Blog - Cycling Things

MICHAEL BARRY on doping and coming clean

In the autumn of 2001, my lifelong goal was achieved: I signed a contract with a European-based professional cycling team, U.S. Postal Service. In just a few seasons, U.S. Postal had become the dominant team in the world and I felt honoured to have a spot on its roster. At the first training camp, I was nervous and excited about 2002. I had realized a dream, but as with anything new, the unknowns not only frightened me but also animated me. I soon discovered top-level racing wasn't what I had expected.

During my first season in Europe, I saw the darkness that was behind the façade of professional cycling I had seen on television and in magazines. It was a ruthless world in which riders spoke in hushed voices and performances were suspicious. The peloton moved dauntingly fast.

I performed well on occasions, but by the end of the 2002 season, I was hanging on by a thread. Cycling was a tough job, but it was still one I wanted to pursue despite my fears. By the spring of 2003, my morale was broken. Encouraged by my team, influenced by my peers and pressured to perform, I began using drugs. It was an inexcusable decision I deeply regret.

While I was doping, my passion for riding and racing faded. I felt guilty, was paranoid and hid behind lies and deception. In 2006, I hit my lowest period while lying on a stretcher in a small hospital in France. While recovering and training at home, I decided I needed to change my life. From that summer on, I never doped again and signed on with teams that had strong anti-doping policies. I wrote and spoke about the need for change. But I wrongly remained silent about my past. The lies haunted me. I apologize and will work hard to regain people's trust.

Cycling is a much better place today. Through my generation's admissions, the sport will move forward. Although there are many teams that are committed to clean cycling, and I know from experience that riders and a team can win at the highest level without drugs, there is still work to be done.

Nobody should ever to face the decisions my generation did to purse the sport he or she loves. Sport should be a nurturing environment in which health is the priority. Everybody involved should be held accountable to ensure the culture considers the athlete's best interests and health before the team's or the sport's.

By racing clean, I found my passion for the sport returned. Training in the countryside with teammates and friends no longer felt like a chore. Being on my bike was again something I Loved. –Michael Barry

SOURCE: Canadian Cycling, December & January 2013

Struggling with the New Michael Barry

Here's part of an editorial by Matthew Pioro published in the December & January 2013 issue of CANADIAN Cycling Magazine. (Look for it in the newsstands soon!)
   In his editorial, Matthew certainly expresses the struggle that many of us, especially those who know Barry personally, are going through. Well done Matthew.(FG)


….. I still have the old image of Michael Barry, the eloquent ambassador of cycling. He’s no less eloquent now, but his role as ambassador is tarnished. Most of his performances from 200 to 2006 have lines through  them. Even the palmarés that remain from MIchael’s clean period following his departure from Discovery Channel come with asterisks for me: the physiological changes and advantages gained from doping can carry on even after a rider has quit. It’s a messy picture.

Michael has confessed and apologized for doping. He wants to do more for the sport. I support him in these endeavours and am looking forward to seeing how he works to bring about changes to cycling. But, I am conflicted. The way his story is often framed, as well as that of many of the other riders in the “Reasoned Decision,” is through a narrow focus: I cheated; I stopped; I’m sorry. But the actions of those riders had wider effects. Andrew Randell, another former Canadian pro, makes the point – which occasionally gets glossed over – that doping robbed clean riders of their careers in cycling.

I’m most troubled by the lying.It’s not the lying to cover up cheating. If you’re going to cheat, you have to say you didn’t But it’s the lying and standing by quietly as others became ostracized by the cycling community – think Floyd Landis and Betsy Andreu - that makes  me angry. It’s one thing to ruin yourself. It’s another to take others down., even by your inaction. To Michael’s credit, he has acknowledged publicly that he probably owes Landis an apology.

…… Michael Barry’s story and those of Armstrong’s other former teammates, in all their newly revealed messiness, are still being written. I’m hoping they become clearer and cleaner.

- Matthew Pioro, Editor

Editor’s Letter, p 6, Canadian Cycling Magazine,  December & January 2013

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