Thoughts on Andre Cardoso’s positive test

Part of what I like about being retired is that I don’t have to deal with all the doper debate anymore. I’m sick of that drama and I’m over the “comments” section. I’ve taken my (marginal) talents to YouTube and Strava, where dopers are few—and mostly beatable. There’s less at stake and more I can control. I don’t have to comment, but I feel like I should. I often disagreed with Steve Tilford, but I liked that he was out there, ready to write about this stuff and provide some accountability. I don’t want to take up his spot in the cycling blog world, but I do feel like writing about this one, because it stings and people keep asking me.

Andre Cardoso was my teammate in 2014 on Garmin-Sharp, and again on 2016 when I returned to Cannondale-Drapac. He was a good climber, was up there in lots of big races, but he hadn’t won anything in awhile so you probably haven’t heard of him. We weren’t super close, but his cell number is in my phone, and if I ran into him a week ago, I’d have given him a big hug and been happy to see him. We trained together a few times, raced together, and we shared a hotel room at the Tour of San Luis in ’16. He was a professional: the neatest suitcase you’ve ever seen, and always wiped down his shoes before the stage or burned off the extra fuzzy parts when his socks started to get old. I remember when the soigneurs found cupcakes for his birthday at the Tour of Alberta, and we sang for him and celebrated in the team bus after dinner. I met his wife and I remember when he had his first child, who must be three years old by now.

To see him test positive, my world isn’t shaken exactly, but I’m certainly surprised and confused. He seemed like another one of the guys, and doping wasn’t the culture on Slipstream at all. We had fun, we trained hard, we raced our butts off, but drugs weren’t a part of the equation. I’ll be forever grumpy at Vaughters for how my career ended, but I’ll give him this: he’d rather lose than cheat—not necessarily because he’s a pillar of morality, but because it’s not worth the risk. I can’t imagine that Andre was doping when we were teammates, and for some reason that makes me feel better.

So what might have changed? What could have made him do it? I try to put myself in his shoes, but they’re size 37. I was desperate lots of times (for ten years solid, actually), but I went to college, my parents had money, and I never had a family to support with my legs. I’m guessing his salary was never more than $180k a year, which is great, but he’s 32, so if he wants to be set for life or even race another year, he’d better win something big soon. With the Tour de France coming up, maybe that could put a guy over the edge?

I’m sure there’s not a doping culture on Trek, either. There’s a few guys left from that era, but they’ve learned the hard way by now, too—or they’ve skated and know how lucky they are. Doping is different now. It’s not like they’d hand it to him on a bus like you might have read about in 1998, or peer pressure him into it. He’d have had to find the right doctor or buy it somewhere off the internet. Morally, it feels like that makes it more of a crime to cheat in 2017, because it’s not so easy. You’re risking your own career, your family, your sponsors, and your teammates.

Then there’s his statement—copy-pasted by some shitty PR manager or his agent or some lawyer. It looks like almost every other denial, from Tyler Hamilton to Bill Cosby, and I can’t see how that ever works. Andre probably thinks it’s smart to lay low and leave it to the experts. He’s getting lots of advice from idiots, and it just comes off like he doesn’t give a shit, which is frustrating. That’s a big part of why I believed that something was off with Tom Danielson’s positive in 2015—he went crazy on twitter, with denials and confusion and typos and raw emotion. It’s exactly the reaction I’d have had at a positive test, and if he was lying, he should win an Oscar for that. If someone said you were under arrest for rape or murder, you wouldn’t be able to patiently let a lawyer craft a response. You’d be screaming from the rooftops and tweeting like our president and it would look like you lost your mind. Whoever wrote that statement for Cardoso either doesn’t have his best interests in mind, or doesn’t respect the intelligence of cycling fans.

I don’t know how to end this. I hope it is a false positive and he’s cleared somehow, but it doesn’t look good. I’m angry but I’m more confused and sad. A lot of young guys in the sport didn’t know why it killed me to see Mancebo win the Sunset Stage at Redlands this year. They think I’m a hater, because they weren’t watching the Tour when those guys ruined it. They don’t realize that’s the reason they get their pee tested today, or they live in a shitty apartment, and the guy who got second is running an eBay business to get by, deprived of a result that might have changed his life. I hope young riders see this one and realize it’s not worth it. I hope I don’t have to fly to Portugal on a Strava KOM hunt.