Monday, October 15, 2012

My Own Lance Armstrong Confession

NOTE: This blog is obviously a work of fiction. However, with the farce of an investigation that has recently been brought against Lance Armstrong, I couldn't resist a little farce of my own. If you have no interest in cycling, this probably won't mean anything to you and you should probably skip it.

Now that the USADA case against Lance Armstrong has come to a close, and everybody from George Hincapie to Dave "Buy My Junk" Zabriskie is coming forward with their own confessions of doping, I figure it is about time I came clean about my own involvement with Lance Armstrong and the USPS organization. It is a sordid tale I'm not proud of. In retrospect, I should have known better.

My involvement with USPS started innocently enough. I was a regular purchaser of postage stamps sold by USPS that, in part, went to fund the activities of Lance Armstrong and the USPS cycling team. Living in a rural area as I do, I had a regular habit of buying my stamps directly from my mail carrier instead of driving into town to get them. Every month, exactly on the 15th, when I got paid I would meet my letter carrier at the mailbox to buy myself a roll of stamps. It was on October 15th of 1999 that my life changed forever. It was that day that I willingly joined the "dark side" of the competitive cycling world.

On that day, instead of being met at my mailbox by my regular letter carrier, there was a dark-haired stranger behind the wheel of the USPS mail truck. When I greeted him and he responded, I noticed he had an odd accent. I asked him where he was from. He replied cryptically, "I come from the land of the Stroopwafel." Before I could question him further, he began to congratulate me on my regular and generous contributions to the USPS cycling team and asked me if I would like to help them out in a more substantial way. Having just months before watched Lance Armstrong win his first Tour de France victory in Paris, I was awestruck and felt honored to be invited to play even a small part in such a prestigious organization. I didn't realize then how deeply I would be getting involved.

The stranger explained to me that twice a month, a box addressed to Juan Pelota would be delivered to my house...along with my regular order of postage stamps which, thanks to my participation, would now be free of charge. I was to deliver this box personally to Lance in Texas. It was explained to me that the contents of this box would greatly help Lance win more races, but that he was not exactly supposed to have it while cycling, which was why discretion was most important. I was instructed that if I should ever be stopped by the authorities, the origin or destination of the parcel must never be revealed. I was immediately suspicious but, in the end, the temptation of receiving free postage won out over my better judgement.

So, all during the off-seasons of 1999-2004, I would make two runs a month to deliver the boxes to Lance. The boxes, when shaken, made the sound of glass containers clinking together. As the boxes were heavily sealed with packing tape, I never dared to open them and take a look inside. That is, except only once, in 2003 when my curiosity got the better of me and I made a small cut with a box knife and removed one small glass vial. I kept the container safely hidden away and nothing was ever said about its absence from the box. My meetings with Lance followed a set routine. I would meet him exactly at noon in the parking lot of the X-rated video store just across the Oklahoma-Texas border. He always arrived on a Trek racing bike with an odd cargo rack over the back wheel to which he secured the box I would give him. He was never very talkative and always seemed in a hurry. I asked him once why he was in such a rush. He replied that it was important for him to make it back to Austin before the contents of the box got too warm or else they would be no good. I took advantage of this opening to ask him about what was in the box. He paused for a long moment and then smiled. He told me that the "magical oil" that was in those boxes allowed him to race and win without ever having to train. He laughed as he told me that just a little of that stuff would give him more than enough energy to leave Ullrich, Basso, and Pantani "in the dust." Seeing that perhaps he had said too much, our conversation was quickly over and he proceeded to do as always. He opened the box, took out one vial and "used" it, attached the box to his bike and sped off south, quickly disappearing into the distance.

Despite the oddity of my arrangement with Lance and the USPS, I never worried much about the legality of what I was doing. The free postage kept rolling in and I figured, with all the members on the team, certainly I wasn't the only one doing this. There must be others making such deliveries. and if this what it took to see the boys in blue on the podium in Paris, I would do my little part. It wasn't until I received a subpoena to testify in an investigation of Lance Armstrong and the USPS team for defrauding the federal government. Oh good Lord! I was frightened beyond all belief. I was being implicated in participating in an organized doping ring! I was threatened with major jail time and even worse, a lifetime suspension from free postage!

It is to my shame that I did not stay loyal to Lance and the team. Yet, I knew, what I had been doing was wrong. And I had my family and career to think about. I told the feds everything. About the boxes, the deliveries, and...about the one vial of "magic oil" I had hidden away at home. I've never seen people so happy. The investigators jumped and danced and hugged each other! There were high-fives being given all around. They explained that once they tested the contents of that vial, they would have a slam dunk case against Lance and the whole USPS cycling organization. They escorted me home to retrieve the evidence and held me in custody at the lab as they tested the mysterious substance.

The time spent sitting in the lab offices seemed to stretch on for hours. I pondered my own personal fate and cursed myself for my own greed. Yet the investigators laughed and joked and seemed very festive about the whole affair. After what seemed like an eternity, a lab technician stepped into the room. He was holding a single computer printout sheet which he handed to the lead investigator. This investigator who just moments ago was so bubbly and jubilant suddenly turned pale as he stared at the printout for a long moment. He turned slowly to his coworkers and said softly, "Case closed. Charges Dropped." He then approached me angrily and shoved the printout into my hands. "This never happened and I never want to see you again." I slowly scanned the piece of paper he had handed me. It said across the top, 'Lab Testing of Unknown Substance.' Below followed a list of indecipherable numbers and abbreviations. But at the bottom of the sheet was a single line of text. It said very simply, 'Identification of Unknown Substance - SHINER BOCK BEER.'

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