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Letters to Cyclingnews - April 2, 2004
If you are like me, you are once again heartbroken but not completely surprised by Jesus Manzano’s recent revelations. If you are like me, you have held your tongue respectfully as during this period of mourning for Marco Pantani, even as you have not agreed with the legions of fans (many writing letters to this website) who continue artfully to lift from him any yoke of personal responsibility, claiming he is first and foremost simply a victim, and, as such, apparently beyond reproach. If you are like me, you are trying hard not to feed your growing cynicism on this steady, plentiful diet of yearly scandals. And if you are like me, your strong principles concerning the absolute primacy of fair play in all things have been so confused and depleted by the mixed messages coming from riders, directors, organizers and federations that you have begun to wonder if this situation can ever be put right again.
So we start yet another season under a blooming cloud of suspicion. Past cycling scandals, combined with Manzano’s sophisticated knowledge (now slowly being publicly corroborated) of drug practices and what we now know about the scourge of undetectable designer drugs means that there is probably at least something – and possibly a great deal – to what he is saying. And I want to give the swift protests of the vast majority of the pro peleton some credit, but instead I am left feeling (again because of this gnawing cynicism) that is it instead rather petulant and hypocritical. I can understand, for example, the anger and frustration of Brad McGee, who recently wrote so frankly and passionately about the problem of lumping all riders together, the problems of guilt by association. But at the same time, we not only have riders like Manzano blowing a whistle, we also have an entire spate of riders – including even current riders who ostensibly have something to lose – coming forward to speak about realities. So while Manzano likely isn’t correct in stating that most riders are doped, neither is the peloton correct -- with an expression of mock horror at the mere accusation – in assuming that nearly no one is doped. As a fan, I know the truth lies somewhere in between, as sad as it to admit it, and it kills me that the sport can’t get its act together and start telling the truth. If you are like me, it kills you, too.
Perhaps the greatest lie that has been told in the last ten years is this now-standard line: “athlete X has been rigorously, repeatedly examined and has never failed a drug test.” Don’t get me wrong – I do still believe that the majority of cyclists who have never failed a test have passed their tests because they are indeed clean. But we are also starting to learn that this line of argument has become a virtually meaningless standard, because we are learning every day how the tests can be beaten. The Manzano saga will simply continue to cast doubt on the meaning of “clean”. An amnesty of some sort would certainly be revealing, but would never work. And an independent, substantial, and absolutely confidential survey administered over a period of years (with results to be shared with the UCI, say, upon each cyclist’s retirement) could be instrumental in collecting hard data and would probably reveal a huge amount that the current, mandatory health checks miss. But apart from immediate and maybe draconian measures, like an automatic lifetime ban the first time there is a deliberate offense (and honestly – why do we shy away from such measures?) how do we clean up this sport? How do we save this beautiful spectacle before the actions of a few (we can still hope it’s just a few) cause it to implode? If you are like me, you don’t have the answer but you would love to know.
Manzano & doping #2
I would like to hear some comment from the higher profile members and former members of Kelme in regards to this whole mess. Unfortunately, I don't think wee will hear much from the likes of Botero and Heras, as they are currently in the peloton. But, what about someone like Escartin? What is his take on the matter, and what can he tell us about the happenings at Kelme in the late '90s/early 00's?
Gary von Maucher
Manzano & doping #3
Sometimes it's hard to love a sport when it's filled with such incomprehensible hypocrisy and delusion.
Instead of "protesting" Manzano's revelations, the riders in the peloton should thank him and applaud his courage. Ultimately, he's saving their health and trying to keep a sport from being destroyed by it's own stupidity. The riders' code of silence seems more like a code of insanity to me.
Whatever his motives, you have to respect Manzano's courage. He pulls no punches and yet doesn't name any other riders. That has some class to it. How many of us would tell the truth in such a situation?
Anyone who reads his in-depth expose and still thinks that doping is not wide-spread and team-sanctioned is profoundly naive. Manzano gives such a detailed and comprehensive expose that it would be impossible to think it's just a rider here and there with the team doctors in the dark.
Wake up, folks. When year after year there are scandals and revelations from riders, you know the problem is deep and wide spread. And yet, people still pull out the lame "we haven't failed any drug tests." Manzano alone gave us 20 ways to beat the tests. Those tests only catch the idiots and lag far behind the cheaters.
I say hats off to the Tour de France people for kicking Kelme out. This drug circus will kill this sport yet. No doubt the UCI thinks everything is fine. Unbelievable.
Manzano & doping #4
The lid's come off... and it's a whole can of worms.
I don't know what is true, but it surely cannot be entirely untrue. Too many people are coming out to substantiate doping. Sure, they're all outsiders, and one could suspect that they're just jealous that they didn't measure up and are seeking excuses. But the fact is, if you do break the code, and speak out against doping without having been caught you are banished from the peloton for exposing the dirty practices.
On the other hand, if you are caught, and promptly admit your error, you are reinstated with open arms (like the Festina boys; even Virenque was accepted after he finally admitted error). This is because the majority of professionals know the rules by which they play the game, and are sympathetic to those who get caught.
I don't think everyone is doping, but they're not all running on water alone. The problem is not limited to Kelme and riders from Cofidis.
It's time to implement an amnesty period, followed by a lifetime ban for those caught cheating. The sport won't lose its charm if it loses the current heroes. I've seen just as much heart and panache in the local Cat V races as in the pro peloton.
Manzano & doping #5
A couple of years ago, Alex Stieda was making the claim that he could not imagine how anybody in the peloton was clean, yet at the same time announcing his purity. All of the claims were based on speculation or hearsay.
Willy Voet gets caught, and we have the Festina affair, the dark years. Riders admit and are banned for periods of time. Virenque denies, rides, admits, and still rides.
More recently, Manzano. Sounds like a bitter little man to me. Did not make the cut this year, so he decides to blow his horn. Suffering speculation now is everyone who was at one time associated with Kelme one way or another. How sad for the longest-running sponsor in the sport. I am hoping the team will be remembered for the great cyclists, and not the outburst of the bitter.
Cyclists have and are being caught. Cyclists are easily tested more frequently than just about any other sport out there (and I have to say this, because I cannot speak for every other sport... end the speculation). Are there drugs out there that cannot be traced? Very likely so. Do the cyclists have permission to take some of the drugs they take? Yes. And this is the kicker: PERMISSION. They have requested, obtained, and provided reasons for the need of said drug, legitimately, and according to the rules of the sport.
My previous life (the one when I was in shape) was that of a Speedskater. I competed in the late 70's early 80's, with a couple top ten National placings. In the summer cycling was the immediate counter sport, and I enjoyed some local success also. At that time when I was training and keeping daily logs of food intake, sleep hours, morning heart rate/weight, hours/type of training, and lastly, medicine. Back then if I had even a headache and took an aspirin, I would write it down and log it. Any cough medication had to be authorized.
I share this with you because I want to know: where are the daily logs, that have all this information for the whistle blowers? Surely in a quarter of a century riders would be keeping such information, and with computers, the task is that much simpler. It has been well documented how Lance or the other top athletes maintain a strict regime with regards to diet and training.
So why aren't the whistle blowers sharing their training logs, with the drugs, taken, administered by etc? If a 19 year old from Canada, has to do all of this, while training in the 80s, don't you think a cyclist who is on the international scene, and who is aware of the big eye on doping in cycling, take precautions for himself by tracking said information? I sure hope all you aspiring riders are.
So these are my wishes.
1 - To end all speculation.
Michel van Musschenbroek
Jeff Jones replies:
It's interesting to note that Bobby Julich has had a much improved start to the season with CSC, after looking like his racing days were reaching a twilight (given his last few years with Telekom). And Franky VDB seems to have stepped up to the plate with Fassa Bortolo, after years of head games at Quickstep, to the point that most people were sick of his excuses and figured he was also going to slip into quiet retirement.
Is this a function of meshing the right rider with the right coach/manager/team? Or a change of roles in the new team? Or simply a re-assessment of one's goals and dedication on a much more personal level?
This is in response of Mr. Adelman's letter commenting on the USPS sponsorship...
Good call! We all know that the USPS cycling team will not last forever. Probably, if we're lucky, the team under the USPS name will go on a season or two after the Lance-Man has called it quits. Sorry for the other talent but unless a new star emerges in the next season or two, the interest in the team will loose its momentum. Die-hard fans need to hang in there! We do not want another 7-Eleven or Motorola disappearance into cycling oblivion.
May we humbly suggest a couple of additional sources of revenue for the USPS marketing effort, in order to generate even more profit and allow the continuation of the USPS Cycling team...
- Comparative advertising (and competitive as well). Have Lance and the boys take on the UPS, FedEx (and other) cycling teams (if they don’t have any… they should get some!). See who comes out first and film the entire thing for a publicity stunt.
- Remake a movie called "The Postman" starring Lance as the guy who delivers the first "maillot jaune" to the Americans after a long dry spell (Starring Bob Roll as the "weird" Bridge City Mayor, where the peloton has to cross in order to get to Paris)
- Organize cycling camps (Hey Trek Bicycles is doing it with success) with the boys in blue. Instead of just having a media/sponsor event at the training camp in the late (or early) season, have a fan day as well. Recently I read an article in Cycle Sport magazine about what fdesjeux.com cycling (in France)is doing every year for their fans. Ok it's free for them but myriads of USPS fans would eventually cough up a few greenbacks to get a chance to ride with the team. Donate half to LAF or other charities and bag the rest as profit.
- In 2002 I visited the US and went into several post office branches... NONE of them had any cycling team merchandise and/or memorabilia. Why not ? Fans would just looooove Lance posters, hats, key chains, shirts, socks, bags, watches, stamps, books, cards, mugs, mouse pads, freezer-magnets, umbrellas, rain-ponchos, watches with Lance's arms as hands (à la Mickey Mouse), cell-phone cradles, pencils, pens, typewriter-covers, oven-degreasers, bagel-slicers, and vacuum-cleaner bags... Oh well, maybe that's just me :-) Point is: Use brand recognition with Lance's star power. How about a bobble-head series starring the 9 TdF riders (for each year) and Johan as Bonus? I have always been wondering why the USPS did not put Lance or/and the boys on collector's stamp series... It would be right up their alley...
USPS sponsorship #2
The discussion of bang for USPS's marketing buck has come up before. The comment then (and I don't recall where it was said, nor by whom) was that the question was not what USPS was doing spending 3% of its marketing budget on a bike team, but what the hell was it doing with the other 97%?
USPS sponsorship #3
Thanks to Steven Adelman for an excellent letter regarding the USPS sponsorship of one of history's most successful cycling teams, and sports teams in general, for that matter. That was a thorough presentation of the facts supporting the USPS sponsorship of the team.
Everyday we pick up the newspaper, or read the superb coverage @ cyclingnews.com, we hear accusations from someone, somewhere, about one thing after another, usually accompanied by finger-pointing. But what we so rarely ever hear are the facts. People don't get convicted in a court of law without the presentation of facts and evidence; but it is all too easy to convict someone (or some company) through the media, by making accusations and pointing fingers, without any facts or evidence.
To anyone who hears the accusers accusing, you should ask yourself: Why should I believe you? Where's the proof of that?
So to all the finger pointers and accusers out there I say this: Give us the facts, and show us the evidence, or keep your mouth shut!
It doesn't matter what YOU (a rabid cycling fan) thinks of Lance and the Blue Train and the $10M annual commitment. Talk to most any US Postal employee -- they will tell you they are concerned about cutbacks, cost pressures, downsizing, fears of job loss, and benefits/pension loss. In that environment, it is a pretty hard to justify a $10-12m annual expenditure so that a bunch of guys can ride the roads of France in lycra during July. Do most Postal employees take pride in being associated w/ Lance? Yes. Do most of them have any idea that the Postal Service pays him an annual salary of $2M? Hell no. It would blow their mind and outrage them.
The Postal investment in cycling was initially justified in order to raise brand awareness IN EUROPE of Postal's overnite/express transatlantic package service. They reaped that benefit full-circle in 1999 and 2000. Post-2000, the ongoing investment in the team is great, it's appreciated, and it also is no longer justified. The Postal Service domestically in the US gets about "zero" traction from the team. Most of us go to the Post Office b/c for daily mail, it is a monopoly, and for package shipping, it's price-competitive w/ UPS and FEDEX. Postal's been a great sponsor. But the truth is, there's no real reason to continue. And about 10,000,000 reasons to quit.
I understand Tom's comment that Dick Pound needs to "grow into his office", but you didn't point out that Dick spent more than 5 years as the head of the IOC's Anti-Doping Agency.
He has put his foot in his mouth more than once. Back in Salt Lake City Olympics, a cross country skiier from Canada (Beckie Scott) won a bronze medal. In the post-race interview she commented, "at least I'm burning natural gas in my engine" - in reference to the two Russians that placed ahead of her. Dick Pound lashed out at her in the media, stating that she had no right to make comments like that. She did have the right to say that because, as an athlete, she knew the testing procedures were BS. Somebody was listening, because in the next race, both Russians were caught doping. Few people have done more to promote clean athletics than Dick Pound. He has been a watchdog, a leader and a great human being - but in this case, he made a mistake.
My point is that Dick Pound ought to show know better than to point at a sport and say, "Bad". He fractured the relationship between athletes and doping agency, when they should both be working towards the same goal. If he was trying to do some good, why slap the high percentage of athletes out there that are showing leadership? Dick is not a reporter or columnist. He is the head of a drug governing agency and his objective must be to promote strict policies, enforce those policies and then get tough by ensuring accountability within the system. Surely you recognize that the proud and clean athletes don't want to be cast by the same brush. His comments had NO benefit, considering the source.
to this letter
I was reading John Lieswyn’s diary and noticed his stats of the bad driving behavior he encountered on his ride back from his latest race. It reminded me of a story that recently happened to a friend and fellow rider of mine:
While my friend was slowing up to a stoplight at a busy intersection, Mullet Man in his brand spanking new Pontiac Firebird quickly swerves around him to get to the red light first, barely missing him with the car. I am sure everyone has been through this routine at least once and knows the situation. Well like many of us, my frustrated friend mouthed his displeasure to the driver. This must have offended Mullet Man because he decided to exit the vehicle to defend his actions through witty discourse.
The conversation went something like this: MM - “You gotta problem?!” Biker - “Just one because you nearly ran me over to save, what?, half a second to get to the light?” MM - “You ‘expletive’ moron!!!” The debate abruptly ended at that point because the light had just changed and the traffic began to move.
At this particular intersection there are three lanes - one to turn left, the middle lane in which the Firebird was in to go straight, and one to turn left. A semi-truck had pulled up during the conversation to turn left. When it turned, the end of the trailer caught Mullet Man’s open car door and promptly put set it in the “wide-open” position. Mullet Man confused by the situation didn’t know whether to chase the oblivious trucker or to try to chase down and beat up my friend because he rode off saying, “Who’s the ‘expletive’ moron now!
I know we all have unpleasant encounters with motorist each time we ride. But every now and then something like this happens that makes the world seem just a little bit more right out on the road. I just had the thought that there are probably many other similar stories of cycling Karma and I would like to hear about them.
John Stevenson replies:
Mr. Martin comments that Riis would have been beneficial for Ullrich. For the life of me I'd like to know how much better Ullrich could have been. Jan is only beaten by Lance and anyone that watches the racing could see that it would always be that way because of their respective talents. Lance can ride with Ullrich and then sprint away in the final kilometer. Jan just doesn't have the ability to do that and he isn't going to invent it.
While I agree with Mr. Martin that in his early years Ullrich could certainly have learned a little focus from Bjarne, I suspect he could have learned a little focus from a butterfly as well. Now Jan's training and certainly his advice isn't likely to be improved and the Tour will hinge more on Lance's condition and luck this year than Jan's.
What a great letter - one of the funniest for some time! Tobias does exist (though I was wondering there for a while who this mysterious rider and friend was) and here's more proof: Tobias riding with Jan at this year's Setamana-Catalana.
He looks real! They seem pretty inseparable, but will Tobias get one of the few places left in T-mobile for domestiques in this year's TdF?
Well said, Mary Ann, for the guy who in the 2000 TdF quietly went up Hautacam, what was it, 40 something seconds faster than Lance in one of the latter's finest hours, beating (as we were told many times) the cream of European pro cyclists en route. Only Miguel Indurain pointed out later that neither was the fastest ascent ever of that particular col...
It’s pretty obvious when you only have 5 Tour winners in the last 13 years that there aren’t going to be many past winners riding at the same time. It’s not a judgment on Armstrong’s class that so few winners have competed 5 Tours - if anything it speaks to the difficulty of winning 5 straight Tours. I’m not aware of any riders currently racing who were racing before Indurain won his first Tour. There are only 2 Tour winners currently racing.. it’ll be awhile before that number goes up again.
Max number of champions in a TdF #2
A different look by narrowing it down to the number of past champions who had already won a TdF (future winners are included)
1914: 7 winners -- with 8 total TdF victories at the time
Odile Defraye (1912)
1992: 5 winners with 8 total TdF victories at the time
Greg Lemond (1986, 1989, 1990)
1969: 4 winners with 4 total TdF victories at the time
Jan Janssen (1968)
1970: 4 winners with 4 total TdF victories at the time
Lucien Aimar (1966)
1972: 4 winners with 6 total TdF victories at the time
1981: 4 winners with 6 total TdF victories at the time
Bernard Hinault (1978, 1979)
1990: 4 winners with 4 total TdF victories at the time
Greg Lemond (1986)
1991: 4 winners with 6 total TdF victories at the time
Greg Lemond (1986, 1990)
Pugh, Harry M Pugh
While race radios were not around in the early years of the cycling tours they have shown that they may deserve a place.
I myself do not use a radio as I am just a 3 hour a day rider for the 6 months that there isn't snow all over the place here in Michigan. Radios and/or many other communication devices have shown there usage for instances of a crash or flat tire, as well as entertainment for the cycling enthusiast sitting at home glued to the television when a major Tour is on (ok I confess). I'm sure everyone recalls the 2001 Tour de France and a lil climb called Alpe D'huez. Television and radios played a major part in the theatrics of that day and were used effectively by Lance Armstrong to play poker with everyone's legs.
My solution would be to try it out in a few stages and see what happens. It's obvious that cars are still going to need radios to communicate with race organizers and such. I just don't want to see the radio ban become a thing where people are fined for using them or suspended from racing for using them. There is one positive thing that the race radios may bring which is to make the races harder for everyone and stress even more the level of partnership among teams.
Lance Armstrong's world champion stripes are conspicuously absent from his 2004 kit. This is the first time, to my recollection, since his 1993 victory that he's been without the stripes. Anyone know why Lance or USPS chose to leave the stripes off the sleeves this year?
Okay, you go to your favorite bike store and there are lots of bike shorts, and each one has a different kind of chamois. In fact, the thing that's in the crotch seems to be the distinguishing part of the article that determines the price.
I have tried some of the synthetic chamois, in particular the type that has a layer of plastic that have some gel or lube between them, and the shorts are very comfortable for those first rides of the season, which in the NY area were just happening over the last month as the snow cleared. If you read the ads, you get the feeling that the chamois is just padding. Maybe so.
But I thought that the main purpose of the chamois was to stick to your crotch and not move over the skin, so that the chamois/bike shorts get worn and not your crotch. This is not really a padding function. In fact, the syn things, some of which are plastic, like the ones I just mentioned above , seem to irritate me on really long hot rides. I think that there is no where for the sweat to go, and it just stays there. On the long rides, the real chamois seems the most comfortable.
I have been wondering about this for several years, and then I thought you guys might have some opinions on this. So, my question: What chamois is really the best? Or might each kind be better for one kind of riding over another, eg, short daily rides as opposed to long weekend rides. And of course, we all want to know what graces Lance's behind.
Are there strong opinions? Or are they all the same?
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