By Michael E. Miller
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It didn't end there. When Ofoto asked him to take down his Website, DeCanio refused, sending a lengthy e-mail peppered with statements like: "I am going to make this team shine like a diamond in P. Diddy's ear. If I ever feel that the team is going to lose a sponsor because of me, or our team is being negatively effected [sic], I will retire. I am not going to destroy all of your hard work."
Ofoto general manager Robin Zellner accidentally sent DeCanio a reply intended for other eyes. It said only: "Dude, DeCanio is nuts! I am over him already! He needs to go!"
DeCanio posted the e-mail on his site. He was fired before training even began. (Team managers did not respond to New Times's requests for an interview.) After his termination, the cycling magazine Velo News held an online poll. "Was Ofoto right in firing Matt DeCanio?" Of 225 visitors to the magazine's online site, 134 said yes.
Only a week after DeCanio's dismissal from Ofoto, David Clinger showed up in California for 2005 training with his new team, Webcor. While on vacation in Argentina, the lapsed Boy Scout had gotten a full Maori-inspired face tattoo. "I have a lot of respect for the Polynesian lifestyle and culture," Clinger said at the time. "They are very peaceful and welcoming, and I admire the way they protect their land." He assented that the new look was also something of a publicity stunt. "Nobody in the cycling community has a face tattoo."
After some discussion of laser removal, Webcor dropped his contract. Cycling media had a field day. "There has been no end of the old viewing-with-alarm lately, thanks to the madcap antics of Matt DeCanio and David Clinger," wrote Patrick O'Grady, an editor and columnist at Velo News. "Once clean-cut, happy young men ... the kind a lucky team director could feel good about taking home to meet the sponsor, they have wandered far from the straight and narrow, the first assuming the persona of an insomniac Eliot Ness and the second the façade of a Polynesian warrior."
New Times's attempts to contact Clinger were unsuccessful. This past July 14, however, he surfaced in the news. "Bicyclist charged in Berks bar fight," read the headline over a piece in Allentown's Morning Call. According to the article, Clinger had "harassed bar patrons, refused to leave the bar, and grabbed a woman by the waist, dragging her to the floor" at the Toad Creek Bar in Topton, Pennsylvania. When police arrived, he was "struggling with patrons and screaming loudly." The cyclist, who was to compete in an amateur track race, was released July 20 from Berks County Jail on a $5000 bond.
Although the onetime best friends have not spoken in years, Clinger and DeCanio seem cosmically linked in misfortune: The day after Clinger's arrest in Pennsylvania, DeCanio lost his job in Miami. His bosses at Braman cited an economic downturn, but DeCanio, who was January's Seller of the Month, thinks all the time he spent focused on Stolenunderground.com probably had something to do with it.
Now that he's unemployed, DeCanio plans on leaving Miami at the end of the month. He wants to return to Virginia and begin training again in the mountains. "I hope I get a contract," he says. "But it would be a miracle. I haven't raced for three years, plus all this stuff with the Website."
DeCanio's close friends universally describe him as well-intentioned, recalling moments of generosity or charity. But at times, the author of Stolenunderground.com comes across as angry and unhinged. DeCanio says his anti-doping crusade even scares his mother.
"He's an exceptionally sensitive person," says hometown friend Alex Gilliam. "Maybe because he lost his teenage years to cycling or because he grew up in a rural area, he's a bit more reactionary than some people. But if you look at Matt, he's always trying to do the right thing. Even that race where he was on EPO he purposefully rode poorly that day."
DeCanio confesses that returning to college, finding another job really anything but riding his bike would feel like failure. But his attempt at cheating felt even worse.
"They say the drugs make a 100 percent difference," he muses. In spite of his campaign, DeCanio cannot help but wonder where he would be if he had simply said yes from the beginning. "I think I'll always kind of regret it. It was my dream to be a superstar athlete, and now I'm here."