20th October

I’ve been here before.

That’s the title of today’s post, and a chunk of it will be about cycling. First, a primer of the situation at present. Team Sky are a professional cycling team. Formed a few years ago they were sold as the antithesis to the US Postal team which proven cheat Lance Armstrong cycled for. They would take the excellence of incremental enhancements which saw Team GB’s cycling team sweep all before them at an Olympic level, and add to it an avoidance of improprietous drug usage.

WOW! They were effective. Choosing riders for races, sacrificing well known names for the overall progress of the team. And they won the Tour de France. More than once. Awesome.

Then, because of the ban on a majority of Russian athletes being allowed to compete at the Rio Olympic games, a group of hackers set about looking for drug impropriety in other nations. To be fair, most of the releases have been nothing outstanding. But they did find details of the use of TUE’s by Team Sky riders, including Sir (now) Bradly Wiggins in 2001, 20012 (his Tour de France & Olympic time trial winning year) and, 2013. And today there is a story about a Team GB cycling flying an unidentified medical package from Britain to France. Begging the question of what medicine could not be obtained in France?

What’s a TUE? A Therapeutic Usage Exemption. It allows for a specified us of otherwise embargoed medication. And I want to be very clear here, we are talking about medication. this is not the days of Tommy Simpson where amphetamines, or la bomba, were in common usage. TUE’s are designed to allow an athlete to compete on a level playing field that would otherwise be impossible due to an underlying medical condition. Sir Bradley’s condition? Asthma. I have asthma (because I’m a fat chuffer), many people have asthma. Not many of us are Olympic gold, tour de France winning knights of the realm.

And that’s why today’s post is called ‘I’ve been here before’. Because I have. I was here when Lance Armstrong was accused of being dirty, and he stood and called out his accusers, sued his accusers, and was vindicated in court. Then he admitted to being the cheat he was accused of. Suddenly all those people who had been reviled by him and his defenders, who had been driven to the brink of ruin by him, who had been defrauded by him, were proven to be right, truthful, and honorable. I remember the evening Lance tweeted a picture of himself with his framed even Tour de France maillot jaune and a tag of ‘Just chilling’. The was after the USDA had produced their report detailing his cheating. I’d read the report, I was already convinced of his guilt (I didn’t need to see him admit it to Oprah) and was sickened by his blatantcy.

Now I’m seeing similar denials and prevarications. I’m parsing the words of other cyclists and hearing ‘yeh, I thought it was dodgy as hell’. It’s horrible.

If it’s true he should be stripped of all his awards and prizes. Team Sky are already shedding senior staff, they should be disbanded (which is gutting).

Going forward, all cyclist need to have an open blood passport (as should all professional athletes) and any TUE should be open. The current system requires, I believe, three separate doctors to sign off on its usage. That is robust, the only thing missing is transparency. Any request should be linked with the blood passport and extra blood testing for those using a TUE must be part of the process.

It’s the only way cycling (actually, road racing) can be revived and given credibility.

And that’s the end of part one, the cycling bit.

Next, I write you know!

And I’ve been here before. Or there, that is. Earlier this month I wrote about looking at my stock of written and part-written work, and then making a decision on how to move forward. I did this. I was surprised by what came forward.

Most of what I write is SF, to some extent. But I also have another passion project. Writing a story unique to each US state, along with a few stories about other areas unique to the US. I’ve spoken about getting the first volume out before, and not done it. But now it’s moving forward. My first 11 stories, about 37,000 words, are nearly ready. What do I mean by ready? Each story is as I want it to be. now I’m combing through for irritating typos, formatting for publication, ensuring that curly quotes are used throughout (instead of a mix of straight and curly quotes as was there at the start). I’ve got a couple of people signed on for beta reading, but would love some more.

Let me know.

Lastly on the theme of ‘I’ve been here before’ there was a problem blew up in the SF community last weekend. A well known writer was revealed as a manipulating, creepy, bastard. It keeps happening, not just in SF, but more than I want to see in a field I love and am involved in.

Can I ask a favor? Could men is SF stop being creepy bastards? It really isn’t all, or even a majority, but it’s enough to make things horrible. I really don’t care if you have strict views on what a person may or may not do, just don’t try to impose them on someone else. I don’t care if your writing is mono-colored, just stop demanding non-white people have no place in our non-real fiction writing field. I don’t care if you are a creep who believes women are beneath you, and that people are only useful if they can advance your career, just ,please, sod off and stop being a bastard round here.

I don’t want to be here again.

 

 

 

 

 

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29th July

or: Leaving this month’s post to the last minute, and other procrastinations.

A strange month in all. Let’s start with a highlight.

I got a new First Reader gig. With Fantasy & Science Fiction. Charles Finlay put a call out for applicants, I applied, my application was accepted. The team got to work just as the submission hiatus ended and have worked through nearly a thousand of the over eleven hundred submissions received. I’ve read some awesome stories. I look forward to some appearing in future issues.

One of the things I have noticed is more than a few stories where sirens of some sort are a key feature of the tale. I blame Rhonda Parrish. Her Magical Menageries collection Sirens is now out, and that means there are a few related tales that weren’t included still available. I myself wrote two stories for the anthology. One never got as far as submission, the other never made the cut. I hope to do better with the Equus call – though I need to get my finger out and finish writing the story.

Which means I need to be busy writing because over the next four months I am challenging myself to write a 40k word novella. To be fair, I have about 15k of early draft work done, but it will still be my biggest challenge. This is a story that has been with me for some time. Elevator pitch? The crew of a small salvage ship scraping a living on the fringes of the solar system find a derelict space yacht. It’s been drifting for two hundred years. What they  discover aboard sends them on a journey back to all the things left behind, and will change Earth/Mars relationship forever. How does that sound? I’ve never done one. The reason I’m undertaking this is to submit it to the Ab Terra call being edited by Yen Ooi.

In other, non-writing related news, I was at the hospital on Wednesday. I received official diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue. This wasn’t a surprise, but rather the culmination of a couple of years deterioration in my health. I had hoped my most recent malaise was a recurrence of glandular fever I suffered three or four years ago, but the blood work all came back as negative. The frustrating thing is on Wednesday I really needed to be sat at home with my foot up, as I couldn’t I have now strained ligaments. The constant pain is sapping. Imagine bad toothache, in your foot, for three days. Of course, as the family carer I’ve had to do more than I should, thought today and tomorrow should be days I can rest. If I’m sensible I’ll do some writing, or editing. It’s all highly annoying as I’ve just purchased a bike (2nd hand) to try and rebuild some strength, and have been swimming at the local beach (Cawsand).

Next month I hope to move back to weekly updates to help keep track of my novella progress.

 

5th February

Dear Lance…

This blog is for detailing my writing. But occasionally a topic arises that demands attention. The last few weeks the subject of Lance Armstrong has once again come to the fore, mainly because the BBC thought him worthy of interview.

In it he suggests that maybe it is time he be allowed off the naughty step, that his punishments have been too harsh. Others, including a man who walked away from the systemic cheating of professional cycling, have voiced a similar idea. Well, here’s why they’re wrong.

For many years I was a staunch advocate of the innocence of Lance Armstrong. How could anyone have the terrible disease he did, then put his life and career at jeopardy by taking drugs? Not only that, while other accused riders prevaricated and dissembled (before being unmasked as cheats) Lance always stood right up, called his accusers out, and denied it – to the point of winning a court case for libel. No, for me, Lance Armstrong was the poster boy of triumph against adversity.

I discussed the case with my Brother-in-law, himself a keen cyclist, and now the owner of a bike shop. At that point I was swithering in my conviction. There were so many rumors and reports, so many in the pantheon of his peers had been discovered to be cheats. My B-i-L’s view was simple. This was the most tested cyclist on the planet. And if he was cheating, why risk taking on a libel lawsuit?

My faith returned to true north. Lance was clean.

It stayed that way right up until the USADA report. I read the entire thing, I read the references and the appendices (yeh, all of them). By the end I was utterly convinced of its conclusions. Others remained unconvinced, feeling it was a hatchet job to take down an all-American-hero. Well, even they had to agree its truth when Lance admitted guilt to Oprah, right there on television.

I remember a particularly odious tweet Lance put out around the time of the report. A picture of himself laying on a couch at home, his seven maillot jaune in glass frames hung on the walls around him and a tag line of something like ‘Just chilling.’

So, my firm belief in the innocence of Lance Armstrong was overturned. But it is not a mere sense of wounded sensibility that gives me the firm desire to never hear or see the man on a screen or radio ever again. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to see any one convicted of deliberately, knowingly, and illegally taking performance-enhancing drugs being allowed anywhere near the sport they defiled. But again, this is not the driver for my belief in Lance being permanently excluded from the media spotlight he seems to believe is his right.

It goes back to his stance when he was proclaiming his innocence. It goes to the way he trashed the lives of people who called him out for being the liar he was. People like Emma O’Reilly, David Walsh, and Betsy and Frankie Andreu. In calling these, and others, liars he induced courts to further enrich him by paying prize money his cheating made him ineligible for, and a payout for libel.

This, then, is the reason Lance Armstrong should forever be banished. He cheated, he lied about cheating, he made personal and vitriolic attacks against people who accused him of cheating, he sued people who accused him of cheating. Then, in his most recent interview, he says he’d probably cheat if put in the same situation.

This is a man who has a moral compass which points only to his own aggrandizement.

Now, let’s make some things clear. Livestrong (his charitable foundation) did a lot of good while LA was lying and cheating his way through his career. I’m sure he’s a personable fellow, and that some are proud to call him a friend. No person is all one shade. As despicable as his public actions have been, I’ll wager there are a myriad quiet private ones that show his decent side. It’s just a shame that they will forever be overshadowed by the lying, cheating, and defamation.

There has been an argument put forward that Lance, and other American cheats, have been dealt with more harshly by cycling authorities than Europeans. The argument goes that because some European cheats got to retain titles, so should Lance. No, the European cheats should lose their titles as well.

Back to Lance. Someone who has publicly confessed that they are a cheat, and that they would do so again, is not someone who should be involved in the sport, in any sport. Of course, politics is still open to him. No barriers that I can see. His arrogant duplicitness looks a natural fit.

Rant over.

Oh, by the way, of course I have a story that ties in with this. It goes back in time to when post-war amphetamines were first being experimented with in the peloton. It’s under one of my writing names and can be found at QuarterReads. The title is ‘A Cyclist’s Memoriam’ and you can read it for twenty-five cents.

(If anyone can point me to a link for a website or twitter feed for Betsy Andreu I’d be grateful)