Trek Women
February 19, 2008

Let Levi ride...

Levi If you follow pro cycling, by now you've heard the news that Team Astana has been barred from competing in any race or event organized by the Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) in 2008, including the Tour de France. This means that the incredible Levi Leipheimer, who has never been associated to doping, will be unjustly sidelined.

The ASO cited the scandals of last year’s TdF as the reason behind its decision. Give me a break. The 2008 Astana Cycling Team has new direction under GM Johan Bruyneel (Lance Armstrong and 7 consecutive Tour wins); all new riders including Levi; and now the most rigorous anti-doping controls of any team in the pro peloton. As Bruyneel has said, the only thing left from last year’s team is the name of the sponsor. This house has been cleaned.

Although Team Astana will still compete in some top races this year, I think it’s a load of you-know-what to hold Levi responsible for the sins of the past.  Yesterday, a new campaign launched to rally support called “Let Levi Ride”. Go to www.letleviride.com and sign the online petition to undo Levi’s unfair exclusion and save the 2008 TdF. The petitions will be sent directly to the ASO Director.

This whole ugly situation reminds me of a story my friend Joe M., the Olympic runner, once told me. Joe competed in Sydney and then underwent knee surgery and some heavy-duty rehabilitation to get back up to speed. He decided to try for Athens, even though many said he was done, and met with a respected coach to talk training. The coach asked him, “So what are you taking?” Joe said, “Nothing.” The coach asked him again, “No really, off the record, what are you on?” Joe said straight-up, “I don’t do that.” The coach replied, “Then you’re going to lose.” Joe made it to Athens (with a different coach). Although he didn’t medal, he competed on his own terms and that's a winner in my book.

There are outstanding athletes out there who don’t need drugs and steroids and human growth hormones or whatever else to be champions. Let’s reward the good ones and give them the opportunity to win.

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