Bikezilla

Ride the Puddles

Posts Tagged ‘Lance Armstrong’

Team Type 1 and the Electric Kool-Aid Litmus Test

Posted by bikezilla on August 10, 2011


Part 1, Part 2, Parts 3 & 4, Postscript, Team Type 1: Opinion

Team Type 1 and the Electric Kool-Aid Litmus Test

an editorial follow-up to my 4-part interview with James Stout

You might think that speaking to James Stout for our interview formed my opinion of Phil Southerland and Team Type 1 management. You’d be incorrect

When I first heard about James, my immediate opinion was, “Disgruntled former employee,” “prima donna,” “crybaby.”

To quote myself:

James is at once, mature and immature; humble and arrogant; naive and wise; grounded and flaky; stoic and a drama queen; tough and a sniveling bitch.”

What James is not, however, is a bitter former employee out to badmouth his ex-boss.

I gave James opportunity after opportunity to talk shit about Phil Southerland and Team Type 1. Not once did he take advantage of that, not even off the record.

When he discussed Phil and the team he seemed frustrated, sad, flabbergasted, regretful, but not angry.

Contrary to what I had expected, James felt and continues to feel a significant debt of gratitude toward Phil and TT1.

In fact, the one and only time that James ever seemed angry, was when he discussed the doctor who mockingly told him to “play chess.”

Almost as soon as I began my research on James Stout, I came across the account of Willem Van den Eynde, whose abuse at the hands of Southerland and Team Type 1 instantly one-upped the Stout story.

To summarize the situation, according to Van den Eynde himself, Willem was denied food and sleep, forced to sleep on the floor of Southerland’s hotel room, screamed at by Southerland for daring to momentarily place his bag on the bed in that room, berated by management for daring to train on his bike, given a diet that neither conformed to his diabetic needs nor to his needs as an athlete (putting him at risk of a hypo), was denied testing supplies by Phil Southerland though they were readily at hand (apparently Southerland laughed at him after the denial of testing supplies), was forced to pay all of his own expenses and never reimbursed.

Then I learned that WHILE James was going through his ordeal there were three other riders (at a minimum) who acknowledged they were going through similar hassles and harassments.

Every one of those other three riders is so intimidated and outright terrified of what Phil Southerland might do to them that they all refuse to discuss their time with Team Type 1.

The topper, however, the detail that pushed things over the edge in my formation of an opinion regarding Phil Southerland and Team Type 1, was hearing the rumors of an insurance fraud investigation that is ongoing in Italy.

The spread of dishonesty and corruption had become too much to overlook, or even to doubt, at least in my own mind.

From those few details that I’ve just shared came another handful of thoughts and opinions:

  • If we know that just during Stout’s time with TT1 there were at least four riders all in similar circumstances, and we know that prior to that time there was at least one other, how can we not assume that there are many, many more such cases?
  • Looking at the bulk of just the known cases; three of the five are so frightened of Southerland that they’ve gone into hiding and cannot bring themselves to speak of their time on TT1. Willem Van den Eynde spoke up very briefly, but has since vanished and gone silent.
  • It seems that Southerland and top management at Team Type 1 are a kind of wolf pack, identifying the weak sheep, culling them from the herd and savaging them without mercy. The difference here, in my opinion, is that unlike wolves, Southerland and his crew seem to inflict their torments purely for sport.
  • Worse, Southerland and his top managers choose young athletes who lack the life experience to even properly recognize what’s being done to them until it is far too late.

The only thing that set James apart from the other victims (those we know of and those we don’t), is that after a series of personal struggles, which saw him very nearly caving in to the same fear and intimidation that has muzzled all the others, he found just enough spine to step up and tell his story.

The interview that I did with James almost didn’t happen. Even after it was completed and written, James wanted it pulled and he see-sawed between hiding it from the world and daring to allow it to see the light of day.

Why? One can only presume that it is out of fear of Phil Southerland.

The day after Part 1 of our interview went up on Cyclismas for the first time (it was taken down for several days due to James’ concerns, then republished), Phil Southerland called James and screamed at him on the phone for 45 minutes.

If you’ve read Part 1, then you know that part of the interview is completely innocuous. There’s not one thing in there that could possibly be taken as negative regarding Phil Southerland or Team Type 1. They’re barely even mentioned.

Considering that Part 1 was completely inoffensive, then Phil could only have been in a panic about what he thought would be coming in future installments of the interview. Since nothing negative was even hinted at in Part 1, Phil must have knowledge of things that he 100% knows that he does not want released to the general public.

Phil Southerland had avoided any personal contact with James for months while James was struggling to learn what was going on and why, while James was losing his apartment, living in his car, unsure of where he would find his next meal, suffering without proper access to diabetes testing supplies and insulin. I’ve concluded that the moment Phil thought that James had found the courage to speak up in his own defense, Phil was instantly in contact in a most personal and threatening manner. To me, that speaks volumes for the character, ethics and morality of Phil Southerland.

Here are a few more details.

Immediately after Part 2 of my interview with James Stout went up, there was this comment posted to the Cyclismas site by an “AJohnson”:

How anybody could take this interview serious is beyond me. This kid has the reputation of a liar and a talentless cyclist. Plus, it sounds as if the interviewer is just trying to start a bunch of rumors about one of the few teams that is actually trying to do something good in cycling.”

First, the assessment that James is a “talentless cyclist” is something you may think is hinted at in our interview, where James tells us that he was at first on the elite team, and then on the developmental team. Except that if he were truly talentless, he would have simply been released. No team keeps on riders that cannot help the team, and no team should have to justify getting rid of a rider like that. That’s just a part of sports; if you aren’t good enough, you go home.

If James had been struggling in his performances, this is the kind of thing that would generally be known by someone who raced against James, but even more so by his coaches and teammates. But no such sentiments have been found online to back it up and no evidence nor even accusations of James presumed lack of talent were given as reasons for his release. To toss that out publicly now seems not only disingenuous, but slanderous.

Second, in my researching James, I did not come across a single reference about any lack of truthfulness or integrity in him. Not one. Even afterward a Google search for “James Stout liar” brings nothing. Nothing.

Instead, what I’ve been sent since the interview started going up has been 100% in praise of James and his character, that he’s pleasant, trusted, that the information he’s shared about diabetes has allowed individuals help themselves and to help others.

Aside from the mysterious and utterly unsupported “AJohnson” comment, not so much as a single comment, tweet or email has even hinted at James Stout lacking integrity or honesty. Not. Even. One.

The statements in the “AJohnson” comment are the types of statements that are made by disgruntled employers trying to cover their asses.

So I speculated that “AJohnson” was actually Phil Southerland himself, or else someone very close to Phil.

I discussed this with William Thacker, the publisher of Cyclismas, who checked the IP address. This is what he told me he found:

“The comment came from an ISP in Georgia, just outside Atlanta.”

The IP address has been saved, just so we can back that claim up.

Where is Team Type 1 headquartered? Atlanta, Georgia.

The day after “AJohnson” left his comment, Chris Baldwin started asking people I know about how to reach Cyclismas. He was given the editor’s email address, but has yet to contact her.

Chris Baldwin, according to the team’s website, is TT1’s PR Director for Europe. Right, he’s not a manager, he’s a PR guy, a spin doctor. That says to me that the team wants to spin the James Stout “problem” and that they feel that the interview contains things that embarrass them.

Then I have to think, “This Southerland guy seems far too much like Lance Armstrong, in all the most negative ways.”

  • As with Lance, everyone who speaks out against him is a liar, bitter and jealous because they have no talent.
  • As with Lance, sure he’s done a few questionable things, but you should just ignore all that because he’s really an unappreciated Man of the People, doing such good that any evil is negligible.

Phil seems to be setting himself up as a messiah figure, the savior of all those with type 1 diabetes. Much like Lance Armstrong has set himself up as the messiah figure to all those with cancer. Much like, in 1978, Jim Jones had set himself up as messiah to his followers in The People’s Temple, leading them to the tragedy in Guyana, and giving us the original reference of “drink the koolaid.”

I ask you now, can it be concluded that much like Lance Armstrong, Phil Southerland is a bully, a sociopath and a coward?

It is my fond hope that other abused riders will take courage from James Stout, and come forward to tell their stories, too.

————–

You can also find this and future interviews, plus a lot more cycling related content, at Cyclismas.

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Chris Carmichael, the Ignored Lance Armstrong Connection

Posted by bikezilla on May 25, 2011


This linked article was written for Flammecast and is one of the first meaningful articles pointing to trainer Chris Carmichael as one of the most significant antagonists in the Lance Armstrong saga.

It think that many Armstrong detractors have long held Carmichael in contempt, feeling on a gut level that he was one more cog in the Armstrong Miasma Machine. But where to start in our examination?

Flammecast shows us exactly where: With the athletes that Carmichael “allegedly” doped without their knowledge, and with guys like Greg Strock who sued coaches Carmichael and Rene Wenzel, along with trainer Angus Fraser for the equivalent of athletic date rape.

Carmichael settled out of court and had the result sealed. To me the fact that Carmichael made a payoff and that he desperately does not want the details revealed, resounds as a powerful admission of guilt.

Carmichael’s connections to guys like Michele Ferrari and Eddie Borysewicz (aka Eddy B) serve to cement the belief in his guilt.

Here’s the other article that Flammecast pointed us toward, the 60 Minutes II piece from July 11, 2001.

Another athletic date rape victim mentioned in the 60 Minutes II article, is Erich Kaiter. Just to point out that Strock wasn’t a lone victim and that this is a pattern of behavior.

The “alleged” rape of athletic charges was a gang undertaking, with coaches Carmichael, Wenzel and trainer Angus Fraser all “allegedly” taking turns violating their riders. All three were part of the lawsuit filed not only by Strock and Kaiter, but also Gerrik Latta and David Francis. More evidence that this is not just a single incident, but an ongoing pattern of behavior.

Like Strock, Kaiter also settled out of court. Another brick in the wall of Carmichael’s “alleged” guilt.

Notice how USA Cycling, which Jim Ochowicz presided over, is once again in the doping limelight. Though Ochowicz didn’t take over until 2002 (through 2006). What was his role with the organization prior to 2002?

Kendra Wenzel is a partner, along with Renee, in Wenzel Coaching. According to Wikipedia, Kendra Wenzel is now a board member of USA Cycling.

NOTE: Adam Myerson says:” Kendra Wenzel should get left out of that. She came after, and then divorced Rene. Kept his name and the biz, but not him.”

Ernie Lachuga (Ernie Lettuce?) was a rider on the same team as Lance Armstrong, Strock and Kaiter. He was stricken with the identical form of cancer as Lance Armstrong.

Here’s a long conversation about riders who’ve suffered health issues that they believe are directly related to doping during their careers.

Here’s an interview with Strock where he discusses his suit against Carmichael and Wenzel, though the terms of his settlement forbid him from mentioning Carmichael.

Here’s information on the suit, and Carmichael’s out of court settlement, rumored to have been $250,000.

I haven’t forgotten the sinister Thomas Weisel. I just don’t have any more time to write.

NOTE:

Sandy wrote in to say:

“I understand that the training team (Carmichael, et al) fed/injected the athletes “unknowingly” but even I at age 17 knew to ask my doctors what I was being given. Wouldn’t an athlete get at least a bit suspicious that his performance increased so dramatically from a vitamin shot/pill? I think the lawsuit happened because the athletes got sick and I can’t believe that they had no idea at all that they were being given something more than “vitameatavegimins” (I love lucy reference) during their whole time with Carmichael.”

Bikezilla:

You’re right, they should have asked more questions. but 1. they were minors, so lacked even the legal right to decide for themselves if they could or could not be given injections of anything by team coaches and trainers, and Carmichael “allegedly” failed to ask or inform their parents in any way 2. kids are taught not to question their coaches, to trust them (trust them as adults and as coaches), to let them lead and guide 3. Carmichael “allegedly” violated his position of trust and authority

How do you merge the notion of personal responsibility with those issues? There does need to be some personal responsibility, but how do you weight it and where does it fit vs Carmichael’s “alleged” actions?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

George Hincapie’s Confession

Posted by bikezilla on May 22, 2011


This week’s big news was hearing that George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong’s bestest best buddy, had ratted him out to the feds.

The first reaction from many people was, “George never fell under a cloud of suspicion!”

Really? Have you all been high for the past 12 years?

I get that George is well liked, that he works his ass off, that he’s always been selfless in his riding. I get that he’s admired by a lot of cycling fans.

But did any of you REALLY believe he was clean or that he wasn’t protecting Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, Hein Verbruggen, UCI and professional cycling’s mafioso culture of doping?

You believed in your heart of hearts that the entire U.S. Postal team was dirty . . . except Big George?

Are you daft?

The second reaction to Hincapie’s testimony before the Grand Jury was, “He’s doing the right thing.”

If by, “the right thing” you mean, “He’s avoiding going to prison on perjury charges.”, then, yes, he did the right thing.

But his betrayal of Lance Armstrong and his confession of his own use of PEDs had no element of altruism to it. He was just saving his own neck.

If it was left to George, he’d have gone to his grave protecting his own reputation and Lance Armstrong.

Hincapie has no problem at all with omerta, nor with continuing to protect cycling’s systemic but hidden culture of doping and those like Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong who would gleefully perpetuate its existence.

Hincapie will not lift one finger, waste one breath, excrete one drop of sweat in an effort to rid the sport of its doping vermin.

He just doesnt’ give a shit, and I get the sense that he actually feels disdain, even disgust toward those who do give a shit.

Hincapie is not cycling’s White Knight. He’s no one’s savior but his own.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Conversation With Bill Strickland: Part 1: The Beginning

Posted by bikezilla on April 27, 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

A few days ago I was a “follower” of Bill Strickland’s ( editor of Bicycling Magazine, author of “Tour de Lance”) on Twitter. Evening came and, poof, without personally having made any changes, I was no longer a follower.

So I made a snippy lil Tweet about being “blocked” by Bill Strickland, aka @TrusBS on Twitter.

Later that day Bill Tweeted back that no such thing had happened. He said that he not only did not block me, but that he had no idea who I was.

Ok, whatev. “Interesting”, I replied. “Was it “magic? Follow gremlins?”.

Blah, blah, blah.

God, this Lance Fanboy is such an ass!

Then Bill, right the “Lance Fanboy Ass”, took the time to discuss my concerns and my irritation with him and with his writing, specifically with his relationship and history with Lance Armstrong, with his role as Lance Fanboy Ass, with his lack of truthfulness about Armstrong’s doping and poor behavior, with his ambiguous answers to those accusations.

Remember that this first section of conversation occurred via Twitter, in 140 character blurbs. Most of that format / editing has been left intact.

On Twitter 22 April 2011:

Bill Strickland

“Read your site after clicking it off your profile…don’t see reason for special enmity. Lots don’t like me or my writing.”

Bikezilla

i never said you weren’t a good writer.

Bill Strickland

“The way I always think of it is: If you take the time to read, you deserve to have an opinion.

Well, whatever you don’t like —my reporting, ethics, or whatever: My job happens to occur in a public arena, so…

…it’d be dumb of me to expect the public to not comment (bad or good).”

Bikezilla

true dat, and negative interest is still interest

Your print version of the LA article is a great reference. But I don’t buy the Naivety Defense

Bill Strickland

“…not “he can’t have been that naive,” but, “if he’s was that naive, what were the factors in this story that led to it?”

And that, also, could be something that more interesting than damning for a reader…

Agree. I say in the story it very well might have been “willful.” It is a powerful thing to believe, more so to want to believe.

I think more people used to read/listen to understand. Now we, as a society, I think, do so more often to argue”

Bikezilla

I don’t see that as a factor in this particular debate. I think people resent being fed a fantasy as if it was fact.

Bill Strickland

“to consider rather than dismiss belief, will, hope—fantasy, etc.”

Bikezilla

but at very least you had suspicions for years. and you never addressed them, at least not in print. there was no balance

the only factor many of us see is that it was willful. Removing the blinders would have serious negative repercussions.

Bill Strickland

“Although, I wish more people (in general, not just w/doping) would read not to dispute but to try inhabit. So, for instance…”

Bikezilla

It also looks like “well, the LA gravy train has stopped, so now is the opportune moment to turn”

Bill Strickland

“…while to others it looks like I’m wrong & he’s clean, or that I’ve been influenced, or betrayed him…”

Before we could complete our conversation I had to leave. I’d been in McDonalds on my lunch break and had to return to work. But I came away from it feeling that he hadn’t so much answered anything as he had obfuscated.

As I drove from account to account around Chicago’s far north side, I realized that I had more to say and more questions than Twitter, with its 140 character limitation, could do justice to.

So I asked for permission to email Bill, and from that sprung the conversations that this series of articles will be based on.

One of the first thoughts that Bill shared with me was about the notion that he’s become rich due to his relationship with Lance:

“By the way, why do so many people think I’m rich? Don’t you guys out there know any other writers? Of all the ones I personally know, only one, *** ****, is wealthy. Someone tweeted once that I was a sellout; when I came home from work that night, my wife, Beth, asked me where I’d been hiding all the money.”

And later:

“And, I mean, hell, I DO have more money than I ever thought I would when I was a kid on food stamps. Maybe I am “wealthy.”

That IS a pretty common belief. Not necessarily that he’s wealthy, but that he’s done damned fine for himself based solely on his connections to and history with Lance Armstrong. I suppose it also depends on where you set the marker for “wealthy”.

Personally, I have to believe that’s true. It’s not reasonable nor believable to say that he did not profit from that relationship. But how much? To what extent?

With a little digging you can find out a few things about Bill’s success over time.

By age 35 Bill had 3 books in print. They were all non-Lance.

He held the top job at the world’s largest cycling magazine for about five months prior to Lance Armstrong’s first Tour de France victory.

The bulk of Bill’s non-fiction writing and most of his six books have not been about Lance Armstrong.

The book that gets the most critical acclaim is his memoir, Ten Points. It likely did the most for his career among New York book editors, too.

What about his upcoming projects?

“The next three books I’m considering with my agent aren’t about Lance or doping, and only one of them is about cycling.”

So what is Strickland’s career built on, where is it going, what does it rely on?

Is his writing ability the prime moving force? Or is it his relationship with and connection to a single professional cyclist, Lance Armstrong?

Is it possible for his stories to be viewed without the taint of Armstrong? Was he beholden to Lance? Is he still?

Is Bill simply a liar? Is all his future work already suspect?

— I’m not sure how many parts this will be in, or exactly what timeline I’ll use to put them up.

Part 2 should be coming in 2 – 3 days.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lance Armstrong Interviewed by Evan Smith on TribLive

Posted by bikezilla on April 21, 2011


Lance Armstrong recently went on the Texas Tribune’s “TribLive” with Evan Smith. Below is the You Tube video for the first portion of that interview.

Here is a semi-transcript of the full interview.

Here is a primer on body language.

touching nose, while speaking — hands / nose — lying or exaggeration — This is said to hide the reddening of the nose caused by increased blood flow. Can also indicate mild embellishment or fabrication. The children’s story about Pinocchio (the wooden puppet boy whose nose grew when he told lies) reflects long-standing associations between the nose and telling lies.

The first time Lance makes this gesture indicating his dishonesty is when he’s wondering about questions during a post-race press conference for a runner of the Boston Marathon (Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya set the new record of 2:03:02).

The post-race interview is a situation that Armstrong has been in many times. Was the indication of embellishment linked to memories of his own press conferences and questions about doping?

looking right and up eyes — visual imagining, fabrication, lying — Related to imagination and creative (right-side) parts of the brain, this upwards right eye-movement can be a warning sign of fabrication if a person is supposed to be recalling and stating facts.

Lance did this when being asked about the status and reality of the FDA investigation against him, specifically if there’d been a letter informing him that he is in fact the “target” of a federal investigation.

looking left down — eyes — self-talking, rationalizing — Thinking things through by self-talk – concerning an outward view, rather than the inward feelings view indicated by downward right looking.

Lance does this when he’s telling us that “I think we know who’s leaking.” And of course he’s accused Jeff Novitsky of leaking.

What exactly is he convincing himself of, here?

— A lot of people are saying that interview was full of “softball questions”, but I disagree. It didn’t even reach that level, because it was set up from start to finish.

Evan Smith makes Bill Strickland and John Wilcockson look like Lance bashers.

Here’s my bet on the “interview”: Smith fed Lance the topic list ahead of time, then Lance got back to him with a list of no-nos and must-haves and things like the “target letter” were discussed.

Lance pretty much got to dictate the interview.

Then Smith stroked Lance’s lone testicle with comments about the building with Lance’s name on it and “the “F” in FDA doesn’t mean France?”.

It wasn’t an interview at all. Smith went in with the intent of sympathizing with Lance Armstrong, having already decided what story he was going to tell, what answers he needed to sell his angle and how best to ingratiate himself to Armstrong.

Another “real journalist” terrified of Lance and willing to kick his grandmother in front of a speeding semi if it means making Lance happy. Smith plopped himself at Armstrong’s feet, wagging his tail and drooling, hoping that Armstrong would find him worthy of a pat on the head and maybe a scratch behind the ear.

You’d be wrong to call this a “fluff” piece. It was less than that. It was straight-up PR work, with no intention beyond that of portraying Lance Armstrong in the most positive light.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »