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A&E’s Intervention :: Lance Armstrong Partly Responsible for Chad Gerlach’s Plunge into Crack Cocaine Use


Disclaimer: Lance Armstrong is awesome.

Sorry for staying on the subject of A&E’s Intervention, but curiosity forces me to return to this show that does more harm than good when quitting cocaine. I haven’t seen today’s episode; I’m still hung up on the last intervention for Chad.

His full name is Chad Gerlach.  His troubles started at 13, when he got sent to juvenile for felony arson.  Two years later, reintroduced to freedom, Chad’s father, Peter, got him involved in bike racing.

Although hard drugs hadn’t destroyed this teenager’s life yet, he was already an addict. Addiction of his strain is congenital.

Non-addicts can’t imagine what this innate unquenchable predilection is like, but they shouldn’t feel left out or neglected. Not being able to imagine what it feels like to be an addict marks just one instance when ignorance is a gift.

A characteristic of addicts like Chad is that they are easily obsessed.  Once they take an interest in an activity, they delve into it with deep fangs and don’t let go until they’re frothing at the mouth.  This activity becomes their life, their preoccupation, so it makes sense that, fresh out of the doldrums of juvie, Chad let bike racing consume him.

Day in and day out he rode with the fervor of a future champion.  His addictive personality made him hunger for complete mastery of the sport until he started winning races of increasing importance.

In this way, he gained recognition.  It didn’t hurt that his father took him to races around the world.  The international biking circuit suddenly knew of the young and mighty Chad Gerlach, who, according to fellow Sacramento racer, Rich Maile,

… was given a set of tools that most of us don’t understand.  I’ve seen that guy turn himself absolutely inside out racing and go places most of us absolutely cannot imagine.

In 1996, at the age of 17, just two years after juvie and still the notorious bad boy, Chad Gerlach was invited to join the US Postal team with Lance Armstrong.  This was the year that Armstrong learned of his cancer, so Chad could’ve made a run at becoming a legend, but for some unspeakable reason he decided to insult Armstrong, accusing him of being “soft”, of having a soft stomach, instead of sticking to his cycling.

This insult, according to A&E, resulted in Chad getting kicked off the team, and this was precisely the blow the young biker/arsonist/addict couldn’t take.

Next came racing on less popular pro teams, but these environments didn’t suit Chad. He managed to get booted off four teams before resigning himself to the streets.

In other words, it was shortly after his descent from the glory of US Postal, the glory of the Olympics and the Tour de France, the glory of the bike racing world, which was everything to Chad; it was shortly after this vertiginous descent that Chad began his stint as a crack cocaine addict on the streets.

Panhandling became his profession, and some say he was able to raise $2,000/month to support his habit.

But I’ll stop now and leave with these questions:  Do you think that Lance Armstrong is to blame – at least in part – for Chad Gerlach’s descent?  So what if Chad called him soft?  Is that reason enough to raise a raucous and get the 17-year-old booted?

Does getting called a name by your most capable and fierce competitor justify ruining his chances at proving he’s better than you?  Or was the great and laudable Lance Armstrong too selfish, insecure, and worried about losing his spot to Chad as team leader of US Postal during his medical leave of absence that he complained enough about Chad’s attitude problems to inadvertently send him to a life of hard drug use?


June 23, 2009 9:05 pm

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