are a reaction to the circumstances of his
    upbringing. His mum had to take two or three jobs at a time to make
    ends meet and from the first moment he could get a grip on these
    things, Armstrong understood life's unfairness. It made him resentful.
    In the early years of his professional career, when he constantly
    rubbed people up the wrong way, his team-mates joked that the chip on
    his shoulder was the size of his native Texas.

    He won that stage of the 1993 Tour de France into Verdun by surging
    through a narrow corridor between the French rider Ronan Pensec and
    the steel crash barrier on the right. It was an audacious sprint by
    Armstrong. "Physically I'm not any more gifted than anybody else," he
    said a few days later, "but it's just this desire, just this rage. I'm
    on the bike and I go into a rage, when I just shriek for about five
    seconds. I shake like mad and my eyes kind bulge out. I swear, I sweat
    a little more and the heart rate goes like 200 a minute. And that's
    not physical: that's not legs; that's not lungs. That's heart. That's
    soul. That's just guts.'

    Heart, soul and guts. So that's it then?


    -------line break------line break-------line break--------


    Professional cycling in Europe has always been different. It is on the
    old continent that the sport began. On small roads in France, Belgium
    and Italy, cycling developed its DNA. The black and white photographs
    of riders in woollen jerseys, a spare tyre looped around their torsos,
    pain written on their faces; they are the images that define the
    sport. For the suffering was an offering, a gift freely given by the
    competitors to the public. They pushed themselves into
    God-knows-what-hell, endured the torture and mostly for little more
    than the admiration of the fans. The sport taxed every aspect of a
    man's character. It tapped into his nobility and fed off his capacity
    to endure hardship. It also tempted him to seek refuge in less
    admirable days and if by dipping into the pharmaceutical bag, the pain
    could be eased, who could blame the wretch for succumbing? Prisoners
    of the road they were called.

    To help them survive, they developed their own morality. It was loose
    to begin with. Doping has always been part of the game, cheating a way
    of life. Not that they see it like this. In a sport so punishing, who
    can say it is wrong to ease the pain? Yes the drugs may eventually
    kill them but before that they will have had some kind of life. In the
    early days, it was mostly amphetamines. In the mid-80s cortisone,
    testosterone and caffeine were amongst the drugs routinely abused.
    They helped recovery, improved performance but they were not so
    powerful that those who doped would always beat those who didn't.
    There were always some riders who tried to play within the rules. With
    the 90s came erythropoietin (EPO), the drug that alters the
    composition of the blood and changes the nature of competition. For a
    clean rider to beat an EPO-fuelled rival is extremely difficult. Over
    the course of a long stage race like the Tour de France, it is
    probably impossible.

    Armstrong joined the Motorola team in late 1992 and entered the
    European peloton at a time when the use of erythropoietin was growing.
    Within two years, abuse of the drug would be widespread. After an
    excellent 1993, when Armstrong became the youngest world champion on
    the road, the Motorola team struggled in 1994. The New Zealander
    Stephen Swart joined the team that year, having spent the previous
    five years racing in the US:

    "I knew straightaway I was going to have to face something. I had
    heard about EPO, word had filtered back through the gravevine to the
    States. We heard it was a blood-booster and it increased your oxygen
    capacity by x,y and z but I still didn't imagine it could have changed
    things to the extent it did. In Motorola some of the older guys were a
    bit demoralised by the change. I mean we would go to a race like
    Tirreno Adriatico at the start of the season and spend a week there
    riding at our limit just to survive. Just so we could finish the race.
    It was crazy."

    In early 1994 a number of Motorola riders heard Italian teams were
    using a centrifuge to measure their haematocrit: that is their red
    cell count as a percentage of their total blood volume. EPO boosted
    the red cell count and the centrifuge helped riders to monitor the
    state of their drug-enhanced blood. Increased red cells meant more
    oxygen and enhanced performance, too much EPO causing a thickening of
    the blood that could lead to a blocking of the arteries and death from
    heart failure. One of the more experienced Motorola riders, Sean
    Yates, knew one of the Italian teams that used a centrifuge and, out
    of curiosity, decided to have his haematocrit checked.

    Yates was not using EPO but simply wanted to find out how much of a
    disadvantage he and his team-mates were at. Taking the tiniest amount
    of blood, the Italians told him his haematocrit was 41. "You might as
    well as go back to bed," they said, "You have no chance of winning
    with that haematocrit." Yates went back and told his team-mates about
    his encounter. The story confirmed what most Motorola riders had
    already figured.

    One Motorola rider of the mid-90s recalls the mood within the team in
    1994. "As a team, we were pretty innocent. That's not to say one or
    two of our riders weren't doing something off their own bat but as a
    team, we were pretty clean. Our director sportif Jim Ochowicz and our
    doctor, Max Testa, didn't want to know about doping. ‘Och' didn't want
    to stay in the room if we were talking about it and Max tried to
    convince us there was a natural way to ride well. He said we didn't
    need the shit other teams were using. One of the problems we had was
    our ignorance. At the time, 1994, there was no control of EPO. It was
    undetectable and we were two years away from the rule that said you
    couldn't race with a greater than 50% haematocrit. We hadn't a clue
    about how much we would have to use, how often we would have to take
    it and how dangerous it might be. All we knew was that it was
    expensive to buy.

    "The difference with Lance was he had (italics) to be successful. He
    didn't want a career that was average. His attitude was like: ‘we need
    to step up here; we need to do something.' If you weren't doing this,
    you couldn't compete; it was as simple as that. The whole thing bugged
    Lance, it eat into him. He wasn't content to be beaten by guys that he
    might have been better than. I am sure it was as a result of this that
    he began working with Michele Ferrari." Dr. Ferrari was an Italian
    cycling doctor with a bad reputation. In 1994 he had said that if used
    properly, EPO was no more dangerous than orange juice.

    Max Testa was Motorola's team doctor and was opposed to doping. But in
    the rapidly changing environment of the mid-90s, he had to familiarise
     
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  2. Fergie

    Fergie Guest

    When Stephen Swart (a fellow Kiwi) came out and made accusations about Lance
    and EPO I was quite happy to believe him. Then they had an interview with
    Stephen on the Kiwi version of 60 minutes where he was interviewed over the
    allegations. Turns out he was in a team meeting where the Motorola riders
    (Lance was in this meeting) agreed that they were not competitive in Europe
    and that they would have to resort to drug taking to make the grade. Stephen
    admitted to taking a course of EPO himself.

    The important thing is that he never saw Lance take EPO. He just suspects.
    Sort of dimmed my view of Stephen and affects his credibility.

    Fergie
     
  3. antoineg

    antoineg New Member

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    Why does this affect his credibility? It kind of sets up a catch-22:

    The new guys into the sport who immediately get hit with the drug culture have credibility, because they have not yet used. They get out, and if they go public, the doping apologists will say "what do they know about pro cycling? They were in it for a month and washed out."

    The older guys, who have been pressured to dope just to stay competitive in their profession, come forward and the response from the doping apologists is "They used -- that affects their credibility."

    Scientists use hypotheses to set up a situation where they can test their observations against the hypothesis and then try to confirm or deny their hypothesis. I think that if your hypothesis is that "most pro cyclists dope," your real-world observations will start to look a lot more consistent with each other.
     
  4. In regards to the discussions recalled between ORielly and Armstrong - If
    they never actually happened, is there any legal action that Armstrong could
    take?

    "'Dis Guy" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]
    > Subject: Excerpt from LA CONFIDENTIAL - The Secrets of Lance Armstrong
    >
     
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