Ever since his head to head with Armstrong Kimmage has gotten a lot of attention. He's used the opportunity to be his usual outspoken self about cycling, and not just about Lance.
Quite a bit of his ire is directed at the UCI and other major players within the cycling hierarchy. To me is seems apparent that he's right, but at the same time I've been trying to better understand the other side. I mean we're dealing with rational, successful people...people like Pat McQuaid or Steve Montgomery or even Jim Ochavitz....and I'm try to get a sense of their perspective on things.
I've had the most success in trying to garner that understanding by evaluating someone a little closer to home, John Eustice. Despite whatever I think about John as a TV announcer, I would be the first to heap praise in the work that he's done on behalf of the sport. His hard work, vision, and commitment to cycling has had played a significant positive impact on the sport in many direct and indirect ways.
To name just a few things, John put together composite teams and brought over foreign teams when Philly Week was just getting started that helped riders and helped the race. His efforts with Univest are obvious, but less obvious is the impact it had in raising the level of expectation and the quality of racing in the region as seen in Mt. Holly, Blue Bell, Turkey Hill, etc etc. John has worked behind the scenes promoting the sport and encouraging others to promote the sports and folks who have worked with him and for him have gone on to be accomplished promoters, team directors, and cycling journalists.
Conversely, John's efforts and passion for the sport have also, in my opinion, represented so much of what is wrong with cycling. In addition to the riders that he's given opportunity to, he was also instrumental in promoting the career of one of the main sources of drugs in US cycling in 80's and early 90's. For every Gannet ( winner of the race in 98) that won the race, there have been less than reputable riders that John has celebrated in victory despite him having to have had a suspicion that things were a little too good to be true. ((I should add the disclaimer that I acknowledge some bitterness that he accused me of undermining the sport's integrity when I brought a legal, publicly-traded gambling sponsor to the sport...while he was putting obvious dopers on his promotional material for upcoming races.)) More recently, Eustice has made a very public spectacle of supporting Floyd Landis when, as someone so close to the sport, he knows the prevalence of doping in the peleton.
For every two steps forward that John exhaustingly pushes the sport, he seems to so easily and inexplicably take one step back. Yes, I suppose it keeps things plodding along in the right direction, but I've really a hard time understanding the contradiction of it all.
So I've tried putting myself in his shoes. John puts on Univest which is good for the sport, it provides a showcase for cycling, and it provides opportunities for up and coming cyclists.
Its also and event that's under constant threat.
Houstatonic is gone, Philly week is back down to one day. The economy, and the banking industry that cycling has depended so heavily upon for 20 years is dead.
So here is a guy who has his income ( are at least a portion thereof) hanging in the balance, who has 10 years of hard work hanging in the balance, and who has to justify to existing sponsors and convince new sponsors, that the product that he's selling is the eyeball drawing, beautiful spectacle that he (we) have all fallen in love with.
The last thing that he needs when he's selling Oscar Pierro is Operation Puerto.
Add to the those pressures the moral justification ( highground ?) that the successes of the race benefit more of the clean majority than cheating minority and ends start to look like a heck of a justification for the means.
Sort of like same was that the smile on the face of a dozen cancer kids, or home to a guy just diagnosed with testicular cancer can help foot the bill for questioning the integrity of a journalist, ruining a former champion's career, of forcing a former friend out of the sport he loves.
I'm not sure that does it for me. I mean I'm not sure I see the sport as presented as an either or scenario. I think that Festina presented an opportunity missed. Then later Floyd's case presented another chance passed over. Maybe this most recent return of Armstrong presents one last chance for the sport to begin anew.
I don't know what the future holds, but in trying to better understand the forces and pressures at work, maybe the sport can continue to find better solutions. In the meantime, I'll look to celebrate the successes of the the Garmins of the world. And look at their successes as a reason to continue to hope.