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Letters to Cyclingnews - February 9, 2007
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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Unibet show they won't be put down
This season couldn't start with a better compliment: Congratulations to Jeremy Hunt for winning the Marseillaise! This is justice!
I'm not sure of the precise reason for Unibet not being invited to Paris-Nice, but in today's opening race in France, the Unibet boys had to cover their sponsor's name on their jerseys and on the team cars under the pretext that French laws don't allow gambling advertising. If this is so, then how come Lotto (Belgian lottery) and Francaise des Jeux (French lottery) don't have the same restrictions?
If this is the reason why they're not invited to Paris Nice, remember also that Paris-Nice is organized by the ASO, the Tour de France organizers. Now can anyone tell me (no prizes, sorry!) for how many decades has PMU (French horse racing betting) sponsored the Tour de France Green Jersey? We can see kilometers of PMU banners on each stage of the Tour de France, so what really gives in all this? Is the law being hypocritically interpreted, is it a form of harassment, or a form of incompetence?
How is it that the French authorities apply the law that non French betting and/or lottery organisations are not allowed to advertise to Unibet.com as witnessed by their recent participation in the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise in plain jerseys with a big question mark where the sponsor's name should be, but not to Lotto which as I understand it is the Belgian national lottery and as such not French and therefore subject to the same law as Unibet.
Is this a case of using the law to try and justify not allowing the newest ProTour team into their race? On a wider point how is it that the French can even have a law that restricts the rights of a company based in another EU country to conduct its business in France at all? Especially when that business is perfectly legal in France and also when the French lottery company Francaise des Jeux even sponsors its own team and the French tote operator PMU sponsors the green jersey in the Tour. It seems to me that the French are trying to stop other betting/lottery organisations from competing fairly with the French companies who hold a monopoly.
All I want to know is where can I get a Unibet.com jersey with the question mark? It represents how I feel about cycling right now!
Compared with the general population has anyone noticed the disproportionate amount of riders in the pro peloton with asthma? I certainly have.
I have also noticed the extensive list of ingredients that these medications include (actovegin, corticosteroids, etc.). So all you need is a doctor's note to legalize your doping. Of course you get out of breath when you do a hard effort, it is cycling! Just don't get stung by a bee.
To hear an elite athlete openly complain that the wrong people are on the podium at a world championships, is among the most shocking, and childish statements I've ever heard. It is good to know that some cyclists are whole heartedly embracing the unsportsmanlike conduct that abounds in other major sports leagues around the world.
While one can train for results, race season long, and brandish the finest equipment on the start line, in many cases it still comes down to one thing; luck. Even if lady luck should frown upon you, it is no excuse to resort to immature statements to the worldwide media. Just because feelings of entitlement abound it is no reason to diminish the hard work of the medal winners. Good show to all, and poor form to Wellens.
What a great day in Hooglede-Gits. I went on the Sunday with my daughter and we saw some great racing. Jonathan Page you rode a belter. Did you hear me shouting? I was surrounded by a load of folk supporting the other fella though, but I thought you were very unlucky. You need to practice those ride-ups at the end!
The only downside was the lack of crowd control. It was dangerous. It was a great idea to lay on trains. Apparently 15,000 of us came by train out of a crowd of 30,000. But it was a wonder nobody got seriously crushed going back to the trains. These events need to be properly controlled or there is going to be an accident.
Incredible. Mechanics and support staff paying to enter the grounds of a race they're working is absurd. That there isn't a staff or teams entrance at races with 40,000+ spectators is ludicrous. It's fairly obvious that the promoters hire whatever local goon squad is contractible to 'work the door' and deal with tens of thousands of drunk, cold cyclo-cross fans.
If these people are supposed to be professional, how is it that they don't know the difference between a hostile punter and a professional mechanic for the number two racer in the world? Where is the UCI in all this? To not protect the very racers and staff who make the event possible is beyond the pale.
I had previously never heard of Bradley Wiggins but after reading his comments regarding doping in the sport of professional cycling I'll be following his progress and cheering him on this upcoming season. It's about time a professional cyclist stood up and recognized the problem for what it is.
The mass-silence of the pros just makes them all look that much more suspicious. With accusations being thrown around left and right, it's about time they started speaking up and admitting that there is a doping problem in the sport - not just the one or two that get caught.
I would like to wish Bradley Wiggins the best of luck in his upcoming '07 season, and hopefully he can inspire some of his fellow pros to speak as well!
Regarding Brad Wiggins' comments on the 2006 cycling season, including Floyd Landis, I easily understand why he is upset with cycling's image right now (who isn't?).
But, his specific comments on Floyd are completely classless and he just drags himself into the gutter with Dick Pound, Pat McQuaid, and the ASO. How many times do we have to say the phrase "Innocent until proven guilty"?
It isn't Floyd's fault that it has been just over six months since the end of the tour and no appeal hearing has taken place. If Brad is so irritated, he should get the pro rider's union to do something about it!
You quote Jörg Jaksche as saying that "nobody is taking responsibility" for the Operacion Puerto debacle. He's right, but he could be one of the first to take responsibility.
For when he says "If I had given up three bags of blood by Dr. Fuentes and if they could be identified as mine by a DNA test, that wouldn't be enough for a doping ban. It would only show that I had given the blood", he is right.
So there can be a gap between what is legally correct, that donating blood to a gynecology clinic in Madrid is not a doping offence, and the truth, that there are cases of blood doping in the pro peloton. The only ones who can close this gap are the riders, something which requires responsibility, courage and honesty.
Pro cyclists have a duty not to take us for fools. I accept that Jaksche is totally innocent of any allegations. But when a senior rider suggests starts making ambiguous statements like this, what are we to think? Shouldn't the pros be taking a zero-tolerance line when it comes to doping?
Jaksche lashes out #2
I wholeheartedly agree with Jorg Jaksche's rant about the whole Puerto affair. He has every right to be angry at the system and being black-listed for being named in the Puerto Fiasco (as it should be called!) No one, including himself, has been found guilty for doing anything wrong. All we have is everyone blatantly spewing out and slandering names and only causing harm to riders that, by lack of any hard evidence to date, are not guilty of anything.
What they have accomplished is to destroy the livelihoods of several riders. Where is the justice for those riders, like Jaksche, who were fired and left without a team? And when they do negotiate with a team, tour organizers black ball them and they lose out on being able to support their families and themselves.
Neil I feel for you and understand your frustration with the men's peloton. I would invite you to check out cyclo-cross racing. In particular women's cyclo-cross racing. A sport of action and drama without the high end high stakes money that the men's pro peloton is associated with.
The winner of the women's race at the recent cyclo-cross world championships in Belgium, Maryline Salvetat works as an osteopath as well as racing her bike. Silver medalist Katie Compton works full-time as a cycling coach. This sport is a clean sport in the medical sense - a sport that has some great sporting rivalries. Check out next year's Crank Bros series duals between Lyne Bessette, Georgia Gould, Katarina Nash and Katie Compton.
Real bike racing by hard working riders without the medical cheating. The men aren't too bad either Grab a beer, your cross bike and prepare to have a lot of honest fun.
Let's not forget that the Tour de France was in fact created to sell newspapers. So it shouldn't be a surprise to see the names of the well know dragged though the media, as they surely sell more papers than the unknown.
Ya that's cynical, but just look at how much ink is used on talking about dirt here in the media rather than discussing say the "inspiring". I guess until we change that, the media will keep giving us what we "want".
I don't understand why people are quaking at the prospect of losing sponsorship dollars due to this general loss of faith in the pro peloton. Like it's such a disaster. The sport's recent explosion of doping scandals definitely marks the advent of a vast loss in corporate investment, but couldn't the sport use a lowered financial profile? I mean, would downscaling cycling's economy really be such a bad thing?
It's the size of the salaries provided by corporate funding that's polluting the ethics of our athletes. Maybe a loss of corporate investment would do our sport and its dignity some good. Maybe the stakes need to lowered. Because I don't care how optimistic you want to be, money is the operative word and is in most cases the primary incentive for winning.
A substantial diminishment of the riders' salaries and winnings would not only make doping less affordable, but also less rewarding. I know very well the difference between rider salary caps and altogether loss of funding, I'm just saying it's the reward of too much money for teams and for riders that makes trickery and cheating prevail over honest intentions.
I completely agree with Ken Finch's concept of rider amnesty for confession. Enacting such a measure would allow the sport to clean the slate, and maturely take steps forward to solve the problem. Riders would be able to discuss the reasons why they took doping products and then all of the interested parties (UCI, GT organisers, sponsors, TV, teams, directors/managers, and especially the riders union) can come together to actively discuss a plan to get rid of drugs from our sport.
Amnesty would allow the riders (dopers and non-dopers) to stop feeling like criminals and it would remove a lot of the ridiculous tension from our sport. It would also prevent further the unproductive witch hunts, unfounded suspicions, inaccurate testing procedures, and unprofessional media leaks in our sport.
Honesty and openness without fear of punishment would allow the riders (who are the current experts about the sport of cycling because they ARE the sport of cycling) to actively help in the fight against doping, instead of always being the culprits, and by being able to discuss the reasons and sources for their doping would immensely help our sport.
Doping reconciliation #2
So Ken, let us presume that you grant an amnesty, does this mean that Floyd, Tyler et al would be exonerated and allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains? This has to be one of the most desperate attempts I have ever heard, to clear cyclists of cheating.
What message does this send out to a world who regard cycling as a 'dirty' sport? We need to be fair and consistent (and harsh, in order to deter), with the punishments which are dealt out.
38% think Landis' stage win was the best moment in cycling last year? That alone speaks to how much work is needed to resurrect this sport from the hole it's fallen into. I guess not only are scores of cyclists in need of an ethics transfusion, but an awful lot of fans are as well.
Innocent until proven guilty? Sure - but anyone with any sense would withhold judgment on Landis' performance at least until after his case has been heard. Or perhaps an awful lot of fans couldn't care less whether he was doping or not. If so, I rest my case.
Regarding Cyclingnews' interview of Ivan Basso, I have been a Basso fan ever since he joined CSC till June 06. He should have been asked two questions: he has always claimed there is no case to answer so can he categorically assure his fans that he will be clean with absolutely no question of any form of doping in 2007? And given a clean sport in 2007 does he think he would be still be able to dominate pro cycling as he was showing in 2006?
He would have been the best Tour rider in 2006 but was he clean? Was Basso's dominance in the Giro due to blood transfusions? Perhaps Simoni was right when he grumped at the end of the Gavia stage.
Why do some Tour organisers not want dubious riders in their events? There will be several reasons but chief is they know doping scandals will kill their events. These are wake up calls. The farce of Operación Puerto can only be avoided in the future by proper management by the UCI and the teams with much more rigorous and appropriate testing along with international cooperation between sporting and judicial bodies.
Otherwise cycling will change beyond recognition as sponsors and nations with strong ethical positions withdraw and the sport moves to places where no one will bother. It would be a strange world without the Tour de France or the Belgian classics. Once lost these events will not come back. Still it might ensure the ProTour future outside Europe
During this whole Puerto affair officials have indicated Ullrich's involvement could easily be cleared up if only he would submit to a DNA sample. Now they have their sample they have longed for.
Ullrich has given his sample, test it! I get the feeling officials are now worried the DNA sample will not match the bags of blood obtained in Spain and they will have some serious explaining to do. All I can say is test the god damn DNA and get this over with!
Wow! I really hope that Jan's case will be shelved soon so he'll be able to ride in the peloton again. And this time maybe on one of the prettiest bikes in the peloton, a GIOS. Looks like his old team mate, Oscar Sevilla will be joining him. Mancebo has already signed with the Relax squad, so this could be an interesting team.
Last year Relax-Gam was just a continental pro team doing a couple of races in Spain and Mallorca but it seems they've found a money tree. I'm a fan of Jan and I'm hoping he'll be competing for the win in the tour with Vino, Valverde, Sastre, and the disco boys. Man, I can't wait until the season starts.
Jan Ullrich is "Bionic Man" Does anyone else find this too absurd to be true? You might think the clothing company could've found a better name for their star might-not-be-so-natural athlete.
Scandal after scandal hits the cycling community... yet I still ride. The Tour of California is starting in a couple of weeks. Armstrong, Basso and others, purportedly linked to doping, will be there... yet I will still watch. All this talk about the state of cycling falling off due to these doping allegations... yet I am still excited about the upcoming season.
The point is that no matter what happens in the pro ranks, me, the amateur cyclist, will continue to ride and love my sport, as I suspect others continue to do as well.
My passion is mountain biking. After racing on the road for almost 10 years, I decided to take the "business" out of cycling, changing my identity to that of a mountain biker. I am serious when I say I learn every day; from effectively changing head angles due to fork sag, ideal q-factor, to finding a better neutral position while riding the trails near Golden, CO.
I spend more time trail riding than reading about riders. I actually quit my job to ride for a period of 18 months, no regrets. Say what you want, no rider is larger than the sport.
For me, mountain biking gives me perspective (happy to be alive), calm (no work stress), excitement (35 mph downhill), knowledge (riding technique), and gratification (5 hour ride, 7k feet of climbing). And besides, women dig men who wear spandex!
Dude, you've got to be kidding - you offer the NBA (National Basketball Association) as an example of well run professional sports league with a "better image" than cycling? Granted, professional cycling with all of its current problems (doping, fiefdoms, secrecy, backstabbing, etc.) is going through a critical phase and it's image is suffering from that, but your suggestion that the NBA has a better image than cycling, well that's not even debatable. Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but if you think the NBA's image is "better" than cycling's, well you must be wearing rose-coloured Oakleys. Your contention that the NBA has "eliminated those problems" is laughable.
Fighting? - Have you forgotten the Ron Artest versus drunken fan episode in 2005? Have you ever seen a cyclist attack a fan? Did Lance throttle the fan whose musette bag very nearly derailed his fifth Tour de France win? Um, no, he just rode on. And how do you think our gentleman B-ballers would handle the insanity that lines every climb in the Dolomites, Alps or Pyrenees? Please, there'd be bodies lining the roads that would make an Aztec wince.
And the NBA has eliminated "rampant drug use" - please, the NBA's drug policy is a joke compared to the UCI's much stricter measures. For example, NBA players who test positive for steroids or performance enhancing drugs, masking agents and diuretics get a 10-game suspension (1st offense), a 25-game suspension (2nd offense), a one-year suspension (3rd offense) and disqualification (4th offense. Other than Ullrich's stupid "ecstasy" incident, I cannot recall a case where a professional cyclist was suspended for recreational drug use.
Yes, we cycling fans are all well aware of the "professional" drug use (doping) problem in professional cycling, but name another sport which is tested as often as cycling - you can't. Drug use in cycling has been a problem for many, many years and the sport is certainly at a very critical phase where its public image is very much in jeopardy. But at no other time in its long, celebrated history have the UCI, the professional teams, and the race organizers collectively agreed that the problem is endemic, systematic, and a serious threat to the existence of the sport. The riders themselves have known it since day one, but they are also finally admitting how widespread the problem is.
That in itself is an important revelation and offers hope for real, sustainable change in how the sport is conducted. Sponsors, managers, organisers, AND riders are finally agreeing that drug use is killing the sport and are making earnest progress (many are, at least) toward cleaning up the sport. Cycling definitely has an image problem to be sure, but to suggest that its image is worse than the NBA's requires one to use different standards when comparing the two. And I, for one, would certainly agree that cycling should be held to a higher standard (the highest possible), simply because the sport, its history, and its riders are far and away superior to any other. Let's all hope it will always be so. Sanctimonious? No, not really. Not at all.
A terrible model for cycling #2
The NBA may have money, and they may have viewers, but to say they don't have all the fighting and drug problems that cycling has is a joke. What you have is a group of fans who don't care about the fighting and the drugs, in fact, it only makes the players more popular. If the fans are still watching and spending money on the NBA, then why would the commissioner bother with penalties?
For all of cycling's problems, the riders still deserve our respect, and yes, even the dopers. What an incredibly tough life to choose for yourself. I'm still watching, are you?
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