Thursday, January 17, 2013

To Whom it May Concern

I won’t be watching your insincere apology or follow you as you wheel and deal your way back into athletics over the next several years.  I don’t want to be in the same room; watch you on a TV show; or have dinner with you and the family and shoot the bull.  I want to be as far away as possible from you and people like you. 

You’re a liar.  You’re a cheater.  You’re a fraud.

But the world is full of people like you.  Hollywood and Washington, DC are dominated by your sort of people.  Wall Street executive suites churn out empty suits all year long. Half the world is lying to the other half on any particular day.  What makes you any different?

You used your position and your power to threaten and intimidate people around you.  Some, you corrupted into take banned substances alongside you.  Others, whose only sin was to tell the truth, you derided and spit on.  How many personal lives and careers did you crush? 

In some cases fellow cyclists were forced from the sport. Others you pursued with legal action. I would also bet five dollars that the trail of women you’ve left behind weren’t particularly thrilled with your off the field exploits, either. 

You’re the bully who loves to beat people down because it fills that aching hole in your soul.  Victory is a sweet thrill.  You have no empathy for your counterparts and adversaries. Winning covers over that dark pit where your parents didn’t love you enough, or you were abused by classmates and teachers, or God knows what else might go wrong along the way.  

As long as you’re holding the gold at the end, nothing else matters.

There’s no doubt we enabled you.  We put you on a pedestal and told you to keep it up.  We believed everything you said despite all empirical evidence to the contrary.  We let you do your thing and cast shame on those who questioned your integrity.

Which of us is the fool?

I don’t want my young son to grow up to idolize people like you. Or worse, be like you. I want my son to understand that there are moral and ethical decisions we have to live with for the rest of our lives.  The consequences can be minor and they can be grave. 

Let me stop for a second and put a good spin on it - Thank God you got into sports instead of interstate serial murder.

The worst thing about you is that I can understand why you did everything you did.

Were it not for the separation of a few points on the genetic ability scale and the burning internal fire to be great; to dominate; to win everything you can; I could have been in a similar position.

But I’m not.  I don’t have world class ability.  I don’t care about winning everything.  I just like to get out there and feel the wind on my face, and watch the countryside roll by, and sometimes, when my legs are feeling that magic, I can go fast, and it feels really, really good.

The truth is none of us can say for absolutely sure we wouldn’t have made the same choices, if we were in your exact shoes.  We don’t live every day with the same internal and external pressure to be greater than human.

The only ones who can truly say that are those cyclists and all other athletes who have been forced out of the professional ranks of their sport because they wouldn’t take it to that next level. 

But the choices have been made.  You can’t go back and undue the decisions that have brought you to this point.  You can only go forward.  Much like the rest of us.

If for no other reasons than the wonderful work you have done with cancer research and support, and for the entertainment your wins brought me over the years, I hope you find happiness. I hope you can truly forgive and understand yourself, and go on to do wonderful things with your kids and your family for the rest of your life.   

Your rise and fall is not absolutely one-hundred percent your fault. 

You represent the best and the worst in American culture.

You are a winner.  And you’ll do absolutely anything to win.

Marty Gaal is a professional triathlon coach and amateur cycling fan.  He lives in Cary, North Carolina with his wife Bri, his son Junior Awesome, and his dog Tassie Rocks. You can read all about them at


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this!

Jerry said...

Yep pretty much my thoughts as well.