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Letters to Cyclingnews - February 15, 2008
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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Regarding the report of the young Silence - Lotto rider being late for his doping control, surely the team is advised as well as the rider and surely they have admin people who log all this and remind managers and riders in due time?
Surely the Flemish controllers would also know it was the Silence-Lotto team presentation or aren't they part of the cycling scene?
It just gets more Catch 22.
With the exclusion of Astana from ASO races and the Giro excluding four ProTour teams, the Tour of California may have just become a top showcase of ProTour talent. The real losers in this pissing contest of ASO, UCI, et al, are the riders like Leipheimer and George Hincapie, who have worked their way to the pinnacle of the sport, only to be shot from the saddle by doping and politics.
While ASO points to past problems at Astana, I think this is more about ASO reasserting itself as captain in the world of professional cycling. When it all shakes out, either UCI or ASO will have become irrelevant, and with the international view of the Tour as being "professional cycling", ASO has a very strong card. In the meantime, we all lose.
This will be yet another major blow to the search cycling sponsor dollars. Who is going to spend $10-15 million to build a team without some assurance that they will be able to compete in cycling's biggest events? Unfortunately, there aren't enough eccentric millionaires to shore up the sport and it will continue to need corporations that expect a return on that investment.
I am truly thankful that I get to watch the Tour of California starting this weekend here in the USA. That way my I can get my cycling fix over and done with, complete with all of my favourite riders, without having to worry about the usual BS Euro politics that are going to kill this beautiful sport.
Between last year's Unibet.com scandal, the ProTour vs. Grand Tours debacle, the double standard that is ASO and the never-ending story that is Operation Puerto it is just too much. The EU scene can go to hell for all I care. In fact, I think it already has.
Its hard to believe that operation Puerto is to be re-opened.
Although this is not a cycling decision, but appears to come from the Spanish judiciary, it is doubtful if it would have happened had another sport been in the front line; strange that although we know that top line football and basketball teams are involved, none have been pushed into the limelight as cycling has.
The only conclusion is that political reasons are behind the matter. Will footballers be named this time? Doubtful.
Cycling's authorities are very much to blame for not pushing for an even handed approach here, which would have taken much of the pressure off cycling, and the ensuing slump in sponsor support. McQuaid must take the blame for this, and for not saying "enough is enough". All along he has lacked statesmanship, and may go into history as the man who presided over the death of cycling as a world sport for many years.
Johan Bruyneel was right in 2007 when he stopped talks with Discovery Channel potential replacements as key sponsors for Lance Armstrong's former team. At the time, he said that he could not in good conscience say that investing in cycling was a wise investment for any corporation because there was no guarantee of being invited to the best races. This has come true as the ASO has proven that cycling is unstable and not a viable investment for any company.
The latest announcement is exactly what is wrong with our sport; independent bodies (in this case ASO) only put their personal best interests or immediate desires first, with no thought to the future of our sport. Once again, without unity and the continuance of these irrational and individual decisions, cycling will continue to lose sponsors and respect among the international scene.
I wonder what will happen next. Maybe the ASO will only choose French amateur teams that are too slow to possibly ever be suspected of doping?
Astana rejected by ASO #2
So Astana have been bumped from all ASO races this year, it'll be an odd Tour with the best stage race riders in the world missing however ASO have finally nailed Johan Bruyneel. They never managed to get him during the Lance Years or last year with Alberto Contador but they have him now.
I take it Cofidis will now see their exclusion from ASO races along with Rabobank. Who am I kidding? This is ASO yet again playing power games within the sport of cycling maybe someone needs to remind them there is NO SINGLE BODY bigger than the sport
Astana rejected by ASO #3
Let me get this straight... ASO bans Astana for the damage it caused to the Tour. OK I could live with that provided ASO also banned Rabobank and High Road, (ex-Telekom). How can the ASO, with any shred of honesty, sit there and tell the world we're banning one team for their misbehaviour but we're going to overlook the past transgressions of other teams.
How can they allow Rabobank to compete with everything that went on with Rasmussen. The same can be said of High Road's involvement, after all of the confessions and failed tests, etc. The issues with Telekom were so bad the team lost its sponsorship and German cycling is in shambles. But ASO claims the moral high ground here and bans one team.
Something smells rotten here. One could start all kinds of conspiracy stories, but no need to do that instead it's just much easier to ignore the ASO and every one of their 'races'. I will now have a lot more free time, especially in July, to ride my own bike and enjoy other cycling events.
Thanks ASO for reducing the Tour to just another bike race.
Astana rejected by ASO #4
I have heard that the ASO may not be inviting top riders such as Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden. I know I am stating the obvious but the sport of cycling has been systematically destroying its sponsors and now it is planning on doing the same to the spectators.
Every year I watch the major tours and purchase DVD's to continually enjoy the battle of the bikes, but if the top riders are not invited to the Grand Tours there seems to be no point in continuing this process.
If the ASO wants a clean sport fine do what every is necessary but please leave the past in the past.
Most of us have a passion to watch cycling; please do not take that away from us spectators.
John K. Miller
Astana rejected by ASO #5
Astana banned by ASO... It's ironic, isn't it? Now the teams will pay the price for their disunity and failure to fully support the UCI and the ProTour. ASO and the other promoters can now flex their muscles and dictate their own terms - precisely what the Pro Tour was intended to prevent.
The teams may not have agreed with the way the UCI went about things, but it's a dirty fight, with vast amounts of money at stake. The UCI needs a hard-nosed approach to wrest control away from the promoters and give back to the sport, where it rightfully belongs.
It would be great to see the riders exercise their right as a group and gather all ProTour teams as one, along with the best of the rest, and withdraw from all ASO events. No one will broadcast or watch meaningless sport, and ASO without the top riders is meaningless.
The riders are cycling; it is they who must be at all times given the best rights, not the organisers.
I call for a boycott of the Tour from riders/fans sick of the hypocrisy of ASO; from Richard Virenque/Festina to Pantani to its constant fighting with the UCI they have shown scant regard for logic and run events solely based on ASO profiteering, whether or not that benefits riders.
Lobby the ASO. It's not a case of solely supporting Astana itself; its supporting the riders and having the best riders contest the best events.
It is time for the teams and the CPA to unite and protest ASO.
Astana was not alone in their disgrace of last year's Tour. Therefore I assume Cofidis and Rabobank will not be receiving invites either. Or did they just not cheat as bad?
Slipstream should not be there because Millar is a cheat, or was. I guess he can't change. Leukemans was banned for two years, so that mean no Silence-Lotto. CSC is run by a cheat, they better not come. Cunego allegedly missed a testing time, count Lampre out. Bettini will not sign the UCI letter; I guess Quick-Step is a no show. Petacchi is in hot water, no Milram. Valverde is still not cleared in Puerto, there goes Caisse d'Epargne. Shall we go on or can we stop the madness.
It seems that the goal of ASO and Le' Equipe is to kill the sport. Who would want to sponsor a cycling team now? Pretty soon professional cycling will be a thing of the past and we will see small national teams roaming around looking for races.
I do not condone doping and think if you are caught, you are out. I believe the riders feel the same way. I love this sport and love to watch the best cyclists compete against each other. ASO is not allowing the best to race each other.
Who will watch if all the best are not there?
Morgan R. Mahanke
I check the news on your website at least twice a day. I have followed every tour de France that I can remember. The decision today not to invite the tops teams and exclude great riders has soured my love of the sport and I will not follow the race this year.
Every cycling friend I have talked to is disappointed with the sport and the decision made by the tour.
The French have screwed up again. We are all just shaking our heads and it will be a long time before the sport recovers from this major mistake.
The cyclists I have listed either admitted to or were implicated in doping last year and ride for a number of teams - have their teams and their riders been banned from the Tour de France by ASO like the Astana Team?
Alejandro Valverde, Andrej Kashechkin, Eric Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Cristian Moreni, Danilo Di Luca, Luca Ascani, Patrik Sinkewitz, Björn Leukemans, Stefan Schumacher
You may notice that I did not include the obvious name of Rasmussen. Has the Rabobank team that Rasmussen rode for been banned?
If not, ASO is doing the sport a disservice and has made a terrible decision to exclude the revamped Astana Team.
So what do Astana and the ASO have in common with the NFL? Allow me a minute and I'll make that clear, but a start to that thought is who runs pro-cycling? ASO thinks they run it. The UCI wishes they ran it. The ProTour teams don't run it because they won't stand together unconditionally. Here would be some ideas on how to fix things.
Let's abandon the old traditions of cycling. Where did all of these races get us? Doped to the gills, scandal after scandal, dejected sponsors and now it's just a war over control. Cycling needs a total and complete revolution. Wake up people, the last 20 years has basically been a synthetic joke and almost all of the riders now admit it, have been implicated, or are somewhere in between.
Pro Cycling should be run like the NFL. There should be 20 teams or whatever arbitrary amount and there should be X amount of venues (races) as well. All races would be 'ProTour' events and subject to the rules and requirements as laid out by the governing body of the 'ProTour' cycling administration. If ASO wants their events to be of professional caliber, then they will have to adhere to the 'ProTour's' race venue protocol's with all due respect. If not, then the hell with them. I'm sure there are some savvy investors that would be happy to put on a 2 or 3 week tour that could be made every bit as exciting as the future 'old Tour de France.' Perhaps some French Hotel Chain could sponsor the race so that the races start and end in cities where they have a hotels. You get the idea.
ProTour teams only compete in ProTour events and only ProTour events allow ProTour teams. No second rate teams. No favours for domestic teams whose buddies happen to be putting on the event. This should never be an issue.
Each ProTour team would be an independently owned and operated franchise just like the NY Giants, New England Patriots, and San Francisco 49'ers. Owners of the franchise will profit from merchandising sales of the team brand and image. Perhaps each ProTour team should be responsible for one event on the ProTour calendar which could be a great revenue source depending on how well the event is put on and marketed. Stage races could be divided up such that each ProTour team is responsible for one stage. The stage assignment could be determined by lottery.
Pro Cycling needs structure, accountability, and dependability. There is none at this moment. A Pro Tour license is a joke. Unibet.com and now Astana and I need not say more. Something meaningful will only happen if all the pro riders agree to charter it. If riders can't see the motivation to do this than perhaps they should look at Astana right now. This could be their plight if just one or two people who were on their team last year decided they could get away with doping.
Leave it to the bunch at ASO to complete the transformation of the world's greatest cycling race into a Tour de Farce! In trying to catch the cheats they have become cheaters themselves. They cheat the fans by diluting the competition. If the world's greatest stage racers aren't allowed to participate, then it can't be the world's greatest stage race!
There's much we do not know about the full rationale for why Astana was banned from the Grand Tours and other big races. While the old Astana team clearly had a culture of doping and the cheaters were caught, it is not clear that the new Astana team is any better. What is NOT being said is almost as important as what was being said. Has anyone else wondered whether the current banning of the new Astana team may have been due to Johan Bruyneel's presence and his prior involvement with USPS/Discovery teams which featured Lance?
Although it has never been proven that Lance doped, there is a heck of a lot of circumstantial evidence, and we also have to consider the number of ex-Postal/Disco riders who were subsequently found to test positive. I'm guessing ASO considers the current Astana team no better than the old Astana team because it still has a team manager from the 'old school.'
Professional cycling has repeatedly shot itself in the foot over the last few seasons.
Now, they have shot both feet and are working the on their hands and arms.
The major tours, particularly the TDF, have won the battle to see who has the final say in pro cycling.
With the exclusion of Astana from the TDF, they have demonstrated their almost complete disregard for the fans, teams, riders and national associations. They have demonstrated they are the King!
Unfortunately, they have also continued to alienate cycling fans, especially those outside of France. While I can't say that the decision re: Astana based on their dismal doping record is not justified, in the spirit of 'healing' they might have included the 'new' Astana as a measure of their commitment to start a new era of professional cycling.
Professional cycling has a tenuous grip on the US public. With fewer US riders it will probably slip completely. Maybe no more TV coverage, less sponsorships etc. could be results. It seems the TDF and the Giro would like to see their events as national championships that just happen to have some foreign riders. I'm sure that if they continue they will accomplish their goal.
As a cyclist and fan, I've travelled to France to watch the Tour four of the last six years. I will not be back.
For the second year in row the ASO has decided to pick one team to bully and abuse. Last year it was Unibet.com, this year Astana. Bullies thrive on singling out a person or group, that is incapable of retaliating on its own, and terrorizing them. It's quite obvious the ASO cares nothing about the riders or the fans. They feel that no matter what they do, the riders and fans will show up for their races, and unfortunately they're right.
I've always been amazed at the hard work and mental toughness, that's required to be a professional cyclist. From the superstars of the sport to the almost invisible domestic, I don't think there's any other sport that requires the same kind of year round dedication and suffering. Just to be able to stay in the peloton is an incredible feat. So maybe it's the fact that they've sacrificed so much just to get there, that the riders seem incapable of standing up to the bullies that are running (and ruining) the sport of cycling.
Until the riders and fans unite in solidarity and refuse to attend or watch events run by people that have only their own selfish interests at heart, will this beautiful sport be healthy again.
As hard as it will be, I'll not be watching or attending any ASO races this year. Come July I'll be out riding, and watching the Longsjo Classic. I'm aware this gesture will have no effect on anything, but it's the only way I know of to show my complete disgust for the people that seem determined to drive a stake through the heart of our sport.
Thank you for allowing me to rant.
Well, I suppose we could all see it coming when Astana was left off the Giro start list. Now, it seems clear that Astana is the Unibet of 2008, caught up in the politics of cycling.
It seems a little contrived to say that Astana's exclusion was due to the team betraying the organizer's confidence last year. What about Rabobank? It's clear that Rabobank should never have been allowed Rasmussen to start the Tour last year, leading to one of the darker moments in the history of the race. Cofidis also had to expel a rider from last year's Tour for doping. Why are both of these teams seemingly welcomed with open arms by ASO?
Now that Astana seems to be out of the Tour, will the Giro reconsider them if they bring their "A" team to the Giro instead?
It's now becoming clear why the Discovery Channel management was unable to secure a new sponsor. Let's just hope for the sake of cycling that this latest development doesn't drive away more potential sponsors. It also sends a bad message that the efforts of teams trying to clean up their act with strong internal doping controls may go unrewarded.
With a somewhat uninspired course (no prologue??) and without some of the bigger names in cycling, all of this makes me wonder if I should just sleep in when July rolls around.
I am utterly shocked by Christian Prudhomme. Banning Astana from the Tour is incomprehensible on many levels. The decision reeks of inconsistency. Nobody disgraced the Tour more last year than Rabobank. The same goes for T-Mobile (now HighRoad). It doesn't appear they will suffer the same fate.
From a sporting standpoint, Prudhomme has diminished the competitiveness of his race before it starts. By not allowing some of the best riders in the world to participate - for no legitimate reason - he has tainted the accomplishment of whoever steps on the podium on the Champs Elysees in July.
From a business standpoint, this will serve only to drive more sponsors away from the sport. Sponsors back teams for one reason - publicity. If there is no clear set of rules to ensure getting the sponsor's name into the most important races, then why would a company enter the sport? No business executive can rationally accept putting money forward with no clear understanding of the return on that investment.
And maybe even worse, in terms of reforming the sport the message this sends is that cleaning up your team will do you no good. You will be judged on the actions of the past and of the dead. Prudhomme should be embracing the fact that instead of pulling their sponsorship from the sport like T-Mobil, Astana chose to make sweeping organizational changes and a massive investment in anti-doping measures. Rather, his message is that it is a waste of time.
I have no idea what is happening inside the mind of ASO, but certainly the best interests of cycling are not at the forefront of the thinking.
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