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Trouble is, Padraig and the cycling press didn't share their beliefs about Lance with the rest of us. Not only didn't the press tell us Lance was a doper, most writers didn't support those telling the truth about Lance and, worse, some actively helped demean and discredit those Lance's critics. (I discussed Padraig's post here, contrasting it with another writer who appears to have some remorse about the press's behavior.)
A fair reading of Padraig's "The Cynic" post is that, after struggling a great deal about his role as cycling writer, Padraig decided not to write about Lance's doping because Padraig was a) frightened of Lance; b) wanted to keep working as a cycling writer; c) figured he would pretend that the peloton was clean as long as the UCI didn't do anything; and/or d) figured that Lance "should" have success (scamming the public?) because the UCI was inept.
I suspect that Padraig didn't expect the response his post received. (Padraig deserves credit for posting the unfavorable comments and repeatedly responding to them.)
A few commenters aren't happy with Padraig or the cycling press. One commenter, Evan, reminded Padraig that not telling the whole truth is a problem:
[N]ot speaking the whole truth and nothing but, one commits moral turpitude. This was hard, perhaps the hardest thing in my life to face as I have lived a life serving others often at great peril to myself. I almost always prevailed, changing occupations rather than not speak out. . . .
Only you can know truly why you choose to stay a journalist and be silenced. None of us have the right to judge you nor tell you why.
I disagree with Evan a bit: Padraig has told us why he chose "to stay a journalist and be silenced." (I've listed what Padraig told us about that above.) So, we know and can comment on Padraig's reasons -- but that's a mere quibble.
Trouble is Padraig still doesn't understand why his readers might be angry at the cycling press. And, as to his own culpability, whether large or minuscule, Padraig is having none.
Although in "The Cynic" Padraig describes himself as "wrestling" with what Lance's doping meant to him since he was making a "living writing about cycling," he responds to his critics with by saying that he, "really wasn’t writing about pro cycling at all."
Had I been writing about pro cycling much during that Armstrong era, I might have done things differently. The fact is, from ’99 to ’02, I really wasn’t writing about pro cycling at all. From ’03 to ’05 I was publishing a lifestyle magazine and covering pro cycling wasn’t part of its editorial mission.
I confess I'm puzzled. If Padraig wasn't really writing about pro cycling or couldn't write about it, what was all his anguish/concern/cynicism about? If he was not writing or couldn't write about pro cyclists, who cares if he cynically treats dirty cyclists as clean cyclists or cynically believes Lance should be successful? Why should we even credit his opinion from back then about the UCI's enforcement efforts? We care about those things only if Padraig could have written about Lance but refrained.
I don't think Padraig wanted us to take away from his post that Padraig was out of the pro cycling loop, wasn't really writing about pro cycling, and couldn't have written anything about his belief even if he hadn't been so cynical.
His response to his critics is hard for me to square with the original post.
There seem to be two possibilities. Either the post, as I read it, isn't quite right or Padraig's response isn't quite right. Perhaps Padraig embellished his role/struggles/cynicism to make "The Cynic" a more compelling read. Or perhaps Padraig really could have written about what he believed about Lance but, after being criticized for a possible role in abetting the Lance scam, doesn't want to admit it.
Embellishing a story is a common sin. Fiction writers, bloggers, drunks, and old men do it all the time. They fudge a bit (or quite a bit) to make a story more engaging. They lend drama or shift emphasis to make themselves sound important. I do it at the dinner table, and I do it on this blog. I don't think journalists should do it, even in a column, but I'm no journalist and no expert on journalism.
So perhaps we should accept the first possibility, dismiss Padraig's account as a nice, after-a-few-drinks tale, and leave it at that. That's what I'm going to do.
But the second possibility -- that Padraig could have but didn't -- is worth a moment.
Padraig has written a bio for Red Kite Prayer. The bio isn't heavy on dates but there are a few. Padraig started writing about cycling in 1991, started his own magazine "Asphalt" in 2002, and returned to freelancing some time after that.
Padraig was either freelancing, working for Bicycle Guide, or publishing "Asphalt" during the Lance era. (Lance's Tour "victories" were from 1999 to 2005.)
His freelance credits include Bicycling, VeloNews, and Outside -- publications that certainly have covered pro cycling. (He would undoubtedly be off the hook with his critics if he said that those publications repeatedly rejected his "I believe Lance is a doper who is duping the public" story.) At Bicycle Guide, it sounds as if Padraig could have written about anything he liked -- Lance and dope included:
While at Bicycle Guide I was given incredible latitude. I wrote about cycling from every angle I could imagine: I turned out race reports, in-depth bike reviews, first-person travelogues, strongly worded columns and even some behind-the-scenes ad copy. Then the magazine was folded.
And if "Asphalt" is the "lifestyle magazine" that Padraig mentions, "Asphalt" looks like a "lifestyle magazine" that covered cycling racing at least occasionally. The bio's two photos of old "Asphalt" covers show a cycle racing team and perhaps a race. (I suppose it's possible that readers who would be attracted by a cover with a cycling racing team on the cover wouldn't be interested in pro cycle racing but that seems a stretch.)
So, perhaps the second possibility, that Padraig could have written about his beliefs about Lance's doping, isn't out of the question.
I'm going to settle for the first possibility. It's cheerier.
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