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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 16, 2004
Is LeMond for real? Is he so petty about another American winning a Tour that he jumps on the "performance enhancement" bandwagon? This is absolutely absurd. LeMond was always known as a classy and quiet guy, but he seems to be shooting his mouth off pretty well these days. Every time the other American is written up for being the greatest American cyclist ever, LeMond comes out with doping allegations. It's kind of pathetic. LeMond would have been remembered as the one that broke the boundaries, but he's tarnishing his own reputation.
Why not turn the spotlight on LeMond? Didn't he win a Tour without any team support, almost as a solo effort? Pretty amazing, almost impossible, I'd say. Didn't he put 58 seconds into Laurent Fignon when the entire cycling community said it would be impossible to pull back that much time? Doesn't he hold the record for the fastest time trial ever? Where are his drug tests? The claim is drugs in cycling have been rampant for years, are we supposed to believe that LeMond and all the other racers were clean prior to 1992 and that his feats are on his own merit, but anyone that comes close to him now is doping?
It seems really petty to me that LeMond cannot have another American cyclist in the limelight. I would think having more Americans excelling in a traditionally European sport would help raise awareness and interest in the US, which can only help his business. As for me, I'll never buy a LeMond product. I hope other dealers and consumers feel the same and pass on his products.
Greg LeMond's comments #2
Greg LeMond is entitled to his opinion, but as a businessman, he is REALLY stupid for insinuating that Lance may not be clean just because David Millar is a complete moron. Slamming someone who may win twice as many tours as you and has cashed in more than you is just sour grapes. Yes, Greg probably could have won at least five tours without his injuries, but get over it. I hope anyone that may consider buying a LeMond product thinks really hard about it after his interview with the French Le Monde newspaper.
I met Greg at a meet and greet at a LeMond dealer in 1997 and he was incredibly friendly and accommodating to everyone there. But ever since Lance has won three tours and then surpassed Greg, it seems that he has become incredibly bitter, jealous and subsequently tarnished his legacy significantly. Enjoy your millions and shut up unless you have some more objective evidence !
Greg LeMond's comments #3
Greg LeMond is easily my favourite rider of all time but I must admit that I'm disappointed with his latest attack on Armstrong.
Whether his suspicions have any merit or not, for him to publicly accuse Armstrong of taking drugs without there being any credible (public) information about, only makes him look like a bitter and jealous ex-rider. Someone of his stature does himself and his legacy no favours with outbursts of this type. No one (except Armstrong's inner sanctum) really knows what's going on with Armstrong, and the truth, whether it is the "official line" or something else, will come out over the course of time.
LeMond should keep his views to himself rather than denigrate his own image. It looks like a cheap grab at some publicity, nothing more.
Greg LeMond's comments #4
OK, enough already. It's hard enough to listen to Greg LeMond whine about what could have been had he not gotten shot or had that big bully Bernard Hinault try and derail his precious Tour ambitions. Or the muscle-wasting disease that no doubt kept him from winning at least three more on top of those that he "missed out" on. Now he has to consistently try to cast doubt on Armstrong's accomplishments. Now, I don't know with absolute certainty that Lance has done it all fair and square, but I would say that unless LeMond has something other that injured pride and personal angst to go on, he should keep his jealous little mouth shut.
In a way, Armstrong's illness and subsequent attitude change has benefited LeMond. Instead of praising him for being an inspiration, the old Lance would have knocked his teeth out.
If David Millar has used EPO, then presumably it was to raise the oxygen-carrying capacity of his blood. Wasn't that what English athletes used to achieve by going to a training camp at altitude for several weeks before a major event, such as the Olympic Games? Was that cheating? Were they doping? When athletes sleep in a tent, in conditions of reduced oxygen that simulates altitude to achieve a similar result, are they cheating? Are they doping? Isn't that why a haematocrit level over 50 is not evidence of doping?
Is it simply the use of a needle that makes it unacceptable? So what about the improved effectiveness of vitamins when injected. Is that doping? Granted there are risks to the circulation if haematocrit levels exceed 50; but we are talking professionals who are subject to testing, and consequently take care to control the situation.
Can we have some more balanced responses to the situation, rather than the simplistic tabloid knee-jerk reactions?
Drugs in cycling #2
Due to the results of the time trial in Hamilton at the World Championships Canada was left without a spot in the Time trial at the Olympics. Now that David Millar has admitted to cheating does that mean that the criteria for the Olympics has changed? The second place finishers time should now be the criteria. Eric Wohlberg rode his heart out in that race, I really feel for the guy to be deprived by a cheat!
Drugs in cycling #3
As we have yet another drug scandal (David Millar) to deal with as we start the Tour de France, I have to ask what the UCI is doing to combat the problem? Of course, it's to institute the Pro Tour, a harder more demanding cycling season where all of the "top" teams in cycling are forced to compete in the UCI's list of "top" events.
While not allowing the teams to substantially increase the amount of riders on their rosters, they are now forced to compete in three grand tours. So, if a team has a roster of 25 riders, and eight or nine riders are required to compete in the grand tours, then several riders are faced with having to compete in more than one grand tour per season (especially with some teams not having 25 riders, and most teams having a rider or two on the roster that is injured).
I obviously don't condone doping in sport, but I have to firmly point my finger at the UCI for it's lack of control and lack of proactive measures regarding doping. The UCI is always a step (or two) behind the drug takers and only deals in a reactive response when doping is found. I'm sure that there are many riders who are so far ahead of the UCI that they are abusing/using products that won't find their way onto the banned list for many years. Is that cheating?
I think that the UCI should work on a proactive stance regarding doping. They should institute education programs regarding doping and its deadly consequences. They should research innovative ways to test for drugs both in and out of competition. After someone is found guilty of doping they should be forced to take some kind of education and treatment before being allowed to compete again. The UCI should have a "probationary" team where riders who have been found guilty of doping have to ride for one season (after serving a suspension) while earning a minimum salary and being subject to more rigorous testing while also performing volunteer work with amateur or junior riders to discourage them from drug use. Right now I'm sure that the risk of doping is worth it to some riders when faced with the possible rewards that the good results will bring, especially when the potential for being caught is probably pretty slim. This needs to change. Riders need to fear the results of a positive test more than they do now with just a six month ban for their first offense.
It's time for the UCI to stop turning a blind eye to doping. If some poor sap is caught doping, he is forever tossed away from the sport and made the scapegoat while everyone knows that a larger problem exists. Instead of giving a handful of riders a black mark each season, and making the cycling season harder, the UCI needs to show some vision while trying to combat the problem that is threatening to ruin the sport that so many of us enjoy.
Drugs in cycling #4
Is it any wonder why those outside cycling have trouble taking our sport seriously, especially when it comes to the drug issue? Decisions are inconsistent, penalties vary from Federation to Federation, and you never have a clue what is going to happen.
Two more riders (and perhaps more to come) were just excluded from the Tour for being involved in a three year old drug "investigation", and several were not allowed to start for the same reason. Nothing has been proven but apparently, unlike in most countries, in the Tour you are guilty until proven innocent. And of course the rules seem to change yearly. In the past several riders were under investigation but nothing was done (not that it should have been). So what happens now if someone decides to open an investigation on Lance based on the David Walsh's book, or Ullrich on his past indiscretions, before the Tour ends? Can you imagine it's 2 days to go and Lance and Jan are in a neck to neck battle and one, or both, are thrown out because of being "investigated"? Or would they be thrown out?
Of course, I don't think I would be surprised either way. After all, while riders under "investigation" are barred from riding the Tour we still have at least 2 riders who are admitted users who were allowed to start, and continue to ride, while another was (and rightfully so) banned. But then one of them is French, and the other his support rider. Hmmmm...
And technically aren't ALL riders being "investigated" every time they have a test done? Again, guilty until proven innocent, or should we accept this when there are revelations such as that with David Millar?
Where is the UCI in all this? Is there REALLY a world governing body that makes decisions regarding races and drug usage or is it just a charade? I realize the Tour is the Tour but will all organizers now have the option to impose their own ideas of what is correct? Will anyone ever know what the rules are? As Saeco management said, how will rider decisions, or any decisions for that matter, be made for upcoming races. Also, what about riders proven, "innocent"? If it was me I'd be getting a lawyer involved for potential lost wages. (Isn't that how the Tour was forced to accept a certain French rider back in?)
While there certainly needs to be a continued movement to get the drug situation under control, it has to be done in an organized and consistent manner, and that just does not appear to be happening at this time.
I appreciate Simon van der Aa's concerns about slowing down others by "taking the lane". But when he says “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”, he's still missing the point. It is that simple. Of course it is rude for cyclists to take up the entire lane riding two abreast on a 2-lane highway just so they can chat. Just like any slow vehicles, they should move aside to allow the faster vehicles to pass. But not if the only place to move is the door zone. We must never advocate compromising a cyclist's safety - by riding in a door zone - just to be polite! It too am a fan of Johan Museew. But the lesson here is not that "being doored" can happen to anyone. The lesson should be that anyone can be intimidated by traffic to make the mistake of riding in the door zone. That is, the emphasis should be on that fact that riding in the door zone is always a mistake, and should be avoided, always. Riding in the door zone in order to let others pass is very unsafe, and should never be considered a viable option.
I should add that I have found that politely asserting my right to the lane safely outside of the door zone gets me more respect from car drivers than does cowering from intimidation in the danger of the door zone. It sometimes feels counter-intuitive, and it takes a while to get used to it, but never riding in the door zone is quite viable. The underlying fact is that if you behave as a second-class user of the road, then you will be treated as a second-class user of the road. But if you politely assert your right to a safe position on the road, then you will be treated with due respect.
Simon van der Aa describes his "usual approach" to being overtaken as occupying "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."
When there's plenty of room in a lane to permit motor vehicles to overtake our bicycles we all do that. The question is, what does the cyclist do when there's not enough room for someone to safely pass within the lane?
Does the cyclist then ride in a part of the lane he or she knows is dangerous to be in, deliberately endangering him or herself solely for the minimal convenience of a trailing motorist? Or does that cyclist expect other road users to obey the law, waiting until either the lane widens to allow safe passing or moving into an adjacent lane to overtake?
Or does the cyclist simply leave the road -- is Scotty going to beam him up, perhaps?
We know that riding in the space adjacent to parallel parked cars is dangerous. We also know it's more dangerous to ride there than farther out in the lane, for the precise reason that Mr. Aa identified in his unfortunately anthropomorphic description: the "cars" behind him in the lane see him, while the parked "cars" do not.
The cyclist has the more to fear from people in the parked cars who aren't aware of the cyclist, and for that reason, it's more dangerous to ride within a meter of parallel parked cars than it is to move a meter away into the lane. This holds true even if that means that some impatient trailing motorists will have to wait to overtake.
I live in Boston, Massachusetts, a densely populated urban area that's filled with parallel parking and narrow lanes, so I'm no stranger to this problem. Indeed, on a bright summer afternoon in July 2002, a parked motorist opened his door onto a woman riding in a local bike lane that was striped next to a narrow parking lane and knocked her beneath the wheels of a city bus. She was crushed, and she died instantly, a life eliminated all for the convenience overtaking traffic.
This was a freak accident, to be sure, relying on the coincidental presence of the bus at her side just at the moment she was knocked over -- but so is being run down from behind by a motorist who can clearly see what's in front of him. Motorist frustrations aside, almost nobody will deliberately crush a cyclist who's completely visible to him or her. Meanwhile, many people will incautiously fling open their parked car doors, no matter how many times they have been warned not to do this.
So I disagree with Mr. Aa -- it really is simple: if there's no room for a vehicle operator to drive his or her vehicle past another safely, then that person has to wait. The person in front can't create safe passing room where none exists, and it's not up to a cyclist or any other operator to deliberately endanger him or herself to save the few seconds' time that a trailing motorist might have to wait before overtaking safely.
Phil Chapman's recent commentary on Dr Ferrari's "Hardest Race" article produced some interesting responses! Being a colleague of Phil's, and a researcher of human metabolism, I thought I'd also express my opinion.
Before readers jump to their keyboards to retort, I'd like to remind everyone that NO-ONE knows the true "answer" to the ideas expressed by Dr Ferrari. Indeed Phil's response was an effort to place some more scientific rigor to the argument - but his is also open to debate. From where I sit I think Phil's attack was prompted by frustration - too often we find ourselves shaking our heads in response to some of the crap that is written by "big names" such as Ferrari and Carmichael. Most of the time scientists in this field just ignore it and go to sleep at night (un)comfortable in the knowledge that they are earning significantly less than these "superstars of human physiology"! But sometimes we feel that the message being sent is potentially detrimental and worthy of commentary.
In the interest of diplomacy, I agree with Dean Griffin's sentiment that Phil was a little over-the-top. In Phil's defence, he was objecting to Ferrari's comments that prolonged cycling events are physiologically "extraordinary" and "unexpected in the human evolutionary process". Most notably Phil's article aims to dispel the potentially harmful assertion that, in order to survive and excel in competitive cycling, participants require extraordinary nutrition which human physiology has not yet encountered (or yet adapted to) throughout the course of evolution. Why is this dangerous? Because it sends out the message to young cyclists, and those who can't quite make the grade, that this is all beyond the ordinary and in order to deal with it EXTRA ordinary dietary regimes, and the like, are necessary. This misinformation from the scientific community may inadvertently promote the use of performance enhancing (and enabling) agents.
From what I have read in the scientific literature, I can happily confirm that many hunter-gatherer societies do (and have presumably throughout evolution) expend(ed) the levels of energy observed on a daily basis in TDF riders. Our physiology therefore HAS evolved to be able to cope with this magnitude of energy expenditure. And while it may appear absolutely amazing to us, it is nothing but ORDINARY in hunter-gatherer society ….and this includes their nutritional practices. We are no longer normal hunter-gatherers and most of us live sedentary lifestyles which are now thought to be contributing to the growing incidence of many chronic diseases. Therefore our "normal" appears a long way from the athlete lifestyle. But as hunter-gatherers we ALL used to be athletes - lets not think of them as freaks. We're just not as good as Lance!
Lastly, in response to Ed Wilson, Phil was not saying that the type of regime you have outlined is EASY, but the body IS designed to cope with such circumstances. On a lighter note, I can assure you that, in the name of science, Phil has undertaken numerous periods of prolonged fasting (3-4days) followed by substantial cycling efforts! Not easy, but achievable.
I for one hope that David Millar returns to the sport a changed man. I believe he has the ability to be a class act again, and within the rules.
These riders are under extreme pressure, both physically and mentally. It is easy to assume at a much lower level that you are not competing on a level playing field, and maybe seek a little assistance to help apart from genuine ability. At the top level...?!It is up to the authorities to get on top of the culture in a truly serious fashion-and Millar's catching is evidence of this.
At the end of the day this is the greatest and toughest sport in the world, requiring the greatest devotion in time for any sport. Keep enjoying your cycling, at whatever level, and don't let incidents like this put you off. It is a sign the tide is turning.
David Millar #2
Written in response to the David Millar letter. I don't write with the answer, just another question really. I believe that the suggestion of periodically blood testing riders at different times throughout the season to compare red blood cell count is a good one. But, how would this account for periods altitude training which are known to boost a riders red blood cell count considerably - but more importantly legally? The risk we face is that altitude improved performances could become mixed up in the drug abuse issue if a % increase at any time in the season is considered an indication of substance abuse. I don't know if this method is the answer. Innocent until proven guilty seems to be the only way I'm afraid. After all, you can't publicly hang someone and then conduct an investigation to decide whether they deserved it!
Everyone knows that cycling certainly gets its fair share of bad press about drugs, generally brought about by the actions of few with the assumption of many being guilty.
And that may or may not be the case, but I think we shouldn't all assume that cycling is the only sport that would be involved in drug use. And of French, well who knows if he is or isn't guilty, we will never know. But because one bad egg got caught (and his dubious behavior since continues damage to cycling) you wouldn't want any of your kids involved in the sport? I don't know anyone who lives in a glass house that could make that sort of comment.
And to Mark French, grow up. Stop being a petulant child... for the record I have not judged you guilty but the more you point fingers and lash out (especially in the press) the worse you and all cyclists look. You are making us all guilty by association and I for one don't appreciate it. If your innocent then take the appropriate course of action and clear yourself.
Regarding Wes Baki's comparison between the achievements of Armstrong and Indurain. I must take issue when Baki states: "The notion that Indurain, for one, was a superior rider to Lance often astounds me. Take a look at their results in the Classics - one victory each, Lance with eight podiums (six seconds), Indurain with one, not to mention their Tour results and the manner in which they dominated - just who is the one dimensional rider?"
You forgot about the Giro.
Indurain won the Giro - Tour double twice. In 1992 and 1993. You simply cannot overstate that achievement.
It would have been something to see Armstrong actually ride the Giro just once in his career. And, especially while he was at the height of it.
I too have complained to OLN Canada regarding the horrible shows they choose to broadcast over cycling. After no responses I did some research and found that the CRTC only allows OLN to take up 5% of their broadcast time with professional sports. This year they applied to have that increased to 15% but were opposed by "The Score" who complained that since OLN was owned by TSN, they would be forcing The Score out of its market if OLN was allowed to increase its professional sports coverage (of course the Score has no inclination of showing the Classics or the other Grand Tours). The CRTC to my knowledge ruled in favour of OLN's request but with the condition (of course) they broadcast more Canadian made shows. So as far as I'm concerned we're getting crap cycling coverage because 1) OLN Canada believes strongman competitions from the early '90's will draw more viewers and 2) the CRTC believes the Canadian identity is at risk by a bunch of spandex-wearing euros (gotta love communism!).
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