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Letters to Cyclingnews - June 22, 2007
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Anti Doping Charter
June 19’s news Flash on the UCI’s proposed anti-doping charter for all pro riders is, finally, a genuine attempt to get on top of the drugs issue in pro cycling. Gaining maximum publicity and PR on the eve of the Tour de France is good for riders, tour organizers, and the UCI.
Hard evidence of the impact will only be known during the years to follow as this and testing measures based around DNA take effect. It is good news. Now let’s wait and see if it works and whether I, like many others, renew my interest in the sport or remain a disinterested and disillusioned fan.
Anti Doping Charter: Addendum
Bravo, UCI! The existence of your pledge will certainly separate those who are truly clean from the poseurs. At least, it might if it also contained the following statements:
“In return, I understand that the UCI pledges to compensate me in the amount equal to my annual salary for 2007 if:
I also understand that the UCI will fully compensate me for any loss of sponsorship that results from false findings or accusations. I understand UCI’s pledge not to suspend me for suspicion of doping or for being accused of doping by third parties if I have not been presented with any evidence of such doping and if such evidence has not been found credible by a panel of arbitrators. If I am suspended for this reason, I recognize UCI’s obligation to compensate me in the amount equal to my annual salary for 2007 in addition to any lost sponsorship resulting from said suspension.”
Cycling needs to become a clean sport, but riders have rights, too.
Anti Doping Charter
Pro cycling continues to dig itself deeper and deeper into oblivion. Impossible you say? It's too big; too ingrained in (at least) European culture? I've felt for a long time that it won't just disappear but eventually become the "old time wrasslin" of sport - all show, no credibility.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with the latest UCI requirement that riders sign an oath that they don't dope or aren't involved in Puerto, if enforceable, which I seriously doubt, given the multi-national nature of the sport, it will cause havoc in the upcoming Tour.
Right now, there are probably any numbers of riders who are suddenly discovering knee and back problems that will force them to miss the event. With only a couple of weeks to the tour, legal challenges will probably make this UCI decision mute for this year. What this and everything to date will do is to insure that teams will not be able to get or keep legitimate sponsors.
I would not want to be the chairman of T-Mobile or any other reputable corporation that had to defend sponsorship of a very, very minor part of their communications efforts to shareholders. The fragmented nature of cycling - national federations, the Pro Tour, UCI, Rider's Groups and Tour organizers - all seemingly run by people with more ego than talent makes accomplishing anything meaningful impossible. Cycling ought to take a page from professional team sports like football and baseball, where the league controls everything except the players' unions. Enforcement of rules is immediate and virtually never challenged.
Anti Doping Charter
While I'm all for strictly enforced anti-doping measures, there is something about the theatrics of this anti-doping pledge (and the attendant salary forfeiture) that strikes me as one-sided and unfair to the riders.
Maybe it's because in the US major pro athletes are generally backed by strong unions and thus I'm used to actual negotiation between athletes and their governing bodies (the American Major League Baseball players' union would eat the UCI for breakfast), but shouldn't there be some give and take? Shouldn't the UCI, at this critical moment, set its own house in order? Shouldn't the UCI, in return for the riders' pledges, pledge not to use labs that leak A-sample results (do they really think they handled the Landis affair well)?
Shouldn't they pledge not to let false or inconsequential positives gain traction in the media (witness: Iban Mayo at the Giro)? Shouldn't they pledge that major anti-doping figures will not make inflammatory statements to the media while a case is being adjudicated (are you listening, Dick Pound)?
Anti-doping needs the complete cooperation of riders, certainly, but it also will require efforts from sponsors and organizing bodies to prevent an adversarial, us-against-them atmosphere that exploits the riders and encourages the doping omerta that appears to be cracking. There's never been a better chance to clean up cycling. It would be a shame if it were the sponsors and organizers who blew it.
Anti Doping Charter
Let me make this perfectly clear: Anyone who opposes this shining laser-beam of a proposal by the UCI clearly demonstrates their support of doping, lying, cheating, smuggling, and all related illegal activities. Moser, Bugno, Gomez, et al... Wake up!!! Nobody decides to stick needles in their arms except the cyclist themselves.
They are the first and last in the chain, and must be held 100% accountable for their actions. No more excuses. Zero tolerance means clean up 100%, or get out. Thank you.
Chris P. Madden
Is anyone else getting tired of the same cycle of Lance trash that swirls in the cycling news come early summer? Hey journalists, I possess a great secret, Lance retired! Let me try it again, Lance is retired! Unless you have some juicy news about Lance being inarguably linked to Puerto or some other blood doping prostitution ring, then I'm not interested.
I'm not buying your book, magazines or clicking links to allegation-oriented Lance doping articles. With this said, I'm not even a fan of Lance. He doesn't inspire me, give me the jumpies or cause me to hop on my bike and "Try to be like Lance".
Let's face it, even if he didn't dope, he sucked the wheels of his doping team mates for seven tours. There is no way to argue against the fact that Lance clearly won 7 Tours due to the influences of doping practices. So there is no inspiration coming from the Lance channel.
If anyone is looking for inspiration from the world of cycling, then look no further than Saul Raisin, overcoming cancer is a big deal, but overcoming near fatal brain swelling and discussions of organ donations, now that's coming back from the graveyard!
Saul is a breath of fresh air whom has a presentation of innocence about him. He's not brash and comes across like a guy you'd like to sit down with and throw back shots of espresso. He's been cleared by his doctor to return to racing only 15 months. After a near fatal crash and is returning to Europe in July to begin preparing for his ProTour comeback. If cancer made Lance tough enough to crank out 7 tour wins, then Saul's journey could produce a young man that is first of all likable and then a champion.
Imagine that, a likable champion and a model rider that exemplifies why many of us enjoy the world of cycling so much! Can we now please stop giving Lance allegations and the dopers so much of the limelight and start highlighting riders such as Saul, or even Tyler Farrar?
Jon M. Holmes
Basso receives maximum suspension.....
Hardly! What a joke. He received 2 years, ok, that's the max. But then he gets credit for 236 days? Excuse me; wasn't he racing as recently as March 30? There's no way he should have received credit for time served prior to his last race.
Dear Sirs: Would someone please explain how climbs are categorized? Is there a mathematical formula that takes in various objective values (vertical gain, distance, maximum steepness, road surface, etc.) that allows one to plug in the numbers, spin the handle and out comes Cat 1 or Cat 2 or Hors Category?
Is there a Committee like the Academy François that visits the various hills from time to time, holds discussions to decide? Are there certain reference hills that are the platonic ideal for a Cat 1, Cat 2 etc. (Like rock-climbing grades: the left side of Monday Morning Slab is by definition Yosemite Decimal System 5.0)
Riders then go out and, based on their experience with the reference and some kind of fuzzy logic, they then collectively agree that some second climb is easier than the reference Cat 1 (and therefore an Uncategorized), just as difficult as the reference climb (and therefore a Cat 1), slightly more difficult and about equal to the reference Cat 2 climb (therefore Cat 2)? Or is there some other method?
It would be nice if there were some mechanism that would allow people to determine how the local hills stack up against these famous climbs.
Mr. Beckford, I know exactly what you're talking about. At 6'4" I've been watching for the last 5 years or so as these silly MTB looking road bikes have become the vogue.
My solution is simply - I don't buy new bicycles. I've a Colnago C40, a Look KG241 and a Time VX Elite all of which fit me well and ride like they were custom built for me. I've paid less than half price for these nearly new machines while their past owners went to the newer frame geometries so that they wouldn't be forced to look like road cyclists but instead could look more like those off-road heroes. Maybe the next fashion statement on the road will be baggy shorts and hoodies?
You might have mentioned that light weight frames for a 200 lb rider is also a bit over the top. Wouldn't a 17 lb frame for a 135 lb climber be more of a load than a 20 lb frame for a 200 lb’er? I haven't really been able to tell whether I'm riding my C40 or my Super as far as climbing goes.
But of course the real sin of compact geometry frames is that they're ugly. I don't care how many quarter ounces are saved by making fewer frames; if it isn't a thing of beauty why pay the going rates for high end bicycles?
I think it's time to ride my Time.
Amen brother! I'm a bit over 2 meters and any hope I have of buying a new bike going forward is going to be restricted to custom. I used to have one or two options of stock frames that I could make work, but those have gone or are going away.
Sadly, the bike business is just that - business and they are obviously focusing on the meat of the physical bell curve. Maybe someone should point out to them that over time the average height and weight of the population are going up. Enjoy your System Six.
Warren, fear not the new Trek. Even though the frame looks really different the geometries are the same as before. Also, the innovation of incorporating the bearings in the bottom bracket should be good for you as it will make the power center of the bike super stiff for your large and in charge self.
As for the seat post, you still have some adjustment and integrated seat posts have tremendous advantages in ride comfort as they dissipate energy along more material than with traditional seat posts.
Anyway, don't hate on compact geometry it has its place and there will always be manufacturers out there that will keep the faith and make large bikes...and hey there is always custom.
Take care and ride hard on whatever bike you are on.
Eusebio Travis Sevilla
Let's see now: Colnago Extreme Power; Look 585 Ultra and 595 Ultra; Time VXS; Ridley Noah... all bicycles constructed with extra carbon to be stiffer for the larger and more powerful rider, even though they suffer the weight penalty. I'm certain that if riders like Robbie McEwen and Thor Hushovd are able to sprint and win on their compact frames, which supposedly "suck for high power riders", riders of lesser abilities will be able to make do.
I can understand that some people like the look of a bicycle with a horizontal top tube. But, this is merely a styling concern; from an engineering standpoint, changing the top tube from 0 degrees to 1 degree of slope does not instantly make the frame flexible and un-rideable. In fact, a sloping top tube can make the frame stiffer, by allowing the designer to lengthen the head tube to stiffen the front end, while simultaneously reducing the size of the rear triangle to stiffen the rear end.
I couldn’t agree more! When I came back to the cycling world in 2000 after my “retirement” from the sport in 1993 I found it difficult to part with the cash for what was being offered as “Pro Quality”.
Keep in mind that in my day no one would risk the moniker of “Fred” by riding anything that didn’t come Campy equipped, let alone be caught dead on a bike that didn’t have a Belgian or Italian name on the frame. My solution was a little more extreme; I built my own frame, festooned it with Record carbon and rode off into the sunset!
I'm writing in response to Bill Adkins' comments about Greg LeMond. Adkins should get his facts straight. He suggests that LeMond is speaking now "[a]fter years of silence towards pro cycling" when actually, if you follow the sport closely, you'd know that LeMond was talking about doping even a few years after he retired.
He goes on to ask "Why he only singles out successful American cyclists"? Actually, LeMond doesn't. I've heard Greg LeMond state that he believes doping started with Italian and Spanish teams in the very early 1990s.
I don't know if LeMond is right in what he says, but those who disagree with him should at least try to respond to his statements substantively and not in ways that demonstrate a lack of knowledge of the history our sport.
John Forrest Tomlinson
Greg LeMond and record ITT's
I'd like to comment on two TdF which Greg won and which I witnessed in France.
1986 - Super-Bagnaiers stage in the Pyrenees. Hinault went out early on an "exploit" and ran up a huge solo lead over the 1st three passes in typical Gaelic/Norman fashion of "Greg. You should have won in '85 and I know I promised to help you in '86 but MERDE A TOI." He paid the price and collapsed on the descent to the valley right before the final climb.
I saw Greg come up on Hinault in that stage and it looked like he was asking him if he needed help; Hinault sort of motioned him on and Greg floated up the climb and won the stage. 3 years later...under merciless attacks from Hinault and the French Press, Greg said that actually, Hinault had hit the wall earlier...and was given an injection of some sort of stimulant by his team car even as a TdF official sat there in the car and looked stonily away.
1989 - That pell mell descent into Paris in the ITT. You can put that down not only to the wind and to the descent but maybe to adrenaline. 17 km to Paris with 45 sec to make up and so you either go flat out or make a hole in the fence. Greg had the tri-bars. The others didn't. I saw that (on TV in France...my French relatives were sitting there) According to L'Equipe Greg won it on he flats with a huge gear and with the aerodynamic advantage (which Hinault throughout that Tour had denigrated).But he also won it with shear audacity and with a huge shot of courage. Remember he won that tour with 3 team members left. He'd been let go by his team after he was shot, insulted, signed with a crappy team, backhanded by the French press and won it himself.
Why does he open his mouth now? I wish he wouldn't or if he did, do it generically for all of cycling, not against Lance or Floyd. After all, Delgado tested positive for drugs whose only function was to mask steroids. Indurain was Delgado's stalking horse...so what did Indurain learn from Delgado? Maybe what Greg says is true...that by 1991, everyone had figured out what to use and just rode away from him. Still drugs have been around for 50 years...start cleaning the sport now. It’s difficult to do historical cleaning. I mean you might have to look at Hinault! As for Greg, he was my hero in 1986. I don't know if he was absolutely clean, but I think he was the norm for the peloton and was a great, great rider!!
We gripe and complain when we see corruption and doping in sports, the combines in football, and the bought victories in cricket. But we should realize one thing, when humans (that is us, ourselves, you and me) are competing they will not stick to the rules. Politicians don't, guys with successful careers don't, and anyone driving a car of paying taxes doesn't. The rule is not "don't cheat", the rule is: "don't get caught".
What happened recently is that we are whitewashing sport as a real life fairytale. Those boys and girls are little white saints, different from all of us. A myth supported by legions of sports commentators. And a myth that is destroying competitive sports.
By all means we should have rules and keep people to them. Try to catch them! But stop whining about dishonesty and cleaning up the sport. As long as we are human that is how we behave and how any competing human behaves: fighting to win, stretching the body, stretching the rules.
And for those that have forgotten: in older versions of the tour de France guns, poison and spikes where ingredients of a sport that is a true mirror of life. If we hate what we see, we should consider what is tells us about ourselves.
Enjoy the view,
Where do we begin when trying to find a Tour winner that wasn’t on something, whether it was illegal or legal? It is well documented that riders in the early years were pumped with Amphetamines (more to stay awake I imagine). And we are only talking about the Tour de France. What about every other race that they competed in and won?
I say let bygones be bygones and look to the future. It is very sad to think that finding a proven clean winner could be a challenge but we have to assume riders are clean until proven guilty.
The challenge then is to catch the guilty and encourage them to another sport where the governing bodies are less concerned about the health of their athletes. Because as we must remind ourselves the doping laws are there to protect the athletes far more than to create a level playing field. The question is do they want to protect themselves. For the life of this great sport I sincerely hope so and all those who have a duty of care over them.
Let’s clean up our sport and give our current and future cyclists a sport they can be proud of and one that will enable them to have a life after their final race.
Thank god for the Giro d'Italia. At least we'll have one good grand tour this year. In the absence of so many favorites I am beginning to wonder which domestique has a good shot of winning the Tour de France this year. No Valverde, No Periero (probably not anyway), No Italians - Di Luca is completely uninterested, Simoni would rather be on his mountain bike, and now il Principe, Damiano Cunego won't even come. Basso is out suspended. Landis is out and...Well, whatever.
What do we have left? Vino. Leipheimer. With all due respect. How boring.
Once again, thank god for the Giro d'Italia. Can't wait for the Vuelta!
John M. Spidaliere
I am not sure it is logical to rally against doping and dopers and then hail Tom Simpson as a hero. There is a strange nationalistic streak among cycling fans whereby "our doper is a hero; your doper is a cheater". Italians celebrate Pantani, Americans believe that Hamilton and Landis are victims of a French conspiracy, Virenque continues to be the darling of French media, and the English revere Simpson as a brave champion.
Simpson died with a stomach and a pocket full of amphetamines and who knows what else. He and the rest are not heroes they were dopers. Every time a stage goes up Ventoux, a somber-voiced journalist, usually British, talks about Simpson's heroic death as the camera pans the peloton passing the memorial.
I am sorry, but we have to stop glorifying dopers, dead or alive. It is unfair to clean riders, and unfair, as well as dangerous to the sport.
Marc de Rochefort
I agree with Mr. McMillan's letter about the motives if the ASO around Bjarne Riis. The very reason Prudhomme and ASO are the leaders in righteousness around doping are because, simply, their race is the dirtiest race on the calendar and in all likelihood it has been for a very long time. The stakes are so high for all constituencies --riders, directors, sponsors -- that it could hardly be otherwise. These stakes constitute the core structure of the doping problem among cycling's greatest stars: it begins and ends with big money with more promised and the overblown, over hyped status of this race and its exaggerated influence on the fortunes and futures of the winners.
The recent calming of ASO's rhetoric around Lance Armstrong after they felt so strongly last year that they had him dead to rights is notable in this regard and proportional to ASO's laughably high-toned antics of recent weeks. It may be a result of their dawning understanding that if they were to successfully implicate Armstrong then the Tour would have gone without a tainted or accused winner for the past eleven years. If Landis is guilty and Armstrong is guilty and Pantani is guilty and Ullrich is guilty and Riis is guilty then what is left? This is not yet to mention many of those implicated riders who occupied other spots on the podium and sundry green and polka dot jersey winners worn by dopers as well. If Armstrong went down, the Tour de France would pretty much have to own its status as the least credible, most dope-ridden race of all, and the most ridiculous. Much more palatable to storm and shout about confiscating the memorabilia of admitted offenders.
I'm writing because I can't really see an amnesty working in any shape or form. While a cyclist who admits to winning using illegal practices and substances during a so called amnesty may not receive the formal punishment from the UCI or whoever, the press, supporters, sponsors, and anyone else involved in cycling will still see the riders' victory as tainted. Just look at Riis' recent admission. People are already writing in saying that therefore Ullrich or Julich should therefore be given the '96 yellow jersey.
With the reaction to Riis' confession I can't see any incentive for a rider to come clean other than serious guilt, but surely they'd have admitted before if that was the case? The punishment is not what the formal bodies dish out; it is the loss of honor, respect and value of their victories - something which no amnesty could prevent. Even Basso seems to be intent on saving his previous victories by saying they were not won illegally.
Indeed, I would go further and suggest that due to the nature of doping, there can be no such thing as an amnesty. People who admit to doping will taint themselves and their victories with doping forever. No amnesty can stop that!
Jonathan, I am sorry but I am really having a hard time digesting your post about cycling and doping…in particular a few selections I’ve included here:
Come on; let's be fair to the cyclists who worked 6-8 hours daily on their saddles. Imagine you were speeding on the freeway over the speed limit, and you were not caught, and years later, someone takes you to the court because they suspected you were speeding, you admitted even though there was no proof, so the court issue you a ticket and even suspend your license for that??
This is the most ridiculous analogy I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The car has that ability to speed in the first place…it’s built in. It doesn’t need an illegal fuel to make it break the speed limit in the first place. Fact of the matter, this argument is ludicrous.
Why do these cyclists risk their health? To win, to gain fans, to make the sport interesting!!
Cycling is fun to watch when there is competition, when the person with the best legs, the biggest heart and the strongest will to win does so. Not when a slew of riders who are battling it out front all doped up with hormones, EPO and God knows what else!?! The rest of the peloton, the pure riders who still put in the 6-8 hours a day on the saddle are now just playing catch-up to some cowards looking for the easy way out.
I feel that these cyclists risk their health enough barreling down mountain side at 60+ kph…do they need to add the risk of their heart exploding while doing so-to the list!?!
Your argument is unjustifiable. It is also swayed in support of events that have completely tainted and may ruin a beautiful sport. I’m disappointed.
Mark Adam Abramowicz
Reading the latest letters and looking at the results from the recent professional races I am wondering who we believe. And don't take me wrong, because I don't really care who confessed to winning a Tour with help of doping. If you won by doping among other dopers I would still consider you the winner since the conditions were the same for everyone.
Also, I don't care about people defending Armstrong (even though I am his fan) that he was the best because he simply trained better, ate better, slept better... How do you know that? I know that too but only from his books, and books of his friends, and interviews. Have you ever seen him train yourself? I didn't. Did he train better or more? I don't know because I haven't experienced him doing it myself.
For me he is a great athlete because simply I know that to win 7 x Tour de France doesn't come from doping (even though he may have doped) but from your dedication and determination. So frankly, I don't care whether he doped.
What I care about though is whether for example David Miller isn't doping again. Why? Because he is riding the same as in the past. Just look at the results from the time-trails from recent races - he is just within 20-60 seconds behind on around 35-45min ITT. That's only around 1-3% worse than the winning "doper". Let's say David is riding honest these days. Then that would mean that the guys in front of him can be riding honest as well, because 1-3% is not a big gap if someone is training better and resting better than someone else. The bottom line is that whether some is doping or not it is irrelevant for me as deciding point whether to follow professional cycling or not. As long as we don't prove the rider guilty I will watch him win races.
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