|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
Letters to Cyclingnews - September 2, 2005
Fair point Rob and unfortunately that stigma will be attached for some time yet not just for cycling but any sport. However the point here is not about blanket statements by you about everyone being doped up, people's naivety or national patriotism - I'm neither on drugs, naïve nor an American so not sure which 'bucket' you classify me in. The point here is that a magazine has come out with major allegations and in doing so, violated a number of rules and codes of conduct. In addition, if L'Equipe claims to be upholding the integrity of cycling then they should be doing this right across the board - not just for a guy called Lance Armstrong.
L'Equipe is not the ruling body for cycling (the last time I checked), and one can only conclude that it's allegations are wholly and solely centred around a disdain for an unbelievable athlete or anger that they can't produce an athlete capable of matching it with the best at the moment - I guess they reason that if France can't do it, then everyone else must be on drugs or have better doping procedures than them?
The worst part of all this is that it reeks of sensationalism and personal agenda's - L'Equipe making a claim that cannot be validated nor disproved by Lance other than to say "I didn't take EPO". Why didn't L'Equipe pursue Richard Virenque with such vigour, or Marco Pantani, or David Millar, etc? Or how about these two from this years Tour: Evgeni Petrov and Dario Frigo? Bet everyone forgot about these guys who were both ejected.
Yes we need to test athletes and protect all sports, I have no problems with this and support it wholeheartedly - BUT, there is a process for doing this and L'Equipe nor any other magazine for that matter is part of it. Period!
For what it's worth, I'll always remember those attacks on Hautacam, L'Alpe d'Huez, Ventoux, P'late Adet, Madelaine, Galibier, Courchevel, etc. I won't be remembering anything about L'Equipe.
To Editor-in-chief, Claude Droussent, of French sports daily L'Equipe - you are a liar.
What's worse, the blatant nature of your lie only points out your boundless arrogance in thinking readers are too stupid not to see the truth.
You told French TV station LCI, "If Armstrong was a Frenchman and we had seen the same data, we would do the same thing". The only way that statement would ever have been believed is if your paper had shown all the names of riders who supposedly tested positive and not just Lance Armstrong.
That article must be shown as the set up it is and the most conclusive proof of that is simply that you had a story to write. If the lab can be believed their tests were completely anonymous and there's not much story in a lab testing a lot of unknown samples. So the back story to your article would be the answers to the following questions:
- The first question to be asked is how and why did L'Equipe even know that
the lab was going to test the 1999 samples?
I could give very credible answers to the above questions but it would be so much more enjoyable to read the concoction of lies that you would put out attempting to cover all the asses that would require covering were truthful answers known.
I've heard L'Equipe's reason that giving the other names would take away from the effect of the story on Armstrong. First and foremost, unless your article named another top level rider nothing would take away from Armstrong's name and even another top level rider's name would not have significantly deterred it. Secondly, that answer alone proves your statement a lie! If the story was not a 'witch hunt' on Armstrong not giving the other names would never have been an option as it would add credibility to the story. But then that's the whole issue here isn't it? There is no credibility - not for you or L'Equipe. Sadly it's becoming only too apparent that ASO and it's Tour Director, the UCI and WADA's Dick Pound also lack credibility now that this story has become little more than an attention and power grap by them all; as they so willingly sacrifice a rider's reputation for their own glory knowing full well that by the methods THEY put in place Armstrong can't be proven guilty. But more important to you and L'Equipe - he can't prove himself not guilty either.
If the Newspaper L'Equipe had released the names of all the EPO positives, it would have been viewed as responsible investigative journalism, but by releasing the name of just of just one rider, that also happened to be your prime target for the last seven years is to much of a coincidence, and begs to be labeled "witch hunt". You can file this one under "how could you be so dumb, and still be paid?"
In relation to Jan Ullrich
I am a Lance fan but also an Ullrich fan, but, let us not forget he developed under the old East German system (along with Zabel) and their history is well documented. If you want to go back in history test Jan in '96, '97 & '98 as well as Pantani, Riis, Virenque and whoever you want. You just can't go back in time and selectively test.
If the story is true, who are the others? Is L'Equipe protecting French riders? Why didn't they bother to name anyone else? They clearly have an agenda. The questions will never end until it is dropped. This "test" was supposed to be a confidential experiment, not an out of competition exam, therefore it carries no weight as well as violating various WADA codes. As a cyclist and fan for almost thirty years, I feel cycling must be clean, and dragging it through the mud will not help especially when it is clear only one rider is the target of constant investigations by the French government and journalists.
Interesting comments regarding Jan and Lance. However, Jan didn't even ride the 1999 Tour and the "results" in question only deal with that Tour. So even if it is somehow proven that the test results for 1999 are correct Lance didn't "…steal his rightful glory". Remember too that ALL of Lance's other tests (when there was an EPO test) have been negative, so nothing was stolen there according to current rules. And if they decide to test the other years using the new protocol then they better test everyone's. I wonder if anyone else's, including Jan's, might be different?
Springfield, VA, USA
In response to Joe Clapp's letter about "Lance Apologists" I wanted to say that, like many cycling fans, I do not feel compelled to "apologise" for Lance Armstrong. Armstrong is the most drug tested and medically examined athlete in the history of sports. The fact that L'Equipe decided that six positive samples were Armstrong's - despite their complete inability to prove this - does not suddenly negate seven years of negative test results.
Think about this. Armstrong's urine and blood have been tested hundreds of times over the last seven years. American labs have tested his blood. European labs have tested his blood. They've tested him in Spain, they've tested him in France, they've tested him in Switzerland. And all of these tests have found nothing at all. Armstrong is, as far as the UCI is concerned, completely free of performance enhancing substances and has been during his entire pro career. And this is on the basis of systematic testing, including being "randomly" chosen during each Tour de France.
A lab does a test on old urine. The test is anonymous. A newspaper decides that six of those tests are Armstrong's. They do not reveal how they know this, or on what basis they decided that the urine was Armstrong's. They don't give out any information as to who the other positive tests belong to. Instead of believing the governing body of the sport and, more importantly, the hundreds of legitimate tests, you jump up and believe the newspaper. Is your unthinking hatred of Lance Armstrong so very deep that you are willing to believe any party that simply points a finger at him and says "J'accuse!"?
I do not believe Armstrong is clean because he says so. Of course, any athlete accused of doping will deny it, and their denial should be looked upon as a sort of formality. However, I do not believe that he is so amazingly clever, or that his people are so amazingly clever, as to have fooled the drug labs so completely for so long. And I certainly do not take L'Equipe's word without question. Armstrong seems to be an arrogant jerk. I don't know that I would like him personally if I met him. But all of the available evidence--as of the time of this writing--indicates that he is a drug free arrogant jerk.
Please. Let not the blind lead the blind. As Lance is brought under the microscope, let's not rush off to glorify the next schmuck who's had his own share of illegal drug use and negative press (think Ullrich, off-season, German night clubs…) No matter whose side you're on here, let's examine the real issue. If both of these guys are willing to stoop to drug use, Armstrong gets the nod for at least using the stuff to help him win. Ullrich can't be victimized like that. The real issue? Stopping the illegal drug use which is obviously and painfully apparent in the peloton. The real victims? Cycling fans and aspiring future professionals.
From Joe Clapp's letter of August 23: "None are so blind as those who will not see."
Clearly Mr. Clapp doesn't see the implications of this case. If L'Equipe's expose against Mr. Armstrong is allowed to stand as sufficient proof of his guilt, then any cyclist could be found guilty at the whim of any organisation that is willing to violate the established rules of anonymity and "match" a name with a sample. Riders who fall out of favour with an organisation with sufficient means could be unjustly ruined. The anti-doping protocols are in place to assure all involved that findings can be confirmed and positively identified. i.e, they are in place to ensure justice.
Regardless of whether "he did" or not, throwing away the anti-doping rules of justice would be very destructive to the sport of cycling. Is this a price we should all pay so a single newspaper and an affiliated race organisation can have the last laugh in a seven-year-old tug-of-war?
"The quality of a culture comes from its quality of justice and sense of fair play."
Carson City, NV
On the other hand, as Rudi Altig said, what would happen if Jan's urine from 1997 were be tested? Or whose are those 40 samples from 1998 tested positive according to the French lab? Why hasn't any name been published from those findings?
A few years ago a lab in Utah announced to the world that they had produced energy from Cold Fusion. As a scientist I was intrigued and followed the story. Accepted scientific procedure called for the test to be repeated in another lab to preclude a mistake. When the second and third labs were unable to reproduce the result the discovery was ridiculed and eventually the scientists were discredited. A scientific truth is only truth when it is repeatable verified. Now as a cyclist I read about L'Equipe's expose on lance doping. Conveniently the samples used were destroyed so no independent verification is possible. This isn't science or a search for the truth it is a French magazine attacking an athlete. Don't fall for it folks, this ain't TRUTH, it's the worst yellow journalism replete with made up "facts" and innuendo.
A boycott of the TDF may be in order. Of course that won't happen since the sponsors would suffer - but it's a thought.
If what everyone is discussing is the status of various B samples taken many years ago, what was the verdict on the A samples at the time?
The two possibilities are:
1 They were all negative, the riders were all clean, but the B sample has deteriorated through an aging process rather than from an initial contamination.
2 They were positive but LeBlanc and the Tour de France covered that up, making themselves party to a plot to save the Tour from further drug scandal.
Only Jean-Marie Leblanc can tell us, one way of the other.
Having followed professional cycling for years I found the reaction of the professional cyclists to the revelations of EPO use by Lance Armstong interesting. Almost to a man, the comments I read were "They can test us from 1999?!?!" You could almost hear the collective "Oh No" all the way across the Atlantic here in the USA. The cyclists (and now all atheletes) are terrified that the tests they thought they had passed will now be re-conducted with newer more effective tests.
Plus, I always was under the impression that in professional cycling there was a wink, wink standard on EPO. Since they couldn't test for it's use, they could only test for it's effects, they set a 50% hemocrit level and said above that we have to DQ you, below it is okay. Essentially, we know you all use it, but you can only use so much. So everyone did. If everyone is playing by the same rules, it's fair. To go back now with another test is changing the rules. Here in the United States we have Constitutional protections against laws making something a crime after the fact.
As for Lance, up until a couple of years ago he was always quoted as saying "I've never tested positive for any illegal substances." Which was politically very astute. It's quite a different tune than "I've never taken any performance enhancing drugs" which he has been saying in the last couple of years. I can believe the first statement but not the second from ANY professional athlete. Caffeine is a performance enhancing drug, so is ibuprofen or aspirin, so is any allergy or asthma medication, or even sugars or carbohydrates, even oxygen. To believe that a professional cyclist has never taken any performance enhancer is simply implausible, even Lance. That said, he still trained harder and more effectively than everyone else and employed impeccable strategy in winning seven Tours.
The problem is defining which performance enhancers you can/cannot take legally BEFORE an event and then sticking to it. If a test comes along which can detect something new, great, but you can only use it going forward.
Some of the papers here in Germany are demanding that the Country is owed four Tour victories - three Jan Ullrich and one Andreas Klöden. What I want to know is; if Lance needed drugs to win the Tour how come he has never tested positive in seven Tour wins. He must surely be one of the most tested men in the peloton.
Full marks go to Eddie Mercyx for saying he would rather believe Lance than the Press but shame on Leblanc with his quick condemnation of a man who has done more than any other to make the modern Tour so universally high profile.
Now the can of worms has been opened we have to see it through I guess. Can it be proved that these samples are from Lance? If so, is it possible that the medical attention he was receiving in his cancer fight could account for the results? Who do the other positive samples belong to?
There is now the suspicion that riders at the time took EPO because they new it could not be proven. Was Lance one of them? I go along with Eddie Mercyx on that one.
The 1999 TdF is long past. I really don't care if Lance has used drugs like EPO. Tyler Hamilton is a person I greatly respect even if he used a banned substance. The fame and money will always encourage cyclists to try and beat the system and many do beat the system. I always wondered if Lance tried to ride the 2003 TdF without using any banned substance and found out the difficulty in doing that. Face it, the name of the game is winning. Lance knows the boost drugs can do for the body. I am sure other tour riders and medical people know this too.
I am also a cancer survivor and I admire Lance Armstrong so much for his fund
raising and raising the consciousness of people in fighting cancer. He has given
many people hope in the face of staggering odds.
A lot of Lance's loyal supporters have been using questionable logic and arguments based on relativism, although many of the latter are excellent and compelling points. However, pointing out the lack of protocol in releasing Lance's name in connection with the allegations does not lead to an assumption of innocence. If we find out something by way of an unethical investigation, the truth that we uncover is still a truth.
Along the same lines, remembering Virenque's guilt and his lenient treatment does not give any weight to Armstrong's defence. Without a doubt, the French media's adoration of him, a liar and continual cheat, is distasteful when compared to its dislike of Armstrong. But this doesn't mean Armstrong didn't use drugs.
Armstrong fans indulging in arguments based on gloating over lack of French racing success would do well to read Jonathan Vaughters' comments that he dislikes criticism of French teams because they are the cleanest these days. People calling for samples from the mid-nineties to be retested because they would reveal scores of French cheats, would do well to remember that Lance became successful in France during that period. The reanalysis of any sample from those years would probably be uncomfortable reading.
Unfortunately, only those with the rosiest of sunglasses believe in the total credibility of any cyclist. The sport is awash with drugs and it always has been. As cycling fans we all choose to look away from the issue. Some cycling fans are also nationalists before they are rationalists, and all the jingoistic pro and anti Lance arguments are so much bull.
Auckland, New Zealand
I've been thinking about this for a while. Every time someone says to me, 'oh Lance, that guy is on drugs', it makes me think 'well if he is then everyone else is or they're all not.' The Tour is decided by minutes. In terms of a hundred metre sprint, we're talking millimetres. Lance's biggest victory was his first; seven minutes over Zulle. That Tour had a total duration of 91 hours. Seven minutes difference over 5460 total isn't even close. It's too close to be close. And Jan, well he was only one minute behind in '03, so what can be said of him. If Lance rode like he did in 03 in 01, Ullrich would have been champ by far. It's a long race, and to be decided by minutes like that, it just puts things into perspective.
This is a plea for a little more critical thinking. It's not a bad thing to say "I don't know," rather than fire off vehement opinions with near-zero knowledge. Scott correctly notes that mistakes happen in scientific testing.
1) Jacques de Ceaurriz (Christiane Ayotte) heads the Paris (Montreal) anti-doping lab. The former is confident of his lab's positive results. The latter says she is surprised, because thinks EPO is not stable in urine for more than 2-3 months, and warns everybody of that. Both seem to be experts in this area, but they disagree...which happens all the time in science. Fortunately, the question "Does EPO degrade, and under what conditions?" is scientifically determinable. Maybe somebody already has, and I just couldn't find it. Anyone know?
If EPO doesn't degrade after 5 years, the question is still open. If it degrades after 3 months, any EPO in the samples didn't come from 1999 cyclists.
2) On Larry King, Armstrong said he'd supplied 17 samples. L'Equipe says the EPO-positive samples were from July 3, 4, 13, 14, 16, 18. Did he supply ones for 15th and 17th? If so, it seems odd that he would be positive on 14th, 16th, 18th, and negative on 15th and 17th. Anybody know?
3) There were supposed to be two older kinds of tests and a newer one. I found the standard WADA protocol, but does anyone know whether all 3 tests were used on each sample? If so, did they agree?
Does anyone remember the "cold fusion" flap a few years ago? A lot of people wrote a lot of silly things without having the foggiest idea or bothering to wait for data. Mistakes happen in scientific testing, and just having multiple samples guarantee little if there there is a problem at a lab. For instance, it would be interesting to know the order of testing samples. Tests are often wrong, which doesn't imply that these are wrong, just that it is silly to say "there was a scientific test, and therefore a fact is indisputable." That's not science. Even experts disagree.
Portola Valley, CA
I agree with your position. As someone trained in scientific method, it's clear that there is no valid scientific rationale for conducting these tests. And, the reason is very simple - no one knows who, if anyone, actually used EPO, how much they used, when they used it, etc. Thus, the results obtained by these tests cannot reject any hypotheses. We learn absolutely nothing by conducting these tests. One can explain them as the result of:
(1) Actual EPO use
In order to actually learn something, we would need a controlled experiment - with a "double-blind" experimental design. In other words, some cyclists would get EPO and some wouldn't' (but they wouldn't know one way or the other), and the testers wouldn't know if the samples they received for testing were from the cyclists who had/had not taken the EPO. A portion of each sample would be tested immediately and then each sample would be stored for some period of years. Then, the samples would be re-tested and the results would be compared to the original (immediate) results and the actual use/non-use of EPO. If such an experiment was conducted, then we would be able to make some reasonable statements about the validity of the tests involved. However, to the best of my knowledge, no such test has been conducted - and it appears that even the most recent tests for EPO have produced false positives for at least one rider. Thus, what is the purpose of these tests?
The only reasons I can think of for conducting such tests are (1) to scare cyclists (and others athletes) about their use of drugs because retrospective testing might be used or (2) to smear reputations. The problem is that the ethical violations of the lab involved (it wasn't supposed to have the samples, or make it possible to identify the persons involved) will result in a backlash against the testers. Specifically, I suspect that retrospective testing now has no chance of being agreed to be athletes since allowing labs to keep samples allows for abusive behavior on the part of the labs. Thus, while the Festina affair in the 1998 Tour brought about a proper shift toward greater testing, I believe that the L'equipe affair undo much of the good that was accomplished.
Patrick J. Wilkie, Ph.D.
It seems that the anti-American sentiment so many of your US readers detect in the French society is in good company. I've never read so many unintelligent, dumb, and unfounded letters. Accusing the French of a dictatorship? Conspiracy? Obviously, most of those letter-writers continue to believe that the Holy Grail of all things good and true resides in the States.
The blind loyalty towards Armstrong has reached religious dimensions here. Wait not long, and a Lance fan is going to blow himself up with a yellow paint grenade in front of the French embassy!
Why don't we instead look at the facts as they have been reported by many international newspapers, and commented on by many international experts (even though that may be hard for US citizens to accept. Yes, there are people abroad who can read):
-The tests were conducted to see if riders changed their doping patterns.
Here it turns into a case of investigative journalism, not bound to ethical rules of anti-doping agencies, but "only bound to the truth". Reporter Damien Ressiot of L'Equipe matched the vial numbers on the EPO test reports with the numbers on signed control reports (signed by riders when the sample was taken) from the TdF. How Ressiot got his hands on either test results or the control reports is dubious. The control reports are kept at UCI. He obviously has very good contacts.
Six of the samples of the 1999 Tour that tested positive were Armstrong's. The lab says that there is enough of each sample left to conduct a second test. Therefore, the lab had neither reason nor means to falsify or change test results for Armstrong's or anyone else's sample. They had no idea whose sample they were testing. In fact, their point was not to catch anyone for doping, but to do scientific research with samples likely to contain EPO (it was thought that in '98 and '99 EPO was still widely used). The results were given to WADA, the WORLD Anti Doping Agency. The signed reports were kept at the UCI, the INTERNATIONAL Cycling Association.
Accusing the lab of willful manipulation is outrageous. What interest could a bunch of scientist have to mess with urine samples? Remember, they test samples from all sports (Hard to believe, but the world does not revolve around cycling). The criminal energy supposed here by Lance fans is ridiculous. A conspiracy of independent lab technicians, the World Anti Doping Agency, and the UCI just to bring down poor, innocent Armstrong.
The only really murky point here is how Ressiot got his hands on the sample results and the signed sheets to be able to match up numbers with names. However, if I remember correctly, there is a reporter in jail in the U.S. for the right to protect sources, and investigative journalism has its rightful place. Like it or not, French journalists also have a commitment to the truth. And the fact that they look for an Armstrong match first should not surprise anyone. Personally, I think this is a horrible development for cycling and the objective facts very much speak against Armstrong. Yes, he will have a hard time proving his innocence, because he is up against hard evidence.
Although, the lab stated that there is enough left for a second test, I doubt he will be prosecuted for a doping violation. In a court of law the evidence for doping will not be admissible because proper procedure was not followed. However, I hate the fact the Armstrong himself evokes anti-French sentiment and attacks the validity of the test accusing fine and respected scientists of forgery or unprofessionalism. And regarding the 'leaker' at WADA and UCI: what is the greater crime? Leaking information on a doper, or being a doper?
Lance is probably guilty. Why does this former Lance proponent think so?
Lance is not perfect, although he has achieved sainthood in the eyes of many. As anyone who follows cycling knows, negative tests do not indicate innocence, so it would be nice to quit hearing the same old argument about 7 years of testing, blah, blah, blah…
A question: what moral traits does Lance possess that are not shared by Virenque, Camenzind, Zulle, and many other champions who have tested positive? Can anyone say, without hesitation, that he is such a moral paragon? Remember Actovegin? Remember the offending saddle sore cream? Remember Emma O'Reilly, Steve Swart, and others with no particular axe to grind, who have made exacting allegations about Lance that indicate that he is far from ethically perfect? Further, we saw the TRUE Lance in the way he abused Simeoni last year. Lance is, apparently, a jerk, despite the yellow bracelets and SI covers. Lance's recovery from testicular cancer was no miracle. Greg Strock, Eric Keiter, and Ernie Lechuga all recovered from testicular cancer (off topic, but not too irrelevant: why did these four guys, all about the same age, and all products of our National cycling team structure, all suffer from this same disease?)
Entire industries have benefited from Lance's climb to prominence. There are
at least as one hundred times as many people who would lie or stay silent to
cover for him as would overtly deceive to upend him.
I raced against Lance in the 80's. He was inhumanly fast as a teenager, and I picked him to win the Tour long before Bruyneel had heard his name. I was racing in Texas the day Lance won the World Championship, and I cheered as loudly as anyone there when the PA announcer at the '93 Hotter n' Hell crit made the joyous announcement. Those of us who had actually brushed up against Lance saw the charisma, and the other-worldly talent was obvious, as were the arrogance and disdain for others. We overlooked those personal shortcomings; his huge personal brilliance diminished them. Now, I see the human, Lance, and I see fallibility, and I doubt him.
Other questions: if there were 14 retroactive EPO positives out of all of the urine samples taken during the '99 Tour, and 6 belonged to Lance, whose were the others? Were there eight other dopers, or only one or a few riders with multiple positives? Shouldn't L'Equipe pursue those other riders with the same vehemence?
Lorraine from Georgia is actually calling for proof of a negative herself, in that there is no way her 6 conditions could be met to prove Lance is guilty, just like how there is no way for Lance to actually prove his innocence. We have nothing but the existing evidence, and it appears to show Lance used EPO. Add to this a career-worth of circumstantial evidence and the logical conclusion that an athlete willing to do anything to win, and having near unlimited finances, and one wonders why he WOULDN'T use performance enhancing drugs.
Regarding the fact that he tested negative all those years, so did Carl Lewis (officially), but in the end it turned out the Lewis was cheating the entire time and was merely protected by the powerful American interests that didn't want their hero to be shown to be a cheater. Sound like anyone else? - Regarding having his victories downgraded, Carl Lewis got to keep his gold medals, while Ben Johnson not only lost his from 1988, they took away all his records and medals from events at which he tested negative (recall that the Canadian Olympic head at the time was in fact Dick Pound) and gave them all to Carl Lewis! We've all noticed how Tyler Hamilton still has his Olympic gold despite his positive drug tests from around the same time.
Regarding Virenque, the difference is that he did, eventually, come clean, and most of his victories came AFTER his positive. I believe Ullrich also has a positive test sometime from the mid 90's - should his 1997 victory be taken away as well?
Regarding the alleged "witch hunt" by the Tour de France, it seems illogical that the UCI or Tour de France committee would WANT such a gigantic smear on the last 7 years of cycling, considering the effort to clean up its image after 1998. Lance gave us all a great story of triumph over cancer and revived the TDF: if he cheated it flushes all of that away.
Every law student learns during the first year of law school about the concept of "chain of custody." In short, in cases involving testing, a key issue is who has had custody - that is, possession - of the item to be tested. For example, if a gun is tested, the police officer who took the gun and the lab, and everyone in between, must carefully document how the gun was handled, by whom, when, and so on. If there is a lapse in documenting the chain of custody, the prosecution's case may fall apart. After all, any number of things can happen to evidence after it is obtained but before it's tested. I find it a little surprising that information on the chain of custody of Lance's samples was not provided by L'Equipe or any of the other entities that have become involved to date. It seems elementary that L'Equipe and WADA would want all chain of custody information before making any comment whatsoever.
The official bird of American cycling fans is not the Bald Eagle as one might suspect. It is undoubtedly the ostrich. Never have I seen so many people sticking their heads in the sand to avoid confronting an important issue.
Putting on patriotic blinders, dragging out every tired and false cliche about the French and blaming the messenger, does all of cycling a disservice.
I am not saying that the editors and writers at L'Equipe are saints. Are there conflicts of interest? Yes. Are there ethical issues with how the information was obtained and used.? Definitely! Is the science debatable. Maybe, let the experts debate. Does the sum of their argument reach the level of "legal" proof. Without a confirming sample, never.
But the bottom line is do we want a drug free sport or not?
If we do, then we must at least listen to all credible accusations and examine them with an open mind. We must accept that advances in testing will sometimes reveal new information. We must allow journalists to do their jobs in a free society.
Nobody wants Lance to be clean more than I do. I have photos of him plastered on my office walls, along with Tyler (another fallen hero/victim), Jan and many other riders. His athletic exploits have given me a great deal of excitement and pleasure over the years. But greater than my admiration of Armstrong is my desire to know the truth or as close to it as we can get.
Eventually, all cycling fans will have to make up their minds on what did or did not take place back in July of 1999. As of now, my mind is still open and so should your readers be.
The National Enquirer equivalent of France says that Lance doped in 1999. And it took six more years for the story to come out? Let's start asking LeBlanc where his ethics were when every code in the book was broken. For him to make these allegation on Lance is not only ridiculous, but epitomises the saying "the pot calling the kettle black". What action has he taken on the laboratory that has "leaked" information (if at all)? What is the penalty for wrong-doings on the French-side? How did the laboratory know that they were Lance's samples if they were coded samples? Therein lies an experimental bias.
Scientific integrity is at risk when a laboratory leaks "confidential information". I find it extremely ironic that a laboratory claims that their scientific methodology is "fool-proof". Ha! and a double ha!! Those of us in the scientific world know that no experiment if "fool-proof". There is always a margin of error; human or otherwise. Afterall, EPO testing in urine is done by isoelectric focusing followed by western immunoblotting where they use an antibody to detect the different isoforms of the protein EPO. (1). The antibodies (primary and secondary) could yield false results. (2). Storage of any protein can result in its aggregation and lead to false positives. (3). Since the seals of the vials were broken, in the absence of Lance or his representative, where is the proof that the sample were not "spiked" ? What samples did they use for positive and negative controls ?
Its time for LeBlanc to own his shortcomings and instead of making statements like he has, he should have got some heads rolling. Come on, LeBlanc do the right thing for a change. The scenario of "Le Tour" has been permanently been changed by the American Cyclists. Its time to accept that the French may have to wait a long time for one of their own to beat Lance's record. Or they may have offer Lance a French citizenship to proclaim that France is still dominant in the sport.
I read with interest the defence put up by almost every American for their "good old boy". Similarly, the European letters in condemnation. Well here's another anti but one that's been anti from the word go and not just jumped on the band wagon! At the Paris / London ride in 2004 it was open discussion re Armstrong's performance's and whether they were substance enhanced; the universal opinion, including by some very senior cycling officials, was that there was something very fishy going on. Unfortunately, it was also the opinion that it was then to late to do anything about it, as to do so, and if there was any irregularities, would destroy cycling in the eyes of the public.
And therein lies the rub!
Armstrong had become bigger than the sport (and therefore to its detriment) his appeal is to the general public, and not those within the sport or directly connected to it. A complete business totally unconnected to the sport has been created to feed the massed ranks of the new world(s). I for one (and it appears not the only one) am glad he's gone. I am not surprised by the recent "revelations" indeed I could say "told you so!" But it's all too late now, why could this not have come out sooner?
This has to be some of the worst miss use of science data I've seen in years, just based on results I've seen.
Are labs in France exempt from the rules of the game?
First, you basically published data without a peer review, that my friend is a real no-no in science. It might not have been directly your labs fault, but some one will pay, I'd start looking for a scapegoat now.
Second, what is your positive control? You do realize that for a perfect positive control in this case you would have to have urine from a person you know was taking EPO /SIX YEARS AGO/, then you would have to freeze the urine. This urine would have to then follow "lance's" bag of urine around for six years so that it was subject to the same environmental circumstances. My bet is you don't have this control.
Third, Your lab is making these claims off a qualitative test? So you mean to tell me that, huh, we can't tell you how much EPO is present, or how much was present at the time of sample, but we can say that EPO or something EPO like is present (which is possibly what you are detecting). Not to mention we are talking about a bag of urine (which has all kinds of proteases and radicals) for six years of god only knows how many freeze thaws cycles. Please tell me your secret; I use the best protease inhibitors and buffers you can buy to stabilized my proteins and my protein samples barely last more then two years before degradation. Proteases are proteins that break down/degrade other proteins.
Also it hasn't been proven that any of these samples are even really Lance's, from what I've read L'Equipe claims it was able to make the connection.
I hate to tell you this but your method is going to be attacked by every reviewer you send your paper to, there is now no such things as an un-biased review for any paper you submit with this data, it is too well published in the "news". I don't know if I'll ever see a paper from you in Nature again, my guess is not.
People: Don't buy in to these results until the science has been reviewed, right now these are just claims like "we will cure cancer by the year 2000". We all know how that one worked out.
I've been watching cycling since 1973, like most guys follow football, baseball, etc, or in other words it is my passion. When I first heard of Armstrong, he was a triathlete winning races at 14 year old against top regional athletes. When he focused on cycling, he was doing unheard of feats, only losing by not using proper tactics, and not conserving this abnormal and freakish talent and at and age not near cycling prime. To me it is so clear, Lance is a freak of nature, and after cancer became a smart and lighter weight racer with obsessive training methods, who now had a reason to win every thing in sigh, he had just won the biggest race of life! All this all rolled up in one package, now armed with the best coaches, equipment, food, etc. Lance did not need any EPO, he simply was more gifted, trained harder, surrounded himself with the best and the rest is history.
I'm sure glad I got to witness his career both live and on the tv and it's a shame he has to stop his life to defend his career from six years ago. He was like the great horse Secretariat; abnormal, freakish, and nearly unbeatable, either could beat the competition on any giving day and even more so when the big race was on the line for it got their God-giving natural body-secreting hormones flowing. Anyone else was racing for second!
It continues to amaze me that Americans rush to defend any American just as surely as they rush to judgment on any "foreigner" who may test positive. Then they say the French are using a double standard. Seems to me they're describing a double standard themselves.
People will think what they will about Lance. I'm with LeBlanc: having seen the published evidence, he's caught. He has the distinction, like FloJo, of having retired at precisely the right time. Or, perhaps, like Rafael Palmeiro in American baseball, the Tour organizers just let him off the hook long enough to finish his championship run. Have you considered that, Francophile bashers?
In closing, and to continue with the parallels in baseball, why is it that no one rushed to defend Palmeiro while so many rushed to defend Mark McG when aspersions were being cast? I think they call it ethnocentrism. Be fair, and be consistent.
It seems to me that the issue of the Lance's innocence or guilt in 1999 is secondary to a more serious problem. Guilty or not, Lance has damaged the sport through years of tacit support for doping as well as intimidation of those who spoke out against it. By working with Michele Ferrari, Lance sent the message that it was acceptable to associate with the most notorious drug doctor in cycling.
He also consistently intimidated anyone and everyone who spoke out about cycling's drug problem. Whether it was with Bassons in 1999 or Simeoni in 2004, Lance let it be known that if you violated "omerta," you would suffer the consequences. His "zip the lip" gesture in the '04 Tour made his position abundantly clear. As the leader of the peleton, Lance has helped foster the current drug culture in the sport. Hopefully, his retirement marks the end of an era in which doping was the norm. Sadly, I don't think this will be the case.
Houston, Texas USA
Houston, Texas USA
I have just been perusing the list of riders nominated for the Australian team at the World Championships this year and reading Franco Ballerini's comments about the Australian team "We also can't count on Australia, because the sprinters will bite each other's heads off...". With the team we have and the right team orders, I see that we have the strongest leadout train of any country in the world.
A few years ago Oscar Freire won the worlds over a course not expected to suit him but the Spanish team, full of stars, was told they had to all ride for Oscar or they would never ride for Spain again. At the end of the race, the Spanish rode a beautifully controlled race and delivered Oscar to the World Championship. Let's hope that the Australian coaches have the courage to lay down a similar law to the Australian team so that our designated sprinter doesn't have to fight Zabel or Boonen for the scraps of Petacchi's train.
Let's consider the following from a few kilometres out from the finish, a train containing Henk Vogels, Matt White, Luke Roberts, Stuart O'grady, Brad McGee, Brett Lancaster, Baden Cooke and Allan Davis with Robbie McEwen to finsih it off. If You don't like Robbie there, then insert one of the other fast finishers. All of them are super strong on the flats with good bike handling skills for the corner 600m out. Can anyone name a leadout train that can match the talent shown here? (Not forgetting that Australia gets 12 riders) All we have to do is get them all to work as a team.
Sometimes it is refreshing to read what one team mate has to say about another in a positive vein.
Here's something written by one of the HealthNet guys about Mike Sayers - its a bit long - but coming from the heart like it does it isn't too hard to read it.
You guys at Cyclingnews get to cover a lot of the good, the bad and the ugly about cycling and I just wanted to be sure that this gem didn't get missed by y'all
As always thanks for your great coverage of cycling!
"The best team rider in America"
Back in December of 2002 I was in Tucson for winter training. I was a good time for me, although I was still rocking my Wheelworks/Cannondale kit, I had a big smile on my face because I had just signed my first "pro" contract for the West Virginia Pro Cycling team and would be receiving $250 a month to race my bike! Meanwhile Mike Sayers was ready to hang it up as Mercury ended sponsorship of the team that Mike had been a member of for the past five seasons. I didn't know Mike at the time, I knew of him though.
The first thing I ever knew about Mike Sayers other than seeing his name in reports was from an incident that happened between him and Erik Saunders at the Solano race in 02. I was traveling the West coast in my beat up subaru with Jon Hamblen and Jon offered Erik a ride home to Santa Barbara in my car. So on the way home I got to hear one side of an incident that involved Erik punching Mike in the helmet as they fought for a wheel in "200" mile an hour crosswinds. Erik's side of the story definitely made Mike look to be the bad guy, although to be honest, I didn't really like Erik at the time so I kept an open mind but I was that is all I had to go on for an impression of Mike. I have since changed my opinion on Erik and Mike.
It was a Wednesday ride in Tucson, we were way out Broadway almost to that right hand turn where we head towards monument east. I didn't really talk to any of the pros unless they talked to me, because I was a bit intimidated and because they had there hands full with all the others that kiss their butt on the rides there. But at one point I got in double paceline next to Mike. Mike introduced himself to me and knew my name. He went on to compliment me on my ride I had at Fitchburg that year, I only ended up 12th on the Wachusset stage but I put a pretty big effort in the end and came by Mike and a few other pros "like a freight train" towards the end, only to be passed back by them at the last second. But the fact that Mike remembered an effort and not just a result and gave me a compliment on it 6 months later and that he knew my name and wasn't afraid to show that a big time pro knows some amateurs name made a great impression on me. Mike had explained to me how he was looking for a team for next year and even mentioned he had talked to the management at West Virginia. I couldn't believe that such a rider was having trouble finding a job.
A few Wednesday rides later I was riding next to Gord Fraser. It was one of those times that you get stuck next to a pro and will pull as hard as you can and try to show no weakness in an effort to both look good and just to talk to that pro even longer. I got talking to Gord about the current situation with the Mercury riders that were looking for jobs and we got talking about Mike Specifically. Gord said that he couldn't believe Mike couldn't find a job as he is the "best team rider in America." At the time I really didn't know what he meant, I was assuming he just meant Mike was the best domestique, he gave a good draft, he could carry a lot of bottles and he would give his wheel at any second to a teammate. Since then I have had a front row seat at watching and learning from the "best team rider in America" and there is a lot more to it than those few things.
The Health Net Pro cycling team would not have been as successful as it has been the last three years if Mike Sayers wasn't on the roster. That's a bold statement, but I have a feeling every person involved with the team would agree. You wont find Mike sayers on the cover of VeloNews like three of the members of this years team. You will rarely find him in the race write-ups as his work is often invisible to journalists and not glamorous to report about. You WILL find him on the front of any race that Health Net Presented by Maxxis is competing in. I would be willing to bet, that Mike has the highest percentage of time being first wheel in all NRC events this year.
I truly think Mike is the least naturally talented person on our team, he is still a very talented athlete, but our team is stacked with natural talent. But Mike trains and tries harder than any other. At this years Redlands classic almost everyone on our team got sick, on the final day I abandoned and left my already reduced team even more vulnerable defending Chris Wherrys Leader Jersey. I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself, I was truly sick, but I wondered if I could have just given one more lap. One of the reasons I have not forgot about that stage till this day is because through that whole race Mike was probably as sick, if not more sick as me and he was able to finish and contribute as much as if he wasn't sick. To see Mike that night and the following Monday Morning as he loaded his car was amazing, he was sick, tired and had a limp as if he just been involved in a bar fight. Mike seems as if he can tune that stuff out totally and still get his job done.
Mike puts 100% into everything he does. Just one look at his car proves that, He just doesn't give it the ten minute wash like I do, he details it. His bikes are the same, always spotless as a pro's bike should be. Mike is a true professional.
Mike's work doesn't end with on the bike duties. Mike is generally at all the team meetings early and stays late, he is on the phone with sponsors, team owners and team management often. Mike has a genuine Interest in the teams future and the futures of the riders. Mikes isn't selfish, he doesn't think right away if a decision is good for him, he thinks if it is good for the team. Although in a way he is thinking of himself as he IS the team.
A word often used to describe Mike is "intense." Mike is often misjudged because of how intense he can be on the bike. He is often raising his voice, yelling into the radio or often yelling at me (but I am proud to say much less this year as I think I know what to do more). Sometimes Mike gets into some arguments with other riders, but as henk vogels said last year, "Mike is very passionate", and when you are as passionate about cycling as Mike is you are bound to get worked up sometimes. I have even had to explain to some people that you have to meet Mike off the bike and spend time with him. He is one of the best people I have met in cycling. Mike is there for a teammate on and off the bike.
Early in December of this past year when I was on a training ride with Mike, Gord and a few others I crashed and Broke my scapula. I was a bit nervous to be without any family to take care of me during my 6 weeks of the bike. Mike came to my aid and picked me up from the hospital, even with a jacket for me to wear since all I had on was a jersey and that was cut off me. He took me home and made sure I was all set, well at least that's what I think happened, he could have been yelling obscenities at me as I had four shots of morphine and that whole day is hazy. When I was informed I would probably have to get surgery, Mike and his wife Nicole, both told me I would be staying there with them so they could take care of me as I lived 15 miles out of town basically by myself. My parents were a wreck, my parents take care of me really well, and hated not being there in my time of need. Mike called them and talked to them and reassured them that I would be well taken care of by him and Nicole. My parents were so relieved after that conversation. That's not a teammate, that's just a straight up a good hearted friend.
I'll be honest, there have been sometimes I have gotten a little mad at Mike. I know that Mike has a lot of confidence that I can do something big in cycling. When I do something stupid in a race or anything detrimental to my cycling I feel like I am disappointing Mike. Sometimes Mike has shown his disappointment to me, sometimes I just know he is disappointed with me without him saying a word. All those times I got mad at Mike, it was just because he is looking out for me and has a genuine interest in my future and well being. I said when I first signed on with Health Net that the next few years will be like going to college for cycling, and it has been, I feel as if I am in my junior year hoping to graduate on time next year. Most people have one teacher that taught and influenced them so much in school. That teacher will still give you a failing grade if you don't put the effort in, and its the same with Mr. Sayers.
Last year Mike scored individual wins at both the Tour Of the Gila and Superweek. This year he has had no individual wins. Mike could win many races if he didn't have to ride for others so often, but that's OK with Mike, a victory for a teammate is a victory for him. The Health Net team would not have won as many races as we did if Mike was not part of this team. But you never read about the guy who pulled for 70% of the race. Jeff Corbett has often said that it will be hard to find a replacement for Mike when he is gone, there are not many guys like Mike out there biking, most are too young, too inexperienced or just not strong enough to do everything Mike does. Whenever Mike does retire it will be hard to find a replacement, maybe there is no replacement, after all he is the "best team rider in America."
Recent letters pages