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Letters to Cyclingnews — June 13, 2001

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. 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 — part 3

The third and final section of today's mailbag mostly concerns the Giro and drug use, with some novel suggestions for ways the problem should be tackled.

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Part one    Part two

Drugs & the Giro: drug use is cheating
Drugs & the Giro: a new approach
Drugs & the Giro: changes needed at the top
Drugs & the Giro: statistics
Drugs & the Giro: an open letter to professional cyclists
Drugs & the Giro: give the dopers a league
Drugs & the Giro: Italian law
Drugs & the Giro: legalise it
Drugs & the Giro: drug takers affect others
Drugs & the Giro: Ullrich is right
Drugs & the Giro: demanding courses to blame
Drugs & the Giro: Frigo's points
RSR-13
Genevieve Jeanson
Montreal World Cup
Giro vs Tour
Watching the Tour
Montreal Tour de l'isle
Old equipment ­ inside info
Fuji lawsuit

Drugs & the Giro: drug use is cheating

Imagine this: Two pro bike riders are ahead of everybody else, going up a steep slope somewhere in France. Or in Spain. Or perhaps in Italy. One attacks the other, repeatedly, and finally cracks him. He powers up the climb towards the flamme rouge, doing fifteen miles per hour. A classic spectacle. Man against man. Man against mountain.

Now imagine this: Exactly the same scene. Only difference: The rider disappearing up the road isn't doing fifteen mph but only ten or twelve. Wanna know why? 'Cause he ain't all doped up. And neither is the other rider, the one he just left behind.

Does the fact that the riders ride up a steep slope at only twelve mph instead of fifteen make for any less of a spectacle? I don't see it. So stop making excuses for all the steroid-freaks and EPO-pushers. I'm sick of hearing about how the poor riders can't be expected ride a grand tour without doping. How the pressure put on them by us, the adoring fans, force them to take drugs. They take drugs because they want to be better than they really are. They take drugs to cheat. Pro bike riders rode 150 or 200 miles in a day on bikes with two gears back in the twenties, and the public still showed up to watch the Tour de France, even though the "convicts of the road" weren't flying up the non-paved mountain paths at 20 mph.

And don't you start writing long, angry letters about how the riders back then were using all kinds of drugs as well. If Thijs, Bottechia and Frantz could do a twenty-some stage tour on dirt roads, riding their 40 pound bikes with two gears, Frigo and the rest of them should be able to do it on nicely paved roads, riding 10 pound aluminium bikes with 12 gears, without having to resort to drugs. They just don't want to, is all.

Anders P. Jensen
Haslev, Denmark
Saturday, June 9

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Drugs & the Giro: a new approach

I was discussing the problem of doping with a friend yesterday, we discussed why it still a problem after the huge Festina affair and a few other widely publicized doping scandals and what new approaches can be taken. It seems that lifetime bans and harsher penalties against the riders might work but might not as the pressure to stay at or near the top is still great. A rider who feels that he has nothing to lose might still decide to risk it because his job may be in jeopardy anyway.

Perhaps it is time to shift the responsibility to the team to monitor their riders and make sure that no doping is going one. Perhaps the team should face a suspension if a rider is caught with banned substances. If Fassa Bortolo faced a two or three month suspension would Frigo dared to dope if he put his team at risk of not riding the Tour or any other races until September? Would Ferretti do his best to monitor and check his own riders if so much was at risk?

There is also the question of whether or not some teams know about or still condone the use of doping, or if a "don't ask, don't tell, don't get caught" attitude exists in some teams. If you think about it, a rider may decide that he can become a star if he can only get a little better, as long as he does not get caught, and with a few drugs he can do it. While the team may not condone it, they still reap the benefits that go along with that gain. They win some major races, get into the Tour, move up in team rankings and if the rider is caught, they fire him and look for a new rider, or move someone else up. While they have lost that rider, they have gained some wins and the advantages that go with it. Will Fassa Bortolo become non-competitive without Frigo? Will their sponsors pull out? I doubt it.

This is not to say that Ferretti condoned and knew that Frigo was doing it, but did he have reason to make positively sure that his riders were all clean? If he and the team were forced to sit out two months of racing, not only would the team run tests to make sure the riders were clean, but the other riders would not condone it either. I can't imagine that Rebellin would let his season be at risk by letting others dope (if the five other Liquigas riders are guilty), or would he stay with a team that could jeopardize his career. This would also make the stigma of doping much greater within the team. Would a team try as hard or offer as much to a rider that has already gotten caught twice? Would the other team members be more vigilant in watching a rider who was a history of doping and perhaps bring it to the directeur sportif's attention?

It seems to me that the teams have to take greater responsibility in both monitoring their riders and pay the price if they are doping. Clearly the greater testing and the tougher stance against doping has helped in fighting the problem of doping but has not stopped it. The choice to dope is still a personal choice the a number of riders have chosen to take but while it has repercussions on the team it is still one that has the greatest effect of that rider and even that is not earth shattering. Herve got another job, as did Gonchar who is now the World TT Champ, Casagrande - the top UCI ranked rider, and most of the others that have been caught, and I am sure that Frigo will be riding next year and so may Virenque. Clearly a bolder step must be taken to end this nonsense that keeps dragging our sport through the mud. I do not really want to follow another Grand Tour and watch it turn into a farce.

I also think that the action of the Italian Police and Prosecutors to raid the Giro on the night that they did was done in a way that could only cause the Giro, the riders, the fans and the sport of cycling the greatest possible loss. Instead of trying to minimize the damage that a raid of that magnitude would do, it appears that they tried to maximize it, or at least did not care about the damage it would do to those that were innocent. They would never raid the World Cup the night before the Semi-finals...and they would probably find more drugs!

Timothy Carter
Belchertown, MA, USA
Sunday, June 10

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Drugs & the Giro: changes needed at the top

All this news about doping does have a sense of deja vu about it. Some "sacrificial lambs" are caught; teams, managers, fellow riders, sponsors and organisers express their complete dismay and that they had no idea it was happening, sack the rider or doctor and dissolve themselves of any responsibility whatsoever. Are we so naive to believe that the only person who knows that doping is happening is the rider? It is starting to sound like a broken record. But when cycling is headed by a senior member of the IOC then you can't expect anything else. The IOC has watched drugs flourish in sport and done nothing in response. One could even argue that they have indirectly encouraged doping through their inaction. At the recent World Speed Skating Championships the unofficial EPO test was utilised and 12 skaters were caught. Did this cause alarm bells in the sporting world? No. We all continue to bury our head in the sand and believe that it is only a handful of elite athletes who continue to dope and as long sport is run by a handful of elderly men then the situation will only get worse.

Tony Bougatsas
Thessaloniki, Greece
Sunday, June 10

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Drugs & the Giro: statistics

Having read some of the letters one in particular that says "6 out of 180 (3 per cent) does not seem too bad" has got it wrong. Of 6 riders tested after Fleche Wallonne, two tested positive (over 30 per cent) and it is not all 180 riders that took the EPO test before the Giro it is just random. The proof one way or another will be from the Italian police who allegedly require 70 riders (over half of those still in the race) to help with enquiries.

Stephen Penny
UK
Monday, June 11

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Drugs & the Giro: an open letter to professional cyclists

In my work with better and better athletes, I am forced more and more to concern myself with this ugly specter that is raising it's head above us, and above the fantastic comedy and tragedy that is cycling.

I think it had not really hit me full force until reading about Dario Frigo. I understand that our increased body of knowledge of the mechanisms of the body can 'smooth out' many "deficiencies" in a rider's chemical and physical makeup. The temptation and pressure to do this must be enormous. I shall state categorically now, as many others before me, my opinion. The riders I coach, while free to choose their own fate within this snake and snake oil filled pit, would bitterly disappoint me with their choice of these black options.

There are larger responsibilities to the sport and to younger riders than winning. At stake is the very foundation of our sport.

Certainly, I can accept that the influence of larger and larger sums of money into the sport will cause this sort of problem. It has happened in other sports recently as well. Football, soccer, and many other sports have pushed the athletes too far, and put them into systems where they have to choose the lesser of two evils.

I have heard from former pros and Olympians who is taking drugs and who isn't- and why. That knowledge has begun to haunt my ambitions for the riders I work with. Yet, I remain hopeful somehow that this too, will pass.

My disappointment, fermented in a long denial, is deep and bitter. This feeling is perpendicular to everything I know about success and the consequences of being good in sport. I implore you, the professional athlete, to stop this erosion of our epic and grand sport into oblivion, mediocrity and derision. All the techniques of politicians have now been employed to throw us, the fan, off the scent of the trail of cheaters, in our grand sport. Another principle that I know is that when illusion becomes reality, then the devil is at work. I think we can all feel that now.

The riders should ally for their own benefit and form against any imposition on their need to take such drastic measures to insure a good performance. Team managers, staff, doctors, and soigneurs should never be allowed to place a rider in a position where they must choose between a position to earn money and cheating. Stand up for yourself, riders! I applaud the courage of the first finger pointers to break the chain of silence about this horrible cancer on our beloved sport. Stand up and be counted! Europe has a fine tradition of large scale union action, and they are more free than I am in America because of it. I advise you, the pro cyclist to do the same.

I too have suffered- like you, the pro, for monetary and prestige awards far smaller than the ones you can lay claim to. I would suffer as you do, given my chance again- if a younger man- for far less than you can lay claim to- just to be in the Big Show. But YOU, the professional athlete, should know better than this... You should know that principled behavior has gotten you where you are now.

-Hard Work
-Determination
-Focus
-Commitment

-and.... oh yeah... Honesty

At first, I berated the police for their timing and actions around the riders in the Giro. But now I know that this problem has grown larger than any Grand Tours, it has infected our sport, and like a cancer must be removed. I now applaud the grandstand timing of the interruption of the police in the case of doping. I sincerely hope that everyone who is caught cheating must be subjected to a jail sentence and be permanently banned from any contact with any sport in the future. The cancer must die, so the largest, most grand sport in the world can live again.

Regis Chapman
California USA
Sunday, June 10

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Drugs & the Giro: give the dopers a league

The solution to doping is very simple, give the dopers their own league, or banish them from the sport permanently.

Hold the riders responsible. Why get angry with the police? So what if they are being bribed? Nail the dopers.

Otherwise, you will get many cases of influenza and drop outs during the Tour as well. I for one will say that I am thankful to The Pirate Doper Marco Pantani for his teachings. Earlier this year he promised to teach Armstrong a lesson. Well I'm quite certain, school has been out for many months now. Rest assured, no flu for Lance during the Tour.

Mark Combs
USA
Monday, June 11

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Drugs & the Giro: Italian law

What a spectacular deterrent! While in the US the 'vampires' can be scared off by the threat of a civil lawsuit, in Italy those caught using performance-enhancing drugs can be given a criminal record or jail time. Any country with tough drug laws will not allow the athletes to cross their borders to compete (imagine if Frigo had to give up his Maglia Rosa because he was unable to cross into Slovenia!), thus severely limiting their ability to earn a livelihood if they are cheating. Now let's see how serious the Italians are about enforcing their new laws, and how sympathetic the other European nations are about recognizing the charges.

Those who would resign cycling to performance-enhancing drugs on the grounds that the cheaters harm only themselves are somewhat misguided. What about the clean athletes who don't enjoy the accolades and salaries because they choose to participate 'au naturel'?

Martin McEwen
Canada
Monday, June 11

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Drugs & the Giro: legalise it

I strongly support this idea! Let's focus on the sport itself rather than scenes behind the screen. Make doping legal in sports especially cycling if that's the way things are! And, if that's what these riders really want. I'm getting sick of this doping scandal. Get it over with, legalise doping in cycling, let the riders take as many drugs as they wish, who knows, it actually opens up more useful and beneficial studies on their usage! And, hopefully, at the end of it, cyclist being the ever-willing 'guinea pigs' can help scientists to discover drugs that are not harmful, with no side effects to help improve athletes' performance in sports!

KA Ibrahim
Malaysia
Tuesday, June 12

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Drugs & the Giro: drug takers affect others

Keith Jackson suggests riders who don't want to use drugs find another sport if they wish to remain competitive and let all riders who so choose use drugs. I race bikes, I don't do drugs. I can't imagine why I would let anybody else have an unfair advantage over me. Therefore, it's not just the rider's choice to take or not take 'em as it affects anyone the rider competes with. Simple.

John Forbes
OR USA
Tuesday, June 12

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Drugs & the Giro: Ullrich is right

Jan Ullrich, who is quoted in the 12 June issue of Cyclingnews as stating that "[Dopers] must not be excluded for just a few months, but for life in cycling" is absolutely, unassailably right. What can be the logic behind temporary suspension as a punishment for doping? Suspensions, even long ones, and other punishments short of expulsion mean one thing and one thing only: that doping is indeed just a part of the sport--punished, yes--but therefore tolerated. Suspension makes doping more akin to a foul--albeit a grievous one--than what it really is: cheating. Doping doesn't simply skew results and corrode cycling's image; it pervasively undermines cycling's status as a sport. Until the powers that be figure that out, we shouldn't expect much to change. Ullrich's statement shows his great class and character as the sport's badly-needed patron. I hope that more racers will publicly and forcefully echo his sentiment. Lance?

Steve McKenna
Catonsville, Maryland USA
Tuesday, June 12

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Drugs & the Giro: demanding courses to blame

I don't believe in doping, but I don't believe in the exorbitantly difficult courses the race organizers design. Whether it's Paris-Roubaix or a three week tour, we are asking too much from the riders; therefore, they cheat. Cheating will always be a problem, but we can control it much better than the current situation. Because every test will have a way to be beaten, I believe the Giro raid was necessary, but not carried out very well.

To control the drug situation, 4 things must be done:
1. Increase penalties: 1st offence, one year ban, 2nd offence, lifetime ban
2. Shorten courses, decrease difficulty: this will have two benefits - decrease need for drugs and also provide better races for spectators and competitors, more racers will have a chance to win.
3. Unannounced searches of teams, riders, hotels, etc. - because testing is not effective, the cheats will need to be caught 'red-handed'
4. Education - have unbiased doctors explain/educate riders on doping, its benefits and risks (no one will listen if they are given scare tactics and half the truth)

Ian Settlemire
USA
Tuesday, June 12

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Drugs & the Giro: Frigo's points

Why does Frigo get to keep his UCI points? Why should anyone who has been caught with banned substances? If the UCI were to strip them of all points..YES ALL POINTS, the rider would not be as desirable, and would be likely to not get a decent contract. As for everyone that got caught with illegal substances; How stupid are you? Use them and take the chance of getting caught in a drug screening test is already dumb, but to have them in a room? They deserve it. If they are so arrogant to think that they are beyond reproach, they have received just actions against them.
If you or I (those of us that work for a living and could only dream of riding for a job) get caught at work with drugs, what do you think would happen?
Don't feel sorry for these spoiled and irresponsible boys, do you feel sorry when a junkie gets caught?

Michel van Musschenbroek
Tuesday, June 12

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RSR13

Some information on RSR13 for you.

From www.allos.com: "Allos' lead drug under development is RSR13. RSR13 is a synthetic small molecule that increases the release of oxygen from hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying protein contained within red blood cells."

From one of the researchers: "The clinical utility of RSR-13 may be in circumstances where increased oxygen release to tissues is desirable..."

Where do they find this stuff? It's so new that it is obviously not going to be on any prohibited list, let alone be tested for.....

Bruce Ewert
Monday, June 11

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Genevieve Jeanson

Is she so much better? Yes. Are we on the cusp of the next greatest female cyclist since Longo? Is she the greatest female cyclist in the world today? Or is she the greatest cyclist in the world today and are we on the cusp of greatest ever period?

Hear me roar right now: this girl is gonna take a run at Eddy, bring cycling to another planet and race those aliens and beat their asses and then beat teams of aliens, and then we might find that we are caught in the matrix and she race those suit and sunglass guys to save the whole human race and… and... and...

Dave Caswell, Genevieve fan
Kamloops BC
Saturday, June 9

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Montreal World Cup

It wasn't just Anna Millward who wanted to keep her World Cup Jersey, it was the entire team that also wanted her to keep the World Cup Jersey. So with that we did use team tactics, and very well I might add as Anna now has a nice lead in the World Cup. Lyne Bessette was more than happy to help Anna. See that's what team work and team-mates are all about, and that is why the Saturn women's team is so successful, we look out for the good of the entire team and not let the outside pressure of one race change our plan regardless of what battle some people would like to see. We had our battle and the plan did not include the Canada battle: it is the World Cup battle. Lyne was not unhappy to help Anna.

Suzanne Sonye
Saturn Cycling Team
USA
Tuesday, June 12

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Giro vs Tour #1

Damned straight!!! Think of Eddy Merckx & how much damage he did during the season. Jacques Anquetil. Bernard Hinault. These guys -- and plenty of others! --raced ALL season; not just for one or two races. It's embarrassing to listen to commentators gush over riders who specalize in just one race and to hell with everything else.

Miles Jordan
Chico CA
Sunday, June 10

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Giro vs Tour #2

In response to Robert Nagoda's letter about patrons like Chiappucci and LeMond, a few pertinent facts. Given the number of times he was suspended for high haematocrits in the latter part of his career, Chiappucci is hardly someone I would like to nominate as a patron of the sport. An exciting rider yes but a clean one? As for Greg Lemond (no I'm not going to lambast him as well), he introduced the concept of training and peaking for a few key events in the year rather than trying to win everything. As for going for the triple crown presumably the Giro, Tour and Vuelta, that is a peak that is yet to be climbed to the best of my knowledge by any cyclist ever. Only a few have even won all three Grand Tours.

Sarah & Ross
Sydney Australia
Monday, June 11

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Watching the Tour

My girlfriend and I are going to head over to see the Tour this year. We want to catch the 5th, 6th, and 7th stage. We can not find anyone who has been, or any advice of how to best watch the stages etc.. I read that the Police closed the road. Closed to bikers and cars how about people on foot? Any help would be great!

Brett Richard
Memphis, Tn. USA
Sunday, June 10

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Watching the Tour: accommodation

I am flying from Australia to see the Tour de France. The first stage I will see is the stage finishing on l'Alpe d'Huez on Tuesday 17 July I plan to arrive in Grenoble on Monday 16 July and I am unsure about accommodation. I will be travelling by bike and I would like to stay somewhere between Grenoble and Bourg D'oisan. Can anyone tell me if there is accommodation in Vizille or Sechilienne? And if anyone is planning to do much the same, is there anyone who would like the company of a middle-aged enthusiastic cyclist for the ride to L'Alpe?

Michael Doube
Australia
Tuesday, June 12

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Montreal Tour de l'isle

Just to add to what Andy said about the Argus - the year before there were 42000 entries, but the field was limited. Much more impressive is the fact that all 35000 participants are timed over the 109km course and receive certificates detailing their full race statistics, including age-group and gender position. Riders are seeded according to race results, previous Argus times in particular. The seeding ensures group speeds are consistent, with groups averaging 500-600 riders leaving every 5 minutes. The route around the Cape peninsula is one of the finest rides anywhere.

Mark Williams
South Africa
Tuesday, June 12

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Old equipment ­ inside info

Both Ullrich and Cipo use a special custom build brake lever from Campagnolo. The outside looks like the old model but the mechanism inside is new 10-speed. They use it because they like the old pointed shape better then the new flat one. It's easier when they ride with their hands on the brake levers (more grip).

Ken Ilegems
Team Telekom mechanic, Belgium
Tuesday, June 12

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Old equipment

The use of the old style hoods on Cipo's and Ullrich's bikes is merely down to their personal preference. It's perfectly possible to swap hoods on Campy shifters and upgrade or repair the mechanisms.

Steven Ford
Cambridge, UK
Tuesday, June 12

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Fuji lawsuit

Sure the bikes were subcontracted, but that happens a lot. Giant makes frames for other brands; the "Trek" time trial bike Lance Armstrong used in the 99 tour was actually a Litespeed, as was Pantani's 98 "Bianchi" time trial bike. Subcontracted or not ,the bikes were still Fujis.

Jim Sullivan
USA
Tuesday, June 12

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The last month's letters

  • June 13 - Part two: Drugs & Giro (lots), Giro vs Tour, Ullrich, TdF '01, Radios, ONCE on Klein?
  • June 13 - Part one: Drugs & the Giro, Belli, Ullrich, radio TT, Giro vs Tour
  • June 7 – Special Giro raid edition
  • June 6 – Simoni, Belli, Ullrich, 'Massacre à la chain', radio TT, Giro vs Tour, back surgery
  • May 31 – Back surgery, Cipo, Tour vs Giro, TV coverage
  • May 29 – Telekom tactics, Back surgery, Cipo, the Tour, Shaving, Giro, Mroz kit
  • May 22 – Genevieve Jeanson, Scott Sunderland, Shaving, Tour selections, Euskaltel kit wanted
  • May 15 – Genevieve Jeanson, Shaving, The ultimate fixie, Tour wildcard reactions
  • May 9 – Tour wildcard reactions, part one; part two
  • May 3 – Tour wildcard reactions
  • May 1 – Tour de France: CSC & Pantani wildcards, Domo's P–R victory, Hincapie, Postal's ambitions, Australian TV, ONCE on Klein?
  • Letters Index - The complete index to every letters page on cyclingnews.com