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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 29, 2006
Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.
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Paolo Bettini is a great rider and deserves the rainbow jersey. He was aggressive and attacked several times. When he was chased down, he attacked again. And, when he was chased down for the final time, he stayed in the front and still kept himself in contention. Bettini is an exciting rider and never sits back and waits for wins to come to him. He can win on his own, in a small group, or in a bunch sprint. Between him and Boonen, Quick-Step has the ability to win any one-day race or major classic on the calendar. Given Bettini's palmares, a world championship just emphasizes the fact that he has been one of the greatest racers in this generation.
Finally, someone is actually doing something to clean up the sport we all love. T-Mobile is a breath of fresh air. Now is the time for others teams to follow the lead. Increasing the popularity of bicycling will never occur unless the public is convinced that doping is under control.
Dennis J. Simpson,
Sounds like a great initiative, but you just can't compete with a 150HP four cylinder against a fine tuned 500HP V8, especially in stage races. As long as there is money involved in cycling, and top sport in general, there will be doping. The cheaters and their doctors will always be several steps ahead of the doping controllers. It has always been like that. Doctors involved in these practices make millions and they are working with patients who are super motivated. Even Coppi experimented with performance enhancing drugs. Pro riders will not be able to compete at the current level without the hormones and EPO.
It's like Willy Voet says in his book 'Spuiten en slikken' (Injections and swallow), 'the handful of riders that don't use don't finish in the front of the pack.' In his book he also says that of all the 500 riders or so that he treated in his career only two got caught doping. If you get caught as a pro rider using doping then you're as dumb as a mule, he writes. The book is unfortunately not available in English.
Anybody thinking that pro riders don't use must live in a dream world. It is a 'code of silence' amongst riders. These guys make a living riding their bikes day in, day out and having to deal with lots of stress during races. The push from sponsors and coaches to perform. The frustration of not being able to win or finish highly. Besides, everybody else uses it, so why shouldn't they? And once they experience the enormous difference it makes when you use these products, there is no way back.
Those who think a reduction in length of the Grand Tours will equal a reduction in drug use are nothing short of stupid. If an Olympic 100m runner uses drugs to beat his fellow competitors then it is surely accurate that a two week stage rider will also use drugs to beat his fellow competitors.
Riders don't take drugs to beat the race. They take drugs to beat each other.
I don't understand how this will have any impact on doping. Drugs help to cross the finish line first, and that's what cyclists (like all athletes) want. Whether the finish line is 1000 meters or 10000 miles away, drugs will help you win. Anyone who wants to win has the incentive to take drugs. The only way that shortening the distance could have an impact is if there are cyclists (such as domestiques) who don't care about winning, but can't finish the race without drugs. Is that what we're concerned about? Because the names I saw associated with Operacion Puerto were of cyclists who seem to be pretty interested in winning.
If you happened to tape Stage 17, you will clearly see Floyd did not take advantage by using his team vehicle for additional propulsion. You will also observe he didn't "drink" 35 bottles as previously asserted. 35 bottles at 16oz per bottle would amount to 560oz or roughly 100oz per hour for this stage. It is highly unlikely Floyd could take on that much fluid without becoming hyponatremic. Indeed, the majority of that fluid wound up being doused over his helmet for cooling purposes.
In response to Fintan McCormac's statement that "the simple undeniable fact is he was on fire" is, with the greatest respect, a nonsense. It appears in all likelihood that the 'simple undeniable fact' was that he was doped up on testosterone. It was this that alleviated the need of any assistance from any motorcycles or team cars!
No doubt Floyd may have been on fire, but with what?! After what Frankie Andreu had to say about the peloton and drugs, there is no doubt in my mind that Floyd et al are guilty. This goes for Armstrong, Basso, Ullrich, Landis and others. I have no respect for anyone that has been riding for the past ten years, especially in the Tour de France.
Floyd rode with Armstrong. Frankie rode with Armstrong they know. Floyd should also come clean. He should expose the way that the Pro Tour has been turned into a drug-induced circus. At this stage it is the best thing he can do for his sport; he has been caught, and now he can redeem himself through a full confession, for the benefit of all in the peloton and for the sport.
Vanni Di Ponzano,
Yeah, Floyd was on fire, he rode an incredible ride which was truly amazing. The only problem with the ride was that he was fired up on drugs. There is no way someone can come back from losing 10min the day before, body totally exhausted. I've done some stage racing and if you blow on one day you can expect the next day to be hell, because you can't take enough to replenish what you have lost. I think Floyd should just confess and let out all the secrets.
In response to N. Race's letter, do you really "guarantee that any truly clean athlete placed in such a situation would be screaming at the top of his lungs to have a DNA test exonerate him"? If I, for one, were a professional athlete who was truly clean, and yet was still implicated in a drug scandal, I don't think I would trust the people involved in it to exonerate me in any way. I would assume that someone involved was lying, which they would have to be in order for me to be implicated, and I wouldn't give them an even easier way to implicate me than the one they were presently using.
I have no idea whether Basso is innocent or guilty. I'm just pointing out how naïve it is to trust strangers with your career and reputation, in particular if you're innocent and they're lying about you already. There's an awful lot of money at stake in professional sports; certainly enough to stir up a lot of suspicious activity.
I find it interesting that N. Race's expert legal opinion is that Basso should ignore the advice of his lawyers. I wonder if he would be so quick to avoid his own lawyer's advice in a more personal case.
Mr Hood seems to be taking a leaf out of Lance Armstrong's defence. Yes, they may have leaked the results. Leaks happen everywhere where there is a journalistic interest from cycling labs to government. However, just because there was a leak it doesn't mean that they are not properly capable of accurately analysing samples. There was EPO in those samples. Just because Lance says it was put there by someone else doesn't mean that is the final truth. Given that he likes to go to court to defend his name, why didn't Lance take more direct action over this in France?
Dick Pound has identified Cycling and Football as the out of control elements in sport. He is turning a blind eye to the out of control behaviour of this lab which turns its science into politics. They should never comment on any results from their lab to anyone, either before or after results are given to the proper authorities. Dick Pound, there is one more enemy in the fight to control doping in sport and it is your lack of control in enforcing fair procedures.
I have been a cycling fan for nearly 20 years and have watched the cloak of darkness slowly lift and reveal the pharmaceutical pollution that rules our sport. Like everyone else out there, I have gone from "Gee, how many of them do drugs to ride like that?" to the roller coaster of "The '98 Festina affair sure will clean things up". Lately the realization is that they all do it to a level of acceptable tolerances.
The various governing bodies have slowly and collectively decided to allow drugs to a certain level and make drug offence penalties a cost of doing business for the riders. We go on believing that L.A. is really a bionic man and Floyd is a farm boy (he wouldn't, would he?). Now Basso is off the hook, is he? Sorry guys, I'm out. This is just a shameful display. OK, you get sued if you convict him without all the proof. But we all know there is plenty of proof and just a loophole for another cheater to squirm through. So what kind of person can live with himself and look in the mirror in the morning with any kind of honesty? What kind of moral fibre does it take to be a top cyclist? I don't even want to know.
Go on believing if you want to. I'm out. I'll just enjoy riding with my mates. When Mikey wins the city limits' sign sprint and I lose, I know its an honest race.
John Walton wrote:
"2. A study in Sweden indicated that approximately 30 individual in a population of approximately 9000 had a testosterone/epitestosterone ratio greater than 6:1. I have not read the article (J Chromatogr BBiomed Appl. 1996 Dec 6;687(1):55-9), so I cannot note the maximum observed. However, I suggest that the only valid population to consider for T/E ratio would be athletes of the Landis, Ullrich, Armstrong, etc., calibre at the end of a day when emotion and exertion were comparable. I propose that such a sampling does not exist."
Yes, but this study concludes that of the 28 individuals who had the elevated ratios, only one had a variance in the ratio during follow-up tests that was consistent with the introduction of testosterone or steroids. Part of the study concluded that variances of 67% or higher tended to indicate "doping", and 27 of the 28 had variances under 43%. The one exception they concluded was clearly doping. This would suggest that someone who had consistently low ratios and then a high ratio for one test is likely to have been doping. I think the study suggests weaknesses with the test in terms of its regular use, but probably worsens the case for Floyd's defence. I wouldn't be trotting it out if I was his lawyer.
Dick Pound has berated the UCI for complaining about the cost of doping, so perhaps he can get WADA to cough up the big bucks to add regular tests for exogenous testosterone to the agenda.
Edward G. Talbot,
In the Australian state of New South Wales it seems that road-rage by motorists towards cyclists is now permissible following a recent court verdict. Details of the case were revealed by a newspaper columnist who is also a keen cyclist.
The incident started with the motorist charging straight out of a driveway and almost colliding with a group of cyclists passing by. When the riders called him an "effing idiot", the driver chased them and menaced them again. One of the riders was an off-duty police inspector. In the court hearing the magistrate found the road-rage charge proved but dismissed it without conviction and placed the driver on a bond. The magistrate said that this was because the motorist had been "provoked" into endangering the cyclists a second time after they had sworn at him. The magistrate also criticized the police inspector for being "passionately involved" as a victim.
Cyclists' safety is already being constantly threatened by motorists who think it's clever and funny to 'scare' them. The magistrate's verdict in the above incident is only giving motorists the green light to continue with such stupid and dangerous antics. Do they ever consider the consequences of killing or maiming cyclists? As for cyclists in New South Wales, will they now face unjust treatment in the courts as well as increased hostility from motorists on the road?
Driver awareness is critical - but laws banning auto features isn't going to do anything - the stats all say that they aren't the big cause. With mobile phone on a steep exponential increase, there are fewer vehicle accidents (look at the NHTSA numbers). Not exactly the correlation most people would like to believe. The highest cause of vehicle distractions goes to eating while driving and then adjusting the radio. So if anything - eliminate fast food drive up windows. That won't happen because nobody makes money from that. Politicians choose their fights carefully so that they can appear to care about us while making some industry money (like with mobile phone hands free accessories).
Driver awareness could be improved if people simply followed the laws already in place. So few people actually know and follow the existing traffic laws - I'd rather push for re-testing (written and road tests) every eight years for drivers licenses. Some states in the U.S. I believe also have laws requiring three feet for cyclists by passing cars. Given that traffic laws would seemingly require motorists to signal and then use a clear passing lane already (given that bikes ARE traffic too) this law is redundant although it would provide an additional charge to drivers in the case of an incident. We could also fund more educational activities, like our Preferred Care Elite Cycling team does. We hold bike safety and helmet awareness rodeos and it is surprising how many parents tell us they learned things from it.
In my twenty-plus years of road and off road cycling, I have been hit by cars twice. Once, a woman looked me in the eye as she was running a stop sign. Luckily, I was able to manoeuvre and avoid a direct hit. That crash resulted only in a bent rim and some bruises. The second time I wasn't so lucky. I was hit full on by a woman in a pick up turning left through an intersection. As I lay on the ground I could plainly here the woman screaming, "I didn't even see Him!" I had to have my scalp stapled shut, a tendon in my finger re-attached and the maximum amount of contusions, bruises, cuts, etc. I was unable to work for almost a month and obviously missed the same amount of time on the bike in a year when I was in the best shape of my life and looking to kill it racing. The woman who ruined my summer was not charged with anything! I honestly feel that penalties for these 'accidents' need to be severely stiffened. A motorist who kills a cyclist should be charged with murder, period.
Daniel J. O'Connor,
Alan Switzer's letter is timely. Not only are cyclists' deaths more in the news, at the same time we are still seeing the same age-old reaction from law makers and law enforcers across the world that cycling isn't important enough to warrant behavioural change amongst drivers to demand drivers pay attention. The consequences of inattention are often dire. A cyclist, pedestrian, or motor bike rider dies or is maimed and the offender gets a minimal token penalty, if anything.
Sadly any cyclist's death on the road is one too many, however, statistically, compared to car deaths, deaths in society from motor vehicle exhaust emissions, deaths from obesity from lack of exercise and inappropriate diet and deaths from heart disease, there are not enough cyclists' deaths from vehicle crashes to warrant drastic change by governments to driver education, attitudes or legal processes of enforcement to deliver a meaningful outcome.
Drivers are cocooned with GPS systems, reversing cameras, talking onboard controls, Hi Fi sound systems, cushy seats, and are generally insulated from the elements. They are given reduced obligation to keep a proper look out by road advisory signs, traffic lights, marked road lanes and tail lights. The responsibility to others has been inadvertently abrogated by our approach to 'advances' in traffic and driving systems in our world of pace and instant gratification. Cyclists and pedestrians on the other hand move at a human pace, subject to the elements and usually come off second best when confronted by a driver being inattentive, distracted or cocooned in their steel space, especially when enraged by another presence on the road.
As an advocate for cycling safety, I am constantly working to bring to the attention of governments, law officers, educators and the media the need for personal responsibility by all road users. Cyclists have a responsibility to be predictable, visible, skilled and to obey the law. Drivers have a legal responsibility to keep a proper look out and drive within the conditions, but in addition they should be more attentive to outside factors, much more alert to all road users, prepare to yield to vulnerable road users for a few extra seconds and, above all, clearly know the road laws relating to all other road users.
This so-called study which shows that cars pass closer to a cyclist wearing a helmet as opposed to those not wearing helmets is just plain garbage. The results were based on the personal observations of a single author. I have yet to hear of a single cycling death related to a vehicle passing close to a cyclist. Deaths are caused by vehicles driving into cyclists (or vice versa.) This implies that the driver has not seen the cyclist, rather than (a) seen the cyclist, (b) noticed he was indeed wearing a helmet, (c) decided to buzz him and, (d) miscalculated and hit him.
"They all do it! I firmly believe that all pro cyclists are cheating. No one is above suspicion to me." Did I really just read the above statement? So why then, Mr. Santos, do you still read cyclingnews.com to follow up on a sport full of cheaters or bother responding to unworthy news regarding cheats. How could everyone be cheating? You should find a new sport to follow if that's your answer to doping.
To comment on Bob Cummins' letter from this week about Andreu's admission of using EPO is just another attack on Lance Armstrong., are you serious, Mr Cummins? Did you even read the story where Frankie came out and said he did it? After he had made his admission, he went on to say that he had never seen nor heard of Armstrong using any illegal substances. So if this is another "attack" on Armstrong, as the writer of the letter proposes, how come Frankie said that he had never seen Armstrong do anything? Please man, he was talking about himself, and that's it. He wasn't pointing fingers at anyone else, didn't bring up any other names, and implicated himself, and that was it. You know, it isn't always about Lance, and even if it was what would it matter? They're both retired now and not racing bikes anymore.
Rob Cummins' comment that Frankie Andreu's admission is a way of casting doubt on Lance Armstrong, is accurate. Of course it's an attack on Lance. Frankie came back from commentating on the Tour to find out that he was no longer a directeur sportif for no good reason ... how do you think that little surprise happened? Wake up, Rob, and read between the lines; this is not the first run-in Frankie has had with Lance.
When Bart Wellens aimed a kick at a group of spectators in Overijse who were throwing beer and mud at him, he couldn't be punished soon enough. He was disqualified by the UCI, overruling the decision made at the time by the local jury. He was scandalized by the press and had to endure the mockery of cross fans and colleagues alike, Sven Nys being the first to sneer and point out that top athletes need to be responsible and in control at all times.
Now Nys is getting away with punching a drunken spectator for pushing a barrier in his way. I don't see him staging press conferences to apologize to the fans, as Wellens needed to do to regain respect in the eyes of many, in fact I don't see the slightest bit of remorse. All he can do is gripe over how his career could have been over and how the legal system needs to run its course to punish the offender! Now, I'm not a Wellens fan, but this incident has definitely made me lose whatever respect I had left for Nys.
The UCI needs to take their responsibilities seriously and punish Nys as severely as they did Wellens, since "top athletes need to be responsible and in control at all times "
I would also like to add my support to David Millar. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Fabian Cancellara. His winning margin was similar to when Millar blasted the field whilst on EPO. Cancellara is on CSC who have a lot of clouds hanging over them, not only with Basso and Riis but also the syringes found at Paris-Roubaix that had been meticulously cleaned. There was no gap between them at the Vuelta when Millar narrowly won. Cancellara disappears to Switzerland and comes back flying.
Sorry Fabian, don't believe it!
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