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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 16, 2005
With all due respect to Ben Day, why was the current and 6-time Australian National Time Trial Champion - Nathan O'Neill - not selected to represent his country in the 2005 World TT championship? He was not selected in 2004 when he was the reigning champion of Australia either. Could the Australian selectors be biased because he chooses to race for an American-based team? I am curious how selections are made for a country's team. It seems odd that a country's federation would not choose its reigning champion in a discipline (Road or TT) for its World's team. I know Australia is not alone in this regard. Does anyone have an explanation? Thank you.
By the end of the 1990s, we learnt that the abuse of EPO had become widespread and, in at least one case, institutionalised as a whole team, Festina, was buying and administering EPO for its riders. More recent courtroom revelations from Italy have shed further light on this, proving that quite a few names were using EPO to boost their performance.
If the 1990s were the dark days of cycling, why is it that recent versions of the Tour de France have been run at a higher average speed than in the 1990s? What is behind this? A tailwind every year since 1999? Smoother roads?
Welcome back to the entertainment business world of WWF wrestling and super sized performances driven by synthetic means. Cycling has a 130 year history with doping - which is quite understandable when you realise how tough the sport is, and how ridiculously long a season lasts. Add in the massive inflow of corporate advertising revenues--and you have an MLB-like level of corruption and deception.
And we now have complex blood doping on top of steroids and trauma care medicine.
It is now a fact that Lance has been confirmed - yet again as a doper. It is his third or fourth confirmation as such. The yellow bracelet wearers will deny it as a jealous lie. So be it. (EPO, corticosteroids, Actovegin, Insulin, andro)
All the riders are doped - not all in the same or effective ways - but medicated, nevertheless. That is the nature of pro cycling. No hope without the dope at the Tour de France or Pro Tour events, for certain.
We're glad to have you as a cyclist, as it is a beautiful sport. The Tour de France, however, is a business, not a sport. Don't ever think you can escape the NFL-like conditioning and stimulation by being a fan of pro cycling. The doping issue cannot be framed around Lance - he just screams wolf the loudest because of his endorsements and miracle story. Pity his sick teammates cannot grab a microphone and have a corporate sponsored forum too.
I became a Samuel Sanchez fan after watching video of the 2003 and 2004 Liege Bastogne Liege. I later saw a video of his ride in the penultimate stage of the 2004 Paris-Nice, where he flew off Mount Tanneron only to be caught and dumped on the seafront by Vinokourov, and thought how unjust that such a classy rider hadn't won a race. So it was with a great deal of pleasure that I read today's result at the Vuelta. I have no idea if Sanchez would have won if the Colombian hadn't have blown the finish, but so what - this guy deserves a win. I hope it's the first of many.
A letter from Mr. Huber implies that Mr. Armstrong must be a doper because in part 'scientists aren't that inept' over testing procedures for dope. Yes they are, and I can tell you first hand as I am a scientist who has published in all of the right journals many times over. Scientists are like all people; they have egos, agendas, and as in all walks in life, many are simply not up to snuff.
Hence, to suggest scientists get the doping studies and tests right every time is simply untrue. It really depends on what agenda they have, determined in part, by how they are being paid and how much of their ego is invested in a particular test - and finally, what level of integrity they have. Wake up, there are a lot of reasons for many to want to do anything possible to indict Mr. Armstrong for his accomplishments, including scientists. In fact, if Mr. Armstrong was truly doped up for seven years, the physical consequences would have probably killed him rather than help him win seven Tours, irrespective of the alleged 'factual results' that Mr. Huber eludes to in his letter.
As a scientist I can evaluate what has been written with respect to the doping of Mr. Armstrong and interpret it so far to be all bunk. The interpretation of doping in this case wouldn't pass peer review in any respected journal. For you doubters out there, get on your bike, ride six hours a day hard, eat and rest well, and see how good you can be. Then, if you have a natural ability combined with dedication, you too could become a world class athlete, no dope needed. It amazes me what we can do when we put our minds to it, and Mr. Armstrong has put his mind to cycling like no other in human history, sans doping.
Dr. Al Brandon
The truth lies with Leblanc, because what a joke the tour would have become if the new yellow jersey holder was an EPO cheat. Which is what may have happened when Lance won the opening TT and Leblanc was forced to shut up or lose the tour knowing that one team was kicked out and others left because of the cheats in '98. He all but lost most of the sponsorship for the race and cycling in general as a result of 1998.
Now we have micro dosing and the use of doping products with a doctor's assistance to pass drug tests - for example, David Miller's use of EPO and still passing a doping test while winning a world championship TT medal - and all the time saying he always tested negative.
As a regular visitor to cyclingnews.com I sit and read the latest installment of letters with a sense of disappointment. I understand that the whole "did he or didn't he" issue with Lance is big, but surely there is more to talk about? This is damaging to our sport. Why not send in letters about whether Heras will be able to beat Menchov? If you think Petacchi can confirm in Madrid or if the Pro Tour will help lift the status of the Tour of Poland? Come on people, there is more to this great sport than cheats and drug allegations.
I would like to submit this brief note to remind everyone, readers and staff alike, that this wonderful website is indeed named CYCLINGnews.com and not DOPINGnews.com.
There is a huge amount of cycling and racing going on all over the globe that we could be discussing and reading about. As of late, everyone seems to have an overwhelming interest in fawning over a certain retired athlete suspected of doping. Really, who cares. If he did or if he didn't, none of us will be able to change history.
Let's not forget the basic, true reason we all come to this wonderful website - to find out who won and who lost and everything in between the start and finish lines. When you are out on your bike, doing what you do, are you thinking about Dick Pound and if Tyler really did sneak blood into his hotel room? I doubt it. You're probably thinking about how wicked it feels to ride a bike. Uphill, downhill, around the block, doesn't matter - as long as we are CYCLING.
For the other 99% of us, it really is about the bike.
Thankyou and goodnight,
Monday, September 12, 2005
It seems that the educational quality of our correspondents (Phds etc) has increased greatly with the dialogue about the doping exposure on Armstrong. Never once have I seen what appears to me as an obvious source of testing protocol. Synthetic EPO and its new brother NESP are products from the biotechnology company AMGEN. If this company developed these drugs wouldn't it stand to reason that they can provide the resources to enable a fool proof test? Obviously they are in the business of saving lives and not providing a source of juiced up sporting performance. Therefore, they might not have quite the incentive that the UCI or WADA etc have in the need to find a foolproof testing protocol for the benefit of all agencies fighting to preserve the integrity of ALL endurance type sports.
It intrigues me that AMGEN must see all the international stories positively affecting lives with their drugs but at the same time read the confusing athletic type stories and nowhere have I seen a company comment... perhaps now is the time for them to wade into the fray.
Roseburg, OR, USA
I agree with Gordon Gross about the motivation of all those involved in the so-called Armstrong doping affair. But no one seems to have taken this demonstrated willingness to break both ethical and legal standards to its logical conclusion. If, as Dick Pond says, EPO can't suddenly appear in samples where there was none before, why can we not assume that it was introduced by the same criminals who concocted the story?
Asheville, North Carolina
The letter by Gordon Gross discusses some very important considerations of this whole affair. However, it omits what I find to be one of the most obvious possibilities, one that I have yet to see discussed during this whole debate.
What of the possibility of laboratory personnel tampering, or "spiking" samples of urine. Now obviously in this lab they have access to urine samples with EPO in it. I suspect it would not be at all difficult for someone there to slip into the freezer and add a few drops of EPO laced urine into Lance or anyone else's specimen. I doubt that these samples are locked up like they might be in a police evidence room.
I find it a very viable option that the unscrupulous journalists and lab workers that have already committed obvious breaches of conduct could easily concoct and implement this scheme for their own benefit. If I were Lance, I'd be screaming bloody murder about this possibility.
Carl Otto, M.D.
San Francisco, CA
Simply put, the drug takers are ahead of the drug testers, unless an athlete or their doctor gets sloppy. Just because someone has not tested positive does not mean they are clean. In my opinion a majority of the racers in Europe take something. Armstrong has many talents, his mental strength, the discipline to do the training, correct coaching, superior (to most of us mere mortals) VO2 max and a freakish ability to dissipate lactic acid. If all the riders were clean I believe Armstrong would have won the same amount of races. Cycling is a great sport. It is a shame that the governing body is such a joke. The true harm for their incompetence will be the health of past, present and future cyclists.
Greenville, SC, USA
Given Heras' woeful performance during this year's Tour de France and his current form during the Tour of Spain perhaps some questions need to be asked of the possible use of performance enhancing substances.
Should Heras be successful in winning his fourth Spanish Tour the paparazzi should (given precedents alleging drug use by multiple tour winners) set about asking similar questions to that asked of Armstrong.
Additionally, why stop with accusing Armstrong. Why not Indurain (who some argue retired under suspicious circumstances amid the dawn of the EPO era), Hinault, Merckx. And not to forget Anquetil who openly admitted drug use. Perhaps even Zabel, with record victories in the green jersey, could be seen as suspicious.
And perhaps we should all stop being so naive. Like it or not the use of performance-enhancing drugs past, present or future is a reality. The UCI needs to openly admit the failings of the sport - drug use is/was common, particularly in previous eras. Not to mention Virenque, who was suspended in disgrace only to come back with greater fan adulation. Come on, the sport which I dearly admire is becoming a joke. There should be nothing short of life bans for all drug use.
The doping allegations are not about explaining Lance's success, or Discovery's or anyone else's. The doping allegations are about explaining France's failure - "France doesn't win because France is clean". This doesn't stand up, because French riders have tested positive just like riders from many other countries.
The feature I'd like to see from Cyclingnews is a comparison of various national cycling programs at the amateur level, including US and France, including such things as number of licenses, percentage of licenses per capita, number of events, etc. My suspicion is that cycling is simply not the French sport that it once was, while it continues to grow in the United States.
If France can do something about the decline of their cycling program, then inevitably they will return to power again -- they will one day again have a dominating team. On that day, should we all assume that it is because they dope? Will L'Equipe then pronounce that the French are doping too? Or would France's return to cycling dominance miraculously signal that all of cycling is clean again? By using this lame excuse, France has dug itself into a hole from which there is no clean escape.
Thomas A. Fine
How can any athlete in any sport have any confidence in WADA given the comments of Dick Pound and the complete disregard for their own procedures when it suits them? If I was a high profile athlete that became a target I would be very concerned.
Or perhaps the French have an agenda of destroying cycling and putting it back in the dark ages so that it no longer attracts broad international interest and competitors, because it seems that is the only way a French rider will win anytime soon.
L'Equipe would sell just as many (if not more) newspapers in the above scenario.
As a footnote to the Lance debate, there hasn't been any (or much) comment about two things that make Lance a champion. 1. His propensity for hard work; 2. His lactate production levels being lower than anyone else. Just a thought.
Chris Sheppard had been doing some amateur road events in Oregon this year with some of his other pro Mtb buddies and his form was usually quite impressive. In one case he broke away with Health Net's Doug Ollerenshaw at the early season Banana Belt road race series, holding off the field and taking second place. I took the field sprint for third. I guess that second really belongs to me, huh Chris. And furthermore, that break might not have succeeded without Sheppard, so maybe I'd have won. I did win that series overall, so I'm not just blowing smoke.
Then there was the Silverton road race in Oregon. Again, Sheppard was there with some Kona pros and Adam Craig riding in his Health Net gear. Apparently Sheppard was "doing intervals" at this race - throttling it for 10 minute blocks and missing the break, probably because it wasn't in his training plan. He was nevertheless ripping legs off, and I was happy to take 10th place at this tough race while racing with a cold. I attacked on one of the final hills and was joined by Sheppard and the US Masters 50+ road champion and we formed a small group with a couple other guys. Here I bested Sheppard with my good sprint finish. Just another training ride for Mr. Sheppard. But I was happy to have beaten a pro more or less head to head. And now I can say I beat a real, bonified, caught red-handed, doped-up pro!
One of my teammates recounted last night how Sheppard, again with a gaggle of pro MTB guys raced the Columbia Plateau stage race in Oregon last May. In the service of race leader and previously busted fellow Canadian Roland Green, Sheppard set a torrid tempo at the based of the final day's major 12-mile long climb. He completely sold-out in an effort to decimate the field, which he succeeded in doing. I guess that was a test of how the "preparations" were coming along. Luckily our team leader at the race held on to his podium spot despite the presence of at least one talented doper in the peloton. Roland of course had been popped a couple years ago.
I guess this latest doping revelation confirms a few things for me. The first is that, yes indeed, "domestic pros" do in fact have the means to acquire, and have the access to doping products. This notion was recently dispelled by a friend of mine on the US pro circuit. He said things like EPO are just too expensive for lowly North American pros to purchase. The second confirmation is that in the NW region of the US, and I'll include the province of British Columbia too, there are riders that are doping. Is it just Sheppard? All or some of the pros? Just the mountain bikers? The roadies too? How about the top amateur guys looking for a pro contract who never get tested?
What this latest positive test result also does is open up a lot of questions for me. I know I'm clean. But now I wonder even more about the guys I race against here in the NW. They probably wonder about me too, especially since I'm finishing up my best season ever. Unfortunately Sheppard's positive will only add to the suspicion that the public and racers alike towards the top riders in the sport of cycling, from elite amateurs to the best riders in the world. And before, the only cheats I knew of were top pros I may have only raced against at elite events. There I didn't really feel cheated because I never had a chance at that level, but now I have the feeling of personally being cheated by a doper after racing with Sheppard in the NW. There's a real sense of feeling robbed when you lose to a doper. I can only imagine how someone making a living racing must feel when it comes out they've been beaten by a cheater.
So, have fun free-riding in B.C. Chris. I hope any of your buddies that are dirty get popped too. I can't imagine you are the only one cheating, but who knows?
Look Lance. The only way to shut everyone up is to train for the old hour record, smash it over 50km, and publish the blood test results. Don't bother with the French and their attitude. Skip Italy and Spain. Do the tours of California and Georgia where you don't have to worry about people stuffing fake evidence under your door or tainting a pure specimen.
I also think Armstrong should give Hamilton the benefit of the doubt and encourage the USCF to allow him to race in the USA. By the way, he ruled on Mt. Washington and said if it wasn't so windy, he felt good enough to challenge Danielson's record time. I think history will show he was let down by the people who should have backed him up.
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