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Letters to Cyclingnews - December 22, 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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Oh man! Not another one. I have been riding on our nations roads since the late eighties and have pretty much raced the whole time. Since then I have seen far too many of our promising up and comers and many others taken out by a motor vehicles. I have had a few close calls and one in particular, with a truck a few years ago, leaves me a little shaken at the thought. This is a sad reminder of the vigilance and awareness we as cyclists need to have while out on the roads.
I never knew Scott, but had seen him starting to get more mention recently in the cycling press. The news of his passing has left me very sad and sick feeling in the stomach. Having a young family of my own I can imagine some of the pain Scott’s family and friends must be feeling. I can only hope that all his travels now have the sun on his face and the wind at his back. Farewell Scott.
Doesn't Patrick Lefévère continue to employ one Johan Museeuw, who has been as deeply implicated in doping as anyone else? When does Lefévère plan to fire Museeuw, so as to not be involved with anyone involved in doping?
Can any one of the IPCT teams honestly say that there is no one single person under their current employ that is or was involved (or suspected of involvement) in something related to doping? Nevermind that no one here has been convicted or proven of anything or that reputable scientists have point out major methodological flaws in much of the tools and data used to convict people like Tyler Hamilton.
Finally, to echo another writer, which teams also attempted to sign Basso and why are they not forthcoming about this fact? Could it be that all of this is just sour grapes in the end? Sadly, if the organizers of the Giro and the Tour have the option to exclude Discovery from their respective events, they probably don 't stand a chance in hell in winning an appeal in either an Italian of French court. So much for democracy and fair play.
I’m surprised that Floyd Landis has jumped on the fact that the CAS acquitted Inigo Landaluze. It did state that the only technicality was the same person was involved in the A sample and the B sample analysis. Your article stated, "The arbitrators have emphasized that the staff of the laboratory of Châtenay-Malabry had acted in good faith and that the overlap of the different analysis operations performed by the staff was due to a heavy workload in the laboratory."
I don’t see how Landis can use the Landaluze case, as though the CAS acquitted Landaluze, that "does not constitute a declaration of innocence". So, to me, that means that yes, he did dope, but the lawyers got him off.
Landis continues this mantra that his samples were handled incompetently and used flawed science, and now is asking everyone to put their hands in their pockets to help pay for his lawyers and Floyd has set up his own entity, "to help wrongly accused athletes fight doping charges and lobby for improved protection for accused competitors." And there seems to be quite a few of them in these days.
I don’t think he understands he is and will always be damaged goods now, why throw all this time and effort into this when he admitted the other day that he didn’t consider himself a cycle racer anymore.
The audacity of these people is quite unbelievable - do they really expect the public to bankroll their defence so they can get off on a technicality? Are there not better causes to give one's money to?
It seems that Dave learned a lesson. The hour requires a lot of preparation and dedication. While I applaud his charitable efforts for fallen fire fighters, I think he is starting to realize how very different an hour on the track is from a 50 kilometer time trial. Trying to hold a world record pace with jet lag in the off season (for a roadie) for even five minutes would make anyone think twice about going for 60 in front of an audience. It is not a disgrace. Even the best athletes have days when our legs just say,'Sorry, not today.' But please don't give up the goal.
Personally, I think an attempt in Colorado this summer would be more successful. Maybe this will even get Millar and Gonchar interested in planning an attempt. It motivated me to a personal record 25 km effort which took about 3 months of dedication to achieve.
The sport of professional cycling continues to look like a Three Stooges episode. The Operation Puerto situation causes the teams to ban Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso et al on the eve of the 2006 Tour. Now, Basso is riding for Discovery, Ullrich is seems to be poised for a comeback and the Tour still doesn't have a confirmed winner as of December. The champions are now decided in the courtroom, not the road.
The biggest hypocrisy of all this to me is the fact that Lance Armstrong was the subject of exactly the same things Ullrich and Basso were/are. Innuendo, books, association with questionable doctors, accusations, etc., but not one failed doping test. Yet, US Postal/Discovery never suspended or disciplined him. Listen to Lance, no failed tests equals a clean rider. By that test, Basso and Ullrich should have ridden the Tour. Where else is guilt by association assumed?
Could the testing agencies be years behind the pharmaceutical companies? Could Lance's multimillion dollar team of professionals for his bikes, skinsuits, aerodynamics, training, etc. also include the most knowledgeable doctors and chemists? I think the answer is yes. Cycling has a rich history of doping going back before 1900. There's an old adage that "you don't ride the Tour de France on mineral water alone."
Regarding Riis' comments to Shane Stokes December 19: "We won't bring in that testing. The reason is that in doing a programme like this, DNA is totally out of the question. In fact, I think that the whole discussion about that type of test actually moves the focus from what we really have to work on, and that is out of competition testing. So let's not divert the focus from what is important for cycling and sport in general."
Why is it that every time riders, team managers or fellow travelers bring up the issue of DNA testing their brain seems to trip a non-sequitur switch?
In a story about his team's anti-doping program, Riis says "we can ask people to give DNA samples but legally we are not in a position where we can force them to do so."
If I understand him correctly, Riis means he can compel his riders to submit to what he characterizes as an extraordinary battery of out-of-competition tests, in which DNA-containing fluid will be taken from their bodies and time-sequence tested for myriad characteristics, substances, etc.
Somehow, however, Riis' authority over the athletes' contract language stops when the time comes to require allowing those substances to be additionally tested for a DNA fingerprint.
The next time a Cyclingnews interviewee makes that sort of nonsense statement - some version thereof seems to be coming up in the cycling press every few days now - why not follow the logic with follow up questions. I'd really like to see some of these enablers' mental gymnastics as they detail how this is supposedly part of some legitimate legal or ethical scheme.
Bjarne Riis interview #2
Regarding the interview with Bjarne Riis. Riis is indeed an intelligent manager. By hiring Danish anti-doping expert Rasmus Damsgaard to work with the team in 2007, Riis has the opportunity to be proactive in an effort to ensure a 'clean' team of riders.
That's the party line, it is certainly a good goal, and one shared by T-Mobile with a similar program that was recently announced. Perhaps more importantly, the testing program to be employed by Damsgaard on behalf of Riis and CSC, will be instrumental in managing and/or controlling the current "witch hunt" tactics being employed by the UCI and WADA, aided by the ProTour Teams that have signed on to a hugely flawed ethics code, and much of the popular press that produces incomplete stories filled with innuendo.
Should a CSC rider be unjustly accused, data from the team's anti-doping program can be employed in the rider's defense. This is important because the riders need a better means of defense than they currently have. If the UCI and WADA can't manage doping affairs like the professionals they are supposed to be (leaks to the press, pronouncing riders guilty before a hearing, numbering errors on important samples), Riis and Damsgaard will have the ammunition they need to keep the authorities honest. Where might Floyd Landis be now if Phonak had employed a program like CSC is initiating?
The righteous indignation and moral hypocrisy of many observers of this sport is laughable. How many readers exceed the speed limit, breaking the laws of society, with impunity? Is not the potential harm resulting from this infraction, killing another person on the highway, greater than the potential harm of a doping infraction by a professional cyclist? Yes, I contend that it is.
Yet so many have written letters and expressed opinions about how morally decadent the top dogs of the peloton are for attempting to gain a competitive advantage through high tech medication. Wake up and smell the coffee people. I know that everyone out there either speeds, drives drunk, pads their bills, cheats on their significant other, cheats on their taxes [god forbid] or breaks some other rule laid down by the moral majority.
The point is, that you would not accept a black box inside of your personal automobile to monitor your speed and location, transmitting your transgressions to the police bureau in real time. Since this is undeniably true of 90% of Americans, very few of the readers out there should ever expect riders to preemptively give DNA, or swear not to blood dope, or take EPO, or HGH, etc. The UCI and the riders need to get their s**t together.
In the NFL, a steroid infraction gets your a three or four week suspension my friends. The world keeps turnin’, and the game keeps on thriving. Currently, the cycling teams are divided by paranoia, and fail to recognize the need to work together to keep the sport strong. Instead, they try to take advantage of the farcical misadventures which befall their foes to gain advantage in the big events - i.e. this year's TdF.
Pro cycling is a business, it is a professional sport with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, and every team and rider should have the right to compete unless caught fairly red handed using banned substances.
Edward P. O'Herlihy
No team has a totally clear past, but name me one rider of Euskaltel named in the Puerto-affair up to now?
It is always the same story, as well in America as in Belgium too, if doping issues are mentioned, always one team is referred to with a certain happiness: Euskaltel.
Maybe simply because they have had some incidents in the past, which are not at all outnumbering positive cases in other pro teams, or maybe because they are the easiest to blame, again a Spanish (Basque) team, isn't it?
Hang on a second, by Jerry Aaron's letter we are accepting the fact that Basso is guilty of doping practices when this is clearly not the case. Ivan Basso has been cleared by his federation and is clear to race.
Discovery would not have put pen to paper with Basso had this not happened and I suspect the reason there has been such a rush to throw Discovery out of the IPCT is more of jealousy by CSC, Gerolstiener etc that they lost out on the man.
In July everyone felt that Operation Puerto would be the most damaging thing in the sport since Festina, well we were all right it has been, but only because six months down the line we are no further forward. It has damaged careers, it has blown the sport apart but for all the wrong reasons. Operation Puerto is now a sham and a line should be drawn under it now to let our pros get back on with their jobs. You cannot prosecute people on hearsay, just cold hard realistic fact.
2007 needs to be the year where cycling rebuilds itself, it can't do that with the situation as it stands now
Armstrong's credibility #2
I think it’s quite premature to place suspicion on Basso, Armstrong and the Disco team. If you’re questioning Armstrong’s decision to go for Basso because of his association with Operation Puerto, you’re questioning the morals of the most tested athlete in the history of sport who never once tested positive for anything, anywhere at anytime.
It’s unfortunate that Basso was placed in a position where he could not participate in the ’06 Tour, but he is an amazing cyclist and truly the only contender, even ahead of Jan in my opinion, who could have beaten Lance.
Can’t the cycling world simply accept that Armstrong and Basso are two cyclists who at the same time were on a completely different level than the rest of the field because of their sheer determination and will?
I think the jealousy and greed of many other ProTour cyclists has fueled animosity and the best way to get the media on board is to push doping claims. How unfortunate.
Armstrong's credibility #3
On one hand you are critical of Armstrong and Basso, basically stating that Basso (and in the same sense Armstrong) is closer to guilty than innocent, and on the other hand you proclaim Riis as some sort of hero.
First of all, I have always found it hard to believe (ok, actually impossible to believe) that a team director has no idea that one of his 'superstars' is doping! That's like saying that an NFL coach has no idea his offensive line uses steroids...doubtful at best. So, if Basso is guilty, you must be naive to think that Riis was totally in the dark!
As far as the signing of Basso, in my opinion Discovery just beat everyone to the punch. I'm sure there were more than a few teams willing to 'take the risk' and were merely out-bid. Is having a substantial budget enough to exclude a team from competition? I hope not...for Tinkoff's sake!
Armstrong's credibility #4
Jerry, whilst I believe you have the right to form your own opinion, I ask the question. As you so rightly point out, the evidence against Basso is (at best) circumstantial and that the bags of blood are only Basso's by supposition, I also look at the fact that the Italian courts have found not enough evidence to proceed.
This, in my humble opinion, should therefore allow the belief of innocent till proven guilty. If, as you and the other teams believe, it is correct to sanction someone on purely hearsay and speculation without proof then the sport is really in a desperate way.
We do not see FIFA running to sanction clubs or players because somebody said they saw them in a doctors office. Yet all these cyclists (who are amongst the most tested athletes in the world) have had their careers trashed.
Whilst I applaud CSC & T-Mobile for their very public stance, I also applaud Discovery & Tinkoff for their belief in the most basic of human rights.
Armstrong's credibility #5
Following his retirement, I questioned Armstrong's ability to face a world in which he could no longer dominate the world of cycling. I also wondered how, with his continued involvement in the Discovery team, he would cope with the strong possibility that in 2006 Discovery would most likely not make the podium of the Tour.
How convenient then were the revelations on the eve of the Tour that prevented the best two cyclists in the world from starting the event - leaving the door a little more open for the 'clean' Discovery team?
And if Discovery could not take advantage of this (as we all witnessed) there was always the trump card available - the inevitable fact that Basso's relations with Riis and CSC would deteriorate leading to a parting of company. Basso with a number of years ahead of him and with no 'legal' reasons standing in the way of being contracted by Discovery will now go on to keep Armstrong's team 'in power' at the worlds biggest bike race.
If this is hard to swallow consider the Floyd Landis situation. From media stories it was widely accepted that Armstrong could not tolerate any of his support team wanting to further their careers by 'defecting', indeed it was reported that Lance considered Landis a traitor and we all know what happens to traitors.
I have never been a fan of conspiracy theories but it seems that there is only one winner stemming from the Operation Puerto and Floyd Landis situations?
Armstrong's credibility #6
I don’t know why anyone would be surprised about Armstrong supporting a rider who is under the suspicion of doping and/or under investigation for doping but has not had a shred of evidenced actually produced that he is doping.
Armstrong has been in that situation his entire career. If the same double standards were applied during Armstrong’s reign as Tour champion he would have had to be suspended every single year.
Let’s see, Michele Ferrari, L’Equipe, etc. What’s different with this Operation Puerto? I think that Discovery Channel and Armstrong have made a very clear (and I believe correct) statement about the media hyped rubbish.
This is all madness. Basso is either guilty or he is not, but until his racing licence is suspended he should be competing at the level he is capable of, and with a team that can support him at that level. Same goes for Ullrich, Bettini, Boonen, Hincapie or anybody else. Let the boys race!
Armstrong's credibility #7
Does Lance Armstrong's advocacy for the signing of Ivan Basso smell a little off? Do those seven consecutive Tour victories? My answers are ‘maybe’ and ‘probably’. But is anyone out there as astounded as I am about the cycling fraternity's willingness to look the other way regarding the hypocrisy of Holczer, Riis, and a German team (Telekom/T-Mobile) that for a decade employed a convicted drug-user as team leader?
Without question, cycling needs to clean up its act, and NOW, but hair-splitting about who smells worse when everybody shares variations of the same stink is unproductive. Scapegoats don't absolve anyone else of guilt; they serve to highlight the hypocrisy and self-serving nature of those who remain. Moreover, scapegoating at the expense of a rider's legal rights, including due process, is shameful.
Regarding lawyers and their place in all this mess, believe me, the kinds of due process violations we began to see starting with the Operation Puerto incident and its continuing fallout, including the stiffing of unconvicted riders like Carlos Garcia Quesada, will provide plenty of work for all of them.
America is a culture that does promote a win at any cost, no holds barred attitude. Sadly in the last 20 years we have gone from being a country that had some standing in the world as a country that believed in doing things in an ethical way, to a nation that has deteriorated into doing anything for a buck, or for a profit, or for gain because you can.
I don’t know if the hiring of Basso by Discovery Channel has any real significance one way or another here, except that it is a reflection of the America culture, and not a leading edge indicator of where we are at. If you want a leading edge indicator of our decline as a moral nation you might look at the way we have trashed the Geneva Convention lately, or mislead the world on the real intentions for invading Iraq. Discovery Channel hiring Ivan Basso is nothing more than a minor reflection of a society that has gone terribly wrong
No offense, but maybe it is you who should get to know Europe a little better. It is that elusive place where a good 2,000 years ago some smart folks came up with the principle called presumption of innocence. Athens, Sparta and Rome all had it written in their laws, something that cannot be said of the U.S.A.
The constitution makes no explicit mention of it. And please, please, please, let's not get started on the U.S. justice system. The truth is that in the U.S. people have been executed with less evidence than there is against Basso - and I don't consider him guilty by any stretch of the imagination.
I think everyone is missing the point here with regards to this drug story, nobody has been proven guilty, and how can we suspend somebody when there is no proof? How can we stop somebody riding on speculation? What is going to stop teammates from blabbing about another teammate supposedly doing drugs? Has anyone ever thought about teammates sabotaging their mates drink bottles?
Jealousy is one big green devil… What happened to innocent until proven guilty? This code of ethics rule gives every Tom, Dick and Harry a weapon to go out and spread rumors about any rider they feel is way too good. Cyclist careers are being ruined over speculation, it’s been 6 months since the Tour de France and the public has seen nothing in the way of evidence but riders are being sacked on speculation, has everyone lost their marbles?
Jan Ulrich one of the best cyclists of all time can’t ride, this is absolutely ridiculous, let him ride, let him ride until proof can be shown, the media has totally stripped this man of everything, it’s absolute madness, what has happened to the sane man what has happened to democracy?
Deutschland Tour and Denmark Tour #2
I have been following cycling for four years and believe it is a great sport. I also have followed soccer since I was a kid, and played the sport until I was injured - now I ride.
Like all great sports, spectators expect nothing but the best show that the athletes can provide. This means that the pressure is very high on these guys. The way I see it, the problem starts from the top of the ladder, e.g. the organizers of the races, the UCI and the IPCT representatives, and it is all about the money - and where money is involved, honesty does not exist.
How is money made? Through ratings – but, if ratings are low advertisers will not invest in the sport. If they do not invest in the sport, teams begin to loose sponsorships and they cannot afford to pay the riders. And if you ask me, sponsors, advertisers, television networks, and other media should invest in the sport for the glory and greatness of the sport - not to make money on these great athletes.
So, people need to open their eyes and realize that if they (riders) do not perform to spectators’ expectations, the sport will start losing popularity. Therefore, these guys are forced to perform to the extreme.
I can barely begin to imagine what these athletes go through for one day races, never mind 21 stage tours. While the words “if you do not perform, you’re fired” may not be stated overtly, it’s implied. This problem exists in all sports worldwide. Under these circumstances, it’s not surprising that some of the riders succumb to the pressures and use poor judgment.
Now I see this differently. All we’ve seen from Operation Puerto so far is a lot of unsubstantiated rumour involving the names of dogs and other curiosities. The UCI and WADA for their own political reasons jumped up and down and lashed out in all directions at cycling.
FIFA have presumably said, ‘hang on, let’s wait for the real data before we do anything’. In my opinion a much more sensible attitude.
Operation Puerto and the UCI #2
As a lifelong cyclist, racer, and industry employee, I feel that the efforts to “clean up” our sport have been so disorganized and haphazard that there is no chance for them to succeed. All we have gained is a black eye in the public opinion forum. No other sport seems to be making the same public efforts to rid itself of ‘cheaters’. Our attempts have not made the sport any more appealing to future stars or their parents, and by that measure, they have failed completely.
There has to be a coherent high level management of this effort from the operational steps through to the public communications about the state of affairs. Other sports take measures to cure some of their internal problems, and some measure of that effort is done out of the public forum. The successful ones announce the results, not the scandals. If we focused on the results we are all hoping the UCI and other bodies can achieve as opposed to the crucification of this week’s fallen star, we may actually get something done and preserve our future.
As adults we need to admit that the money involved in professional athletics makes the allure of doping, enhancement, and any other method for getting an edge appealing to athletes. Balancing the desires of coaches, owners and personal egos can be too much for many mere mortal athletes. I am sure they did not all start off on the doping path, and I wonder if the team directors are equally guilty for not correctly managing their athletes. If we fined managers and or owners for every athlete infraction the urgency to take corrective action would most likely be more apparent.
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