Appreciate you asking my opinion, though it seems there was no shortage of other folks that filled the void in my absence.
While I think there are certainly some positives about Lance returning in a serious way to triathlon, I don't think that it's really encouraging that he announces his return to triathlon almost immediately after he gets let off the hook by the US Attorney's Office, especially when you have Travis Tygart, the USADA president, basically saying that he's committed to a continuing a thorough investigation. I can't think of any other athlete where you could have a recently cleared federal indictment and the shadow of USADA hanging over his head and still have everyone glad-handing each other about him racing.
Now, I don't mean that as a judgement on whether or not Lance is guilty or not, whether he doped or not, etc. I just think it's a bit sad that USADA saying they want to investigate someone doesn't seem to give anyone pause. Now, by the same token, I don't expect that Lance - or anyone else - should have to twiddle their thumbs while USADA investigates, and Lance hasn't been convicted of anything. But nevertheless, I do think it's a bit odd for WTC - which is committed to supporting the WADA (and by extension, USADA) - doesn't seem to be troubled by the ongoing USADA investigation.
In a more relevant example, everyone on this forum was ready to skewer Michael Weiss and to have him kicked out of the sport for good - in many cases even before the verdict ultimately went against him, yet Weiss also has never failed a doping test, and ultimately it came down to a lot of - as far as I know - circumstantial evidence plus testimony from other athletes. There seems to me to be quite a lot of circumstantial evidence and testimony from former teammates in the case of Lance, but everyone is over the moon that he's racing. I guess that's what I find confusing. Weiss is a cheat and a scumbag in people's eyes - seemingly universally - yet Lance returning to race, with a similar type of investigation that loomed over Weiss's head for much of his career, is somehow the best thing to happen to the sport? I have some trouble with that double standard, especially given the timing of both the US Attorney's office announcement and Lance's/WTC's announcement.
I think the answer to whether or not race strategy will be affected is something that you'll see over the course of the season. I don't imagine that anyone is going to assume they can give Lance a 20min lead off the bike, but I also don't think people are going to feel they need to go with him - except maybe Lieto. I would say if he runs well in Panama, that'll change. I'm sure that folks will be watching, but - as Lieto himself has shown - it's a very different game running 13.1 after 56 than running 26.2 after 112. I think it'll be most interesting to see how he does in France, especially if Frederick Van Lierde defends his title, since FVL will offer a pretty good benchmark - I think - of performance.
Generally speaking, I don't think Lance will do for triathlon what he did for cycling, simply because I don't think that he'll do *in* triathlon what he did in cycling. I don't expect him to be the first man to notch seven Kona victories. But I do think he'll bring more media, more attention, more money, and more of just about everything into triathlon. Is that a good thing? I dunno. I'm sure it'll be a mixed blessing. There are some downsides to being a niche sport. But there are also some pluses. I suppose it's all just evolution. The sport is both better and also worse off now than it was 10 years ago, and was better/worse off then than 10 years prior to that. There was something truly special and magical about a handful of crazy folks getting together on Oahu to do something they didn't have any idea if they could, stopping at convenience stores, etc. Reminds me of the old pictures of the TdF with the guys carrying spare tubulars strapped over their backs and smoking cigarettes. Is what we have now better? In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no. Of course, if triathlon was still just a lunatic fringe, I wouldn't be able to make my living doing it, so I'm thankful that it's evolved into something where I can have a real career. But I'm also a bit sad that I never got to experience its wild and crazy early days. And maybe I'll end up saying to future pros, "you should have seen the sport before Lance got involved..." the way that Monty and Andrew McNaughton and Huddle and Frey and the other old skool folks talk about the sport back in the 80s and 90s.
Lance will likely bring change. That seems inevitable. Some of it will probably be good. Some of it probably will not be good. That's just the way of the world. Whether or not that change will affect me in any meaningful way? Who knows. I won't lose any sleep over it until I have a legitimate proof that I should be losing sleep over it.
Until something proves otherwise, my world is largely unchanged from what it was a day ago. Maybe now a few more people that I sit next to on planes will know what a triathlon is. But I've still got a job I love and that I'm lucky to do and thankful for every day. Lance deciding to race hasn't changed anything about that in the least. And I don't think what happens with him on the race course, whether it's a race I'm a part of or not, will change that either. And I actually don't think what happens with him off the race course will change it too much either. Lance brought a lot of change to cycling because he became a celebrity through cycling. He's coming to triathlon as a celebrity. I think with cycling he demonstrated that pro athletes were important and valuable. I don't think that he'll do the same thing with triathlon; I think he's showing - in triathlon - that Lance is valuable. I don't expect to see any sort of "trickle down" from the "Lance effect." I expect that Lance will get richer, that WTC will get richer, and that - best case - the companies involved in the sport will sell more product and that overall the sport will grow and, as the saying goes, that a rising tide will lift all boats. But I don't think that Lance really has much in common with me or with any other triathlon pro. He's massive. He's an industry unto himself. He dwarfs Macca, and Macca dwarfs pretty much all of the rest of us. So, because of that, I really don't see Lance having an impact on other pros. Lance is a business way more than he's an athlete. Lance getting involved is more like K-Swiss or TYR getting involved, except I don't expect Lance to sponsor athletes (though Team Livestrong may eventually sponsor some other pros).
Ultimately, I'll follow the race in Panama just like everyone else will. What happens after that, your guess is as good as mine...
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