Will America give Lance Armstrong a second chance? I asked Petaluma's Steven Cozza that question. Now retired, Cozza spent 10 years racing in Europe, six of them as a pro. Cozza competed against Armstrong in 2004, 2005, 2009 and 2010.
Cozza, 27, responded with a story.
It was during the 2009 Tour of California. Cozza, riding for Garmin, doesn't remember what stage of the race. A reporter asked him about cyclists doping. Cozza said he grew up with heroes in cycling but one by one he had taken down nearly all the posters from his bedroom wall, after they had been busted for doping. Cozza mentioned he still had Armstrong's poster on the wall.
“I sure hope I don't have to tear down Lance's poster from my wall,” Cozza said.
The next day, as he was readying himself for that day's stage, one of Armstrong's teammates on Astana confronted Cozza.
“He told me Lance had read my quote,” Cozza said, “and that I had better close my mouth in regards to Lance and doping. I said, ‘Whatever.' ”
Then Cozza sat back and pondered for a moment what had happened. Instead of focusing on riding in America's premier cycling event, Armstrong had ordered one of his teammates to go to Cozza. Armstrong clearly was trying to intimidate Cozza, to shut him up. Cozza wasn't accusing or attacking Armstrong. Yet Cozza felt attacked.
“Wow!” Cozza thought to himself. “I mean, who am I? I'm 21. I'm just breaking into the sport. Not a lot of people know who I am. What a control freak Lance is. What a bully this guy is.”
This bully has been and will be confessing on TV to Oprah Winfrey on Thursday night and tonight. This bully is portraying himself as one doper among many. This bully is trying to rebuild his image. Will Americans and the proper enforcement agencies give Armstrong that second chance?
“I don't think he deserves a second chance,” Cozza said. “The sport doesn't need him around. I think cycling is done with Lance. It's time for cycling to move on. He's an egomaniac; he's shown that. I have heard through the grapevine that the only reason he is doing this (TV interviews) is to compete again. He loves to compete and he wants to do the Ironman (triathlon).”