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Letters to Cyclingnews — June 20, 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

A huge and varied mailbag today. The subject of doping dominates, as it always does when there has been a major 'affaire' like the Giro raid, but to remind us all that there's a lot more to cycling than drug scandals, we'll kick off with a few letters on other subjects.

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Sew-ups vs clinchers
Saddle sores
VDB
Genevieve Jeanson
Cipo
Ullrich
Watching the Tour de France
Drugs
An apology
Drugs: let them
Drugs, Armstrong and Pantani
Drugs: Suspended racing in Italy
Drugs & MTB?
Corticosteroids
Frigo
Irony re EPO
Morals
Back to cycling
Giro vs Tour
Depth vs strength
Radios in time trials
ONCE on Klein?
Old equipment

Sew-ups vs clinchers

I was hoping that I could call upon the many and varied readers to help me with a small quandary. About 18 years ago I stopped racing. Two years ago I began to get the bug to start racing again, but have not yet pursued it until I get into better racing fitness. So I went out and bought my dream bike; that's what happens when you get older-you can afford the equipment but you have more "equipment" around the waist and have to train just to get it off of you. I have been riding the clincher wheels that were built with the bike, but still feel that there is some difference between "tires". But when I attend the local races I see that most people are on clinchers. Can anybody explain this?

What do most of you who race use? Sew-ups or clinchers? And why?

Just curious. Does anybody know of the percentage of pro teams that use clinchers?

I want to thank the people at Cyclingnews if they put this in, because the 17 year old pimple faced boy at the local cycling store was no help, but mostly for the continued coverage of the sport. There simply is no comparison to your website.

Michel van Musschenbroek
Georgia, USA
Monday, June 18

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Saddle sores

I am a cyclist of 6 yrs, and have recently developed what I assume is the dreaded saddle sore (when irritated a pimplish looking varmint, complete with a white crown upon the pimple body, egads). After rides of 60 miles or more, it returns, after cutting down on miles on the bike and jogging to keep fit. Can anyone provide me with the latest in treatment that work on these ornery thing, or am I to always have these damnable monster, like the monsters in Alien, who keep after the luscious Ms Weaver till she will be to old to go again into space.

Help please, I ache as I type.

Vert Hallahan
Monday, June 18

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VDB

Why is Cyclingnews pandering to the child-like behaviour of VDB. This is a sport for men who are both physically and mentally stable. Please keep any personal information out about VDB and stick to racing. We do not care about VDB's personal life. Everybody out there has some personal story - why focus on VDB?

Eric Scalera
Friday, June 15

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Genevieve Jeanson #1

What I don't get, is why isn't she competing at the HP Women's Challenge and why wasn't she at the Tour de l'Aude? I can't believe that with her results the Canadian national team wouldn't have jumped to get her on their squad, and the same goes for the Canadian/French composite team that is at HP. At least there would be a real challenger to Longo.

J
USA
Friday, June 15

We asked Genevieve this question a few days ago. Her reply is in June 10's news

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Genevieve Jeanson #2

This from someone who was in the race..

No one is doubting Genevieve's abilities ó no one. But it seems as if spectators get a little hot over the subject, which I find very amusing now. We believe Lyne Bessette could have gone with Genevieve, but as I will say again was not allowed to go with her as it would have put Anna in danger. Saturn has a team with many riders that can and do win races. The World Cup has been our goal from day one. I will say this again and again the pressure the press and spectators put on those two girls from Quebec makes me very unhappy; they are both are great athletes.

There were no excuses that day just the absolute truth: we were racing for Anna.

Suzanne Sonye
Saturn Cycling Team
Friday, June 15

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Cipo

Cipo hasn't won the world's but every one continues to forget his wins in Belgium earlier in his career, they call him a "quitter" but he has finished major tours, has won the sprinter's jersey in the Giro, and has had one of the longest most prolific careers of any sprinter in modern times. Many people don't like his flashy style, and his refusal to continue in races where he obviously has no chance for a placing doesn't fit in with their view of how "hard" a racer should be. He is the best sprinter of our time, he deserves to brag and be flashy, it is a service to his team and his sponsors and he inspires people to watch races, and young riders to emulate him. What can be bad about that? Freddy Maertens was a great rider, but so is Super Mario, even if he doesn't suffer enough to please some fans who have no idea how hard he has suffered in training and racing in order to maintain his pre-eminent position as a sprinter two or three times longer than most sprinters have ever managed. Give him a break.

Steve Farris
Silver City, New Mexico.
Friday, June 15

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Ullrich #1

Well, well, what to make of "Chunky Jan of Team Adipose." He's a fascinating dilemma. Immensely talented with some impressive notches on his 'palmares' belt, but also so frustrating to those (including me) that feel he is wasting away those talents. I really thought that this would be his year; that he finally learned that he "loses" the Tour in winter and spring and would now train accordingly. He even had "chalkboard" material given to him from none other than Lance Armstrong who proclaimed earlier this year "that I don't have to ride any faster than I've already ridden...my speed will always be enough." And "that by Ullrich getting back to his best form...is not good enough." Heck, I've even used that as motivation for my cycling this year!

Obviously Ullrich's biggest weakness is his training. However, I think in order to win Le Tour you also need to practice "winning." Hinault, Fignon, Indurain...all these guys got ready by competing in the Giro, Vuelta (when it was held in the spring), Midi-Libre, Dauphine, Tour de Suisse...etc. Finding out where they stood versus the rest and giving them a psychological blow sometimes by beating them. Even when they "fail," like Indurain in the '94 Giro who then proceeded to obliterate the field in the Tour a few weeks later, they find out what it will take to win. This is why Ullrich's 2001 Giro is so disappointing, what did he really learn? That he could finish "third in a stage with a few hills," while Lance is testing himself in the Classique des Alpes. That truly is not good enough.

Frankly, the only mystery surrounding this year's Tour is whether or not Lance will lead from start to finish. If he wins the Prologue and can keep the jersey until the Team Time Trial, the race might be over then and there. Of course Ullrich could pull a "LeMond" and win, but for the good of cycling (sorely needed), LeMond's "Tour method" needs to remain an exception. I think we all would like to see Ullrich's talent displayed for more than three weeks out of the year.

Robert Stoll
U.S.A.
Thursday, June 14

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Ullrich #2

Was I the only one watching the Giro? I saw Ullrich leading the sprinter chain on those occasions when Danilo Hondo was being led up for a sprinters' battle... He certainly looked to be in good shape then. Ullrich never said that the Giro was anything but a training ride. He had bronchitis throughout most of it but still did pretty well. When Hondo was riding for stage wins, I saw Ullrich giving his all as a domestique... (I doubt we'd ever see Cipo doing support work for other team members).

Let's face it, speculation is worth nothing. Casagrande was the favourite for the Giro... A crash in the first stage and he wasn't even a contender... Let's not even go into the Frigo situation. A lot can happen before the Tour and during the Tour...

Rather than saying that Ullrich is doing everything wrong, why don't we just wait and watch the Tour and see how things go? We won't know who did what right until the Champs Elysees.

Susan Pickens
USA
Wednesday, June 13

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Ullrich #3

Sleepwalking through the Giro? Even though he wasn't placed that highly overall, he was hardly sleepwalking. It's not like he was in the grupetto on every little climb--hardly!--but he did make some impressive moves. Twice he was third on the stage (right?) and did you see how he stretched out Cipo's Red Train when leading out Hondo? How many times has Mr. Armstrong done that? Yet this is some thing Ullrich has often done in the first week of the Tour for Zabel. He knows exactly how to gain form. He was basically a no-show for the Vuelta last year and a month later had two Olympic medals. What you don't realize is that a mile an hour or two can mean minutes on a long climb in the Giro, and Ullrich wasn't really pushing it to the limit. Hell, look where Lance finishes on GC during those one week stage races he does in June. Like it or not, Ullrich will be THE factor in this year's Tour.

Matt Jennings
USA
Thursday, June 14

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Ullrich #4

The last couple of stages of this year's Giro proved he is in quite good shape by now. Otherwise, another discussion has increased my belief that his planning of a season is justified. If a rider can avoid the use of doping by choosing only a limited period per year in which to ride well in, then he should not be criticised for being a lousy rider (most of us want a dope-free sport, I hope). If a rider wants to go for the spring classics (and World Cup), then he should not ride too much from mid-May to the beginning of August, but concentrate on training. He may very well be able to ride some good Autumn Classics. If a rider wants to win a Grand Tour, then he should concentrate on that race. The decision of Vainsteins concentrating on last year's world champ's (and not contesting the World Cup) seems more and more justified to me now.

Bart Broex
Baarn The Netherlands.
Wednesday, June 13

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Watching the Tour de France

To Brett Richard in Memphis. Go and watch the Tour - it will be a fantastic experience. I go nearly every year (ok I live in England so it's easier to get to).

Normally the towns in which the Tour is finishing/starting are fully booked for accommodation months in advance. However if you find a town on the route or a little way beyond the stage start/finish, you can get accommodation .. or even try camping.

Usually I go on my motorbike - the advantage is that I can stay further from the stage towns and it not be too much distance to cover.

Normally the police completely close the roads 2-3 hours before the peloton is due through. The caravane publicitaire comes thro' an hour before that. However it's normally just the road the riders actually ride through on that is closed.

If you are looking for hotel accommodation, check out a map of France and the area around the stages you want to watch. If you have access to the internet, many French towns have websites with lists of accommodation.

Another alternative for you - go and watch the Vuelta a Espana. In the past we've even been able to get accommodation (at last minute) in same villages as the stage start/finish. It's less crowded than the Tour and just as exciting.

Sherida Bevan
London, England
Wednesday, June 13

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Drugs #1

I'm surprised to see such misunderstandings of my letter. I don't condone cheating. Cheating, by definition, is a violation of the rules. If a rule prohibits the use of substance X, then one who uses X is cheating and should be punished. I'm advocating a *change* in the rules. To repeat: Why should there be any restrictions on what a bicycle racer ingests? And don't say that it makes competition unfair, for that begs the question (i.e., it assumes what is in issue, namely, whether drugs should be allowed). If you can't compete against those who use performance-enhancing drugs, you have a choice: drop out or use the drugs.

Someone suggested that this emphasis on individual liberty is an "American" thing. Perhaps it is, but unless one believes either that everything American is good or that everything American is bad, it cuts no philosophical ice. By the way, I take no performance-enhancing drugs. I think it's dangerous and stupid. But some people think bicycle racing is dangerous and stupid, and that's no reason to ban *it*.

Keith Burgess-Jackson
Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Monday, June 18

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Drugs #2

In Italy, the prosecution wants to investigate 40, 50, 60 or two million riders, I don't care how many, about medicines found in their rooms. The "prosecution" is just one side of the legal procedure. "Prosecutor" does not mean "judge". I am sick of seeing so many that seem not to be aware of that difference.

The prosecutors want to investigate every person who was in possession of any restricted substance. This includes most of the common medicines used by any person to treat any minor health problem: a cold, an ear infection, skin abrasions as a result of falls (so common among cyclists), and so on.

It looks the world has gone mad! Of all people being investigated, most of them will probably be because of these normal medicines. But this will not prevent them from being insulted, vexed and, I am afraid, being suspended. Amazing. For instance, Ullrich will probably not be allowed to go to the Tour de France. Why? Because he had health problems during the Giro: pollen allergy. And what's wrong with medicines against allergy? They contain corticoids. Of course, the headlines will be "Ullrich found in possession of corticoids" and a strong cloud of doubt will be thrown upon him.

This is absolutely outrageous. I hope that things go back to normal. But I am not very confident that would happen soon.

Oscar GonzŠlez-Sordo
Cambridge, UK
Thursday, June 14

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Drugs #3

I suggest a radical way to control doping in cycling. It might be possible to control the cyclists' access to doctors during the season. I think teams should be forced to have doctors employed only by the UCI. No team nor rider should have a private doctor during the season. I think it's despicable for private doctors to be paid tons of money by a corporate interest (the cycling team) and to violate the Hippocratic oath in order to help cyclists cheat and win. Soigneurs may be more difficult to control, and yet it still doesn't solve the problem of doping during the off-season or during training. But it might help, and it might allow the UCI to have more medical control.

Another more radical solution would be to have rider chaperones. The UCI can hire security guards to watch the cyclists in their hotels. As draconian and "Big Brother" as it is, if riders aren't trustworthy, then they should forfeit some of their privacy anyway. But it's not likely to happen. The reality is that access to doping is too easy, unethical doctors are too plentiful, and no one can be trusted to be clean.

Jack W
California, USA
Wednesday, June 13

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Drugs #4

Only the riders can maintain discipline of the peloton. Only the riders can prevent unfair competition. To change positively, the riders have to take responsibility for competitive conditions. Riders must understand their lifestyles will change negatively if they allow the present trends of the sport to expand. As an older fan, rider and competitor, I will not support the level of corruption found in today's competition.

Mo Joyce
Wednesday, June 13

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Drugs #5

I agree with the general opinions expressed here and wonder if there could be some way to make the doctor/team structure answerable for any substances a rider has on board. If the only legal way for a rider to have any medication of any sort was through his team doctor, you wouldn't need to test him, just possessing medication would be enough to get him thrown out of the peloton. Make the doctor registered and contracted, answerable to a UCI medical official that travels with the team and documents everything that is taken/administered and reports daily through email to the UCI, so there is a file for every rider including the supposed ailment that is being 'treated'. Make the sports governing body an integral part of the process and make them take responsibility. This problem will not be solved by testing or suspensions based on getting caught in a random fashion, the sport is too hard and the riders are not well enough paid to expect them to police themselves.

The sport would have to change a lot for this scenario to work but I would rather have that than no sport at all which is where we are headed.

Gary Sullivan
Rotorua New Zealand
Thursday, June 14

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Drugs #6

In response to the letter from K A Ibrahim: You have got to be kidding! Legalize drugs in cycling? So we should all be content with the riders who use performance enhancing drugs in order to race? What would that solve? By legalizing drugs we would have to stop referring to cycling as an athletic event. Because athletes would not be winning the races, drugs would be winning the races. Instead of Lance winning mountain stages because he has the best training system, it would be someone else winning a mountain stage because he has the best drugs in his system! Cycling would turn into a chemistry class. Instead of learning how to tune a derailleur while riding at 25mph, cyclists would be trying to learn which drugs are the hardest to detect in their blood. Cycling would become a scam and I think amateur racers would be turning away from the sport in huge masses. I would refuse to watch the TdF if I knew that virtually all of the riders were on drugs and that it was acceptable. I really hope that your letter was sarcastic. If not, then we are certainly heading in the wrong direction with this drug topic when we start to think that maybe it's okay since everyone is doing it.

Nick Johnson
Arlington, Virginia USA
Thursday, June 14

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Drugs #7

Here we go again. Drugs and cycling, is it good? Is it bad? Is cycling worse than other sports ? Why aren't the cheats caught in other sports so often ? On and on it goes.

Its about time we bit the bullet , we either live with it or take action to stamp it out. Why not a global drugs testing agency, perhaps run by the IOC or the UN ? Give them the authority to test any professional sportsman/woman at any time , and give them a personal bonus for every confirmed positive test . The various bodies for the individual sports have proved themselves unwilling or unable to stop the problem , so give it to a body that has a real incentive to do so .

Andrew Torrance
Wales UK
Friday, June 15

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Drugs #8

I agree with the views expressed concerning the need for changes at the top in order to put an end to doping. They should start with Verbruggen whose self-serving statements convey exactly the wrong message to the riders and their teams. His defensiveness concerning the police action during the Giro is completely inexcusable. He is more exercised by the police investigation than the fact that such a large number of riders are under suspicion for drug use. It makes any of his statements about cleaning up drugs seem more than a little hollow. To me, his message is "just leave this problem to us, we'll take care of it, just like we have in the past (wink. wink)".

Clearly, the problem here extends well beyond a few riders trying to get around the rules. There is an enormous amount of pressure on them to perform from their teams and sponsors. The fact that soigneurs have been involved suggests more than implicit pressure to use drugs. Calls from some of your previous respondents to legalize the use of these substances are absurd, and put the riders' long term health at risk. I agree with the writer who commented that he would prefer to watch a mountain stage fought out between clean riders climbing at 12 mph than drugged ones riding at 15 mph. What counts is the competition among the riders themselves. That is what makes the race exciting, not necessarily a new speed record, particularly, if the latter is obtained only by gaining an unfair advantage through the use of illegal substances. The latter course is just flat out cheating.

Peter Jusczyk
Baltimore, MD
Friday, June 15

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Drugs #9

If you take the perspective of the athlete you can understand the need to properly prepare for the race. The benchmark for the sport is that everyone is doing something(drugs), so if you are good and you have worked hard to train your body and mind for the sport are you not going to compete with a level playing field? I could see someone rationalizing this and saying, sure Iíll work my butt off and then get smoked by some group because they have an unfair advantage. Not! For any of us who have raced at all we know how tough and competitive the sport is, any trick will distinguish you from the rest of the pack. So why not? The temptation and the pressure is way too great to abstain. The authorities on the other hand, are turning a blind eye to the cheaters, as long as they can navigate the wide open tests. They have constructed tests to catch only the morons, poor racers/teams that donít have the sophistication of the big budget teams.

Look at it this way, as an amateur if you could do something to beat your friends and it had instant results and it was only slightly illegal, would you do it? Why not, lots of my friends still smoke weed and thatís illegal. So what about a stimulant that helps recovery, or breathing or power- its easy to try and then youíre hooked. Everyone wants to be fast. You end up feeling like superman.

So now add to the complexity and say that you are a professional kid breaking into the sport with some real natural talent. The stakes get much higher, money is on the line. Its no longer just about beating your friends in friendly ride, its about fame, fortune, and notoriety. Some of the kids come from eastern Europe where there is no money or way to make it in a legal way. So cheating on some drugs in cycling is a petty crime to them and the rewards by far outweigh the risks.

I see it as a way of the sport. There will be no police or other mechanism that will stop it. We have over 2 million pot smokers in this country with up to 20 million that have tried the stuff. It cannot be controlled. Neither will drugs in sports be controlled. The police and the UCI will only catch the lazy and the morons. Drugs will go on and the pressure will always be there to have an even playing field. So the new guys will adopt the donít ask and donít tell policy of the peloton. In the meantime, us locals will continue to use chi power, aspirin, vitamin B, and espresso or anything to get that little extra edge on the group.

Phil Cavallo
Menlo Park, California
Friday, June 15

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Drugs #10

Ullrich is one of my favourite cyclists and I am glad he spoke out. I even bought a Telekom jersey to wear as I exercise around Gainesville (I got called a "fag" by some redneck who apparently hadn't ever seen a pink jersey before). But the doping situation is too complicated for a single lifetime ban for any type offence. Doping comes in different forms with different risks to the health of a rider and different amounts of performance enhancement, although the motive may be the same, namely cheating to try to win. But other prohibited drugs can be used under doctor's orders. And while some use EPO, others get the same effects "legally" with special altitude tents and yet others legally through altitude training. Wouldn't it be a tragedy if someone was thrown out of cycling for life, even if they didn't take the prohibited caffeine pills but merely had too much coffee before a race. Also, the competition is so fierce and so much money and fame is at stake that a ban for life might tempt someone to take out a major competitor for good by spiking their drink. Punishment needs to be varied and based on numerous considerations other than a single failed test.

Joel Williams
Gainesville, FL, USA
Sunday June 17

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Drugs #11

First of all, for anyone out there actually claiming that cyclists should have the "right" to put all kinds of stuff in their bodies, I have no problem with that. The problem I have is that now that I'm racing as a cat 2, and hopefully at higher levels in the future, I prefer not to kill myself in the attempt to keep up with the yahoos who are drugging themselves. Cleaning up the sport will give more hope to up and coming riders who won't worry about drug abuse in the elite ranks.

I have a great idea in addition. Why don't we create two international cycling federations. One will be monitored and kept as clean as possible. The second federation (The UCIdP: Union Cycliste International de Pharmacia), pro cyclists will be allowed if not encouraged to drug themselves with whatever they want....then we can see them ride inhumanely fast up the Alpe d'Huez before collapsing and convulsing and dropping dead 20 meters from the line. "last one living wins!!"

S.P.
Los Angeles
Wednesday, June 13

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Drugs #12

Imagine my surprise this morning when I read that Pantani commented that "doping is a complex problem and the responsibility doesn't lie simply with the riders. The problem lies in being able to demonstrate who's been cheating." In addition, I read elsewhere that Frigo "was carrying drugs during this year's Giro d'Italia only as ``security'' in case he needed a boost during the final stages of the race...."

Are these guys for real? Do they actually understand what they're saying? The problems with doping in cycling will never be solved with these attitudes. It's time each rider accepts responsibility for the drugs in his or her blood and urine. To say the problem lies in testing or that you simply were caught is irresponsible and idiotic. Desperate times often call for desperate measures - maybe a few lifetime bans of riders with drugs in their systems will rid the peloton of the problem.

On a positive note - thanks to John Lieswyn and his excellent column. It was great to see him and Clark Sheehan laying it down this past Sunday at the USPRO Championships in Philadelphia. Also, congratulations to Fred Rodriguez for an excellent ride. Because he doesn't ride for a U.S. based squad, he certainly doesn't get the attention he deserves.

Paul Harke
Alexandria, VA USA
Wednesday, June 13

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An apology

I don't want to sound naive with regards the drugs situation in cycling, but a lot of money has been made out of it. Let's take just a few examples:

1) The publisher's of Willy Voet's kiss & tell story (and I suspect, Willy Voet himself)
2) Credible (?) Italian Sports doctors - surely the most lucrative job to have in Italy outside of Berlusconi's circle of friends
3) The pharmaceutical companies, who have discovered a side market for their pills and potions designed to make beef cattle more bulky
4) Lawyers (as always)
5) A long list of cyclists, which would be too long to fit between the covers of Voet's pitifully thin book

They are all laughing their way to the bank.

The point is, have any of these people ever apologised for the cheating and trickery? Has Richard Virenque ever apologised to the hundreds and thousands of cycling supporters who felt deeply for him at seeing the TV pictures of his breakdown after the Festina team was ejected from the Tour in 1998? Did Marco Pantani apologise for being thrown out of the Giro? Did Pascal Hervť apologise for never having taken illegal substances, despite only turning professional very late in his career, and undergoing a voluntary suspension in support of his fallen colleagues? How about Bo Hamburger for, apparently, lying through his teeth this season about EPO abuse? As far as I am aware, none of these have said sorry, or shown the slightest remorse (at being caught).

So for all the fans out there, who like me are sickened at all the negative publicity killing the sport (especially in Italy, but guys racing in the Dauphine Libere - don't think for a minute we believe you when you say this is an Italian problem) let me apologise.

I am very sorry that drugs is reducing the sport to a theatre, where the racing is a sideshow and the televised live coverage is police raids rather than daring mountain attacks. I am very sorry that the winner of every big race automatically falls under suspicion. And finally, like outlandish cheating (through sensationally rehearsed diving etc) in football, I am most sorry that this will be with the sport forever.

Andy Carter
London, UK
Friday, June 15

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Drugs: let them!

Bravo! Run what you brung. The core basis for all true racing. Create an open class. Let all those guys ingest all the performance enhancing dope they can stomach and haul ass! I put 113 octane race gas in my motorcycle. I slam a pot of coffee before I ride! It'll be like watching group B rally all over. The excitement of watching your favourite racer slaughter the competition knowing his internal organs could explode at any second!

Phil Liggett can call it as the guy keels over dead only meters from the finish. World Cycling Productions can video tape it so we can relive it over and over. Not to mention video sales will go through the roof! We can even show it to our children and say "See, that's what doing drugs will do to you". There also won't be any more cancelled stages...that really pisses me off

I think it's a win-win for all.

Mark Salmon
Fullerton CA
Thursday, June 14

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Drugs & Armstrong and Pantani the slacker

One thing that really puzzles me about Armstrong is that he seems to follow the code of silence in the peloton when it comes to drug abuse. Armstrong, with his incredible career history, status in the peloton and drug-free image should be able to make a stand and not go along with status quo.

I have noted that the troubled Finnish ski federation is banning all use of injections. That's something for the UCI to consider.

To William Cooper's question "What has Marco Pantani done since the suspension and layoff?". Pantani won a couple of stages in the 2000 TdF. Ventoux was "given" to him by Yellow Jersey wearer Armstrong, which is as it should be (like Pantani's fake sprint against Ullrich "the day after" in the 1998 tour, as one example of many), and Courchevel which was Pantani at his very best. He also laid the groundwork for Armstrong's cracking on the road to Morzine, before cracking himself. Not much!

Kjetil Haaland
Stange, Norway
Wednesday, June 13

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Drugs: suspended racing in Italy

I am glad they suspended racing in Italy. And they should investigate all classes of racers as well as the pros.

I know a local rider who spends summers racing as a U-23 in Italy. The spectators all cheer for him as though he were the winner when he gets top ten or fifteen- since they all know who is doped and who is not- and they know that those who finish ahead of him are on the juice. And these guys aren't even pros!

Also, they should check with veterinarians as well as regular medical doctors- some of the products they use aren't gotten from sources everyone thinks about. No kidding.

Regis Chapman
CA, USA
Thursday, June 14

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Drugs & MTB?

As a mountain bike fan/competitor I have always believed our arm of cycling is relatively drug free (cross country at least!)

Considering the ongoing road racing/drugs saga I am beginning to feel a little naive.

My younger brother may have the potential to be a professional, is he wasting his time?

Adrian Vizzari
Melbourne, Australia
Wednesday, June 13

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Corticosteroids

Jan Ullrich is caught with anti-asthma drugs. So I suppose under his own proposed rules, he should be banned for life, eh? Perfect timing, Jan. It's amazing how many of these poor pro cyclists have to endure the hardship of asthma. Being a mediocre biker myself, I *long* for such a performance-enhancing disease . . . Is Ullrich's asthma the same that poor Ivan Gotti suffers from? is it the same asthma that Tony Rominger, who has been investigated for drugs numerous times, suffered from every July, that he claimed disabled him from ever winning Le Tour? Amazing what these people expect us to believe. Like, for instance, Signore Frigo. Is he kidding us? Is he in a state of shock? He's caught with a drug whose remnants are undetectable after a few hours, and then, as evidence of his "innocence," says he never tested positive. Is it the fact that few of these riders have been to upper-level schools that causes them to think everyone is as dim-witted as they are?

Speaking of dim-wittedness, can someone please explain to this dimwit (me) what corticosteroids are and do?

Philip Higgs
New York
Thursday, June 14

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Frigo clean - give us a break!

I am a regular reader of your web site and watched from the side lines as the Giro doping saga played out. After reading Dario Frigo's comments regarding how he was caught with doping products I just do not understand the world any more. Here is what he said: "I have never taken doping products and I never named any colleague," said Frigo who was flanked by a lawyer. "It was a weakness on my part to have these medicines, but I was conscious not to use them."

Is he mad? Does he think the public are idiots and stupid? I am totally insulted and cannot believe he would think anyone would accept this kind of explanation! Why did he have the drugs with him? I really think that some of these riders are so wrapped up in their own world, their own competition with their colleagues, and the brief moments of fame they enjoy, that they have lost all perspective with the real world. I think Frigo's comments demonstrate this clearly. Do these riders honestly think that the average fan is so stupid and ignorant that we blindly accept any and all excuses they provide for getting caught. I see the pattern over and over - Virenque did this, Hervť did this, Hamburger is trying to make excuses too.

All I can say is that these are grown men who made conscious decisions to participate in a doping program as part of a team or on their own. They were willing to stand on the podium and reap the glory - then when the truth about how they achieved this great result is shown to everyone they cower and make excuses. On top of that they insult the public that supports the races, buys product from their sponsors and ultimately pays for their salary! I am getting to the point where being a fan is just too tough to take. Some readers may argue that the establishment is to blame and that the rider is the victim but in the end the rider chooses their fate and makes the final decision and they have to be held accountable for those decisions. We as cycling fans should put our money where our mouths are and stop supporting the sport and sponsors if doping is that unacceptable to us

I myself am getting to that unfortunate point.

Matthias Schmidt
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, June 13

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Frigo owns up

Despite the fact that Frigo was caught red handed and therefore should pay the price, at least for once an athlete caught doping admits to it. This is to his credit, as it is amazing the list of athletes in many sports (soccer, track and field, cycling...) who test positive and who deny having ever used any banned substances.

It seems that the professional cyclists are simply having a hard time to leave the denial stage and admit that there is a widespread problem, one that will be difficult to eliminate. This is really too bad, because they have the most to gain from a clean sport.

Douglas Fry
Maillot, France
Wednesday, June 13

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Frigo: cyclist, hero, humanitarian

Once again I feel compelled to take it upon myself to "clear up a few minor misconceptions." You see Frigo wasn't using any drugs. Heavens no, you see, Frigo is a part-time pharmacist. Professional cyclists are paid such meagre salaries that he (and many others, I might add) must find other means to supplement his income. Instead of chastising our hero Frigo, I think we should applaud he industriousness. Remember now "They (the Italian Police) found them (drugs) in my luggage not in my blood." Please take note on how coy Frigo is. Knowing how lucrative his part-time pharmacy gig is he didn't want to alert his fellow cycling compatriots about it. So before we all become judge, jury and executioner show a little compassion for our lad Frigo. These are tough times we live in. Also, bear in mind that all the doping controls that he undertook were negative. I'm absolutely certain there are no other drugs out there he could used to mask his nefarious activities. Not Frigo! Perish the thought.

In closing I'd like to go against the grain and praise Frigo. Contrary to the way he is being portrayed, Frigo is one thoughtful fellow. Frigo himself said, "they were in a bag and they would have remained there until the finish in Milan. And there, I would have thrown them away." The Italian police shouldn't place Frigo under investigation; instead they should reward his civic mindedness. What if Frigo had discarded the bag and its "unknown" contents in a rubbish bin in another city other than Milan? Perhaps, an unsuspecting child could have accidentally stumbled upon the bag and its "unknown" contents and used it for ill-gotten gain (like a victory in the Giro). Personally, I'm all choked up at his display of unselfishness. For the children, Frigo. Yes, for the children.

Sobbingly yours,

Joe Coldebella
USA
Friday, June 15

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Irony re EPO

Does anyone else find it somewhat ironic that a new version (or at least newly marketed version) of EPO has the name of Procrit ? Perhaps the manufacturer would want to sponsor a team that does local crits. Given all the discussion lately about drugs and cycling, their timing is impeccable. The web site is www.procrit.com.

For what itís worth, I think some sort of sign in and certification system with significant penalties (3 years to life of exclusion, plus monetary penalties for the rider and each team who has a convicted rider) would be worth trying. At sign in for each race or stage (which is done already) the rider would be certifying under penalty of perjury (or the applicable European countryís law) that (a) they are aware of all the products and drugs being given to them by their doctors and support staff, and (b) they have not taken any doping or UCI prohibited products in the last year. The team doctors could also be required to sign a statement each day that they have not given any UCI-prohibited substances to any riders and that they do not have any such substances in their possession. Each team in the UCI could sign a statement at the start of the season that they agree to be financially penalized (hopefully in a significant amount) if any of their riders are convicted of using UCI-prohibited substances. This would (a) put the burden on the riders to know what they take each day, and (b) put the burden on the teams to check their riders and to ensure compliance or not sign suspicious riders. By doing it under penalty of perjury or equivalent, it makes it not just a sporting offence, but a criminal act because they are lying about it (see, for example, Bill Clintonís real troubles with Monicaónot that he did it, but that he lied under oath).

These types of systems are unfortunate and somewhat intrusive, but given the problems we currently have, the burden needs to be on the riders to simply make sure that they donít take the substances (because the risks will be too great) and on the teams to remove all incentive to look the other way.

As one who loves cycling and following the European peloton, I hope these incidents become fewer and farther between, but Iím not sure what to think at this time, given the melee of the last few weeks. I do think the Italian cancellations is a nominal gesture that does not get to the root of the problem. I am an optimist about this in the long run, but Iím not sure how long weíll have to wait.

Tom FitzGibbon
Santa Monica, CA
Monday, June 18

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Morals

Many of the letters regarding the issue of drug taking in sport and cycling in particular speak of the morals involved and the harm that these riders may be doing to their bodies. But please consider, how many people in society either smoke or drink alcohol. These are two drugs that cause many great and real problems in our societies, yet they are perfectly legal. In fact governments make lots of money out of them.

How many people die or are hospitalised each year due to smoking related illness? How many people are killed in accidents due to drinking under the influence of alcohol? How many families suffer from physical violence due to alcohol?

I would like to see cycling a clean sport. Can it ever happen? I think probably not. However it is a fight worth fighting. But lets keep a perspective of the issue. Who knows if governments found a way to make big money out of it, then performance enhancing drugs would probably be legalised. We as a society don't really seem to care much about the health factor, do we. Unless of course we are talking about our sporting idols. So please lets not talk about the morals of a rider taking a substance that could damage his health. It makes us look a little hypocritical.

Peter Budd
Australia
Thursday, June 14

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Back to cycling

Please could we concentrate on cycling again?

These last two weeks I have been able to read a lot about the lives and times of the magistracy in Florence. In my opinion the purpose of the operation of the magistracy is to get media-attention for its existence. The best tactics to do that is: you take a big national sporting event, with media-attention from all over the world, invent some regulations for the occasion, which are then violated of course by lots of cycling-related persons. Then you have your alibi to offer some news-item each day for months to come. It would be nice not to follow the lead of the magistry of Florence, but instead concentrate on cycling as a sport. The Tour de France is coming up, in my opinion the main event of the year. Let's not ruin that for the sake of some Italian magistrate's need for media attention

Hans Huveneers
Maastricht
Sunday, June 17

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Giro vs Tour #1

Oh please those guys are not in the same time zone as Lance. Belli doesn't know what the front looks like, Frigo suffered huge and may have been HOT and only Casagrande may prove to be interesting. As far the Giro vs the Tour. I will agree with you there!!! The Giro had me on the edge of my seat every night what a great race, again. I've watching the TDF since 1986, certainly a great race but for entertainment for three weeks nightly I'll take the Giro.

Regards,
Eric
USA
Wednesday, June 13

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Giro vs Tour #2

To respond to Scott Goldstein's comments about Giro vs Tour, no maybe the giro is not as hard as the tour, and maybe the recent winners of the Giro have not performed well in the tour (Pantani Who?), but to slam a rider like Simoni is just not cricket. Of any of the cyclists currently in the peloton, Gibi Simoni is most likely the one who will go on to great things. I do not think that he will do well in the tour this year, but then if he does ride the tour, it will be a last minute inclusion in his programme. But for the future, this 27 year old rider has the talent and the mindset to be able to win any of the grand tours. If the tour is his main focus next year instead of the giro, I believe that with his climbing ability he will if not win it outright, be a strong challenger for the overall.

And for the record, an on form Jan Ulrich will beat Lance Armstrong by 5 to 10 minutes in the tour this year.

Richard Burden
Birmingham, USA
Thursday, June 14

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Giro vs Tour #3

Well, the Giro is ruined, so maybe the whole discussion is pointless now. A couple of things, though, that ought to be pointed out here. First off, the "Triple Crown" is the Giro, Tour, and Worlds victories, and there are a select few riders who have pulled it off. In the eighties, it was hotly pursued by riders like Roche, LeMond, Fignon, and Bugno.

The UCI ranking of the riders does not make the races more or less exciting to watch, so the Giro vs. Tour discussion should not turn into a points tally. Right now you've got a pretty good race in the Dauphine, and the main protagonists (Millar, and Merckx) are ranked 44th, and 45th. As a matter of fact, the lower ranked riders who are up and coming tend to be much more exciting to watch then the higher-ranked riders. Probably the most entertaining rider to watch at the moment (Vaughters) is not even in the top 200.

Specialized training to win one race a year hurts cycling as a whole. Potential cycling fans see a great performance out of a star rider, and then have to wait a full year to see them again. How exciting could it be for a new cycling fan who sees Armstrong win the Tour to find out that he'll be taking the majority of the rest of the season off. You can't build a base of cycling fans that way, and we all know that cycling depends on it's fans (no fans, no sponsors). It was more exciting to watch Tony Rominger stomp all over the peloton all year then to watch Big Mig's five Tour victories. Surely he was a better rider. These days it's the riders like Dekker, and Casagrande who provide the real entertainment in cycling, pulling off big victories throughout the year and taking risks rather than guaranteeing a particular victory through specific preparation.

Robert Nagoda
Thursday, June 14

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Depth vs strength

An interesting observation ... when the field splinters in the Tour it's due to a "high quality" peloton. But when the same thing happens in a women's race it's due to the "lack of depth" in the field?

Jim Shoemaker
USA
Thursday, June 14

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Radios in time trials #1

Hi Robert, I think Lance's excuse of poor radio communication was pathetic to say the least, and I lost a lot of respect for him during that race. While he was sitting on the back "yakking" with Tyler the race was unfolding up ahead he had the audacity to ask George, Hey G what's happening up here? ......oh Hi Lance, Not much, Jan Ullrich just took off with the gold, how are you?

It's well known that Lance is not the most tactical rider out there and he is one rider who definitely benefits from the "ear-piece" Remember when he "cracked" last summer in the TDF and he was calmed down by his coach when he started to panic. Personally, I think radios suck in road races and they have made it a boring spectacle. We need more Chiapuccis.

Hugo Slevin
Wednesday, June 13

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Radios in time trials #2

To get the facts straight once and for all...

Armstrong def. Zulle by 9 sec. in 1999.

Armstrong def. Ullrich by 25 sec. in 2000.

Also, Armstrong's "rabbits" in these TT's were named "Zulle" and "Ullrich."

Robert Stoll
U.S.A.
Thursday, June 14

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ONCE on Klein?

Yes, they used that frame. It was the time when Manolo Saiz didn't have a "strong" contract with any bicycle brand and raced with some special bicycles.

The daily frames were that nice yellow Look carbon ones. The gregarios' were mounted with full standard Shimano groups and Mavic rims. Jalabert, Zulle and others in special days used lightest groups, titanium hubs and bottom brackets, no left STI... And for some special races, Zulle and Mauri rode the special Klein with a special bend in the bottom bracket tube to shorten the distance between wheels. This time the frame was white coloured with Klein logo in red.

The season before the team switched to Giant, Jalabert and Zulle used Look Titanium frames... made by THT, a brand from the Basque Country. Mauri was the only one that used the bike, this time painted in ONCE-yellow.

Hope this helps...

Ruben Carro
Spain
Thursday, June 14

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Old equipment

Well it's just a matter of taste which kind of lever bodies you like, but it's not a custom made body from Campagnolo. If you really want to ride Cipo style, then you can do it yourself.

You just take an old brake lever, and remove the "grip" and the mechanics. Then you install the new mechanics and the carbon "grip", and you're all set. It's an easy operation, and if you don't want to do it yourself, then most shops could do it in an hour.

Bjarne Olsen
Denmark
Saturday, June 16

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The last month's letters

  • June 13 - Part three: Drugs & Giro (lots more), Montreal WC, Giro vs Tour
  • 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