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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 28, 2007
Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.
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Tour of America
To establish my perspective, I'm an American, who was very active in the US Collegiate circuit (never any good, but active) and is currently living in Europe.
Creating a Grand Tour that spans the entirety of the US is not a good idea. There is no way that European teams would expend their riders and their money on this and it would die a quick death.
To put this into perspective, Texas itself is larger than the entire country of France or Spain. Coordinating a coast to coast Tour would be a nightmare. A better idea, in my opinion, is to divide the U.S. into four regions (North East, South East, North West and South West) and cycle through them every four years.
This has several advantages.
1. A "U.S." Tour would require teams to either put in a lot of miles or a lot of transfers, both of which take a toll on the team. Additionally, transfers are expensive and you're already looking at the majority of the teams spending a large sum of money just to get across the pond.
2. The US is not a cycling mad country. A tour every year gets boring for the locals. A tour coming through once ever four years remains exciting (just look at how much money US broadcasters and advertisers are spending on the Olympics).
3. The routes in Europe have been proven, ridden and raced time and again. The Tour of Georgia and the Tour of Missouri have both proven that (despite best efforts) two to three years to think through the course would be beneficial. This is not a knock on these Tour organizers. American drivers and the American road system are not usually cycling friendly, much less race friendly.
4. The US is a little more temperate than Europe which means the event could go between northern and southern regions. Northern regions going before the Giro and Southern after the Vuelta. The advantage here is that riders and teams that focus on specific Tours can ride the US Tour and have a chance without burning out their riders. Euskaltel-Euskadi would probably want to ride a spring US tour every other year which gives their riders plenty of chance to recover for the Vuelta. Liquigas would probably prefer the years were the race was race later in the year so there riders have plenty of time to recover after the Giro.
5. For this race to be really fun, the organizers need to line up secondary sponsors that can help support the smaller teams. If you just had (for example) Hilton, Subway and Southwest and/or Amtrak contribute services that dramatically lowers the cost of entry for secondary teams and allows them to come over here. I would actually love to see Amtrak sponsor this race and provide support services. Rail services are just not exploited in the US and that's a shame.
6. To this point, dividing the country into quadrants would help with advertising. You could hit Delta up for support once every four years for the South-East, US Airways for the South West and Alaska for the SE and Amtrak for the NE. Not having to do it every year and having region specific exposure makes it much more appealing for advertisers.
Tour of America #2
Dear Organizers of the Tour of America,
I write to you as a concerned cyclist and coach about the proposed "Tour of America" and its length. I think it is a vital error to be vying for a grand tour of the length that you have publicly proposed when the cycling world is in a struggle against the use of performance-enhancing drugs:
"the largest spectator event in the history of U.S. sports, covering approximately 4000 miles (more than 6000 km) from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean."
Perhaps you do not see the connection, but by dangling an 11 million dollar price pool for thirty days of racing in front of individuals who already give so much to be at their best, only entices them to sacrifice even more. The current grand tours are already so demanding on the body. The past few years, a crippling number of individuals have been caught and expelled for using performance-enhancing drugs/substances. We cannot require more of the racers by bringing in a fourth grand tour and making it even longer than the other three.
I understand and support the desire to bring a grand tour to the United States. But, by fostering the idea of "ultimate," you are doing a disservice to the sporting public as a whole, the future generation of racers, and the current athletes themselves. Please, be cautious.
Let me see if I've got this straight:
1. The UCI thinks there is enough evidence in the Puerto case to investigate both Jan Ullrich and Alejandro Valverde. The Spanish legal system, and the Spanish federation, do the right thing and cooperate in throwing the book at the German, Ullrich, but completely clear and support the Spainard, Valverde.
2. The Court of Arbitration for Sport says it is unjust to prevent Valverde from competing in the World's because it is a form of "advance sanction". Fair enough, but where was this fairness when all those riders were being kept out of the 2006 TdF?
3. Stuttgart is worried about losing sponsorship if Paolo Bettini is allowed to compete in the World's, so if he does, they will sue the UCI. I ask, which would the sponsors rather see, the reigning (and not implicated in any doping scandal) world champion defend his title, or the host city launching a frivolous lawsuit on the eve of the race? Which would make cycling look worse?
4. Eddy Merckx is probably admired more than any other cyclist alive (or dead), but Stuttgart says he is unwelcome at the World's because they want "positive role models". Who would the kids (or adults) sooner look up to, the greatest cyclist of all time, or a bunch of fools in suits feebly hosting the bike race?
Well, I've read several articles about the decision on the Landis case, as I'm sure everyone else has. But after reading the stories and the findings of the errors and mishandlings in the French lab can you say, without a reasonable doubt, that Landis is guilty? 1 of the 3 panel judges didn't.
How about the quote that said the following: "The panel does, however note that the forensic corrections of the lab reflect sloppy practice on its part," the majority decision noted. "If such practices continue it may well be that in the future an error like this could result in the dismissal of an AAF (Adverse Analytical Finding) finding by the lab."
In future cases "an error like this could result in the dismissal of an AAF finding by the lab" [just not this one]. I'm sorry but with statements like that from the panel this whole thing just doesn't sit well with me.
I hope the best for all athletes subject to these testing's and shoddy lab works.
The Landis decision #2
In regard to your news flash dated September 21, 2007 Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied, you conclude with the remark "Still, in the end, the case was about the science - for both the Landis and the USADA sides - with the arbitration panel determining that the facts were not enough to call the findings of the tests into question".
But in fact the findings were found to be unreliable in the initial test and it was the carbon isotope test that determined things. The testosterone-to-epitestosterone test was determined to be flawed. So the second supposedly more reliable carbon-isotope analysis was made the stand-alone determinant in the Landis' doping case.
I continue to have my doubts about his guilt or innocence and am greatly concerned for all athletes in this "guilty until proven innocent" environment that now exists in cycling. However, as this case reveals, the initial screenings done presumably on all of the top 10 Tour de France general classification riders should be equally in question. Non-negative screening tests for testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratios are meaningless for everyone. As much as it would be nice to have some closure on the results, pending the Landis appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, it seems prudent to subject Pereiro, Klöden, Sastre, Evans, and Menchov to the same more reliable carbon-isotope analysis before rewriting the history of the 2006 Tour de France. Or maybe it's not really about the science after all.
David S. Butterworth
The Landis decision #3
You and I may not be experts but I sure hope that should I ever be involved in a case that is tried in a court of law, that the "innocent until proven guilty" and "beyond any reasonable doubt" would be in force. I do not know if Landis was doped, but the process as well as the lab have been criticised previously by a prior member of the Dutch anti -doping agency. We have seen testimonies from the people who build the software that the lab uses, saying that they do not understand it and does not work it correctly. We have heard corrections made to documents and names. Had it been a murder trial, would the same flaws have been disregarded? Scary!
Was it a surprise then that Landis was found guilty? Not really. What would have happened if he had not? Then the lab would have had to take the blame and then ASO because of the (conflicting) interests. Pat McQuaid and UCI would be ridiculed and Dick Pound would have lost the battle against the riders he obviously does not like and would have had to step down.
No, in my mind it was inevitable that Landis would be found guilty, but hardly just.
Unfortunately, it allows the continuous presence of Pat McQuaid and Dick Pound who are both doing their very best to kill cycling in the name of the greater good. I feel sorry for Floyd and all the other riders who can no longer hope to have a fair trial and who can now see the sport they love being manhandled by people who's interest is power, not sports.
The Landis decision #4
In response to Landis' claim that his guilty verdict is "a blow to athletes and cyclists everywhere", I would say his own actions, before and after his positive test, constitute more of a blow. It is time for Landis, Hamilton, Vino, Rasmussen, and everyone else who is wrecking this sport, to recognize that they are an embarrassment.
The closest an athlete has come to actually taking responsibility for what they have done is David Millar, and as much as I would like to say his actions were noble, they were probably, at least in part, prompted by the strength of the evidence against him. Much of the blame for this climate lies at the feet of cycling fans, because we are too quick to forgive.
Virenque was able to lie repeatedly and deny everything until he finally had no choice but to confess, and he was allowed to come back and be treated as a darling of the sport. Everyone forgot the vehemence of his denials, and the barefaced lies he told to clear himself, and also apparently didn't think it was strange that he came back even stronger than when he left. The fact that he could do this is what makes riders think they can outlast the sports memory and come back to business as usual.
I am sure I speak for many competitors and lovers of the sport when I say- Do us all, and the sport, a favour and just GO AWAY!
The Landis decision #5
Having read through the Landis report, I noticed one very significant find:
"The charge of an elevated T/E ratio from the sample was not established in accordance with the WADA International Standard for Laboratories and is hereby dismissed. "
No elevated T/E for Landis? What? So the lab was wrong in finding Landis had an elevated T/E ratio due to lab errors, but he did have synthetic testosterone in his body because the panellists agreed with WADA and not respected and published scientists that the technicians could "eyeball" the peaks and determine their validity. What? So, let me get this straight: the Tour de France winner's urine tests are determined by somebody looking at some peaks on a chart and saying, "looks like doping to me." Are you kidding me? All our vaunted science comes down to a test of a technician's vision. I don't know about you, but that determination scares the devil out of me. Good luck in the peloton folks....you better hope someone has some damn good eyes.
The Landis decision #6
If I have understood the verdict of the arbitration panel correctly, they threw out the 'A' sample results as invalid.
So if the A sample testing had been done correctly, there would (possibly) have been no positive test and therefore no need for the B sample test. The arbitration panel should have thrown out the case on those facts alone.
When the lab did the B sample test, their reputation was at stake and a finding that corroborated the A sample was desirable to show consistency. Since they knew who's sample they were testing, there was immediately the possibility of bias in the results. It seems that to find consistency they manipulated the B sample results until they got the result they desired. The arbitration panel effectively conceded this but because the testing process used was not in contradiction to the WADA rules (which the arbitration panel heavily criticized), they could not find that the lab erred in its procedures and could not find the lab at fault. What a travesty of justice!
Now Pat McQuaid wants to impose lifetime bans on cyclists based on procedures such as these. As has been said before in these letters pages, pro cyclists need a serious union organization to protect their interests.
Let me be clear, I do not support doping, but there has to be due process to protect the innocent.
Having just read the feature article with Patrice Clerc I wanted to express my disappointment and frustration in the arrogant attitude being displayed by Mr Clerc as leader of the ASO. In any situation there are always two opposing arguments but from this article I can only draw the conclusion that the ASO believes the UCI and cycling in general owes them some kind of debt. Mr Clerc presents a singularly arrogant and selfish point of view.
Where are Mr Clerc's alternatives to the UCI's ProTour? Why does he sit in France waiting for Pat McQuaid to present him with more options? Since when has Mr Clerc been the Emperor of the Cycling world? Where would the ASO and Le Tour be without the UCI's Athlete Testing program? Exactly how is Mr Clerc going to ensure his Tour is clean in the future if not for the hundreds of tests conducted prior to the Tour by the UCI?
Lastly, unfortunately, where is Mr Clerc's concern for the Cyclists? He shows nothing but concern for the prestige of his beloved Tour and its financial interests. The cyclists that are forever caught in a commercial tug-of-war are as always, an afterthought, if that.
Remove the Tour from the calendar and professional cyclists would have other races to contend. Remove the cyclists from the Tour and there would be no Tour. Patrice Clerc and the ASO organise some beautiful cycle races but to put it bluntly, he should pull his head in. The cycling community is trying to pull together to rid itself of undesirable practises. The ASO's arrogance should be on top of their list.
Pat McQuaid's steamrollering of Paolo Bettini to sign the UCI pledge is absolute nonsense. Bettini is correct to assert that this demand for a rider to repay his years salary if found guilty is ultra vires is absolutely correct. McQuaid is simply attempting to pressure all riders into this to show ASO that he is the ultimate power in cycling and can basically control the start list for any event through assumed guilt before trial e.g. Valverde or through non compliance with non legal documents e.g. Bettini.
This suggests that McQuaid has nothing left in his armoury of negotiations. Would he not have been better to patiently wait for ASO to inevitably come up with some other nonsense, thus allowing the UCI to respond and try to regain the moral high ground in controlling cycling.
All this blatant point scoring and obvious mismanagement of the sport of cycling by its factious administrators is going to do nothing but turn sponsors and fans away. When are the next UCI elections?
Will someone please explain to me why people, who's only connections with "Pro" cycling are that they ride a bike, are fans of bike racing, and / or maybe race at the local level, can be so certain about what this or that "Pro" rider did or didn't do or know, thought about this or that, is or isn't guilty or innocent, what their motivations were or weren't, the list goes on and on.
I would be willing to bet that all these people writing in with all these "comments", for lack of a better word, have never met, talked to, or even seen in person the "Pro" riders they claim to know so much about.
In response to David Abraham's comments on VAM, don't be so quick to assign equations to your arguments. When you equated Power to mass*g*VAM, you are not using the correct distance for this formula. To be correct, that length per time is your speed, not your vertical gain. This would only be true if you were travelling straight up!
Think about it this way, if your equation is correct, you can only have a non-zero power when climbing! Obviously not true, even if you neglect wind and road resistance.
VAM is a benchmark just because it is an easy number to quote that seeks to collapse the experiences of various mountain passes onto something you can compare your own hill interval training with. What else would you propose to use? In terms of using it to spot doping, that is absurd, but to use it to say "hey! Those pros are way freaking faster than I am" without having to climb the same hills, then it works great.
Sad to see another fine rider comes to the end of his career. I started following Team Telekom around 1999 when I moved to Bonn. Giuseppe Guerini was always one of the friendliest and hardest working riders for the team.
I spoke to him at one of Telekom's pre-Tour presentations and asked why he rode for other riders and his honest reply was: "That's what I'm paid to do". I could never understand how someone could struggle up Mount Ventoux just to give another rider 'the nod' (Jan Ullrich usually) at the final point where glory beckoned. Guerini made it seem a simple choice. Thankfully he got 'the nod' himself on occasions for some memorable wins.
A great and honourable career 'Beppe' - thanks, many of us will miss you!
I understand that there has been the "unspoken code" in cycling to not rat each other out. But that was because there was negative peer pressure and no consequence for remaining silent. I completely believe that if whole teams are dismissed from races when a team-mate is caught cheating, the silence will disappear. Personally I would be furious if I lost the opportunity to race because some bonehead team-mate was doping. I can guarantee that if Klöden knew he was going to be dismissed from the tour if a team-mate was caught doping, he would have sat up and done something.
Perhaps it would be motivation enough if teams receive pre-race and post race testing and any positives result in the whole team being disqualified from racing that race. The offender would give up a year's salary and a ban, and team-mates would be fined for not reporting it. Perhaps outing someone should result in a bonus of sorts.
Menchov felt betrayed by Rasmussen #2
Lance v Simioni was a personal fight that Lance, rightly or wrongly, took onto the global stage at the TdF and lets be honest, if you or I were in his position and someone had humiliated you and accused you of something, you would use every means in your arsenal to get back at him. Lance chose the method he did for one reason: he could.
I feel intensely sorry for Dennis Menchov and the rest of the Rabobank TdF team, by his scurrying silence since it's obvious there has been a lot of lies on Rasmussen's part so Rabobank were perfectly within their rights to do what they did. To see the way Menchov and Boogie gave everything to protect their man and see it thrown back in their faces like that, I think I'd feel betrayed, I think I'd be at my lawyers to think about suing Rasmussen for lost bonuses.
As we have seen this summer, lies get you nowhere and maybe if the whole of cycling took a sharp dose of blunt honesty the wind of change might blow a bit quicker
I couldn't help but laugh when I read that Patrice Clerc was unhappy about the UCI "allowing" the Tour de France out of the ProTour, exactly as Clerc has been asking them to do. I'd also be willing to bet that the organizers of the Giro and Vuelta had to change their undies after the UCI made the announcement that they were also "allowed" out of the ProTour. I wonder what the Vuelta will look like next year when they have maybe eight ProTour teams and a handful of continental squads.
On the other hand, it will be great to see all of the ProTour teams riding in California (and maybe Georgia), Australia, South Africa, China, Russia, etc. Le Tour? Which one was that again?
I agree 100% with what Dann Corbit has written.
To take on of his points further, it is not just the UCI who seek to ban on a suspicion (see the recent position the UCI adopted with Valverde in the CAS), teams (see Rasmussen at this year's TdF) or race organisers (see ASO's action in the last TdF's in recent memory), but local government and television want to prevent riders under suspicion from racing (see the City of Stuttgart's position on Bettini, and the position adopted by some German TV networks in respect to the TdF and now the Worlds).
Throw in to the mix the questionable and generally unhelpful comments by Dick Pound and others from WADA, the equally unhelpful public statements from McQuaid and others from UCI, and the unusual judicial processes of some European countries, there is no doubt the whole system is a shambles, and very few people have confidence in that system. The current system is a farce.
Establish a clearly understood, objectively reasonable system of testing and prosecution. Provide expedited hearings and appeals (Landis' case should not have taken as long as it did - and that is not the fault of the lawyers but the system they work in). Keep proper chain of custody of samples. Have one body responsible for it all - I think part of the problem is there are too many organisations trying to build their own little empires.
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