Time Served.

As a newly-minted SoCal USAC Cat 5 with two whole sanctioned crits under my belt, I now feel it is my right, my honor-bound duty to comment on Kayle LeoGrande. 
For those of you who don't know who he is, here's a pretty good summary.  The TL:DR version is that he was domestic pro busted for doping, and the investigation following that bunny trail eventually helped bring down Lance. Great, we're done with that guy, right?
Nope. A while back a SoCal Masters team stacked with heavy hitters, Team Surf City Cyclery/Sterling BMW, picked up Kayle because, as their Facebook page proclaimed, "It's all about fun and representing our sponsors!" And winning. Lots and lots of winning. Don't care how. Winning.
Well, everyone deserves a second chance, don't they?
I'm not so sure.
I kinda think once you're busted for "hi-test" PEDs like EPO, human growth hormone, or testosterone (without a TUE), you probably shouldn't be playing in the amateur ranks anymore. The SoCal Masters ranks are already notorious for being rife with dopers, so re-introducing someone with a documented history of usage (and pictures to prove it) into the cesspool isn't going make matters any better. Even if he never mainlines AMGEN's cash-cow again, studies have shown his previous usage most likely resulted in adaptations that he couldn't have achieved otherwise. In other words, once a doper, always a doper. His post-ban 2012 and 2015 crit titles tend to underscore this point, as do any number of his lesser results.
I asked Wanky about it at the time, as he actually had to compete against the guy, and he seemed unconcerned. He's of the belief (which I can respect even if I don't share it) that once you do the time for a doping offense all is forgiven. He trusted the SSC team and the guys on the team to do the right thing. I figured he was a better judge than I was, and didn't think about it again.
Then Wanky posted this entry, and I wasn't surprised. Kayle had failed another drug test, although the details have not been provided by USAC or USADA. His team announced they were dropping him and he came out with a half-apology lifted straight from the Omerta Style Guide, 2006 edition. Tainted supplements.
I get it, USAC's hands are tied when it comes to allowing dopers to come back to competition. Serve the time and you're back in the game. The problem is, unlike professional athletes, amateur riders can have very long "careers". Testing is sporadic, mainly hitting the top finishers and the random rider someone dropped a dime on. The chances of getting caught are very low, especially if you don't have any unusual spikes in performance and manage your "glow time" well. What I question is why a team would want to bring on and support a known doper, especially since "it's all about fun and representing our sponsors!" That is, unless AMGEN is paying the bills.
Guys like Charon Smith, Thurlow Rogers, Phil Tinstman, and any number of other riders operate on a different strata of Masters racing than I do. No amount of PEDs would allow me to hang in their draft. That's a whole 'nother level of fast. I really hope they ride clean, as they would be something to aspire to. If clean, I would hope they would do everything they could to ensure the races they compete in are clean. Instead, the "fun" team signed up Kayle and you heard nothing but crickets from the peanut gallery.
If I someday grow up to be a SoCal Masters racer... wait, no... if my category bump goes through, I'm ever unfortunate enough to be in SoCal again, and I enter a Masters race (that's more like it), I hope I won't be beating my head up against a drug-addled peloton. I hope Wanky's assertion that it isn't just outliers, but the mid-pack racers that are visiting SoCal's many "youth restoral" clinics and Mexico's phamacias ultimately isn't true. I don't really care if I can't compete in that larger talent pool, but I'd like to at least be able to hang. Maybe with proper nutrition and focused training I might even be able to take a pull before being relegated to the back. I have no illusions about my potential. However, it would be demoralizing to be dropped week after week by guys I see walking into Dr. Feelgood's PCH office. I'd probably stop racing and just be content with one of the multitude of group rides in the area. That's how amateur racing dies- when the core of your product is rotten, people find other things to do.
It will be interesting to see what Kayle got busted for and what USAC/USADA will do about it. I hope he will be permanently banned from competitive sports of any kind, cursed to ride endless laps up and down the Santa Ana ditch with Richard Meeker and Nick Brandt-Sorenson. Hopefully their pack size will grow, as more dopers are discovered and banned. I'd like to see the day when SoCal Masters and "steroid freakshow" are not synonymous.
I don't stay up at night worrying about it, though. I'd just rather the resources go to rebuilding the USAC ranks from the bottom up with clean riders. More focus on juniors and new racer development. Instead they're forced to use precious resources chasing after the idiots ruining it for everyone else. It's a war between what they want to do and what they have to do. I'm glad I'm not saddled with that battle.
Well, that's one down.


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