Robert Millar on Armstrong's confession and breaking the omerta
George Hincapie (US Postal) leads team captain Lance Armstrong during the 2002 Tour de France.
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It's hard to believe that it's only been three weeks since the Oprah confessions, or rather concessions, as Lance's carefully chosen words have been aptly re-named. It feels like that moment is a lifetime away now. It's been partly buried by petty politics and maneuvering for sporting power between people with good intentions and people who ought to know better.
Lance was doing so well when it was just 'Yes' or 'No' answers and similarly the UCI were doing so well when they set-up their Independent Commission to investigate their role in the Armstrong affair.
Now in a sad way they are both looking even more like brothers in arms as what has happened after those apparently good starts has been far from satisfactory for the reluctant associates. When Lance slid back into defence mode on the TV sofa I thought he was saving what he could have said for a more important judge or occasion. Maybe he is. With what he knows, he could make a difference. But falling back into the arms of lawyers and legal speak isn't going to rehabilitate him in the eyes of those he hurt.
All those years of hating and lying and fighting are going to take some serious therapy sessions to sort LA out and no doubt there'll be more cringe worthy moments in the process. I only hope for everyone's sake he puts as much into that as he did into his previous positive processes.
I'm still waiting to hear what Johan Bruyneel and his fellow management conspirators have to say about all of this because there are a few aspects of health and safety I'd like them to explain. Even just a hint that they were there and might just might have seen or done something would be a start. I'm not holding my breath though as I suspect it could be a longer wait than the kind they avoided by using Motoman for the TdF deliveries.
Meanwhile over at UCI Towers someone from the short-lived Independent Commission must have asked an unwanted question, probably one requiring a simple Yes or No answer, and the toys were duly ejected from the Swiss pram.
Bully for you guys, you show them pesky outsiders whose sport it is. At least they would have been expensive toys landing on the marble floor tiles. I wouldn't like to think the five million Euros extracted from the rainy day reserves to fund an investigation that never was had been spent on cheap tat. Not when it comes to light there have been cutbacks to the drug testing program due to lack of money and they haven't even got Lance to tap up for a loan any more.
Of course the UCI can blame WADA or USADA or the Spanish Inquisition for that matter but I think they'll find Lance has already used up that option and it hasn't worked out too well for him. These latest examples of leadership left me thinking: Ms Winfrey might want to order in a few extras sofas just in case there's a long distance call from Aigle.
Truth and Reconciliation or Trial and Retribution? That is the question for whoever moves forward with this mess. Do you want to hear rabid cries of 'Slay them all, they ate my children, those dirty evil bike riders. This Secret Cycling Menace has to be stopped.' Or would you prefer the view they, the cyclists, were all victims of their own egos, naive and weak of moral character, the poor abused by the system dopey peddlers. Since life isn't so black and white maybe somewhere in between would do.
How far back should any T&R process go? Well if you want to learn where the culture of cheating began, you would need to call up Adam and Eve. Perhaps the evidence and experiences of the last 50 years ought to be enough to get a grasp of how the cycling culture and Omerta has been building.
I don't see how we are going to understand and begin to deal with the unhealthy problems cycling has cultivated over many decades unless you ask those who have been part of that history what they saw, heard and did. And that doesn't mean asking only riders, team managers, soigneurs, mechanics, race organisers and officials. Doctors, supporters, fans and journalists need to be included too.
Sure there will be those who prefer to say nothing and those who will be economical with the truth because they fear recrimination but if the questions aren't even asked then the Omerta and the deceit continues.
- Robert Millar
Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey. Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.
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