Long, winding road to truth about cycling

Filed under: On the Road Again — admin @ 6:05 pm

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The Press Democract, Santa Rosa California
Published: Monday, May 23, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 23, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.

That slow, painful drip of water you felt on your forehead Sunday, you felt it before, haven’t you? It was excruciating, wasn’t it, one drip at a time, one rumor at a time, again and again, to the point it felt like a hammer on your noodle and you never wanted to hear “Barry Bonds” and “steroids” ever mentioned again.

Now we have “Lance Armstrong” and “doping” and if I hear or read anymore about it, my skull will crack and I will bleed from the ears.

Tyler Hamilton said on “60 Minutes” Sunday he saw Armstrong dope and I wouldn’t care if he saw Armstrong put on lipstick except that the clean guys, the up-front guys, their message and their lifestyle is lost in the endless sea of sensational speculation, of he said, she said, who said. This internet virus — call it The Wagging of Tongues — can take a burp and turn it into a reason for a federal investigation in less than 15 minutes.

So I searched for sanity and I came across Steven Cozza, the Petaluma pro rider for Team NetApp.

“I am really stoked about the future of cycling,” said Cozza, 26. “Truth will set the sport free. I am proud that I have never taken drugs. The only thing I have ever taken is caffeine. When I am 40 I want to be able to look back at my career and be proud that I did it the right way. Life is choices and the previous generation made some bad choices. I don’t feel bad for whoever is being ousted or getting caught. I do expect them to stand up, come clean and make the sport better. And I want to make sure you know I’m not accusing Lance of doping at all.”

Cozza doesn’t know. Who does? Tyler Hamilton?

“His credibility is so diluted,” said Don Winkle, a Santa Rosa attorney, an avid cyclist and ex-racer. “He denies he ever did drugs and then gets busted.”

Who does? George Hincapie?

“I have no idea where they (60 Minutes) got their information,” Hincapie said to a 60 Minutes report that he reportedly told the feds he did drugs with Armstrong. Who does? Me? You? Oprah?

We have ex-riders like Hamilton and Floyd Landis singing like birds. We have four of Armstrong’s U.S. Postal teammates who allegedly, reportedly, apparently, who either were forced or volunteered eyewitness accounts. Where does all this lead? To The Wagging of Tongues. And the formation of conclusions.

We have had so much time to deal with Armstrong that people already have made up their minds about him, the same way people made up their mind about Bonds. Bonds’ 73 homers in 2002 is a false positive the same way some people view Armstrong’s seven consecutive Tour de France victories. They have made their peace with it, one way or another, justifying it one way or another, and the rest of it is just conversation, like the brief one I had with Jim Keene of NorCal Bike in Santa Rosa.

“I am certainly not surprised,” Keene said of Hamilton’s televised confession. “It does seem implausible he could win seven in a row, defeating everyone else who tested positive. It didn’t come as a shock but, then again, who knows?”

Maybe the feds will. Who knows? They didn’t exactly nail Bonds to the yardarm after spending $6 million. Let the feds do their thing and one day they’ll tell us they are prosecuting or not. No tongue wagging, it got in the way of a great 2011 Tour of California. It got in the way of the top two finishers, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer, California residents winning a California race that, by the way, didn’t need to have Armstrong in it to succeed wildly.

“I’ve been very busy all day,” said Leipheimer early Monday evening in an e-mail responding to a request for comment. “I don’t have anything to contribute to the 60 Minutes story. Of course I saw the headlines but I wasn’t able to watch it.”

You could say Levi was fortunate not to have seen the piece. I mean, enough, already, about interpreting the veracity of Tyler Hamilton’s comments by analyzing his facial expressions on “60 Minutes.”

Like everyone just became a FBI behavioral analyst. Oh, Tyler was dabbing at his lips there while being asked a question. Oooh, now that’s a guilty man. Stop it. We must be patient and realistic. We need closure but it’s going to be awhile before the feds make up their mind. They don’t want to look as inefficient and wasteful as they did chasing Bonds.

In the meantime we need to get a life, a hobby, anything to fill up those National Enquirer moments of mindless curiosity because, unfortunately, this won’t go away until Armstrong goes away, one way or another.

“I agree,” Cozza said. “Cycling is such a beautiful sport.”

For more North Bay sports go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.

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