Monday, 14 February 2011

Michael Barry: Doper or not?

Michael Barry is perhaps one of the most revered riders around not only in the peloton but also amongst cycling fans. For professional riders he is liked as he is highly experienced rider who has spent most of his career faithfully supporting his various team leaders. Outside the peloton, fans admire him because of the way he talks about cycling and his exceptional writing style that really places the reader inside the peloton. His books ‘Inside the Postal Bus’ and ‘Le Meteir’ are riveting reads that are essential for cycling fans who want a more insightful view of what it is like to ride in the professional peloton. His website is full of fantastic blogs and great videos of him out riding. All these things made him a rider that I trusted and believed which, at the moment, is very few in the professional peloton. Then last year Floyd Landis had a change of heart and finally came clean and his revelations included that he had doped alongside Michael Barry.

His exact words in an email dated April 30th to USA cycling President Steve Johnson were:

“While training for that Vuelta I spent a good deal of time training with Matthew White and Michael Barry and shared the testosterone and EPO that we had and discussed the use thereof while training.”

When the allegations leaked Michael Barry responded to them immediately and directly and stated that he had nothing to hide and is proud of being an athlete who competes without the use of any banned substance. Team Sky, to their credit, also were quick to react via Dave Brailsford restating the team ambitions to race clean and saying that Michael Barry had given them his side of the story and he was cleared to race unless Landis’ claims could be substantiated by facts.

After this exchange the furore over the allegations quickly died down and Barry went on to finish the Giro and ride the Tour de France in support of Bradley Wiggins. The Canadian Cycling Association ordered and independent body the Canadian Centre for Ethics to carry out an investigation into the matter but little has been heard since. I sent emails to both these organisations a week ago asking for an update on the investigation and have received nothing in return. So it may still be ongoing or it may not.

In Paul Kimmage’s mammoth long interview with Floyd Landis I was delighted to read that he asked him about the Barry acquisition. Below is the exchange in full:

P.K Okay, that’s fine. There is one last question. A lot of people were puzzled when you named Michael Barry in the emails and a month later, May 2010, he posted the following response on his website: I am shocked at the allegations from Floyd Landis.  A few years ago, I cycled the Vuelta a Espana race and trained two days prior to the Vuelta with him – one 6 hour ride and one two hour ride. I did not share or use any banned substances such as EPO when I was riding with him and am dismayed at his allegations. Landis is either lying or has mistaken me for someone else. Did you mistake him for someone else?
 F.L Nobody is more or less guilty than anyone else here but it’s time to tell the truth. I understand the difficulty and the risk in admitting to doping. I am in no place to judge because I denied it for years as well. Michael Barry is going to do what he feels he needs to in order to protect himself, but unfortunately in this instance his choice is to do what I did and lie. I hope for his sake that someday he can tell the truth and feel free.
What is clear from Kimmage’s wording of the question is that even he, the arch doping sceptic, is a little unsure of Landis accusations against Barry. Yet, Landis reiterates his previously stated stance that Michael Barry doped.

Many people in the cycling world are giving little to credence to anything Landis says at the moment due to his past history of lying. But if you read the whole interview you get a real sense of the man and the reasons why he doped and you do begin believe his argument that he has no reason to lie now about matters like these.

All this leaves the cycling fan in yet another tough predicament. Do I believe a rider who has been a credit to his sport, is extremely articulate, writes amazingly and clearly and has a love for the sport of cycling? Or do I believe a rider who has lied to millions to get money out of them and yet know seems to be willingly telling a lots of truths about his past and has little reason to lie anymore? It is these sorts of difficult questions that a cycling fan has to ask himself/herself regularly and they really start to erode my love of the sport.  If you cannot trust Michael Barry then which riders can you trust?

I am still undecided about Michael Barry as there are no facts yet to emerge to back up Landis allegations as the US Federal case on doping is still ongoing. Too many times cycling fans are very quick to rush to a conclusion.  All I wish is that when Michael Barry does have to give testify in front on a grand jury he is brave enough to tell the truth whatever that maybe and that he can live with himself afterwards.

I would love to hear other people's opinions on Barry so please feel free to post a comment below.


  1. I'm struggling with this Landis thing. I admire Armstrong greatly, but do have suspicions. Barry I trust.
    Landis is, I believe, either mentally ill or manipulative. He is desperately trying to rebuild his credibility, not just in the eyes of the World, but in those of his friends and family, perhaps even himself. He was weak, though perhaps a product of his age, and wants to portray himself as equal to all the others. To do that he needs to bring them to his level

  2. Fair points. I trust none of Landis, Armstrong or Barry. I would love to trust them all but skepticism has taken over me. This happens to many followers of the sport and that is the real shame.

  3. When I say I trust Barry, I do. But...

    Which I suppose means that perhaps I don't. Which is more upsetting.

    And as for today's news. Oh dear, oh dear.

  4. Surely, with a vast history of positive tests from riders of all type and background, you have to err on the side of caution and almost presume unscrupulous activity.

  5. Owen,

    I find it's happening all to often that, when individuals do oddball things, people automatically assume 'mental illness'. The two are not one and the same thing. In his Real Pelaton podcast, Matt Rendall authoritatively stated that Riccardo Ricco is "mentally ill", "must be suffering from a personality disorder", and needs to "be sectioned". It's a dangerous road to go down. Before you know it, we'll all be tarred with the 'mentally ill' brush.

  6. I came across this as I was going through some of Landis' assertions.

    When he first made his case I thought he was treading on dangerous ground, and that his credibility was low.

    IIRC he stated that Lance had a doping test of some sort covered up. I thought that was impossible. But then Tyler Hamilton corroborated Landis, and there is some evidence that there was some sort of cover up. USADA referenced Dr. Martial Saugy, of the lab in question in Switzerland, stating that one of Lance's samples suggested EPO use - although this was 2001, and I don't think it could have been a definitive test. And this hasn't been proven in a court of law yet.

    Either way, Barry has to be considered innocent until proven guilty. But given Jonathan Vaughters' very, very late and still fairly veiled confession in the NYT a few days ago, it's entirely conceivable that Barry doped but is not willing to admit it. If he did, I hope he does, but there is no proof, so we have to consider that he did not.