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Followups: Interviews

Posted by bikezilla on November 6, 2011


I get scattered comments, tweets and emails about the interviews I have up on Bikezilla and Cyclismas, usually in regards to my relationship with or feelings about the subjects of those interviews.

So I figured I’d address the most common, here.

— You must really dislike James Stout.

Since we just had a short exchange on Twitter, this one came to mind first.

Dislike James? That’s not at all true.

There were things that happened during the run up to and after our interview that I took personally, perhaps in error, that irked me. THAT is true.

But, on the whole, I think James is a fantastic person. This opinion is bolstered by the fact that people who have had random contact with James have made a point to mention how he’s had a positive and sometimes life changing impact on them.

Another thing that greatly increases my opinion of James is that while he does a lot of volunteering of his time in an effort to educate diabetics in poor neighborhoods, you NEVER hear him boasting about doing this or that, and you NEVER hear him complain about how hard it is or how much time he spends doing it.

I personally believe that when you do a good deed, that it should remain between you and the person you’ve helped. I admire James greatly for this trait.

As far as I’m aware, there is no bad blood between us. I’m not saying we’re bestest best buds, but we’re not enemies.

— Why were you so mean to Chris Smith from Lazer Sports?

Mean? Hmmmmmm.

I believe, and maybe I’m wrong, that Chris understood going in, that he was, in part, a sacrificial lamb on behalf of the industry. That was not the entire point of the interview, not even close, and I did try to get some input from POC to ease the burden on Chris.

There are issues, or perceived issues, with the bicycle helmet industry that I wanted to address. Chris was gracious enough to step onto the pyre of his own free will to help me out.

I sincerely apologize if it seems (especially to Chris) that I unfairly bashed him or Lazer. I believe Chris is a guy with very high integrity and that Lazer is doing more than most companies to combat known shortcomings in the legal testing standards for bicycle helmets. He’s a good guy and they’re a good company.

To the best of my knowledge everything is cool between Chris and me.

Chris, I’m sorry if you felt ambushed or disrespected. That was never my intent or desire.

— Do you really think JV is good for professional cycling? Or were you just kissing his ass because he gave you a good interview?

Well, when you put it like that, it kind of makes it hard to answer without seeming like I’m just sucking up to JV, doesn’t it? I also think it’s interesting that this comes up repeatedly, because I know that immediately after the final article in our interview series went up, JV did not feel that I’d been especially kind to him.

But, yes, I really do believe that Jonathan Vaughters is good for professional cycling. That is not to say I think he’s a saint or that he’s 100% honest and transparent, or that he never puts self-interest ahead of the sport’s best interest.

As I’ve said several times, JV is the model for the phrase, “a pirate and a good man”.

JV inspires VERY intense emotional responses. There are people who hate his guts and think that because he refuses to openly admit that he was a dope sucking weasel when he rode professionally, that he cannot and should not be trusted. Ever.

I can only say that based on the total body of his public statements, and based on personal conversations I’ve had with him, on and off the record, that I trust him to lead professional cycling and that I think he does so with a reasonable amount of integrity and honesty.

— Do you really believe that Bill Strickland is not bought and paid for by Lance Armstrong?

Bill is very much like Greg LeMond in one respect: When he sees that someone has done something shitty, he’s very inclined to view that as a good person who happened to do a bad thing, rather than as a bad thing that was done because the person behind the act was also bad.

I won’t rehash the entire Postscript of our interview, here. But, yes, I 100% believe that Bill Strickland is a man and a journalist of very high integrity and that he is not bought and paid for by Lance Armstrong. That is NOT the belief I had going in to our conversation, but it is my belief now.

— After you interview these guys, are you like buddies or something?

Um, no. Not at all.

I have only rare contact with any of the people I’ve interviewed.

James and I have very little contact, all  of it via Twitter.

Chris and I spoke very briefly about the Afterword and his response, and like I said, as far as I know we’re cool.

JV is just way too busy for casual, “Hey, how ya been?” kind of emails and I would feel disrespectful even sending that kind of thing. We’ve had a couple very brief exchanges via Twitter.

Bill has been great. I’ve contacted him a couple of times, seeking his professional advice and opinion. He’s responded in a polite, friendly, professional manner, telling me his thoughts without at all saying, “This is what you should do.” But, again, I never write him just to find out what’s up. I’d feel like I was being intrusive and disrespectful.

Non-of these guys writes me just to check in.

I like and respect every one of them, but I’m not friends with any of them.

It’d be cool to meet all of them. I think I’d like a couple of them a lot on a personal level. But, no, I’m not buddies with any of them.

However, two of the interviews I still love the most are tiny deals that hardly anyone even notices.

Those were my interviews with Rebecca Rusch and Joe Lawwill. about clipless pedals.

No one had even heard of Bikezilla when I did those interviews. In fact during the offseason over that time period I had contacted Cadel Evans for a short interview of a similar nature. His agent politely told me no thanks there was enough of that kind of article out there. But, Rebecca and Joe were both great.

They were both big deals in MTB and I was this schmoe blog writer. They had no reason to say “yes” and they were paid nothing. Yet, they still took the time to talk to me. It was and still is incredibly cool to me.

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Pirates and Good Men

Posted by bikezilla on May 11, 2011


There’s something I’ve noticed over the past few months that I find interesting and perplexing.

Fans of professional cycling are so sick of and sickened by the stream of dopers and doping enablers that they spend a lot of time looking for and hoping to find, the “good people”.

But the string of disappointments has been so long, and so compounded by the complicity of teams, managers and UCI, that it has left most of us so jaded that we exclude anyone with the slightest smudge against them.

We’ve stopped looking for “the good people of cycling” and focused on finding the perfect people.

We’ve set a standard that can only lead us to disappointment.

I’m going to regurgitate what I still find to be one of the most profound movie lines ever, from the first “Pirate of the Caribbean”.

“Now as long as you’re just hanging there, pay attention. The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can’t. But pirate is in your blood, boy, so you’ll have to square with that some day. And me, for example, I can let you drown, but I can’t bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy? So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not?”

We’ve forgotten that all of us have our own battling “pirate and a good man” and that the heroes we seek are going to have some portion of both, as well.

For instance:

Jonathan Vaughters.

On one hand his career as a professional cyclist was tainted by an association with doping, and he’s at least twice hinted at his personal use of PEDs. On top of that he’s never come out and named names, dates, times, places, so he seems to be protecting dopers and perpetuating professional cycling’s doping culture.

And, oh yeah, he’s not above bullshitting us when it suits his needs.

On the other he does more to promote professional cycling, to unite teams, to gain some measure of equality for them in their own governance, to restructure anti-doping controls so that they’re fair and meaningful, to promote a culture of anti-doping, than any other player in the game, and he does most of it for no remuneration at all.

But instead of balancing that and damning him where he deserves to be damned and applauding him where he deserves applause, we bitch slap his azz every chance we get.

There is not a shortage of reasons to question and berate JV, but we tend to see him as all “pirate” and totally lacking in “good man”.

In doing so we deny ourselves the very thing we’re looking for, the identification of a guy who is overall a pretty decent human being in addition to being good for professional cycling more often than not.

Or what about Paul Kimmage?

True, his passion is so often untempered that he goes overboard in his pursuit of witches. But why is he really so distained? Because he dared to question Lance Armstrong, because he saw the truth and had the guts to say so out loud, and because we were so busy worshiping Lance that we allowed him to vilify Kimmage in our minds.

And it turns out that Kimmage was right all along, yet he’s still tainted by Lance’s damnation of him.

Then there’s Greg LeMond.

Again we have a guy who saw something wrong and who had the courage to tell us about it openly, though he had nothing to gain from it and quite a bit to lose. Again we have a guy damned and tainted by Lance Armstrong’s malice against him,and we don’t seem to give a damn that AGAIN we have guy who was RIGHT.

Or how about Bill Strickland.

I can completely understand the view many hold that he wasn’t honest with us about his knowledge of Lance Arstrong’s career long love of PEDs, especially for those who disagree with my conclusion that he didn’t lie to us, but instead was misguidedly trustful.

But just like with Vaughters, Strickland isn’t damned where he deserves damning and praised where he deserves praise. Just like Vaughters he’s taken to be entirely “pirate” with no “good man” in him at all.

He isn’t seen as wrong, or stupid, or misguided, but as evil, lying and conniving.

Our standard is not merely one of goodness, but of perfection. We’re desperate to find the good men of professional cycling, but we constantly cheat ourselves because we refuse to see beyond the pirate inside of them.

No one deserves a free pass, especially no one in a position of power and influence. But we shouldn’t allow our judgments and prejudices to keep from us that thing we constantly strive to find.

The question has been asked, “How do you / we decide who’s really evil and who’s just a good guy with some unpleasant shit?”.

Well, it’s hard to set absolutes, but here are some basic guidelines.

They like meringue, or if you prefer, meringue. Right, that disgusting stuff made of egg whites and sugar.

They do not love Oreos.

They like brussel sprouts, lima beans, boiled onions, liver, biscuits.

They are my ex wife.

They do not love Dr Pepper.

They think their pie crust is as good as or better than my Nan’s.

They have names like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, Pat McQuaid, Hein Verbruggen and Patti.

They . . . never mind, too much information and this all just gets too hard to follow. But you get the basic idea.

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A Conversation With Bill Strickland:Postscript

Posted by bikezilla on May 6, 2011


Part 1, Emma O’Reilly’s Anger at Bill Strickland, Part 2, Part 3, Bill Strickland’s NPR Interview, Part 4, Part 5, Postscript

This is Part Final; The article about the articles.

But more than that, what came before this was my conversation with and interview of Bill Strickland. That ended with Part 5: The Damning Question.

This is my conversation with you, my readers.

Before I began talking to Bill Strickland I’d had a couple disappointing experiences with interviewing cycling professionals or cycling celebrities.

Jonathan Vaughters, owner of Slipstream Sports and Garmin Cervelo invited me to interview him, then blew me off (and going on 2.5 months he’s still blowing me off).

Then I was invited to interview Greg LeMond, but my interview happened to reach him just as he was preparing to take a long trip out of the country, along with his wife, Kathy, to celebrate their 30th anniversary.

That one, of course, is entirely understandable. But, damn, talk about frustration.

It was starting to feel like the Universe had set in motion this evil plot against me, where no one I contacted ever got back to me. The maintenance crew here at my apartment complex got in on it, the Realtor I wanted to talk to got in on it. Even the loan guy I tried to contact got in on it.

Then this opportunity came up and I was thinking, “Ok, great, another hotshot blowing smoke up my ass.”

I fully expected to, again, be blown off.

It’s not paranoia if they’re really trying to get me, right?

— Bill Stickland’s access to Lance Armstrong has brought him a lot of success. It’s also the originating point for a lot of the grief he endures. Because, it looks like he’s betrayed the truth and forgotten his obligations as a journalist on behalf of that access.

One thing that helped me sympathize with Bill, though it didn’t sway my opinion, is the idea of access vs no access and how when you don’t have it, it’s no big deal, but when you do have it, it quickly comes to matter.

Being close to someone big can soften your view, or your willingness to present or pursue the topic aggressively.

I have those two big (that is, big for me) interviews going (though it’s been an excruciating lesson in patience). The one with JV and the one with Greg LeMond that I’ve already mentioned. Then this interview / extended chat with Bill.

You come to like and respect them more, partially for the access, partially because you’ve gotten to see and understand more of them.

In the (planned) interview with Jonathan Vaughters there are things that I specifically wanted to ask him about, things that were the entire point of wanting to do the interview (which is about doping and his history in and around it). But once the opportunity was there . . . “Damn, if I ask this, will he tell me to get fucked?”.

I was surprised that I found myself in a debate with myself over whether or not I should be so bold regarding what I knew were very sensitive but also critically important issues. Should I ask what I really needed to ask?

Again, with the LeMond interview. Once I was able to send the questions I wanted to ask, that I thought and still think need to be asked, I wasn’t sure that I should.

In both cases I had read and researched and found out certain things that required questions. But once I had the access to ask those questions I had to push myself at times not to be softer where things were potentially contentious, ugly or unpleasant. It’s hard to be fair to both the subject and the topic.

You’ll have to be the judge as to weather or not I’m successful at that.

It’s a lot different writing about real people when you’re actually exchanging words and thoughts with them, than when you’re simply analyzing this and that about them independent of their input (as I frequently do in writing Bikezilla).

It’s easier to be courageous and “in your face” when you have nothing to lose, nothing at stake.

I first emailed Bill about our interview the Friday before Easter. I didn’t expect so much as an acknowledgement until at very least the following Monday.

But Bill got back to me that night. Not his secretary. Not his assistant. Not his media rep. Him.

He thought he would even be able to get started on our interview by Saturday. When he couldn’t he wrote me to let me know that he got tied up with other obligations, and that he’d reply to my thoughts within a couple days.

I was shocked. I was impressed. And expecting “a couple days” to drag out to a couple weeks, or even a couple months.

But he was true to his word.

That set of circumstances went a long way toward building my impression that I could trust him, and toward leaving my mind open to the possibility that he wasn’t lying about what he knew about Lance Armstrong and when he knew it.

I wasn’t even close to belief, but I felt I had reason to leave that door open.

I was even more impressed because my writing about him, and my initial conversation with him on Twitter were antagonistic, even belligerent.

He as easily could have told me to piss off. Or just ignored me entirely.

His level of courtesy, consideration, professionalism and respect by themselves reduced the level of irritation and distrust I felt toward him.

He never spoke to me as if I was just some pissant blogger (which I am) and he was an important magazine editor (which he is). Just the opposite. It was almost as if I was the important writer and I was doing him a favor by writing about him. He was that polite, considerate, respectful and available. Seriously. No exaggeration.

It was the antithesis of my experience with Jonathan Vaughters.

Bill never knew and never asked what my intent was with this interview, nor with any individual part of it. He didn’t ask or know where the narrative was going or how it would get there. He had no information until each part went up. Just like you.

Early on, Bill let me know that certain things he told me would be off the record. Some of those things were sensitive, but most of them were because he doesn’t feel that it’s right for a writer to debate his writing with his readers. It’s a quirk of his, and one I had to work with or around.

That made the writing interesting and difficult at times.

At some point during almost every part of the interview series I ended up pushing those “off limits” boundaries.

There were times when I simply leaned hard against that invisible line. There were others where I not-to-stealthily tip-toed across it.

Only once, when I knew that the ground I wanted to tread was especially sensitive and forbidden, did I write him to discuss what I wanted to do.

As a courtesy, and so he would not feel that I’d ambushed him, after publishing each part I always gave him a heads up about where I pushed things and how. But except for that once, I didn’t ask ahead of time. He never wrote and said that he wanted to see something prior to it going up. He never chastised or berated me for my choices and decisions.

That one time when I did write to discuss using “off limits” material, he responded by expressing his reluctance, but still giving me more than what I’d requested.

In every instance Bill handled things graciously, even generously.

He’d told me from the beginning that he trusted me to be fair, and he never backed away from that.

— As I was putting the parts of this series up I heard some great comments and had some interesting conversations about peoples’ thoughts on Bill.

I finally came to the realization that no matter how I objective I am, or no matter how lopsided I might instead choose to be, that people feel so strongly about Bill, about his failure to admit or realize that Lance Armstrong is a doper, or their view that he betrayed Lance, that I won’t be changing any minds in either direction.

I’m ok with that. I never wanted to tell you that you should or shouldn’t believe Bill. I wanted to give you the information. You can use and interpret it the way that best satisfies you.

But I did begin the interview series with a definite mindset: Bill was a liar and I wanted to “hear” him tell me the truth.

Really, that was the one driving force and regardless of my opinion at any specific point in the interview that never changed. I wanted one unequivocal answer. No hedging.

But, I wrote most of the series with mixed feelings. On one hand, I got my unhedged, unequivocal answer. On the other, I couldn’t use it. It was “off limits”.

You have no idea how many times I muttered “shitshitshitshitshit . . .” under my breath as I went over things with the knowledge that I couldn’t include that one all important piece of information.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Going in to the interview, I felt like Bill thought of me, and of readers in general, as fools, suckers, like he could play us and we wouldn’t notice it because we were too stupid. I resented that. A lot.

Though it was difficult to understand, to “get my head around”, as I think I mention during the interview series, I did eventually come to accept that he honestly believed, or at least that he tried and wanted to believe, that Lance had raced clean.

He wasn’t trying to cheat us, he wasn’t lying to us, he really believed.

I presented some of what convinced me already, throughout the interview, and I won’t waste time going over it again, here.

A great big part of the rest, and maybe even more of an influence, was realizing that Bill STILL believes, really in his gut believes, some things that just make no sense to me.

He still believes that Lance rode clean during his first Tour, and that even Lance’s most critical detractors believe that, too.

I believe that Lance doped from as early as 13 and that THAT, in fact, was the cause of his cancer. I also believe that it’s almost impossible for a thinking person to see it differently.

Yet, Bill does.

He also believes that Lance rode Comeback 2.0 clean.

I think Lance just knew how to beat the system and did so with microdoses of EPO and with undetectable autologous blood transfusions, and with some help form UCI (for instance, during the 2009 Tour de France, Astana was always tested last, UCI once delayed testers for 45 minutes when they were already with Astana, and Astana members frequently stalled testers). Again, it seems to me that no thinking person could possibly believe differently.

Yet again, Bill does.

— During the interview, one thing Bill never did was tell me that I was wrong. And he never said or implied that I was stupid, nor that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

He always acknowledged that my views were every bit as valid as readers who believed him, readers with opposite views, and his own.

In short, he was never defensive and he never gave me reason to be defensive or feel like I needed to guard or protect my views and opinions. That made it easier to honestly evaluate and consider his views and opinions.

— When I found myself believing him, it caused me a problem.

I began this interview with a certain intent and in a certain frame of mind. What’s more, the majority of my readers were already attuned to my way of thinking and my way of presenting things.

It would not make sense, nor would it be credible, if I were to write this series from the standpoint of belief. It just wouldn’t work.

But, accepting that he didn’t lie didn’t change that I don’t “get” how he can still believe some things. And, even in my previous angry state I had resolved to write as objectively as possible, to try to present not only my side of the debate, but Bill’s.

I wanted to do both in a way that was respectful of my subject, but that still honored the topic and that didn’t force any view or opinion down readers’ throats. I want to allow them (you) to make their own decisions and choose to believe what they would.

I decided to present the interview in an approximation of my own journey from angry and accusing to perplexed understanding and reluctant belief.

I didn’t come to accept that Bill was misguided but truthful and that Bill didn’t lie to us about what he knew, all in a breath. I couldn’t go into the writing assuming that my readers would accept it any more readily than I did. Why should they, just on my word, especially when the last thing they knew was that I was not a fan of Bill’s version of journalistic integrity or ethics?

I had been incredulous (at very least) until very deep into my conversation with Bill. So that’s how I would go about revealing everything to my readers.

It wasn’t that hard. Because my feelings were already laid out in the questions and statements of the interview. I just had to be true to them.

— If there was one great difficulty with this interview, it was the conversation style and tone.

It would have been easier to edit a straight Q & A piece, with related sections all neatly clumped together and flowing one into the other.

But the way this interview was done I had to match things up and then shuffle them around so that they would make sense.

I’ve said that I wish I could share everything with you, so that you’d get to see and evaluate all the information that I had available to me. Purely as a matter of discovery that’s true.

But from a writing perspective that was a bad idea. There’s a lot of gabby junk in there, a lot of asides and rambling, from both of us, that would make a piece this long and involved drag on mercilessly (and some of you may think that it already has).

What made it in is a majority of the most readable stuff, the most interesting bits, the most accessible relevant thoughts.

It doesn’t have the full breadth and depth of the entire exchange, but it’s a lot easier to follow and understand than if I’d posted the uncut and unedited content of all our emails.

There will always be things that I wish I was able to include, or that I wish I could have shown you in a different way. But what came out is pretty close to what I’d hoped it might be.

And of course, I’m happy, because in the end I was able to not only have, but print the equivocal statement that drove me throughout the interview.

True, it wasn’t the identical statement that I was chasing when things began, but it explains the same thing; what Bill Strickland really believed about Lance Armstrong and Armstrong’s history of doping.

I accept it to be the truth.

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A Conversation With Bill Strickland: Part 5: The Damning Quote

Posted by bikezilla on May 5, 2011


Part 1, Emma O’Reilly’s Anger at Bill Strickland, Part 2, Part 3, Bill Strickland’s NPR Interview, Part 4, Part 5, Postscript

This is possibly the one quote that is most fervently believed to indicate that Bill Strickland had specific and unequivocal knowledge that Lance Armstrong doped, but that Bill buried that information to protect his connections and access to Armstrong, and to enrich himself and further his career.

It’s from “Tour de Lance” on page 10.

Bill Strickland:

“And I’d sat on some more serious revelations, things Bruyneel told me about the inner workings of the sport but also things I’d heard from team directors, riders, coaches, and other people who assumed that because I was close to Bruyneel I must have already known what they were talking about. I was surprised to find out that this information was even easier to keep to myself. I knew things to be true that I wished I’d never been told. I knew many more things that could never be proved true or false, and I wanted even more to never have been told those. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about such matters, and so it was that Bruyneel trusted me.”

His thoughts on that passage, from the Podium Cafe interview: (Again, I recommend that you read the full PC interview. It’s much more extensive than this conversation.)

“You know, it’s been interesting how many people have read that passage as a not-so-veiled reference that I have the keys to pro cycling’s secret palace of doping. I knew that some of the surmising about the secret stuff would focus on doping but how quickly and intensely the field of vision narrowed to wonder almost exclusively about doping surprised me – though I guess it shouldn’t have.

The contract I signed (to co-write “We Might as Well Win” — Bikezilla) includes a confidentiality agreement … I can tell you what Johan and I didn’t talk about, though. We never talked specifically about doping.

From time to time we had some exchanges about how the system worked, or how directors might deal with certain riders. Sometimes after a positive was announced, I would ask him if he thought other riders or other directors knew this guy or that guy had been doping, and he gave me what I considered authentic answers.

Most of the off-limits stuff he told me was, for instance, something that might embarrass someone who didn’t deserve it on such a wide scale, or maybe harm someone’s reputation for no really good reason, or be acceptable in one-on-one talk but if fixed in print would come across as gossipy or catty.

One example of the sort of thing he told me were some hilarious, crude initiation rites that established riders put rookies through on some of his old teams, and how certain riders reacted the opposite of what the fans would expect, whether it was the tough, stoic guys wigging out or the seemingly mild-mannered ones standing up.

Sometimes he might tell me about agreements on the road between teams or riders, and in some instances that was really dispiriting. We all know it happens, and I think it’s a fascinating part of the sport and integral in its way, but some of the exchanges I wish I hadn’t heard about. I enjoyed thinking of the races the way I’d seen them.”

What I grabbed onto from that was “Most of the off-limits stuff” and that he was specifically addressing only information that was given to him by Johan Bruyneel. This seemed to ignore that there was other information and that some of it came from sources other than Bruyneel.

What I saw was more hedging, more obfuscating.

This is a link to a defense of Strickland by “Shakes133 at Velociped Salon. Bill says the guys name is Chris and that he used to work for Bicycling magazine.

Shakes133 / Chris:

” . . . he never saw a single questionable thing. He had the inside stories, he was in the rooms after/before races, he was there weeks before on training rides. He was around for casual banter, heard hushed whispers. Imagine having unprecedented access to RadioShack (Astana — Bikezilla), with Contador and Lance for months, being there during the tour, and despite countless rumors in the media, never once seeing a shred of evidence?

No….Bill believed Lance was clean. No doubt in my mind. Exact same way Loren Mooney believed Floyd Landis was clean. He looked her in the eyes over a glass of whiskey and swore on his family.

And let’s face it, at one point we all thought the same thing.”

Bikezilla:

I interpret that as saying, “Yes, Bill heard things, private things, indicative things, things that none of us have ever heard and probably never will. But there was never any PHYSICAL evidence, and without physical evidence, he wasn’t going to judge Lance a doper.”

Is that an accurate interpretation? That you heard things, from Lance, from Johan, from others, that indicated that LA doped, or may have doped, but that you would not make that judgement without physical evidence?

If so, it’s something that I can understand in one sense, but that goes against all logic in another sense. Right there is where the “willful” or “feigned” ignorance would come in, especially if any of those stories came from LA, Johan or their inner circle.

I mean, ok, if you’re Lance’s friend, that’s pretty much the ultimate friend thing to do, believing in your friend beyond reason, until his wrong-doing is literally in your face.

Bill the Friend of Lance can get a pass on that. But Bill the Journalist?

It’s tough to get my head around that enough to accept it.

Bill Strickland:

“I am not friends with Lance. He’d laugh if I ever described myself that way.

He knows me. I know him.”

And:

“I understand that you think this kind of clarity is something that needs to be, or at least ought to be, said. But from years of being in this muck, I can tell you that public explanations of my methods or of my experiences doing the book almost never change the mind of anyone set in their beliefs about me, Armstrong, doping, whatever. I no longer expect it to.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s nothing to be gained from saying this, and I wouldn’t offer it on my own, but you keep asking — like a good dogged journablogger — so, here it is.

From all of the riders, staff and people otherwise associated with or remotely involved with the team at the time I followed them, without fail I never did hear one snippet that Lance had doped. I never saw one shady thing involving him. When I (or someone else who happened to be there as I observed) would even come close to broaching the subject, it was refuted in a way that it wasn’t when the topic of some other riders came up. I heard some awful stories, poisonous stuff about [OTHER RIDERS — Bikezilla].

But whenever the subject edged toward Lance, all I got was admiration for his physical ability and willpower, and adamant disavowal that he doped. Either they knew and lied to me, or themselves didn’t know. Either way, it tells me just how closed that final, inner circle would have to have been.

So it wasn’t that I heard suspicious things from the main characters themselves but dismissed them until I could get physical evidence; it was that I felt a personal obligation to be absolutely certain, without even one percent of doubt, whether that would come from physical evidence, a confession, a legal judgment, separate corroborated accounts, or whatever that something is that finally tells you a thing you really don’t want to believe.

For those who are reading this who have ever been cheated on in an ongoing way, it’s sort of like that: you’re suspicious, you convince yourself you’re crazy, you deliberately go along not knowing, then you might really not know for a bit, then even though you know you still want that thing, so you go mad and you look for the phone call in the log, or try to piece together the faded distintegrated note you found in the washing machine, or you hide in the shrubs across the street from someone’s house.

Betsy Andreu compared it to finally admitting you know Santa Claus isn’t real, which I thought was a good parallel in a lot of ways. I was going to use that in my story at one point. But my daughter still believes — this is about her last year, I bet — and I didn’t know if she’d read the story or not.”

That’s about as plain it’ll ever get.

For many readers even that will not be enough. For some the only thing that will ring true, the only statement that will be accepted from Strickland is something along the lines of: “Ok, yeah, I got it. I figured it out. I knew what was what. But I sold it all a different way, because that’s what was in my best interest at the time.”

Because it’s so damned hard, in fact for some it’s even impossible, to understand how we can reach a conclusion with our limited information, yet Bill can honestly reach a different conclusion with greater information.

The statement above, that he never “heard one snippet that Lance doped” and “never saw one shady thing involving him” is as much as there is right now. It’s likely as much as there will ever be.

It’s left up to us, the readers, fans and haters, to accept or reject, to believe Bill or to continue thinking he’s a liar.

If you’ve read his philosophy on the nature of the writer / reader relationship, you know that he’s genuinely ok with whatever conclusion we come to.

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Anonymous Sources Tell Me:

Posted by bikezilla on May 4, 2011


— “Pat McQuaid left Osama bin Laden’s digs just minutes before the raid.”

Huh. We almost had a twofer.

— “Jonathan Vaughters’ “Shave the Burns” fund is actually being used to bribe Hein Verbruggen to help with the ‘race radio thing'”.

— “When Pat McQuaid heard about the “Shave the Burns” fundraiser he instantly called Hein Verbruggen. Together they planned to have Hein contact JV, suggest that for, omg, $12,000, Hein might be persuaded to “work a little magic” on AIGCP’s behalf.

But all along Pat and Hein were planning to split the cash and have Hein tell JV, ‘Sorry, I really tried, but it just didn’t work out.'”

Shit. We’ll never get those damned sideburns shaved off, now.

— You wonder why Bill Strickland couldn’t bother to dress it up a little for his big video about Bicycling magazine’s makeover?

“That IS Bill “dressing it up”“.

— “Pat McQuaid keeps Lance Armstrong’s cancerous testicle in his mouth in a jar of alcohol beside his bed.”

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A Conversation With Bill Strickland: Part 4: Conflict

Posted by bikezilla on May 3, 2011


Part 1, Emma O’Reilly’s Anger at Bill Strickland, Part 2, Part 3, Bill Strickland’s NPR Interview, Part 4, Part 5, Postscript

After Bill gave me permission to email him and he provided the addy, I sent him a long “train of thought” letter, outlining my (and some of your) gripes with his Lance Armstrong coverage, opinions, beliefs, ethics and integrity.

Our exchange really was more like a conversation between two people who are passionate about the same subject, than a Q & A session.

This is a portion of his first response, and it outlines my email to him.

Bill Strickland:

“Here is a simplified collation of your critical opinion of me and my work about Armstrong. (I recognize that also in your critique are some complimentary opinions.

1. “The vast majority of fans” don’t resent my support of Armstrong but my “willing ignorance/naivety.”

2. When it comes to that ignorance, “ ’Feigned’ is a better word than ‘willing.’ ”

3. The average cycling fan figured out that Armstrong likely doped, so, given my closeness to the subject, I “in fact knew beyond any doubt long ago.”

4. So I am not, as I said in that Bicycling story in the May issue, not so much “finally realizing or understanding it, as finally admitting it publicly.”

5. I could not have believed that he didn’t dope, “but it was profitable on several levels to behave, or at least speak,” as if I did.

6. It’s impossible for you (a reader) to believe that I was “incapable of seeing and accepting the fact” that he doped.

7. This lack of acceptance is an “intentional insult to the intelligence of [my] readers.”

8. You (and I suppose that “vast majority of fans”) also resent me for my “presentation of fantasy as fact.”

9. You (the fans you speak for) believe this fantasy was delivered not “out of hopefulness and misplaced trust, but as a deliberate and self-serving ruse.”

10. I “never tried to distinguish the good from the bad,” and I “pushed a single bill of fare and told us that everything on it was equally wonderful.”

11. “Despite the fact that there was plenty of material to balance, you presented an entirely lopsided view.”

12. This time, speaking not just for the vast majority of fans, but, in fact, ALL of them, you tell me that “There isn’t anyone who doesn’t understand that LA was your cash cow, your meal ticket. To go against him was to lose your access. To lose your access is to lose prestige, wealth and power.”

13. One of the things you resent is that I believe you [the readers] “to be empty-headed cattle, stupid, unthinking beasts.”

14. You’re even angrier at me “because rather than say, ‘Yeah, I took the offered silver. On some level I always knew it was wrong. But it was what I felt like I needed to do at the time. I don’t regret it. It’s done now and I’m moving on from it,’ [instead I] keep playing us [readers] for fools.”

15. Readers who think the opposite of what you do — that I have wrongfully accused him of doping, or that I am too hard on him — actually share “the same sentiment,” which is “that something odd has happened and that it hasn’t been explained honestly and unambiguously.”

16. What readers want is a “full, honest, unambiguous disclosure. Not spin. Not taking a statement or a question and flipping it with a ‘yeah but.’ Just open, unvarnished truth.”

I think that’s a deep, passionate response to my writing, but I don’t see the sense of trying to argue you out of your opinions of me, many of which are founded on ideas that don’t exist in my writing. And, given that you think I’m a liar, I don’t see how anything I say to you could be taken as legitimate information, or in the way I intend it. (I am using “you” specifically in these examples but more so as a stand-in for readers here. Please don’t read this as an anti-Tom tirade.). You discard words or ideals in my writing that don’t agree with the point of view you’re committed to. I’m not criticizing you; I’m just pointing out that that’s how you’re reading my stories. And, remember, I think that’s perfectly within your privileges as a reader — you can do whatever you want with the story.”

In fairness, he does mention plainly, both in “Tour de Lance” and in “Endgame” that he doubted through the years, to various degrees, that Lance was clean. He mentions the “mountain of circumstantial evidence”. He gives us a survey of the podium at each of Armstrong’s Tour wins, and shows us how most of those who shared it with him either admitted doping, were suspended for doping, were convicted of it in court, or paid a fine to have doping charges settled. Also that two others were linked to doping investigations then cleared or never charged and just one, Fernando Escartin, had no direct connection with doping.

I (and me speaking uninvitedly for “we”) of course noticed Bill’s multiple admissions of his lack of objectivity and his fandom and support of Lance. Those admissions could be taken as “full disclosure” and a nod to journalistic integrity and ethics.

Instead, I / we take them as evidence to support my / our conclusion.

It’s like he’s waving them (his admissions) in our faces to taunt us. “Ahhhhh, yes, I knew! I knew all along that Lance was a dope sucking cheat! But I will be damned if I admit such to the scabby likes of you!”.

The fact remains that my opinion that Bill lied to us, that he is in fact a liar, makes it tough to present an objective view.

And there is where I want to turn things outward, toward readers (including me).

Let’s look at a few uncomfortable (for me in my assuredness of my own right conclusion) “what ifs”.

Having already asked Lance once, face to face, if he had doped, and being given a solid, “no” as an answer:

What if Bill failed to pursue the truth with further questions because it seemed like a fruitless endeavor? Maybe because, knowing Lance, he knew that future answers would be an assaultive spin against the charges? What if, having acknowledged that he is a Lance Fanboy, his wall of denial didn’t (and in some cases still doesn’t) allow him to believe what to many of us is a glaring set of truths?

Having already acknowledged that his form of journalism (story telling) and his strength is not investigative journalism, and that he lacks the skills to be a true investigative journalist, what if:

He didn’t see the point in investing time and energy in an endeavor that he isn’t suited to?

What if he’s pretty good at note-taking, at hanging around and noticing details and capturing them, and then putting that stuff into nice sounding sentences and paragraphs, and at structuring a story. But he also never wanted or intended to be an investigative reporter?

What if he was put into the position of writing about Lance simply because of proximity and his history with Johan Bruyneel and he honestly did his best with it?

What if true investigative journalism, poring over documents, endless discussions with the guys in legal to find out what he can and can’t source, are a dreary, boring waste of time to him? What if he’s driven instead to be out and experiencing something that would allow him to write a great story regarding that experience? What if he doesn’t have the patience, or the type of patience, to do true investigative journalism?

What if, although I require a plain-spoken, unambiguous answer, he can’t give it to me because it is, or at least he honestly perceives it to be, a messy and thoroughly ambiguous situation?

Those “what ifs” don’t come easy to me. But I have to be open to them. I’m not sure I can be, but I’m trying to be.

After reading our full exchange (which I wish I could share in its entirety with all of you) I was finally able to say, “Mmmmmmmmm . . . well . . .maybe. Maybe it was unreasoning hopefulness, rather than an intentional deceit.”, but really, it’s something that’s hard to make fit. It’s hard to feel the rightness of it, hard to wrap my head around it.

Bill is an intelligent man. Extremely intelligent. He didn’t get where he is and stay there for so long because he’ll believe any pretty story, no matter how inspirational that story may be.

He thinks critically, and he has to. If he didn’t he’d quickly develop a reputation as a chump and not long after that he’d be relegated to writing race reports and straight news stories that don’t require him to do much beyond gathering basic facts. He’d never have had the opportunity to reach his current lofty perch.

That makes it even more difficult to get my head around his “willing ignorance” or “willing hope”.

Bill eventually labels himself as having been an agnostic rather than a believer, not sure what to accept or which way to go.

I can believe his frustration in hearing stories from men who lack the guts and integrity to allow those stories to go on the record. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling my own frustration in HIS unwillingness to prove his claims by exposing them.

At the same time I understand my own hypocrisy in at once accusing Strickland of a lack of journalistic ethics and integrity, and also damning him for maintaining both in order to abide by the wishes of his sources.

Here’s one more thought from Bill:

Bill Strickland:

“I think, further, that because I was unsure of my judgment throughout the years, because I went back and forth in my belief, and because I admit to both liking him and thinking he doped, I might be speaking mostly to and for a large group of fans in the middle who are themselves trying to make sense of it all — who are torn, like I was, between their hope and their acceptance of what happened.

“Or maybe not.”

Now let’s take the “outward turning” one more step.

It’s plain that regardless of my (or your) view regarding Strickland’s relationship with Lance Armstrong, that there are a large number of people with an opposite view. It’s also plain that those people are just as passionate, indignant and angry as I am, and that they also feel betrayed by Bill Strickland.

Those facts keep throwing one thought against the “big screen” of my mind:

If Bill is equally offending, irritating and angering two groups of people who occupy opposite poles of the same argument, is that evidence that he has struck a balance in his writing, and maybe in his evaluation of the truth, that is actually far more fair than the considerable majority of us are willing or able to admit?

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Bill Strickland’s NPR Interview

Posted by bikezilla on May 1, 2011


Part 1, Emma O’Reilly’s Anger at Bill Strickland, Part 2, Part 3, Bill Strickland’s NPR Interview, Part 4, Part 5, Postscript

I’m not using this in the “Conversation” that some of you are following, here. But I thought you might like a chance to listen to it.

Here’s the radio interview with Bill Strickland on NPR from 12 April ’11 . It’s been edited down to just the Strickland chat, but includes a link to the full piece.

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A Conversation With Bill Strickland: Part 3: Cycling Journalism & Cycling Journalists

Posted by bikezilla on May 1, 2011


Part 1, Emma O’Reilly’s Anger at Bill Strickland, Part 2, Part 3, Bill Strickland’s NPR Interview, Part 4, Part 5, Postscript

— On cycling journalism, and about asking and getting answers to difficult questions:

From our conversation:

Bikezilla:

Cycling journalism in general seems to shy away from confrontation with sources and subjects. Possibly the single most frustrating thing I see every day is an obvious question or follow up that’s completely ignored.

For instance with Jonathan Vaughters regarding the Matt White / Trent Lowe situation.

Even in places that Vaughters’ answers seemed shady, or when his version of the details changed, it was simply let go, ignored.

Why don’t cycling’s real journalists ask and dig and probe and search in places and at times when it seems obvious that they should?

Paul Kimmage remarked about how professional cyclists themselves were beginning to open up after LA’s 2005 retirement.

Which means that if the big boys won’t talk, that there are other routes that can be taken to get the same information.

I’ve wondered if you were the guy who lead the others to and down that path. Are they hesitant to risk losing access or sources because they’ve followed your lead? “This is how BS does it. This works for him. He’s at the head of us all. So this is the way we need to do it.”?

Cycling seems to have fans who are more aware of the sport’s politics and periphery than most other sports, so they’re less blind to sugarcoated, soft-pedaled or dumbed-down journalism.

You have a more in tune readership and they require more and better. But they aren’t getting more, they aren’t getting better. They’re getting half-hearted, phoned-in, soft-shoe (sorry, but I’m really loving the hyphens right now) journalism. And it pisses them off.

If there’s a change needed in writer relationships, it isn’t the relationship with fans that needs modifying. It’s the relationship with sources and subjects.

Bill Strickland:

“I think you might be attributing a widespread journalism practice unfairly to cycling writers. It is not just in our sport, but throughout many topics that the subject has learned to control the message.

Celebrity interviews used to be penetrating, and some of the greatest journalism we have. Witness “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” or “Naked Lunchbox.”

Today, the celebrity won’t grant an interview to the magazine unless the topic is approved, a publicist is allowed to come along or at least guide the piece, and, sometimes, if approval over photo use is granted or a cover guaranteed. Some magazines have done wonderful things within these restrictions — Esquire is among the most inventive in how they write within these new requirements. Politicians control the message — press conferences, statements, videos, rehearsed interviews rather than grilling sessions.”

“I had an extended bit about journalists in that Podium interview. I don’t think cycling is doing too bad, really.

“We’re a tiny sport but, if you compare us to the dedicated journalists for, say, football or baseball or track and field, I would say that Walsh or Ballestier or Kimmage equal or at least exceed the investigating/crusading writers you’d find there. We don’t have as many lyrical guys as running does (not track and field, but running), which I find odd, since we spend so much time practicing our sport. Maybe it’s that running is more lonely?”

“In general, our beat writers are what you’d expect from a small sport (or any small subject matter). It’s always the outside investigative writers who come in and blow something wide open, once it gets big enough — reporters who are trained or have a natural affinity for that kind of work.”

“I don’t think you’re quite right about journalists being loathe to ask the tough questions — not the experienced ones, anyway. It certainly is like that when you start, but as you work year after year asking awkward uncomfortable questions, you just get used to it.”

“I think showing up a press conference and asking the question is pointless in terms of substance but useful in terms of theater. You might get a nice scene to write up, but you’re not going to get to the bottom of something like doping at a press conference. What it will finally take is a reporter or investigator who knows how to access an avalanche of public records, private accounts, book-keeping, discovery materials at trials, etc.”

“. . . the job isn’t the glamourous, confrontational interview — the journalistic equivalent of Tom Cruise breaking Jack Nicholson on the stand — “You’re goddamn right I ordered the Code Red!!” — but instead is about hours and hours and hours of poring through documents. Confrontation gets you Kimmage and Armstong trading barbs in California. Investigative journalism, phoning sources over and over for months or years, and plowing through every document you can find, that gets you the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times or Sports Illustrated breaking big news. There is a difference, and it might not play as well to the public, but it’s there. The big work is the quiet work that’s going on right now. Asking difficult questions doesn’t get you the authentic answers; uncovering the truth does.”

“I’m not the guy to do that. I don’t have that skill.”

From his Podium Cafe interview:

“Investigative journalism is not the same as cycling journalism – it’s one part of all the different types of reporting and writing that center on cycling, which itself exists not only as a sport but also as a lifestyle and a health/fitness discipline.

It seems to make sense that investigative cycling journalism does suffer from the compromises when writers and riders become close. But I’m not so sure that intimacy affects us so much as the reality that our sport is like many other niche subjects: we just don’t have that many high-level, investigative journalists native to our field.

. . . we certainly do have some investigative journalists who merit respect – the reporting team at L’Equipe . . . David Walsh. Whether you agree with those guys or not, you have to admit they’re doing serious, complex, openly sourced, long-term investigative work.

But the reality is that it’s rare for any highly talented, professional investigative reporter to work for a publication targeted on narrow subject matter . . .

For the most part, the journalists with the ideal skill set and the necessary experience are on bigger beats . . . or are specialists in the investigative process itself rather than a specific subject. Those reporters are materially different than, say, the feature writers, or the opinion piece writers, or the humorists or the play-by-play writers or whatever.

I think that if you’re unhappy that say, John Wilcockson didn’t write his Lance book the way David Walsh did, you’re starting with an incorrect premise. They’re different kinds of journalists, and they set out with different aims. I want to see what both of them have to say, what material each of them unearthed.

. . . I find it hard to say that cycling journalism as a whole is in a compromised state or suffering as an art form. We have some amazing storytellers and reporters. We don’t have the same level of investigative reporters, but I’m not convinced that lack occurs because David Millar is friendly to us.

Being a beat reporter, having to produce cogent copy within hours after race ends, filling a news hole every day – that is tough, grinding, unending work that doesn’t leave much time for an artsy-fartsy perspective. Those guys just have to hit the deadline. It’s so much a matter of survival that in the press room you see guys sharing quotes, helping each other fill in this date or that time, correcting a fact for someone from a rival publication.

I’ve had to do that kind of work, and I’m not great at it. I’m not good at, on the spot, being able to assemble a play-by-play account of a race . . .

I don’t think cycling journalism is very different from any other kind of subject-specific journalism. There are some of us who are better reporters than writers, and some who rely on their writing ability, fewer who put both skills together, and a good number who aren’t very good at either but know how to hit deadlines – never to be underestimated in this business – and thus find steady employment, and a bunch of in-and-outers who just aren’t suited for the whole thing.

I love the whole array of cycling bloggers, not just the ones I personally like to read but also just the fact of the existence of all the strident viewpoints and the peeks into the subcultures and strange-to-me ways of expressing an identity as a cyclist.”

I’m certain that he meant to say, “Especially Bikezilla”, there.

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A Conversation With Bill Strickland: Part 2: Writer / Reader Relationship

Posted by bikezilla on April 29, 2011


Part 1, Emma O’Reilly’s Anger at Bill Strickland, Part 2, Part 3, Bill Strickland’s NPR Interview, Part 4, Part 5, Postscript

Bill objects to making a defense of his writing and thinks that it is good and right that any reader should interpret his writing either in a manner that brings him praise or in a manner that damns him.

And of course, readers who feel either way tend to believe that most or all readers surely feel as they do.

Here’s are some of his thoughts from our conversation, discussing his philosophy regarding the writer / reader relationship.

Bill Strickland:

“I have come to found a big part of my understanding of writing on the belief that the compact between writer and reader is simple: The writer puts the words together, then shows it to the public, and from then on the story belongs to the reader, who individually and without obligation to the writer or to the writer’s intent (or the story’s intent), can think anything about it he wants, can perceive in it what he wants, can absorb or discard the parts of it he wants. To me, anything the reader comes up with is fair enough.

I mean, who’s to say that readers don’t finally know what a story is about better than the writer does? For me, at least, putting a story together is a mysterious and uncertain process, and readers — at least the ones who tell you what the story is about — seem to interpret with much more certainty than I create.

I’m interested in all the various opinions and ideas a story generates in readers (so keep those cards and letters coming, folks — Bikezilla). I like to hear them, and think about their substance, try to figure out what it is in the writing that led to that specific opinion.

I try to understand how, for instance, X in writing generates Y in a reader, and if X is somehow useful to me as a technique or if it was accidental and won’t work that way again. I try to figure out if an opinion was created because the reader reacted to Z or missed Z, and why some readers miss Z while others react to it so strongly that as soon as they read it they cannot fully absorb the rest of the paragraph.

This kind of input is extremely valuable to me from a technical point of view. It makes me better — or at least I use it to try to become a better writer.”

— Here’s an interview that Bill Strickland did with Podium Cafe.

Throughout the remainder of this series I’ll be presenting occasional quotes from that PC interview. But I need to make a confession, first.

That Podium Cafe interview if far more in depth than what I’m doing with this series. Though I quote it several times, some of them long, I’ve only taken the passages or portions of passages that mesh with the discussion that I had with Bill Strickland myself.

If you have serious favorable or unfavorable interest in Bill Strickland and his writing, you should read the full Podium Cafe piece.

I have not intentionally altered the intent or meaning of any quote, but I have not quoted completely.

All emphasis is mine.

On the sport of cycling:

Bill Strickland:

“Maybe I’m romanticizing the sport. I am horribly prone to that as well.”

That particular quote should be kept in mind as you read through later portions of this series.

On why his book with Johan Bruyneel, “We Might as Well Win” barely mentioned doping, and didn’t even touch on the topic of Michele Ferrari and Manolo Saiz.

Bill Strickland:

“Johan’s choice – it’s his book. I mean, that’s rich material for sure but not even close to the point of what he wanted to accomplish with the book.

He took some unfair hits for not addressing that, but the whole idea was to create a collection of the lessons he’d learned through racing and directing. If he’d set out to write a complete biography, or a reputed tell-all, and not even mentioned them, then I think the criticism would be warranted (and I don’t think I’d have stayed on to help him).

As a storyteller, looking at the structure, in that particular book those subjects were not omitted but simply didn’t fit.”

Is that an adequate explanation? Is it a believable explanation? Or is it merely a shield for both Bruyneel and Strickland?

On Lance Armstrong’s peronsality:

You can see from the Podium Cafe interview that there’s a lot more to the Bill Strickland story than just his relationship with Lance Armstrong. But Lance Armstrong and doping are the parts that really irk most cycling fans, whether they worship Lance or loathe him.

Bill has a perspective on this that you will either find to be reasonable and fair, or obstructionist and frustrating. In fact, you’re likely to see most of what I present here, entirely in one light or the other.

From the Podium Cafe interview:

“I’ve concluded that he derives nearly equal energy from the time that, say, his sixth-grade teacher teased him and the time L’Equipe accused him of doping.

It’s kind of binary for him: either you’re in his way or you’re not, you harmed him or you didn’t, you believe him or you don’t. He seems not to care much about the nuances, if the barrier in front of him is a single brick or a wall forty bricks high and forty bricks deep: he’s going through it if he can.

(I think of it as the kind of determination or drive that, existing in people with different sorts of skills and gifts, ends up giving us Steve Jobs, or maybe Winston Churchill, or Mother Teresa, or Bernie Madoff or Atilla the Hun.)”

From Tour de Lance, p. 230-231:

“He’s not a naturally funny person. Even his close friends say his humor tends to be corny and repetitive. He’s best described not as clever or smart but as cunning.

And for as moneyed and as cultured as he has become, he is still in essence, as I was told by a person who was employed by one of Armstrong’s sponsoring companies and worked closely on him with several projects, ‘the kind of guy who would be happy putting his car in a ditch every weekend.’ . . . He became exposed to the idea of appreciating art (and architecture) during his first trips to Europe in his pre-cancer era . . .today, he likes to reference artists in his Twitter posts . . . [and] the walls of his home have displayed Michael Gregory, Bettie Ward, Barry McGee, Tony Berlant . . . It’s an impressive collection, yet there’s a dissonantly competitive spirit to Armstrong’s pursuit of it all, as if when he understood that art was something sophisticated people should enjoy, he set out to be the best at enjoying it.

Someone who worked with him on an extended commercial project told me that ‘When Lance found out I was a visual person, he took me around his house to see his art collection, and we had to stand before each one and dutifully appreciate it. And we couldn’t move on until he felt he’d accomplished the appreciation.”

How should those descriptions be taken? As evidence that Strickland in fact has a sober view of what Armstrong is really like? They aren’t flattering, but they aren’t damning, either. Are they too little, too mild, to ho-hum in relation to Strickland’s long delayed admission or realization that Armstrong was (is?) a career doper?

—-

This series will be at least 5 parts long, maybe as long as 7.

Part 3 should be up in 2 – 3 days, again.

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Emma O’Reilly’s Anger at Bill Strickland

Posted by bikezilla on April 29, 2011


Part 1, Emma O’Reilly’s Anger at Bill Strickland, Part 2, Part 3, Bill Strickland’s NPR Interview, Part 4, Part 5, Postscript

The short:

Emma O’Reilly was a soigneur for Lance Armstrong in 1999 when he received a prescription for an ointment to relieve saddle sores. That prescription contained corticosteroid, which Armstrong failed a doping test for.

O’Reilly has stated that that prescription was back-dated and only received AFTER the doping pos.

The long:

In Bill Strickland’s “Lance Armstrong’s Endgame” article, Joe Lindsey contributed the line, “At this point it’s Armstrong’s word against O’Reilly’s. Unless other witnesses corroborate her story, Armstrong wins this one.”

She was angry and responded on Bicycling magazine’s website.

I understand Ms O’Reilly’s anger and frustration. But I think she may have misinterpreted the intent of that line.

I don’t think that Lindsey, or Bill Strickland, were making a judgement that O’Reilly’s word was inherently less valuable than Lance Armstrong’s.

Here is what I think was intended by that line, and how I interpreted it when I first read the story:

The burden of proof generally lies with the accuser, at least to a legal standard. And there’s good reason for that. It helps prevent sending the innocent to prison.

So Armstrong “wins” vs Lindsey not because his word is inherently more valuable than hers, but because she is the accuser and so it is left to her to prove her case vs Armstrong.

So unless someone else finally has the guts to step forward on this specific issue, O’Reilly is left dangling. She is an island, with no companion to help her weather the storm beating against her shores.

However, that IS the legal standard, not the social or commonsense standard. And on those levels there is a growing mass of cycling fans and interested outsiders who are thankful for the stand that O’Reilly took and who appreciate her courage in the face of Armstrong’s malice and cruelty.

On those levels people can and do look at the mass of evidence, real, circumstantial and anecdotal, which includes O’Reilly’s testimony regarding that prescription, and the balance shifts clearly and strongly in O’Reilly’s favor.

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