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Letters to Cyclingnews - December 1, 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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I did a doubletake when I read your quote from Tyler Hamilton "I made a mistake and the price that I had to pay was very high.” It would have great to hear a real admission of guilt and responsibility, but your quote is different than what I’m reading elsewhere: "There have been mistakes and the price that I had to pay was very high". That’s very different from saying, “I made a mistake.” A correction or clarification is probably in order.
I was one of the thousands who witnessed the appalling crash at the Ghent 6 on Saturday night. I don't think anyone has ever seen anything like it.
The cause of the crash looked like a racing incident to me, 2 riders bouncing off each other. The resulting crash was awful, the image has not left me and I don't think it will. You could maybe question the design of the railings, but the poor guy fell on them from above.
The thing that really bothered me was the medical treatment. I (and many people around me) felt that more could and should have been done. The initial response was slow, some (non-medical) people tried to move him and there seemed to be undue panic and disorganisation among the medical staff.
Equipment had to be continually brought in from outside the velodrome, when it clearly needed to be right there. Only a moron would comment on whether any treatment would have made a difference, but the impression I got was wholly negative.
I would gladly have paid more to watch, if I thought that money went to better medical facilities. I know these events are run on a budget, but who cares about that now?
My condolences to the Galvez family and Juan Llaneras.
The following is a letter for USADA in response to the Genevieve Jeanson settlement:
It's me again.
It has been two years and I want to extend my congratulations in your ongoing fight against drug use in our sport.
You win. I am more confused then ever.
The confusion of what constitutes a doping infraction and its penalties in the USA continues to astound me. So let me try to understand. Genevieve Jeanson should have served two years for her first infringement but instead gets a warning and a fine. Then her second positive result, which is supposed to be an automatic lifetime suspension, is now settled for a mere two year sentence? This settlement is quite a good one. Ms. Jeanson is allowed to state that she did not take EPO specifically but still admits her guilt as is written in line 8 of your contract with Ms. Jeanson:
8. Ms. Jeanson acknowledges that the positive test report from the UCLA Laboratory is a violation of the applicable rules, including the USADA Protocol and the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, both of which have adopted the WADA Code, and accepts the following:
A two-year period of ineligibility under Article 10 of the WADA Code beginning on July 25, 2005;
Let's see if I got this right: Ms. Jeanson retracts her appeal to AAA/CAS allowing her to ‘get out of jail’ by July 2007 instead of serving a life sentence, and you get out of more lengthy and costly legal battles, so it's a win-win situation for both USADA and Ms. Jeanson.
But what about the rest of us? What about cycling's future? What message do you send to young athletes when you continue to handle doping infractions according to your own laws, and allow settlements with the guilty to satisfy your own needs?
I am more confused and disheartened then ever. I have now lost faith in the entire system. How does this look to the future of our sport? Or did you fail to see that such a settlement has implications that reach further then those simply between USADA and Ms. Jeanson?
It makes me laugh to read Bjarne Riis' incredulous comments about how Basso's departure from CSC could have been averted if only Ivan had agreed to submitting a DNA sample, to prove his innocence. I can't say for sure, because I don't know Ivan myself, but maybe Bjarne ought to ponder what it looked like from out here. And what I saw was abandonment, at its highest level.
I applaud Johan Bruyneel's responses to criticisms. Innocent until proven Guilty is an American philosophy I am extremely proud of. I am certain that Ivan appreciates Johan's and Discovery Channels interest in him, and their support. Consequently, he has already agreed to DNA sampling if the need for it arises, and I'd bet he'll be fully exonerated if that need did arise.
The 2007 season is on the horizon. I, for one, can't wait until it gets rolling. I'd wager once again that, Riis' shortsightedness will be Discovery Channel’s fortune. And Operacion Puerto will fizzle, because it has all the forensic professionalism of an adventure conducted by Inspector Clouseau.
Ralph Michael Emerson
With all the talk of shortening the Vuelta, as it potentially conflicts with other big events, such as the Tour of Germany and Tour of Poland, I am surprised the following thought hasn't been mentioned: Move the Vuelta back to May, the Giro back to June, and leave September for the German and Polish Tours, plus the start of the Fall Classics. This also eliminates the issue of having the World Championships conflicting with other races, or needing to be held in October, when weather is often sketchy.
No matter where you have it, the Vuelta is going to conflict with other races. Moving the Vuelta to September and moving the Giro up was a mistake. The days of riders trying to win two major tours in one year are gone for now anyway. It also makes for too many wet days in Italy during the Giro, and too many dry and desolate during the Vuelta. When the Vuelta was held in May the images of riders passing late spring flowers poking through partially snow covered passes of Spain were gorgeous as well. Just ask Graham Watson.
Phil Anderson (no, not the Aussie)
I am the first to admit that shortening the Vuelta would have been a good idea a few years ago. Even not moving it from its spot early in the season would have been the smartest thing to do.
Actually, I sent a letter at the time to that effect, to a reputable online cycling news site. But honestly, the 2003 and 2004 editions were not bad and even 2005 was a great race (if you forget about the Heras thing for a minute). 2006 was a great race too with the Vino-master tearing up the Iberian roads.
They say that only a fool does not change his opinion. I did! I like the 3-week race right now! Please leave it alone!
On another note I would still like to see a bigger Spanish race early in the season (Vuelta à Murcia for example) that could be stretched to 2 weeks.
There seems to me to be an obvious answer to the problems with the discrepancies within the drug testing of the cyclists. Many do not trust the information from the lab in France. There seems to be what I consider a logical solution, especially in the light of WADA now trying to eliminate the B sample.
Why is the A sample of the test not split and sent to 2 yes 2 different labs for testing? If both labs have the same result then it seems there would be no question of a riders drug use. If the labs have different results, then the B sample would be sent to another lab, not either of the A sample testers.
Having been involved in drug testing I know that if a mistake is made in testing the odds are the same mistake will be repeated in any additional testing if the test is performed by the same lab. When testing addicts we used two labs for the results.
I know the credibility of the French lab is in question especially in the US. If the tests are so difficult that only one lab is qualified to perform them, then it seems likely to me the test in not that reliable and the possibility of error is greater.
I believe the goal is not only to test the riders but to be accurate since doping allegations can destroy not only a riders career and life, it makes the ability of teams to hold onto there sponsors and accuire new sponsors extremely difficult. If winning a three week bicycle race was simple then there would be many more cyclists and many more repeat winners. Lets do more testing but for goodness sakes, lets be accurate.
Now that Basso has jumped ship to Discovery wouldn't it be great to see Ullrich, once exonerated (which will happen), finally team up with Riis (which he should have done years ago) and finish his career off? The two best Tour riders backed by the two top Tour teams; it would make July interesting.
Dear Mr. McQuaid:
While I appreciate your frustration at the delays and leaks regarding Puerto, reported today in Cyclingnews I wonder if you wouldn’t be better off dealing with the outstanding loopholes in doping rules for cycling, rather than attacking the Spanish judge.
The cycling doping rules are weak and within your control. Here are three:
Lack of chaperones
There is still no rule requiring chaperones for in competition testing, to accompany athletes from the finish to doping control. We now have the news that Genevieve Jeanson has had her penalty for a second offense reduced to two years, because missing her dope test at La Fleche Wallone was deemed ‘no fault’. Given that no one would have been there to find her and attend her until the test, I’m not surprised that she was able to argue ‘no-fault’. Cyclists in Canada are furious that this cheater is eligible to start again this July.
The Italian cycling doctors have requested this. Though the UCI staff member responsible for doping, Dr Mario Zorzoli, was present, there has been no announcement of any UCI intentions to close this loophole.
Notice of blood testing
The Italian doctors also requested this. Currently the riders get 30 minutes notice allowing dilution, and then four hours to reinfuse. How can say this anything but a farce? When will the UCI also announce this?
Race radio announcements of tests
Another major loophole is the announcement of tests by race radio, during races, allowing “preparation” before a test. When will you announce that this rule will be changed?
I did not think it would happen, but I am 100% sick and tired of discussion about doping. I am not sure the continued discussion helps the sport of cycling at all.
My pet hates in this never ending saga:
Supposed ‘leaks’ from prosecutors and testing labs. Gross misconduct, in my opinion, gives no confidence in the objectivity of the testing labs or the criminal justice system in those jurisdictions.
McQuaid and other from the UCI, and Pound from WADA, spraying their self serving and often grossly unfair vitriol to anyone they suspect has doped. I have no doubt McQuaid and Pound do want to put a stop to, or at least minimise, doping in cycling but they, in my opinion, are going about it the wrong way. You can not trample on people’s rights to achieve your aims no matter how desirable you see those aims.
Riders asserting that other riders are doping. Unless a rider has actual proof that another rider has doped, and are prepared to give evidence to that effect in a Court or Tribunal, they should not comment.
Oscar Pereiro, who seems like a really decent guy as well as a great cyclist, is reported to have said he “feels” like he is the winner of the 06 TdF. If that is true, and I do not know if it is (I hope it is not), Oscar should, as he is reported to have initially done, offer no adverse comment. The places stand until they are changed, and that should only occur after due process has been followed. It is not just Oscar, as I have read other cyclists talk about what moving up a position in the GC results will mean to them when (not if) Floyd loses his 1st place. Fellas – wait until it happens before commenting.
National cycling federations, by their senior officers, are buying in to this whole cat fight. Ladies and gentlemen, just do your jobs and stay out of the media spot light, as tempting as those 15 seconds of fame might be. You all have a lot of non-pro cyclists that are members of your organisations who are looking to you to provide objective and fair leadership and, where appropriate, discipline.
I still love my cycling, and that has not changed. I am, however, quickly losing interest in pro-cycling. The sordid way the whole doping thing is being played out by all of the players just leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth. I feel that is very damaging to pro-cycling.
I enjoyed your article on unusual sponsorships. One that you didn't mention although not a major team, was the late 80's Sauna Diana team. The promotional poster for the bordello sponsored squad featured several of the young ladies outside the building reclining on a couch with the team interspersed among them.
They all had enormous grins, especially the riders. My copy of that poster has gotten more comments than any of the Campy, major team or individual posters in my collection.
You have to try to understand and accept that Leipheimer has never been a viable leader. He is deficient at the time trial and has never shown the explosion to ride away from people.
Even in his Tour of Germany win, he never really put in any blistering atacks, but rather rode steady for the win behind great team work. At the national championships, he willingly took a domestique role to help Hincapie win. Even though he wasn't obligated, he chose to give up his own chances to see his future team mate win.
He will be a great gregario for Basso as he is incapable of winning any grand tour. Bruyneel is no fool, he signed Leipheimer with an eye on signing Basso in the future. If you could speak with Bruyneel off the record, I would bet that he would tell you that Levi is a great all around rider that was signed to support the leaders of the team: Basso and Hincapie.
So it is ok for Landis to be accused publicly and tried and essentially found guilty by the media, but not defend himself publicly?
The lab's reputation and credibility was in question long before Landis tested positive. And unless I am mistaken, the lab has not denied anything published on Landis' website. I have read everything published by Landis so far and if it is accurate and true, then he has been completely railroaded by the lab, the UCI and WADA.
The lab has not denied any of the technical information, and in the past the lab itself has done much more damage by publicly giving information than Landis could ever do to them. This is simply a case of turnabout is fair play.
The lab leaks information, against its own, and the UCI's policies, but cries foul when someone does the same to them? Give me a break.
If Landis is guilty, then he should be suspended and pay the price. The sad thing is, if the lab is guilty of making multiple errors and proclaiming an innocent cyclist as a doper, will the lab be suspended for 2 years? Not a chance, they will get off totally clean.
So if Landis has information, I would encourage him to share every bit of it. If it was me and I had been falsely accused you can bet I would go public with every scrap of information I had.
Again, if the information Landis is putting up on his website regarding the lab and test results is accurate, then the lab deserves all the humiliation and damage to its reputation that it gets.
What Floyd Landis is doing is no different to what the French lab, the UCI and the French Media have done to him, and a number of others it seems, regarding announcement of "positive tests".
All of us seemed to know that there was a positive test, but it sounds like Mr. Landis and representatives had no knowledge of the details of these tests, as it was leaked to the public, in violation of the WADA and UCI rules. Floyd has said that he would fight this and do it openly, and make all the evidence known to the public - and that is what he and the team that he has built around him have done, it appears. I fail to see how this is unfair to the lab - Floyd said that they would reveal all of the evidence from the report after they had analyzed it.
That the French lab has now started whining about being treated unfairly astounds me. They have produced a test result that could very easily end Floyd's career, and strip him of the overall yellow jersey of the Tour de France. It has caused at least one team to lose their sponsorship and fold, and a number of riders and managers, staff, mechanics etc. are now also looking for, or are out of work.
The ripple effect of this, should Floyd lose his case, will probably haunt cycling and the potential for millions, if not more, dollars in sponsorships, advertising endorsements, will be lost - and even more for the industry in sales of bikes, team jerseys, etc. I think that even if Floyd wins his case that there has been quite a bit of damage that could take years to recover from.
There was a public announcement made that Floyd had a positive test for an imbalance in his testosterone to epitestosterone level. He was sacked, his team ended up losing a potential new sponsor and they are now gone. All of this was based on a test that showed only on one day, an imbalance that showed up on tests from no other days of the race. (For a substance that, according to many - would not be of benefit for short-term results). The one test, according to the evidence that has been put out by Floyd and team, appears to have a fairly high probability that it was either faulty, or it was mishandled by the lab, or both. If this is true, I have no sympathy for this lab, or its future reputation.
The lab has already admitted that it did not follow the correct protocols regarding tracking samples and that one of the samples claimed to be Landis' has been mislabeled (although they say that was only a typographical error).
It is almost impossible to prove that any individual has been deliberately doping to enhance performance in the absence of positive witness evidence (which in most cases will mean a confession). That type of evidence is very difficult to get. As a result, athletes are made responsible for whatever is in their blood. If they have an elevated P/E testosterone ratio, or test positive for EPO, then they are deemed to have been deliberately doping, even if the drugs got into their system by accident. This means that an athlete cannot escape a sanction for doping by giving evidence to persuade a disciplinary tribunal that the doping was inadvertent.
The flip side is that the testing procedures have to be absolutely rigorous. All the testing protocols have to be followed exactly to establish beyond any doubt that the blood actually came from the athlete in question. The testing protocols are established for that purpose. They are not just some meaningless technicality.
As a result, the labeling errors should mean that Landis' positive tests were not valid. The lab may think that it should have the opportunity to give evidence to explain the errors and to establish that despite the mislabeling the sample tested was probably Landis' sample.
However, as I understand it, Landis is not allowed to give evidence that he did not knowingly take testosterone. That type of evidence is simply irrelevant. He is limited to attacking the test procedure as carried out.
So fair's fair, if you are going to deprive the rider of the opportunity to give evidence to explain or reject his blood discrepancies, then the lab that accuses him should not have the opportunity to explain its testing discrepancies.
The simple fact is that there is now doubt about whether the mislabeled sample is Landis'. The testing protocols specify that there should be no doubt. The lab knew what the required standard for handling samples was in advance, but still managed to get it wrong. There is no positive test result to convict Landis. There is no negative test result to exonerate him. Everyone who cares about cycling has cause to be angry about this.
If you switch the titles ‘Floyd Landis’ and ‘French Laboratory’ in your letter you get the same scenario that happened immediately after the Tour ended and the positive result was announced. The lab announced the results immediately and named the rider, in violation of its own rules. Landis didn't have a chance to prepare his defense before being scrutinized by the media. It seems reasonable to me the results had some potential issues about their validity. How much damage has been done to Landis now? Was that fair?
Don hit the nail on the head. Only when Basso knows that neither the Italian Federation nor the Spanish authorities will require a DNA sample does he offer one. Disingenuous, but great PR for Discovery. Look how many letter writers are now convinced that Basso must be clean!
There seems to be a theme that some people from the US can't understand why innocent until proven guilty doesn't apply (for example, Jon Speer’s letter: "Perhaps it is because I am an American that I generally follow the, ‘innocent until proven guilty’ modus operandi"), the implication being that other nationalities may not follow this modus operandi so strictly, which is of course largely untrue and, some would argue, hypocritical.
I also disagree with the way suspected cheats are treated until they are charged or proven guilty. However, let's be clear that this is the way that a governing body and its licensed teams have chosen to deal with the issue and, thankfully, it has nothing to do with the way a particular nation might deal with those suspected of offences, but not yet charged.
No national federation is going to touch this evidence even if it is released. Throughout the case, senior officers of the Civil Guard have been called before judges to answer for improprieties in the investigation, whether it be additional documents added to ‘certified’ copies, or evidence that their surveillance was compromised from the onset and so audio and video tapes were possibly staged for their benefit to create layers of obfuscation.
A short time after these closed door sessions ended, a spokesman for the Spanish government announced curtailments in the case as more and more ‘evidence’ was deemed completely unreliable. Due to the fact that the revelations of this type are continually revealed, it was more than premature to say when the case is concluded the information will be in even an elementary state to be reviewed by national federations.
We now have the fact that the Civil Guard has ‘lost’ physical evidence. From 116 bags of blood and plasma in July, to 106 in October, to 99 in November. As an active law enforcement officer with almost 10 years of experience in criminal law and evidence handling procedures, I can only come to one of the following conclusions:
A) The Civil Guard was completely incompetent in the initial inventory and then and again during two reviews of the evidence inventory
B) Their procedures for the chain of custody are inadequate to the point of ineptitude
C) Evidence, or at least evidence inventories were fabricated for the purposes of this investigation.
Because their evidence handling procedures have proven to be so inept, I believe it would be impossible for a criminal or even a civil court (anti-doping courts use a level of evidence that lies between the two) to allow this evidence to be admissible.
The evidence currently available could be used to support either argument and in the end the only thing that is certain is that the anti-doping camp is again made to look ineffective, either in that they are seen as fanatical persecutors rather than diligent prosecutors or that they can't even convict the guy with the smoking gun in his hand.
Lemond did not pioneer the use of the Scott Tri-bar, he benfited from it though. True, he was the first rider to use the bar in a big time trial win, but the boys from 7-11 were the first to actually use the bar. Therefore the comparison between Obree and Lemond is not valid. Obree was an innovator. Lemond borrowed an innovation.
I believe the Flying Scotsman has recently secured international distribution, the rights being purchased by one of the American companies, so I’m sure it’ll be coming to a cinema near you soon.
I reviewed the film during the 2006 Edinburgh Film Festival, and although nowhere near as informative as the book, it ain’t too bad.
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