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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 30, 2002
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Doping in the USA
John Lieswyn's statement that "there simply isn't enough money in pro cycling over here to create incentive or finance a costly supervised drug regimen" seems short of the point. Would he have us think that money is the only incentive behind doping? While not questioning HIS integrity, I recall reading his latest journal entry where he writes of chasing the much coveted national champions jersey. He certainly had me believing he'd ride for that jersey with or without prize money. Monetary reward is important for a pro athlete, sure, but when the rider knows that's not in play, there rests plenty of motivating factors which could tempt someone to seek an unfair advantage.
Doping in the USA #2
I'd like to add some perspective to the issues of who controls drug testing in the United States and its potential cost. All of the letters on this subject seem to believe that USA Cycling is the current "drug czar".
Currently, USADA (sub-group of WADA) is responsible for testing all sports within the Olympic movement. This takes testing and discipline out of the hands of the governing bodies (USA Cycling). USADA tests athletes at their discretion and in concert with potential requests from the NGB (national governing body). Elite athletes listed by the NGB and residing in the US as likely to represent them internationally are part of the "knock and pee" program-out of competition testing. Athletes who become eligible or qualify for events like world championships are added to that list. There is additional testing of teams that USA Cycling selects for international competition. The UCI conducts some out of competition testing as well as other National Olympic Committees and members of WADA around the world.
In the past, the United States Olympic Committee offered a limited number of tests annually to the NGB. I believe USADA does the same. Typically these tests are administered at high profile events, like National Championships. There are a limited number because it is a significant cost ($200-$250 per test in 1996). Of course an NGB could request more tests, but who is going to pay? Are we willing to pay $200 a year for licenses to race and demand more testing?
Finally, mixed into all of this are UCI events in the US. The UCI selects certain, but not all of their events to be tested. The UCI Federation, USA Cycling, makes the decision to provide testing or not. USA Cycling may choose to engage USADA or it can actually assign a UCI anti-doping inspector to administer a test for the event. Providing these tests costs USA Cycling hard dollars or use of their annual allotment of tests. The results of a USADA test may not be recognized by the UCI, but it appears that harmonization is on the horizon.
Doping in the USA #3
I have to agree with John Lieswyn. While paranoia about doping may be rampant in the US peloton, actual doping is almost certainly rather rare. As John pointed out, the most powerful doping agents are way out of the price range of most US teams and riders. Junk steroids from Mexico may be cheap enough for cyclists to afford, but most cyclists are smart enough to know that they are highly detrimental to your health.
There is a possible solution to doping control that won't bankrupt the promoters and USA Cycling. It is a challenge system, already used in motorsports and RAAM. If you think your competitor is cheating at a race, you can demand that he be tested. You pay in advance for all the costs of testing. If the tests come back clean, you are poorer but wiser. If your competitor tests positive, then your money is refunded. (Of course, if the guy sues claiming the test was a false positive, you may be a co-defendant along with the promoter.)
A challenge system would serve two purposes. There would be a greater chance that the few who dope would be caught. It would also help put a stop to trash talk about doping in the peloton. Think the guy who just beat you is a drug cheat? Put your money where your mouth is and pay for him to get tested! Trash talk would soon become a very expensive hobby.
I have been racing at a pretty high level for several years, last year I attended both the Road and Track Junior World Championships with the national team. This year I went to Europe with them and raced multiple World Cups. I assure you, whenever I have ridden well I have been drug tested, and - I stress - NEVER tested positive. In the last two years I have probably given a blood or urine test at least eight or nine times, even a few of them in Europe. So you can be pretty sure that I am clean. Do you realize that even at Junior Nationals the top two riders and one random from every event for 17-18 year olds are tested? I agree that some riders are doping, but I highly doubt it is on a local level. I have a hard time picturing someone "juicing up" so that they can win their Thursday night crit.
I consider these comments to be a personal insult. Are you claiming that because I have had some success I must be doping? Maybe you should come and see the way I live and train before you make those accusations. I also can assure you that all my friends who are winning races are doing the same thing as me.
Doping in the USA #5
Thanks to John Lieswyn for pointing out to me that I should read things more carefully before commenting.
I agreed with Stuart Press' letter and stated that it was "on track" when I didn't in fact look past the line: "the majority of elite and pro cyclists in America are doping".
While I have had discussions (and have heard "I can hook you up" lines more than once), I believe it is not a majority, but a pathetic minority of racers all the way down to Cat 4 and 5. I don't make the claim out of jealousy of faster riders and elite level racers, as that is a tough life with very little reward and I am quite happy being a fan of the truly talented. I make the statement out of desire for change but under the reality that at it's present level, we will not be able to afford testing at all but the top run of races. Like it or not. we will have to live with the tossers that juice and spike, but can do so knowing that they have ruined themselves and taken years off their life and for the most part never accomplished anything on a truly competitive level.
But, while an absolute apology goes out to John and his clean compatriots for my (out of ignorance) agreeing with Stuart's blanket statement, I would want to argue against John's assessment that 99% of the US peloton is clean. The reasoning that, because there is little money in it makes it so, is flawed (look at armature bodybuilding in the us for instance). And super riders like John may not be exposed to the same vices that the rest of us wannabes are. All in All, blanket statements about the cleanliness of Cycling might be as silly as a blanket statement to the contrary.
Doping in the USA #6
My original letter about Doping in the USA has had the effect I was looking for, that is to see what other perspective have seen and heard. In reading some of the responses... particularly of John Lieswyn, I admit that I may have become overly paranoid about how serious doping is in American racing, and I'm somewhat relieved to hear John's perspective.
Cyclingnews editor Jeff Jones raced in Australia and Europe before turning to the keyboard to make a crust. He offers these comments:
The UCI can't fix the problem so why not give the French police a go at catching these cheats. Nobody in Festina at Le Tour 98 tested positive and the fact that Mr Rumsas did not go positive this year is not the point. Mrs Rumsas could always read Willy Voet's book while cooling her heels.
Mr. Fabri makes some very good points regarding Armstrong's history -- and his lack of a "dark horse" label, even after his 99 Prologue win.
It seems forgotten by most that Armstrong took Fleche Wallone and was second at Liege in '96, before going on to win his second consecutive Tour du Pont, after placing 2nd in '93 and '94. His amazing run in the Ardennes was just six months before he coughed up blood and underwent brain surgery. If he could get those results while sick with cancer, it stands to reason that he may be a pretty strong talent.
Giving Rumsas the benefit of the doubt, it seems that sometimes potential is fulfilled, even when it is least expected. That's not to say Rumsas is anywhere near Armstrong in terms of talent or ability, but it just may be possible that he is finally stepping up to where his earlier results indicated he could be.
A rugby player of Georgian nationality, currently under contract with C.A. Brive was stopped a few days ago with a boot load of performance enhancing products. Charged with the carrying and supplying of illegal drugs he has been released on bail. Meanwhile a mother of three children is still in a French prison on the same charges. French justice is truly bizarre.
Chris Fabri is right that Rumsas was mentioned as a dark horse candidate for TdF honors -- by none other than Lance Armstrong. The quote was covered by Cyclingnews. Guys, can you dig it out and reprint it?
I can't find such a comment by Lance Armstrong, but Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano was another rider who tipped Rumsas as a podium chance.
I agree with some statements made that one is innocent until proven differently. What I just don't understand is why someone is letting his wife stay in prison. I think Rumsas must know something about the products in the car of his wife. If he is innocent what does he have to lose? Why won't he come to France to explain? If he has nothing to do with whatever is found in that car he has nothing to fear. So why not go to France to support your wife? That's what I can't understand.
Romas Stapulionis wrote:
Not necessarily. But this case is rather more similar to the following scenario: The police find machine guns, hand grenades, and ground to air missiles in your wife's car. Then, it might be reasonable to assume that you were an arms dealer. This would be even more likely if you made your living as a mercenary, while she was a housewife.
Yes, Paris Roubaix is probably the toughest one day flat-with-cobbles road race, [original letter] but try a total of 140 miles, mountain after mountain 14,000 feet of climbing to be exact and at an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet above sea level and then a little bit of Roubaix except it is descending from the mountains at speed on gravel and dirt without barriers and inches from 300 foot drop offs and I believe you get very close to being one of the toughest if not the toughest bike race in the world. I believe there are a lot of pros from Europe that would to race a race like this, but so far we have no shows. Is it lack of knowledge of the race or 'fear'?
As a former Colorado bike racer I challenge anyone who calls himself an 'overall' type of racer to come out and do the race next year and invite all of your Euro friends that are not doing the big races (the Tour, Clasica San Sebastian etc.) and need some 'training miles' or as we call here in Colorado 'a bike race'. We would to see the best in the world do this course so we here in Colorado can be known for the 'Toughest Bike Race in the World'.
You are all invited.
Saturn Classic #2
Don Hicks points out the Saturn Classic winner, Chris Wherry (Mercury), should go over to Paris Roubaix and compete. Interesting, does that mean PR is the worlds toughest race? I think Chris could do a whole lot better in France than Johan Museeuw would ever do in a climbing race at altitude. Maybe if we could average the 2 results we would get the world toughest racer? Who cares? All in all it is just a title/marketing hype and do not get too caught up in it. What is really the hardest race in the world? Kind of like what is better Campy or Shimano? It is your opinion.
However, anyone who wins the Saturn Cycling Classic is as thought as they come when talking about professional bike racers. Add to that the story of Chris's father passing away from Leukemia 3 days before and you have one thought bike racer and young man. Chris's Dad was one of the nicest people in all of Colorado and was always out proudly watching his son race (a long with his Mom). I have never lost any parents, but the courage to carry on through something like that, into an event like the Saturn Cycling Classic is incredible to me.
As for the UCI sanctioning it, please I hope that never happens. Let those morons continue to screw up drug testing and make fun of Mapei in the press over in Europe. We do not need them messing with a very unique race over there (like they used to want to do with the HP Challenge back a while ago). As for suspension, it was not a luxury it was required of for the main decent. Not having it took serious riders right out of the race with numerous flats (as I observed from our team car barrelling down the decent). I would agree it would be great to see a more international field of professionals. I just do not think it will happen for a one day race as Europeans do not want to come over for a one day event at altitude.
Saturn Classic #3
In response to Don Hicks. Yes we have heard of the Saturn Classic in the rest of the world. And it certainly does look like one of the toughest one day races in the world. I drove that same route over two days on a leisurely trip from Boulder to compete in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race. It is an intimidating and incredible route, and only the best climbers in the field would be in contention to win.
The road surfaces are just as tough as any Northern European classic, the descent of Oh My God Road, and the whole of Guanella Pass are unpaved and test both bike handling skills and equipment durability.
I think the organizers should contact the UCI, and get the race UCI sanctioned. It would be great to see a top international field ride it.
The type of riders who could win the Saturn Classic would not be at all suited to Paris Roubaix so it is a bit silly to compare them.
Well now I've seen it all. Even the most inexperienced amateur team would not have made such a mess of the situation in which Rabobank found itself in the final stage of the ENECO Ronde van Nederland. Erik Dekker must be disgusted at the tactics employed by his directeur sportif Theo de Rooij allowing his so-called team-mate Michael Boogerd to practically tow the only rival he had left in the last kilometres all the way to the overall victory. And then de Rooij has the cheek to blame US-Postal. Rabobank had the destiny of the overall victory in their own hands and blew it.
I am responding to Geoff Frost's letter of August 23, where he commented on the performance of the Australian cycling team at the recently completed Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
It indeed was a fantastic Games for the team as a whole INCLUDING the Australian women's cycling team. The suggestion that the women under performed is farcical.
In the time trial the three Australian starters finished 2nd, 4th and 5th. Two Canadians who are former Olympic medallists and world renowned time triallers relegated them to these positions. Anna Millward narrowly missed out on the Gold. Margaret Hemsley and Sara Carrigan have never before been so close to the winning time in a major competition. Their rides, in particular, show great promise for the future. Underperforming?
With regards to the road race, the depth of field was not great but it never is at major Games due to the number of participants being restricted. In terms of quality, the Australians faced 8 of the UCI top 100 riders in the world. In contrast, for the Road Race, the Aussie men only faced 1 of the top 200 riders in the world. Anyone that watched the race would agree that the Aussie women totally dominated throughout the race and had the win in their grasp before Hemsley crashed whilst heading, solo, for the Gold medal. To reinforce this disappointment, Hayley Rutherford missed out on a medal due to a dangerous manoeuvre from a fellow competitor in the final metres of the sprint. If circumstances were only slightly different the Aussie women would have taken two medals out of the road race and overall their performances would have been declared an outright success. The events that transpired make road cycling what it is, so no excuses.
Geoff's degrading of the women that made up the women's road team does nothing to help them overcome the disappointment that they all felt following Margaret's crash. Where is the support that he speaks so often about? His comments are totally at odds with the wide and extensive coverage the women's performances received by the mainstream press in Australia. Also, Geoff's comments do not address the fact that the team was made up of very young riders who will be a force at the next Commonwealth Games.
Perhaps Geoff might offer some constructive criticism and enlighten us all to what changes are necessary to stop our "women once again under-performing".
If you do not already have a name for the Lion that is presented during the Tour de France, I would like to suggest "Jaja". This would be appropriate not only because Laurent Jalabert is one of the great cyclists, but also because of the characteristic appearance which they share; big black eyebrows.
In response to Gary Jackson on pro riders having the levers mounted in a less conventional position on the bars, I believe this is related to the introduction of STI/Ergo type levers.
Today, as a result of these developments we now spend more time riding on the hoods and tops and less on the drops because your steering, braking and shifting control are now all in hand. It also makes sense that the sprinters have the levers in the more conventional position as they tend to use and need the drops more than a GC style of rider. The GC riders are also very good climbers by nature and a slightly higher position may offer assistance when out of the saddle.
There are also some other possibilities to take into account, modern levers are longer than the older style to accommodate the internal mechanism, thereby increasing reach, and with the introduction of threadless stem systems, the incremental adjustments we made with the older style quill stems are no longer possible. Sometimes when the steering column is cut a "bees dick" too short and installing an additional spacer is impossible, turning or mounting the levers slightly higher is a cute way to cheat and achieve that final perfect fit.
I have also found this type of adjustment to be necessary now that we have so many compact and semi compact style bikes on the market, and which so many pros now ride. Many riders do not like the aesthetic of a stem with rise preferring the more conventional look, turning the bars slightly upward gives you that little extra bit of lift.
I have seen the German 4 man pursuit squad using these helmets and they look impressive. But I cannot help but agree that they really are fairings since advertisements for them say that they do not offer head protection in the case of an accident!
Leslie T. Reissner
In response to Regis Chapman's letter regarding the headgear of certain riders. Regis, how can you be so dense? That's not a helmet! It is a very large set of sunglasses! In fact, I'll bet Hein Verbruggen has a set in his car for driving!
I just recently took a trip to North Carolina to do some training in the mountains. I found that my buddy, who is 5'7", ~145lb and ~7% body fat could climb a lot quicker than me at 5'7" ~ 175lb and ~8% body fat. What are the top level climber's bios? And who was the biggest top level climber of the sport in recent years?
Carlos C. Cruz
Cyclingnews editor Jeff Jones replies:
Any updates on Javier Ochoa's condition? He was the Kelme rider that was nearly killed by a car while training in Spain about two years ago.
Perez Cuapio will still ride next year for Panaria Fiordo. You can check this at "team news" for Aug, 8th at www.cycling4all.com. Don't ask me for the reasons! Maybe it's his Italian girlfriend he met at last year's Giro, despite having just lost two teeth.
He will be accompanied by two former Australian iTeamNova riders Scott Davis and Brett Lancaster.
Stuart Knipe tells us that Simoni should suffer even more from the use of a throat lozenge that he already has. I have to wonder exactly what punishment he would consider enough? It now appears that the chemists could have told everyone in the beginning that the levels of cocaine in his body between the two tests pointed to extremely small amounts ingested probably in some accidental manner as was later shown.
Yes, Simoni was responsible for his actions. Simoni, was unceremoniously thrown out of the Giro, he was prevented from entering the Tour and has been vilified by half of the fan base of bicycle racing. His season was destroyed and his career was in turmoil. His team was made to suffer for no discernible reason. Wasn't this enough punishment?
I can only wonder if his cheeky comments about being the only rider capable of challenging Lance had anything to do with the overblown response to something that everyone knew was not a case of performance enhancing drug use.
I, for one, welcome Simoni back into the peloton and will await his future performances with anticipation. But, Gilberto, lay off of the throat lozenges. They may have given you some throat relief but they were certainly a pain elsewhere.
I find it baffling that we would suspend a rider for a very long time for taking a drug that has no positive relationship to performance at all. He was booted from a Giro that he had no chance of losing after a spectacular stage win. He has paid his dues, even if the coke use was intentional.
I side with Lance Armstrong in saying that it makes no sense for a rider to intentionally take coke. The first positive was much more questionable than the second, and I would argue that the second positive makes it less likely that he knew he was taking coke. The first positive was in a relatively obscure race near his home town. It seemed possible to me that he did a few lines with some old friends. But the fact that he tested positive in the Giro? No way he would try that when he knew he would be tested and he knew that coke is pretty easily detected. Something was wrong.
We need to stop riders from using performance enhancing drugs. It would be nice to stop them from using casual drugs as well, but that can't be a priority. Society takes care of that anyway.
Often it suits an athlete to be a vocal advocate for or against something, often it doesn't. [Original letter] As an example, would you, as the sport's "Le Boss" make a commercial against a form of transportation you or your team is sponsored by?
In America, to anger the car industry is tantamount to signing a death warrant. Ask anyone from the 20's in public transportation, or ask George Bush Sr. and Jr. both, as they are personal lapdogs to the oil industry, as are the military who serve them. These are the biggest and most influential companies in the entire global economy, and many, many cycling teams are sponsored by automotive dealerships, and major car companies.
You and your own club needs such a sponsorship also to afford to take your athletes to and from races that are spread so far around the country as to make fielding a full blown pro team beholden to car sponsorship.
More or less, you can say that the automotive industry has co-opted every opposing viewpoint into their own. Ever see a nature conservancy program sponsored by Jeep on OLN? You betcha.
Any thinking person can only hope to improve the conditions for cyclists through building relationships with townships and through what amounts to begging for scraps from the pile of automotive goodwill. It's sad and makes me angry, but it's true.
Europeans are much more sensible about their transportation than in the U.S., and thus why cycling (and public transportation) thrives there.
So, to bash a car company doesn't serve anyone's interest- not yours, and certainly not Armstrong's. Having Lance as a backer and behind-the-scenes guy is good for U.S. cycling in exactly the right way. Bully pulpits don't work against monopolies...
I can tell you that there is no prize money for the overall winner of the Women's Road World Cup. As for the other divisions of the World Cup, I'm not sure!
In response to E. Gribbell, I love that Virenque still has his license. There is not a more animated rider to watch. When he held off the peloton by 20 seconds at Paris-Tours last year it was magical. Go back and watch as he is on that final little hill before the finish. He is clawing his way up...yelling and screaming to himself... feeding off the crowd... and then the classic one arm in the air with the little kiss as he crosses the line. That win embodied what cycling is all about. It was also the essence of Virenque. There is no better winner in cycling. I love him.
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