LAnce Armstrong and the SF financier


According to the Chron, the owner of the bicycle team that employed Lance Armstrong has been subpoenaed as part of the federal investigation into Lance Armstrong's alleged doping. (Why is this a federal issue? Um, because some US Attorney wants to make headlines. And because the US Postal Service, which sponsored the team, was involved.)

Thomas Weisel, a legend of Silicon Valley, hasn't said much publicly about the whole situation, although the Center for Investigative Reporting cites a lawsuit suggesting that he knew at least something nasty:

According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, testimony in an earlier arbitration case involving a dispute over Armstrong's bonuses suggest Weisel was made aware by team members and doctors of doping concerns on three occasions, beginning in 1996 (before Armstrong joined the USPS team), all to no avail. After publicly expressing concerns about Armstrong in 2001, former team member Greg LeMond said he was told by Weisel, according to the arbitration documents, "What you're saying about Lance isn't good for you. You be careful."

But Weisel was happy to talk to the San Francisco Business Times, which just posted a summary or an earlier interview. You have to be a subscriber to read the whole thing (and you know what? I pay for a subscription every year because there's stuff in the BT that you never see anywhere else, particularly if you're watching development issues). Here the gist:

Wiesel denies everything.

“I never had one discussion with one coach or one rider about doping,” he said. “And to my knowledge, the guys that were running my program – Mark Gorski (Postal general manager) and (operations director) Dan Osipow – they did not either. People say ‘Jesus, you had to know this was going on because everyone was doing it,’” Weisel said. “That’s not true. I never thought it was. I don’t think many cycling teams were deploying that practice. And we certainly had part of our rider contract where if a person tested positive, they were off the team. We were very explicit there.”

Okay then.

Bicycling is a lot more harsh than baseball -- Barry Bonds might not get into the Hall of Fame (although if he does, so should Pete Rose), but he hasn't been stripped of any of his batting titles and nobody's talking about changing his stats. It all reminds me of a friend who played for the University of Miami back in the 1980s, when Suntan U won national football titles. "Everyone juiced," he told me. "Everyone. You want to play, you juice. You want to get the the NFL, you juice."

Cheating -- except that everyone was doing it. Horribly unhealthy, but so is playing football at that level. When the rewards are so high, and the competition so intense, and winning is all that matters, people cheat. (See: Wall Street, where Weisel plays. See: Corporate America.)

Lance Armstrong is reportedly worth about $100 million. Bonds, about the same. Would they do it the same way again -- or retire in a more relative obscurity with a lot less money?

And why are those the choices?