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Letters to Cyclingnews - November 13, 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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If the many letter writers who have been so vocal about doping were actual (or potential) participants in the business of professional cycling then I think they would have every right to be so angry about cheaters in their midst. As such, the current doping climate could significantly damage their ability to follow their passion as well as curtail their real or potential income.
As it is however, the overwhelming majority of cycling fans have no real personal or financial stake in the business of professional sport. They (we) are simply non-participating, passive spectators of an entertainment event. As such, I am constantly amazed at how "personally" people seem to take each new doping revelation, as if they have been individually betrayed or wronged in some way. Some writers have even gone so as far as to declare they are "through with cycling" and "will not watch the Tour again" or other such dribble.
For all intents and purposes the professional cyclists are (as far as the passive spectator is concerned at least) in essence two dimensional moving images on an electronic screen. We don't know them. We don't have investments that depend on them. We don't ride with them, and for most people, have never even seen them in person. I just don't get how people get so worked up about it all.
Do I condone doping or other forms of cheating in sport? Of course not. It is an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise wonderful event, but the seemingly constant stream of positive doping tests will no more take away from my watching professional cycling, then it would to find out that Pamela Anderson's assets were the result of surgical augmentation or all those folks on "Lost" aren't really marooned on an island somewhere.
Let's move on, suspend your disbelief, let the UCI, WADA, ASO et al worry about the dopers and remember the Tour is only eight months away!
Eric M. Filippino
Let me be at least one voice in support of Daniel Benson's decision to feature an Ivan Basso diary for 2009. As he notes in his 10 November piece, it will inevitably bring down a storm of electronic wrath from one segment of the Cyclingnews.com readership, but CN is, as he states, fundamentally a news organisation, not a lobbying group, and as such should present all sides of a story if it is to be true to its mission and its readers.
I for one am interested to see how IB does in 2009, having served his appointed ban and now legally able to return to racing. Will he end up like David Millar, a decent mid-pack rider but unable to deliver world-class goods without the juice? Or will he show that he had the talent to win big all along, and was going to the doping doctors out of unfounded fear that he could not win unless he did what "everyone else" was doing?
Good on Cyclingnews.com for sticking with the journalistic mandate to report the news to its readership!
Basso's diary #2
My first reaction to your decision to print Ivan Basso's diary on cyclingnews.com was one of dismay that another drug cheat has been forgiven and legitimised by the cycling world.
Despite the harm and ridicule these riders have caused this great sport over the last few years, it seems that the old thinking regarding their transgressions still persists. It seems that as soon as a rider of stature tests positive, they firstly maintain their innocence despite overwhelming evidence. They try to discredit those trying to rid our sport of these cheats. Next, instead of being pariahs, they have team managers clamouring to sign them up once their suspension is over. Next, media such as you gives them a forum to protest their harsh treatment. As far as I know Basso has never owned up and admitted his complicity.
What kind of message does this send to young riders? It is OK to cheat because you will still be thought of as OK in this sport. It is part of the game and if you can get away with it you should try. Recent events from this year's Tour de France show how lessons are not being learned.
So now we will be treated to Basso's smug supercilious face as he rides and maybe wins as well as his 'diary' where he will crow how he has got away with it. I truly love this sport and have followed it as reader and racer for 30 plus years. I also believed that your website was the best by far to keep me informed from anywhere in the world. Obviously ethics are less of a priority than 'news'. So I either stop using your site and advise others likewise or skip over Basso's fatuous writings and pray that he punctures in every race he starts! Probably I will do the latter as I do believe in free speech and shouldn't punish myself over this matter. I will always remain saddened that there is no longer a place in cycling for morals and ethical behaviour. C'est la vie!
Basso's diary #3
I think it's something great for Cyclingnews' readers to get a diary from Ivan Basso. Each person will make his mind about Basso, may be change opinion about him, I don't find that you take position by giving him the chance to find redemption.
Honestly, after reading lots of stuff on his new philosophy and trainings, it will be a great boost for cycling, because I hope medias won't introduce him as a cheater but as a former doper, now clean rider, who just uses his enormous talent at 100 percent.
I hope every reader will give Basso a chance, and benefit from his insight to believe in cycling.
Basso's diary #4
Amongst my cycling friends and colleagues there is nobody who believes Ivan Basso's account of his involvement in Operation Puerto. That doesn't mean we can prove anything; perhaps we are all just cynical. And it is true that he has never failed a dope test. He has served his suspension and is free to race again.
That he should be given a year's worth of publicity and the chance for more self-justification on your website however, is another thing. It is just staggering and depressing that you should wish to be connected in any way with a rider who has clearly lost the trust of so many fans and who is, to us, just as much a symbol of a discredited era as Ulrich, Landis et al.
Basso can never be a figure of hope in cycling and for him to be given space on your pages is a set back in the struggle to improve the image of our sport.
Basso's diary #5
You make a reasonable attempt to justify publishing the Basso diary on the basis of letting the reader make up his own mind. However, I think it is more pertinent that cycling journalists, ten years after Festina, finally make up their mind where they stand viz a viz doping, and act accordingly. By act, I mean refusing to give airtime to cheats, and indeed taking lead responsibility to demand a clean, transparent sport, keeping the authorities focussed on delivering this.
If Pierre Bordry's recently expressed view that "80 percent of the peloton is clean" is a reasonable estimation of the health of the professional peloton, then now is the time to be re-doubling efforts for a clean sport, not for demonstrating weakness. I'm assuming here of course that this is what you want for our beautiful sport - it may not be of course!
Journalists have for too long - with some honourable exceptions - developed a cosy relationship with teams and DSs, not reporting the doping which they know to be going on in the sport, and in effect misleading their readers; trading access to teams and riders for a sympathetic journalistic silence.
No doubt Basso wants to make the most of his mea culpa moment, and unfortunately you are obliging him far too easily by providing a platform for this. It is very disappointing indeed.
Basso's diary #6
For many years I have followed the news of my favourite international cycling races by visiting cyclingnews.com. I will no longer enjoy your website. Your first decision was a poor one and I would think you readers would agree with me. No one will have no interest in Basso's career. Basso would never had confessed (if that is what you want to call it) his involvement in attempting (I think we can agree he most likely did dope) to dope. Rewarding these weak moral characters is inexcusable and detrimental to the sport. Shame on you.
Basso's diary #7
No doubt, this is one many letters in outcry of the Basso column. I wouldn't mind so much if he had come clean publicly, talked extensively about the problems in the sport and exposed at least a few accomplices, but to deny, lie and still never have come clean means that he can't just draw a line in the sand and talk to us like some born-again Christian. It's hard enough for us that he is back in the peloton at all.
We are getting to the point where the Italian and Spanish dailies are at last coming around to the idea that maybe doping shouldn't be accepted, and suddenly you decide that we should hear from an Italian who continues the omerta of old by not owning up to his past; that he never doped and only had the intention to dope prior to the 2006 Tour is ridiculous.
Basso is no David Millar; while neither should have been allowed back in the peloton ideally, at least Millar owned up somewhat and took a great deal of flak for a number of years before he, for some reason, became a sought-after opinion on doping. Ironically Millar made his comeback via the now-disgraced Saunier Duval.
I can't believe Cyclingnews would represent this guy... it's hard enough to stomach your new obsession with Armstrong! Educated people are supposed to be leaders not followers of the mainstream. Are you telling us that you couldn't find a more entertaining and plausible rider than Basso? You have sold your soul, Basso is tabloid journalism at best... this is very frustrating and very disappointing. I hope you put a disclaimer on each of his columns to say that you are not liable for the views of Basso as he is a known liar and a convicted fraud.
This is tabloid journalism at best, he's not even funny for God's sake.
Basso's diary #8
I just wanted to show my support for the Basso Diary on Cyclingnews.com.
I'm a big fan but I'm also in America. Since leaving CSC and Discovery it is hard to find his news in English. I've enjoyed his website during the suspension but the translations through Babel Fish aren't the same as a well-translated script. So thank you, thank you, thank you!
Basso's diary #9
I understand that everyone deserves a fair chance in life, and that some people make mistakes. I also understand how we can all become better persons for learning to forgive those who have erred.
Nevertheless, I disagree 100 percent with your choice to have Ivan Basso write a diary for your site. IF Ivan Basso was an honest person, who did the right thing by coming clean about his involvement regarding his dealings with Dr. Fuentes, then it would be much easier to give him the forgiveness that we should give to others who have chosen to tell the truth. But Ivan Basso selfishly chose to lie (I'm 100 percent convinced of this), and I am deeply disappointed that you have chosen to be affiliated with a person so devoid of moral character.
I had so much respect for you and your site. But now I feel just a little bit sick to my stomach. There are SO many other pros that deserve the recognition, but yet you have chosen to dig deep into the bottom of the barrel for your poor choice.
This is good news to see an article with Walsh's perspective. I have never read his work before. How meaningful that you offer this important insight and arm the readers with his hope and skepticism. I would welcome seeing more work from him in your news.
Geez, Lance! Give yourself a fighting chance. Cycling is changing. Comments like "He better hope he doesn't get in a breakaway with me because I can still ride hard" will not help endear you to the new crowd of riders and supporters. Remember the Simeoni incident and the repercussions and innuendo it caused?
LA may be a legend but he'll never be a politician.
Gerdeman suffers from the negative athmosphere spread by Schumacher, Kohl and others this year. His big victory in Germany was almost spoiled because of that never-ending story of doping in cycling, and everyone is still depressed as Jan Ullrich has still failed to clarify his situation.
It is a shame that Armstrong disregards the current situation in cycling where young professionals lose their dreams bit by bit and fail to get contracts or whatever they should be honoured for... all caused by former friends and collegues who don't stop betraying the sport. In this situation, Armstrong should respect the fears and concerns of younger racers who have lost any trust in their collegues.
Cycling is not like it was before. If you want to gain for Livestrong or for yourself, you have to come back respecting others. Statements like, "Who is Linus Gerdemann?" are not in the style of wise champions bringing back the positive image for cycling. On the other hand Linus has tried to stop that silly topic he introduced without any need. That was a big mistake and a waste of time; hopefully he will never repeat it again.
Anyways, I´d like to see Armstrong cycling clean in the breakaway group on the Koppenberg and for him and Linus to shake hands before it. But the proof is still in the pudding - or a laboratory near Paris - and everyone who supports cycling waits for good news after Armstrong's first races next season. And I hope for all the Belgian cycling fans that Boonen makes it through the winter without drugs and cars to see him in front after the Mur of Gerardsbergen.
I have to respond to Stephen Davison's letter as he seems quite desperate to miss the point. At the very least, Stephen misconstrues, or assigns more altruistic reasons for, sponsors' involvement in cycling. Of course, ARD/ZDF and team sponsors have no real wish to change cycling; that is not why they got involved in cycling in the first place.
Their involvement in the sport is of a purely commercial nature and for their own benefit. It is not even their responsibility to change cycling. Their only responsibility is to their bottom line and their shareholders. It is ludicrous to criticise them for taking action to protect that, particularly when they are dropping out because of the public's disapproval of doping in cycling.
Also, while deriding ARD/ZDF for taking the money while the going was good, Stephen ignores the fact that cycling has grown exponentially since the advent of commercial sponsorship and television coverage. As just one example of the benefits, riders no longer have to race 260 days a year every year, take 'pot belge' to keep going between races, just so they can eek out a living. They can make a good living precisely because sponsors' money eases the pressures on them to race constantly. The entire edifice of professional cycling is built on sponsor's money. And this leads to my central contention.
Responsibility for fighting doping lies with the sport itself, with the UCI, race organisers, and the riders. Every year since 1998 we have heard that they have turned the corner and that doping is being beaten, only to be met with another raft of positives. Even this year prior to Le Tour, we had the trope about a generational shift in the peloton and a therefore a clean future for the sport, and again we have had that myth blown out of the water by Ricco and Kohl.
The wellbeing of professional cycling is acutely sensitive to the existence of commercial partners willing to fund their programmes. My argument is that the sport will be forced to deal more forcefully with doping as commercial sponsors walk away, and this is actually a good thing because finally the threat doping poses to the sport is brought into sharp and immediate relief. To criticise ARD/ZDF for hypocrisy is to miss the point entirely and is actually self-indulgent given what the withdrawal of media companies and other commercial sponsors would actually mean for the sport.
The main difference between a lifetime ban and a death sentence is the state of the punished post punishment. With a death sentence, the punished ends up dead, as in not able to ride, work, breathe, or do anything but rot in the ground. A lifetime ban from cycling leaves the punished able to ride (albeit not professionally), work, breathe, or do anything else they want, including rot in the ground if they choose to do so. A lifetime ban does not take away a right (as in the right to life), but rather a privilege (to ride within the system overseen by the UCI).
A lifetime ban is a lot more similar to a teacher that molests kids not being allowed to work around kids anymore (after a little jail time, of course). Second chances are nice and all, but there are plenty of areas where a second chance is not given, and I don't see why racing bikes professionally should be one of them. If I were to get caught stealing from work, would you expect my boss to give me a second chance? I wouldn't.
Lifetime bans #2
I agree with Sojar Voglar. Lifetime bans will not be a deterrent for doping in sport. The death sentence was meant to act as a deterrent for murder, but it has done no such thing. If you allow dopers back in after they have served their time, then I think these riders can be great ambassadors for a doping-free peloton.
Look at David Millar - he is like a rabid ex-smoker fervent in extolling the dangers and unfairness of doping. He has doped and done his time, and is the most vocal and effective individual against doping (and put his money and time where his mouth is with the development of the very antidoping and refreshing Garmin-Chipotle squad). Like everyone in life who has made a mistake, give the convicted dopers a second chance and it just may work out positively for professional cycling. There is no way a lifetime ban will be positive for the sport.
Lifetime bans #3
I am incredulous that 'lifetime' bans for sport professionals caught cheating are being compared with life-term prison or even death sentences for convicted criminals. Get real everyone; a life ban for sport professionals prevents them from competing in a race. Restraint of trade? They are not restrained from trading in anything other than a sporting career which is finite anyway, and generally over by the early thirties. Perhaps they should think of that before they cheat. I am certainly of the opinion that sport professionals caught cheating in any way be permanently banned from 'competing'; the ruination they bring to sport is immense and irreparable.
It's beyond comprehension what the media can do to undermine and destroy the reputation of one of our greats.
As an expatriate living in Switzerland , recently my bemusement eventually turned into utter distain for the media as they developed their case in supporting the doping allegations involving Fabian Cancellara.
Whatever happened to objective reporting and letting the facts come to the service as the evidence becomes available. In the absence of 'evidence', it is the not the role for journalists and the media to fill this gap.
Luckily for Fabian he was vindicated, as all of the re-testing supported his claim from the outset that he is 100 percent not involved in doping. But have any of us taken a step back and thought about the consequences of this type of journalism. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to work so hard in a season and achieve what Fabian did, only to finish the year in a cloud of suspicion. If l were a professional cyclist and this was my reward, I'm not sure if ld be so motivated to go to work each day. What are we trying to do these guys.
When he was vindicated, I saw very little to counter the appalling and misinformed reporting that had run a muck throughout the months of September and October.
At a time when cycling is crying out for a true leader, on and off the bike, to take us beyond the present haze of hope and disillusion, my money doesn't go any further than this guy. What I admire about Fabian is that he seems to have the right balance of self-awareness, enduring commitment and colossal talent. Combine these qualities with his easy-going and relaxed nature, and it's hard to imagine a better role model and representative for the sport in such troubled times.
Get behind the guy or leave him alone. Don't create something out of nothing and tarnish his reputation along the way.
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