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Letters to Cyclingnews - June 8, 2007
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Di Luca's finest win...
I'll have to admit: when I first heard of the 31 year-old Italian from the southern regions of Tuscany, I blatantly did not like him. I'm not sure if it was his attacking nature, his constant risk taking, or if was just the nickname he has carried throughout his carrier, "The Killer". Pretentious I thought. I just didn't like it, I didn't like him. Some athletes just rub a fan the wrong way: Rasheed Wallace, Kobe Bryant, Colin Montgomery, Terrel Owens... I now realize Danilo Di Luca is not one of these people. I've grown to admire his aggression on two wheels. I've fallen for his versatility and range, his prowess in time trials, climbs, and sprints - in every facet of the race.
In this pathetic time, this depressed period that professional cycling finds itself in with all the allegations, the court trials, the doping, the Bassos, the Landis, the Ulrichs, the impure athletes, these cowards looking for an easy way out - these athletes that have tainted this sport. Cycling was meant to be pure and raw: a man and a machine against another man and his machine, whoever makes it up this hill fastest wins. This has not been the case since the nineties and even before. The idols and heroes of cycling are letting down its fans. They have made poor role-models for the sports younger fans. And hell, its older ones too!
In this tainted world, it's been a joy to watch Di Luca as if a breath of fresh air, a treat to the true fan of sport to see him dominate the Giro d'Italia! A man that once annoyed me, because of his nickname and because of his attacking nature, like a pest always keeping the gruppo on its heels... I now admire and look to him as almost super-human hope for my favorite sport. Di Luca is the description of sport. You can see the pain on his face as his cadence climbs and he climbs further past his rivals. We watch his excitement and enthusiasm as he pumps his fist in the final kilometres on the final time trial of the 2007 Giro. His pain and enthusiasm is pure, as pure as his integrity as an athlete. I am now proud to say that I am a fan again.
It's a shame that his win happens simultaneously with the Landis hearings and as the Basso allegations continue to stir... but it doesn't take anything from this Killer Fan!
Mark Adam Abramowicz
"Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir) conquered the 10.1-kilometre Monte Zoncolan in 1850 metres per hour according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The speed, 39 minutes over the 1203 metres, 1850 VAM (Velocity Ascended, metres per hour Vm/h), was faster than that of Ivan Basso on the Maielletta Passo Lanciano in 2006, 1805 VAM. Marco Pantani blasted up the Alpe d'Huez with a 1791 VAM and Danilo Di Luca did the final four kilometres of Tre Cime di Lavaredo with a 1750 VAM."
In my opinion the VAM (Velocity Ascended metres per hour Vm/h) standard is as such an indication of climbing ability, but by no means a suitable absolute criterion for comparing with other climbing performances, apart from achievements on the same climb.
By comparing Gilberto Simoni and Ivan Basso by this VAM standard one suggests, that virtually speaking, Gilberto Simoni would have finished about 60s earlier than Ivan Basso. Recalculate from the VAM of 1805m for the Monte Zoncolan climb the time to achieve this. Time = (3600*1205)/1805=2403s = 40:03.
In the easier, eastern side Monte Zoncolan climb of the Giro 2003 (average gradient of 8.9%), also won by Gilberto Simoni in 2445 sec for 13,5 km; with just 6 metres less altitude gain (1199m vs. 1205m), he only makes a 1765m VAM standard. Recalculate this again to the steeper climb of Wednesday, than you even will find a loss for Simoni of almost 2 minutes. Time = (3600*1205)/1765=2458 = 40:58.
Manfred Nuescheler calculations of climbing power, frequently shown on his websites, indicate however a better power result in 2003 with 403 Watts versus 393 Watts on Wednesday. Just 10 Watts, but such a loss of power is already accountable for about a minute loss.
So here's a clear discrepancy at hand. How can someone with less power still be almost 2 minutes faster?
What time would Lance Armstrong have achieved on the Monte Zoncolan in the form of his famous "with a fall and the gentleman gesture of the nowadays so abused Jan Ullrich" Luz Ardiden TDF 2003 climbs capability? An average gradient of only 7,6 % and his VAM was also only (3600/2115)*1031m=1755m.
Based however on the then for Lance Armstrong claimed 510 Watts ability on this climb he should have gained more than 2 minutes on Gilberto Simoni.
Conclusion: The VAM standard is based on altitude gaining per time unit.
So it speaks for itself that there must be an optimum of steepness in order to gain a maximal altitude gain per hour. A scientist would probably be able to calculate this, I can't. But you just can't fairly compare performances achieved with different gradients.
Gilberto Simoni is by no means a Lance Armstrong 2003 and for quite a number a years, and of cause in lesser form: Ivan Basso 2006, Jan Ullrich 1998/1999 and some other years.
Climbing performances are of course influenced by a lot of variables, which
can't all be accounted for. But my comparisons were set up with the sole purpose
of stipulating, that the VAM is a ridiculous standard if used as published in
several newspapers etcetera.
He's baaaack... latest stage Giro winner Iban Mayo looks like he has regained his long lost winning ways. Not an easy stage either. Iban is not your GC guy if that's what people expect of this long-time classics rider.
Mayo is more of an all-around stage or classics winning cyclist but he'll break on occasion which does not bode well for GC contenders in the long tours.
Great articles on the young Andy Schleck, and heartiest congrats to the youngster. The story of his prodigious success, and the ability of Di Luca to more to the fore of a grand tour, are just what cycling needs most today.
Now that we know Bjarne Riis is guilty of doping during his victory of the Tour de France, the question for me becomes, do we strip him of the title and give it to the next person in line who at that time was clean?
If Landis could end up a loser I find it only fair that Riis also does. With the newly focused doping regulation and the mass revelation of past greats being dopers shouldn't the UCI take a serious look into the 96-98 winners?
If we can only have a truly clean champ today, then let us be sure past winners in question were really clean then. If not let us declare a new winner for that year. Cycling can not fully move past this until the past is straightened out. That means looking over the last 10 tours. If Ullrich was truly clean during the 96-98 tours while the other winners were not, let's declare the true champion.
Sure, he likely doped either recently with Puerto, with Telekom in the 1990's, or at both and all points in between, but the fact is Jan Ullrich has never tested positive for performance enhancing substances. Yet.
He was barred from riding last year's tour because of suspicion with Puerto, yet Valverde is somehow being allowed to ride this year.
Tyler Hamilton actually tested positive at the 2004 Olympics and again during the Vuelta afterwards but is allowed to keep his medal, but the IOC is looking to strip Ullrich of his 2000 Olympic medals because some of his professional teammates from the 1990's admitted to doping.
Eric Zabel admitted to doping but didn't even lose his job, while on the mere suspicion of doping, fellow German Ullrich has had his career torn apart and is being charged with fraud by the German people,, with a public crucifixion likely not far behind.
Ullrich is being summarily labeled a doper because many of his former Telekom
teammates admitted to doping, yet Lance Armstrong is not being accused despite
the fact that many of his former teammates actually tested positive and served
suspensions for doping. Ullrich is guilty by association, but Armstrong is not.
The medical literature cites many articles describing a condition known as
"Exercise Induced Bronchospasm". It is prevalent in athletes who exercise outdoors
(runners, cyclist, and cross-country skiers) especially in dry and cold conditions.
As a result, the incidence of needed/proscribed asthma medication increases.
With the recent flood of doping admissions, I believe the only way to clean up our sport is to implement a sweeping amnesty program for all professional cyclists. While at face value, it seems crazy to allow these athletes to walk away scot-free, there appears to be little alternative if we wish to honestly clean up the sport once and for all.
At this stage, can anyone honestly believe that any accomplishment of note has been obtained without the use of performance-enhancing drugs? I know this is horribly cynical, but what are we left to believe?
My suggestion is to implement a fixed period of time for all cyclists to come clean and admit to doping without the fear of losing their careers. Doing so would not be totally without penalty. While riders would be able to continue their careers without a suspension, the UCI could opt to fine riders, heavily in some cases, for their offenses. Another consequence that cannot be underestimated is the damage to a rider's reputation. Nobody would be pleased to have their careers marked with the stigma as a cheat, but most riders would likely accept this as a path to continue earning a living.
While I normally would never advocate allowing riders to circumvent suspensions, it is the only equitable way to identify all the bad apples. Following the amnesty's grace period, the riders and the UCI must implement a zero-tolerance policy thereafter. Any doping offense would then be met with a lifetime ban and significant financial penalties to the rider, the team and to his director sportif. As an example, should a rider were to fail a control at the Tour de France, his entire team would be disqualified and ejected from the race. It is the only way to restore trust. Additionally, there must be a comprehensive testing program and medical evaluations for every rider that will greatly reduce the possibility of systemic doping programs like Operation Puerto which netted Dr. Fuentes and countless athletes.
As an aside, given the fact that virtually all of Lance Armstrong's key rivals were found to be involved in doping activities (see Basso, Ullrich, Pantani, Zulle and on and on), can anyone honestly believe that he not only beat these riders, but utterly dominated them without the assistance of performance-enhancing drugs? Additionally, look at his former teammates who were later found to be involved in doping (see Hamilton, Landis, and Heras etc). He may be innocent until proven guilty, but this stinks to high heaven.
If they truly love the sport, it's time for every rider to come clean both past and present. How about it Lance? How about it Johan (I did some bad things in my last year of riding.....please) Museeuw?
Being that the sport is funded by corporate sponsors that rely heavily on positive press and advertising, we cannot afford more scandal. Let's right the ship and get back on course before the sponsors abandon us in favor of something or someone with less baggage, leaving us holding the bag. What do you say?
Amnesty is the way forward
What an intelligent and well thought out letter. I am especially impressed by her insistence on giving the accused due process. I used to believe this was supported by virtually all of the citizens of the countries where English Common Law is the basis of their legal system, but having read a number of letters from ostensibly citizens of some of these countries, I have serious doubts. .
One of the few advantages of being old and retired is that you have more free time than when you were working. The cold, wet, and windy weather since I have been here has left a lot of indoor free time and I took advantage of quite a bit of it to watch the USADA vs. Floyd Landis arbitration. The whole thing is still available on the net, but it takes over 50 hours even if you skip the recesses and wasted time. It has been a real eye opener as to how vicious the anti-drug establishment is.
I don't see how any reasonable person could watch this and have any confidence in the system. It is obvious that the French lab was determined to find something on Landis after his epic ride. The "A" sample that they tested was so obviously contaminated that according to WADA regulations should have been thrown out. Instead they persevered until they managed to come up with the answer they wanted even though it did not make scientific sense.
Landis's experts absolutely demolished the work done by LADD, (the French lab) and were rock solid in cross examination, in spite of the USADA lawyers using tactics better suited for a defense attorney representing organized crime figures.
One of the things I found extremely interesting and telling is that one of Landis's experts is one of the USADA independent experts on a panel that deals with adverse analytical findings to determine if there is a case to bring to arbitration. He said he spent more than 50 hours reviewing all of the discovery documentation on the Landis case and was not being paid. He volunteered to help Landis because he was convinced that what USADA was doing was wrong.
The scientific evidence presented by Landis's team was so good that the USADA lawyers changed their tactics and spent the rest of their time and nearly all of their closing arguments attacking Landis's character because of the stupid phone call made by his former business manager to Greg Lemond. It is absolutely infuriating to see the American taxpayer funding McCarthyite tactics of guilt by association.
I know it is politically incorrect, but I have a great deal of sympathy for the guy who after he had more than a few drinks decided to pull Lemond's chain a bit. As far as I am concerned he is a despicable crybaby who has been trying to tear down every American cyclist who has accomplished anything significant. He had a story nearly as impressive as Armstrong's but not many Americans were interested in cycling in his day. He just cannot stand seeing LA become a national hero where he has drifted into obscurity until his false accusations make the news. I would give up riding before I would buy a bike with his name on it.
The other person that I would wish nothing good for is Travis Tygart, the head of USADA. The way he directed the USADA lawyers is very clear that he only wanted to win the case at any cost. I am sure that if this were a proper trial, any reasonable judge would have issued a directed verdict. Being arbitration, there is no way of knowing how it will come out.
I am pretty sure from the questions asked by Campbell, he will support Landis, but the other two may well believe all cyclists take drugs and do the politically correct thing and support USADA. All in all, this is just about the most outrageous event I have ever witnessed. It almost makes me wish I was still living in the States because I would like to get involved in bringing political pressure to bear on USADA to clean up their act.
I am copying this to Travis Tygart with whom I have exchanged several letters because I have now seen at least as much USADA's public case as you have and am even more appalled by your tactics.
I am in complete agreement with the letters pointing out that cycling fans
(including you and me) and sponsors (the big money) are really the ones punished
the most by the mess of doping results, confessions of doping, rumors of doping,
insinuations of doping, etc. That is true!!
Doping and cycling obviously have a long history. I find the latest attacks rather trivial. An athlete is always looking for an edge. I feel that punishing athletes for past or present results is foolish.
The consequences should be to those behind the scenes supplying these athletes.
Otherwise, it's just pooping in your own back yard. I don't think we want to
see that! It is draining the sport. The grand tours need to be friendly to riders
that don't rely on doping.
All of this talk from ASO and France about Riis returning his jersey, there being no winner in 1996, etc. is amazing. What about Virenque returning all of his KOM jerseys and no winner of KOM for all of those years.
Virenque was given a heroes welcome and received some of the loudest cheers
at the Tour during the stages that I saw in France in 2004.
Having watched the recent hearing with regards to Floyd Landis' "AAF" and read
all of the recent doping confessions with the same passion and commitment that
I follow the racing season with, there's been something that's been bothering
me and I feel its time to speak up.
I don't recall you making accusations against Indurain, or Riis, or Ullrich or Pantani for that matter. It only seems to be the Americans. This provoked me to do a little digging, since I always remember how it's talked about that you, Mr. Lemond used to have the fastest ITT recorded in TDF history. If I'm not mistaken, you still hold the record for fastest ITT (other than a prologue) under 30 km at 54.545 km/hr from 1989. My question is this, Mr. Lemond: given the inevitable advancement of technology and the understanding of human physiology, how is it possible that someone who was not doped can still hold one of the fastest ITT's ever nearly 20 years on?
My hope is it's because you weren't doped, and neither have your recent compatriots been. Either way, the numbers you put up are comparable to the numbers current cyclists put up, and either you're all doped, or you're all not, or even a more accurate explanation, maybe some are just physically gifted, even when facing others who are doped.
I'm a local Cat 3 working stiff who rides and races only for the passion of
the sport and nothing else. I know my optimum cadence, heart rate zones, caloric
intake and expenditure, and power outputs. I've studied Landis's power output
from the legendary stage 17 comeback, and guess what? Even as a Cat 3 that will
never amount to a hill of beans on a bicycle who routinely gets his butt handed
to him, I don't find those numbers as astronomical as to only be attained by
doping. Average of 289 watts for the day? Come on, that's certainly not the
biggest number that's ever been posted. I could do that. I could only do it
for a half an hour or an hour or so, but if I had the chance to train for 15
to 20 thousand miles a year instead of 5 thousand, do I find it could be possible
to attain that? Yes I do, and I know I don't dope.
LeMond trying to tear down US riders
Dr Prell is misinformed if he believes that, during the apex of Lemond's career,
"blood doping was still unknown". It is consensus that blood doping was going
on throughout the 70s and 80s, and the 1984 US Olympic cycling team was engaged
in systematic autologous transfusions.
LeMond trying to tear down US riders #2
Blood doping in 1984? Ha! You cyclists are so wonderful! The Finns with Lasse Viren blood doped for the 1972 and 1976 Olympics where Viren won 4 gold medals and got a 5th in the marathon in 1976, despite never having run it before and it being run just 18 hours after the 5,000! Blood doping is the only way a "middle of the pack" runner in the years between the Olympics could do what he did during the Olympics! Although he made the claim with his coach that their focus was the Olympics much like Lance focuses only on the TDF. I'm sure cyclists were doing the same at that time, since and before.
Here we go again. Another self appointed sage knows that LA was a doper because he beat some people who doped at some time. What brilliant logic! I really do not understand why you continue to print letters like this that border upon, if are not actually libelous. At least you had the decency to follow this nasty attack with Glenn Milano's.
He, along with a number of your correspondents who wrote this week, is convinced that doping controls can always be evaded, but does not seem to know that exogenous (originating outside the body) EPO was not detectable until 2000. The spate of recent confessions deal almost exclusively with use of exogenous EPO prior to that time. .
There is a lot of talk about Riis' confession and stripping of titles and who
should hold the 1996 Maillot June. I don't think this is productive. The confessions
of Riis, Zabel, Aldag, Basso and others have served their purpose; the have
forces Pro Cycling out of its state of denial. To focus on punishing only the
riders misses the big picture. It's the entire system that has failed and not
just cycling but sport as a whole.
Third, criminalization will force those who may not be cheating but with demonstrable
knowledge of others who are to come forward and report the crime or face the
possibility of aiding and abetting.
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