Friday, October 19

The Levi Effect

I was going to hold off and post this tomorrow or Monday, but a coworker came by to show me his DOPESTRONG t-shirt today and I decided I needed to get this out there. So yeah, with a potential Ramming Speed Friday post this may be one of those rare three post days.

Have you heard of this upcoming film? I really want to see it. In the mess that is the Lance Armstrong Doping Scandal I'm hoping it will be a ray of positivity.

Recently Levi's role has come more to the forefront of the saga with the announcement of his six month suspension from pro-racing and then his subsequent firing by Omega Pharma-Quickstep.

In an interview with his local Santa Rosa newspaper Levi opened up. The piece features a photo of the cyclist wearing a troubled expression and street clothes instead of the obligatory cycling victory shot. It's fitting and somewhat somber.

For me I think the whole story is told in the following passage:

"You go from a 13-year old boy who falls in love with cycling," he said, "and you have this vision what the sport and ..."

Leipheimer paused, and then said: "Along the way, little by little, honestly, you get your heart broken piece by piece. You come to realize what it was really like ... it seemed far-fetched, surreal."

If you're cynical you might say this is the diatribe of a guilty man trying to save face, but I have to believe Levi, and so many other pro cyclists, are going through this period of revelation. The curtain has been pulled aside and the world sees the man that has been making them all dance. In a way the scandal must be cathartic. The secret is out. Now maybe something will change. It's a pro-cycling apocalypse.

And what about Lance (always stealing everyone else's spotlight it seems)? His world appears to be crumbling. How far could this go? Will the end result of the witch hunt be Lance in jail? Burned at the proverbial stake?

Will he die a pauper?

I don't think so. I think Lance will ride this out. I hope so. Like I've said all along: if he didn't dope he beat dopers. If he doped...he still beat dopers.

Levi's ordeal has changed my perspective of Lance. See, Levi seems to be of strong character, and through all this I've wondered if he had participated in the doping shenanigans. Well, that doesn't seem to be much of a mystery anymore. And reading his side of it I just can't believe Lance didn't cheat as well. The best thing Lance could do at this point is come clean, literally, and tell his truthful side of the story.

I think my final conclusion is that these guys entered into a culture of cheating and became “trapped” within it. Now, I know someone could say: “Well, they could have just quit!” But let’s be fair, how many of us can just quit our jobs on principle? Sometimes it’s not that cut and dried.

Lance is still a hero. Levi is still a hero. If they doped they still beat dopers. They were (and are) still the best. This new reality doesn’t diminish my experience of last year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Me and my kids were standing within high-fiving distance of Levi as he bombed down Johnson Road in Golden at 40 mph. My five year old got his autograph in Golden this year. He’s still a hero.

This doesn't diminish my experience of the Alpine Odyssey: getting to be in a race, and within a few yards of Lance while we both rode our bikes toward the finish line. How many people can say that?

Am I disappointed? Somewhat. They shouldn't have doped. But in a professional culture where it's the norm, how can you say 'no' to the dream of being a pro cyclist to salvage principles? It would be hard. Wrong, but hard.

Peer pressure, it seems, can destroy dreams and careers.

If my schedule will allow I will go see The Levi Effect. If not I'll watch it on disc when it becomes available. I'm still impressed at what these men have accomplished. So maybe the overall accomplishments would have been minimally less significant if they had stayed clean? Maybe this is a lesson for all pro cyclists. Hopefully it can at least be that.

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