Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Garmin's Steven Cozza Calls for Death Penalty for Doping

Being an active racing cyclist and supporting the anti-doping movement apparently jumped the shark in late-July, when Garmin-Transitions rider Steven Cozza advised the Twittering-world that, were he "in charge," (of what, Pappillon can only wonder) he would summarily execute "Dopers" by firing squad.

Cozza's boss, former USPS rider Jonathan Vaughters, must be thankful then that Cozza isn't in charge of anything - including, apparently, his own mental faculties. Vaughters, a teammate of Lance Armstrong's during the Texan's first Tour de France victory in 1999, is considered by Pappillon to have admitted to doping during an instant message conversation with another ex-USPS rider, Frankie Andreu, where he quipped: "...It's not like i never played with hotsauce, eh?" An excerpt from the infamous IM exchange follows:

"Cyclevaughters: anyhow, i never can quite figure out why i don't just play along with the lance crowd - i mean shit it would make my life easier, eh? it's not like i never played with hotsauce, eh?
FDREU: I know, but in the end i don't think it comes back to bite you
FDREU: I play along, my wife does not, and Lance hates us both
FDREU: it's a no win situation, you know how he is. Once you leave the team or do soemthing wrong you forever banned
Cyclevaughters: i suppose - you know he tried to hire me back in 2001... he was nice to me... i just couldn't deal with that whole world
FDREU: I did not know that
FDREU: look at why everyone leaves, it's way to controlling
Cyclevaughters: once I went to CA and saw that now all the teams got 25 injections every day
Cyclevaughters: hell, CA was ZERO
FDREU: you mean all the riders
Cyclevaughters: Credit Agricole
FDREU: it's crazy
Cyclevaughters: So, I realized lance [Armstrong] was full of shit when he'd say everyone was doing it..."

But back to Cozza, whose pro-firing squad Tweet read:

"# If I was in charge I'd give the Death penalty to Dopers. I'd line up in line with the firing squad. Dopers can (cont) http://tl.gd/2nh1t6 Saturday, July 24, 2010 12:13:06 PM via UberTwitter"

Just yesterday Pappillon exchanged updates with another elite cyclist, who lamented that the climate surrounding the anti-doping movement in cycling seems to be racing towards the same hysteria that made possible the Salem Witchcraft Trials of the late-1600's. Unfortunately, he has a point.

Twitter is now considered a legitimate source of information and quotable statements from celebrities, politicians, average-Joe's, and even athletes (witness Lance Armstrong's refusal to interact directly with the media during the 2009 Giro d'Italia, and his exclusive use of Twitter to comment on the race). Thus, when a member of one of only three UCI ProTour cycling teams in the United States suggests to his thousands of followers that he himself would take-up a position in a firing squad assembled to murder athletes accused of using performance enhancing drugs (despite explicitly rejecting the validity of the death penalty as a tool of the criminal justice system), he must be considered to be serious, if mad, - and addressed accordingly.

Cozza's irresponsible and downright frightening statements represent a form of uncritical thinking and garbage-in/garbage-out public commentary that do immeasurable damage to the credibility of the anti-doping movement, and which call into question the wisdom of Garmin-Transitions' decision to employ him. A professional cyclist who expresses a willingness to mete out capital punishment against athletes accused of enhancing performance through the use of licensed pharmaceuticals is just as lamentable a figure as the misguided sportsman who injects himself with EPO, or rubs testosterone gel on his shoulders. In fact, he's probably more of a danger, because while the doper risks only his own life, someone like Cozza argues for a public policy that impacts an entire body of people.

Perhaps Cozza is just a comedic rube, unaware of the damage he's doing to the fight against doping in sport. It's conceivable that his critical thinking skills have atrophied with each passing kilometer spent perched upon his bicycle saddle - and he didn't stop to think that his tweets would provide accused-dopers like Lance Armstrong with defensive PR ammo and evidence that there is an element of a "witch hunt" to the federal criminal investigation targeting them.

Regardless, it's unfathomable how an organization like Slipstream Sports, which manages the Garmin-Transitions program, could leave a loose-cannon like Cozza unmuzzled. Attention Dave Zabriske: you'd be wise to drop Cozza from your friend's list, and along with Vaughters and Matt White, remind your teammates that otherwise "good" people have made the mistake of involving themselves in doping, but that they don't deserve to be shot as a result...


  1. Another example of an ignorant bike racer trying to pass himself off as a socially-responsible, ethically-pure, righteous crusader.

    Doesn't anyone else see the disturbing parallels with anti-crime rhetoric in the USA? Politicians here are scared to utter even a peep about more progressive policing strategies or sentencing theories, for fear of being labeled by their rivals as "soft on crime."

    Now we see the same happening in anti-doping movement - pro cyclers like Cozza are staking out positions that are so extreme they beggar belief, but are intended to establish the rider's anti-doping credentials and absolve them from suspicion.

  2. in my mind cozza only makes himself seem more suspicious by saying such dramatic stuff. firing squad for dopers? get the fuck outta here. what's next? cut the hand off of the rider who succeeds in bumping your sprinter off of his train?

  3. 1. Why haven't we heard about this previously?

    2. Is the cycling press already so forgetful of its failing re. Armstrong, that they're abdicating responsibility for questioning the legitimacy of Cozza's comments?

    Journalists failed in their duty to seek out and write-about the truth when they turned a blind eye to Armstrong's impossible comeback and the doping that made it possible.

    Someone other than NPR and a few French scribes should have been asking hard questions.

    Now we're going to see the same lack of scrutiny in the case of Cozza?

    Only in cycling - a sport proven time and time again to be a clown show in the US - could a rider on a top professional team get away with making inflammatory, irresponsible statements like Cozza's wi/o even meriting a mention in the cycling press.


    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Your tone has been dark of late, but this is a piece of very good commentary.

  4. WHAT A TOOL! My sister was raped in 2008, and all her assailant received 18mos!!! I wish that son-of-a-bitch had gotten the death penalty, and that one of the firing squad would have missed and shot him in the balls. But if a rapist is sentenced to less than two years in prison, what rational human being suggests giving the death penalty to dopers?! I don't care if that irresponsible, insensitive comment is the result of hyperbole and strong feelings - or if he said it stone-cold calm. The result is he still said it, didn't retract it after almost two weeks and so proves he is just a whiney man-child with a stupid moustache who is too immature to speak seriously about issues important to the public and the health of our society.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. I woke up today to see this post in my reader, and to say little am abjectly horrified. I remember Cozza as being violently anti-doping, but I never realized just how real that was... Yet he was someone always complaining about being tested. Seems like he doesn't make that gripe anymore.

    Regardless, thanks for pointing this out. Garmin is definitely on double-secret probation w/ this fan. Hard to see much difference b/w their riders and those of any other hypocritical protour team.

  7. Looks like Cozza deleted at least one of the death penalty references you cited.

  8. Firstly, thanks everyone for your comments.

    I don't know if Cozza seriously believed that the death penalty was an appropriate punishment for doping in sport, or if he thought it was a funny thing to say, but regardless, I believe it was incredibly irresponsible.

    I did have to delete a comment someone left here under Steven Cozza's name, as I doubt that the rider in question would leave such a comment here - please just post anonymously rather than assuming the identity of someone else, ok?

    I agree that there seems to be an element of "tough on crime"-talk to some of the more extreme anti-doping rhetoric. Is Cozza running for office, perhaps?

    Anon, sorry to hear about your the tragedy that befell your sister. If there's anything specific you'd like to share, like the name of some charity you're supporting or something, please contact me.

  9. Well, if Cozza is serious at least we can look forward to seeing him shoot Levi in the head, now that Holczer has finally come out and revealed LL's doping while on the German squad...

  10. Saw Cozza claimed you took his comments "out of context" - WTF?! “If I was in charge I’d give the Death penalty to Dopers.” Seems pretty straightforward to me!

  11. You guys are reaching here, move along. Any pro who speaks out should be applauded. For every 1 that speaks out, 10 keep the omerta alive. The real personalities and emotion in this sport have been whitewashed by the sponsors, or silenced by the omerta.

    Eventually the day will come when Cozza attacks a Vino, or a Levi and gives them "The Look"...but this time we will all have a special connection. Bravo Cozza.

  12. We agree with you that any pro who speaks out should be applauded. For every 1 that speaks out, 10 keep the omerta alive. The real personalities and emotion in this sport have been whitewashed by the sponsors, or silenced by the omerta.

    Nonetheless, effective anti-doping advocacy doesn't include revelations made to thousands that the anti-doping athlete supports the application of the death penalty to "Dopers."

    You should consider the broader, global context in which those remarks were uttered - during an investigation whose principle target is crying "witch hunt!"

    And here one of his colleagues in the protour hands him clear evidence of a witch-hunt mentality.

    No one here is arguing for Omerta. On the contrary, we support a truth and reconciliation committee and period of limited amnesty for athletes to come completely clean w/o fear of the omerta.

    What we don't support, however, is the injection of extremist rhetoric into a debate that's taking place, like it or not, in the "Digital Commons."

    Cozza is clearly a vehement anti-doper. Bravo. But straight-faced suggestions of applying the firing squad to dopers - even if delivered wholly in jest - damages the credibility of the movement and those who comprise it.

    What this is about is maintaining the credibility of the anti-doping movement in cycling, and if he's interested, limiting the damage to Cozza's reputation by decommissioning the capability of his lunatic statements to be used by suspected dopers to claim they are subject to persecution and caught in a witch hunt - a mob, if you will.

    Steven Cozza is probably a nice guy (though maybe he isn't - who knows). But his message - "dopers should be executed" - is a dangerous one.

    Watch that it doesn't now show-up in some component of LA's defense.

  13. Ha. Just came across this after years of forgetting about this funny article. It's funny to see how people actually thought I was serious with my twitter comment. Goes to show that people will amplify anything to add to their boring blog. I don't even believe in the death penalty period. Dopers should be locked up for life. JK. I believe everyone makes mistakes in life, including myself. It is what we do after making these mistakes that counts. Joe Papp will probably delete this comment.

    1. Hi Steven. Sorry it took me so long to publish your comment. It was marked as potential spam, which was mildly amusing, and I very rarely check those, since I hardly post here anymore.

      Wouldn't have deleted your comment if it had gone live right away, however. It was a good comment.

      Hope you're healthy and doing well w/ the whole realty thing.

    2. btw: I can't believe how dickish I was in writing about your tweet back then. Sorry!


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