Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/16/2006 03:24:00 PM
My Sportsman: Frankie Andreu
Onetime Lance Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu admitted in September that he has used performance-enhancing drugs.
Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images
By Austin Murphy
I'm going to catch heat for this, but here goes: In my travels throughout the sporting cosmos in 2006, no one impressed me more, or showed more character, than a man who is an admitted cheater. What's up with that?
On the morning of Sept. 12, I opened my New York Times and read that Frankie Andreu, an ex-Tour de France cyclist who'd put in a dozen years in the pro peloton, had admitted to the paper's Juliet Macur that he had, on several occasions in the 1990s, experimented with EPO. While I felt a certain jealousy toward the reporter for landing that scoop -- I've known Andreu for years; if I'd only asked him straight up, would he have told me? -- I felt no revulsion or disillusionment or outrage toward him.
Instead, I felt admiration for Andreu, a one-time domestique for Lance Armstrong on the U.S. Postal Service team. And I'm going to tell you why, as soon as I make clear that this is not to be interpreted as some sort of oblique judgment on whether or not Armstrong ever partook of cycling's forbidden fruit. He has told me he hasn't. He's never tested positive. I'll take him at his word until I see a smoking gun. I don't need the guy boring holes in me with The Look every time I see him on the sidelines at a Texas Longhorns football game.
This is about Andreu, whose small act of courage and honesty gleamed like a lonely beacon in what could very well be the dirtiest sport in the world. To paraphrase Willy Wonka, who was borrowing from Shakespeare, So shone a good deed in a weary world.
Even the most passionate cycling fans are weary of its culture of cheating. As most sentient adults in this country know, Floyd Landis, who won this year's Tour, stands to lose his title for testing positive for synthetic testosterone. (Landis is vigorously contesting that charge, and hopes to have his name cleared before the Court of Arbitration for Sport).
Just this month you had ex-Cofidis rider David Millar, a former world time-trial champion, telling a French court that "I took drugs because it was my job to get good results." In the same trial, according to VeloNews.com, ex-Cofidis rider Phillipe Gaumont told the court he'd won exactly one race cleanly as a professional. "At Cofidis," he went on, there was only one rider who didn't cheat and that was [Frenchman] David Moncoutier."
So Moncoutier becomes one of my new, favorite riders. Just as Andreu, a cycling commentator for Versus (formerly OLN), became, with his candor, one of my favorite ex-athletes.
Here at SI, no issue (with the exception of flaccid ad sales) threatens our livelihood more than the performing-enhancing substances that undermine the credibility of entire sports. The only way we're going to clean things up is if more people break the athletic Omerta and speak honestly about what they've done.
To all the dopers out there who have thought about coming -- and competing -- clean, take it from Andreu: The truth will set you free.
Bravo Mr. Murphy. It is high time we praise an athlete's character rather than his record. Frankie's honesty outshines Lance's denials ten-fold. Hopefully your colleagues at SI concur with your brilliance.
Frankie's confession is admirable and brave even knowing that his livelihood will get hurt, but unless the trainers, coaches and owners of professional teams are held responsible no matter what, they will not stop insisting on winning at any cost.
I'm tired of this sentiment; "This is about Andreu, whose small act of courage and honesty gleamed like a lonely beacon in what could very well be the dirtiest sport in the world. " It is so ignorant to suggest that cycling is the lone sport with significant drug problems. I would argue it has less with its pervasive testing and few positive results. I played hockey through college and I know more people on my prep school team that took steroids than have tested positive this year in cycling. I think it would be safe to say things are even worse in football.
Frankie Andreu is purely and simply a class act. No, he never "won" the Tour de France (although he has the American record for the most consective completions at 9). Unlike recent past "winners" (Floyd excluded), Frankie has true class. Frankie always set his personal ambitions aside for the good of his team--even when the "team leader" was of very questionable character. Frankie Andreu is a true American hero.
Frankly, I find this a bad pick. Some SI writers seem to have a hard time actually nominating a person who played sports this year - horse owners, a NBA owner, a retired cyclist, etc. Can it be that hard?
I also don't like the choice since Andreu was a cheater, the worst crime in sports. And he didn't do anything courageous - his career is done, his paychecks safely cashed, and, as you even mention in your article, other cyclists have come out and said the exact same thing. I'm sorry, I'm just not seeing why what Andreu said was either special or admirable.
Courage, integrity and honor? Nothing to gain? Maybe...if he had made the same statements when he was still riding...still getting paid to race his bike. Now that he is getting paid (or trying to get paid) for managing young cyclists, he came out and said what all the sponsors and possible employers want to hear. "I did it, its bad, nobody should do it", no kidding. Maybe if he donates all the money he earned during his cycling career, that would make him feel better.
I just love some of these posts. Let me see if I can put it a way that everyone can understand: Frankie admits to having used (early in his career) some performance enhancing drugs. The recent "winners" can't bring themselves to do anything but deny. B.S.! Pure and simple. When a domestique uses you can bet your last nickel that the "star" us jacking himself up to the hilt. You know who you are as do we.