Cheater. Liar. Relic in a bad way.
This is what came to my mind when it was announced that Chris Horner would be back in the U.S. domestic peloton. To my knowledge, much of the NRC peloton has a similar take on the issue. I am not excited to be racing against him. What he has to teach us or his young teammates is undermined by a very questionable past. His return should mean far less to the sport than the media has been portraying and only holds the potential for disaster: more teams folding and more races going away.
A much different picture of this man has been painted by the US media: describing a crafty, charismatic, old guy full of vitality, life, a never-dying passion for bike racing, and an eagerness to give back to the next generation. While I don’t disagree that Horner is an interesting character and someone I’d like to root for under different circumstances, I do not and will not ever let myself fall into this fanboy mentality.
The problem with being a fanboy is that you set yourself up for disaster by continuously letting yourself get fooled by people you know aren’t being truthful. Being a fan of the sport is good as long as you analyze every performance and ask yourself, “Was that real?” If it wasn’t and you’re still rooting for the guy, then you’ve transitioned from fan into fanboy–someone who idolizes and cheers for an entity solely because that’s the popular thing to do.
Most people want to root for the best guy, and do so blindly without batting a critical eye at what should be blinding red lights. The rallying force behind a top-end athlete or a rising politician somehow blocks out rational thought, and what takes its place is almost like religion: blind faith in something because it feels good and easy and goes with the flow. What’s crazy to me is that people are actually surprised when their Tour pick gets popped for clenbuterol or their senator turns out to be a pawn of the same corporate machine as the rest. Don’t we all know the game they’re playing by now?
Many journalists are guilty of this doe-eyed idolization as well. They forget that facts form opinions, not the other way around. When dealing with famous people, journalists are often just as star-struck as the rest of us.
Sponsors and team owners/managers seeking quick returns (or maybe just their short-term survival), either monetarily or with results, are to blame as well. Hiring ex-dopers or known-but-not-yet-caught dopers is often a sure fire way to get results, yet they know it’s not the right thing to do to create a sustainable team or sport. We need to look at the long-term effects of hiring cheats and realize that it’s not only immoral, it’s downright catabolic from a business sense. Again, I’m speaking about the longterm life of the sport. Doping on an individual level or when looking at short term monetary gains is smart. Sponsors can make a fast return, pull the plug, and act outraged once their team gets popped. Same goes for the management. And as an athlete, you’ll make a lot of money, acquire fame, and you most likely won’t get caught. Even if you do, so what? It’s not like you have to give that money back.
My advice is to approach everyone with a healthy dose of skepticism.
It’s unwise to idolize public figures with whom you have no personal relationship. Basing your opinion on someone’s accomplishments gives you only half the picture. We’re defined by our actions both on and off the field. That’s why everyone I look up to are people I know and trust, not images on posters or the covers of magazines.
With every race Horner competes in, he’s taking away a spot that could go to a clean, deserving athlete. There are only eight spots on a squad for any particular race and he’s taking that away from some 20 year-old that has a lot more to gain by competing in Redlands than Horner does. A stage victory at Redlands means nothing to him, while to the rest of us it would define (or at least be the beginning of) our entire careers.
It’s true that Safeway might not have come on board as a title sponsor with Airgas (Horner’s new team) without him signing, but do we really want sponsors involved in our sport that are here solely based on a doper’s presence? What happens when/if said doper gets caught and the whole team goes up in flames? Bike racing is in this decline because of situations just like that. Entire teams fold because of one doping case (sans Astana) and 25 people end up without a job once the sponsor pulls out. Up to 100 for a Pro Tour team.
The fear of being part of a doping scandal is scaring away potential sponsors from clean teams and clean athletes. This affects me directly, which is why I’m so pissed off. I consider the US scene to be clean (at least 90%). I could be wrong about that of course, but welcoming a big time doper into our folds will make it harder for honest athletes to get results and even more difficult to get sponsors if he gets popped.
We’re letting a cheater take the reigns of a clean team, beat up on clean competition, and there’s absolutely no public outrage. I don’t get it. Why aren’t more people speaking up about this? He’s essentially picking our (nearly empty) pockets and all we do is turn them inside out for him, smile, and thank him for blessing us with his grace. It’s theft. It’s a case of Mancebo all over again. A clean athlete will lose almost every time when up against two decades-worth of EPO-fueled training and racing and we’re going to sit back and let it happen like cowards.
You may not believe that Horner is a cheat. Fair enough. If so, please take a moment to think about it and really question if his performances are human or fueled by a lab.
Here’s a few reasons to question his cleanliness, minus the firsthand stories that many of us have heard from his former teammates and competitors.
1) In the 2013 Vuelta (which he won at age 41) he produced VAMs above 2,000. This coming after almost three weeks of racing of course.
2) He was banned from starting the 2014 Vuelta due to low cortisol levels, caused by cortisone use, which is one of the most heavily abused PEDS. He had a TUE for bronchitis. Sure.
3) He’s widely believed to be one of the redacted names from USADA’s Reasoned Decision and he didn’t immediately deny it when questioned.
4) His Biological Passport shows signs of a blood transfusion during the 2013 Vuelta. He had a higher hematocrit at the end of the three week race than at the beginning, plus a lower reticulocyte count.
5) Horner defended Armstrong until the bitter end. “I don’t believe Armstrong has cheated in any way to win those victories and he’s gone through an insane amount of testing. Do we have pictures of it? Video or testing? Because without that you really don’t have anything.” –Chris Horner, June 2012. Again this is 2012, when almost everyone had come out with information about Armstrong’s doping ring. Was it really possible that Horner didn’t know about it?
6) The guy has such a questionable past that none of the more respected teams in Europe would sign him.
2015, here we go…
13 thoughts on “What One Guy From The US Peloton Thinks About Chris Horner’s Return”
And thats before we even get into the allegations Matt DeCanio makes about Horner going back to the old Saturn days. :D
Good on you lad. The sport needs many more of your peers to say/do the same.
You need to add Matt DeCanio’s claims about Horner teaching and dealing EPO to your story.
You need to consider the likelihood of USAC sanctioning him. USAC has a long history of protecting doped “winners” from doping sanctions for various lengths of time. (ex. Tammy Thomas, Armstrong as a continental rider, the tragic story of Genevieve Jeanson.)
You also need to think about media’s role. They can’t be too critical, or they will be denied access. Imagine the author of a critical story asking for a press pass to Utah’s big race. She/he might not get it. This is a real thing.
Guys like Horner have the option of taking a “victory lap” of sorts with small domestic teams. It’s certainly happened before. I’m not excusing his behaviour. Just making an observation.
Well said. I was speechless when I read the CyclingNews article where they didn’t interview (or at least publish any interviews) of people who took issue with him coming to the US domestic scene. Surely not everyone thinks it’s exciting.
Very well said! I CANNOT believe this guy has the nerve to ride this victory lap. Seems like he should count his blessings that he hasn’t been caught red handed and slip away quietly. Seems like this just opens him up to being finally, clearly caught (though you point to plenty of clear evidence.)
I ride for pleasure and to get out in the country. I follow pro cycling because it’s still an awesome sport, Astana and dirty Horner aside. I never raced seriously, but I did play Div. I college sports on a scholarship. I’d have been mad as hell if I knew there were dopers amongst my competitors. I’m sure there were a few, but it wasn’t a revenue sport, so not as much incentive. Still, if I knew I was trying to beat people cheating, I’d have wanted to smash them in the face.
It would be hard for me not to jam a frame pump in Horner’s rear wheel on a descent if I was racing to win money/for a living against him this year.
Agree except #6. I think his age and desired salary had as much to do with that as potential doping drama. Doping or not, the odds of a 41 year old repeating that level of success in subsequent year(s) were very low.
I’m sure half of Boulder dopes. Suckers spend money on lighter bikes, then get crushed by an EPO loser who is over 30-years old. These morons will be dead early and mad nobody cares of knows who they are regardless of how many “wins” they have in Boulder or anywhere else. The sport has been a joke for decades, but riding a bike is the best thing in the world. Only idiots waste their life racing decades after decades. Most are narcissistic and delusional,and so mad nobody gives them an ounce of credit for anything on the bike. triathletes are the worst, since they have no idea how slow they really are at each sport, and low little bike handling skills they actually have. just ride, go hard, enjoy, and relax.
Yeah light bikes and doping can only be found in Boulder. You’re so wise!
By the way, that guy in the middle of The Shack photo at bottom (Brajkovic) is riding for UHC next season. So Horner’s not the only product of dubious provenance to join the North American scene next year.
Sick and disgusted with Horner. I refused to attend or follow the Tour of Utah because of this cheat.