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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 11, 2002
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Verbruggen & Mapei
It was toe-curlingly embarrassing to read the open letter from UCI President (why is he still there?) Hein Verbruggen concerning Mapei and their ten-season long sponsorship. Dr. Squinzi has decided to take his ball and his bat, as the Cyclingnews editors put it, and head for home, and Verbruggen's reaction is a childish "Well, we never liked you anyway, so we're actually happy that you're leaving, ha ha!"
The UCI needs to take some kind of stand on the doping issue. Either do something serious about the problem, or shut up and stop pretending.
Oh, I'm sure the governing body of the UCI tell themselves that they have done ever so much in the fight against doping, and things are just about fine now. But everybody who wants to see the truth can tell that the pro bike riders are still doing drugs. Perhaps fewer riders than before are doping, but I'm not even sure about that. They race faster and faster each year on the same roads and the same mountains - either shaming the people who believed that a drug-free peloton would be sluggish and boring to look at, or simply because they've found the EPO and growth hormones of the 21st century.
As long as the majority of the riders, or just a large enough minority, still want to cheat in order to win, they're going to find ways of doing it. Unless the police raid theirs rooms every day, and do blood tests about once every 12 hours.
I'm sick of the constant bickering about doping, and the hypocrisy (not sure how to spell that!) of the UCI, the team leaders and the riders themselves.
Maybe we should just stop pretending that the drugs issue can be solved, or that it can be solved by the UCI, at least. Maybe we should take off the blinders and admit that a large part of the heroic bike riders who struggle up the slopes of one mountain after the other, are cheats and liars, and treat the sport accordingly. Hey, it'll be kind of like watching pro wrestling.
Anders P. Jensen,
Verbruggen & Mapei #2
My hat off to Dr Squinzi and thumb down to Verbruggen. Verbruggen should know that Dr Squinzi/Mapei and cycling in general is what making cycling such a great sport. And because of cycling, he has a job as the president of UCI. Without cycling, there will be no UCI. I think Squinzi/Mapei/cycling is more important and more significant than one ignorant president in UCI at present. I felt very sorry for Mapei and the stables in it. Names like Tafi, Bettini, Hunter and Fornaciari are a big hits in Malaysia. To lose Mapei is like to lose cycling altogether. I hope Mr Squinzi will reconsider his decision. And I hope Verbruggen would reconsider to step down because you have done nothing to restore the pride of cycling during this hard times.
The exit of Mapei and Dr. Squinzi from our sport is very disappointing at the very least, at a time when new sponsors are sceptical about investing money into a tarnished sport. For the amount of effort and money that Mapei has put into this sport in the past ten years, Verbruggen should be kissing Dr. Squinzi's ass, not criticising it.
The open letter just shows that Verbruggen took this on a personal level, maybe it was from the amount of power that Mapei and its owner had in the cycling community, or maybe its that Hein will have to get off his high hog ass to drum up more interest in the sport, and to get more perspective investors interested.
A new leader is maybe in order, one that has sole responsibility in the UCI and its dealings, rather than having two jobs, because remember that Verbruggen is also the IOC technical director. It seems that he lacks the heart and conviction that should be shown by a leader that loves the sport that he has been put in place to run.
Who should run the UCI, perhaps an ex-pro, or perhaps Dr. Squinzi since he has no involvement in the sport after this season. Imagine having someone like Gianni Bugno at the helm, or even the likes of Johan Museeuw, or any rider that has tonnes of class that is respected by riders, organizers, sponsors, and the fans alike. Verbruggen cannot get any worse on the popularity poll than now, and I know that being popular is not one of the duties, but selling the sport is, and it seems that he is not doing a good job!
Is July 6th here yet!
Go Lance go!
Verbruggen must go #2
Here's the headline we want to hear: Heinie Verbruggen is leaving cycling, and his whole corrupt feudal court will be replaced by Mapei administration. They sure as heck run things far more efficiently and professionally...
Verbruggen must go #3
Why not replace Verbruggen with Squinzi? The latter has demonstrably done more for the sport. Squinzi also knows how to run a state of the art company. Verbruggen keeps trying to return cycling to the technology (and doping) of the 1950s and sneers at the bicycle and component suppliers who have put 21st century technology into the bikes we enjoy. He obviously has bought himself a great power base in the UCI and will be hard to dislodge. I put it to the representatives of all the member nations that we the cyclists want that turkey out of office before he ruins the sport irretrievably.
The news about Ullrich's non-negative test shows up more problems with doping control.
The reason why doping is illegal in sport is to stop athletes getting an unfair advantage. The cycling authorities want the riders to respect the laws and the public to believe that the results are fair. The authorities have to make sure that the laws more or less achieve their aims.
The fact that Ullrich can be banned if he tests positive for amphetamine while recovering from a long term injury is a joke. M. Leblanc comparing him to Virenque is even worse. Virenque cheated by taking performance enhancing drugs while racing (and show-boating about what a great rider he was). If Ullrich has taken illegal amphetamines he might have broken a criminal law (although the test results are probably not evidence you could convict on), but this test has nothing to do with racing results.
This farce comes after Garzelli having a positive test for Probenecid, a drug which reportedly does not enhance performance and does not mask steroid use. If that is true, why is it still banned? Because someone was too lazy to take it of the list?
The natural result of both these "tests", and all the attendant publicity, is that the public does not believe that racing results are fair. It seems that the testing programs are doing as much to bring the sport into disrepute as are the riders who dope - and who would have believed that Ullrich might be such a moron?
Jan Ullrich #2
Let's hope there is a good explanation for the recent developments surrounding Jan Ulrich. I have always admired him and feel he has been unduly criticized in the past. But I must confess I have a dark fear that perhaps, just perhaps mind you, this affair is the unfortunate result of a misguided attempt by a frustrated young athlete to avoid picking up too many kilos while side lined with an injury. I hope I'm wrong.
Jan Ullrich #3
I just wanted to say my bit for Jan, and, for what it's worth, offer him my support.
There's no denying what he has done is stupid, and he's admitted it. I just hope that he's not penalised too harshly and victimised by the wider cycling community.
He has broken the UCI's rules on drugs, this is true. However I don't think there's any doubt he was not doping, he was not cheating, he was not trying to gain a benefit from his drug use, and he has freely admitted what happened. He is not racing, he's off the bike, and he was winding down and having a break, and using drugs (and previously alcohol) to relax and help him with his problems - after all it must be frustrating to know you're one of the best yet not be able to prove it.
Whether or not you think he should need drugs and alcohol to do this is not the point, nor has it got anything to do with the argument, although I will say this to anyone critical of what he's done - when you're pointing the finger ask yourselves (a) if you've ever relaxed after a big race with a beer or two and (b) if you've ever tried recreational drugs (of any sort). If you can honestly say no to both of these questions then point away.
He's one of the greatest talents this sport has seen for a long time, please, for the good of the sport, let's give him a chance. Everyone makes mistakes, let him get over it and move on. I've no doubt that he will accept his punishment, take it on the chin, and come back stronger than ever. Personally I can't wait to see The Kaiser back on the bike and storming, back in the form of Le Tour '97.
Simon van der Aa
Jan Ullrich #4
It's been sad to witness the decent of Jan Ullrich from elite cyclist to troubled adult. However, I believe that this behaviour could have been predicted based upon Jan's childhood training as a cyclist in an East German sports school.
Here in the U.S. we have similar examples of athletically gifted children who become dysfunctional adults by virtue of having their childhood stolen from them through rigorous sports training starting at an early age. The cautionary tales of Todd Marinovich (quarterback prodigy and former professional American football player) and Jennifer Capriati (pro tennis player) should serve as warnings to all parents of star child athletes.
Also, some blame must be laid at the doorstep of the Telekom management for lack of oversight of Jan's training and rehabilitation during this period.
I only wish Jan the best for his recovery and return to the peloton.
I find it very interesting peoples reactions to the drug taking of the pros we all love to watch. Simoni tests positive or non negative to cocaine and is roundly criticized and rightfully so. I am not sure however of cocaine is a performance enhancer? I would like to know so anyone who can tell me I would appreciate that.
Ulrich then tests positive for amphetamines. These are definitely performance enhancers. I know he was not racing but still he has a licence. He is not so roundly criticized but is in hard point of his life etc etc etc.
It seems that it is quite likely that both took the drugs for recreational purposes which, in my view, is still wrong. So why the different attitude to the two riders? If you are to condemn one should not both be condemned. Or conversely if you can find mitigating factors for 1 would not the other possibly have similar.
Simoni may not have a knee problem but who knows what drove him to do what he did? I believe they both seem to acted stupidly and should be judged with the same standard.
On seeing the results of the MTB World Cups this year I find it amazing that the ACF can ignore the appeal of Sid Taberlay for inclusion in the Commonwealth Games Team for Manchester. As I understand it selection is granted to those with the most UCI points for a period which mostly falls in the previous season.
I would like to make a number of points in regard to this, firstly achieving UCI points depends partly on a riders financial position, riders with more support/money will be able to attend more races attracting UCI points and as such will automatically have the opportunity of gaining more points. Secondly the period that selectors look at when selecting riders falls so far before the Games actually begin meaning that there are to many variables in regard to possible injuries, form slumps etc...
Taberlay is the best performed Australian Mountain Biker THIS YEAR! He won both National Championships this year by comfortable margins in both Under 23 and Elite beating his rivals in a convincing manner.
I think it is about time selectors adopted the approach of fostering some new talent instead of sticking with the same old riders and change the selection criteria so that more emphasis is placed on National Championships and not races that not all riders can afford to attend.
While only three of the USPS team's Tour riders are Americans, I think many folks are overlooking the other teams in the tour. CSC-Tiscali, a Danish Team, has a certain former Postie and All-American Giro stud Tyler Hamilton as their leader for GC. Oh yeah, and ANOTHER former Postie, American Levi Leipheimer, is the ace GC rider for a VERY Dutch dominated team (Rabobank). Looking beyond those three, Americans Kevin Livingston and Bobby Julich, who ride for a German team (Telekom) may have a free hand for their GC aspirations minus Mr. Second Place (Jan); and Jonathon Vaughters is the top GC rider on French Team Credit Agricole (although he's not their primary goal). And lest we forget that "Fast" Freddie Rodriguez is the designated stage sprinter for Domo-Farm Frites. Heck, I think this year's situation is great for Americans. With 9 Americans riding the Tour on six different teams, and most of them in leadership positions, we could even see an American one-two-three in Paris. OK, that's a lil far out, but a possibility nonetheless.
Stuart Press, Minute Maid/Dasani/LaGrange Cycling Team
The Tour de France is about to begin, and for the first time there is a real chance of their being a podium completely bereft of European riders. Not only that, with the form of Armstrong, Hamilton and Leipheimer, there is an incredible chance that it could consist of three Americans. That in itself would be a fantastic achievement - I think we would have to go back a long way into the annals of TdF history for the last one nation podium.
If this is the case (and if so, none will be happier than me as I find these guys amazing sportsmen with a grand degree of humility) can I simply ask that the American contributors to this page also act with a similar amount of humility. Over the last year the United States has had to take a close look at itself and wonder what the world has against it. I, personally, don't have anything against you lot, but it really does take the biscuit when you win a race and your rider is the best in the world ever. You even talk about Bobby Julich as a potential winner!
So, if there is a one-two-three in Paris, let the result speak for the talent of the riders and not the next step in American world domination.
My name is Bruce Goldsmid and I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada. We leave for France on July 18 and will be staying around Montpellier. I am bringing my bike and want to watch the stage the next day and go to the top of Mt. Ventoux.
I plan to drive to Avignon then Carpentras along D942 to Sault and up D164 that intersects with D974 where the tour goes up. I have heard stories that I will not get access to Mt. Ventoux as there will be a pile of people. Who can I communicate with to see if it is possible to park in Sault and then ride my bike up to see the tour? Do you know anyone who will have the experience to tell me if my plan is possible? I will probably arrive at Sault around noon and ride for two hours to get to Mt. Ventoux. The tour is not expected to arrive there till about 4:30pm. If you know you I can communicate with to expedite my plan it would be appreciated.
As before, great coverage for the Tour on OLN here in the states with Phil and Paul. So far, so good with Frankie Andreu's reports, too. But... what happened to Bobke? If we can't have Bob, why do we have to have this other bozo who is clearly without a clue? After such a great job with the Giro, I feel a bit let down in this department. If I have to what the same commercials over and over and over again for 22 days, then a least give me Bobke.
Why is Francesco Casagrande absent from the Fassa Bortolo Tour de France contingent? Did his disqualification from the Giro carry a suspension?
What happened to iBanesto.com's Juan Miguel Mercado. Mercado rode a very impressive Vuelta last September, and I would have expected him in the Tour, yet Menchov is now the focal point.
Having read your article on DynEPO, it would seem that the chances of catching the cheats are lower than ever. The cheats are always going to be a step ahead of the testing procedures, so the winner will be the rider who knows the smartest and most ruthless chemist.
The only answer is to snuff out the demand (as it would be with recreational drugs). Let everyone take whatever they choose, and watch the carnage that ensues. Before long other race and team sponsors will follow the lead of Mapei, and find other ways to promote their products, and the bottom will drop out of professional cycling. Like bear baiting and cock fighting it will become a morally unacceptable spectacle. No money means no pressure to cheat means no demand for drugs.
As far as amateur races are concerned, attitudes must change, akin to the public perception of drinking and driving, to the point where no-one wants the stigma of being suspected of cheating in races for cups and medals only.
If that creates a smaller pool of riders and races, so be it. Better to have a minor sport that's clean, than the present major one riddled with drugs.
Go knock on a front door at Bijlokevest 9 Gent 9000 (down the road from Plums bike shop - Staf Boone lives above the opp corner shop). In this house just about every well known Aussie bike rider has either stayed in that place, or passes through.
Every day riders head out from there and hit the canal ride (starts at Merelbeke) and goes out to Oudenaarde, and then into the hills!
Yes, having VDB ride for Crack would be a bit of dark comedy. However, Domo taking him back doesn't have me laughing. I wasn't too supprised to see Div. III teams lining up to sign VDB if he was acquitted. Often logic and morals go out the window when your're desperate to win. Is Domo that desparate? I was suprised at Domo's willingness to take him back. They are either stupid enough to believe his lies, or think we're stupid enough to believe them. Neither one of these options puts Domo in a good light.
If VDB is let off on a technicality, neither Domo or any other team should pick him up. The courts may have to dismiss his case on a technicality, but Cycling shouldn't turn a bind eye to the facts too.
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