|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
Letters to Cyclingnews - November 11, 2005
I was disappointed and amused at the same time to read Mr Barat's letter regarding a "silent agreement" among Lance Armstrong, the UCI and the ASO. Cycling fans who root against Lance Armstrong probably want so badly for him to fall on his face so they can be the ones who say, "I told you so."
Unfortunately for them, this will never happen. You will all have to accept the fact that Lance Armstrong was the best stage racer of his generation. He did it with one in a billion natural ability, incredibly hard work and dedication to winning one race and, of course, a fantastic team. He was a professional triathlete at 16, United States national triathlon champion at 18, World Road Racing Champion at 21.
All unlikely accomplishments. So why is it so shocking that he won the Tour de France seven times? His pedigree says he could do it and he did! With that said, Lance is not bigger then cycling, the same way Michael Jordan is not bigger then basketball or Tiger Woods in golf. The sport of cycling will continue and thrive. Let's allow Lance to go into retirement remembered as he should be - a great champion - and let's go forward enjoying the great sport of cycling.
Hector M Roman
New York City
Listen up! Quit wasting your breath on Lance this and Lance that. Look on the bright side, pro cycling can be EXCITING AGAIN with Lance out of the picture! Lance was a good (however boring) "Tour" rider and that is about it. Forget the talk, take off your livestrong bracelets, and sit back and watch the 2006 Tour de France with new found enthusiasm again.
New Franklin, Ohio
It was inevitable that the desire of the TDF organisers to look forward to a new 'post-Lance' era would be seen by some as being motivated by personal spite. However, in order to judge their actions fairly the wider content must be considered. Cycle racing captures the imagination best when adventure and daring play a central part and where the final outcome is uncertain. In France this year I was often unable to find a bar showing live coverage of the Tour, something I would not have believed possible 20 years ago and surely a reflection of how many remained unmoved by the prospect of another calculated, mechanical win by Armstrong and his team.
Yes, a French rider has not won the Tour since 1985 but concern about this cannot be written off as simple chauvinism. French cycling is in need of rejuvenation and seeing home riders challenging for the overall lead would give a much needed boost to French cycling at all levels. Until this happens French cycling will probably continue to stagnate.
Armstrong's dominance has tempered the traditional French passion for 'le Tour' and even 'le velo' in other ways too. His occasional displays of contempt for the French press and even public (such as the claim that he was considering riding the 2006 Tour because "I'm thinking it's the best way to piss [the French] off") were hardly going to see legions of French cycling fans tuning in to see him win their great race.
It is also not long since the Bush Administration threatened that France would be 'made to pay' for its failure to support the invasion of Iraq, French fries were renamed 'freedom fries' and American websites promoted merchandise printed with anti-French hate slogans. Given this it is not surprising that some did not appreciate seeing the roads of France daubed with American Flags and not only an American but a personal friend of Bush repeatedly win their great race. Similarly (and especially so soon after the American torture scandals) the flag-draped nationalism of many Americans who visited the 2005 Tour hoping to see Armstrong 'kick some ass' demonstrated a rather crass lack of awareness of (or perhaps sympathy for) the concern many feel about America's desire for not only sporting but political, military and cultural domination.
Armstrong himself has at times demonstrated a 'gangster' mentality which has hardly encouraged people to warm to him and his victories, nor to believe that he is truly committed to seeing the problem of drug use addressed. Consider the way he gave Simeoni that infamous 'zip the lips' gesture and forced him to drop back to the bunch after Simeoni spoke up about Ferrari's promotion of EPO. (Actions which William Fotheringham said showed Armstrong to have 'all the diplomatic skills of a playground bully'). Similarly Armstrong reportedly pressurised Christopher Bassons not to speak out on drug taking, telling him that if he 'couldn't stand the heat he should stay out of the kitchen' and following him around during stages of the Tour in an attempt to intimidate him into not 'spitting in the soup'.
Armstrong was undeniably a great athlete. However, the Tour will live on without him and perhaps will be the better for it. The 2005 Giro shows just how inspiring an 'Armstrong free' grand tour can be.
Am I the only who raises a big yawn and a huge ho-hum over all this silliness?
The race above all that I dream of winning as I'm pounding about on my ride is Paris-Roubaix. No one since Hinault has won both the TdF and the Queen of the Classics…until that happens, they're just a bunch of ponces in my book. I await the rider that has the "desire" to tackle them both.
Toronto, ON, Canada.
In last week's letters there was the statement, "I'm part-French. Does that make me a cowardly hater of American greatness?"
Your implication is that if you support Armstrong or if you're critical of LeBlanc's presentation, you're anti-French. Obviously you want to concentrate on the knee-jerk reactions of some people in the United States and paint with a rather broad brush. Surprisingly, objectivity and intelligence is alive and flourishing in more places than the ego-driven recesses of Mr Rosnay's mind. I have yet to run into anyone with a brain who would say that the drunk, spitting, foul-mouthed brethren on Alpe D'Huez in '04 were indicative of all Europeans and by "extension" their descendants, neighbours and countrymen.
History re-writes are always interesting. "They" (I'm not sure who "they" is) weren't "pissed off at Indurain", Mr Rosnay writes. Hmmm, I recall reading quite a few articles about how he was making the Tour boring and that Indurain riding the Tour wasn't necessarily good for the race. One would expect that this type of criticism would have ramped up in lieu of a sixth and seventh victory.
Childish would be a good way to describe this whole affair between LeBlanc/L'Equipe and Armstrong. Quite frankly, it probably would have been more elegant to tip your hat and move on rather than to create grounds for a pissing match. Both sides appear (to me) as playground bullies who always seem to smile in front of the right teachers, and get their homework in on time. I for one can't help but think that the duplicity is rather disgusting on both parts. I wonder if Le Tour didn't look the other way as a saviour was pulling them out of the dregs. To wash your hands of your part is rather disingenuous.
These past seven years remind me of Joe Kennedy taking illegal bootleg money with the mafia to build his financial empire, using that same money to get his son elected President and other son appointed Attorney General, then turning the AG lose on indicting the Mob.
I'll let the analogy stand.
Some comments on the Emile de Rosnay letter from nov.4;
First of all, I'm not an American.
Anyway, your attempts to explain that the French are NOT jealous of Armstrong are not based on facts. The fact are that when Armstrong was "flying" up the mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees a lot of French people haunted Armstrong with comments about doping and sometimes even spitting and threatening to kill him. Then when the French hero Virenque came up the same mountains all the French were ecstatic and screaming for their (previously doping-banned) hero.
And to further strengthen that opinion, now the French are accusing Armstrong for something they can't prove. And to accuse people when you know the evidence will not prove anything (according to L'Equipe itself); how pathetic is that?
The French and the Americans, those two great nations of xenophobes, duke it out over who can be the least gracious. What fun.
The problem for ASO is that Armstrong has made Le Tour vastly more popular, not just in the Anglophone world but also in Asia. But the need to cater to all these outside influences detracts from the 'Frenchness' of the race. It's even worse with no Jalabert senior or Virenque because there's no Frenchman who can get close to the front of the race.
So ASO tries to pretend its not really about winning, money or business, but about indefinable French qualities of fair play (are you listening Virenque?), culture and passion that us mere foreigners can only damage.
But before Americans start to snigger, I seem to remember the same thing happening there. America is the country that invented mountain biking, but when all those Euro guys started cleaning up in the 90's suddenly mountain biking was all about cool, and lifestyle, and Shaun Palmer, who never won much internationally, was the "greatest natural athlete on the planet" - which presumably means the best athlete who never wins much.
Every year France stages the best race in the world over some of the best and most beautiful terrain. Every year it is dominated by cyclists not from France. Last year there were three Americans in the top ten and five in the top twenty. These are all achievements to celebrate and marvel at, so let's do that and drop the petulance and name calling.
In the long term, I think that the French can have the advantage in cycling, if they want it. I don't think that the Americans will never stage a race to compete with Le Tour, but if France pulls its head out of the sand and starts to train its young riders the way that the Americans and Australians train, then a Frenchman can win the tour again.
Wellington, New Zealand
What I find ironic in the whole Lance/EPO/L'Equipe circus is the hypocrisy. The French journalists wanted to nail Armstrong for cheating. So how did they do it? They cheated.
They lied in order to get results for Lance that showed he wasn't using one drug so they could figure out what is anonymous "number" was. Then they could turn around and use that number to check for EPO. They cheated to supposedly expose a cheater. They lied, subverted and tricked people on their moral crusade. What does that make them? Even if they're right, they dirty their own profession in the process. That's sad. Journalists who will also use any means, cut any corner, twist any rule to get their story. They are guilty of the very transgressions that accuse Armstrong of. These are the journalists who always talk about right and wrong, ethics and morality.
I'm a huge Armstrong fan but it wouldn't surprise me to learn he used EPO. My feeling is, if every cyclist used EPO, lance wins seven. If they're all clean, Lance wins seven. He's simply more gifted, obsessed and confident than the rest. Yes, I'm disappointed but you have to look at the bigger picture of the man and his accomplishments. He's raised more money for a good cause than any athlete on the planet. He's given more hope to people with life threatening diseases than any doctor or miracle drug. He's brought more attention to the sport of cycling than anyone in recent history. For many, many people all over the world he's one of the few truly inspirational heroes.
So what, after the fact, when all the tours are over, does someone accomplish to tear down such a man, to undo all that good? I am also a deep fan of France, I love the country, I studied the language, but this expose strikes me as ugly, mean spirited and petty. Who really benefits at this point? A few dishonest and sleazy writers bent on building their careers by any means neccessary. They would accuse Lance of cheating in cycling the way they have cheated in journalism.
And shame on LeBlanc for profiting so handsomely from Lance's story then discarding him so quickly. If you believe the man is guilty, at least show some class. Unless you're prepared to collect all the extra money that Lance brought to the Tour the last seven years and donate it to charity and just move on and keep your mouth shut.
In October 2004 I was fortunate to attend the presentation of the 2005 Tour in Paris. A big deal was made of former doper Richard Virenque and his record number of King of the Mountains wins. LeBlanc presented him with a big collage highlighting his career. What a difference in his attitude a year later.
Long Valley, New Jersey, USA
I've always thought the sport/entertainment phenomena of the WWF, now WWE, with its loud characters, outrageous storylines, and colourful costumes, was unique to North America. Well, in Europe there's the drama of pro cycling. Let us look at the parallels:
1. Hateful all-American (Kurt Angle: Lance Armstrong)
I'm sure all you Americans who grew up watching rasslin' can add more. I watched wrestling into my teens, but the breaking point came when the commissioner (and owner)of the WWF Vince McMahon ate a box of steroids, got into the ring himself against the then champion of the WWF (whom he had beef with) and won. Man, I thought that was one unclassy, self-aggrandizing move. I hope LeBlanc wont pull a Vince McMahon; try to back up his big talk by swallowing a box of EPO and winning the next 7 tours...I might stop watching cycling.
This is the first that I've heard on this subject of even MORE events for swimming…
I read an article from Chris Hoy recently which represents all of the fellow Kilo riders' thoughts (It can't be possible, be we can't afford to dwell on it, was the sum of it. We just need to focus on other events to continue our desire to succeed). This is totally true and the only approach.
However, how can we not be enticed to dwell on it some what when one hears of such news?
How many events do swimming need? Imagine if for every distance of cycling you had an option to ride it forward, backward, one legged, no hands, or with a few of your mates. Cycling is one of only four sports that began in the modern Olympics. The 1km was indeed part of this programme, as it has been ever since. The 1km is a glue that combines all other disciplines of cycling together as a family.
2005 is such a shameful year for track cycling, to see it turn its back on such a wonderful history. I might buy a swim suit; there's got to be something I can win. Not enough said on this topic.
Bravo; my sentiments exactly. Anyone who followed the Giro this year had to admit that it had just as much sport, drama and meaning as the Tour, maybe more. Whatever made the TdF arbitrarily the 'big one' can just as easily be reversed. Belgian and Italian cycling see to have eclipsed French, and with even the Americans dominating, it is easy to see that the French have their noses out of joint. Tant pis.
Let's just say 'non' and petition Johan and Discovery to target the Giro with lots of coverage. Time for the world to wake up to the fact that there is more than one stage race to follow - TdF brass may have just done us all a favour.
Summerland, B.C, Canada
First of all let me make clear that I am just a spectator and a fan and I am lacking inside detailed knowledge of facts.
Looking back at anti-doping in cycling, I get the impression that not much has improved. Testing has become more organised (or at least pretends to be), but technology on the doping side has become more sophisticated too.
It seems to me that the only result is inequality of treatment among the riders. Some are punished very harshly, with immediate effect, some get away with condoned sentences, some are thrown in jail immediately, and others don't go to jail ever. Some are expelled from the race even if it is the last stage, some get to complete it first. I am sure some of that depends on the fact that every country has slightly different rules (or even the UCI, USADA, or WADA, it looks like if I have to get busted I'd rather do that in Spain than in Italy or France, and maybe I ought to get my racing licence in Schmurfdjikistan or the Confederate states of Polymeria (no don't check your atlas), rather than Italy, Switzerland, USA or France. If these guys are all racing together, why is a substance illegal in Italy, but not in France or vice versa?
The career of a professional cyclist seems to be hanging from regulations and legal technicalities more than I wish. Personally I liked much better the approach of the '70s when somebody testing positive at the Tour or at the Giro was given a time penalty on GC, was retrocessed to the last place, or expelled from the race. Was it not a severe enough punishment to deter from doping, maybe not, but if it is true that the tests are accurate, today's policies aren't doing the job either. On the other hand if the tests are not 100% accurate (I'll settle for 99.9%) then they shouldn't cost somebody's career. Have some respect for these guys: they have been sacrificing a lot and working harder than in a sweat shop since the age of 10 or 12. Punish them but don't terminate their careers to make an example. If a reason to be harsh on them is the fact that there is prize and sponsor money involved and cheating needs to be prevented and prosecuted, then I would pay more attention to sports where the real money is (not tough to figure out: NFL/MLB/NBA in the US and Canada, soccer everywhere else), unless the fact that there is more money is the reason why they don't get bugged as much.
Californian Central Coast
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Heras's case aside, when is the UCI , if ever, going to also start punishing team doctors, directors, managers, soigneurs, mechanics and even sponsors that enable, promote and/or directly contribute to drug use? The end users are the only ones that are currently punished and yet there are clearly not the only ones who SHOULD be punished. The UCI should develop its own internal department to investigate and hand out punishments to those caught contributing to the doping problem. The exact nature of the punishment isn't for me to determine. But the bottom line is the problem of doping in cycling, real or perceived, will not die down as long as there are directors working in the sport that used to have the nickname "Mr 60%" not too long ago.
The flip-side of the coin is that some riders are clearly getting screwed by laboratories and news organizations that release test data before the "B" sample is tested and the GOVERNING BODY authorizes the release of the information to the public. The punishment should be simple: if a lab leaks or releases the name of an athlete even once before the B sample is tested, said lab should lose their WADA, IOC and/or UCI accreditation for two years. Second violation? Permanent loss of testing privileges. As far as newspapers go, I guess you can't punish them...unless they are financially-tied to an organization that promotes cycling races!
Lansdale, PA, USA
There are two recent high profile cases of doping that I am confused about. Tyler Hamilton and Roberto Heras.
If Tyler is innocent of doping then I would have thought that the reason that he would have been caught by a false positive test would be an ongoing problem. If this is the case then a simple out of competition test, when you know that he has not blood doped to walk down to the corner shop, should show the same result. If he fails it again we have an issue with the testing process. If he passes then there is something about his body at the time after an extreme effort that means he failed. Whether this is blood doping from another source, which strikes me as an extremely dangerous way to blood dope when you could just take your own blood to do this, or the body under stress has a different reaction will require further investigation. Is this just plain common sense gone missing or have I missed the boat on this one?
As for Roberto Heras, I would like to know how long it takes for EPO to have an affect. Excuse my medical ignorance but if you take EPO I doubt it has an immediate effect like a stimulant would. If Roberto was on EPO then he probably would have had to have been on a course of the stuff and he would have failed all of the previous tests that were done on him during La Vuelta. He was leading this and he had won a few other stages before stage 20 so I imagine that he had been that he had a few tests done. Therefore his window of opportunity would have been very small to take EPO and to get a change in his performance while in an environment where he knows he is going to be tested at any possible moment. Mid tour doping strikes me as a very stupid thing to do because if it does have an affect then you know that this is going to show up when you go through doping control the very next day. The same applies to Tyler as well.
Unfortunately the doping rules seem to say if you fail a doping test in a laboratory then you are going to be suspended. There is no check in the process to stop and have a think about ways that prove or disprove the test that are not medically based. If the person who has failed the test has been consistently tested in the days prior to the event and they have passed the test and then they fail the test with a marginal reading then it is possible that they have taken drugs to lift their haemocrit levels to just below the legal limit but it is not probable as they would now that they are going to fail a test when they took these drugs.
Drugs are not taken for one day to get a result. The athletes know that what they are going to do is detectable for a long period of time and there does not seem to be any logic in taking something to win a day in a three week event as you know that you are going to be tested and caught before the drugs have had a chance to leave your system.
Where does common sense fall in all of this? It's certainly the letter of the law that if you fail a test then you should be suspended. But it is not the spirit of the law that says that the tests are infallible and if everything else says that if there was no good reason to take the drugs, there was probably no benefit in taking the drugs and you have more to lose in terms of sponsorship and credibility than to be gained by one good performance then chances are that you are innocent regardless of whatever the marginal reading out of a lab has said.
Awesome news about Campagnolo's foray into electronic shifting; what's next, the drivetrain? With a sensor on the crank and a motor on the rear hub and we won't need any more of those fiddly chain things. You can see some pro team directors chafing at the bit to get hold of the electronic derailleurs. Not only can they yell at the racers over the radio, but with a bit of fiddling and the right radio frequency they'll be able to select the gearing for them. With a visit to the local pet store and a couple of remote control shock collars on each rider the team directors will have absolute control. Giddyup!
A couple of people have been murmuring about the Tour, and an apparent snub by the French (shock). To truly honour Mr Armstrong he should have had one of those Garmin GPS units fitted to his bike in last year's tour. Every tour from now on can then be run over the same course and the riders can race against a little Lance icon on the screen, while avoiding the circus like antics of the Rasmussen icon on the final time trial.
What I'm really waiting for though is cloning. A team of Lance Armstrong's against a team of Eddy Merckxs. Awesome. And a clone of me going to work so I can stay home and watch. The winner would clearly be…
Boise, Idaho, USA
I read with interest the plug for the man's book and the related discussion of the extremes of the 'longest mountain bike route'. What is the exact route and where is it identified?
There is a route, established by Adventure Cycling and known as The Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail that finishes in New Mexico and does not enter Arizona, as it stays loyal to the Continental Divide. This route goes from the New Mexico/Mexico border to Banff, Alberta, Canada and has been mapped for a few years (the first section in 1996, I believe). I have been along the entire route, as have many others, and while I didn't consider it an intrepid or risky undertaking found it to be absolutely rewarding in so many ways.
Recent letters pages