Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Marc's Adieu

Marc is a retired American living in Paris who joined us at the time of the Ferret.

My involvement in this fascinating struggle began on THAT day in July 2006. I had recently moved to Paris, and my in-laws were visiting from Connecticut. They had a whole lot more energy than I did, so on that day I'd begged out of whatever sightseeing forced march they'd planned. I didn't do it in order to watch the TdF--Floyd's collapse had wiped away most of my interest--but as long as I was home and the Tour was on the TV, I mean, why not watch? When my in-laws returned, haggard, from their endurance trial (it was July, remember), I said to them, "Oh, you'll never believe what you missed."


A few days later we were on a bridge over the Seine, watching the riders enter Paris before the finale, and saw Floyd ride in. Or, at least, we pretended we did. In fact, the peloton swept past us under the bridge so fast and so tightly bunched that I was sure we'd only seen a large breakaway group, with the main bunch to arrive a little later. Only by my brother-in-law's replaying of the movie he'd shot was I convinced that a hundred-plus riders had really gone by that quickly. Floyd? Well, he was there somewhere, I guess.

When the supposed positive test result was announced, I didn't believe it. I still don't. I didn't then, not because of any naive belief that bicyclists didn't use dope--I'm almost 64: I remember Jacques Anquetil refusing the urine test that would have made his hour record official; I remember Tom Simpson collapsing on Mt Ventoux; I remember the suddenly miraculously beefy Bernard Thevenet beating Eddy Merckx. The reason I didn't believe it then is that I thought that of all racers Floyd Landis was the least likely to have cheated, or to go on lying that he hadn't. I believed that then, and I still do.

In the weeks that followed, I tried to make scientific sense out of what might have happened. I participated for a while on DPF. "My, what an unpleasant bunch most of their regulars are," I thought. For a brief time there was Free Floyd, but then it stopped. And, all of a sudden, TbV appeared. And not long after that, it seems to me (memory has probably falsely telescoped time here), the first of the LNDD (as it was then called) documents from the Chatenay-Malabry lab surfaced, and I found there was a small contribution I could make. I had, at one point in my life, been a typesetter; at another, a paleontologist (someone who pores over old manuscripts--and I assure you, most medieval scribes had far worse handwriting than the techs at LNDD); I knew some French and Italian.

As documents surfaced in unlikely places I was as happy, as we say, as a pig in shit. There were results to be translated, documents to be compared to determine--by matching stationery, typefaces, signatures--which might be the source of another, which might be forged, which genuine, and so on. In the end, all these fascinating espionage-like games were superseded by the substantive debate over the test procedures and the reliability of their results. My skill set became increasingly irrelevant, and the word passed to the scientists, where I could not follow. i didn't regret that. That was as it should be. The final word should scientific--or should have been. Nor did I regret the time I'd spent on now insignificant issues. I had fun, and I felt I was part of a small but important movement. There are still unanswered questions about the provenance of those documents, questions whose answers would reveal a backstory of manipulation of data and the media. I'd like to know the story, but I know it's unlikely I ever will. Tant pis. C'est la guerre.

The greatest moment--in respect to drama, if not scholarship--was TbV's "live-blogging," as we now know to call it, of the USADA hearing. An unprecedented opening of what had been nothing more than a Star Chamber, as well as an astounding feat of old-fashioned journalism. I would like to believe that dB's and Bill Hue's cracking open of this closed legal world will have a lasting effect. It will surely have some; it will almost as surely not have as much as we would hope.

Along the way, I have met--sometimes face-to-face, most often not--some of the most interesting people I have ever known. I rarely have had as much fun on the internet as I did while all of us on this site were taking on giants, armed only with our curiosity, ingenuity, civility, and sense of justice. Thanks to everyone who made this wild ride possible: dB, first of all, and strbk, Bill Hue and Mr. Rant. and, of course, Mr. FL himself. I will miss this community, but somehow feel I'm bound to run into many of you again in some other fight for reality-based regulations in this sport we love. As the French say, "Courage. On les aura."


Unknown said...

Big, big thanks for your significant investment in keeping the rest of us provoked and informed. Truly an amazing journey this has been since I began the TBV RSS so many months ago. Thanks for the many thoughts and words written. I cannot be said enough, "Thank you!"


whareagle said...

Marc, thank you. Your sleuthing was not in vain, believe me.

E-mail me off-list. I'll be in Paris in July, and if you're still there, would love to catch up on 'paleontology' related issues, since I was a physical and cultural Anthro major in undergrad.

daniel m (a/k/a Rant) said...


Thanks for all your efforts here. Always been a pleasure seeing what you'd dig up from the other side of the pond. I won't be headed to Paris anytime too soon, but if you're ever in my neck of the woods, it would be great fun to meet and catch up.

Best wishes.

- Dan