LanceGate is divisive, no question.

Our editor, Martin and I have similar views on many things in cycling – but not on this one.

Martin thinks that the boil must be lanced; (pun intended) get the puss out before the healing can begin.

My feeling is that what’s happening is the equivalent of dropping a nuclear depth charge into a huge cesspit – spectacular, very messy and with no real positive effect, unless you’re a tabloid editor or a ‘forum sitter.’

But maybe I’m wrong, maybe we need to get the tube down there into cycling’s stomach and pump it dry?

However, it’s hard not to think of that fabled box which Pandora was given in Greek Mythology – a beautiful container which she was not to open under any circumstance.

But spurred by the curiosity given to her by the gods, Pandora opened it, and all evil contained therein escaped and spread over the earth.

She hastened to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped, except for one thing that lay at the bottom, which was the Spirit of Hope.

But let’s ‘get real’ again.

Armstrong is the most divisive figure in sport.

The affair has drawn a lot of attention from readers; some are severely taking me to task about my comments.

It’s easy for us to press the ‘trash’ button on such comments; but in the interests of ‘transparency’ – I believe that’s one of the words of the moment – we’re going to respond point by point, one final time to one of our most vocal critics.

We commented on one of his emails to us in this piece but didn’t mention there was a follow-up email, here it is:

“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think you do great work. You clearly have a great love for the sport.

“I’m sorry if my comments seem too harsh.

“I just think you seem to have *1* little blind spot, no doubt because of that love, of sometimes being just a little more defensive of the riders than a journalist ought to be.”

I need to make a number of points here:

  • I am against doping.
  • I firmly believe – from talking to many riders, off the record, that at Pro Continental and Pro Tour level at least, it is much cleaner than it has ever been.
  • If I appear to be sympathetic towards modern riders, that’s because I used to race and because I’m now 57 and don’t view the world in black and white, as I used to.

Our reader continues;

“You didn’t publish my follow up comment, where I tried to make it clear that I enjoy this site.”

We’ve rectified that – but must stress we’re closing correspondence after this article.

“I enjoy Ed’s writing. I enjoy the photography. I think this is a great site, particularly in how it follows the lower levels of the sport and gives coverage to up-and-comers – sadly neglected by the “bigger” sites.

“This site clearly is run by people with genuine, deep, long-held love of the sport (much longer and deeper than mine – I’ve only recently paid any real attention to the sport side of cycling).

“If this site had a subscription or tip-jar, I might even contribute.

“However, I definitely get a sense that Ed is sceptical of doping claims in cycling, at least when it comes to the biggest stars, like Armstrong and Contador.”

I was there in Strasbourg on the 2006 Tour, eventually ‘won’ by Oscar Pereiro when Basso, Ulrich, Mancebo and the rest were all sent home for their involvement in Puerto.

It was a horrible experience for me, surreal.

Martin and I were there in Lourdes at the 2007 Tour when Rasmussen was kicked off the race whilst in yellow.

We were stunned, shocked and we seriously contemplated going home.

In 2008 I watched Stefan Schumacher from the back of one of the race motorbikes as the German battered himself to try and make a break ‘stick’ for 50 kilometres – then next day he won the time trial.

It was an insult to the fans and the race.

That year Martin and I looked at hamster-cheeked Bernard Kohl at the top of l’Alpe d’Huez and shook our heads.

Both men tested positive, as did Piepoli, Riccò and Fofonov.

In 2009 Astarloza ‘won’ a stage and Pellizotti ‘won’ king of the mountains – both were declassed.

If anyone has the right to be cynical, it’s us – ‘depressing’ does not describe what it’s like to be on the race when these scandals break.

You’re left feeling hollow and wondering how the hell you’ll be able to write some jolly little tome the next day.

But the tests are different and better, the mentality has changed and a generation of cheating bastards are slipping away.

Armstrong’s ‘chalkbot’ spread the message at the Tour de France.

I speak to laddies like Ian Boswell, Joe Dombrowski, and Andy Fenn – I admire them, I believe in them.

Call me a gullible old fool, but if I didn’t, I’d stop sitting here and writing pieces like this.

“I’m sorry, but your Argentinean beef comment was not a joke – you’ve stated it seriously in several articles before. Including earlier this year, when it had already been debunked at the CAS:

“You spent a lot of energy in that piece pushing the contaminated Argentinian meat theory. Even though the CAS report notes that the relevant meat at the butchers which Contador claimed his steak was purchased from was traced back to Castilla y Leon in Spain.”

I did not say it was a joke, I said I was poking fun at myself – still harping on about beef when he’s been banned and is actually back racing.

Much as I admire the man, if it was down to me, I’d have suspended him from the minute his ‘B’ sample tested positive – ‘contamination’ arguments or whatever.

He should not have been racing until the matter was resolved – but speedily.

The retrospective stripping of results from a rider who rides under appeal and is then found guilty is ludicrous – this is a view I have stated several times.

“The other piece you did on Armstrong was this one.

“A piece where you seem to be dismissing all the evidence against Lance, in a quest to ask ‘But where’s the real evidence?’

“I found that article lacking somewhat in objectivity, and I guess it’s made me quite sensitive to any hint of doping apologia.”

At that stage there was hearsay, there is now evidence, what was dismaying me was:

  • Armstrong’s ‘trial by forum and Twitter’ before the Usada report had been presented.
  • The ‘blame the journalists’ argument; forgetting that Armstrong had won big bucks cases against The Times and SCA, never mind a small Scottish website.
  • The relevance of the UCi’s presiding role in the mess was being lost in the urge to find a tree high enough to hang Armstrong from.
  • And now, the fact that whilst Michael Barry and Matt White have to fall on their swords; under the cover of the ‘LanceGate’ smoke, former US Postal and Gewiss-Ballan (the team which started the EPO arms race) riders quietly take up new roles as team officials with responsibility for young riders with not a word said.
Matt White is a really nice guy – but he cheated. Is it right that he doesn’t have an input in cleaning up the mess?

“As you wrote about Liggett, the man is allowed to have his thoughts and express them. I acknowledge you’re allowed to have the same.

“However, I am allowed to think that, on the topic of (at least certain big stars) doping, you have a tendency to be conflicted and side more with the rider than a journalist perhaps should.”

I like Contador, yes.

He races like a champion, enlivens races, is humble, acts like a ‘Big’ should act, and (grovelling apology to Andy Schleck apart) he thinks before he speaks.

But if he was indeed micro-dosing, then he deserved all he got.

That said, the way the affair was handled was a shambles; it dragged on and on – and the retrospective nullification of results is nonsense.

As I said above, if the ‘B’ sample tests positive, suspension should commence immediately.

Contador conducted himself in public so differently to Armstrong when they were teammates, but were they both on Bruyneel’s program?

“Your enthusiasm and love for the sport comes through strongly in your writing, and so I can see that it’s likely that it’s that which has caused you to be, in my opinion, slightly blinded to the darker side.

“Perhaps your deeper experience has even inured you to what you have seen. That doesn’t detract from the appreciation I have for this site, or your other work. It’s just my opinion.

“Reasonable people can still disagree on some topics while agreeing on others and not taking it personally.”

There was a British cyclist, a good one, a tough one; he could win decent UK races and some in Belgium, too – at amateur level.

He turned pro over there and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get the results.

One day, he was riding in a particularly infernal Belgian pro race; he couldn’t hold his place in the line and slid out of the back.

He stopped, sat down on the grass verge and cried – the dream was over.

The last few days, I can identify with how he felt – but the pain isn’t in my legs or lungs, it’s in my heart.