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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 20, 2007
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What about team suspensions?
Up to the present the primary aim of the attempts to purge the peloton of doping has been the individual riders. I think that they are making progress in that regard and the mix of wins in this year's Tour may be an indication of that success.
However, it has been repeatedly stated that part of the problem is the "culture of doping". There are opposing forces working on individual riders, the necessity of performing superhuman feats on the bicycle in order to succeed and the necessity of performing clean. These forces, while not necessarily opposed are it would seem the cause of many of the current "problems".
While the solution I set out below may be anathema to some, it would certainly change the "culture".
What if the team was penalized if a rider is found to use performance enhancing drugs? For example, if a rider on a team has a test result showing drug use the team is prevented from entering the next UCI race they were scheduled to participate in, regardless of the nature of the race. If their next race is a grand tour, c'est la vie. The consequences could be put on a sliding scale so that if two riders produce positive results 5 races are missed and if 3 riders produce positive results the team is off the pro peloton and must go a year clean, and have good results to get back into the pro ranks.
While this may seem unduly harsh on the innocent, it would certainly change the culture. I think team members and team management would do all they can to ensure that there is no doping.
I think he should serve another suspension because he did not admit to doping the first time. He proclaimed he was innocent. If he would have said he was guilty, than he should be cleared, but because he screamed and cried to anyone who would listen that he was innocent, he should serve the suspension twice for truly being a doper.
Tyler Hamilton #2
There's a new post on Tyler's web site in which he says that Tinkoff terminated his previous contract and wants him to sign a new one, which he refuses to sign. Until he signs the new contract, they won't let him ride. Tyler is taking them to court in Italy, saying that they need to honour the original contract. He doesn't specify what the change in terms between the two contracts is. One might certainly guess money. One might also guess that there is something about doping.
I'm also curious how he could be punished again for Operation Puerto when he's already served a two year suspension for blood doping during that time.
I wonder if Herr Schauble pushed on with his convictions on this issue and if he would also do exactly the same thing to other sports, not to mention of course the sport that is closest to the hearts of Germans, being football, isn't it about time the " Spanish List" of names was released so the world could see the 150 or so other sports people outside of cycling, or would this be to much of a scandal for the game of "Football" the question to ask is how many players from the soccer world cup are on that list and who is actually behind the ever increasing drug investigations into cycling, who is putting the money up all the time, it doesn't take an Einstein to work it out.
The good thing is now we do have a Tour that looks on the surface to be reasonably clean, the sad thing for other sports is that if cycling does control the drug problem and clean their house up, there will be bad days ahead for the likes of football, athletics, tennis, etc, because when the authorities like WADA etc can back of cycling to some degree then they MUST go after the rest.
There are people and journalists out there that know the full story on the "Spanish List" it is about time they had the fortitude to come out and spill the beans no matter the personal consequences.
Please explain to me this little conundrum that is charging around my brain since I heard about the positive test on Sinkewitz. Only this time last night, here on your fantastic site, I read about Mr. Stapleton's efforts to stamp out doping in our superb sport and the repeated internal tests his riders must submit to. Indeed I think he mentioned that his tests are more stringent than WADA's.
How then did he not catch Sinkewitz? It was just testosterone was it not? Perhaps there is a very simple answer. Is there? Or is Stapleton just another smooth talking business man taking people for a ride. He had me convinced his boys were clean, now I am even suspicious about Gerdemann. You must remember we have already had one of our Olympic champions some years ago doing the school rounds warning kids about the dangers of drugs in sport. Of course she was found to be a doper herself later.
Yes I am cynical. Particularly of the Sponsors and Team Management. money talks, money wants results, money must get results and so pressure is put on the workers i.e. riders. And that my good friends is the way it will always be. So whats the real story on Mr Stapleton? I don't expect you to give me an answer. But look at the awful hypocrisy the Tour de France organisers have inflicted on us. Banning Bjarne 62% from the Tour because he had the courage to admit his years of doping. When this attitude prevails at the top when they know in their very veins that the Tour de France has evolved around drugs, that its severity at its very conception almost espoused the use of drugs and that that severity still exists to this very day, I ask myself, are they for real.
Sinkewitz positive #2
After reading your news flash on July 18th, "Sinkewitz positive - German public channels stop Tour coverage immediately", I found it very disturbing that the pattern of doping events has occurred once again. First is the fact that there are no test results yet for the "B" sample, as per WADA's rules. So either someone leaked the information of the "A" sample to the public, or WADA reported it.
Either way, the rules have not been followed concerning the release of information. Why is there no investigation into this lapse of protocol? Second is the snap-judgment of the German broadcasting managers that made a decision based upon incomplete results. Sound familiar? Even Christian Frommert, the general manager of T-Mobile was quoted as saying, "We will have to wait for the B sample, though I believe it will have the same outcome." This not only undermines the support of Sinkewitz, but reinforces the patterns we have seen before: leaked information leads to the team subverting the rider's rights based upon incomplete evidence.
With regards to the Petacchi situation, if it is proven that you break the rules then you are suspended. It is as simple as that. The "1000" limit of Salbutomol allowed in the system is very liberal. The stuff doesn't stay in a body indefinitely and is supposed to be taken via inhalation. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but how can Petacchi have over 1000 at the end if he had inhaled at the beginning of the stage. Also, it would be basically impossible for him to inhale during the stage because you have to hold your breath in order for the medicine to absorb. Therefore, it is highly likely that he was injected with it before the stage.
There are many reasons why injecting makes sense (may last longer in the system, for one), but it is still against the rules if you test over 1000. Could the person injecting him have made a mistake in the concentration or the amount? Sure, but I didn't hear that claim.
With regards to whether Salbutomol should be on the list at all, that is another question entirely. Remember that any drug can be harmful and abused if taken in too large of a dose. Over 1000 is over twice the dosage level. The number I have heard are that the 2 puffs will not even get a person to 400, so a person would have to take 5 puffs in order to get to 1000. But over time, that amount will be reduced.
Also, don't forget that Salbutomol has been shown to increase anaerobic performance in non-asthmatics, so it is a performance enhancing drug. Of course, so are caffeine and pseudophedrine (similar to ephedrine) which are legal in any amount.
What WADA sets for rules is not easy for them and isn't always black and white. What is (most of the time) black and white is when someone breaks the rules. Should there be different penalties for different offences? Yes. Petacchi did get a favourable result since the recommended suspension was only one year and not two, but it still seems a little steep for what he did.
Scott Van Maldegiam
Am I the only one to see no positives for Australia in yesterday's stage to Tignes? One major GC contender out of the race, the best sprinter in the tour misses the cut, and a super-tough potential stage winner is packed off to hospital on a stretcher. I am absolutely gutted about Mick Rogers and Stuey. I hope Stuey especially is okay. As for Robbie, he has been struggling since his adrenaline-fuelled stage victory in Canterbury and it is no surprise that he missed the cut in one of the mountain stages.
On top of all this, I cannot be consoled by the Aussie positive for the day: Cadel finishing with the lead bunch of contenders. I can't see Cadel's performance as anything other than a little worrying. Sure, he managed to stay with the attacks in the Alps unlike previous years in the Tour. But when is he going to start acting like a potential champion? All he could do was follow Moreau yesterday. Not sure if he was conserving energy. If he was then it was tactically naďve: Sastre, Leipheimer, Klöden, Vino, and others were all in trouble and he could have done far more to distance them on the final climb if he (and others) had worked with Moreau, who looked like he was getting seriously annoyed at everyone countering his attacks then refusing to cooperate (for god sake, it was not as if any of them were going to steal a stage victory - Rasmussen saw to that). Cadel is going to need to stamp his authority on the race in the Pyrenees if he wants to be in yellow in Paris. Come on Cadel: walk the walk (or pedal those pedals)!
Why do most cyclist's lie when caught? Are they scientifically ignorant? Take for example, Matthias Kessler. A Chinese supplement is the cause for testosterone in his A and B samples? Please. Testosterone must go directly into the bloodstream, by injection into the tissues or through the skin where it is transferred again into the bloodstream. You can drink testosterone faster than Gatorade and it still will not alter your body chemistry. It will merely be destroyed by stomach acids. If anyone could invent a food supplement that greatly or even slightly increases testosterone levels, they would become a millionaire overnight. That includes Jack Daniel's Whiskey, boron supplements, and bull testicles. Just tell the truth.
Until the article on CN, I was unaware of the $100,000 offer by millionaire Michael Robertson to have Floyd Landis take a lie detector test. At first I wondered why Landis wouldn't accept the offer that is until I did some good research. There are plenty of well documented studies of lie detector testing and their accuracy is certainly not well regarded. If Landis took the test and passed as telling the truth he did not dope, then absolutely nothing would change for him including those for and against him.
But, unless a lie detector test had an absolute 100% accuracy rate the risk is clearly not worth the money. If he failed it would be total devastation to his public image and campaign. Landis (or his attorney's) are smart not to accept the offer and Mr. Robertson would know that, only leaving the conclusion that its Mr. Robertson's intention to give the perception of guilt. Unfortunately my search on this story shows that most didn't do the same research on lie detector tests and therefore proclaim this clearly means Landis is guilty.
Not only has LeMond blamed the hunting accident but he also has motioned that after 1990 it was like the pro peloton was super charged. Of course he blames the use of drugs in the peloton. Could he be right or was he just trying to cover up for other issues?
Having remembered LeMond from when he started racing as a junior, and was the only junior rider to ever ride in the now defunct Red Zinger Classic, which was the race before it was renamed the Coors Classic. It is just my opinion that LeMond was in a league of his own. He won junior world road race and pursuit in 79, Pro road worlds like 2 times, the Tour 3 times. He also defended the Soviet 1980 Olympic road champion and the Soviet team pretty much single handily at the 1981 Coors Classic.
Greg raced a pretty full season; he was active from the early spring Classics through the Grand Tours and to the end of the year Classics. He even beat Kelly, in a sprint at Tour of Lombardy one year. LeMond could do it all. All Lance ever proved was that he could ride the tour, and win worlds one time. A time when most of the favourites had crashed out. Yeah, I was there for his worlds win in 93 in Oslo. Managed to get a picture of him solo on the winning move...to bad he refused to sign it at Interbike that year. LeMond has more talent, class and panache that 10 Armstrong's put together.
LeMond and mitochondria myopathy #2
Maurice, I agree with most of your points, but, let's not get carried away.
Armstrong's Tour worries were not Indurain or LeMond, or even Hinault (let's not forget that Armstrong did steal a Tour stage and the World's from Indurain). But he did have a right to be concerned about Zülle, Escartin, Olano, Pantani, Ullrich, Beloki, Vino, Heras, Mayo, Basso, Valverde and Hamilton. It takes away from those riders to comment that they are not really serious Tour competition.
They are/were all world class riders - all capable of winning the Tour - and indeed a few of them won other Grand Tours. It would also be careless to remark that many of those riders never added up to much because they crashed out of the Tour. Armstrong took them all seriously and did not have the benefit of our hindsight and video replays. Armstrong deserves (that is an understatement) respect - that he is as relevant as Hinault, Merckx, LeMond, Indurain and several other cycling greats. To state something contrary is simply nonsense. The facts are in the record books. Many a worthy rival and champion were crushed under Armstrong's rule.
Mat wonders why road cycling is so afflicted by intestinal bugs; he can't think of another sport where athletes seem to drop out of events in such numbers. Part of the explanation has got to be the way cyclists clear their nasal passages: finger pushing one nostril shut, forceful exhalation through the other and the riders directly behind receive a shower of whatever virus the first rider happens to be harbouring. With the riders (particularly the sick ones) doing this every few kilometers for five or six hours (with different riders behind them each time), a viral infection will spread rapidly through the pack. I can't think of any other sport where the competitors spend five or six hours each day blowing their noses on each other.
Intestinal problems #2
My understanding on this topic is that the enormous number of calories a cyclist has to consume daily under racing conditions is simply far greater than the human digestive tract is designed to handle. Combine this with an immune system impaired by the stress of a three week race and it can make for trouble. I've heard, for example, that many cyclists will not shake hands with anyone after a race begins as one way to try to limit picking up germs.
Intestinal Problems #3
Well Mat, it certainly does affect whole teams, as there have been numerous instances of outbreaks of gastric problems in major and minor tours. It probably comes down to the vast distances covered, and the fact that the riders are in a constantly "run down" state most of the time. They survive on a combination diet of solid foods and high calorie energy replacement supplements, in order that they replace the daily 7000 calories burned. It is simply impossible to eat normal food to sustain the energy levels required.
The fact that they are moving from region to region, staying in basic hotels, does not help matters. I assume that they always use bottled water, but what about general hygiene - washing teeth for instance? These are all things which we take for granted, at our "normal" pace of life, but what happens when the pressure is on, day after day for three weeks. This is like no other sport, and the body can put up with only so much abuse.
Intestinal Problems #4
As an ex pro who travelled to stage races in the Caribbean and South America I can tell you that Intestinal distress is always on the minds of the racers. Most races I competed in would have dropout rates of at least a guy or two from each team coming down with something. The problem is you are immune depressed from racing so hard and you are travelling in foreign lands where there are different microbes than what your immune system normally deals with.
You are also likely eating race organization provided food that may be different that what you are used to. You have to take precautions like hand washing and staying away from fruits and vegetables washed in local water but you never know how you could get a bug. In the 2006 Vuelta a Cuba we were racing on roads that had all the horse crap you could ever want. When it's wet you can easily imagine all the road grime going into your face and mouth and suddenly it seems more a matter of when you will get something than if.
Intestinal Problems #5
The reason for the high proportion of cyclists getting upset stomachs so regularly would have a lot to do with their very low body fat percentages. Body fat at normal levels play an important part in the immune system, however when elite cyclists push the limits they increase their risk of getting viruses and sicknesses. I also noticed how it appears in the tour a high percentage of cyclists who fall break bones.
This could be in part due to the fact that they are travelling at high speeds, and also due to the fact the bones don't like falling onto concrete. But I also would think that due to the sport of cycling being a form of non weight bearing exercise(compared with say running which has higher stress load through the legs, leading to greater bone growth) that they are more likely to break their bones when they do crash.
Matt O'Brien refers to the interview of Greg LeMond by Paul Kimmage published on July 1st, in which LeMond explains that he saw a doctor in 1993 that basically told him to go see [Dr X] to get EPO if he wanted to stay competitive. In that interview, Greg LeMond is reporting what that doctor told him:
"I went to see a sports doctor and he said, 'Greg, there is nothing wrong with you".
Matt O'Brien then concludes that the story of why LeMond retired in 1994 is changing with time. This is not the case. Greg LeMond here is not saying that he retired because other riders were on EPO and he didn't want to take EPO himself, he is just reporting what a doctor told him.
Some other recent interviews have Greg LeMond saying that a non-negligible amount of riders were on EPO at the end of his career, and that he probably couldn't have been competitive against them, as the same time as he was having health issues that were preventing him from reaching a good level of fitness. I do not remember any interview where he said: "I retired because I figured other riders were on EPO and therefore I had no chance against them". He simply never said so.
There seems to be a great misunderstanding here about what LeMond actually says. His words are always interpreted in a wrong way, because, when talking about the emergence of EPO, he also happens to talk about the end of his career, where he was facing a decline of his own performance. Both happened at the same time, and he is reporting both.
Another false idea about LeMond is that he started talking about doping after 2000.
The fact is LeMond was a lot more famous in Europe during his career than in America. Therefore the place where he talked the most then was the European press, with a lot of interviews in French (at which LeMond is very fluent), which don't belong to the "archives" seen in U.S.
I remember LeMond talking very openly about doping and his total condemnation of it on a French TV documentary in 1990 or 1991. I still have the tape somewhere. It was also publicized in 1989 that he quit the PDM team in 1988 because they refused to fire two of their riders who were convicted of doping.
An article in The Deseret News on July 25th, 1989 talks about Greg LeMond being relieved to have left PDM, and his attorney at the time is quoted saying that LeMond was asked by his team director then to take testosterone, which he refused.
In an interview in "Le cyclisme international" published in 1992 or 1993, he is already mentioning blood doping and Dr. Ferrari and points out that this man will be a real danger for the future of cycling.
Greg LeMond's fight against doping started during his career, not in the year 2000's when he supposedly became jealous of Armstrong, and it is a totally wrong and unsupported idea to assert that he started speaking out only later.
He was even more alone at the time than now speaking out loud, and speaking mainly in Europe, where his career was going on, and it went unnoticed in the U.S.
LeMond was for long a voice crying out in the desert. When the desert became more crowded, people started to notice and supposed the voice didn't exist before. Just search for archives, you will see the voice was there long ago.
Kudos for your brave and secure approach to control of test samples.Unfortunately, WADA, ASO, and UCI seem to be engaged not in witch hunts, but in systemic terror. The Landis and Armstrong cases are perfect examples. They are quick to convict and suspend anyone with a positive test for any reason. Just so they have the appearance to be doing something about drug cheats. The real reality is that for years, there were a lot of back room agreements, and turning the other way when it came to upholding their own regulations. What is truly needed to protect the innocence and privacy of the riders, reduce the chaos and witch trials surrounding the testing and organizations is a complete restructuring of these organizations in order to remove the good 'ole boy network and complex hierarchy in the cycling world.
If Pro-cycling is serious about a fresh start or new beginning, it needs to dismember itself.
Fair doping tests #2
Thank you for making the most thoughtful post I have seen on the subject of doping tests for a number of years. I know nothing at all about doping tests; I do not know whether or not the high profile doping cases are guilty or not, but I am a cycling fan, and the overwhelming feeling I have when seeing the details of the lab tests and their associated leaks and politics is that the process is simply not up to the job which cycling fans, cyclists and cycling sponsors require and deserve.
There is not, I believe, a court of law in either the UK or the US which would convict on the basis of the ill-administered processes which appear to be accepted as normal. Surely cycling, as a sport, warrants investigative processes which would meet that burden of proof?
Fair doping tests #3
Mike B outlines a perfectly acceptable procedure for handling drug tests that I would have thought that anyone such as the WADA or UCI would naturally have put into effect from the very beginning.
Unfortunately having Dick Pound with his overly inflated ego and ASO with their direct connection to the drug testing laboratory makes the entire results of these tests questionable to say the very least. When Floyd's second test of his "A" sample was so dramatically different from the first test the entire result should have been excluded. Instead we have noted a string of bizarre actions by the testers that would result in huge lawsuits in the USA.
A positive for a racing cyclist can have a much greater impact on his life than a positive for recreational drugs for a member of the military and so there should be a seriously designed and enforced procedure instead of the catch-as-catch-can non-system presently in place.
Fair doping tests #4
I can only agree with the recommendations in the 'fair doping tests' letter from Mike B. I think the athletic world should have a close look at the horse racing industry for some tips on doping control - particularly with regard to testing procedures. Take a look at the Horse Racing Authority website.
They also use an A and a B sample. If the A sample is positive, the B sample is sent to another accredited lab somewhere in the world…Imagine the time and money that could have been saved if this protocol was used with the TDF and Floyd Landis last year.
Fair doping tests #5
Just a clarification - a B sample is essentially the same sample as the A. It comes from the same initial container of urine, and the athlete is responsible for pouring it into the two containers for the A and B, which the athlete then seals twice and then signs across the seal. Having the two separate containers reduces the chance of one container somehow having a problem.
Also, doping cases do get thrown out if there is a break in the chain of custody. I'm not sure if you have specific knowledge otherwise, but I'd be curious to hear it if you do. The whole Operation Puerto deal is a different matter - these are not official samples, this is essentially testimony and evidence to suggest rules have been broken. Whether the sport should or should not be excluding people simply due to suspicion of involvement in Puerto is an excellent question, but it has nothing to do with standard drug-testing protocol.
I certainly agree with your suggestion #3
Cycling in particular needs to make one change - sequester all athletes to be tested in competition from the moment they cross the line. That is the way many other Olympic sports do it. I have been tested several times by USADA as a track & field athlete, and you literally are grabbed in the finish chute.
However, I find it ironic that the sports with the most stringent controls - cycling has to be #1 and track & field is well up there - get the most bad press. When a few years ago major league baseball announced tests in advance and gave plenty of notice, over five percent of the athletes tested positive - with no penalties. They have subsequently implemented testing, but it's so much less than cycling as to be a joke. Yet in cycling and a number of other sports it's a tiny fraction of a percent who test positive and that's with unannounced testing.
Fair doping tests #6
I can't agree strongly enough with Mike, and can only wonder why this type of system has not been transferred to WADA. I wonder if WADA officials have ever asked to spend some time shadowing a military or civil police team carrying out drug investigations to learn about procedures used and best practise.
In a society where the individual is innocent until proven guilty it is imperative that any flawed evidence is immediately discounted and destroyed. Sadly this doesn't seem to be the case in cycling, with a situation now where the press opinion seems to dictate who is guilty and who is innocent, based on how nice a guy they are in press conferences and whether they fit the image of a cyclist.
Let's hope WADA have the courage to ask someone like Mike for help in the future.
I have noticed that teams are tested randomly at most pro races. The test results are given immediately and the riders are cleared to ride the next day. My question is: Why are the results of the daily tests so quick, yet many test that are given are reported to take weeks, if not months, to show results. (During the Landis case for instance.) I would assume the same drugs are suspect in each test, so why the long delay in some test, while the tests taken during stages are reported that evening so the riders may ride the following stage?
Riis has been stripped of his yellow jersey, Erik Zabel will now be stripped of his green jersey from 1996, and yet Richard "Pretty Boy" Virenque gets to walk away as though he's innocent? Come on!
First, everyone in the pro field is supposedly taking drugs anyway, so who cares? If it's really the case that they're all "cheating", then nobody has any advantage over the other. It' a level playing field. Some riders will still be faster than the others. Get over it.
Second, if we're going to start punishing riders, those hypocritical French bastards should strip Virenque of his polka dot jerseys (all of them) for his admitted involvement in the Festina affair. I'm not defending Zabel for what he did, but frankly it took a lot more balls for Zabel to come forward than that sissy Virenque who caved under pressure and cried like a little girl in front of the world.
Revoking le Tours jerseys #2
Apparently it's okay to admit you doped in the past as long as you do it in some fashion that the folks at ASO / UCI find acceptable. Eric Zabel racing in this year's tour confirms it. Sure, he gets his green jersey taken away, but that's it? No suspension? No screaming from Dick Pound about the injustice of cheaters, liars, and whatever else he's got the breath to shout? No ASO officials telling him he's not welcome at the tour? The silence surrounding his confession is deafening.
I respect Eric Zabel. I appreciate that he admitted his doping offence. It takes honesty, integrity, and courage to do what he did. David Millar is in that camp as well. Not only did David admit it, he took his suspension seriously, worked through it, and returned to racing at the highest level. There are many who have admitted to taking illicit drugs. But whether you took something 10 years ago or 5 minutes ago, if actively racing, you deserve suspension. Yet there is Eric Zabel, mixing it up with the sprinters in this year's marquee event. No suspension? Inconceivable.
Revoking le Tours jerseys #3
So, ASO has decided that Bjarne Riis' name is no longer on the list of yellow jersey winners and Zabel is to lose his green, but no action has ever been taken against Virenque for any of his seven mountain jerseys. Does this seem a bit nationalistic to anyone else? I am not in favour of doping by any means but I am less in favour of hypocritical and inconsistent application of the rules.
Robert E. Bachman
Advice for Stapleton and Sinkewitz
I just wanted to pro-offer a little piece of advice to Bob Stapleton and Patrick Sinkewitz regarding his test results that purport to indicate heightened levels of testosterone: Have The "B" sample tested at another lab, such as The Olympic Doping lab at UCLA -- one renowned for having a reliable and objective process and procedure in place. Have the sample tested anywhere except where the first sample was tested (probably the now infamous Chatenay-Malabry lab). Insist on it. It's just good science to obtain a reliable and valid test . Somewhere other than what could have been a contaminated lab with incompetent personnel following spotty procedures to inadequate standards.
Seriously, what the hell is going on with this team? They have arguably two of the strongest men in the race, if not the two strongest outright, but when Vino crashed, nobody from his team dropped back to help. The fact that, at least over the last several kilometers of the stage, he more or less single-handedly pulled his group to the finish and limited his losses to a bit over a minute shows that he truly has the strength to win this Tour. Unfortunately it looks like his team is going to be the obstacle that ultimately prevents him from stepping to the top of the podium in Paris.
CSC director Kim Andersen was a little disingenuous when comparing the crashes and subsequent time lost of Vinokourov and Sastre, when both riders had bike changes but Sastre didn't lose any time. "Nobody waited when Carlos crashed. Stop that bullshit.....Carlos also crashed today but he didn't lose time. He had to change bike and everything." One of the unheralded benefits of keeping the yellow jersey on your team is that your team car is first in line. Aside from the severity of his injuries, Vino had to wait longer for a new bike.
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