The Lyin' of Flanders

Jan 24 2007

Today, Johan Museeuw did more damage to sport of cycling than any rider since the incorrigible Richard Virenque. At a press conference, the so-called “Lion of Flanders” gave tacit credence to the doping charges that haunted much of his career by saying, with resounding ambiguity, “I was not 100% honest”.

The phrase “not 100% honest” implies that, though a statement may be largely misleading, there is some non-zero percentage of truth to it. When Le Monde says Oscar Pereiro failed two drug tests, that’s not 100% honest. When Bill Clinton says “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, that’s not 100% honest.

But when a rider, at an event designed to generate income from his image, says “I have nothing to hide, because I have done nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing”, that’s not “less than honest” – it’s simply NOT honest. It’s a statement devoid of both truth and fact; something those of us without steroid-shrunken testicles might have the sack to call a “lie”.

Now, I’m no anti-dope crusader, and I’ll readily admit that many other riders, even in the face of overwhelming evidence (Tyler Hamilton), have refused to come clean. But for me, that’s not as much of an issue; as Marco Pantani so tragically proved, denial of that magnitude would be better served by a psychiatrist than a suspension.

But riders like Museeuw and his erstwhile teammate, who get caught, deny everything, and then, even with the cold blade of legal action tight against their throat, issue mealy-mouthed half-admissions, do far more damage than the crackpot “vanishing twin” crowd ever will. Just like the banning of riders on rumor, a pseudo-confession erodes public confidence in the sport’s ability to deal with doping fairly.

Museeuw only futhers his worminess in trying to protect his legacy. He readily insists that his clean record at drug controls proves that any doping he may have done – remember, he hasn’t directly admitted any yet – was just an attempt to “end [an otherwise clean] career in style”. And it’s true; the balding flamand‘s record at the piss tent is as clean as David Millar’s.

Museeuw might find his legacy better served if, instead of reminding us how fallable drug tests are, he offered some insight into how riders continue to beat them. After all, the alleged hardman says he’s eager to “keep fighting for a clean sport”; I think right about now would be the perfect time to start.

As Velochimp points out, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Johan Museeuw, or any cyclist whose career struck a purple patch in the 1990s, was on drugs. But to see Museeuw, who has continued to live off the sport for the past three years (depsite being banned):

  1. refuse to detail his doping practices
  2. fail to admit they even took place
  3. then ask the media to respect his privacy
  4. before finally blaming them for smearing cycling

is a shock to stop the heart.

I figured notching eleven wins in the classics might require some modicum of toughness and gut. But, if the courage he showed at today’s press conference is any indication, turns out all the Lyin’ Lion needed was a little Aransep.

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