Sports Columns

January 22, 2013

Devin Golden: Do fans doubt all athletes now?

It’s strange how one simple four-word question can snowball an entire string of thoughts worthy of a column.

One of the first things Saul Raisin told me Friday in our phone interview was he was clean his entire career. That comment came up later that day while speaking to a number of cycling enthusiasts at Bear Creek Bike Shop.

“Did you believe him?” a local cyclist in the shop asked.

I hesitated for two seconds, an eternity when answering a yes-or-no question, before affirming that I did believe the Dalton cyclist.

The hesitation wasn’t because I didn’t know the answer.

It was because the question seems so natural to ask of any athlete.

After Lance Armstrong’s now-famous interview with Oprah Winfrey last week, Raisin and I spoke for the second time ever (we spoke once last spring to talk about his push to compete in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii).

It was a good 15 minutes on the Dalton native and former professional cyclist’s feelings regarding Armstrong’s long-overdue admission to doping in each of his seven Tour dé France victories.

Part of his answer to my first question gave me the answer to my second one.

“... I raced my whole career clean,” Raisin told me.

“I never used drugs or anything. I was a natural cyclist. ...”

I was leading toward the “did you ever” inquiry. He answered it before I asked, and without pushing any further or thinking a second longer, I believed him and moved on, in my mind positive his assertion was 100 percent truthful.

The thing is, I don’t know why I automatically believed. And Armstrong is the latest person to blame for that.

This is not an accusation that Raisin took PEDs, or a belief he wasn’t clean. But isn’t it tough to blindly believe any athlete’s word after being lied to by so many others? For years, Armstrong defiantly shot back at his accusers. For years, he made people believe his lie.

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