In this second
instalment of "SaddlePapp", Blazin' Saddles talks doping, death threats, prison
and Spanish cuisine with former pro-rider Joe Papp as he awaits sentencing in US
federal court for various doping offences that date back to more than four years
To get up to speed, BS
suggests you read August's first Q&A with a man whose blood was once as
thick as jam.
BS: Did you get a
kick from taking drugs, did you do it to win, or was it simply a rite of
Doping was like a tool
that one reached for when performance had been maximized through all other
available means. While there was an element of being accepted into a
closed-society by choosing to dope (joining a band of brothers, or a
pseudo-mafia, if you will), there was definitely no focus on trying to magnify
risk in pursuit of a thrill. Doping is unimaginably stressful: you worry about
everything from keeping your blood from thickening, to passing the controls, to
not getting picked-up by the anti-doping police while trying to dispose of boxes
of drug ampoules.
If you could go back
and face the same tough decisions today, would you do things
Of course. Whatever I
achieved as an athlete, whatever races I rode, UCI points accumulated - none of
it was worth the consequences I've been dealing with for four years, and those I
Do you think it's
fair that you've been called a "villain" over your doping
Sure. No one has all of
the facts concerning why I did what I did, and, while it's still not an excuse,
in the absence of that complex, comprehensive explanation there will appear
people who will ascribe to me a villainous motive. But it bears mentioning that all of the
messages of support and encouragement that I've received from the public have
been written by people not afraid to include their name and contact details,
whereas the truly vile and negative feedback (including several more-recent
death threats) is always sent anonymously.
Spooky. Anything really gruesome?
threats, generally speaking, weren't so detailed as to specify modes of death -
except one. A cyclist from Pennsylvania derived great pleasure in sharing his
hopes that I would be sexually-brutalized in prison and raped-to-death. It was
perhaps the most offensive, upsetting, disturbing harassment to which I've been
subjected since the doping scandal broke.
On a lighter note,
have you received any suggestive fan mail?
Funny you should ask. Once, when I was single
and very eligible, a female fan wrote to suggest we meet - which we did. That
night. She must have known I was sentimental and offered to leave her panties as
You rogue. So, your blog is called Pappillon, which recalls the 1973 cult film Papillon in which
an innocent murderer plots his escape from an island prison. There's talk that
you might be sent down for your own discretions. Would it be a fair punishment?
Clearly I hope that the
judge presiding over my case will conceive of an appropriate punishment that has
a positive impact on sport, and the anti-doping movement and society in general
- without necessitating my incarceration. The idea of being sent to federal
prison is horrifying and it's been the source of three years of inescapable
torment. I loathe the swine that congregate on Internet message boards and laugh
and jeer at the prospect of Lance Armstrong being sent to prison. There's
nothing funny about that. What did Lance do to any of them to allow them to
think that they're entitled to that kind of retribution in the first place? The
guy is innocent until proven guilty, and he's not even been indicted yet and may
not be. What kind of sick mind do you have to have in order to get-off on
fantasizing about Lance being locked-away and brutalized in prison?
Sure thing. Would
you be more worried about dropping soap in the showers or getting beaten up in
Were this a movie, and
not real life, I'd expect my character might say he'd be more worried about
picking a suitable victim for the mandatory violent attack that he'd have to
launch on his first day in prison in order to intimidate the other inmates and
plant enough doubt in their heads so that they wouldn't risk harrassing
Would you do an Andy
Dufresne and try escape or would you see out your time like
I'd follow Red's lead
and try to survive my sentence - but completely under the radar. I'd probably
try to read a lot.
What kind of
Well, at the moment I'm
reading six books, including 'A Significant Other' by Matt Rendell. The others
range from philosophy to Cuban sugar plantations, via a bit of Albert Speer, the
White House and the fall of Hitler. Mixing up the genres like this would keep me
entertained behind bars.
Of course, prison is a better predicament than
death, which is what would happen to convicted dopers if (soon-to-be-former
Garmin rider) Steven Cozza got his way...
Well, I accept the fact
that he may have been joking - albeit joking in poor taste. But if you say
something as incendiary as you think that all dopers should be executed, then
when someone asks you if you've gone mad, you should at least have the balls to
stand behind your words - unless of course you were talking sh*t from the start,
which then begs the question: what do you think is so funny about the death
penalty and doping that it's the basis for your new comedy bit?
So you face Cozza's
firing squad, what would be your last request? Your last meal? Would the angel
Gabriel let you into Heaven?
I would obviously
request not to be executed, or to have Steven Cozza take my place. My last meal
would be a cheese pizza with a can of Coke, proper Italian espresso and
Starbucks ice cream for dessert. No food snobs here. With my luck, Gabriel would
send me over to the Hindu section, and I'd probably be reincarnated as a doping
control officer for the UCI.
Pizza? Nice. What
about Spanish steak?
wouldn't think twice about eating Spanish beef, unless I was dining with Alberto
Contador. Then I would suggest we go find Vino and order Chinese.
Where do you stand
on AC's predicament?
I think it's a terrible
situation in which there are no real winners and I truly hope that, whatever the
ultimate outcome, there is legitimate scientific evidence to support the
tweeted: "Any delays in the Contador case stem from the fact that ASO can't
award the win to Schleck for fear of the same." Can you explain
I was interested in
what people thought about the possible scenario whereby one winner is DQ'ed for
doping, and accused of having transfused blood based on the results of an
unapproved test, and the runner-up is awarded the victory but without his own
stored samples being scrutinised. While the rules don't require testing for
plasticizers, and it was actually Clenbuterol that caused a ruckus in the first
place, does someone demand the testing of the runner-up's samples using the same
unapproved protocol? Has that testing already been done in secret? What happens
if they suspect plasticizers are present there? If I were Schleck, and Contador
was officially DQ'd from the Tour, without redress - I would decline to be
elevated to 1st place and suggest the 2010 Tour title be
Your pal Bernie Kohl
says you can't win the Tour without doping; Roy Sentjens says you can't make the
top ten without doping; some old Italian judge says they're all at it. Who tows
the most feasible line?
The person who has
nothing to gain by being honest, which, in the case of talking about doping in
cycling, is usually the person who could potentially return to the top-level but
makes admissions - or accusations - that are so inflammatory that no sponsor
would ever allow a team to employ that rider again.
To tie things up:
You're Bjarne Riis, Contador is banned, three-quarters of your team have gone to
Luxembourg and the new Spaniards want out - what would your plan B entail for
Hire Floyd Landis. Why
not? Yes, Hire Floyd, make him a road captain, and use his experience to further
support the development of a rider like Richie Porte (despite the fact that
he'll be gone in 2012), and an entirely new generation of Saxo Bank riders. No
one can replace Contador, and if Riis tries to go forward with the same goals
and objectives in 2011 that he'd identified with the Spaniard, failure is
inevitable. Of course there are arguments against the Landis option, but I think
only a radical shift in the team's focus and priorities will see it through 2011
and allow the program to regroup for 2012.
You don't think
Landis is past it?
If Lance can make a
comeback aged 37 after several years off then why can't Floyd, at 35, do the
same? They're both
incredible athletes who are naturally-gifted with exceptional abilities that
don't just go away, even as they age and performance tapers-off. Lance's
drug-free comeback even provides Floyd with a template for how to do
Next week, in the third part of
Saddles' chinwag with Monsieur Papp, the pocket-rocket from Pittsburgh talks
blood thinners, chat-up lines and the sexual habits of the peloton, while also
making some insightful predictions for the 2011 season. Oh, and he explains why
he's called Mr 58%.
Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout
the off-season on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze.