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Letters to Cyclingnews - November 3, 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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Like you said in your letter, cheats will always be around. That is part of the human race.
As to the Tour being brutal... yes it is, but that is the TOUR! There is nothing like it and even to finish is a milestone in a man's life, let alone win a stage, podium place or even greater the yellow jersey! I rode my first in 1984 and we had a stage of 350km from Geneve to Villfranche sur Sonne if my memory is correct. We started at 8.30 in the morning and got in at 6pm and we did the last 20km in 20 minutes with no 11! There was another stage in that same Tour of 320km.
I hear the same thing from my riders about the length of stages and still in my older eyes races under 200km are nearly criteriums for a PROFESSIONAL. I know cycling has changed. It's faster, more professional and no races are riden"piano" any more. The answer to drugs is not easier races but stronger deterrence measures and that can only come from the top of cycling. Not from the teams but from the UCI. The are the patrons and they are the ruling body. Who does cycling answer to if not to them?
Ever heard of Ben Johnson? While I agree that the sheer distance of the Tour is daunting, it is really the requirement of 'speed' that is the seduction to dope. The Tour's pioneers had to cover stages of 400km; however, they did it very slowly. I think one of the main attractions of the Tour is its epic scope; I would not relish sacrificing that under the illusion that it will encourage clean riders. What I would prefer to see is a more rigorous and comprehensive drug testing regimen. If the Tour is difficult, if it is gruelling, hideously painful, and a true torment to ride, then, good - it is as it should be. The strongest, mentally, physically, spiritually, should prevail. Recourse to pharmaceuticals is the real problem, not the distance. It is the speed increase of 'enhancements' that is the true bogey of professional cycling, for it has made doping a necessity.
Just thought you might like to print this and give some thanks to a Young man who puts so much back into cycling.
Cameron Jennings back from overseas, injured, and to return next year to go again. What's he up to while at home? Well you can find him at the local Rockhampton track, doing a bit of commentating, place scoring, on the local club nights, and then like last year, you can find him at the track on Monday and Wednesday carrying out training for the up and coming juniors. Then he stays around if needed and helps the A graders.
Nice to see someone so keen and willing to put in for the benefit of the sport.
The Hogg Family
Congratulations to Neil Stephens on such a professional, dignified and unemotional response (Oct 25, 2006). The sort of thing we’ve all come to expect from this Ambassador of the sport over many, many years.
Neil’s handling of himself in what he, himself, describes as a ‘very traumatic experience’ was always exemplary and should serve as an example for others, just as Neil himself has always been an ideal role model generally.
There can be no doubt that the hard work, perseverance and many other qualities that Neil and other Aussie trailblazers (they know who they are) displayed throughout Europe, and around the World, helped pave the way for the current and growing band of Aussies making their mark in the Big Time. Neil’s efforts since ‘hanging up the bike” have served to strengthen this already strong legacy.
When the long-held, but ever growing, dream of an Aussie team in Europe becomes a reality, I can think of none more deserving than he to be a part of that endeavour. Never forget, Neil made his name, largely, by devoting himself and his efforts to others in the sport.
As much as he would be a “very proud Australian” if he were invited to fill a role, Australian cyclists and followers would be most proud to see him in that role.
What a marvellous way to return class to a defiled sport! I wish I'd thought of it myself! By 'cracking the mirror' in your 2007 Tour de France introduction video, you really showed Floyd Landis that he better not try any of his dastardly tricks again. Please, keep fighting the good fight by exploiting all of your snooty French passive-aggressiveness. Oh, how that silly American must feel now!
For your next act of ridding the sport of drug use, I propose slipping a Whoopie Cushion under Jan Ullrich's seat when he sits to sign his next big contract, or maybe placing banana peels on the roads of Plateau-de-Beille, hoping the dopers slip and remove themselves from the race!
With tongue firmly in cheek,
If I am not mistaken, one of the men sitting behind Oscar Pereiro in one of Cyclingnews' photos of the 2007 TDF presentation, is none other than Richard Virenque - a legally confirmed "doper", "cheat" "liar" (pick the TDF organisation's epithet of the day).
The rank hypocrisy of the TDF organization in not inviting F. Landis to the presentation (and, apparently, also slurring M. Landis) and then inviting M. Virenque is outrageous.
You recount your blood donating experience and its performance benefits light-heartedly but I think you have identified yet another way a rider who has the luxury of spending a few weeks not racing before a major event can boost his chances. I had always thought the secret (if legal) was starvation allied to continued hard training. In a way, blood donating is starvation short-circuited.
You sound like you got quite a boost from giving the regulation amount of blood. I suspect that those with the knowledge to adapt the donating solely to performance enhancement could do much better. There is something lingering in my memory that tells me that if rather unsavoury methods are used to extract the blood i.e. leeches, then the boost might be even greater.
I suspect it is entirely legal. I hope we will receive expert opinion on this.
Little wonder that many question to role of the UCI when its President, Pat McQuaid, makes obviously biased comments about whether certain riders have doped – all prior to any hearing – and expressing views about the sense of teams, that are notably regulated by his organisation and require a licence from his organisation, signing up riders that have either been found to have doped (and have 'served their time') or are suspected of having doped. Why can’t Pat McQuaid and Dick Pound see their roles of ensuring an open, objective and fair method of dealing with allegations of doping? Their frequent and, in my opinion inappropriate, comments in the press do nothing other than to serve their own egos and undermine the credibility their respective organisations need to be effective in the battle against doping.
Then, are we feeding this by listening to it?
Reading your October 27th letters there has been as big an attack as ever on the UCI President, Pat McQuaid – most notably from Mr. Lindsay. It boils my blood (to use his term) that people should attack the UCI’s comments on riders like Tyler Hamilton & Ivan Basso. Tyler Hamilton will never again race in the Pro Tour peloton, and that is my belief - why? - nobody will sign him, not because he is ‘over the hill’ but because he cheated (not yet proven innocent) and I as a spectator do believe he did. I also raise the case of Pro Team AG2R – who signed Francesco Mancebo for the 2006 season in the hope of a high TDF placing. As it happens Mr. Mancebo was implicated in Puerto and although he could not race (and rightly so) the team still had to pay his wages. The resulting factor was that the AG2R budget was a bit shot and they could not renew a promising young French rider’s contract for 2007. And now you question why teams are apprehensive to sign Basso, Ullrich, Hamilton? The future is in the youth.
But reading these letters here today and seeing the news that the Italian Federation and CONI have dismissed the case of Ivan Basso. Is this just an Italian smokescreen? Ever since Day One the Italian’s have been behind Basso, and furthermore they have jumped on the fact that the Spanish judge (who was in temporary charge of the case while his associate was on leave) shelved the case. But what I want to bring to the notice of readers who can see past half a smokescreen, is that Mr. Riis, himself a former rider that has been in murky waters, but nevertheless looked at Basso as his ‘son’ but yet thought nothing about dismissing the rider from the CSC Squad. I am not in a position to say the rider is guilty, purely because I do not know the facts, but hands on heart – how many of you think he is innocent?
Regarding the attack on the UCI, I think it is fairly lame. You all sit there on your laptops and fire off an abusive and destructive email. Too many people question what the UCI do, or have been doing – but in actual fact how many of you actually know? I admit I do not know what goes on, but I do believe it is very easy to be like Mr. Lindsay and just be down right critical from the outset. Regarding Hamilton, too many of you are tying him up in Operation Puerto and saying that he should be let ‘off’ – but in actual fact he was found guilty of using a blood transfusion earlier in his career, namely the Olympics, where he cheated against many innocent athletes from all corners of the globe and in my view that is deception and fraud, so to those of you that think he should have yet another chance forget about it.
Mr. Lindsay, readers, I do believe the UCI is attempting more than ever to tackle this problem of cheaters, and I just feel this letter facility should be offering more constructive criticism rather than open mouth unfounded attack.
Walter Lindsay from New York is trying to compare a non sanctioned event (Mt. Washington Hill Climb) to a ProTour level bicycle race. Seriously Walter, put the pipe down. They're not even the same, or even close for that matter. Hamilton winning the Mt. Washington Hill Climb, with Deadly Ned coming in second doesn't compare to a world class field lining up for a ProTour event. Just because there are a bunch of relative no name riders riding up the side of Mt. Washington doesn't make it a world class event.
If a team does sign a rider who is then sanctioned, said team has wasted a year's contract, that could have gone to another rider who is more worthy than riders either under suspicion, or who have been banned.
Unfortunately, in the world of bicycle racing, and anti doping, it's not "innocent until proven guilty" like it is in a court of law in the United States. The burden of proof is on the accused, and not the people bringing forth said charges.
In response to Mr. Burton's letter: You sir, put too much faith in drugs. It is certain that in particular cases they lend an advantage but unless you're capable of winning in the first place an advantage is nothing but that. As an example I suggest that he take the entire course of drugs available to cheaters out there and see if he becomes Superman.
I think that if you actually did talk to Brad McGee you'd discover that he isn't winning because his timing was wrong. You need to peak at just the right moment in today's peloton. With the competition that is out there today, if you're one day off of your peak the competition is just too stiff.
Let us not subscribe to drugs what physical fitness and condition peaking will answer.
Well, look at that. The Spanish federation has decided to drop its travesty known as Operación Puerto. So, what we basically got out of this huge, unfortunate series of events is a group of people, the people who are supposedly trying to protect cycling, that have said "whoops, not enough evidence (yeah, sorry about your careers, we totally screwed up)". This is the problem that 'plagues' the pro sport of cycling. It's the people that reveal that a cyclist doped, then open an investigation, reveal basically all for the world to see and then back off because of the lack of evidence that, in my opinion, are the people who are damaging the sport. Because of the rules of conduct in the Pro Tour, cyclists are still damned if they did, damned if they didn't. There will always be cheaters. That fact will never be eliminated, never. The emphasis still needs to be put on the clean winners, not the doped failures. I'd much rather read about the victories of a new talent than the single failure of another rider.
To the investigators, anti-doping officials, UCI leaders, etc. - get off your high horse and stop complaining about how dopers are killing the sport. If this last investigation is any indication, it's you folks that do the judging before the evidence arrives (or doesn't) that are killing the sport. It looks like it's time for another major change in cycling regarding the rules of conduct.
Just some idle speculation, but I have a feeling that there are a few things going on behind the scenes that we do not know about. Both Ullrich and Basso seem to have been implicated in doping practices up to their necks, and yet no case has been brought against either rider. It seems that the authorities surrounding Operación Puerto have had something of a change of heart, and no longer consider themselves to have found sufficient evidence of cheating by either rider, despite having seized bags and bags of blood and a whole host of drugs. It certainly seems strange that the court won't release DNA samples from the 'Ullrich' blood. Do they not want to establish whether or not Ullrich has been cheating?
Given the strange twists and turns that have been taking place, and the way in which the whole doping investigation seems to have become toothless, I wonder whether statements put out by any of the authorities involved can be trusted. I even wonder whether there is money changing hands behind the scenes, or something like this. As we all know, doping is big business, and for something as apparently conclusive as the evidence from Operación Puerto to fail to result in any charges smells just a little bit funny to me.
So far as Landis is concerned, what a cock-up. When I saw Landis step off the bike after stage 17 I thought 'what is this guy on?' He looked so aggressive (I even seem to recall him being quite physically aggressive towards journalists after he crossed the line). So it came as no surprise when I heard that Landis had tested positive for testosterone. Of course there seem to have been some big procedural errors, and these might get him off the hook. But I cannot believe that Landis is innocent, even if some people would reply that being 'hyped-up' is what you would expect after such a big win. As far as I could tell, Landis appeared more than just hyped-up, he looked drug-crazed. For this reason, I am inclined to believe that he cheated, even if it cannot be proven.
You know what? Everyone’s been asking why we have only heard the cyclists names involved in Operación Puerto. I know why, it just came to me in an epiphany. Its because all the other sport governing bodies follow their own rules. Only cycling sells out its riders before conclusive rulings are made. Only cycling has leaks at every level of investigation. If they had just kept their mouth shut until the judge made his ruling they wouldn’t have egg on their faces today. I don’t feel sorry for any of them. All of them want to be the first person to chime in on controversy because it gets their name in the paper. They all want to be celebrities.
I have to say however, that I am proud of the U.S. cycling governing body and USADA for sticking to their own rules and not commenting on the cases. Maybe the others will see your example and follow the rules they created.
As I read through Cyclingnews letters each week I find it increasingly fascinating that the letters seem to be about a ten to one ratio in favour of those who think that Floyd Landis is innocent, the UCI and WADA are incompetent, and those involved in Operación Puerto were treated unfairly; versus those of us who think there is a serious doping problem in cycling and something needs to be done about it, and the code of silence by the riders and vicious unrelenting attacking of the testers further damages the sport's reputation. Astonishing, and sad to me.
With all of the drug scandals, accusations, implications, and blood witchcraft (blood doping) there has to be a scapegoat, a public hanging. No one can stop the UCI and its Spanish Inquisition. The UCI could not possibly be wrong in vilifying the evil dark lord of Landis, could they? The lab in France and the Tour de France officials act like bishops and cardinals in support of their infallible UCI leader.
Apparently, Pope McQuaid wants Landis to be excommunicated, while everyone in the Spanish raid will be allowed to recite the UCI code three times and be granted full penance. Perhaps we will even see Ullrich riding the Tour with team-mates Botero and Hamilton.
Personally, I feel the most sorrow for I-Shares whose hopes and dreams for 2007 were shattered by a drop of testosterone. As for all of us, the huddled masses, we never got to see the race we really wanted. Basso and Ullrich were sent home. Mancebo hid. Vino lost his team-mates. And a fragile collarbone sent Valverde packing as well. As for Landis, he saw the witch-hunting of American Lance Armstrong who actually had an independent source store extra samples last year. Too bad Floyd didn't keep all of his urine during the month of July, then he could have sent it to a real lab and shared the results with us, perhaps on the internet in a lengthy file that would take about 12 hours to download. Apparently it is not enough to be innocent, you have to prove you are innocent.
As for the unsung heroes like Ekimov, who will never see his Olympic gold medal, they have something that cannot be taken away, self-respect and honor. I think perhaps those words are not to be spoken on the hallowed grounds of the UCI headquarters. And perhaps Landis' case will only be cleared the day after the prologue in London. While clean riders may be stabbed and shown on broken mirrors, their determination to ride cannot be extracted by the Pope and the Inquisition.
Maybe every race should have a UCI-declared winner, a full chemically enhanced winner, and a public opinion winner, along with an overall winner which would be established by legal courts within a five year window of the actual event. In case the original rider dies of old age while awaiting the official and lasting results, his child or grandchild would be allowed to accept the award at an official ceremony presented every February.
Regarding your article which stated “Following the ruling by the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) last week, requiring riders linked to Operación Puerto to submit to DNA testing before being allowed to sign with ProTour teams, it is likely riders like Basso, Jan Ullrich and Francisco Mancebo will be looking to join professional continental teams.”
Surely the move of riders implicated in Operación Puerto to continental teams, thus avoiding the new obligatory DNA testing for the ProTour teams, is tantamount to an admission of guilt? And now we’ve got even got leading, non-implicated, riders like Paulo Bettini complaining about the DNA tests. Ultimately, it’s the riders who choose to avoid or get involved in doping, but what positive moves to end the doping culture have we seen from the riders and their organisation? Nothing but bleating about their ‘rights’. It reminds me of British trade unions in the 1970’s. Guys, it’s your mess – you have to take steps to clean it up yourselves, or others will do it for you (and to you).
Enough already. If someone has conclusive evidence against the Operación Puerto riders and more specifically Ullrich and Basso, then let's see it. I think it is disgraceful how these riders are having their careers and lives trashed by the media and the cycling fraternity.
If you have substantial evidence against the riders then get on with it. If you don't, then drop all of this nonsense and let's get back to racing. I have now read so many conflicting stories about who did what and how they did it, that my head is spinning.
Thanks to Paulo Bettini for adding a little true excitement to the end of a horrendous season. Let's either put up some evidence that would stand up to legal scrutiny or let's close the case, let the riders find new teams and get on with it.
I came so close this summer to totally losing interest in a sport that I have loved for many years. But then just as I was becoming totally disinterested, Sven Nys and cyclocross in general have re-sparked the flame. Now it is time to move on, sort this mess out and get our house back in order!
I'll tell you one thing, the big races just won't be the same without the best riders in them. However, if they are truly guilty and it can be "properly proven", then let us be rid of them and we can find new heroes. I for one still hope to see a 2007 Tour battle between Basso, Ullrich and Vino (Valverde won't be able to finish again). Even without the Landis doping scandal, this last Tour was a snooze without the best in it.
Sorry but that's my opinion.
Yes, it is indeed quite possible to fake a "mismatched" DNA test. But I assure you (speaking as an anthropologist/evolutionary biology student) it is almost completely impossible to fake a positive DNA match. The logistics involved would be absolutely staggering. Much like being able to guess correctly which way a three-sided die would land, every time you threw it, roughly 40,000 times! Its that simple.
All these folks who say that Basso has a good reason to fear a DNA test are just plain wrong. Think about it. If for no other reason, imagine the level of international-scrutiny that any DNA sample of his would be under! If he is innocent, he should have no fear in submitting to a DNA test. Let him pick anyone he wants to draw the sample, let him have anyone he wants to conduct the test, let it everything be as transparent as possible.
I think that riders like Basso, who refuse to have anything to do with a DNA test, are displaying a sad sign of their guilt!
Referring to your November 1 news. It included a statement from ACCPI President Amedeo Colombo. In part of his statement he said, "But this time, regarding DNA testing, the riders won't just look at the situation, because it's unacceptable to be treated like thieves or delinquents".
I find a comment like this very surprising, as people who take drugs in cycling are in fact thieves. They are stealing money that should have been won by people who didn't cheat. They are potentially preventing clean cyclists from having the standard of living they could achieve if everyone was clean, or possibly preventing good clean amateurs from breaking into the pro ranks. They are also deceiving the public and their sponsors.
I'm sure I am wrong, but any time I read about a cyclist saying DNA testing is wrong it makes me think he is simply saying it because he has something to hide. Last year a young girl was murdered close to where I live. I was one of something like 3000 men who voluntarily submitted themselves for DNA testing, even though each of us already knew we were innocent. If I was a pro cyclist I'd be more than happy to submit my DNA, in the hope that it would hopefully prevent those stealing money from my pocket from continuing to do it.
If the pro cyclists aren't careful the sport of cycling will soon die. It has a terrible reputation for drug taking, and the general public assume "everyone is at it". On the other hand they seem to believe the opposite is true in sports like football. If you are a sponsor, which are you going to invest in? OK, football may have more blatant forms of cheating (you only have to watch the constant diving that seems to have become the norm among the big teams), but the public doesn't seem to be so concerned about that.
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