By Gregor Brown
Cycling is at a critical turning point with the US doping agency ruling Lance Armstrong guilty of doping throughout his career. Several cyclists have now admitted they doped in their careers, but the Texan who won the Tour de France seven times is keeping quiet.
"We must break with the hypocrisy," Classics star, Johan Museeuw told newspaper Gazet Van Antwerpen yesterday. "The only way out of that murderous spiral is to stop the continued denial, the silence that continues to haunt us."
The Belgian ruled one-day racing for a decade, from the early 1990s into the 2000s. He said, at that time for "almost everyone" doping was part of the sport. On a positive note, he said the peloton has never been cleaner.
Armstrong raced for much of the same period and won the Tour from 1999 to 2005. He has yet to confess, but due to the testimony of several of his team-mates the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) ruled he possessed, trafficked and administered banned drugs and methods.
Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie, George Hincapie and other current pros are said to have given damning statements against Armstrong. The rumours reached a boiling point as this year's Tour and travelled through northern France. Journalists asked them about their testimony and if they had doped, but they replied with blank stares or in Leipheimer's case "no comment" (repeated nine times).
Jonathan Vaughters, a former Armstrong team-mate and general manager of Garmin-Sharp, dodged the question. Since, though, he has come clean. Last month, he wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times and said, "I chose to dope. I am sorry for that decision, and I deeply regret it."
On Tuesday, he appeared to 'out' three of his cyclists - Vande Velde, Zabriskie and Tom Danielson - in Cyclingnews' forum. Regarding a question put to him about not hiring Jörg Jaksche, who was involved in Operación Puerto, he wrote "CVV, Zabriskie, Danielson, while all clearly have a past, and from an ethical standpoint are no different from JJ [Jaksche]..."
Danielson also raced with Armstrong in 2005. He and the others have kept quiet, but Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis and Frankie Andreu have confessed. Hamilton released a book on Wednesday in the USA, where he detailed doping practices, including in the years he raced with Armstrong.
"He was incapable of being passive, because he was haunted by what others might be doing," Hamilton wrote in The Secret Race, according to the Telegraph. "I came to think of it as Lance's Golden Rule: Whatever you do, those other ****** are doing more."
Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) admitted immediately to EPO use when caught this year. Riccardo Riccò took some time to come around. Filippo Pozzato and Fränk Schleck have ties via payments to known doping specialists, but said they only received training plans. Pozzato paid up to €50,000 to Michele for plans and faces a year ban, Schleck got off for paying Eufemiano Fuentes €7000.
The failure to reveal the truth is a "murderous spiral" according to Museeuw. It is a code of silence or omerta upheld by Ivan Basso, Alejandro Valverde and others, including quite possibility the next Vuelta a España winner, Alberto Contador.
Some only speak frankly only to prosecutors, like Giovanni Visconti (Movistar). Even if he is top form, Italy refuses to field him in its World Championships team.
"There are cyclists with cases open, and there is evidence that shows them guilty," Italian federation president, Renato Di Rocco told Cycling Weekly. "Visconti already talked to the CONI prosecutor... we are forced to say no [to his selection]."
Armstrong, given the chance, refused to speak to USADA's Travis Tygart and accepted guilty rather than facing an arbitration panel.
"People want to see those lone breaks in the mountains. I remember watching when I was a kid, [Richard] Virenque and stuff, but that's not realistic anymore," Bradley Wiggins said after his Tour win. He added, it is not realistic "unless you have a couple of extra litres of blood."
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