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Letters to cyclingnews

Here's your chance to get more involved with cyclingnews.com. 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. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.

Please email your correspondence to letters@cyclingnews.com.

Recent letters

Drugs still dominate the mailbox, an opening for the letters page which seems to be becoming inevitable so maybe next time I'll stop mentioning it.

Michel van Musschenbroek wonders why Alex Steida bothered, and wants to hear facts not speculation. And so say all of us.

Spencer Dech responds to Francois Siohan with some explanation of the notion that American riders were the first to use many significant recent innovations, and Mark Williams makes a similar point.

Anders Jensen wishes Armstrong and others who've found themselves in the spotlight of suspicion would learn from Rodolfo Massi.

Mark Williams accuses me of "a pretty pathetic attempt at concealing a moralistic condemnation of drugging" which is the sort of editor-abuse that would see a letter filed in dev/null if it didn't go on to make some damn good points about our heroes being able to take care of themselves.

Boyd Speerschneider agrees that drug users should be banned for life, but points out that while the notion's nice in theory it has practical difficulties. I suspect it's a sanction the authoritories would be very reluctant to impose even if it were available, and we'd see much more protracted and expensive legal battles if an athlete's entire lifetime livelihood were at risk.

Every week or two someone leaps to Richard Virenque's defence. This time it's Martin Jarrett, who wonders why Virenque is the one to be picked on. Something to do with lying for two years and denigrating everyone else involved, we think…

Harris Collingwood points out that cycling definitely is not the only sport that seems hell-bent on self-destruction, and gives the constant shenanigans in baseball as an example. Obviously we don't need an argument about whether the Americans or the Europeans perfected sporting self-destructiveness.

Francois Siohan returns with some more comments on the French media and points out that coverage of the US Postal investigation has actually been fairly low-key.

Australian TV coverage of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under continues to concern Aussie readers like Louise Hilton and Graham Schofield. The JCTDU organisers have explained the reasons for the change in broadcaster, in Monday's news.

Following discussion of the coverage of cycling, Mark Rishniw has a point of clarification about golf.

Finally a couple of Wanted Ads. Jeff Johnson would like details on a maker of wooden bikes in Bali, and Garry Armsworth is looking for a video of the Olympic road race.

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Alex Steida
Made in the USA?
US Postal and Rodolfo Massi
Drugs and Sport
Drugs — the problem with life bans
Virenque
This sport will self-destruct...
The French Media
Coverage of Tour Down Under
Cycling coverage in the USA
Wooden Bike?
Wanted: Olympic video

Alex Steida

I find it ironic that Mr Steida would proclaim that it is absurd to think that the US riders are drug free, and then in the same sentence mention that he has no direct dealings with the US Postal team. His statement is implying the team does use drugs. It is interesting to note that he maintains his "cleanliness", despite the offers, and the common acceptance for the practice. Is it not possible that the US Postal team have the same ability to say no? Please no more hearsay about teams. We need facts not speculations. It is comments like this that taint the sport, and could cause a large drop in the number of children interested in the sport. Why would a caring parent subject, or introduce a child to a sport where doping is the accepted practice? We need to stop with the accusations and deliver facts only. Otherwise our sport will forever remain jaded.

Michel van Musschenbroek
Georgia
Thursday, 4 January

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Made in the USA?

Francois Siohan is exaggerating my point. Excuse my sarcasm, but who won the 89 tour because he used TT aero bars while Fignon, his ponytail and most everyone else didn't? That occasion wasn't the first time Lemond used the TT bars either - if I remember correctly, he tried them out in the 89 Giro and everybody probably thought he was a freak. As stated in his book, few pros routinely used clipless pedals or sunglasses before Lemond. Those are his words, not mine. If you still have a problem, talk to Greg!

My first letter may have sounded somewhat xenophobic and I don't personally know any Division I professionals. My statement, however, about US teams having better organization, and training programs is based on reading the diaries and other publications of Bob Roll, Frankie Andreu, Tyler Hamilton, Chann McRae, Lance Armstrong, and others. and drawing the conclusion that some European teams have a tendency to be stuck in their traditional ways and American teams tend to be more flexible and open to new ideas. For example, the 2001 race season has not even started, but Roberto Heras has already improved his position on his road and TT bikes due to wind-tunnel testing.

Spencer Dech
Columbus, OH
Wednesday, 10 January

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Made in the USA? #2

If I understood Francois Siohan's letter correctly, France and Bernard Tapie invented everything in professional football in the last 20 years. That must have included the 'fixing' of soccer games as in the Marseilles scandal, no doubt, Francois! Wasn't Tapie jailed for that? Leaves me in no doubt about where cheating in cycling originated, anyway!

No, my friend. LeMond set the tone by demanding a higher salary. He also set the tone by using aero bars and other aero aids to beat Laurent Fignon in the Paris ITT at a time when Fignon chose to express his 'flair' (another French invention, perhaps) with long hair in a pony-tail that held him back enough to gift the victory to Lemond. Doesn't make one a better rider than the other - it just makes one a winner. And it was Hinault himself who attributed Italian successes in the early 90's to better training systems.

And as Bruyneel noted recently - no-one was there to see Armstrong climb Hautacam twice, alone, during one training ride in freezing rain while the rest of the team remained in the hotel. So maybe the Americans did bring something new to the game, Francois, something the current French cyclists could learn from - its called 'work'!

Mark Williams
South Africa
Friday, 12 January

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US Postal and Rodolfo Massi

US Postal has just revealed their program for the 2001 season. And surprise, surprise, they will only do a handful of races in France, and Lance Armstrong himself only one.

I know that Lance Armstrong has become a bicycling icon for the English speaking world, and this probably won't make me very many friends, but I have to ask. What kind of a childish attitude is that?! It may be that Armstrong and his team-mates are offended by the inquiries of the French police, but considering what has happened in cycling these past couple of years, do they really have a right to be?

Imagine if all the riders and all the teams who have been accused by the French or the Italian authorities of taking banned substances reacted the same way, by not riding in France (or in Italy)?
US Postal, and Armstrong not least, should stop acting like spoiled children. The "how dare anyone accuse ME of doping" act is making me sick.

Remember Rodolfo Massi? The little Italian guy who would've won the KOM jersey in the Tour de France back in 1998, if he hadn't been arrested and thrown in jail a few days before reaching Paris?

He was accused of trafficking, and selling banned substances, and TV commentators started calling him "il Chemista", the chemist, because that's what they called Massi in the peloton. Or so they'd heard.

Massi was probably the one rider whose career suffered the most because of what happened in the '98 Tour, but he never went on television beating his chest and carrying on about how incredibly innocent he was, and that he would never race in France again (well, maybe just the Tour...). No, he went quietly home and let the judicial process sort things out. He started racing his bike again, found a 2nd division team that were willing to give him a contract. Did his job. Even won a few races.

And finally, last May, Rodolfo Massi was completely exonerated from all charges brought against him. There was no basis, the official statement said, for going to trial, and Massi should be considered innocent of any and all wrongdoing.

Lighten up, Lance, why don't you? Show some class.

Anders P. Jensen
Haslev, Denmark
Thursday, 11 January

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Drugs and Sport

Your editor goes some way towards the heart of the matter - no-one should adopt a moralistic viewpoint towards drugging in society as a whole: sport is simply a tiny aspect of a broader problem that needs grassroots solutions before we start beating our collective breasts about the pro cyclists at the pinnacle of our sport. By the same token, expecting to see the health of your heroes 'protected', has to rate as a pretty pathetic attempt at concealing a moralistic condemnation of drugging in cycling under the guise of humanitarianism.

Let your hero look after his own health. Either hero-worship him, or don't. The choice is yours. He has his own choices to make, and if you don't like them simply don't make him your hero. Should I admire Muhammed Ali any less because he now has Parkinsons - brought about in some way by the damage he suffered in the ring? Hell, no! I admire him because in a world of gladiators he stood tall. But what he had, that neither drugs, nor any other outside agency could alter, was 'gameness', or 'heart'. And so did Indurain and Lemond and Hinault and Merckx and all the other champions. As Cus D'Amato - Ali's erstwhile trainer - once said " It's a contest of Will against Skill - and Will always wins."

I don't think cycling is any different. The gladiators are just dressed differently. I personally don't care if Merckx lived on 'Pot Belgique' or not. He is my hero because he was 'game'. His 'gameness' won him all his titles, but it would have secured my hero-worship irrespective. Who are we - the spectators - to moralise about the habits of the entertainers? Certainly those that infer that cycling is rotten all the way through are blinded by their own sanctity - but what does it matter?

Some! All! None! - how far have we shifted from that old dictum that says winning is not important - taking part is. I don't know about anyone else, but in all my life of playing a lot of ball sports, I never ever came across a level playing field anyway. Never stopped me playing, though.

Mark Williams
South Africa
Friday, 12 January

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Drugs — the problem with life bans

I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments about cheats in cycling. They should be banned for life. However, it is a touchy subject for the following reasons: 1) Someone could be framed as a doper (something slipped into their food or drink) 2) Not all laboratory tests are 100 per cent accurate. There is a margin of error. It's like the argument between the death penalty and life in prison. It's kind of hard to let a dead person walk if new evidence shows they are innocent.

Boyd Speerschneider
Tampa
Thursday, 11 January

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Virenque

Who ever has written this letter is extremely jealous of Richard Virenque and his achievements. Mr Douglas needs to widen his view a lot when it comes to talking about drugs in cycling. Its very obvious that Virenque wasn't the only one doped in the sport, riders from all teams were doped but Virenque is the only one pick on, why?

Like many other fans of cycling Mr Douglas is jealous of Virenque's enormous popularity and superb climbing ability. What's he complaining - about Virenque sitting following the wheels in the chase group then sprinting for a good result? It's called a bike race Mr Douglas and you can do what you like when it comes to tactics. So first let's have a little more respect for riders of such class and strength before trying to drag them down.

Martin Jarrett
Friday, 12 January

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This sport will self-destruct...

I don't know if this is really much consolation to Kevin Lippert, but cycling is hardly the only professional sport with self-destructive tendencies. Just consider the USA's supposed national pastime, baseball. Since 1981 major league baseball has suffered, I believe, four work stoppages (either player-organized strikes or owner-organized lockouts), including one that dragged on so long that it forced the first-ever cancellation of the World Series. Another strike looms following the 2001 season.

Baseball's madness doesn't end there, either. Watch what team owners do in the off-season when a star player asks for more pay. The first thing the owners do is float stories in the media subtly or not so subtly denigrating the star player's abilities. What kind of message does that send to the fans? It's a bit like the CEO of Campbell's Soup saying, "Our product isn't really very good, folks. Wouldn't you like to buy some? And by the way, the price just went up." Madness.

And a quick reply to the snarky Monsieur Siohan: As to the technical innovations that Greg Lemond introduced to the sport, how about aero' bars, hardshell helmets, and carbon-fiber frames, just for openers. As for increased salaries, Tapie wouldn't have paid the money if someone hadn't demanded it, and that's what Lemond did. Siohan may not consider Lemond reponsible for a revolution in rider compensation, but the professional peloton certainly knows whom to thank.

Keep up the great work, cyclingnews.com.

Harris Collingwood
Cambridge, Massachusetts USA
Thursday, 11 January

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The French Media

Sorry for the delay in answering a November 30 letter, I do not read the "letters to cyclingnews" every week.

Rightly proud of my just won no-prize for heavy irony, I am all the more sorry my dear Leonard Ke for missing your quotation marks in your description of our beloved "Canard" as "respected and legitimate". Please accept my apologies for thinking you did not actually know about the "Canard".

As for the US Postal affair, I have found its coverage actually fairly low-key. Still I can understand that the continuous allegations and innuendos are hard to live with for Armstrong. All I can suggest to him is just to think how much worse it would (likely) have been for him if he had been French. I read the US press too infrequently to hazard a comparison.

Remember also that all cyclists nowadays are viewed with suspicion by the average car-gasoline addict, so if you come to France and they yell " dopé" as they pass you on a mountain road, just yell back "ivrogne" (drunkard), you have a 50-50 chance of being right.

François Siohan
Switzerland
Wednesday, 10 January

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Coverage of Tour Down Under

We've recently checked out both the Tour Down Under site and the SBS program guide for next week and discovered the same as Cathy Anderson. Cathy, we agree this is a travesty, but let's blame the television stations and the government which cuts funds to our public broadcasters. As well, we all need to drum up as much support as possible from the cycling public and anyone who is interested in spectator sport. The tour organisers don't have control over the television stations - and may well be pulling their hair out in frustration over the lack of coverage. Cycling on television is in its infancy in Australia, but let's keep it growing.

All you cycling fans out there should get pen and word processors to paper and start complaining - BEGGING, if need be - to improve coverage for next week's race. It may not be too late. And keep writing and congratulating SBS on its many years' coverage of Le Tour de France to ensure that at least that coverage is retained for our future enjoyment. We're going to miss SBS's role in showing The Tour Down Under if what we suspect is true, but let's hope it's not.

Louise Hilton and Graham Schofield
Australia
Thursday, 11 January

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Cycling coverage in the USA

Galen Miller has made the same mistake as many, including Gordon Daniell, have made: you confused a game with a sport. Golf is a game. So is chess. So is cricket, bowling, lawn bowl, dart, billiards. Cycling is a sport. You just can't compare the two. As for the lack of coverage, it's simply a lack of US corporate dollars I suspect.

Mark Rishniw
Ithaca USA
Friday, 12 January

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Wooden Bike?

I was wonder if you could give me some information on the whereabouts I can buy a wooden bike like the one that was pictured in Bicycling Australia May 2000 edition as I am going to Bali soon and I would like to buy one .

Please contact me on jjj@mcs.net.au

Thank You for your help

Jeff Johnson
Nth Mackay Qld, Australia
Thursday, 11 January

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Wanted: Olympic video

Having watched the men's Olympic road race from the roadside, I too thought it was a pretty good race to watch. Can you tell me if a video of the race is available and if it is, from where.

Garry Armsworth
Sydney
Thursday, 11 January

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The last month's letters

  • January 6-10 – Drugs, Coverage of Tour Down Under, books & videos
  • January 1-6 – Drugs, USA coverage, favourite books & videos
  • December 23-31 – Injuries, Drugs, USA coverage, TTT
  • December 19-22 – Quo vadis?, drugs/money, US cycling, TDU, gears, TT's
  • December 7-18 – US Postal, Trofeo Barrachi, cycling's profile, Baal, wanted
  • December 4-6 – Videos wanted, Trofeo Barrachi, doping, UCD NORD87
  • Letters Index - The complete index to every letters page on cyclingnews.com