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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 4, 2006, part 2
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Massive response to Landis situation
Once again the Cyclingnews letters Inbox was full of discussion of the situation of Phonak rider Floyd landis, who returned an adverse analytical finding for testosterone after his solo win in stage 17 of the Tour de France. The result of Landis' B sample analysis is expected this weekend, and meantime the rumour mill has been working overtime.
Over these four pages we present a sample of your opinions, ranging from outrage to humour and scepticism to resignation. We're sorry we're not able to publish them all, but we believe this is a representative sample.
- John Stevenson, letters editor
August 4, part 1:
I will prove it, Doping, Landis, tests, Why process matters, Robbie Ventura,
Rubbish!, Leadership & cleansing, 21st Stage, A few minor thoughts, Stage 17
water consumption, Was it a recovery prep?, Anti-doping transparency, Bad for
cycling - are you kidding?, Best way to deal with doping
Case thrown out
In the U.S., if evidence is obtained improperly, the case is thrown out. Floyd's case should be thrown out, along with any others, where results are leaked before due process is completed (at least A and B samples, maybe retesting, and at least providing all test results from all tests previously given to the athlete). If due process is violated, case is thrown out.
Imagine going to a lab for an AIDS test and reading about it in the paper the next morning. Highly unlikely. Why is it so hard then to keep doping tests under wraps for the duration? Why should I have faith in the technical testing process when the concurrent protocols of secrecy and due process are violated? Mustn't whatever management controls that aren't in place for the latter surely affect the quality of the former?
Contrast that with the Spanish Guardia Civil, who worked secretly on Operacion Puerto (since it's so rare nowadays, let me remind the readers secret means EVERYONE involved doesn't tell ANYONE). When they dropped the bomb, you don't hear anyone questioning due process or credibility. Why? Because they walked their talk, did their homework, followed due process, and stuck to the facts. (The only thing better is if we could get a copy of the damn 500-page report!)
Frankly, if I were a team, I'd have my own test tubes and get my own sample at the time of formal testing and have it dual-sealed by the team and the WADA testers.
If the doping allegations are true, Floyd Landis will have robbed his "friend" Oscar Pereiro of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stand center podium, anthem playing, flag rising, and tens of thousands of fans paying homage to his bravery and courage.
Through ups and downs, we pulled for Floyd every day of the tour. We are saddened that our underdog could be a dupe. For the sake of the sport, and Oscar's lost chance to shine, we pray for negative.
Here's a simple solution. Take urine samples from everyone in every stage of every race. You don't have to test them all....but now you have samples to test against. If an athlete tests positive test all of his other samples to see what the norm is. How much could it cost to have 180 guys pee into plastic cups every day.
At this point in time I sort of don't care if Landis is guilty or innocent. I have no faith in the system or the athletes. Why should I believe this lab. Why should I believe L'equipe WADA the UCI or the athletes involved. None of them have proven to be reliable fair or honest. I guess in France the urine goes directly to L'equipe who then distributes it to the public.
You know the drugs are out there. The drugs are there because there is a market for it. Those of us who are amateurs, who ride for fun and fitness and sometimes in competition, do not need enhancement to spoil our personal victories. Fame and fortune may go to the drug induced victor but at the end of the day...career...life the victor will know he cheated to win and therefore is a loser.
I know engineering related science, nothing about blood doping, but I would venture a guess that if Landis doped during the tour it should have turned up in one or all of the other tests he had to do during the tour.
Pro athletes have to look for ways to get ahead in their short careers, right?
If the man has put in the training needed to be ahead of the rest in the worlds most prestigious bike race, if he knows from past experience, personal and from other cyclists, that the doping controls are both random and specific, and that France hates an American winner, one would think that any potential winner would not dare to take any dope. He trained to win, from a couple years ago he had the perfect example of training discipline to follow.
I will not be surprised that France and the American media will judge Landis guilty before all the evidence is in place. I will not judge Landis prematurely or otherwise. I do not know the world of a professional athlete. I will continue to ride my bike to work, to my home, on group rides, or a lonely century+ and I will feel good about it. I will not let pro athlete posturing taint my world view that my health is a gift of God, and I will do what I enjoy while praising God for a healthy and strong body.
Rick Mann, Ironman triathlete
Bill Sikorski raised some interesting points when he stated, "I want to know what the procedure is for handling the urine/blood samples. They should be at a minimum handled and sealed by the governing body and the athlete's team and sent off to two separate facilities. There's a lot at stake here."
Yes, indeed! I'd like to think that the UCI follows very strict protocols in the handling of specimens to preclude the possibility of fraud, but their "shoot the riders first, ask questions later" reaction to unconfirmed positives and dubious press reports leaves me in doubt. And what is this? The Astana riders denied entry into the Tour de France because of implications in the Operation Peurto document are all cleared by the same authorities who wrote the document after the Tour is over? What the hell is going on here? I have a hunch that some intrepid reporter might dig up some interesting stories in the back alleys of professional cycling . I have some advise for that reporter though: /watch your back!/ There's lots of money on the line in professional cycling these days and that has a tendency to attract unsavory characters to the scene.
All this American patriotism towards Landis makes me sick. How does a guy lose all that time one day and then the next he blitzes the whole field including all the pure mountain goats... and gets done for drugs on coincidentally the same day - I mean come on, open your eyes you guys. Was Tyler innocent as well? I think not! What makes me madder is that cycling has been my religion for 20 years and now I just don't believe any of the results... It really is sad.
I was curious to read the list of “code names of riders still to be identified and disclosed” in the July 21 Cyclingnews report on Operation Puerto. Heading the list is “Cowboy (2003).” Instead of a big media explosion, there was the deafening sound of silence. Am I the only one who finds this interesting?
Professional cyclists who swear oaths against doping and are then found guilty should not only be banned for a lifetime but prosecuted for fraud, grand theft, or whatever crimes are applicable. They take salaries and sponsorships under false pretense and should be punished by the sport as well as society. A lifetime ban and criminal prosecution should provide deterrence enough for most pros; if not, we can add 'idiot' to the long list of epithets.
Jeremy M. Spray
I can remain silent no more. Why? Simple. This is what the UCI has to say today...
"We have done this(demanded the B sample be tested ASAP) so the whole thing can be speeded up," a UCI spokesperson said. "We took this decision because of the importance of the case. Also the longer it goes on the more damage the sport risks suffering."
Absolute RUBBISH! How utterly pathetic. The more damage/suffering to the sport? The sport is NOTHING without guys like Floyd Landis, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, etc. The athletes make the sport, not the sport itself; and certainly not the UCI. This comment by the UCI is typical of today's mindset. The athletes are used up and spat out. I side with Floyd Landis on this. I make no judgment on him only to say that he is an elite athlete that deserves an equally elite process to discover the truth behind his abnormal test, period. Floyd is a human being and an exceptional one at that. He alone is more significant than the UCI or the sport, as is every elite athlete. Since when did ANY sport hold more worth than the humans that make them?
As reported in Cyclingnews:
"When Operacion Puerto released a dossier of information to the UCI listing riders it held under suspicion for participation in alleged blood-doping practices operated by Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes in Madrid, Spain, five riders (Allan Davis, Joseba Beloki, Isidro Nozal, Sergio Paulinho, Alberto Contador) from the then-named Liberty-Seguros-Wurth were named, among others. "
So can someone tell me how come false accusations prevented one of cycling's most aggressive and talented rider from riding the Tour. I speak of A. Vinoukourov. Because his team did not have the required minimum number of riders, he did not get to ride. We now find out that five riders were wrongly accused, and he SHOULD HAVE ridden! Why aren't the sponsors suing somebody for this? Why aren't the cyclists? Tell me how exciting would this rider have made the Tour?
All the innuendoes and false reporting are killing the sport. Nobody should be reported on until conclusive evidence/facts are found and presented. Otherwise lets just put the cyclists in a steel cauldron, weld it shut, and throw it in the ocean, if it floats, they doped, and if not, they didn't, but they are dead anyway.
Michel van Musschenbroek
I agree with you 100 percent. I'm a cyclist and know people in the sport who personally know Landis. He's not a doper, and also Testosterone is not a 1 day fix. The press has gone way over board with this and as a result hanging and defaming his character in the process. I was sitting outside a Peet's coffee shop with my Sunday morning group ride buddies and a walker-by laughed at us and said, " did you take your testosterone this morning?" I wanted to smack the guy because he has not clue how stupid that comment was. But the point is, people in general don't have a clue. Are we talking baseball or body building? This is cycling where bulky muscles are the enemy.
Anyway, you don't take a plastic butter knife to war.
Big money has change the face of cycling from the late 80's until today and we all act as if something is been stolen from us when someone cheats. Yes, cheaters should be punished but we must also see the human side if the story. How many people out there would dope if they see the opportunity of making a six figure salary plus endorsements? I believe that there are people in the sport that do it because they love it and they make some money out of it (or a lot) but to ignore the fact that this people (most of them) are trying to compress a lifetime of work in maybe 15 years of sport life then you may see that many want to cash a bit better on the way out. and some just do it to survive in the sport. So yes, dopers should be out but how much our sport is going to get clean. well it depends on the money that's out there for grabs. and it works for both riders and people in power.
Martin Matamoros Miranda
I think that every party involved should have their feet held to the fire as far as doping goes. And this is what I mean. I think that the teams should draw a ban if their rider fails a test that the UCI gives them. The teams should test their riders and certify them clean. Currently they are suppose to do that now, but more often than not the rider doesn't get tested and the manager fills out the paper work and sends it in. So what's the motivation for the team to do the test?
The testers should also have to have a current certification that the process that they use is up to date and that they follow the procedures of testing & communication. They should have repercussions for giving a false positive, leaking information, not following protocols etc.. Lose lips sink and ruin careers
All too often I see the screw ups on the tester side of the fence and the rider pays for it. If the lab is using a flawed procedure or equipment in the Landis case and he is proven innocent Floyd still loses and his reputation is tainted FOREVER! what happens to the lab? Who is the lab? Where is it? How long have they been doing this stuff? To me its like a voice from the crowed shouting "Guilty" then the crowed turns into a ugly mob with pitch forks and torches. 5 min later the same voice says "never mind" but the crowed still looks at the person with the "we are watching you " look.
You know 20 years ago you just had to watch the water bottles now I wonder if you have to watch the labs?
If, as Dr. Moosburger asserts, a six hour application of a testosterone patch to the scrotum is part of a doper's recovery, this is rather damning for Floyd. How is a testosterone patch applied to the scrotum, with an adhesive or wrap? Would a doper shave his scrotum before applying a patch? Could an examination of Floyd's scrotum, even a week and a half after stage 17, confirm or refute application of a patch? I apologize for suggesting this offensive and intrusive examination, but it seems like it might shed some light.
It is about time that the drug testing be taken away from the French. Floyd should insist that the B sample be split and sent to a US lab that is covered by CLIA. As with any kind of medical sampling, drug sampling should be signed off in succession by third party entities (NOT the French). The ideal is to leave a trail of signatures, to be able to test the veracity of each part of the chain. Here is a list of procedures:
1) Every cyclist should have a baseline of physiological data provided to the team, Law Firm A, a legal firm representing the riders, UCI, etc. This would be conducted over the training and racing season and conducted randomly, similar to how they conducted sampling Lance throughout the year.
2) Sampling procedures for urine sampling should be numbered for anonymity (the numbers would also be held by the legal firm representing the riders), not labeled with the rider's name. Company A would be in charge of the collection of the samples. Not only should the winner be sampled, but everyone. You don't have to test everyone, just test, say the first 20 on day 1, the next 20 on day 2, etc. It would be too costly to test everyone, everyday, but the knowledge that your sample will be collected everyday without knowing if it was your day to be tested, would certainly set everyone straight.
3) The samplings would be passed off to Company B, a logistics firm, who would be responsible for transporting the samples to Company C, a laboratory that was CLIA certified. This lab would then split the samples.
4) Company C would then pass of the samples back to Company B, the logistics firm, who would then route the sample to multiple CLIA certified laboratories for analyses.
5) Once the analyses are completed, the data are sent to Law Firm A, who would then match the number with the analyses and the baseline data (much of this would be computerized to facilitate with the handling of the data). If both results were negative (greater than some standard deviation allowable for the cyclists - as agreed upon by the UCI, WADA and an academic review board of sports physicians) , then the legal firm would notify the Team manager. It would be up to the Team manager to dispense the punishment, according to UCI structured protocol.
Several things are accomplished here - data integrity, data anonymity, and data replication. In addition, the data and results of, Sample A, B or C (how ever many data samples are required - in my field it was 2 with an umpire for the third) would be collected, analyzed, and reported in its entirety, rather than piecemeal, such as it is done today. Speculation and innuendo would be eliminated. Sponsors would be spared the embarrassment of the negative publicity.
I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and have met Floyd. I don't know him very well, but am impressed by his pleasant, unassuming manner. I heard him speak at a local charitable event and came away from that realizing that his conservative Mennonite upbringing is still there at his core and believing that he's a fine role model for our young kids. Good role models seem hard to come by these days.
As a professional road cyclist, I believe Floyd has accomplished a great deal and is a real champion. He's worthy of his Tour de France victory and others during the current and past seasons. It is only through his dedication and skill, a lot of hard work, and many miles that he's accomplished this.
The testosterone scandal is very unfortunate. The way these things seem to get handled in the sport of cycling is a no-win situation, whether guilty or innocent, the athlete and cycling's reputation is ruined. Certainly, anyone that is a cheat should be banned from the sport, but the process of getting to such an outcome is disastrously flawed. I blame the inept UCI for this. Positive change isn't going to happen until there is some housecleaning done at the UCI; there continues to be a management crisis at our highest cycling union. I'd like to believe that Floyd is innocent; hopefully, time will tell us that he is. However it turns out though, his reputation is ruined and cycling is once again disgraced, which is a tragedy for the majority of amateur and professional cyclists who compete without cheating.
David S. Butterworth
I'm a staunch and ardent supporter of the pro road cycling scene, having followed the likes of all the big names for a few decades. In regards to Floyd Landis' situation, I believe that he's innocent but it's so difficult not to think or believe otherwise. An article appeared in the July 30th Sports section of The New York Times about the on-going Landis affair. One particularly small blurb seemed to make the most sense to me: If Floyd has seemingly had a high testosterone level throughout most of his career, wouldn't this have been made apparent in other tests? Why are we hearing about this now?
I think between the Amstel beer and Jack Daniels that he ingested the night before that now infamous ride on Stage 17 had something to do with it but until all of us can be provided with a minute breakdown of the testing process, all we're going to bear witness to is the onslaught and subsequent dismantling of Floyd's yellow odyssey. Although Pat McQuaid, the UCI head honcho claims that they will allow Floyd the opportunity to present his case to the Court of Arbitration Sport (C.A.S.) before the UCI makes their official ruling.
In Floyd I Trust.
This is exactly what Floyd Landis should do today: If he broke the rules during the 2006 Tour de France, then he should hold a press conference immediately, without a baseball cap, advisors or notes, and do something spectacular for someone in his position: be honest and apologize from the heart. Following the apology, he must excuse himself from the sport and serve the two year ban, get a new hip, and use all of his anger to condition himself and come back like the Phoenix from ashes. The ancient myth has it that the Phoenix, an eagle-like bird, lived for hundreds of years, burned on a pyre and rose again. Floyd's story would be epic in magnitude and he can rise again. If on the other hand he did not break any rules, he must fight to the end for his good name and legacy. Memo to Landis: do the right thing Floyd and we'll support you.
Gordon F. Peery II Esq
Now the news is even worse. Synthetic testosterone found. How will Floyd explain that? Was his brewski or massage oil spiked? Could've been.
Pick up any bicycle magazine or catalog and look at the numbers of products that promise to improve performance. On some level we're all dirty. That product does this, this one does that. We all have to be lighter, stronger, faster, and most of us don't care what we have to do to get there. A friend of mine told me on a ride just after the "Operación Puerto" broke that if there was something that we thought would make us faster we'd all be taking it. He was probably right. Hell, Lance was right it's not about the bike! Go to any Tuesday night group ride and see how long it takes for things to break apart. It's all about winning, and in racing that's how it should be.
I climbed Brasstown here in Georgia on July 4th, when I got back I told everyone who would listen they're all dopers climbing that after 100+ miles is inhuman. The things these racers do day in and day out is beyond comprehension. I know they are gifted physically but the human body has limits. If we want our heroes to be superman then we might have to accept the chemicals it takes to make them so. Grow up and get real! Pandora's Box has been opened and there is to much money involved to ever close it.
Daniel W. Short
Looking forward, I see a testing method that takes a pre-race(day before) fully tests and creates baseline of an athlete's blood and creates some sort of histogram of certain patterns that point out noted "banned" substances as well as ratios that are "flags" for doping. A pre-start race day scan type test (diabetes testing type quick) for irregularities in this histogram would be administered to each rider each day. If there are any irregularities in any riders test they would be flagged for testing at the end of the stage.
This pre-race test would not have to diagnose "what" has changed only that something has. Not only would this make the doping fight equal across all riders but it would allow the UCI and WADA to develop and archive data on cycling professionals as a population. Additionally, as the testing method is improved and the testing cost comes down it could become the norm in sanctioned Amateur events as well.
Just my thoughts,
Whether or not Landis is guilty, people will believe what they want to believe until we can all be certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that no doping is possible.
So here's how we do it. Everyone knows that LeBlanc comes from the same mold as the Tour's founder, Desgrange. That being one of a bit of a sadist. Make it harder! was HD's motto. So this should work perfectly: a traveling jail.
As soon as the riders stumble off their bikes at the end of the stage, gendarmes whisk them away to a very comfy but very heavily guarded series of rooms (which could later serve as youth hostels). Video cameras tape everything. Riders, visiting coaches, etc. are strip-searched on their way in and not allowed to leave until stage start next day. If they must leave for course recon, etc., they are accompanied by gendarmes, on motorcycles if need be. Envision a similar scenario for the few weeks leading up to the Tour and there you have it! Admittedly, it would increase the cost of staging the race, but I have a feeling the French would be excited about it and willing to pay a bit more tax for the security of knowing riders of all nationalities, including, tantalizingly, American, are under lock and key for the duration.
Aside from that scenario, how else are we ever going to have a Tour that everyone trusts? Personally, I happen to think there are plenty of human anomalies at play here - not everyone is a perfect test subject, one in a million might have the testosterone of an elephant, especially after a nearly to-the-death rampage against all odds. How do we know? We don't. We're going to have to have faith in fair process, and keep working at it, and judge only at the very end of the process.
I'm simply amazed at the number of people who've already found Landis guilty even though the fact-finding has just begun.
Your correspondent mentions
`No one deserves to win the TdF 2006 with a sport where everyone turns out to be doped. Why should the present number 2, 3, 4, 5, 6... be any different? So Pereiro did a much better last time trial just due to the maillot jaune? Yeah, sure ... this doping is killing the fun of the sport. '
If you check Pereiro Sio's earlier time-trial result he lost 1 minute 40 seconds in 52kms, or 1.9 seconds per kilometre to Landis. In the final time-trial he lost 1m 29s, or 1.56 seconds per kilometre. Not such a huge difference in performance. Obviously there is the positive effect of defending the Yellow Jersey, plus Pereiro had the benefit of regular time checks on Landis. However watching it live there is possibly a more straightforward reason why Pereiro did slightly better than in his earlier time-trial, he was taking far more risks through the corners than Landis.
After agonizing for days over this latest Tour debacle, it hit me: I just need to be done with cycling, period. Sure, I've followed it for 25 years. Sure, I've been to Europe to see Tour stages. Sure, I've cheered on the best and the worst riders from all nations, year after year.
But I've had it. Whoever is guilty, whoever is not, cycling has become a ridiculously insipid circus, a bureaucratically mismanaged cockfight. The sport itself is long lost.
Mushrooming above the mere "riders" who are/were the sport, we have the Tour, ASO, L'Equipe (whom the Tour sells controversy for), the UCI, WADA, various national federations, countless self-promoting lawyers representing each of them; we have sponsors bidding high for results but also naively demanding tidiness; we have various mysterious doctors doing "whatever" to keep the cocks fighting, and we have a sheep-like public who mock-loves the heroes just to damn them to hell at the first negative headline, which all the world's cynical media just loves to write, regardless if factual or not.
Cycling is done. Or at least it's done with me. I don't need this cesspool full of crap in my life anymore. It's not sport. It's cheap soap opera. It's bureaucracy to the nines. It's a slow ugly death. It's pathetic. I hate to give it up after all these years, but it's no longer fun or compelling. Bon voyage.
I'm out. Thanks Greg, Big Mig, Jaja, Cipo. I love you guys.
So every guy that has been on Lance's team and has shown any real GC promise has now failed a dope test. That's interesting, maybe even amazing.
It seems to me that you don't want to bring doping products to the actual race where the risk of getting caught is so much higher. Of course after all the doping if your guy still has a bad day you want to do something to try and recover, what's one to do? The drugs in Operation Puerto sound fairly low tech so I'm guessing that the way the pros really do it is take them out of race, which lends itself also to this "age of specialization" talk that has been going on since Lance came around where the top guys only race a handful of races and focus on a single race.
Lance has fallen out with just about everyone involved in his life when he had cancer, including the Andreus. That's amazing to me, I can't think of a reason why the Andreus would perjure themselves and risk going to jail and angering Lance with nothing to gain only potential losses. I hope you find a new job Frankie, the timing is really ironic.
Jan? Ivan? Write a tell-all book, "The Doping Secrets of a Top Pro." Come clean and I might come back.
UCI, WADA, start hiring the top cheaters if you want to catch them, maybe shorten their suspension in exchange for information. Since none of these guys are failing any tests, the tests clearly don't work or aren't being done right.
Any teams that want to do anything (and I'm pretty sure they don't exist) start publishing all of the particulars about your riders performance and physiology when they show up at the races. Some teams show up with just about every guy right at the allowable limits of the measured thresholds, it's crazy really. We know they are all freaks of nature to begin with but can you believe that the whole team is maxed out that way? Literally right at the allowable limits... exactly at them. Start publishing those numbers and all medical exemptions if you've got nothing to hide. Make it a condition of employment so the riders don't have to worry about their "privacy." I bet T-Mobile and Discovery have those numbers going back a few years too.
Name withheld by request
I've got to agree with John D.
For the first week of the Tour I followed it from my computer trying to convince my work colleagues that cycling was still worth something after the pre tour scandal. During the second week I was in France with my family.
I managed to drag my kids (both 10 years old) my wife, and our French friends (skeptical non cycling fans) up the Col de la Colombiere (Stage 17). The day was great, we saw Landis storming over the Col then we all rushed down to a nearby village and crammed into a busy cafe and watch him win the stage to cheers all round from the multinational crowd. My kids had a new hero, they were elated and talked about little else for days after.
The trouble is I now feel like a fool. Now its all 'we told you so' comments from my work colleagues and friends. Worst or all I have to have lengthy talks with my kids who are asking questions about cheating, about drugs, and about different forms of doping.
I've followed the TDF since I was a kid. But I'm not sure I can be bothered anymore - bothered to explain the regular scandals away to friends. I certainly don't want the bother of having to discuss drugs and blood doping with my kids. I don't want them to have professional cyclists as heros, constantly wondering if they are going to be exposed as cheats. I certainly wouldn't encourage them into the sport if they showed any promise.
I sincerely hope that Landis didn't cheat he appears to be a nice guy. The trouble is how can I ever be sure? How can I have the confidence to tell my friends, my colleagues, and especially my kids that this is a great sport?
I'm not sure that I can still be bothered to follow an event that so routinely makes me look like a fool for being a fan.
I was so excited watching the 17th stage, and I read all about it in internet, for me It was the best stage I ever watched, itas just great. Now I see in the news that all was a lie, I want to believe that It was a mistake but any way It's so sad.
I want to ask to the authorities, It's urgent to clean this sport, please check everything, the schedule, the races, the stages, please make races for humans no for superhumans. I'm so sick and tired of listening to all this.
Juan David Piedrahita
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