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Doping in the peloton continues to dominate our emailbag. Brian Lamb and Nathan Race defend Lance Armstrong; Leonard Ke points out that the principal of 'Innocent till proven guilty' should apply here and George McKenzie thinks it's silly to say that if everyone is on dope the best rider still wins, because different riders respond differently to dope. To play devil's advocate for a second, you could just as easily say that riders respond differently to different training regimes, and riders should have the choice of doping systems, just as they have the choice of training regimes. This is the problem with viewing doping as 'cheating' in a perfectly fair world, we'd stop riders from training and make them hold down full time jobs so we could see who was the best on sheer natural talent alone. Yes, that's absurd, but the point is that doping must be stamped out because it's a serious health hazard to sportspeople. It's not a health hazrd that's optional either if a few top riders are using, then everyone must in order to compete.
Richard Virenque continues to inspire controversy in the wake of the Festina trial. There's very little sympathy out there after his two year denialfest, as typified by these letters from Andrew Salmon and Mike Price.
MJB Fletcher has some answers to an earlier letter about bone wasting diseases and low body fat, while on a lighter note David from Sweden (let us have your full name please, David) wants to hear which performances in 2000 you all found most impressive and inspiring.
Why do I not incriminate Lance Armstrong? Because there isn't any proof, or even a shred of evidence, that he is doping. In this situation, I believe it is easier to be a pessimist than an optimist. Some people clearly doubt him because of his extraordinary performance. Yet throughout time there have been champions that have risen above all odds. Why is that so hard to accept for what it is? Lance is one of a few true examples of the capabilities of the human spirit in the face of adversity. So why do I believe? Because I CHOOSE to, and in doing so, it makes me a better person by challenging my perception of limits. It does me no good to speculate that he must be doing something to achieve those results, and it does nobody else good either. I will continue to believe, not because I have blinders on, but with all things considered, it makes my life better. Is there the possibility that he is doping? Yes, everything is possible. But unless it is found to be otherwise, I think the world is truly a better place for believing in him.
Brian Whitney Lamb
In response to David's questioning of Lance's physical capacity after cancer, Throughout his life, Lance has shown seemingly superhuman test results in areas like VO2 max and lactate threshold. These attributes are primarily determined genetically, that is, cancer and chemo and all the trauma associated with it will not alter the way Lance's body uses oxygen. Also, the ordeal can only have made him tougher mentally, given him more aggression from which to draw strength. No amount of suffering he endured in the Tour in any way can compare with what he went through with cancer. Most cyclists know that the mark of a potentially good rider is one who can make his/her body hurt the most. As Lance says, there are plenty of other riders out there with more natural talent, he can just use it better.
I don't even believe in miracles, but I do have some faith in scientific testing and the abilities of the human body.
I only hope that Lance is clean, but given his past record, the weight lost due to cancer treatments, and his unbelievable ability to hurt himself, I think he is.
I'm afraid that Steve Miller misses the point with his letter regarding doping. He reminds us that if there were no doping in the peloton, then there would still be one rider who is the best. The reality is that there is doping in the peloton and it affects the results in a major way. A rider who is systematically doped has a large advantage over one who isn't. The physiological advantages of growth hormone, EPO, nandralone, and so on... are considerable if used properly, and the reality that these products have been given in a systematic fashion to entire teams simply cannot be set aside so lightly.
I have also heard arguments from various people that if everyone is doped then what does it matter, the best rider is still winning. Rubbish! First of all, everyone will respond somewhat differently to a drug, so the best rider without dope may not be the best rider on dope because his body has less of a response to a drug than someone else.
The second factor here is who is planning the doping regime. A rider who is doping himself will likely be less successful than one who has a structured set up behind him planning his dosage, much like a coach setting up a training schedule.
Finally, Steve Miller asks if it is the general opinion that doping began in grade school. Well, there's plenty of evidence of doping at amateur level, especially within the considerably well-organized and well-structured teams in western Europe a considerable number of amateurs have been caught in France in the past couple of years. I too would like to think that a lot of these guys are clean, but in the end the information uncovered over the past 20 years as well as the fact that major races continue to get faster and faster each year (an entire subject unto itself) simply make that hard to do.
After reading letters like the one Brian Hawley wrote on November 12, I'm grateful to live in the US where the principle "Innocent until proven guilty" means something. In other places, just being suspicious is enough to ruin a person, or a sport. Now, I'm not naive enough to believe doping does not occur in the peloton. But if an accusation is to be made, it must also carry some proof to substantiate the charge. Without that standard, any suspicious buffoon can accuse anyone of anything. Now some people are saying "That rider won the race so he must be doping". That is not proof. That is a frustrating attempt to explain why the other rider won, but it is not proof. Is anyone willing to come up with proof to back up their charges? If not, then the accused is "innocent until proven guilty".
I feel very strongly that Cycle Sport and others are 100% right in their decision to hold up Virenque for what he is. I applaud those who, over the last couple of years, did not let denials cover up the fact that Virenque cheated with the rest of his team mates. Without them we would never have found out the truth.
As for the other cheats in the peloton, cycling needs to hand out real penalties to offenders. 2 years should be a minimum. Cyclists who make "mistakes" and "inadvertently" take the wrong flu medicine should face the same penalties. As a professional there can be no excuse.
Virenque cannot be allowed to return to cycling. I too wish Virenque a satisfying life as an electrician, the career he originally chose.
Richard Virenque fouled his own reputation by evading the truth in the Festina affair.
If he had come clean when his teammates did, Virenque would have retained some of the respect he had gained with his performances. He was badly advised, if he was advised at all, to resist the truth, because it has prolonged the agony for himself and his family. Virenque has to suffer whatever comes, and, drug-taking apart, only he is to blame for his current position.
Don't base the feelings
of the English for the French on the warped writing in a
I'm interested in Andrew Torrance's references to body fat. I haven't seen any statement that Boardman's bone-wasting condition is due to his low fat percentage. He has made other statements about the negative effect on his fitness through rapid loss in weight where he exceeded his planned weight loss and that affected his performance over a whole season. To me Boardman doesn't look very underweight compare him to the African runners who do look excessively underweight (I see them each week as they are based near to where I live). Yet these probably produce performance in the same region as Boardman. Females need a much higher percentage of body-fat than males because of their different body and biological requirements. To summarise some data regarding body fat:
1. There isn't sufficient known about the subject which is also known as body composition. The pioneer was Behnke whose findings are still accepted: body fat is either for essential body functions (such as brain) or energy storage purposes for the ideal man (20 to 24yrs, 68.5 inches) essential fat is 3% of body weight, storage fat is 12%, for the ideal woman essential fat is 12% storage fat is 15%.
2. Body fat % listed for athletes cyclists have a comparatively high percentage (source Sports Exercise & Nutrition, McArdle, Katch,Katch 1999) in separate surveys:
Men: Marathon runners 3.3%; Body Builders 8.4%; Soccer players 9.6%; Pro road cyclists 11.6%
Male Long Distance Runners Average: 5% Female LDR Average: 15.2%
These figures match with qualitative statements made about cyclists in sports food they generally eat more than long distance runners.
Finally there is a well-accepted relationship between health and weight: Body Mass Index which is weight in kilograms divided by (height in metres squared). This is a J shape. Optimal health is in the 20 to 25 BMI region but health risk rises rapidly below 20 into the moderate risk category. Above 25 the health risk rises more slowly.
By the way I'm not medically qualified but am just interested in the subject.
I thought that it might be fun to hear from all the other cycling fans out there regarding their favourite win of the 2000 season, and specifically the one day races, that is the World Cup. My number one for the 2000 season has to be the Paris-Roubaix, which as you all know was won by Johan Museeuw.
With such a strong headwind, Johan had to dig into the depths of his soul to find the will just to keep going, let alone win. It was fantastic, especially when you consider that he nearly lost his leg the year before. The man is a tank! Gobsmackingly Brilliant! And what about Frank Vandenbrouke's Liege-Baston-Liege win in 1999 so, so classy! Personally I find the Classics much more exhilarating than the Big Tours, But that's me, What do you think?
In answer to Daniel Lloyd's, email if you visit Lance Armstrong's web site you will find his training diary. In any case this is a very good web site. You also get the opportunity to ask Lance questions and so on.
I'd like to second Mark Combs' congratulations on your decision to give track racing some decent coverage. Here in the UK, which has recently seen unprecedented success on the boards, trackies are largely ignored by the press. The glossy mags appear not to have come across bicycles without brakes and apparently Yvonne, Jason, Chris and Craig aren't deemed 'professional' enough to warrant inclusion. (I wonder how Rob Hayles,who now rides for Cofidis, feels about that).
I for one would love to see interviews with current and former track stars, and an idea of what the life of a trackie entails, especially sprinters with the characters of Niewand, Hill and Hubner. Incidentally, rumour has it that Lutz Hesslich (former Olympic and World Champion) might ride the World Masters Track Champs in Manchester next year. I'm riding, and he's in my age group. He'd better watch out, that's all.
The last month's letters