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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 31, 2007
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I just read Greg LeMond's views on what changes need to be made in cycling and I think that he has finally gone to far. Keeping riders away from other people for 2 hours before the race? Come on, these are professional cyclists not convicts in a state penitentiary.
LeMond had his run in cycling, he was a great athlete and an inspiration to many but I believe he needs to step back from cycling. His comments are doing more harm than good for the sport.
Regarding his suggestion that the Heamatocrit level be lowered to 46 is absolutely ridiculous. I am an up an coming rider and I have blood tests done about 4 times per year to monitor my blood levels and to make sure that I am staying healthy. When I'm flying on the bike my Heamatocrit is usually around 47 or a bit higher and when I'm not going as well it will only go as low as 43 or 44. Half the junior racers I know have Heamatocrit levels over 46 and I can assure you that none of them are on any banned substances or PED's.
I love the sport of cycling and I want to see it clean up but I do believe that there is a rational and logical way to do this. What LeMond suggests is absurd and while it is easy for him to make such comments now that he is no longer a professional rider, such measures as he is suggesting would place ridiculous demands upon professionals in the sport.
Lets allow the professional teams to keep doing what they are doing, allow the system to keep catching the cheats and I believe that cycling will continue to clean itself up. Thanks Greg, but no thanks.
LeMond’s comments #2
Greg LeMond’s recent recommendations on how to fix cycling confuse me. He attacks the UCI for knowing that there are dopers in the peloton implying that the ASO did not. He implies that doping is this generation’s problem and that when he raced no one abused illicit or prescription drugs and that no one knew about it. He passive aggressively attacks others but takes no responsibility for his attacks or his lack of action when he raced to rid the peloton of dopers. What a disappointment.
I am disappointed in Mr LeMond, I have consistently lost respect for him as a person and a spokesman for the sport, his politics and his motivation are solely to elevate himself as the great American cyclist and the elder statesman of the sport.
Greg LeMond was a great champion; he never failed a drug test. Did he do it clean? No one will ever know. Ever since Lance won his fourth all I have heard out of his mouth is negative crap and his comments about Davis Phinney’s son are telling.
"I am optimistic that there is a change and it's shifting, and that maybe Taylor Phinney can have a chance like I did where you don't have to decide to either sell your soul to be part of a sport, or having your dignity and be proud of doing it on your own."
What did you get for your soul Greg? Even if you can say anything you want, does not mean you should and certainly does not mean you should not be held accountable for your accusations. As a former fan of yours I can only say that you do yourself a great disservice and a disservice to our sport by continuing to try to elevate yourself at the expense of others.
LeMond’s comments #3
really respected and followed Mr. LeMond during his career but now he just seems sad. If you read through to the bottom of his story he basically says that Discovery is getting out of cycling before getting caught. Get a life Greg. Did Lance dope? I don't know. Do any of the current Discovery rider’s dope? I don't know.
I do know that some of them are clean as clean can be and I do know that most if not all of the riders are looking for jobs as ProTour riders with new teams. That doesn't sound like they are getting out before they get caught. His comments on Taylor Phinney just make feel bad for Greg. He says he is sad for him. That he has to sell his sole to the devil to compete. Believe me there are people competing on their own without selling their sole. Is there a drug problem in cycling? Yes. That doesn't mean we should discourage our youth from pursuing a career in cycling.
That means we should instil good values in our youth and help them to compete on that level clean. I also have issues with creating more of a division between the ASO and the UCI. The only way the sport is going to survive is for the biggest players in the sport to work together to clean it up.
LeMond’s comments #4
Greg LeMond will always will be listed amongst the best in cycling. Greg's list of palmares is exemplary & well documented:
- Junior Road Worlds – 79
LeMond had the wonderful audacity to publicly declare the high standards he'd set for himself & in a manor unlike any American before him, he went out & achieved those goals & results.
George Mount, Mike Neel, Jock Boyer & others who came up before LeMond, all deserve credit, as do the next generation, the Hampsten, Phinney, 7/11 Team crowd, for the palpable results they all brought back from Europe.
LeMond, however was a revelation in his day. Beyond his results, Greg helped change the pay structure in cycling as well as embracing new technology in an old world sport.
I will always have unreserved respect for Greg's strength of character & his accomplishments, on & off the wheel.
Given LeMond's experience, his ideas regarding doping, doping controls & punitive measures seem to be valid, & worthy of consideration & discussion, from my unqualified layman's point of view.
That being said, his constant & unproven denigration of Armstrong & Landis, et al. is distracting & negative at best, by virtue of the fact that he is a 'name'. Nothing worthwhile is being accomplished.
Furthermore, LeMond's comments to Christian Prudhomme at this years Tour are hard to conceive. While conceding that the UCI has gotten better under the tutelage of Pat McQuaid, he then proceeds to place the onus of the blame on the UCI & then recommends that the ASO & the Tour divorce itself from the UCI on the grounds that they, the UCI, have known, & done very little about the doping problem.
It is hypocritical in the extreme, to believe that the Tour organization, throughout its history & management, has been unaware of the situation except when a scandal has arisen. It is more conceivable to believe that they've been willing to turn a blind eye, through the years, so that their race would be the great spectacle it is.
At a time when the house of cycling is so strongly divided or at odds on so many issues, I believe that LeMond's suggestion adds a negative credence rather than support to the situation. The organizers of the Giro, Tour & the Vuelta need to be working to resolve issues with the UCI, the Union of International Cyclists.
This is about money, control & politics & the results are now becoming obvious outside of the cycling world. Cycling itself will survive because it is both an activity enjoyed by millions & a means of transportation, worldwide. The sport of pro cycling however is at an all time low.
Stephen J.R. Wilde
As a fan of many sports I have over the years collected many favourite athletes, in cycling one of them is Peter Van Petegem. For over 30 years since Bernt Johansson from Sweden won the Olympic gold in the road race I have followed cycling more or less, for a long time less but in the early part of this decade my interest started to grow more and more as I started to watch the giro, the tour, Paris-Roubaix etc. But the real breakthrough for me came as I watched Paris-Roubaix in 2003, in which Peter Van Petegem won with tremendous skill, when he was able bridge the gap to the current leaders in the race on one of the last pavé sections and then went on to win the sprint on the velodrome in Roubaix. He also won Ronde van Vlaanderen a week before by attacking on the famous Muur in Geraardsbergen and went onto win the sprint against Frank Vandenbroucke for the second time after winning the race in 1999 in a sprint which also included Museeuw and Vandenbroucke.
Van Petegem was on top of his career and became one of few who ever won Roubaix and Flanders in the same year. As I see it he was one of the best in his generation in the classics season from Het Volk in early March until the Scheldepreijs, his first pro victory, in the middle of April.
After that week in 2003 we were unfortunately not able to see another victory from Van Petegem, but he was until last year always one of the contenders for Roubaix and Flanders. A few days ago I saw that he had decided to end his career which did not come as a great surprise for me but I will miss him for years to come when we come to all the fine spring classics. He had all that it takes to be a great champion in these races, a great attack and fine technique on the pave and on the short steep hills in Flanders such as the Muur. His great attacking skills nearly took him to the win at the worlds in 2003 as he began the attack from the bunch, but Astarloa was too strong, countered and went solo with Van Petegem finishing third just a few seconds down the road.
He then showed great courage, the courage of a true champion. A champion that led me to watch cycling from early March (late February) in Het Volk until Giro di Lombardia in the middle of October. Now I have to do that without seeing De Peet racing again and that is a strange feeling especially on April 6th next year.
I couldn't agree more with this letter. As a cycling fan, I cheer for and relate to the cyclists most. Teams are secondary. However, the pro cyclists will continue getting the worst part of the deal until they band together. A strong union is in their interests (and in the interests of the sport, I believe).
I would add that the weakness shown by the ProTour this year versus the European race organizers (ASO, etc.) regarding entry into the key cycling events will hurt the pro cyclists more than anyone. Without a ProTour-like structure, well-heeled sponsors will not invest large sums in the sport regardless of doping. They want guarantees that their team will ride in the key races.
Without the big sponsors, pro cycling salaries will drop. Watch what happens this year with the exit of Disco, Unibet, Prodir and the others. The cycling pay scale will go down. The cyclists will bear the brunt of the ProTour "restructuring."
So why didn't the riders (and teams) band together to back the ProTour? Why didn't the riders (and teams) band together to introduce a more rigorous and fair anti-doping scheme?
Until they do, they are just like pawns in a chess game. The first to be sacrificed.
Norma Rae on a bike could make a big difference.
Cycling needs a Norma Rae #2
No, cycling needs another Jimmy Hoffa! Even Hoffa's son, the current president of the IBT, will do. In fact, who better to represent bike riders than their spiritual forefathers, wagon and team drivers?
Seriously, the riders in the ProTour peloton are probably the most abused athletes in today's sports: Mere insinuation and accusation are enough to ruin one's career. Look at Alberto Contador: He has won the greatest bike race on the planet and has tested clean at scores of doping controls but has received very little of the glory rightfully due him. Has he always been clean? Who knows? But he was clean at the race in July in France, and he was clean for months leading up to that race. Case closed!
What may or may not have happened years ago has no bearing on his current status or level of fitness. Contador's "case" is typical. Even Rasmussen was probably robbed. Though I am not his fan, and I deplored his attitude and his remarks about his team-mates, he also was clean. Furthermore, that "pledge" the riders were encouraged to sign was pure extortion! Time and again the riders are placed in situations between race organizers, team owners, and governing bodies in which they have no control or say. What kind of industry is it that so mistreats its leading asset? It seems to me that the race organizers have an inordinate amount of power in this sport. After all, what do ASO or Unipublic own? The races are held on public roads: There are no stadiums or any other high-dollar investments other than signs, barricades, etc. as in other sports.
All the owners own is a date on the calendar. And the UCI clearly is powerless to enforce any rules it makes. And I really don't understand the teams. Can you imagine the New York Yankees saying, "We're not playing next year. Sorry," and just walking away with no money in hand for their trouble? Again, the teams seem to be paper entities only, existing for a few seasons, only to fade away with a few buses to dispose of and a few warehouses to clean up. I don't think they even own the bikes. It seems the riders are the only constant, but they are the least powerful. It could be that I don't fully understand all the variables, but I know this: I've been involved in the union "business" all of my life, as was my father and his father, and I think the time is ripe for the riders to assert themselves. Cycling is in a state of flux: There are no clear leaders, no boss of the peloton. Clearly the riders have the most at stake. Can they, will they take leadership of their profession?
Cycling needs a Norma Rae #3
In response to Yanomamo Howard's letter in support of a rider's union, I agree. The rider's have been abused and exploited for far too long. They are underpaid and always at risk both physically and financially. The race promoters make a fortune and the riders are just fungible mannequins in colourful spandex.
Until the riders are treated with dignity and respect and allowed some economic security the temptation to cheat for one big payday will continue. Treat the riders better and the incentive to win by any means necessary is diminished.
Regarding the news of August 27, it seems that Kashechkin is now claiming that his rights have been violated, similar to his deluded team-mate. The fact is, membership in professional sports associations is voluntary and subject to the rules of the association.
The NBA or NFL couldn’t legally enforce punitive fines for violation of their behaviour policies in a court of law. However, these associations can require that athletes make payments to off-set the bad publicity, etc arising from their public behaviour in the form of donations to the association, or have their membership revoked. It is more attractive for an NBA player to pay a $50,000 fine for violating league policy and remain in the league earning a salary than to drop out of the league and pursue some other profession.
Lately the NFL has been cracking down on bad behaviour and has dished out multi-year suspensions to athletes based on their behaviour off the field, costing the athletes millions that would amount to the entire annual operating budget for a ProTour team. Submitting samples or whereabouts to WADA or other agencies is simply part and parcel of being a member of national and international cycling associations. Suspensions and fines would be the payment necessary to remain part of the association after a rules infraction. Vino and Kash can certainly disappear from the cycling scene and not have to worry anymore about any of this.
Vino & human rights? #2
Vinokourov's statement about doping test protocols being a "clear violation of human rights" is both ridiculous and insulting. Insulting to those that really have suffered from human rights violations and ridiculous in that doping tests in cycling are just part of the rules of the sport.
You either follow the rules, or don't be a pro cyclist. Does Vino think that it is a violation of human rights that the UCI doesn't allow bikes to be less than 14.8 pounds? Is it a violation of human rights that a rider can't be pushed up the mountains by the team car? If nothing else, Vino is guilty of making a silly and nonsensical statement.
While it’s obviously wrong to state categorically that Cadel was robbed, innocent until proven guilty and all that, I think some of the comments about Cadel and Levi’s TT performances need to be viewed in the context of the following...
Here the relative results of all TT’s Levi & Cadel have raced against each other in Les Tours de France (an event that we can safely say both of these guys peak for):
2005 Stage 1, 19km: Levi by 28 sec.
2006 Prologue, 7.1km: Cadel by 8 sec
2007 Prologue, 7.9km: Cadel by 4 sec
As you can see, in a long TT of the Tour, Levi had never before been within a minute of Cadel. Stage 13 this year does not appear to have been an “off day” for Levi, in fact the result was what one would have expected given previous results. Stage 19 is the unusual result.
So, aside from speculative chatter, I reckon Cadel’s biggest problem is that he rides for a team with a relatively limited budget and to make matters worse, he doesn’t have a team built around him, but split between Robbie & himself, in Robbie’s favour- but, given his ability and his record, fair enough too!
Chris Horner was great this year and for Cadel’s sake I hope the team decide to pay up and keep him (he seems like a nice bloke too), but none of the other teams seriously contesting GC were also geared to contest the sprints- yet another of Lance’s lessons on how to win the Tour. So, for Cadel to win with Predictor Lotto, they’ll have to spend some cash and get some more riders who can get through the mountains at the pointy end of the race... but, inevitably, this would not be good news for Robbie- it’ll be interesting to see their line-up next year.
Cadel was robbed #2
'He followed wheels for 21 days' - mate, you must have been watching a different race to me.
"When Contador went off the front, Cadel followed his wheel" and then Levi followed Cadel.
"When Levi jumped, Cadel followed his wheel", I do recall there being 2 Disco boys in that group.
Where was Levi when Cadel lost time on the descent to the finish, not willing to work.
I think if you going to say Cadel sucks wheels the same must be said for Levi. The fact is that Levi had a strong team and could rely on team tactics, this makes Cadel look even better as he had little help compared to the Discovery boys from his team or anyone else. I don't think Levi would have performed as well if he was in Cadel shoes.
Levi's been the next big thing since his Vuelta result and we've seen what? Cadel has got better year on year, I know who my money will be riding on next year.
Actually he probably is the kind of rider we want winning the greatest race on earth.
Cadel was robbed #3
Joe, sorry to all Australians? You have disappointed plenty of others with your comment. Yes, Cadel isn't a very aggressive rider but a smart and calculated one. Don't forget there have been countless wins in the Tour that have come from this style of racing and respect and admiration towards the rider is never lost.
Winners and heroes are two worlds apart. We live in a world where 'hero' is loosely applied to too many human feats. Hero is a term reserved for a person performing something immeasurable to humankind - far greater than winning a bicycle race.
Do we want someone like Cadel winning the greatest race on earth? You bet we do, just as much as the other 188 riders regardless of their style. This is why this is the greatest race on earth.
As a cyclist and an attorney, I am offended by the assertion that the lawyers in the Landis case profited, “as they always do.” Are you suggesting that Landis’ legal counsel go unpaid for their services? Because of the pecuniary interests involved and the complex legal and scientific issues, Landis was more than prudent to retain competent legal counsel to present his case.
Furthermore, the rules of Landis’ appeal were set by the arbitration panel, not the attorneys. Therefore, any delay in the process is attributable to the arbiters, not the attorneys. Moreover, the delay in rendering the decision only serves to underscore the complexity of the matter. I am quite sure that the legal fees generated in this case were well earned.
Edward R. Carrillo
The last few months I have read a lot of letters arguing that 'big money' is killing cycling and it is one of the main reasons that riders are doping. Some even comment that a 'market correction' will make doping less attractive for cyclists. I don't think so. In fact, because there will be less places left in the peloton cyclists will be even more inclined to cheat, simply to maintain there position in the ProTour field.
Even if they would race for half of the money some will keep on taking forbidden substances to get a better contract, to secure their future as a cyclist or to be on the frontpage of L’Equipe. This is maybe an example of naive thinking, but the belief that the market will do the job seems to me to be equally naive.
"Either you are against doping or you aren't".
Good point. I think everyone, cyclist or not would agree.
Let's make sure we take a step back and ensure we are against doping and not just 'pro' a few lynching’s to make us feel better.
Cycling is not in any kind of crisis. Take a look at the increasing number of bike sales around the world and the number of times cycling is referred to as the best way to reduce pollution, traffic congestion and obesity.
People love cycling.
The very small Fishbowl that is the ProTour is in crisis. Some unfortunate professionals must be in crisis as they feel the need to cheat. Not just professional riders but managers and officials too.
Chill out a little. Be thankful you can ride.
Sinkewitz positive #2
Marshall Ellis's letter of the 16th of August seems to think that there is no redemption for any man. Bob Stapleton's actions have, in my opinion, been above reproach. Whilst I am wary of cyclists of Aldag's generation, to say that they should be fired if they confess is wrong. What chance would we then have of obtaining any more confessions and breaking doping for good? No, Stapleton was correct. Zabel, in particular, does not deserve to be hung out to dry for what he did.
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