I think this from David Millar's diary is very good:
Tommy Simpson would have been seventy this year. That's a good age I think. As for me, I should make a windswept and interesting seventy year old. That's forty years away though, and that is a long time. So much has happened to me in the last thirty that it is hard to imagine what's in store in the next 40. Tommy on the other hand will always be my age, he'll always be thirty. I think the two of us would have got along and it makes me sad that I'll never get to meet him and hear his stories or ask his advice.
British pro cyclists have, in the past, been somewhat quirky loner characters who tend not to share their love of their sport with any other. I think Tommy would have and he'd have had some great stories to tell. He won the Tour of
Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Tour of Lombardy, the World Championships, Paris-Nice, two stages in the Vuelta and was the first Briton to ever wear the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France. He even won BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1965, the highest accolade for any sportsman in the UK and one never won by another cyclist. To this day he remains our greatest cyclist ever, and he died when he was my age.
Tommy died just over a kilometer from the top of the Mont Ventoux: the Giant of Provence as it is otherwise known. It?s one of the most feared climbs in cycling, made even more daunting by the fact Tommy died on it before making it to the summit. He tried too hard, pushed his body beyond what it could do with the help of amphetamines, and he collapsed and died before crossing the summit.
He doped and he died.
It's not a nice place to die, and it wasn't a nice way to die, and we have no right to forget that. His memory should live on, through his palmares and the memories of his friends and family and the books written about him. But above all, his memory should live on by the mistakes he made and the price he paid. He died from doping in a time when there was no doping control. His death was a wake-up call that forty years later we are only starting to hear.
I don't think it is right that 99 percent of the peloton today would not have been aware that it was the fortieth anniversary of his death. We can't forget that moment, or that rider. Our sport is finally facing up to the real fundamental problems it has. The inherent culture of doping that was omnipresent for years is finally being eradicated, but only because we are in an end-game situation where if we don't face it we'll all be out of jobs. That's the bottom line: it's the economic factors that are forcing people to act. Now I believe we can do better than that. I believe we can bring real ethics and sportsmanship back into our beautiful sport. It is going to take time, but the next generation deserves to never have to face decisions that generations of cyclists faced at one time or another. We can only give the future a proper chance if we face up to the past and deal with it, hear from the experiences of people, the how?s and why?s of doping in cycling. Otherwise we'll forget and it will happen all over again years from now.
Three years ago, Paris drug police arrested me in a restaurant in Biarritz. I spent the following 48hrs in a cell intermittently being interrogated, and I remember laying there in a sleepless state wondering what the hell had happened to the teenager who dreamt of one day doing the Tour de France. Ten years before I had a bedroom covered in cycling posters and an absolute love for the sport. Now I was laying on a wooden bench in a French prison for doping and worst of all I'd grown to hate cycling. That's what happened to many others and me. We cheated and lied and grew to hate the one thing we'd loved above all else in our youth. My story is important, so is Tommy Simpson's, so is Marco Pantani's, so is Chava Jimenez's, so is Festina's, so is Cofidis', so is Telekom's, so is Operation Puerto. The list goes on and on and on.
The future is good though. I love what I do with an awareness, which can only come from loss. I know we'd be absolutely fine if everybody could see it through my eyes for a day, but unfortunately that's not going to happen hence my near evangelical preaching at times. The sport is going to change infinitely in the next ten years, and the young guys coming in now are getting the ride that we should have all always got. Next year will be the start of a new venture in American cycling which will see the first of what will be the next generation of cycling teams, bringing ethics back to the forefront. And maybe one day years from now cycling will come full circle and be at the vanguard of international sport when it comes to anti-doping and sportsmanship. That would be a lovely bit of irony wouldn't it?
As for Tommy I will continue to doff my helmet/cap to his monument whenever I pass it on the Ventoux. In remembrance of a great cyclist, and before there are discussions whether he should be feted or vilified; I'd just like to remind everybody that he died from amphetamines.
I think David Millar's article has gone some way to modify my opinion of both him and Tommy Simpson.
I've always had a problem with the un-critical acclaim that Simpson gets amongst many British cyclists. There is too much reverence of 'the good old days' where they accept drug taking as a fact of life with no more than a shrug of the shoulders. This attitude, I believe, is what made taking the 'difficult' decisions in cycling that Millar talks about, to be actually not difficult enough.
In clubs round here there is still an older generation who took part as amateurs in high level racing on the continent and in the Milk Race who still sit around, laughing and reminiscing about the fun they had cheating and fooling the early drugs tests. The message they send to younger riders today is still ambivalent, at best. I hope WADA's concerns over the lackadaisical way the TdF is still administrating it's routine drug tests this year doesn't mean another generation will be able to laugh about what they got away with.
So if we are to move on to a new era in cycling, more people must be able appraise the past like Millar has done. Give credit where credit is due, but also point out why it took so long for cycling's to put its house in order and who was responsible. Every country must be prepared to see some of the shine come off its hero's (Viranque !) or risk having cycling, past present and future doomed to ridicule and obscurity.