Graham Watson, the renowned cycling photographer, has found himself at the centre of a row regarding the ‘omertà’ that many believe surrounds the use of drugs within cycling after images of Greg LeMond on his website were found to include the word “fool” in their URLs.
Watson, who has spent more than three decades snapping riders from one of the best vantage points in the sport – the middle of the peloton – has produced some of the most iconic images of both LeMond and, in more recent years, Lance Armstrong, also publishing a book focused on photos of the latter, called Images of a Champion.
LeMond, meanwhile, three times winner of the Tour de France, in 1986, 1989 and 1990, has long been an outspoken critic of the use of drugs within the peloton, and his questioning of Armstrong’s relationship with the Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, cleared of doping charges due to the application of a statute of limitations, has led to an ongoing feud with the Texan.
According to the blog The Inner Ring, in a message that has now been removed from Watson’s website, one user said: “Just noticed the URL for the LeMond pics has the word "fool" in it instead of his name. Please correct this, not everyone is an Armstrong fan, and I was going to buy several prints from you, but no longer, very disappointed.”
On 11 October, Watson wrote a reply, now also removed from the site, which read: “Hi Eric, I've not noticed that mistake, I'll have my webmaster look at it. Sorry we cannot appease you, I'm a fan of both guys, they both did a lot for my career, just a shame one cannot keep his mouth shut.. [smiley face] GW”
That reply stops well short of issuing an apology to LeMond for the mistake – assuming that’s what it was – and indeed the URLs of the pictures of LeMond with the word “fool” included still seem to be valid, as can be seen by comparing this address of this picture of the American cyclist with this one.
Things took a rather bizarre turn after news of the pictures’ URLs reached LeMond’s daughter Simone, who used the social networking site Twitter to send a message to Watson, saying in a pair of tweets sent one after the other: “I remember meeting you as a child, I think you know who my father is, and what he stands for,” and “My dad is fighting the good fight. I hope you think of our family, and that you feel ashamed of your comments.”
Ms LeMond’s opinion on the matter certainly drew interest from an unexpected source if one of her subsequent tweets, addressed to Lance Armstrong himself, is anything to go by, with her asking the seven time Tour de France winner: “are you so obsessed with my dad that you have to follow ME?”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.