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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.

 

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