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Armstrong’s Doomsday

22 Oct

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Many of us knew what was most likely coming today. The International Cycling Union (UCI) ratified the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) sanctions against Lance Armstrong.

No surprise that they took Armstrong’s tainted Tour de France victories away, too much light had been shed on the misconduct of Armstrong and UCI (at least in international cycling community) for them to do otherwise.

UCI president Pat McQuaid and UCI did nothing today to fix the future of professional cycling. It was a good and necessary first step to ratify the sanctions placed on Armstrong by USADA, but there’s much more to do to ensure that something like this (and Festina in the 1990’s) does not happen again. Based on McQuaid’s statements on UCI’s conflicting roles (promotion and governance) and their continued acceptance of "donations" it would appear the UCI is unwilling to take or promote the necessary next steps.

Very disappointing to say the least.

UCI is complicit in the doping culture. UCI aided and abetted doping, in overt and covert ways. Wearing their “cycling promoter” hat they protected Armstrong because he was good for the sport and provided a revenue stream no one wanted to give up. If they had been wearing their “professional cycling governing” hat Armstrong’s cheating and deception would never have gone this far.

Some Armstrong fans say he won fairly because all of the riders doped (they did not, some of the ones that were vocal about not doping paid dearly for it) and that it was an even playing field. It was not an even playing field, far from it. Teams like US Postal, Discovery, Radio Shack-Nissan (and others) with the big bucks to pay for the likes of Michele Ferrari, pay for the doping products, pay for the system of doping, pay for the public relations and legal cover to keep the doping secret, etc. had a definite advantage.

Moreover, Armstrong did a lot worse than doping. His behavior strikes me as that of a criminal and bully. I was a huge fan of his, but can’t be now. I have zero respect for him. More importantly however, a larger more poisonous problem hangs over the future of professional cycling which I love and want to believe in if they get their act together – UCI. I’m so frustrated and disappointed with UCI. McQuaid stated today "UCI doesn’t see the need to separate governance of cycling and promotion of the sport." What a farce! You cannot promote and govern anything, UCI hasn’t and won’t. It’s a basic conflict of interest.

Until that changes nothing changes.

I know we all have a range of thoughts and feelings and mine are still in flux to some degree mainly regarding the future of the sport of professional cycling. Without a doubt I’m pissed and disappointed beyond measure. Not sure what I’ll do regarding professional cycling in the coming year, but to a large extent my involvement as a fan is dependent of what the governing bodies (namely UCI) do about the culture of doping.

Memorial Day Memory

28 May

mmm_beautifulride

 

Memorial Day weekend always brings to mind my re-introduction to bicycling.

Like most everyone else, I practically lived on a bike during my childhood and even teen years.  When I wasn’t on a bike I was on roller-skates.  Seriously, I walked very little before high school.

When I was in college, not owning a car, I biked to campus and work.  Biking actually wasn’t that prevalent when I was in college (the 70’s), not like it is today.

Once adulthood set in – parenthood and full-time work – I put away my bike.  For exercise I ran some, played a little tennis but rarely considered biking – and I’m not sure why.

Then one Memorial Day weekend my then 10 year old daughter said, “Mom, let’s ride bikes to my school”.  Her school was 7 miles away – and partly over dirt and gravel roads – but it sounded fun so I said “sure”!

I remember I packed for that first bike ride like I would pack now for an all day ride – snacks, lunch and water – and we set off.  I rode my old Sears Free Spirit bike, the same bike I had in college.  The old 10speed-drop-handlebar-skinny-tire bike that wasn’t really meant to be ridden on gravel, but we took our time and made it to the school. 

Like kids do, once we got there and had our lunch my daughter was ready to ride  home.  I, on the other hand, was not.  I stalled, like any mother worth her salt, until I was rested and fairly confident I could make it back.

Although I was only 35 years old at the time – as you’ll read later, I thought 35 was pretty old – the way people in their 20’s and 30’s do until they get to their mid-40’s and beyond.

I also wasn’t doing any kind of cardio exercise on a regular basis – plus, I’m ashamed to admit – I smoked – so those 7 miles and the thought of the 7 to get back – taxed me to say the least.

After a hour or so we got back on our bikes and headed home.  We both felt a sense of accomplishment and pride – after we were home – at how we had ridden our bikes 14 miles!

Unfortunately I didn’t get back to riding or any other form of regular exercise after that.  But lo and behold, the next Memorial Day weekend when I was even older – 36! – my daughter gets up and says excitedly, “It’s our annual ride our bikes to school day”! 

I had completely forgotten about the previous year’s trek, but of course she had not.  My response to her:  “I’m almost 37 years old – I’m too old to ride a bike that far!”

The rest as they say is history.

The first time I rode my bike on Free Wheel, the weeklong bike ride across Oklahoma, (in my early 40’s) – and all the other years I rode it – she reminded me of my “I’m too old” whine; the time I rode the MS 150 – 150 miles in 2 days – she reminded me – and each and every time she did, we had a good laugh!

And I learned that you’re never too old to begin again, and that in many ways I’m younger now than I was then.

The following September, for my birthday I got a Schwinn hybrid to ride around the neighborhood – and any future treks to schools or wherever with my daughter.

That bike is the bike that as an adult, I fell in love with cycling.  I couldn’t get enough of riding – and still can’t.

In many ways I owe it to my daughter Jessica, and that first “bike tour” to her school – thank you Jessica!  We’ve had many laughs over the years about my “I’m too old to ride almost 15 miles” statement!

Since that inaugural ride, I’ve logged thousands of miles on one bike or another – and every Memorial Day weekend I go for some sort of ride, or two or three.
And, I always think back on that first ride 20-something years ago this weekend and smile, and I still feel a sense of accomplishment and pride that I’m still at it and still love it. 

That’s my story. What’s yours; what got you (back) on the bike?

*Image is not the property of All For the Love of Bikes, but is shared here. Creator of image is unknown..

**Edited 5/26/2013

Improvements in OK Bike Law

6 Apr

3 feet lawIn the fall of 2007 I seriously contemplated giving up bicycling on the roads in my community. It wasn’t the first time I had considered giving up riding on the road; I considered it in 1995 when I was hit by a car, and considered it nearly every other time I had a near-miss.

That particular time in 2007 was after a week where I had experienced several close calls.

Giving up riding on the road would be giving up a lot for me (a major understatement), but I was frustrated, angry and scared.

I remember well sitting in the living room talking to my husband about my uncertainties of continuing to ride on the road.  That discussion led me action (as discussions often do) and to the Internet to see what Oklahoma laws said about bicycling.

To my surprise and relief I learned Oklahoma had passed a law in 2006 requiring drivers to give each and every cyclist 3 feet of space when overtaking them.

Three feet!  I had times I wasn’t getting one foot, much less 3, I was overjoyed but also bewildered at how something like this could have become law and I didn’t know about it.  I’ve been biking consistently since 1990 and had become somewhat of an advocate after my accident in 1995 and yet I had never heard of it.

The drivers I had encountered recently obviously didn’t know about it!  My commitment to cycling on the road was renewed – now we had the law on our side!

The first thing I did was to write a letter to the Edmond City Manager attaching a copy of the State law and asking the following questions:

1. Is there a consequence to the motorist when they violate Subsection A and no injury or death occurs?
2. Has the City of Edmond issued any citations under this new statute?
3. What actions should I or other cyclists take if a motorist does not provide the three feet of distance when passing?

The following week I received a reply explaining that Edmond would need to adopt the law as a city ordinance for it to be enforced. Tim Tillman the chair of the Edmond Bicycle Committee(EBC) at that time, contacted me and invited me to their next meeting which was in December 2007.   EBC, made up of local cyclists and other interested persons in making Edmond safer to bicycle, welcomed my involvement and we quickly put together a draft ordinance essentially adopting the language of the State law.

On January 28th, 2008, the Edmond City Council voted and passed the ordinance (Ordinance 3123).

So in just over 2 months from the time of my original letter to the City, we had an ordinance on the books to provide for improving cyclist safety in Edmond, OK.  I didn’t expect it and to be honest, I was amazed at how easy it was.

And the EBC didn’t stop there. 

Just this past month Edmond strengthened the bicycle ordinance, the changes go into effect April 27, 2011.  It amends the “3-feet” rule to allow for citations to be issued regardless of whether or not there is an accident – a significant and important change (state law specifies there must be an accident causing serious physical injury).  This change in my opinion is due in large part to the deaths of two cyclists who were tragically hit and killed last summer in the Oklahoma City/Edmond area. 

The new ordinance also allows for bicycles to be ridden on sidewalks outside of the Edmond downtown area (an important issue for parents of young children); specifies a bicycle “shall be considered a vehicle when traveling on the roadway’”; removes requirements for bells, sirens or whistles (too bad about the siren, but I’m keeping my bell) on bicycles and the license and registration requirements for bicycles. 

The first ordinance introduced in January 2008 and this new and improved version will go a long way to ensuring a cyclist’s rights (and responsibilities) are more apparent and understood.  Moreover, it will lend credibility to a cyclist’s right to be on the road and in turn (and in time) make it more acceptable to drivers.

Becoming an accepted and most important, expected presence on the road, is key to making Edmond a truly bike-able community.

Yes, we still have a long way to go, but trust me – things are much better now for cyclists than they were when I first started riding in 1990.  Laws are being amended and created at the state level too in an effort to improve cycling in our state, and although some efforts failed at least we have an understanding among policymakers that changes are sorely needed. 

As was done with this new ordinance building on the previous one, it is important to continue to advocate and work for improvements – and to build on this latest achievement.

A big thank you goes to the Edmond Bicycle Committee for their efforts in getting the new ordinance adopted.

Lance Armstrong

16 Feb

Edit: 10-16-12 – Times and events change and so do we, at least I hope we do. I need to update this post, and will soon, because my views about Lance Armstrong have changed dramatically and I need to explain.

Please read my latest post, “Armstrong’s Doomsday“.

Lance  Armstrong announced today he is retiring again.  Retirement 2.0. is no doubt his final retirement from professional bike racing.

LA Olympic cardI have followed the career of Armstrong since the early days – before his Tour de France racing.  The picture here is from his 1992 Olympic card which I have.  He competed in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and turned pro shortly after.

I’ve been a fan of the Tour de France since the mid-1990’s.  I was hopeful when Armstrong competed in the Tour in 1996 and disappointed when he had to quit.  Like everyone I was shocked when he announced he had cancer.

And like everyone else I was shocked again when he beat cancer and then against all odds, beat the best bike riders in the world to take his first of seven Tour de France wins.

Armstrong was without equal on the bike then, both in his physical ability and his preparation.  He was phenomenal and I loved watching him race.

I love bike racing and the simple fact is that Armstrong racing in the Tour de France meant Americans began to care about bike racing.  And that meant we got coverage of the greatest bike race in the world – in my mind the greatest sporting event in the world.

Amazing amounts of coverage.  I could actually watch the race – every day – whereas when I first started following the Tour I read about it when I could and watched the occasional 5 or 10 minutes of coverage it got on television on Sunday afternoon.

We have Armstrong to thank for that too.  I watch more television in the month of July than I watch the rest of the year combined.  And when I’m not watching the Tour in July I can still watch the 1999 – 2005 Tours on DVD.

I’ll miss the attention he brought to cycling – and the respect.  Armstrong riding a bike changed things for all bike riders in the U.S.  I personally saw attitudes change toward me on the bike – especially during the peak of Armstrong’s Tour performances.

It was like all of a sudden motorists thought it was sort of okay that I was on the road.  At least they didn’t look at me as if I was from another planet.  Well most of the time anyway.  The spandex still threw them.

But what Armstrong did for cycling here was huge – beyond measure – and I will forever be thankful for that.

What he has done for cancer awareness and for people coping with cancer is also beyond measure.

When his book, “It’s Not About the Bike” came out I bought it even though it wasn’t about the bike – and most of my wanting to read it was about the bike – I still enjoyed it.  I loaned it to several people when they learned they had cancer.

In 2001 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and one of the first things I did was re-read that book.  And it wasn’t about the bike that time.  My doctor recommended I go to Denver for further tests (which ultimately showed no breast cancer) and my husband and I decided to drive.  I read it throughout the drive out.  It gave me hope.  Armstrong has done that for millions affected by cancer – and for the most part that’s the group that fiercely defends him – and I understand why.

We may never know whether or not he doped during any or all of his Tour de France wins. Like many, I believe he did. That was the climate then, it is not the climate now – largely because of the international obsession with whether or not Armstrong doped and the tests and anti-doping  protocols put into place because of it.

Absolutely my preference is that Armstrong raced clean, my preference is that all cyclists race clean.

My preference is that all football – baseball – basketball – soccer – track and field (I don’t care about hockey) athletes compete clean too.

If we expect one group to compete clean, shouldn’t we expect it of all?

If Armstrong is proven to have doped during his career I will be very disappointed like every other fan of cycling.

Regardless of how you see it and whether you believe he raced clean or not, we should be able to agree that what Armstrong has done both on and off the bike is nothing short of extraordinary.

(edited 7/5/12)

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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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