It was the summer of 2002 and the Tour De France coverage was starting up on the Outdoor Life Network (now Versus). I had followed Lance Armstrong's triumphs for the three years prior in the race, but it's cycling, a sport I had never even been remotely interested in on a participatory or spectator level.
But I gave OLN's coverage of the race a try and I fell in love with it. In fact, I'd even suggest that I watched the coverage so much my work productivity decreased.
I was fascinated by how close these guys were to each other. I loved the idea of these things called time trials, where the cyclists are given space through staggered starts to try to improve their time (the highlight comes when a guy who started minutes after is so good he beats the guy in front of him.) The camera shots and the announcing were so good.
The Tour De France was my dirty little secret. I really loved it and watched every single day of July for Lance's final three victories.
Suffice it to say, when the race begins on Saturday, I won't be watching--and likely never again. Unlike baseball, where I'm not disgusted enough with the steroid scandals, the drug scandals in cycling have driven me permanently off course.
In baseball, I believe many players used performance enhancing drugs. I don't think almost everyone did. In cycling, there's no reason to believe anyone is clean. Even though Armstrong never tested positive, look at the ones before him and after him.
1996 winner Bjarne Riis admitting he used EPO to win his title. Jan Ullrich, 1997 winner, charged with blood doping this year. Marco Pantani, 1998 champ, charged--but not found guilty--with using insulin in the following year's race. And Floyd Landis last year.
What this all means is that I don't believe one thing I'm seeing is real. And that's why I will never watch again.
I'm in Paris today and just saw the Champs Elysees. I remember watching Armstrong these past couple years with his champagne winning yet another Tour. It's just sad that cycling is lost on me forever and I'm sure many others--I know, not to many here in the U.S.--who gave this fascinating sport a try, are also saying goodbye.
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