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Letters to Cyclingnews - April 6, 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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It's April, so always check the date, folks
by the Letters Editor
Thanks to everyone who wrote in about our annual respite from cycling's madness, in other words our annual April 1 Special Edition Cycling News, composed by the CN équipe Avril Imbécile. We hope that you enjoyed reading the stories as much as we enjoyed writing them; let's just say it was some light editorial relief after the dark times cycling's been through in recent months.
A number of readers quite convincingly outlined their concerns at what appeared to be more alarming revelations from the unpredictable world of professional cycling, and some of those responses are published today. A special thanks to our new mates at NASCAR for returning the favour to one of the CN editors. (We don't know what the pace car driver has done to earn your special request, and perhaps it's best it stays your secret.) But being told on April 1 that some NASCAR staff and leading drivers are really keen cyclists (really), may not be that convincing, but if so, then we look forward to that NASCAR cycling team being entered in a race very soon.
To those who expressed their amazement about an uphill opening prologue inside a shopping mall in Dubai, only to realise it wasn't really serious, well, sorry to disappoint you.
Printed below are our some responses from those who perhaps found it all a little too convincing, or are returning the favour - we're not sure, but we hope so. Another reason why April is such a great month. Happy reading!
Who does the ASO think it's fooling? Those hypocritical bozos seem to think that the world will see them as global ambassadors for the sport of cycling by exporting stages of their most precious and prestigious possession, the Tour de France. This time, to Dubai one of the world's most conspicuous consumers. In this case it consumes from cycling in order to promote its own agenda. Attempting to suck more Western money into its coffers, to go along with the oil money it already pulls in. Before you know it we'll have Tour de France prologues in Tahiti, or Beijing!
What part of Tour de FRANCE don't those idiots get? It's not Tour de WORLD, it's FRANCE, fools. And what is particularly galling about this announcement is that in the meanwhile, ASO is busy still going back on their agreement with the UCI on allowing the Unibet.com/Canyon Bicycles team to ride with the ProTour peloton, of which it is a fully paid member of.
The French are so pathetically transparent when it comes to trying to hustle their little festival, that it is sad. This on the heels of Monsieur Prudhomme's comments that keep trying to pump life into the DOA, Operacion Puerto. Threats of banning riders who are "implicated" in the "investigation". Implicated, in what way? And with what evidence? In what investigation? Oh, the one that is closed? Who's good is this all for, I ask. Some cretins will just be cretins, no matter how many opportunities they get to show some true worth.
April Fool #2: Proof Positive
I am all for strict doping controls but I am appalled that the WADA may be so overconfident in their technology as to institute lifetime bans for any athlete who tests positive with a mass produced handheld device. I work with laboratory testing on a daily basis, and no test has a 100% true-positive/ 0% false-positive capability, especially a test screening for a multitude of substances. Are there extremely accurate tests? - yes. Highly specific tests? - sure. Perfect tests? - no. Do they really believe that their device will never malfunction?, that it is completely impervious to interference? I hope they aren't taking Microsoft's word for it.
Has the WADA tested every conceivable thing that might have visited someone's mouth before their fancy tool ends a career? I would hate to see Petacchi's career ended by, for example, absent mindedly sucking on the ear piece of his sunglasses and introducing a picogram of cross reacting chemical because his glasses had touched his hair product contaminated hair. Before testing a single athlete the WADA should publicly test every single WADA (and UCI, and dare I add L'Equipe) employee. ANY who test positive should immediately and irrevocably lose their jobs and be banned from working in a related field forever. I vote we start with Mr Pound, and test him every hour for as long as he holds his job.
'SH', MD FRCPC
April Fool #3: WADA "Suck on this"
Here are some memorable quotes from this laughably amusing article:
"We're right, and we know we're right, and we're always right, so there's no room for argument."
"[This unit is] absolutely foolproof with a 100% accuracy rate and zero chance of false positives. We have completely eliminated human error from the equation and have made the testing protocol truly mobile for the first time in the history of cycling. No longer can results be deemed questionable for having been performed by a particular technician, or at a particular lab. Computers don't lie."
Okay, quote number one, I don't think we even need to discuss the extreme hubris in said statement. In the second quote, anybody should instantly question the validity of any research claiming "absolute" foolproof technology with absolutely zero chance of malfunction.
No single test in medicine is both 100% specific and sensitive for any condition or disease; when dealing with biological systems, any article saying "100%" is just begging to be proven wrong. Well guess what WADA, riders are a biological system, and your faith in the imperviousness of unwanted outside interference because of close ties with Microsoft is truly admirable. Bugs in Microsoft software? Never heard of them!
Here's waiting to see how this drama pans out.
April Fool #4: WADA
It's a shame that your excellent 1st April report on the revolutionary new anti doping device had to be spoiled by your writing the piece in such a way that lawyers could argue that it was not about the real WADA. What a pity that an organization that should accurately and quietly perform its functions, has under the leadership of its current president behaved so outrageously that criticism, even in jest, involves legal risk.
I sadly admit that it is without any surprise I read the news of the Ullrich DNA match. The circumstantial evidence was already pretty strong, so someone would've had some major explaining to do had the DNA comparison come back negative.
I find it pitiful to see lawyers scrambling to try and clear an unclearable case. The statements about the blood bags being manipulated are ludicrous. Is Jan Ullrich's lawyer telling us he believes someone could have extracted nine bags worth of blood from his client without him noticing? It was his blood in the bags, so it must've come from his body. I know I'd remember someone extracting that much blood from my veins.
Or his other lawyer saying it means nothing and he didn't necessarily cheat. He said he didn't know the good doctor, but there are 9 bags of his blood in the fridge. And we should believe this guy? We all know what kind of shop Fuentes ran. He's admitted the practices himself. Let's just stop with this refutation bull$?&@ that shouldn't have started in the first place. Jan Ullrich, you are busted!
So, any more takers for a DNA comparison? Ivan? Roberto? Anyone?
Ullrich DNA match #2
It's time for Jan Ullrich to come clean. Conspiracy theorists (and attorneys) can come up with every possible excuse, but everyone else on the planet now believes he's guilty of doping. Far and away people are sick of all the doping scandals, and equally sick and tired of the excuses and denials. With this in mind, Jan is being absolutely crucified in the German press, and beyond, and every authority is going to do everything in their power to throw not just the book, but the entire library at him, forever shaming him into oblivion (or poverty, or prison).
The only way out for Jan is to now come clean. Doing so would be amazingly refreshing, no one would condemn him anymore than they already possibly could. And he would come off as someone big who finally broke the omerta, the code of silence, and told the truth. Everyone with a brain knows there has been a serious doping problem in major sports, which includes cycling. No one on the face of the earth would look at Jan's confession and assume he was the only one who cheated. He needs to step up, face the music, admit what he did, and help clean up the sport.
A great deal of people would forgive him, and a surprising amount would actually look up to him for doing so.
Phil Anderson (not the great Aussie)
Ullrich DNA match #3
I read your news flash regarding Jan Ullrich. Amazing. The guy retires, is out of racing and now he faces criminal charges because he was unfortunate enough to have someone break into his home and steal material for DNA testing.
In the meantime we have several Puerto characters making hundreds of thousands of dollars still racing with no design on testing them versus the blood bags found in the raid. Basso, Contador, etc all are innocent? What is this, Operation Attack Jan Ullrich? Basso outright refused to be tested and some court, somewhere says, "OK, go back to racing".
If these guys are all guilty, there is a special place in hell for the team managers who hired these guys and left Ullrich swinging in the breeze. This sport's "governance" is an absolute farce and a joke. It's pitiful.
I think Jörg Jaksche and Ulrich's lawyers must take us (the public) for idiots! For what possible reason is any doctor going to withdraw, let alone store, the blood of a normal, healthy young person!?
If there is a legitimate reason, I'd really like to hear it, because I don't know of one. I'm a 31 year-old elite amateur from the US, and other than donating blood, I have never in my life had my blood taken, nor suggested to be taken. Are there any doctors in the house that can suggest a reasonable alternative to doping for storing the blood of these guys?
Bob Stapleton of Team-Mobile is absolutely correct - it is time all ProTour teams came forward and applied uniform and established anti-doping procedures. Driving cheats out of cycling can only be done if those who are still in the peloton, and as implicated in the Operacion Puerto Affair as Ullrich, are subjected to the same DNA testing process, including Basso. Why should he and Discovery or any other implicated rider and team, be immune to the same just procedures?
Ullrich was not the only rider involved. This has to be understood and accepted now. Bruyneel can hardly ignore the potential for immense personal embarrassment later this season unless he is willing to act with similar intention. If a cyclist has not doped, he will have nothing to fear.
If nothing is done or compromises are fudged then, one can anticipate yet another scandal exploding on the eve of yet another Tour de France, this year. One can almost feel it coming.
We may not have an official winner of last year's Tour de France, but we certainly have the winner of the Operation Puerto scapegoat. Basso is back, as are some who reacted with seeming guilt. Ullrich though has always maintained his complete innocence. Is it because he is resolute in telling the truth or is he protecting his sponsorship deals both present and future?
Now that the DNA samples have proven Ullrich's involvement, you would expect his story to change. However, as in other cases, disproving someone's innocence is easy. Getting him to admit his guilt, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, priceless.
Jan Ullirch was truly a fabulous rider. Some may remember him for his great rides in the 96 and 97 Tours, some for his fall from grace during Operation Puerto (a travesty). But what I will always remember him for is his classic battles with Mr. Armstrong. Even when we all knew the final outcome (and I suspect he himself did too), and that was that old Lance would win it again, Jan never gave up or in. He continued to fight right to the end.
He always seemed to give it everything he had and suffered mightily for it. Even his trip down the side of the mountain is 2001 didn't stop him from getting back up and into the fight. It was that never say die attitude that made me Jan's number one fan. He will be missed by many, but for me cycling will never be quite the same again. Oh and yes he did wait for Lance, contrary to anything that Armstrong fans think. And he did because he was a fine sportsman as well as a great athlete.
As for Tyler Hamilton, I hope he will show some of his former promise but so far it looks pretty grim. He can't seem to make it to the end of a race (sick or not). Here's hoping for better things from him.
All of cycling misses you Jan, even those who would say otherwise. You were glorious to watch on a bike!
If Tyler 'has the flu like half the riders in the peloton' then what the heck are they all doing riding a bike?
I've only had flu once in my life and it was all I could do to lie down on the sofa. If there was a signed picture of Vicki Pendleton in lycra in the front garden, I still couldn't have made it out there.
Now either it's not flu, or these guys are superhuman. My suspicions are he's got a bit of a sniffle.
Given the current situation with Unibet, and the claims made regarding French Law, gambling, and the reasons for being excluded from ProTour/ASO events, I foresee difficulty in Unibet participating in Spanish races like the Vuelta a España. They must drive through France with their equipment, team cars, and buses to get into Spain.
Driving a vehicle covered in sponsor logos is also excellent advertising, and therefore Unibet would be prohibited from driving through France based on the same logic cited for not being able to participate in races on French soil.
It would appear the only way Unibet will be allowed to race in Spain is to cover their vehicles/logos during the drive through France, or fly in and rent support vehicles.
I think it is appropriate, that you get a comment from a Danish person on the story of Bjarne Riis.
First I would like to use a phrase that has been in common usage in recent years: "I have never been tested positive."
A phrase used so many times by Lance Armstrong, and rightly so. Bjarne has used this answer to the press many times, and has never been tested positive, Lance neither.
Both have had the pleasure to have people that have been around them, come up with stories that link them to doping. The stories might be true, but as long as there has been no positive test, I don't think that it is correct to judge the athlete.
What is wrong with the fact that Bjarne Riis is now going at the forefront in the fight for cycle sport free of drugs? Because he maybe did something wrong 10 years ago, at a time when cycling had not been hit by the Festina scandal.
Things have changed, and the sport needs people that run the big teams to move towards a cleaner future. Please, stop being so judgmental, and let the people involved work towards a cleaner sport.
As a note, I must say that I am totally against the way that the whole Fuentes case hit the riders. Evidence must be provided, and an official case must be made against specific persons, then race directors can act, not like the ‘06 Tour. Many people in Denmark were looking forward to see Basso race in the Tour, remember, he was on CSC, and a good person (and still is).
So, for those that hope Basso will crush CSC this summer, you do not have the knowledge you need, to make that kind of statement. Bjarne Riis and Ivan Basso have worked so closely that it hurt them both to part. Let them do that as good as they can, and know one thing: if Basso will crush the CSC riders, then he will crush old friends, with weapons developed together with Bjarne Riis.
Bjarne Riis #2
In response to the letters of Greg & Jean-Christophe, who I am sure are both sporting black eyes from the rapidity and ferocity of their recent knee jerks!
Bjarne is a man of significant history within pro cycling, as a rider and as a team manager. He is a man that commands a great deal of respect within the sport for his level of achievement in both. In his current position he has gone out on a limb to build a team that works as a pool of talent that can be remoulded and shaped according to race requirements. A massive cultural shift from the more traditional ‘lead rider and others' setup. He has also initiated a significant, year round, anti-doping program that exists alongside and extends further than current requirements.
These efforts and achievements speak of a man who is committed to not only to the performance, but to the welfare of his riders as individuals within the team. It also puts him on a pedestal as someone willing to take the sport forward, and from this position he becomes an easy target for those who wish to sling mud.
I do not know the man, but am prepared to believe him when he says there is no case to answer. Stating there is "no evidence to that effect” means that he thinks his accuser is a liar. It's a formal way of saying these accusations are baseless. As Bjarne is a man with English as second/third/forth language, it may be that the emphasis demanded in the letters referred to, is somewhat muted.
Due to the nature of cycling in the past and the scandals that it has faced more recently, we have not seen the last of the mudslinging nor the last of the big names to fall. But I do urge all who love and follow the sport to reserve judgement when these allegations surface until they have read widely, and considered the broader picture.
Folks, don't overlook the almighty dollar here: Popo got hired to ride a bike and follow instructions. That's how he earns his keep. He is paid to do what he's told. Johan Bruyneel and the Disco directors are meticulous planners, strategists. As such, they must recognize, utilize and exploit the "cards" they play during races. Pop is a "card" they play and seem to play very well. He is unquestionably a rider to watch out for....when the Disco brass decides to turn him loose.
Hmmm. Popo winning a Grand Tour? I don't know. If anything I think that he could turn into an enormous classics threat à la Museeuw, Ras, or Bettini. Particularly in the hilly races like the Ronde, Fleche Wallone, or Liege.
But I don't think he quite has the long-range climbing power to be competitive on the bigger cols, day after day. If he wins one it will be a fluke, like Cunego's Giro vittoria. No matter what though he will at least always be a very well paid climbing domestique!
Nobody is underestimating Alberto Contador, but that is not a reason to overlook Popo's talent and will to win. He may not be a Grand Tour contender, but he is good and should be supported in the races that he can win. And perhaps even Basso could need a helping hand from a talented and robust rider like Popo, you never know when a cold gets you.
Is irony dead?
Well, I don't know, but I was a little worried until I read the recent letter by David Hufford ("A few years ago"). I got a chuckle out of that, and realized that irony is alive and well. Or at least big in Japan.
Then I read the subsequent letters by Josh, Pat, and Paul, responding to David's letter, and I realized that despite its apparent good health there are at least three people who wouldn't recognize irony if it bit them on the ass. Or stared out at them from the letters section of Cyclingnews.
But all that aside, you can't argue with David's point that the 2006 Tour provided us with a whole lot more suspense than previous recent editions. (OK, now here's the translation for Josh, Pat, and Paul: what I am really saying here, while attempting to add a slightly humorous twist, is that because the 2006 Tour ended up being such a ridiculous farce, with the rest of the sport at various points threatening to follow it down the tubes (and we still aren't quite out of the woods yet), those years of Armstrong's "boring" domination, which some of us were eager to see end, already seem like the good old days).
In regards to Mr. Armstrong's racing career: He did not exclusively race the Tour de France during the last seven years of his career. He raced Classics, including L-B-L the year Tyler Hamilton won (I think it was 2003 in which he made an ill fated attack before Hamilton successfully countered toward the end).
He often did short stage races, some of which he won, in order to prepare for the Tour. Certainly he didn't race throughout the season the way Merckx did, but the age of concentrating and peaking for a few races started before Mr. Armstrong's run of TdF wins. You can't place the blame for this on Mr. Armstrong.
Certainly, racing has changed since I started following it 30 years ago - last year I believe there was only one rider to do all three grand tours ( I think it was Sastre). To me, however, this hasn't made cycling any less interesting and I think it's nice to see a lot of different pros win races (as opposed to seeing only a handful of riders dominate everything - classics, the grand tours, etc.).
As it pertains to the Armstrong letters and the comparisons and other such nonsense... Don't you guys have anything better to do? These guys haven't been racing for two years now. Go outside and ride you bike, or roller or something. These guys, although bastions of our sport for over a decade, are retired. I don't see anyone comparing Gino and Fausto anymore.
Ullrich/Armstrong comparisons #2
I fully agree to everything stated in this letter, but I miss one big thing that made the biggest difference between Lance and Jan - brains. Lance has it and has used it to win 7 TdFs, while the best that can be said about Jan Ullrich regarding brains is: the lights are on but nobody's home. Or, all muscle, no brains.
And for the joy of watching I will rather watch a guy who attacks than the guy who primarily tries to limit his losses, that's plain not fun. And Lance delivered every year, which a lot more than can be said for Jan Ullrich. As an American fan said to me when we went down Alpe d'Huez together in 2004: Lance sends you home happy every time. No, give me Lance any day
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