For many local media outlets, the highlight of last night's Amgen Tour of California press conference was Sunday Times sports writer Paul Kimmage when he pointedly asked Lance Armstrong why he admires cyclists who, in Kimmage's opinion, are proven, unrepentant dopers. Armstrong, visibly angry about Paul Kimmage's infamous "the cancer is back speech" last September, gave his "you don't deserve the seat you sit in" response.
Beyond the negative article that Armstrong mentioned in his answer to Kimmage, there's a long history about cycling, doping, and Paul Kimmage.
Paul Kimmage and his brothers followed their dad -- Ireland's 1962 road cycling champ -- into racing. In 1990, Kimmage published the book Rough Ride, an autobiographical tell-all book about the world of professional cycling that included claims of widespread drug use within the peloton. His book was among the first to reveal doping among professional cyclists. He was condemned in the cycling world for breaking their code of silence and having "spat in the soup." His countrymen vilified Kimmage for slurring Irish cycling heroes Stephen Roche and Seán Kelly.
Kimmage has expressed admiration to cyclists like David Millar who owned up to his doping and has apparently cleaned up his act. To cyclists like Floyd Landis, though, he has nothing but scorn. Kimmage is also critical of his fellow sports journalists who "are frightened to ask the searching questions." Many cyclists -- including Armstrong -- refuse interview requests from Kimmage specifically because of his probing questions about drug use.
I haven't read Rough Ride yet, but I'll put this on my to-read book. If you've read it let me know what you thought of it.
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Like LeMond, Kimmage might be in need of a little tact, but he's asking the right questions. As PK mentioned, "cancer" is a commonly used and accepted metaphor for a poison that is infecting an institution or system (like pro cycling). Maybe not the best choice of metaphors to use with Armstrong, but it's easy to see what was really meant by it. (Reminds me of the McCain camp's response to the "lipstick on a pig" comment.) While it's a shame that the mainstream media attention was primarily on a negative issue, who's fault is it really? I'm still waiting for a big name current pro to stand up and take a strong anti-doping stance beyond participating in his team's internal anti-doping program. Where is the indignation from within the peloton that some are still cheating and harming the sport?
# posted by TheTruthWillSetUFree : 2/13/2009 01:22:00 PM
Armstrong seems to define himself by his cancer fight, so you're right that the cancer metaphor was probably poorly chosen. But then maybe Kimmage did that on purpose to get a rise out of him?
Paul Kimmage is not a journalist with class and I will never read a book that was written with obvious frustration by someone who enjoys making others feel bad. There are proper ways to practice decent journalism. He doesn't know them yet. Lance Armstrong is not only a great cyclist but a great human being who deserves respect and admiration.
I have read Rough Ride and Kimmage's articles. Firstly, Kimmage has no respect for David Miller at all.
Secondly, kimmage loved cycling and effictivley had his love/dream ruined by a bunch of cheats in the 80's who were doping all around him. you can't blame the man for being disgusted with the likes of Landis, Ullrich, Basso, Pantani, Riis...need I go on?
Unfortunately, statistics have showed, with those above and as we all know with most, that in cycling you almost have to be pressumed guilty, and it's people like Armstrong who are at fault for not condemming cheats and dodgy doctors and protecting the peloton, when they should speak out. Why refuse to talk to Kimmage and David Walsh, when they have been proven correct over the years? Why surround yourself with yes men? Armstrong doesn't help himself or the sport of cycling
Kimmage has made a name for himself by bad-mouthing cyclists and constantly rising the specter of drug use by these athletes. This is the same routine as the french press uses as well. Fan the fires of doubt and increase readership and fame. Papers sell on controversy. Meanwhile, cyclists HAVE to play hardball to keep their name from being smeared. Every one who has made such drug use claims always makes money and/or fame from those claims. The facts are that if Armstrong had failed a drug test, he would be kicked-out. But he has not failed a test and he is tested many times.
This whole thing has much in common with big-foot stories or UFOs. There are those that believe even though there is no real proof of either. Yet that doesn't stop people like Kimmage from speaking as though every one knows better. Well, I don't believe in big-foot, UFOs, or Lance Armstrong's drug use during his past cycling career. I'll gladly change my view if proof arises, but until that time, I'm not going to assume these things exist just because the Kimmages of the world keep saying they do.
Of course, Armstrong is to cycling like Tiger Woods is to golf. Both are quality competitors and they bring in the fans. Organizers and sponsors love them for this reason. The result is, of course, is fatigue for those who follow the sport, but that is the fault of the press. LA and Tiger have NO control on that issue.
In summary, Kimmage is chicken little, rising his own image while simply repeating the same baseless claims while LA continues to bring great exposure to cycling to the average fan. Kimmage, do us all a favor and either do some investigative journalism to prove your claims or shut up.
Doping goes back way before steroids or EPO. Fausto Coppi did amphetamines, as did Mercx, and of course Tom Simpson. Before that strychnine, nitroglycerine and opiates. To claim that doping is a recent phenomena, that it has "ruined" cycling, and that it is a product of the 1990's is farcically naive. That doesn't mean testing, or investigating, should stop. But it's pointless to act surprised or disappointed.
Sports, and society in general, reward success and turn a blind eye to the paths taken to that same success. With enough money or pride on the line, people will push the limit - in anything. From a weekly group ride to Wall Street there are some who will test the envelope, others who will run roughshod until they are stopped. There needs to be someone to push back. That system, within cycling, has been weak in the past. It is getting stronger.
But using a phrase like "foks, the cancer is back" when describing Lance Armstrong, or any other cancer survivor, is deliberately and extremely provocative. It is very similar to the trolls and griefers who inhabit the internet. Perhaps Lance should have "manned up" and granted an interview with Paul. Perhaps he should ask him to step outside. I'm of mixed mind myself.
I read the book and I have to admit I liked it, I think it's a quite honest biography from someone who really had the illusion that cycling was clean during the 80's and 90's. I am also an admirer of Lance and I think he is reasonable clean (I know from my own racing experience that there is a grey area, which 99.9% of the pro's use to the max - this for certain includes Lance). However, recent cases - with DeLuca and Rebellin being the most visible - show that the 'cancer' still hasn't disappeared (and probably never will). As long as they let cyclists ride for 20 days for over 5 hours a day (mind you, even during rest days they will sit for a couple of hours on their bike) and use >5000 kcal per day - and pay big bucks, there will be cheaters. I think that cycling has become cleaner then in Kimmage's days, but I think it has also become more clever in finding the limits of what can be used within acceptable limits. Let's appreciate both Kimmages as Armstrongs views - I like them both.
"Kimmage has been proven correct over the last number of years. Cycling is riddled with drugs - how could anybody argue against him???"
Paul Kimmage has proven NOTHING at all! He's just a jealous-bitter-frustrated human being who has nothing better to do than to bother other people's lives. On the opposite, nobody has proven that Lance has EVER cheated.
Cycling is riddled with drugs???!!! hahahahahaha...are you Paul Kimmage? Only Kimmage and other frustrated cyclists say ridiculous statements like that.
Cycling is the most beautiful/strongest sport in the whole world!