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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 9, 2004
I'm going to try and not get offended by Russell Elder's letter as I think he clearly missed the point - and I will try and take that into consideration. I don't even know what an office park crit is - I think he has me mixed up with someone else. I and Team Cyclingnews are based in Europe and race week in week out against Div 1 and 2 teams for our wage. I may not be making a good wage now but I'm sure I will - clean. I've raced against Mr Millar and the majority of his peers. I haven't stepped out of a Div 1 team bus before the start and I don't know what goes on behind closed doors - but that is what the article was about, my view on the "way up". In fact check out the documentary on our team on www.cycling.tv. No, I didn't have the best of days in Germany coming back from an injury, but, hey, I feel that field is a true representation of the highest echelon of professional cycling and I was certainly not out of my depth, and have finished 4th in a UCI race of equal ranking.
David Millar has more of an idea what goes on in the big teams than I do of course, but I'm not about to take the word of a cheat. Of course it's the sport that has the problem and not him. Personally I have more of a problem with the general attitude of people who assume we're all on drugs than the guys playing Russian roulette with their lives. When I'm in form I can still beat them and have done. What is harder to deal with - being widely branded by confessing drug cheats and some apparent fans that being a professional cyclist you are most likely taking drugs.
Russell's observations on a 3 week stage race again missed the point - of course the majority of people could train enough to finish a Tour as a "tour" - my point is that if these people can accomplish this why is it so hard to understand that someone with more natural talent who trains full time for years CAN race a 3 week tour at 26 miles per hour? No, quite clearly you couldn't (and you accept clearly that this is your physical limitation as a rider), but athletes with better genetics can and do!
We are going to see more top riders fall, how many other sports get their homes raided as much as cycling? This is a good thing not a sign that everyone is on it. It's getting harder and harder for drug cheats to get away with it.
Oh, yeah, economies of scale... haha. Does that mean that if you are sick of living in a nice house and driving an Opel wagon its okay to dope so you can buy the BMW and that house on the water? Sounds like greed to me, that goes with cheating doesn't it?
Drugs in cycling #2
I have to be honest; all this news about drugs in cycling is getting ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I think it is wrong and stupid for them to take drugs; no sympathy for the career or heath repercussions to the mental midgets that use performance-enhancing drugs.
What I am fed up with is the constant focus on the sport of cycling. It is so bad, even my non-cycling friends think Lance and co and all euro pros are juiced up on EPO.
There needs to be someone in the press that sees the "big picture" of drugs in sports. Utterly backwards sports like basketball, football and baseball that have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy about drugs and where steroid use is common and testing is laughable. In fact, the baseball players' union fights the idea of mandatory drug testing on any level- that is something UCI riders do before and after every race!
Imagine those 240 lb, yoked, balding, beer-bellied, steroid-pumped baseball players going in for blood samples before every game? I think the sport would be shut down for lack of eligible players!
Sports like swimming, skiing, and most endurance sports would not hold up to scrutiny under the spotlight held to cycling either.
What is upsetting is that with so little coverage cycling gets here in America, it doesn't do the sport any good with 50 percent of the coverage being about EPO when baseball and football stars are freely using beef steroids to pump up and set new records. Despite that, maybe 5 percent of the news coverage of those sports has to do with drug use.
Turn that spotlight to other sports and see that cycling isn't alone in this drug culture. By all means vigorously track down and prosecute offenders in cycling but let's balance that out with giving more coverage to the Brad McGee's and Tyler Hamilton's in the peloton!
I am a Scot and proud of it! I was a David Millar supporter who believed that he was possibly the most talented rider of Scottish (and British) descent that we have seen. He has brought further disrepute to the greatest and hardest sport in the world by his cheating and lying even continuing with the abuse (with the proof of the cheating at home) whilst he was protesting his innocence! Total arrogance or stupidity or what?
These people who routinely claim that they "have never failed a drugs test" are fraudulently taking their salaries and prizes knowing that they are unlikely to be caught by their Sports Authorities because these have no legal powers to stop the possible cheats. These cheats hide behind the legal same systems that protect all criminals - whether they are shoplifters, wife-beaters or murderers - innocent until proven guilty!
However, the authorities have it within their power to stop many more of the EPO cheats, but won't. I feel sure that the French Cycling Authority have the basic answer with their pre- and in-season testing and probably know that this is the reason why their National riders and French licensed riders do not have the success of the riders registered and licensed outside of France. (Rumsas was an excellent example but could not be stripped of his Tour de France 3rd placing or the illegally gained prizes). EPO use as part of preparation for a three week Grand Tour is seemingly the only way that the blood-count can be maintained at a high level. Growth hormone leaves identifiers in the blood after cessation of use. Do the French "health checks" before and during the season not provide the evidence of this in the similar way?
Probably blood-test variations recorded during the season taken and charted (say) every 4 or 6 weeks would highlight abuse (possibly by the major worries currently, namely EPO and growth hormone) and enable an expansion of the UCI "health sanctions" to be effective. This would require all National controlling or licensing bodies to meet the same strict rulings or for the riders/athletes to submit to the testing at control-centres. No test or failed test and their licence is revoked for 2 years (1st offence) then 5 years for any further fails!
David Millar #2
What a sad day for cycling in general, and British cycling in particular. I had looked to David to be at the vanguard of cyclists who do note take dope. The fact that he admits he has really offends on three fronts.
1) You are prepared to falsely 'win' events. You are quite willing to cheat to get what you want, and happy to see those who should have won get nothing.
2) You then stand there, on the podium taking all the applause as if you've done it for real. You are a cheat and a fraud and bring shame on your profession. The fact you do this with a smile on your face only makes it ten times worse. Don't insult us now by telling us you didn't take it when you won your big events, why else would you take it?
I for one was so impressed the day you signed on Le Tour start sheet with the words "Today, I win" Now I know how you could be so confident. Don't try telling me otherwise, you admitted today that you are a cheat and a lier. I can't trust you anymore.
3) But what's probably most worrying is that you've never failed a drug test. In other words the testing going on out there doesn't work. So how do we know if anyone is clean? All riders protest their innocence, and I hope most are telling the truth, but it just shows we just don't know. Why should anyone carry on. This isn't sport. Why should any sponsor come into the game?
David Millar #3
Is everyone really that surprised? Its disappointing that Millar won't be starting, but if he were French or Italian, I don't think the shock factor would be quit as high. Its too bad for David, your only as good as your reputation. He just blew it for himself.
David Millar #4
What a shame. I think we could have seen this coming though. David has been under enormous pressure to be "the next great British champion". Too much pressure perhaps. Although any cyclist is in the end responsible for what they do to win, Cofidis (the team management) should be held accountable as well. With their "every rider for himself" team structure (that Millar has complained about before) the pressure on any one rider to perform largely unassisted must make doping nearly irresistible.
David Millar #5
What a dipstick. As a Briton I am ashamed to have a lying (deplored all the allegations Gaumont made, saying he was a loose cannon), cheating (make him return his World Championship medal and strip him of the title) junkie as a compatriot. What sort of pillock keeps illegal substances at home in a country where the biggest event of their sport takes place during an investigation by the authorities into your colleagues?
Perhaps there should be 2 Tours de France - the one where the riders are sucked dry of blood, urine and shaved of all hair every day, whilst ambling around France at 17mph, and the free-for-all where anything goes but you have to ride a touring bike with panniers for ballast.
This is enough to make you like football (soccer to the colonials).
David Millar #6
What is even more sad/deplorable is that the so-called doping controls are failing. At last year's World's there were rumors of testing anomalies that never fully came to the light of public scrutiny. This seems to happen all the time. Is the fox in with the hen house on this issue?
When the controls do work, the penalties are a slap on the wrist. Look at the past top 20s of the last 5 Tours de France and you'll see significant doping rap sheets.
In what looked initially like a step back to the Inquisition, police raids seem to be the only tactic that works against the doping mafia system. Riders who come clean and tell the truth are demonized or marginalized, but seized evidence, wire taps and confessions from interrogations are harder for the sport and the public to explain away.
Of course, this makes those in the sport look like a bunch of criminals. Are there any clean champions out there? Mapei's Squinzi would say "no," and I believe him.
David Millar #7
He whole thing just depresses me … and like your correspondent I wondered how he would be daft enough to leave it in his apartment… especially as he allegedly hadn't taken the stuff since 2003… To me the sport still seems in denial of its doping problems, preferring instead to harp on about how under the spotlight it is. And how often its athletes are tested. Drugs have always played a part in cycling and it seems to be getting worse not better … The UCI needs to grasp the nettle and sort it out… the sponsors need to be seen to be completely above board, meanwhile poor old David Millar is just another pawn in the game I'm afraid
David Millar #8
If the news about Millar and EPO is true, I, as Brit and staunch fan, am utterly disillusioned that he’s turned into just another one of those lying b*stards who have betrayed the trust of those who have stood by the roads of Europe to cheer them on. How else can we feel when we find that not a word of their parsimonious anti-doping stance was ever true. If this news is true, you’ve let us all down, David – yourself too. I’m now asking myself whether I can really ever take this sport seriously again?
David Millar #9
Are the riders aware of what damage they do to the sport each time one of them admits, or is caught, taking drugs? Each time this happens, a little bit of my love for this sport and my enthusiasm in defending it is lost. And a look at the other letters suggests I am not alone. How can I stand at the roadside in France this month and cheer these riders on when all the evidence means I have to suspect that a significant number might be cheating?
I'm not talking of the wine and brandy-fuelled Tours of years gone by, and I'm not interested in how drugs have always been a part of the sport. Certainly, stimulants are necessary, but this case, nor that of Festina in 1998, are about a blurring of legal lines about what can and can't be taken. This is about cold, hard cheating.
Clearly, the risks of being caught do not, in riders' eyes, outweigh the potential benefits to their performance of taking illegal drugs. If we are to have faith in this sport again, then the risk/reward balance must shift.
I would favour a lifetime ban on those caught cheating.
If, as some say, the Tour is not possible without illegal drugs, then - and it kills me to say this - the Tour should be modified.
I am British, and it hurts to think we would lose the services of a rider of Millar's calibre should lifetime bans ever be put in place. But that is preferable to feeling, yet again, that I have been cheated.
David Millar #10
I am broken hearted at David Millar's admission of guilt and one the eve of surely one of the most potentially thrilling versions of the tour will be casting a world weary eye over the results and performances and wondering whether these people are "chemically enhanced" too.
I don't know what to believe anymore, is the whole peloton doped, does doping extend to the likes of Armstrong and Ullrich?
I shall never wear my Cofidis jersey again and am seriously considering walking away from the sport.
Yours in despair and disgust
David Millar #11
Two bits caught my eye in the Millar placed under investigation piece.
"A police search of Millar's Biarritz residence also revealed two empty vials of Eprex, a brand of EPO."
"He [David Millar] said that he took three courses of EPO, one week each, during 2001 and 2003, Mr. Iweins explained."
And he hasn't taken out the trash since 2003, eh? Just kept this extremely incriminating, potentially career-destroying evidence lying about the house for almost a year, right? Pull the other one, David.
I am always amazed when police find Joe Doper's paraphernalia on the premises, as it were. It used to make me wonder if these things were being planted, now I just wonder if most cyclists are actually less careful than your average crystal meth cook.
What does this man have to do? We have seen him wear the Maglia Rose, win small tours, beat everybody in uphill ITT, win a Gold medal in the Commonwealth Games ITT and has the belief of just about everybody in the cycling world. Except for seemingly two people, Walter Godefroot and Shayne Bannon. I invite Shayne, if he ever reads this, to let us know the reasons, just purely so he doesn't seem like the boogie man.
I wouldn't blame Cadel if he ran out into the street with his bike and threw it under the nearest truck. I have accepted that the decision to leave him out of the Tour was move motivated by the desire to keep upstart foriegners from upsetting the apple cart. Maybe even upstaging a more fancied rider. But the decision to overlook him for the Olympics I am failing to understand. As I read the report of his omission on cyclingnews.com I felt gutted for him. As much as I love to see all of the Aussies firing, especially McGee and Stuey, the anticipation of what Cadel could have possibly delivered, in both the Tour and at the Olympics, had me more excited to watch these events in face of a more cynical view of the performances in cycling.
I truly hope he gets his day in the sun. Hopefully he will be allowed the ride the Veulta and the Worlds and maybe even be picked for the ITT at Athens. I will keep my fingers crossed.
Cadel Evans #2
I have been watching every move of Cadel Evans since he became a mountain biker. Every one knows he has everything it takes to be a top cyclist. It is really incredible why he is not selected for the Tour de France.
A few days ago Walter Godefroot told VRT-Teletekst that they were worried about his collar bone and his lack of experience. Tyler Hamilton broke his collar bone last year. Would that mean he should better not participate in the Tour? Cunego had no experience in a grand Tour, but he won de Giro…
Today, also on VRT-Teletekst, he says that he can use Botero and Guerini better on the team time trial… That’s a strange explanation. I am sure that Cadel Evans is better at time trials than Guerini and at least equally talented for the mountains. Why not replace, for example, Nardello by Evans?
I thought they brought all these great riders (Botero, Savoldelli, Evans, Kloden, Vinokourov,…) to T-Mobile to create an invincible team, but obviously there is another reason. It remains a complete mystery to me.
I am really starting to doubt Walter Godefroot. Time will tell if he made the right decision.
Anyway, I hope it will be an exciting Tour.
Tom Van den Neucker
When John Lieswyn retires (which I hope isn't soon since he's still punishing men 10 - 15 years his younger) I hope he'll start a consulting business to teach other riders how to write racing diaries. Without question, his contributions are the best. He seems to be able to put you into the key moment of the race when everything gets decided. You're right there inside his head, trying to decide what move to follow and when to hold back, when the going gets rough and when the tough get going. Absolutely riveting! Two of my favorite diary entries of all times and all riders belong to him (see "With a little help from my team" and "A bittersweet victory (June 19)") Besides his portrayals of the racing action, his commentaries about the cities and towns he visits and the people he meets show that John is more than your typical jock. He has a great sense of what makes living worthwhile and cities livable.
Contrast his writing with your more famous riders and you'll see why he's the best. Floyd's banality ("I don't know. It was tough"), Tyler's humility ("Ah shucks, it wasn't nothing. This was a team effort.") or Bettini's arrogance ("I'd hoped to win another one for my fans") just don't give you as good of sense of what the race was like nor an awareness of life outside of racing.
Err Phil, maybe the only pills we should be talking about here are the chill pills you should be taking. I think we read the same article by Dr. Ferrari, but I am not sure we saw the same thing.
I thought what Dr. Ferrari meant by super hydration and nutrition was simply that the riders needed consume far more food and water than was normally comfortable for the average person. I did not see anything other than common sense in this.
I also thought that the comment about evolution was sensible. Walking and running
have not only been subject to muscular evolutionary processes, but also joint
and other metabolic changes and developments. To make statements simply based
on humans characteristics as a species, as
Dr. Ferrari can doubt defend himself, but I thought the sentiment of his article was simply to point out that cyclists competing in the tour are participating in an event which is incredibly hard and which nothing in our history at a physiological level compares - something which most of us already understand and are in awe of. What Phil thinks was being put forward seems to be more based on difficulties that he has with the world and the sport rather than Dr. Ferrari's innocent observations.
Human evolution and cycling #2
I was surprised when I saw that Mr. Chapman actually seems to have the right qualifications for critiquing Dr. Fs column. He brings some interesting points, but his tirade is unwarranted and out of context.
The relatively young activity of cycling has not triggered anything in the evolutionary process. All other activities listed have existed since pre-history and rowing is the only other activity requiring a specific tool. Mr. C is confusing evolution with simple adaptation. Adaptation allows the body to change to suit an unexpected activity. Evolution changes the body over generations to suit an expected activity. I would say that cycling is still "unexpected".
Dr F does not discount long daily periods of walking or running. He simply states that long extended periods of traumatic activity can lead to injury. His references to cycling, though noting it is not so traumatic, describe the daily high intensity efforts. It is unlikely that even the native peoples Mr C mentions go through a daily routine so intense. Their hunting expiditions may last days, but the idea is to exhaust the prey, not themselves, and strategies such as group hunting would lessen the intensity. Mr C himself states the body seeks an intensity to live within its own limits. Sport is about increasing limits!
The super hydration/nutrition is recommended so as to give the elite cyclist an advantage, not merely allow the participant to finish. Their lean physiques confirm they do not overeat, and cases of "bonking" also illustrate the need for proper preparation when competing.
I suggest Mr C attempt the following. If he declines, please convince a "normal" tour rider perform the following:
1) Eat Monday
According to his argument, it should be relatively easy. Good luck!
Ed Wilson, No qualifications beyond common sense
Just a quick rebuttal to both Serge and Sarah’s comments to my comments on being doored. I realise that we are entitled to a whole lane, in fact whenever I can I will ride in the centre of the lane for that exact reason – it makes traffic think for a second before they go around me, rather than trying to squeeze past in the same lane. I’m sure it’s happened to all of us, being squeezed by a car who will do all they can not to get one inch over the white line into the next lane.
I think the point I was trying to make, and didn’t make very well, was that at times I feel it’s prudent to not exercise my right to use the entire lane, for the sake of good “road relations” as I like to call them. I drive also (as I’m sure do many readers), and can get frustrated (as it’s human nature) by anything that slows me down, be it a granny on the way to bowls, a learner or a cyclist exercising their right to a whole lane. I know it shouldn’t frustrate me, and most of the time it doesn’t, but I can understand why some people get very irritated by single or groups of cyclists doing 30 km/h taking a whole lane and not letting them past. I may not agree with the fact that they are irritated, but the fact remains that we have to share the road, and I like to let people past when I can, which sometime involves me moving into the door lane.
My usual approach is to use a reasonable amount of the road, then when I know a car is behind me and has seen me, move over to let them past. Or, when traffic is particularly busy I will do all I can not to block it any further (obviously not at the expense of a reasonable amount of my safety). Unfortunately this quite often takes me into the door zone, but when the traffic is more busy it’s my experience that it’s less dangerous than normal in the door zone as people are naturally more observant when there’s a truckload of cars ready to take their doors off.
I agree with both Sarah and Serge, please don’t think I was having a go. I just don’t think the solution is as simple as “don’t ride in the door zone”, there’s more to it than that. My initial posting may have been a little “emotional” (for want of a better word) – I’m a big Johan fan and I think part of me didn’t like to think he could do anything wrong J
Simon van der Aa
Museeuw and traffic #2
With reference to Sarah Potter, I agree with the ethics of riding in the middle of a lane but unfortunately the drivers don't see it this way. surely you've been at the hand of road rage for doing this? I know I have. I have to agree with Simon Day totally! Cars have become the 'only' method of transport people seem to accept, and as they become safer in their luxurious surroundings, so they become less aware of what's going on around them.
If you think you've got it bad in Canada, spare a thought for we fans in the UK. The only coverage of the greatest sporting event in the world on British terrestrial TV this week is a less than an hour's summary of the first three days at 1am on Monday night. Presumably we will be lavished with a few more snippets in the next few weeks grudgingly filling in a bit of the early hours' schedule. In their play for ratings the main channels are dumbing down and opt for playing safe with wall-to-wall reality/celebrity fatuous nonsense and the same play-safe policy for sports coverage gives us endless soccer plus the usual horse racing, snooker and golf. The only way of seeing cycling here in the UK is to get cable or satellite for Eurosport, which I have just done (I get endless shopping channels and other junk for my money too). Cycling in the UK is fighting a losing battle against the media and with no inspiration for youngsters it's no wonder we are so badly represented on the international front (track being a surprising exception).
Canadian TV #2
To respond to your question regarding why OLN does not cover the spring classics, it is because their other programming is simply phenomenal. As an example, last month while our friends in the US were enjoying LBL coverage, some genius at OLN Canada came to the conclusion that "Dogs with Jobs" was a better advertising opportunity. I am trying to imagine, from both a financial and logical perspective, how the OLN Canada exec made this decision. This would not be so painful except that the exact same episode of "Dogs with Jobs" was probably being shown in between the Bowflex infomercials 7x per day.
Seriously - OLN Canada likely had every cyclist in the country as a captive audience during "The Lance Chronicles". With that type of audience, wouldn't you deter them from changing the channel and sell more advertising by broadcasting more cycling. Instead, we get to watch Rover sniff through an avalanche site. Better yet, check out their programming schedule any day of the week. 50 percent infomercials, 25 percent shooting at things, 15 percent regional strong-man competition, 9 percent animal shows and 1 percent something that people actually watch. They advertise the Tour on billboards, buses and in print media. I have to wonder why they don't leverage all of that advertising investment by dumping their crappy regional strong-man competitions - and instead show world-class sporting events like the classics.
Some day Laurent, as a purchasing audience, we cyclists shall hope to have more advertising sway at the networks than Kibbles 'n Bits or gun rack purchasers. In the interim, I suggest we get a fund going and send the advertising executive a bike and find out exactly how addictive it is. In the end, they are the only network that gives us any taste of the Tour - or professional cycling at all, so we have to be somewhat grateful.
- Also Confused about OLN Canada
Canadian TV #3
I could not agree more. Every year I write with praise to the Canadian TV stations that carry any cycling, and ask them to carry more cycling, especially OLN, who carry only the TdF, unlike their namesake in the USA that carries all Grand Tours and many of the Classics. I have yet to receive a reply from any of them. If it's not Ice Hockey, Baseball, American Football or Canadian Football then you are out of luck. Surely I am not alone in my desire to see more cycling coverage. Some of these so called "sports" stations fill empty time slots with crap like huge 300 pound guys carrying bear kegs and hauling fire engines as well as dog shows! This is sports? What the heck does a dog show have in common with sports?
Up until last year the local Italian station, Telelatino, carried the Giro late at night on a tape delay. Now I don't speak a word of Italian, but I will watch cycling in any language just to see the action. Alas, this year Telelatino did not carry the Giro. I wrote them to ask why, and the reply was, "TLN will not be broadcasting the Giro d'Italia Cycling Race this year, due to the fact that the rights to the event are no longer available to us." How hard did they try to get the rights I wonder?
Oh well, I can always get the DVDs from World Cycling Productions of the other Grand Tours and Classics!
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