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Q&A: disgraced cyclist Michael Barry explains how his doping confession saved his sanity

Q&A: Cyclist Michael BarryYou recently admitted to doping while you were on Lance Armstrong’s cycling team, U.S. Postal, from 2002 to 2006. Why come clean now?
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency called and said, “We know you were involved with U.S. Postal, and we want you to tell your story and testify.” I knew it was time.

Where were you when they called?
In the car with my wife and two kids. We were driving down Bayview Avenue on our way to get something to eat.

Was it the call you’d been expecting for a decade?
On some level, yeah.

Some people think you confessed only because you were about to get caught.
I may never have been. Who knows?

When did you start doping?
In 2003. It was in an apartment in Girona, Spain, with
a teammate.

Why did you do it?
European racing was so fast and I wasn’t performing like I had been back home. I thought I could compete clean, but the pressure to perform was too much. I gave in.

How often would you dope?
Sometimes not at all. If I was preparing for a big race, maybe four or five times a week.

Did doping make you a better biker?
The drugs made me feel sluggish at first, but eventually I got used to them. I assumed they helped me physically, but I didn’t expect the mental toll. If you’re not sleeping and feel paranoid and guilty all the time, it affects your performance massively. It was only once I stopped that I realized the gains
were minimal.

You decided to go clean in 2006. Why?
I crashed in a race and almost died. I came around a corner, hit a crowd barrier and went flying. I was lying motionless in a pool of blood. The TV crews didn’t film my body because they thought I was dead. I woke up in a CT scan machine with three broken vertebrae, and I started to think, “What the hell am I doing?” My wife and I had a six-month-old son. I realized I didn’t want to be a doper anymore.

Since you confessed, you’ve been all over the media. How has the experience affected you and your family?
It’s been emotional, but also liberating. I’ve had a lot of support, and fessing up to my parents has brought us closer.

Your wife, Dede Demet, is a former Olympic cyclist. She defended you publicly when a teammate accused you of doping in 2010. Was she in on the lie?
She knew. It would have been impossible to hide it from her. Most of the doping I did was at our home in Spain. I kept the drugs in the fridge.

Did Lance Armstrong dope?
The evidence is pretty damning. We can all draw our own conclusions.

He lost a bunch of sponsors. Should you return the taxpayer and sponsor money you received during your doping years?
If I’m asked to, I’ll have to.

How much would it be? A million bucks?
Nowhere close.

A hundred thousand?
Over a period, yes. Most bike racers don’t earn much. Some of my teammates couldn’t afford to eat
at restaurants.

You’ve broken six vertebrae and your femur twice, and you’ve got a metal plate in your arm. Given the physical and mental tolls and the minimal pay, are you angry at cycling?
No. Cycling has been my life. I’ve made good and bad choices. I’ve learned many lessons, but I still love being on my bike.

You’re 37, and you’ve just retired. What will you do next?
I’ve written three cycling books, and I have a contract to write one more. The Canadian anti-doping agency has also approached me about speaking to students about my experiences.

  • Roadent

    Right, so he doped the whole time, denied it his whole career, threw Floyd Landis under the bus when he was outed and only confessed because he was called before a grand jury, and he’s supposed to be a role model now? Oh, and he still is ‘undecided’ about Lance? Sorry, Mike, doesn’t work that way – what are you going to tell your kids? Daddy cheated and Mummy knew and enabled the whole time, but it’s OK because I made a modest mea culpa under duress? Good luck with that…

  • suspicious

    Well put, Roadent. Having Toronto Life ‘style’ the guy w/ a cocky-swagger and sh*t-eating grin doesn’t help his cause much, either. A far cry (pun intended) from his ‘heart-felt’ CBC confession.

  • Roadent

    Oh, and here’s the Star article from May 2010 where Mike denies and lies about doping to Randy Starkman and recycles Lance’s high-priced PR slanders about Floyd Landis: Maybe you could ask Barry about Tyler Hamilton’s book – would he try to throw him under a bus, too?

  • BigMountainsSmallMan

    Speaking to students? Are you kidding me? MICHAEL BARRY STAY AWAY FROM STUDENTS. What lesson would they learn? Lie to everyone you know and cheat anyone you meet and you can achieve your dreams and become a celebrity, even sell books based on your scheme? How about an honest rider like Geoff Kabush or Will Routley. They could teach children that you can be honest and true and still achieve your dreams, do it with dignity. I’d be happy, and proud of our sport, if they spoke to my son’s class. I’d voice my displeasure if a terrible example such as Michael Barry was to speak to my son’s class.

  • BigMountainsSmallMan

    Interesting article at that link, Roadent. I wonder how Clara Hughes feels now?

  • Elle Persephone

    Agree with Roadent. The non-commital answers are embarrassing and he’s clearly proud he kept it up so long given the self-satisfied smirk in the photo. Not a role model for children.

  • fausto coppious

    Its never too late to admit you have done something wrong and come clean about it. Don’t get me wrong…I was disappointed…I knew his dad from the old store and it was a shock as he comes from a proud cycling lineage. I say we give Michael the benefit of the doubt. We hold our sports heroes on a pedestal but they are not perfect. Going forward, I wish him well.

  • Scott

    David Millar admits cheating and gets hired by World Anti Doping Agency (WADA). While working with WADA he is Michael Barry’s training partner. Now Barry is going to go work for Canadian Anti-Doping Agency? That doesn’t make any sense. Apparently bank robbers make the best security guards…

    Dede Demet… I’m sad to hear it.