Dickson says he nearly revealed what had been happening right then. "I was so upset out there that this whole thing was going on. These are my riders; these are my kids. And, Christ, the decision I had to make at the time was to blow it out of the water then, which would destroy the whole team right there at the Olympics. And I elected not to, which I can be faulted for." Falsetti responds: "If Dickson didn't like what was going on out there, he could've moved out of the room with me. I wouldn't have drunk so much of his vodka." Falsetti claims he wasn't alone in managing a blood-boosting line at the L.A. Games. He estimates that, of non-American athletes performing in endurance events, "at least half of them who had a chance to win a medal blood-boosted." Some other observers believe that many athletes did, but not that high a percentage.
The U.S. cyclists who boosted were those most snugly under the wing of Eddy B., who could not be reached for comment as this article was being prepared. "The pressure must have been pretty tremendous," says Carpenter. "My own feeling is that the coaches planted the seeds of doubt in the riders' minds that, if they didn't do it, they wouldn't win medals. That's an unfair thing to do to an athlete—to tell him everybody else is doing it, and you can too." Doug Shapiro, a rider who didn't make the Olympic team but who has talked to several who did, says, "Eddy B. tried to sell the blood doping to everyone."
The investigation Lea referred to in his letter of resignation also disclosed that the team was experimenting with high, if legal, quantities of caffeine, and that that's not the kind of thing you stumble into. Lea says, "They're big boys. Anyone with normal interpersonal perception could see they were doing something wrong."
Team rider John Beckman demurs. "It's a very subjective question," he says. "You can't just say doing that is wrong, or doing that is right." And many athletes live in a world in which "interpersonal" relationships are not what they are normally considered to be. There often exists a profound trust in authorities and one's coach. And Burke says, "As long as they're not doing anything illegal, then why not do it, if you believe that it's going to help your performance? And I believe that's a decision an athlete has to make."
Van Haute said, "I didn't think it was wrong at the time, because you can't detect it." Beckman contends, "If anybody did do any blood boosting, it's their own business."
Not so, says Dardik: "It's absolute that this was unethical, unacceptable and illegal as far as the USOC was concerned. All [this discussion of] questionable legality to me [is] immaterial."
Dardik's strong comment notwithstanding, the USOC has been late in making its opposition to blood boosting really emphatic. It was not until three months after the Games that Clarke wrote to Earnest, then conducting Lea's in-house investigation: "The United States Olympic Committee considers 'blood packing' or 'blood doping'...as unacceptable under any conditions." At that time Clarke urged the IOC to "declare itself explicitly in this regard."
What Clarke and Dardik seem to be declaring is the need for a return to traditional values; issues should be judged on the basis of right or wrong, not legality or illegality.
But Burke remains defiant. "You know where we were in the dark ages," he says. "You know where we are now. Nobody says we wear white gloves."