Levi Leipheimer accepts his part in “the dirty past of cycling”
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Levi Leipheimer accepts his part in “the dirty past of cycling”

by Ben Atkins at 4:14 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
American hopes that next generation of riders won’t be faced with the sam choices

levi leipheimerLevi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is one of four former teammates of Lance Armstrong, named in the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) “reasoned decision” into its stripping of the Texan of all his results since 1998 and banning him for life, who is still active in the peloton. The other three - Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie - ride for Garmin-Sharp, and their statements were released through the team; Leipheimer’s own statement was reported on the website of US newspaper, the Wall Street Journal (wsj.com).

In his statement Leipheimer acknowledges his part in what he calls “the dirty past in cycling”, but claims to have been riding clean for more than five years. He feels that the sport has changed for the better now, however, and hopes that his “admission will help to make these changes permanent.”

Leipheimer rode with Armstrong at US Postal in 2000 and 2001 before quitting for five years at Rabobank and Gerolsteiner. He returned to his former team in 2007 however, which was by then sponsored by the Discovery Channel, and followed the management team to Astana in 2008, where he was reunited with the Texan the following year. When Armstrong formed the RadioShack team in 2010 Leipheimer followed, but he did not follow his teammates when the roster merged with Leopard Trek, to form RadioShack-Nissan, this year.

Leipheimer’s statement speaks of a sport, where riders are not doping in isolation, but as part of team-wide programmes, overseen by those in control.

“I came to see cycling for what it was: a sport where some team managers and doctors coordinated and facilitated the use of banned substances and methods by their riders,” he says.

Part of Leipheimer’s reasoning was, he claims, the so-called “Arms Race” in cycling, where riders were vying to outdo their rivals that they were convinced were doping more than they themselves were.

“A sport where the athletes at the highest level—perhaps without exception—used banned substances,” he says. “A sport where doping was so accepted that riders from different teams—who were competitors on the road—coordinated their doping to keep up with other riders doing the same thing.”

As well as admitting doping during his career, Leipheimer also speaks of the Omerta in cycling that means he feels it was not worth his while to come clean before he was contacted by USADA.

“I could have come forward sooner,” he says. “But would that have accomplished anything—other than to end my career? One rider coming forward and telling his story in the face of cycling's code of silence would not have fixed a problem that was institutional.”

Having been part of the process that finally exposed Armstrong’s “USPS Conspiracy”, and publicly come clean about his own doping, Leipheimer professes a desire to contribute the sport’s cleaner future.

“By taking responsibility for what we have done, my generation will make sure it stays that way,” his statement concludes.

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Levi Leipheimer’s statement in full

Today, I accept responsibility and USADA's sanctions for participating in the dirty past of cycling. I've been racing clean for more than 5 years in a changed and much cleaner sport. I hope that my admission will help to make these changes permanent.

Until recently—or maybe even until today—when people thought about doping, they thought about a guy, by himself, using banned substances to get ahead. What people didn't realize—what I didn't realize until after I was already committed to this career—was that doping was organized and everywhere in the peloton. Doping wasn't the exception, it was the norm.

When I was a 13-year-old kid, my dream was to ride the Tour de France. I fully devoted my life to that goal. I left home as a teenager, passed on a college degree, moved to Europe at 19 and lived in hostels with roommates who didn't speak my language.

Having made sacrifices for my dream, several years after I turned pro, I came to see cycling for what it was: a sport where some team managers and doctors coordinated and facilitated the use of banned substances and methods by their riders. A sport where the athletes at the highest level—perhaps without exception—used banned substances. A sport where doping was so accepted that riders from different teams—who were competitors on the road—coordinated their doping to keep up with other riders doing the same thing.

I regret that this was the state of affairs in the sport that we love and I chose as my career. I am sorry that I was forced to make the decisions I made. I admit that I didn't let doping deter me from my dream. I admit that I used banned substances.

I know that learning this will disappoint many of my fans and friends and I am sorry that the sport and I have let you down.

Right or wrong, in my mind the choice was "do it or go home." For me that was not a choice.

People will be disappointed and say I was wrong, that I should have chosen differently, and am just making excuses. I made the decision I made. I don't offer this description of the sport as an excuse, simply as an explanation of the context and reason for my decision. I won't lie about it—I have to own it—I accept responsibility for my decision.
I could have come forward sooner. But would that have accomplished anything—other than to end my career? One rider coming forward and telling his story in the face of cycling's code of silence would not have fixed a problem that was institutional.

When USADA came to me and described a solution—where my admission could be part of a bigger plan that would make the positive changes we've seen in recent years permanent—I said "I need to be involved." I don't want today's 13 year olds to be discouraged by their parents from dreaming about one day riding the Tour de France.

Thanks to better testing and a shift in the culture of the sport, cycling has been much cleaner for a number of years. The new generation of riders is not faced with the decisions we were. By taking responsibility for what we have done, my generation will make sure it stays that way.

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