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...