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Letters to Cyclingnews - December 3, 2004
For those who "know" Tyler is guilty, skip this letter. For me, I see some issues with WADA and the UCI that make me wonder what's going on. They're failing the "smell test".
If the test is solid, Tyler's guilty (as is Santiago Perez). However... it is a new test (con). Seems strange Tyler had been warned since May about anomalous test results and continued to dope? (con). A majority of cyclists seem to lie when caught (pro). Tyler didn't suddenly ride better this year, like Rumsas a few years back (con). Everyone knows all cyclists dope (pro). Academically and medically qualified people have raised solid doubts about the test development methodology (con). Two team members test positive for blood doping (pro and con, conspiracy or common mode failure). Apparently Tyler is not allowed to see test results and supporting information (con). The full test protocol is "secret" and hasn't been peer reviewed (con). Dick Pound and WADA and the UCI have positioned themselves as advocates for conviction rather than welcoming scrutiny and study (con). An awful lot of cyclists are supportive of Tyler's character (con). Dick Pound is a known blowhard (con).
All I'd like to read is that the main actors in this play (WADA and UCI and the Aussie scientists) place every emphasis on making sure the test is valid for Tyler and Santiago. In addition to what else I've read, the following from the UCI's decision to drop Phonak from the Pro Tour confirms that the bureaucracy winning is more important than the truth. Apparently, vigorously defending yourself is itself a crime.
For those who "know" Tyler is guilty, you win! Tyler's being punished as if he IS guilty. In the meantime, be magnanimous and let the man have access to whatever material or protocol he wants and let his people and the scientific community peer review the results. Apparently an obvious thing like letting Tyler's team test his blood themselves according to the protocol has not been permitted. I'm no expert, but there shouldn't be anything to hide and maybe a lot to learn.
Tyler Hamilton, Phonak and the UCI #2
An open letter to Tyler Hamilton
Tyler - I have no idea if you are guilty or not of blood doping. As a fan of yours I would hope that you are clean but given the history of riders vehemently asserting their innocence, only to come back later and admit they were cheating, makes your denials less believable.
Your recent statement was a start toward clearing up some of the confusion surrounding the freezing of your "B" sample, etc. You say you will sic "exhaust every last penny you have clearing your name". How come we haven't seen more action in that regard?.
Lie detector tests may not be admissible in court but for the vast majority of people they are very accurate when administered properly. How about taking one from an expert with neutral witnesses then reporting the results. Better yet, combine the standard lie detector test with an even newer technology. If you pass both those, the tide of public, and perhaps legal and administrative, opinion will swing so fast your way that you won't believe it.
The new test I am talking about is a functional MRI, or fMRI. It turns out that when people lie they use different parts of the brain. The tests are a bit expensive and are just beginning to be thought of for this purpose, but would go a long way toward convincing people.
An independent blood test right now comparing the results to the previous tests would also be helpful.
Tyler Hamilton, Phonak and the UCI #3
I am aghast at how the UCI has operated during the allegations against Tyler Hamilton. You will not find me disputing the need for cycling to police itself in terms of doping or other inappropriate enhancements to performance. If Tyler Hamilton has used those methods, he deserves punishment. I do not believe he has done so, but, unlike the UCI, I am willing to be shown that I am wrong.
In contrast, the UCI's system does not allow those accused to scrutinize the methods used and the purported evidence before handing down devastating consequences. And it punishes those, such as Phonak and its management, that have the audacity to challenge the emperor. That alone will guarantee that eventually an innocent rider will be wrongly punished. It appears that the UCI believes that it cannot make a mistake. Its refusal or inability to see the injustice in how it has proceeded is a greater threat to the integrity of professional cycling than the anti-doping principles it justifiably wants to uphold.
I encourage the UCI to reflect on how it has handled this case and to take steps to put fairness and due process back into the handling of accusations. It needs to provide Hamilton's blood samples for independent testing. It needs to open up its processes and its methods so that Hamilton can have the tools at hand to defend himself. Short of that, UCI will be no better than the myriad of other organizations in history plagued by the fallacy of infallibility.
Tyler Hamilton, Phonak and the UCI #4
Is there a lawyer in the house? I read with some incredulity the UCI's reasoning in its rejection of Phonak's application for a Pro Tour license. "Though it is not in itself contentious for a team to defend its riders when they are involved in a doping affair, at least while their guilt has not been established, the attitude of this team, which has tried to cast doubt on the validity of the tests which revealed the suspected doping in order to provide its defence, is quite another thing," the UCI declared.
How, exactly, does one defend one's innocence without challenging the evidence presented by the prosecution? The basic right to cross-examine a witness is founded on just this point.
In any fair legal proceeding, what gets introduced as evidence is either stipulated by both sides, or is introduced by one and challenged by the other. It's not just innocence or guilt that a jury or judge decides, but also what counts as evidence.
Phonak's challenge to the scientific merit of the test was not an indictment of all drug testing, but rather an attack on one form of testing that had never been introduced to the sport at all.
Whether the tests were accurate or not, whether Hamilton and Perez doped or not, Phonak should not be penalized for challenging evidence in its own defense.
Tyler Hamilton, Phonak and the UCI #5
I am very excited about the Pro Tour. However, in creating the Pro Tour, the UCI has chosen to scapegoat one of the best teams in order to appear tougher on doping in professional cycling. Phonak has done nothing wrong in regard to the three doping incidents within its team. All three were immediately suspended and to be fired in the event that they were guilty. Camenzind and Hamilton have been fired with Perez to follow. The UCI, IOC, WADA, etc have not provided Perez, Hamilton, and Phonak with the information they need to defend themselves over a controversial blood test.
If the blood test is legit why has the UCI/WADA not provided the riders and Phonak with details of the test? Something smells fishy to me, but regardless one can hardly blame Phonak from wanting to "know" that their riders are guilty. Phonak invested a lot of money in cycling and can hardly be blamed for not wanting to illegitimately lose its team leaders. What of the other teams that have had doping controversies and didn't immediately fire its riders; why haven't they been fired?
If the creation of the Pro Tour was designed to improve the sponsorship situation for the top teams by improved coverage at the top races, how can destroying one of the top teams be beneficial? The exclusion of Phonak strikes me as something that will alienate potential sponsors. Who would want to sponsor a top pro cycling team if at the UCI's whim if it can be excluded from the top races (the reason why a top sponsor would be sponsoring a top team) over controversy surround some of its riders.
I have know Dave for many years and have watched him come through the ranks from Speed Gel to Sierra Nevada Pro's. During these years, there has always been doubt passing through the air concerning Dave's training habits or the lack there of, and his huge winning streaks that at times astound many as they all were wondering how they bust butt and he still seems to keep winning and winning but no training schedules to speak of.
In respect to 'cherry-picking' the local Pro/1/2 races... That I totally agree upon and the Feds need to look closer at what UCI does to doping riders. People like you and the readers of these letters, should demand that USCF ban any rider from competition that is under doping investigation. Do I hear a Yea?
Dave Fuentes #2
Under USCF rules riders who are appealing a suspension are allowed to continue racing while the appeal process is underway. While I agree with Erik Sperling that it would be ideal to suspend riders who are caught doping within a few days the reality is it takes time to work through a fair appeals process. The question is how can the current system be changed to provide a fair situation to the riders accused of using drugs and the people the accused competes against while going through the appeals process.
While not a perfect solution, a step in the right direction would be to have any prizes won by a rider facing suspension be paid into an escrow account. If the rider wins their appeal then they get all the money that has be won during the appeals process. If they lose their appeal then they forfeit the money. The question then becomes what to do with any money forfeited by a rider who loses an appeal? It would probably be an administrative nightmare to try and track down all the riders who would have earned prize money if the appealing rider hadn't been in the race. Maybe the forfeited money could be put into a fund to paid for additional drug tests? Maybe the money could go to support junior programs. At least the money wouldn't go to the rider who got caught using drugs.
Steve: Oh man, don't get me started on the Lung Trainer Guy. Is it just me, or do you get the sense that Lung Trainer Guy spends his time hanging out in bars and betting people that he can smoke a Marlboro down to the filter with just one drag?
Cycling driven by "pure science?" PLEASE! I don't have a lot of time to write, but just off the top of my head, does that mean the focus on weight savings are based on "pure" science, not what the sponsor wants to sell? I will bet that if the sponsor didn't think it would somehow contribute to the bottom line, they wouldn't do it -- at least not very often. You pay a fortune for some part that weighs 2 or 3 ounces less than the part it replaced. What does that do for the average cyclist? He or she could pee before the ride and save more weight. Speaking of legs -- shaved legs based on pure science? How about measuring seat for/aft position using KOPS. Based on science? Really? Where is the (valid) scientific research? Helmets. You know ones that have 27.35 vents as opposed to one with 27.349 vents? Sucks cool air through the hole in your head.
I agree the trends are not initially based on personal preference. (Until you read and swallow the marketing hype.) Pretty soon we'll all have to buy a carbon bike with a one pound frame whether we want it or not. Gee, I will bet carbon bikes are so common now not because manufacturers can make a bigger profit on them, but because of science. And of course, the cyclist who is 15 pounds overweight will decide he needs this new light frame so he can go faster. Why I even saw cycling gloves with carbon fiber in them in a cycling catalog a week or so ago. Not a trend. Tested. Results peer reviewed. It's all science.
Why are cyclists so trendy? #2
Yeah, it's true that cyclists aren't going to win any awards for fashion -- Fassa riders excepted. Those are some slick uniforms. That said, cyclists ARE trendy. Just look at the acres of page-space devoted to reviewing, analyzing, and ranking every miniscule development in tubing, gearing, shifting, sweat-wicking, aerodynamics, pedal design, nutrient replacement, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum... Performance-through-technology is an obsession bordering on a fetish for many riders. Sort of pathetic when you pause to remember that, for all but elite racers, the biggest leaps in performance can be bought for the low, low price of harder training. As a friend puts it, it's a hell of a lot cheaper to lose a pound of yourself than a pound of bike.
Why are cyclists so trendy? #3
In Response to Steve O'Dell's letter respectfully I must disagree. Cyclists are the trendiest people that I've ever met.
First I must take issue with Mr. O'Dell's statement that cycling fans aren't as trendy other enthusiasts/fans. Anyone who has ever watched a race in Europe knows different. What about the 1/2 million fans on Alp d'Huez this year? What about the Orange Fans, or the 'Devil?' How about the people running alongside the racers on just about every col wearing just about nothing or thousands others painted up along the route? Just watch the coverage on TV and you will see otherwise.
I have worked in the industry for the last 6 years and sadly I have come to realize that most 'technology' these days is plain and simple marketing. Take a look at all of the carbon from Interbike this year. I am not saying that there isn't a place for carbon in cycling, but there have been some silly 'advancements' in the past several years. Cyclists have to have the latest of everything, from sunglasses to saddles. Take a look at the hoard of last years stuff on eBay and you will see that indeed cyclists have to have the latest in everything. The cycling industry is in the midst of another weight war, and the sooner we get out of it and back to making real products the better off we will be. Take the fork market for example, where everyone is rushing to make the lightest fork possible without any regard to ride characteristics. Most carbon forks now don't ride as well as the old steel forks of yesterday, and I miss the days when a frame could be counted on for several years and not one season.
Face it cyclists are trendy and this alone has kept the industry thriving for the last few years.
Why are cyclists so trendy? #4
Man, have you ever watched a cycling race? Cycling fans are probably some of the most enthusiastic, dedicated (bordering psychotic) fans on earth (maybe a tier down from soccer fans, though). They run around not just with their bodies painted, but half the time they're stark naked. They wait on the side of a mountain for days, to see riders pass, for what, 30 or 40 seconds?
Second, so if science has been so vital, why hasn't cycling got exponentially faster? Heck, there are a ton of races that have gotten shorter, and racers are so focus on certain races, or parts of the season that racing speeds should be considerably faster then 20 years ago. Like I said before, Gred LeMond still has the fastest time trial speed on his 7 speed steel rig. Not even Lance or Jan has beaten it, even with all their technology!
Third, cycling falls prey to the same marketing ploys as other sports, that's the way it is. I would say that at least one-third to one-half of the equipment out there is hype, not based on real science. One example is the Campgonolo Record group, which is hundreds of dollars more then Chorus or even Centaur. Does it make you go faster, no! Does it look cooler, yes! Do I own a Campy Record group, Yes (that's why I can say this and not get burned at the stake!). This is just one of a thousand examples!
Finally, I agree with you on the last point - blood, sweat, and speed... rocks!
Mr. Brian Johnson tells us that "Homeopathic drugs are a fraud, a delusion and a waste of money". I too believed that scientific reasoning proved that these materials couldn't possibly be of any use.
However, there is a homeopathic preparation that is used to lessen a person's sensitivity to poison oak reactions.
While young I used to be pretty much immune to poison oak but as I aged I progressive became more sensitive to it. My reactions were mostly just the itch and red lump variety but eventually it got to the point where I only needed to be down wind from the plant before I'd get the rash.
Taking this homeopathic preparation, as the label describes, made me almost completely immune to the poison oak again. Now I don't find this homeopathic medicine very often and so over the years I've been able to see the results of years without the preparation and years with it. I noted that taking it seems to leave me with a reasonable immunity to poison oak for a couple of years at a time.
Logical or not the stuff works.
I don't believe that you could make a case that this is in any way a psychosomatic reaction of some sort so that leaves me with the impression that while some homeopathic preparations may not work, others most certainly do.
What that has to do with medicines used by training cyclists I have no idea. But I would hesitate to tell someone that what they're doing is useless without actual testing of each item.
Thomas H. Kunich
Mr Farquharson seems to treat all doping cases on a level field. What we must remember before persecuting our athletes, is that inadvertent doping does occur. Shane Perkins tested positive after the keirin, yet not after the sprint. Is it not possible he is telling the truth?
If Shane Perkins is lying, then hang him up to dry, but first let's give him a chance to tell his story. Mark French implicated innocent riders, tarnished reputations, and threw our sport into turmoil, how can you put Shane Perkins in the same category?
Also, if Mr Farquharson wants to blame the staff and management for athletes' decisions and actions, he should open his eyes. Staff are there to help and support, not to stalk and baby sit the athletes. Get a clue mate.
Shane Perkins #2
In response to Ian Farquharson's letter about Shane Perkins, I just feel I have to respond. First let me say that I'm not condoning drug-taking in sport - if people are cheating, then boot them out. End of story. But we have to be fair and examine the whole case. It's easy to jump on the "drug cheat" bandwagon and condemn someone for life. I feel in this case Shane has genuinely broken the rules accidentally, his suspension has been reduced accordingly, and he has taken it on the chin.
In Australia (I can't speak for anywhere else) we have a drug hotline that we can ring before we take ANY product/drug/supplement, and they will give us a ruling on whether or not we can use the particular product. Shane was using a nasal inhaler (I don't know if I can say the brand, but lets just say that we have probably all used it either on ourselves or had it rubbed on our chests as kids), that was checked and found to be legal in Australia. However the EXACT same product purchased (and manufactured) in the USA uses a slightly different ingredient, namely methamphetamine, which is not in the Australian version. Yes, you could say Shane should have checked this and/or known or been advised better than to use one purchased overseas. Obviously he didn't, and is paying the price accordingly. But please lets not begin labeling him a "drug cheat" because he had trace amounts of a banned substance from an accidental usage, that were gone two days later in any case.
And I heard this from an Australian Sports Drug Administration tester, so this is not idle peloton banter or rumour mill stuff, it's the real deal. Shane should be congratulated on the way he seems to be handling the whole thing - we haven't heard any excuses (other than the truth) from him.
Simon van der Aa
Not a day or so after one of your other correspondents (re Dave Fuentes) wrote about being beaten buy a penalised dope taker and Jeremy Yates wins at Taupo. What a crying disgrace to the sport, NZ and the organisers.
With all this talk of going too light, would it be possible to move to internal hubs or some other way of decreasing drag and maintenance? This might even be good for pros who race in bad weather and have to deal with mud and crud interfering with their bikes.
Cyclingnews tech editor John Stevenson replies:
I am hoping to ride the Masters World Championships in Edmonton next year. I find it rather ridiculous that I have to buy a saddle with a shorter nose instead of my Brooks in order to comply with the UCI regs on saddle set back. From the centre of the bottom bracket to the nose of the saddle, the requirement is 5 cm. with my Brooks it is 2.5 cm. With a fizik Chrono I meet the setback distance because the saddle is shorter by 2.5cm! I thought the UCI regs was to keep the costs down. Good thinking on fizik's part to put the Chrono on the market for us time trialers to be legal and still get the best out of our riding positions. But I find it annoying that I have to lay out another 100+ dollars to compete with riders of my age.
Lots of deals are made in the peloton. If Simeoni doesn't want to be relegated by the pack, he should train harder and ride Armstrong off his wheel! What do you want, political correctness cops in the peloton? An interesting thought, but I doubt they could keep up!
Please help! I am a cat 2 road cyclist and have recently developed severe arthritis in my hip (originally from a car accident years ago). I need a hip replacement as conservative therapies have failed and I would like to keep competing. I read letters to Cyclingnews some time ago and remember that there were quite a few cyclists doing well and riding with prosthetic hips. I now need to know which materials these hips were made out of as I am getting different opinions from hip specialists. Most have said that the ceramic hips were the best while some have advocated hip resurfacing and titanium hips. Please let me know what has worked for you and any complications you might have had.
Thanks so much!
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