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Letters to Cyclingnews - November 16, 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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Nathan O'Neill's claim that he used Phentermine out of competition for it's prescribed purpose is an insult to cycling fans and the sport in general.
Phentermine, a prescription medication, is prescribed for reducing weight in obese patients when used short term and combined with exercise, diet and behavioural modification. A check of O'Neill's own web-site reveals that he is 177 centimetres tall and weighs 72 Kg. This hardly qualifies him as being 'obese'. It also makes one wonder how a medical practitioner can legally prescribe O'Neill the medication.
On March 7, 2007, Detroit Pistons guard, Lindsay Hunter was suspended for 10 games without pay by the NBA for testing positive to Phentermine. It is listed as a steroid or performance enhancing drug under the league's anti-doping program and brings an automatic 10 game penalty for a first positive test. The drug is also listed as a stimulant under WADA's 2007 prohibited list. It is difficult to see how O'Neill can claim a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for it's use, as one of the criteria for a TUE is that the athlete would experience significant health problems without taking the prohibited substance.
As for O'Neill's statement 'unfortunately for me, there was a tiny amount that was still present in my body at the time the sample was collected in competition' shows stupidity rather than naievety. This is exactly why athletes are drug tested, to see if they are using banned substances. Come on Nathan, show us all some respect!
Nathan has shamed himself and done a disservice to all Australian riders. I hope that the authorities will see through his ridiculous excuse and set an example as they try to clean up the sport.
I am a Clinical Laboratory Scientist in the US. All I can say is if Michael Rasmussen is blood doping, he's sure doing a lousy job of it. If those blood values for Hematocrit and Haemoglobin are correct, he is below or just barely into the normal range for adult males. Even his highest values are just high enough to be considered normal. The low end of normal for males is 42%. (men and women have different normal values for these tests.)
BTW, some folks may think that his higher values in the later stages of the 2007 TdF show that he must have done something to boost his Hematocrit, being that it moved from ~40% to around 43% over the course of 2 weeks, however, considering that he was on the bike every day in very hot conditions and that they moved from sea level to altitude, this is about what I'd expect to see. At altitude your body would tend to make more blood cells naturally AND it is more than likely given his efforts those days that he would have been somewhat dehydrated which would elevate the % of red cells vs. liquid part of the blood. Even rehydrating after each stage, this type of effort would have a cumulative effect.
I'm not a great fan of his, for a variety of reasons, but I have to be on the side of fairness and it sure seems like he was railroaded without due process by anyone, mostly due to the hysteria of ASO and the media. This isn't fair for any cyclist and with what he's presented here, he definitely doesn't look like someone who has systematically doped over the course of years. His Hematocrit hasn't varied much and given that these tests were taken at various times and various places and performed by a variety of labs, its appears relatively consistent. The variations are well within what would be expected given different instrumentation and specimen collection/transport conditions.
I'm not excusing his lying, I think he was wrong in not following the "whereabouts" rules and brought the opportunity for his unfair treatment on himself. He maybe should have to serve a short suspension for that, but he has had no due process, has not tested positive for doping, and so I hope that some team gives him another chance in the future, since as far as I can see the only rule he broke was not being where he said he would be out of competition.
Wholeheartedly agree with this letter, reading the achievements of this guy was amazing and his humility something else. I also applaud his fellow competitors for showing him the respect he earned as the race went on allowing him to cross the finish line first.
We sit here week on week reading about our whinging pro riders harping on about their human rights and testing, having to sign agreements about doping and testing, lyng about where they were for testing, complaining about transfers that are too long, stages that are too hard, having to submit to DNA testing blah blah blah, maybe THEY should sit up and take notice of what Marc Heeremans has achieved and put their roles into perspective.
When you see this you can respect the guys who have come back from the brink to a high level of success, Contador, Armstrong and hopefully in the near future Saul Raisin, I'm sure there are others; it makes you sick to read about the dopers, the cheats and liars around the sport of cycling, I hope they are ashamed, though maybe I'm dreaming.
Where can we nominate Marc Heeremans as the Legend in the Poll?
I'm mad at the current system in cycling. Sinkewitz doped. He made 700,000 Euros a season. He cheated other riders and now he tells the story and just has to pay a fine. He made money from lying, cheating and doesn't deserve to keep his house (which he bought with doped money). He says that he wants to come back to racing because he claims that he cannot do anything else. But there are also riders who can't do anything other than cycling and they do it clean, but they don't make 700,000 Euros a year. Why should Sinkewitz steal from these riders?
He is now allowed to return to the peloton in a year and all because he told his story. He said that he doped because everyone else did it too. I am a PRO and I don't dope. He did it on a doped team. He did on a clean team, why? Because he can't race without it. He shouldn't be allowed a second chance. Blood doping is really big problem and no one can take the blame other than the rider who stands on the start line having used drugs. Riders agree to not use drugs when they sign for a UCI licence and anyone caught shouldn't be entitled to a second chance. This will give a new rider, their first chance.
Name withheld by Authors request
Sean Jones made the point:
"Maybe it is time for cycling as we know it today to die. Let a clean form of the sport rise from the ashes, with new guidelines, riders, sponsors, fans, and future. What has come before is tainted, outdated, corrupt, and simply not believable. "
I see little fault in the riders, sponsors or fans. I think that the environment of bicycle racing has become a terrible joke and this environment is contributing to the problem in a mighty way. The French Châtenay-Malabry lab should never be used again. Clear standards should be written - and followed - on every facet of testing, from procedures to penalties. Preferably, the testing should be totally automated, so that human error has little possibility of occurring. All tests should be performed blind - which is to say that nobody should know who is being tested until the final results are computed and verified (only a numeric tag should follow the samples.) There should also be massive penalties for illegal divulgence of test information (e.g. send them to jail and fine them one million dollars). I think that the testing procedures and science should be elevated to the point where everyone can be certain about the results. When that has been accomplished, make it a lifetime ban for the very first incident of doping, and jail time for the activity if it is illegal. I suspect that given that scenario, doping would vanish (except for the total idiots who would wash out in a short time).
It would be nice to see a system that treats everyone fairly. And by everyone, I mean the riders and the fans and the sponsors and the television networks, etc. Everyone involved should get a fair shake. A system that is unfair to any component of the process is an unfair system. As far as the current and prior state of the affairs, I am sad to say that Mr. Jones has summarized it quite nicely. However, I am not sure that we should level all of the blame at teams, athletes and sponsors. As humans we all have a tendency to act like rascals when given enough rope to hang ourselves. I suspect that a reengineering of the testing system to a point where it is air-tight and where violations are unthinkable would solve all of the existing issues.
In many ways we will never get closure on what is happening right now. We will never know if "The Chicken" would have won the TDF or various other things like that which are whirling around. But I don't think we can just sweep the entire system under the rug and reinvent a better one overnight. Despite the fact that we may never regain our guile and innocent love for bicycle sport, I still think it is better to repair the current situation. The same things we would have to do to totally reinvent bicycle racing are the things we would have to do to fix this system. But as always, it's only my opinion and it is no better than anyone else's.
My organisation reserves the right to test for drugs, my organisation has a zero tolerance alcohol policy even coming to work with a hangover is a no-no. I'm not a professional sportsman, I'm a meteorologist. I work for this organisation and work to a set of terms and conditions and I accept these as part of my job. Should I be required to submit to DNA testing, regular blood and urine screening, I have no option but go ahead; I signed documents to agree to such as part of the rules of employment. I already have to submit to a full medical every three years.
I do not deem this to be an infringement of my human rights, I don't have to lie to avoid my medical tests, I don't complain every time my employers come up with something new to more effectively manage the staff, I won't go running to the European Court of Human Rights if I get caught.
The UCI creates a set of RULES that govern the sport, WADA through government agencies, the IOC and national sporting authorities create a set of RULES regarding the guidance on doping to eventually strive towards elimination of doping in sport. The cycling teams make adherence to these "Terms and Conditions" part of the contract of employment, if they don't they lose the licence to run the team.
If a professional sportsman breaks these RULES and "Terms & Conditions" he should face the same punishment I would if I broke our rules, instant dismissal from the sport, PERMANANTLY. Deterrent enough?? It works for me.
Rider's passport #2
Tom Kucinich seems to think that people would be outraged if their employers would ask for random samples of blood and urine for drug testing. Well, I hate to break it to him, but in my own personal experience, and also in the experience of a lot of my friends, we do get randomly drug tested in the workplace to check for illegal drugs, as well as tobacco use.
And guess what? If we don't submit to the test, we get fired. And if we test positive for illegal drugs, we get fired. If we test positive for tobacco use, and we signed a sheet saying that we don't use tobacco (my company charges an extra $50/month in insurance costs for tobacco users and if you said you are not a user of tobacco products, this test checks for that as well), you get fired.
I ask; are these so called "Stalinist" tactics? Or is it a business protecting their investment?
The same could go for bike racing really. In the last year, I was randomly tested at work a total of 7 times. Urine 6 times and an actual blood test once. It's not out of the ordinary for employers to do this at most workplaces these days.
Rider's passports #3
Tom Kunick's statements regarding riders' passports, doping and Armstrong are exemplary of how naive many American's view the sport. In the first place, that a rider's passport is somehow "unethical" because in other job sectors such would be considered an invasion of one's private rights, well, perhaps pro athletes, given how they have bucked the system for decades with doping should in their privileged positions be made to give up some personal liberty to allow the officiators of sport to do their job and clean up sport. And it might not be such a bad idea for big business and those who profit from it to be controlled as tightly as cyclists are, given the financial fraud which is rampant in the global market system. But if personal liberty is so sacrosanct and we can't affect such controls, then we must accept the fact that where big money exists so does big corruption, wether on Wall Street or on the Champs-Élysées.
In the second place, that a rider simply hasn't tested positive is equivalent to he hasn't doped is absolutely ridiculous. Ulrich, Basso, Pantani and how many others had never tested positive. And today I read in la Gazetta dello Sport that Rasmussen tested positive for a new synthetic EPO last Tour not on the banned substances list of the UCI or IOC, which means that he's not liable for sanctions. I wonder how many others have "not" doped because a new drug hadn't been put on the banned substances list at the time. Please, when are people in the States like Mr. Kunick going to wake up to the fact that practically nobody over the past three decades in pro cycling is innocent of doping.
As a former QAS and National team representative I am disappointed with what riders have lacked in their conviction to preserve their sport. Cycling, like many sports is fickle, and a national champion one year is promptly replaced with another the following, riders come and go, and what's news today, is wrapping chips tomorrow. To this extent I cannot understand why riders (as a whole) do not speak up about the malignant drug problems killing your sport! I was disappointed to read about Nathan O'Neill's drug issues (or food issues) in the news. Having ridden along side Nathan at state, national and international level, I see that some things never change. If professional cyclist want a future where they are respected then they need the respect of the public!! As it stands now, the only people who care are those who ride, and those with invested interests.
Cycling is a great sport; unfortunately the pressures of financial backing and the European drive for limelight is killing it. Sure some Australians have had fantastic success in Europe, Cadel and Rogers etc. But only the naive public with no understanding of cycling is going to believe Cadel when on Andrew Denton states, "I has never been offered drugs"! He is running a fine line when he says this. As a previous competitor it would not be the first time I have been lied to. During a pre-season camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in the company of the entire squad I bluntly asked the question to Neil Stephens if drugs were an issue in professional cycling? "Not to my knowledge", was the response. Well two years later we all know what went down at the TDF with Festina.
Now the guy mentors our young riders!! It seems that while riders want the limelight, they forget the world beyond their bubble. It is the riders with the power, not the sponsors. I am glad for those riders with the courage to come forward about their past and the drug issues within the sport, and I believe that only those with skeletons (Armstrong, Indurain) would frown upon those exposing the cancer within the sport. After all it is those guys that have the most to loose! If cycling wants to truly move forward it might have to take a hit first!
One thing is for sure, the sport is seriously loosing any credibility it might have. People love sport, but they despise liars!! To get rid of the cancer, you need to expose it first!
I am sure of too many responses to this question. Rules specify that the handlebar may not extend above the level horizontal line of the saddle. If they stated a reason it would probably say it is a safety issue, obstructing the riders view. In reality, it is designed to insure the handlebars are not used as a windshield effect. The UCI obviously feels the appearance of the 'praying mantis' position is unsightly and unbecoming of 'traditional' cycling.
Bike design originality #2
I was really unaware that the "sport" of cycling was about furthering technology. Thanks for enlightening us. I wonder how testing the abilities of the riders works when they are on bikes that have different aerodynamic capabilities. Wouldn't the bike not being the limiting factor be easier to accomplish if they were all "the same?"
Nicholas A. Chivily
Bike design originality #3
In decrying the UCI's regulations on bike design and rider position, Jake Davidson says:
"Isn't the point of the sport to have the rider be the limiting factor in the race not the bike?"
Exactly! I agree 100% and would further state: isn't it the point of the sport to have the rider be the limiting factor in the race and not the size of his/her wallet?
New and innovative technology and designs are expensive, very expensive. Theoretically, all the ProTour teams should have the resources to pony up for whatever designs the world's bike builders can dream-up. However, the UCI also regulates lesser forms of racing (Pro Continental, Continental, etc.) wherein a rider's or team's budget could become a deciding factor in the outcome of races. While, I acknowledge that there are ways other than equipment that a well-funded team has an advantage over poorer teams, I believe part of the spirit of the UCI's equipment regulations is to try and limit the ability of riders and teams to "buy" results.
I suppose we could expect the UCI to have different regulations for the various levels of pro cycling such that the elite ProTour get's "anything goes", but lower categories get more restrictions. However, considering the questionable way in which they handle responsibilities currently in their purview (doping anyone?), do we really want to make the UCI's job more complicated?
I agree it is unfortunate that the UCI equipment regulations make conditions difficult for innovative bike designer's to produce and sell their designs. However, I'd also hate to see greater disparity between the teams due their ability (or inability) to acquire the latest whizz-bang technology. We need to strike a balance between allowing and encouraging innovation vs. allowing the sport to become more about the ride than the rider.
Do sponsors like Adidas and Telekom really think that because a rider like Sinkewitz gets caught up in the affair of doping, that consumers (which is often the only thing sponsors are concerned about) will stop purchasing their products? Maybe I'm just "unscrupulous" but I think it's ridiculous that so many sponsors are getting out of cycling by blaming the current state of affairs in regards to individuals doping.
I could understand in the case where the whole team was conspiring (such as Festina in '98) ... but from my point of view the sponsors are seriously flawed in their logic. One example ... I would never had even considered buying a BMC frame until I saw them in the pro peloton... and now I won't probably ever again, because they aren't sponsoring any big teams (that I'm aware of) and therefore they have zero identity with me. Furthermore, when several Phonak riders were busted for doping (even before the Landis debacle ... damn inept French laboratory) did I think for even a second that their bike sponsor was somehow involved or corrupt because a couple of riders were caught cheating? No.
Please, someone feel free to set me straight, but I don't think for a moment that most fans make those types of associations. What I do think the fans should do, however, is to refuse to purchase from companies that prematurely pull their support of cycling. Will I ever buy a BMC frame now? No way. I happily continue dreaming of owning a Colnago or an Eddy Merckx despite the fact that some pro European rider was caught cheating while riding one. What I think some of these sponsors need to understand is the age old adage... "out of sight, out of mind."
I read with dismay comments made by Tour of Flanders chairman Louis de Laet when threatening a rival European racing series that "…the UCI is killing cycling in Europe so that other continents, where they have few riders, can benefit. This is something that we can't allow to happen" (Cyclingnews, 13/11/07).
It is somewhat alarming to me to repeatedly hear from the likes of Mr de Laet, who you would think have cycling's best interests at heart but are instead seemingly prepared to destroy concepts like the ProTour for the sake of their own self-interests. Cycling will only flourish if it becomes a truly global sport and this means promoting and encouraging it across the world and not just to the converted in Europe. If this means new events in Australia, USA, Malaysia, South Africa, etc are introduced to the racing calendar at the expense of a few European events then these are the (very small) sacrifices which need to be made.
We need an unbiased governing body such as the UCI to make these decisions and we need all the numerous country/race federations to "toe the party line" for the greater benefit of the sport. Do they think football would be such a dominate game worldwide if it wasn't for the organisation, control and powers of FIFA? How badly would the football world cup be affected if say Italy, England and Germany decided they didn't like the rules and set up their own event?
The sports greatest threat is not drugs, it's selfish narrow-minded people like Mr de Laet.
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