July 24, 2004
Dear Fellow Cyclists and Cycling Fans,
Like many of you, I have read Greg Lemond's recent comments
regarding doping in cycling and his interactions with Lance Armstrong. For
those not up to speed, see this link for a concise account of Greg’s statements
The original complete text in French appears here:
I admire Greg's courage to speak his mind on the doping
problems that still plague cycling. Like him, I feel that this problem is out of
hand. Something needs to be done to clean it up, not only for the sake of the
riders’ health, but also for the sake of returning our sport to the truths of
human spirit, valor, and talent.
The English version of the Eurosport article makes a huge
point of Greg’s personal experience with Lance and the resulting conflict.
Obviously, Lance and Greg have their own private relationship. While I know and
respect both of these champions, having raced with both of them over the years,
their personal interaction is none of my business, and speculating on conflict
between the two only distracts from the bigger and more important issue of
What I found more compelling was the complete Le Monde
text. It clearly shows Greg, who remains unquestionably the father of the modern
era of American cycling champions, standing up and declaring that professional
cycling has been and, regrettably, still is rotten with drugs.
Greg has put himself into personal and business
difficulties by speaking out and getting involved with the issue of drugs in
today's cycling. Voluntarily placing himself in this position shows me honesty
and bravery far beyond what most of us could muster. Lemond could instead follow
the cycling world's expectations for past champions and sit around "a fumer le
pipe" ('chilling' in cycling slang) in silence. But, his legitimate concern for
the health and lives of today’s athletes and future riders drives him to do what
he can to return cycling to a healthy level. I want to see the same. Since the
early 90s both doping and the medical excesses placed upon riders’ health have
gotten out of control.
Most of us will probably need to put aside our Tour time
emotions and resist making the judgment that Greg is trying to gain something
personal or is simply jealous of being eclipsed as the dominant American
cyclist. I saw Greg race as a champion through the 80s, and into the 90s when
the cycling community as a whole turned a blind eye towards doping and
consciously ignored the onslaught of EPO in the peloton.
Like Greg, I too saw what I believe were the effects of EPO
when it entered pro cycling in the early 90s. In the first years it grew from a
few individuals reaping obscene wins from exploiting its “benefits,” to entire
teams relying on it, essentially forcing all but the most gifted racers to
either use EPO to keep their place in cycling, quit, or become just another
obscure rider in the group.
I had the honor of racing in eight Tours. Being happily
retired, I can reflect on my small part in that race and enjoy seeing it
motivate kids just as it did me. So like Greg Lemond, I cannot just sit idly by
watching our sport continue to suffer from cheating. It’s time to tell the
Why now? Remember that while the Tour de France is the
pinnacle of cycling, it is also the leading force in fighting drugs in cycling.
Right now, while public attention is still on the Tour, is a good time to
address the problem of doping.
Dr. Michele Ferrari is known to have supported the use of
EPO to increase his riders’ performances. In ’94, while his riders dominated the
Ardennes Classic, he publicly ridiculed making rules against EPO saying it was
safe to use and should not be made illegal in cycling. I believe behavior like
this and the use of these products should not be tolerated. Violators should
receive meaningful bans from the sport, bans that significantly outweigh any
Many aspiring racers have confronted drug use as they rose
through the ranks. Unfortunately, their silent answer to this insanity is often
to quit racing at this level. Otherwise, they risk succumbing to the
conventional wisdom that “since everyone takes drugs to be competitive, you
should too.” This must not continue to be the choice facing promising young
Now, in his retirement, Greg Lemond is fighting to bring
racing back to a natural level of honest riders racing to their limits and
living a long life to talk about it. I am writing to support him in this fight.
Both Greg and I are involved with a junior racing team, so
this matter continues to concern us as we support and urge kids to go as far as
they can in the sport we love, both for their own personal rewards, and to keep
cycling growing. It is irresponsible for us to encourage kids to race and
potentially turn pro without doing all we can to change cycling back to a sport
where they will not likely be asked to take drugs that could ultimately destroy
their natural good health, their characters, and their bodies.
Thanks for listening,