Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bicycling Magazine: Bruyneel as Bambi

Dear Bicycling and Marc Peruzzi,

So is the head-in-the-sand article on Astana and Johan Bruyneel part of the book deal or what? Some of the stuff in "Blackballed" would be funny if it weren't so, well, sad. Mentioning Manolo Saiz being caught red-handed in one paragraph, then Bruyneel's Tour exploits, under the direction of Saiz, in the (cough) mid-90s, in another. And then we have Alberto Contador, a rider under both Saiz and Bruyneel, and his wacky no-preparation win at the Giro, comparing him to Marco Pantani no less. Granted, he didn't run away with it, so one can hope, but still, you have to recognize the gross irony in how the article lays it out.

Will we never lay to rest this canard about "The French"? It's not that Johan and Lance won, it's how they won. We hear from Jonathan Vaughters (in the infamous IM) that there was a big difference in the medical programs of Postal and the French teams. To put Bruyneel's sneering spin out there without that obvious rebuttal is annoying.

Comparing knee bashing and dog fighting to the entrenched, deadly, pervasive doping that many riders suffered under is ridiculous at best.

Equally offensive is saying Astana is among the "vanguard" of the anti-doping movement. For years, Bruyneel and his various teams' silence on doping was deafening. Well, actually, I guess that's not quite right - they did make themselves heard in the peloton, bullying anyone who tried to speak out against doping. Even now the most you usually hear is a defensive mentioning of their program, not discussion of how bad things were in the past and relief at a new direction. Bruyneel's signing of Ivan Basso made it clear where his priorities lay. And he didn't "fire him a few weeks later" - it was five months later, when Basso's hand was forced by CONI, that he resigned from the team.

It wasn't one "old sample," of Lance's urine, there were several. And it wasn't that the tests were inconclusive, it was that they were for research purposes and thus unusable to bring sanctions.

I'm all for understanding that some guys were a product of their time, but there were those who followed and those who led, misled, and wielded their power and money to protect their lifestyle.

I'm not even saying Astana should've been excluded. I like Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner, even if I wonder why they would go back (in Levi's case) to the Bruyneel machine. Heck, maybe even Johan is on the up and up, taking the new way as just the next challenge for him to solve. My objection is to a sloppy article that paints a picture of Bruyneel as a horrendously wronged innocent in a travesty of justice. Even before I did my homework I wouldn't have thought that.

I know the deal is if you dig too deep you lose access, but here's a thought - if everyone else started speaking the whole truth, the all-powerful become some guys behind a curtain, and then who cares if you have access?

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