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Letters to Cyclingnews - October 7, 2005
I have to agree with Dan Fuller's comments on John Llieswyn's retirement. I feel like I've learned a lot of "real" bike racing from reading John's entries. It's clear that, in the world of professional cycling, for every Lance Armstrong who gets to use a private jet or at least first class travel to get to his races in Europe, there are 300 struggling pros - elite athletes all - who fly coach on red-eye flights and struggle with lost bikes, strange equipment, jet lag and lousy accomodations. All for the privilege of making massive efforts to negotiate a feed zone, grab a feed for someone else, and hump it back to the front of the race just in time to do it over again. I find tremendous inspiration in John's writing, and in his ability to find personal satisfaction in his work. Not that John was always working for others; his own results are extremely impressive!
I hope John does not decide to retire completely as a writer. Perhaps his diary days are done, but his insights into pro racing - especially domestic pro racing - will be welcome long after his retirement if he chooses to share them.
UCI has engaged a Netherlands law firm to investigate the testing of urine samples from the 1999 Tour de France by the French National Anti-Doping Laboratory ("LNDD"). This is a positive development toward understanding the motivation and testing processes utilized by the LNDD for the 1999 samples.
I am a bit perplexed, however, that UCI has questioned the ability of WADA to conduct an independent investigation of the 1999 samples because WADA is, in UCI's terms, "an involved party."
Isn't it true that UCI provided information to L'Equipe, which enabled that publication to identify by name those cyclists whose 1999 samples were tested by LNDD in 2005? Does this fact not make UCI also "an involved party?"
Perhaps it would be best for WADA and UCI, jointly, to appoint a neutral investigator to determine what happened. This issue raises troubling questions about the integrity of WADA, UCI and LNDD. UCI and WADA should, after the publication of an investigation report, submit the findings to CAS for a stipulated resolution of the issues.
Doping in cycling is troubling, and it continues. Cyclists who cheat are as much victims as they are reckless opportunists. But it is the job of WADA and UCI to administer fairly, prudently, and without bias the disciplines of anti-doping and cycling. And that includes protecting the cyclists' right to due process. Both Dick Pound and Hein Verbruggen have made disastrous public statements concerning the 1999 samples.
An LNDD representative has said that Lance Armstrong can test his 1999 samples, in order to "prove his innocence." Such divisive, prejudicial statements only worsen the relationship among athletes, governing bodies of sport and the anti-doping effort.
Fairness is the goal, and if leaders in cycling's governing body and the anti-doping effort lose sight of this, they should be replaced.
I can't believe Allan Butler is gone. I have been putting off writing this
thinking it is some kind of bad dream. Unfortunately, it's not. Allan and I
have been teammates the last two years on the Healthy Choice/ Goble Knee Clinic
team. From the first time I met him, I liked the guy. Allan was the type of
racer everyone wants to be. This year, he won two stage race GC's in the final
stage of the race. He also won the Utah Cycling Associations Season Title, one
of our team's primary goals. But what really impressed me with Allan is how
he rode when he was not "on form". Allan was always there, always battling,
always willing to throw down for the team, doing whatever he could possibly
do to help our team win.
Allan leaves behind his wife, Jenny, and his nine-month-old daughter, Odessa. Jenny has been the biggest supporter of the Healthy Choice team. There are not many people who will stand in a feedzone for a hundred mile race in crappy weather with a baby! I will never forget the trip I took with Allan and Jenny to the Boise Twilight Criterium this year. Odessa was absolutely the light of Allan's life. He never stopped talking about her. She has the most infectious smile and looks a lot like Allan.
In closing, I want to say I am thankful for getting to know Allan before his time came. When we return to racing, I will keep Allan in mind. To everyone reading, throw down for AB! That is how he would want it. And off the bike, remember to tell the people you love how you feel, you never know when they'll be gone.
I too have been trying to wake up from this terrible nightmare that won't go away. I've known Allan Butler since I was 17, and admired him on the Einstein Bagelry team and then the Rhodes team. As a lowly Cat 4-5, I watched Allan with great admiration and hoped and dreamed to one day ride with him. The year I upgraded to a Cat 1-2 I was so excited to be riding in the same group as Allan. I could hardly wait to learn from him. I remember being so excited to introduce him to my wife. Through all of this, I never thought I would ride next to him as a teammate, but my dreams came true this year as I became a member of the Healthy Choice-Goble Knee Clinic team.
During this year, my admiration of Allan has only grown. As I continued to discover the amazing athlete, but more so the amazing person and friend he was to me. Allan and I spent a long miserable day together at LOTOJA 2005 and he proved to me his extreme talent and skill on the bike. I also had the opportunity to travel with Allan to many races and spend time talking about life and cycling with him. Foremost on his mind was his beautiful family and his love for them. One of the most admiral things about Allan was his positive nature; he was never pessimistic and always learned from his experiences. I have the utmost respect and love for Allan, Jenny, and Odessa. Allan was always thinking about his family and was always excited to show us pictures of Odessa. He was so proud to be a father and a husband and loved his two girls with all his heart.
At this time my thoughts and prayers are with Jenny, Odessa, and his dear family. Allan will be greatly missed by all who knew him and especially me. I am honored to have known Allan Butler and will never forget the life lessons he taught me on and off the bike.
If, as we all hope, Tyler is found innocent of doping, will he get compensation for over a year of his career already lost waiting for verdicts and appeals? An innocent man will have been punished for nothing. Hopefully he will return with a chip on his shoulder, Lance style, take out all his frustration on the bike, super motivated and show the world what a great rider he is.
The entire sports' world seems to have lost its senses over this issue commonly known as "doping". Everyone is crying for more vigilance in testing so every doper in every sport can be caught, publicly humiliated, and banned for life from the sport.
The problem is our sports' world is myopically focusing on performance-enhancing drugs rather than the real philosophical dilemma: how to define the competitive athlete. Or, when does an athlete become too artificially enhanced to compete?
Given today's biomedical knowledge, I can have my vision improved surgically to 20/15; I can have autologous tendon transplants to strengthen my joints; I can add two inches to my height surgically; I can suction excess fat from any region of my body; I can harvest organs from cadavers to improve whatever. I can replace organs with biomechanical devices.
If a very good athlete had all of those biomedical wonders visited on him, would he have the advantage fairly over the non-medically enhanced athlete? Would this apotheosis of athleticism have the advantage over the athlete who was merely biochemically improved; after all, the body eventually rids itself of these products?
Within four or five generations (how I dread this thought), professionally competitive athletes may be post-natally, biomedically-enhanced clones.
Should any of this be allowed?
If so, what should be the limits on this artificiality?
Umar A. Hassan
The reason why sometimes cyclists take a while to give a sample is that they have to pee in a bag. When you are stopped for a breath test you just need to breathe into a bag. Surely even you can appreciate why one can be demanded on the spot whilst the other may take a while. I'm also interested to know how the author of last week's letter about this subject came to think it necessary to write to Cyclingnews with the worst thought out, most unhelpful and ridiculous comments I've read for a long time. I've never replied to a letter before but your one really did stand out! Please never write again.
In response to Mr Skippy McCarthy's ill informed letter concerning a time limit on doping control - it's clear that Mr McCarthy has never given an athletic drug sample. Having done so many times both in and out of competition, I can attest to the fact that some days one can be in-and-out like Boonen apparently was, but some days two hours is not out of the question. Dehydration and athletic stress can do strange things to the body. Add to this the "rookie" factor some riders will experience with regard to in competition testing and the "stagefright" some athletes experience and you have the recipe for a long wait for a drug sample. Mr MrCarthy may want to ride a few kilometres in another man's clips before making absurd statements advocating time limits.
In response to Mr McCarthy's idea that somehow riders should be able to pee on queue - unless you've ridden a professional level race in the summer's boiling temperatures for four hours and then been required to produce sufficient urine to fill their sample cup I wouldn't be so fast to criticise the speed of racer's metabolic functions in re-hydrating. In some junior races in the United States I've seen riders accompanied by medical officials for four hours until they could produce. Nature doesn't have to work to your idea of scheduling.
Given the controversy surrounding the recent appointment of Pat McQuaid as UCI President, I think he probably needs to engage in a bit of PR to firm up his popularity with the cycling public and convince us he isnt one of those faceless UCI cronies that come up with one stupid decision after another. Pat, here are some suggestions:
1. Reinstate the Kilo and the women's 500 tt immediately. BMX is a good sport, but it's perceived as a kids sport and doesn't deserve to be in the Olympics, especially at the expense of those two events - put your name all over the decision and watch your popularity escalate, particularly in the English speaking world - where the potential for the economic and popular growth of cycling as an international sport is greatest. I don't think you'll get too many opposing you in China either, seeing as the women's 500 is the only event they are going to get within a bull's roar of a medal in.
2. Realise that it's 2005 and not 1969 and reinstate the absolute hour record (Boardman) as the standard and re invigorate the interest in technological advancement.
3. Realise that pursuing Lance Armstrong will only destroy the broader popularity of cycling. Stop calling for more independent enquiries into the affair. The test has been discredited, the motive for the release of the alleged result in questionable at best.
The worst possible outcome for cycling is for the most popular cyclist in history - because he reaches out to the broader public through his philanthropy and community activities - is for him to be slandered more than he has been. Those passionate about cycling like everyone that reads here will be fans regardless, but many on the fringe will turn away. I wonder if the Museeuw affair will get the press that Armstrong has - he is also retired, and also a former world champion, but he is European.
4. Realise the many of your colleagues in the UCI are out of touch, clueless and living in the past. Set an agenda of change and consultation. Or are you just one of them? Over to you Pat.
It was a cold, wet, and no doubt miserable "day at the office" for the field in the "Zurich Massacre" on Sunday, and sadly the turnout of locals to "hup-hup-hup" the peloton and ring cowbells wasn't typical of past races. The change in the race date from the end of August to a month later predictably led to a change in the weather. Instead of sunshine and sunflowers, Zurich presented temperatures in the 40s and a soaking rain.
We live about a block from the top of the hill that Cyclingnews commentators refer to as "Forch," and every year we watch the race on Swiss TV until we see the riders heading up through the forest by the pond called "Rumensee." Then we head out our door and lope down the street with our American flag and camera to watch the heroes ride by. Having ridden that hill more than once myself, and been glad to get up to as much as 15km/h, I am always amazed at how the "boys" can do it five times at twice that speed or more.
Usually the riders come by in a blur of colour and a whine of tyres which give one a vague idea of what an old fashioned cavalry charge might have been like. Every once in a while, a bottle is tossed, and my little boy has managed to collect a yellow Mercato-Uno and a black and white CSC, although being an American, he has always hoped for a Postal bottle (now Discovery, of course.) We not sure how American riders feel when they see a bunch of goofy expatriates waving and shouting and shaking "Old Glory," but we hope it distracts them a bit from their suffering.
The point of this letter, however, is to tell Chris Horner (and other readers) what a thrill it was actually to have had an acknowledgement, however fleeting. On the last circuit of the race, about 1655, we dutifully filed down our street for the fifth time to watch the final passage. Bettini came by, wearing his gold helmet, surrounded by motorcycles, backed up by support cars, with a three-minute lead. Then came the chasers, three or four or five or seven, spaced out in twos and threes. Then came a larger group. Then another. We shouted "GO GO GO!" and "COURAGE!" and "YAY!" and my little five year old American daughter even squeaked "Hup-Hup-Hup" like the few Swiss who'd ventured out in the wet greyness, abandoning their fireplaces for a few minutes as dusk began to suggest itself. Finally, after a long pause, about 10 or 11 riders struggled up the hill, and knowing they were the pelotonic equivalent of a "Forlorn Hope," we tried to cheer them up. "Hang On! It's almost over!" we cried.
Then came our thrill! The lead rider in this last group, in soggy Saunier Duval yellow, with all of the grime of 215km of wet road racing splattered all over, and facing about 35 more kilometres of grief, and one more beastly hill (Pfannenstiel), turned his head to the right, looked over at us, smiled bleakly. "Almost," he grunted. There it was. A brief glimpse of humanity. The man who had won Stage 6 in the Tour de Suisse, despite his misery yesterday, managed what seemed like the equivalent of a wink and nod to some of his compatriots. It was a really nice gesture, and my little boy would rather have heard that "Almost!" than to have gotten yet another team water bottle.
So thanks, Chris Horner. Even in the Grupetto, you still know how to be a hero.
Thomas Salmon (and family)
Well gee! If scientists are like people then I guess athletes are too, and have egos, agendas and are simply not quite up to snuff. I can tell you first hand as I am a personal trainer and have worked with and know a lot of athletes and pros for over 20 years.
I also know that many of them who have appeared in nationally syndicated magazines have vehemently denied ever using banned substances and strongly discourage there use, and are strong advocates of the focused training work ethic. I also know that what you see and what you get is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Bodybuilders do it, cyclists do it, even educated Olympians do it, let's do it, lets all get (Arm)strong.
As anyone who knows about this stuff can tell you it will not make me and about 95% of the general population into any kind of a world class competitor; that takes super serious hard work, devotion and genetics. It will improve what you've got by a small percentage and depending on what you take help your recuperation. So if you don't have much to begin with, you're still going to get creamed and be out some money to boot. It's because of that fact that a lot of athletes use it to rationalize their taking it. They are super elite athletes at the top of their game to begin with (with or without chemistry) and are not taking it to beat you and me but are indeed trying to get a 2% or 3% advantage on a competitor who is trying to do the same thing.
In a sense it's a level playing field, they try it by spending millions in R&D, diet, training, bicycles, components, clothing, helmets etc. In the end if all goes well they make many more millions of dollars, worldwide notoriety and immortality.
I know of women who've taken male hormones and done irreversible damage to themselves and of young guys that take it to look buff during spring break or guys that have spent thousands on HGH to win a $15.00 trophy at a local bodybuilding show. I know cops that take it, construction workers, and other plain ordinary (insecure) people just to look good. So why does it freak people out when someone who's intensely dedicated his life to maybe winning a Tour a World Cup or gold medal gets busted. Barry Bonds, Ben Johnson, Tim Montgomery, Marco Pantani, Richard Virenque , David Millar, are just a few of hundreds of elite athletes who've been caught, but that's not to say that thousands have not indulged, there are lots of sophisticated performance drugs that are non-testable as well as masking agents.
As to whether or not LA did, I don't know Lance Armstrong. Make no mistake about it he's an incredible athlete as are about 50 or more other riders, but my gut feeling is that it's a level playing field and if he's not taken it then no one has and vice versa. One thing is for sure it seems every year around Tour time there seems to be a bust of some kind where a stash of EPO and steroids are found, I guess there's a market for it huh? In the words of Fausto Coppi when asked if they took drugs in his time" not if, but what kinds"
I could not believe my eyes when I read what former UCI presidential candidate Gregorio Moreno said about the ProTour and particularly its first champion, Danilo Di Luca;
"For example, I would create specialty classifications: the best of the Grand Tours, the best of the classics... That would be better than to mix them all, because the result is that Di Luca, the first winner [of the ProTour] hasn't raced the Tour."
Is Moreno really saying he believes the season-long champion has to ride in one particular race, the Tour de France, to deserve the title? The Tour is already the 800-pound gorilla of the calendar, and the ProTour points are weighted in its favor over the other Grand Tours. Isn't that enough for Moreno? Winning a championship that is decided over the course of eight months requires consistency and stamina.
An ideal champion would show strength in both one-day and stage races, which Di Luca has done. In fact, while most riders who excel in the classics ride the Grand Tours in search of only stage wins and perhaps the sprinter's jersey, Di Luca took a shot at the general classification of the Giro d'Italia and finished fourth. There may be problems with the ProTour, but having a winner who did not ride in the Tour de France is not one of them. I am so relieved that Gregorio Moreno lost the election for UCI president!
Chicago, IL, USA
Interesting race, the World's. I can't think of any other sport (baseball, American-Canadian-European-Australian football, basketball, hockey, soccer, cricket, badminton, table tennis, skiing, Ididerod, Ironman, decathlon, your favorite here) where you don't have to qualify through a series of eliminations in order to make it to the finals.
Somehow, the World's have acquired a mystique and prestige far beyond the actual status. It's a one day race, but so are Paris-Tours, Roubaix, San Remo, and so on. It's harder riding with a pick-up team than a sponsored team, sort of an All-Star game, but it's just cycling. Di Luca's jersey is certainly more prestigious in my eyes than the World's rainbow because at least he rode more than one race on more than one day to acquire the points to win it. As for national pride, riding with your "buddies" ain't quite the same, say, as winning the World Cup in soccer. The Cup finals only occurs every four years, and you can be eliminated pretty early in that four year cycle regardless of how well you play after you're eliminated.
Gary E Hughes,
I admire the fact that you want America to win. There are some things you need to realise. You mention a list of stage racers, minus George. They do not focus on one day racing which is very different. All the riders you mentioned were on the team and declined to go because THEY know the difference. Also many of these riders are tired at this point of the year and do not want to go to a race like worlds.
It is better to have a rider that has desire rather than all the fitness needed to succeed. I think Saul did a great job. It was a little suicidal but enabled the team to wait for the key moment and not to have to chase moves all day. I think a team of Freddie, Chris, John, George, Saul, and Jason can do well. Chris and John know how to win and want to win any race they line up at. Freddie and George are capable of big results. Jason and Saul are younger need the experience of world and are not specialized to stage racing yet. And in truth Freddie and Trenti were there at the point the selection was made. Trenti was in the top 25 I believe. So all the things we needed to do were there for success.
The reality is until we have several Pro Tour teams with international rosters, we can't compete. The truth is many riders are more loyal to trade team before country. They help the chase here or the break there despite what they can do for themselves. Or the other option is that we stop the TOUR centric cycling focus and start winning classics and then we would produce riders more like Boonen and George and less like Lance and Indurain.
Asheville , NC
With all the controversy surrounding Lance Armstrong people seem to have forgotten Tyler Hamilton's case - Dick Pound has come under fire for his statements about Lance but not so much in the Hamilton case - when he made assumptions about Lance, the vice president of WADA criticized him and said that he spoke too soon but when he commented that Hamilton was guilty before Tyler even had his day in court nobody said anything.
Even the president of the IOC said that Tyler's "whole career should be called into question" before he had his case heard - then there were multiple testing protocols that were broken - the testers knew the identity of the person's blood that they were testing and they had a vested interest in the test because they developed the test. Then there was the fact that the results of Tyler's A sample were leaked to the press before the B sample could be tested - and on top of all of this there is a general consensus that the test was brought to use before it was ready. What is the difference of using a shady blood test or a shady EPO test?
To me it is the person being tested - Lance gets the benefit of the doubt from everyone where as Tyler is labelled a "cheat"- Pound contradicts what top scientists have found, one of which was a scientist WADA asked to peer review the homologous blood doping test - If WADA had used the 5% mixed blood population threshold as recommended, Tyler would be racing his bike and this would not be an issue - WADA expects athletes to play by the rules but when it comes to WADA they can do whatever they like. Meanwhile, athletes like Tyler are caught in limbo and have their careers on hold until they can prove their innocence - WADA is on the way to losing all credibility and as long as people like Dick Pound are running these organisations and innocent athletes will continue to be caught in the crosshairs. WADA is not interested in the truth...only their image - to me they don't want to admit that they are using a unsound test(s).
People jump to defend Lance on the basis that he never failed any doping controls in 10 or more years...well, Tyler didn't fail any doping controls in that time either - Just because Lance has won 7 tours doesn't make him more innocent or guilty than anyone else. Dick Pound should be removed from his position at WADA. He is doing nothing but hurting the sport of cycling.
Boone, NC, USA
Sean, enjoyed your letter. The doping control agencies do not believe in the idea of innocent until proven guilty. No evidence is required other than one positive test. Are the tests foolproof? Look at the controversy on the effectiveness of the current EPO test. Teams fire riders on the first positive test and penalties are enforced during appeal. Careers are ruined. All normal labour law, at least the US version, is thrown out the window for professional cyclists concerning doping controls and enforcement.
They submit to a control regimen that you probably would consider invasive, unfair, and illegal. I know I do. Most people in the world, even those in sensitive or powerful positions, do not have to submit to this type of substance abuse testing and wouldn't agree to it as a condition of employment. I bet you that the employees of WADA, USADA, and the others are not tested like the athletes. The riders need a strong union and a new doping control agency that has the riders health in mind instead of their own twisted crusade to punish all cheaters.
Sierra Vista, AZ
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