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Letters to Cyclingnews - November 25, 2005
In response to Supervisor Aaron Peskin's comment that the City of San Francisco "will be just as well off" dumping the SF Grand Prix and hosting the Tour of California, I have cancelled my plans to attend the Tour of California in San Francisco, and will watch the race in San Jose and Monterey instead. Although I travel regularly to the Bay Area, I will now make every effort to avoid spending money in San Francisco during my trips. I would urge others to do the same, as it does not take long reading Mr Peskin's comments to realise that an excellent bike race, and some reputable people who've devoted their lives to cycling such as Dan Osipow, have been trashed by this silly man in the interests of his bizarre brand of politics.
Do you know the way to San Jose?
Calling the SF board of supervisors eccentric is an understatement, add the fact the board's constituency and cycling's demographic are 180 degrees out of sync, the board's antagonism towards cycling was predictable, couple this with the wanton gouging the race promoters took from the union police in a union town, you have wonder how the promoter could not pull the race. The Tour of California promoters should take a lesson from the SFGP and pull the SF stage and move it to the capital, Sacramento, where it will at least be treated fairly and with some respect.
Discovery Bay, CA
Peskin is full of it. He gave me the same line of crap two years ago when the race was almost cancelled. The fact is that he had an ongoing political pissing match with the then mayor, Willie Brown. Peskin saw the GP as another case where Mayor Brown was catering to big business and his handshake deals. Peskin saw an opportunity to make political hay at the expense of the GP and almost got the race cancelled. Peskin later sponsored legislation that to get the GP back on track, essentially fixing the problem that he created calling himself a herol in the process. Peskin is the Supervisor that represents North Beach where the races circles while the café's are packed with spectators and out of town guests. He will have a hard time explaining this one to his constituents that sell out of coffee, beer, pastries etc. on GP race day. I guess now a Peskin-less and deserving San Jose will reap the rewards.
Way to go Aaron Peskin.
"I have had many reservations about the San Francisco Grand Prix, even as an avid cyclist, as a commuting cyclist. I just don't see how exactly we can quantify that this race did bring economic benefit to the city."
SF City Supervisor Chris Daly
"This is one of the most important and exciting annual sporting events in our state and the nation and a unique Philadelphia treasure. For 21 years, the race has supported our initiatives to promote the benefits of physical fitness, provide economic benefit to the region and foster civic pride for our citizens".
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell
I am interested that, "a highly-respected UCI medical source...who asked not to be named" would leak information in such detail (Wire in the blood: Part I).
Does the UCI have a structured and co-ordinated campaign of leaking information into the public domain to prejudice cases such as Hamilton's?
In the article Wire in the Blood Part II one of the arguments presented to counteract Tyler's claims of innocence is that there were differing amounts of mixed red cell populations and that over time, this would be logical as the cells die. However, on Tyler's website in April he wrote that the antigens declared positive for "mixed populations" in Athens and the Vuelta are not the same. This is a different argument then stated in your article.
It would appear logical that if the test was conducted correctly, then the antigens showing a 'mixed population' would be the same on all the tests; regardless of the percentage.
How can a test be believed if at one time (under extremely suspicious conditions, as stated by Arbitrator Campbell, with knowledge of who's sample is being tested, and done by people with a stake in the outcome of the test) it reveals two sets of antigens as mixed; and then when done a short time later it shows a different set of antigens?
That alone is enough to cause me to wonder if the test was conducted accurately. Don't forget the other point that Mr. Cambell raised in his dissent: "In addition, with respect to improper gating, there was testimony (by USADA's expert witness) that in the case of a subjective, visual identification of a second peak (used in this case), if a test was gated in the wrong region it would also impact a peak. This also refutes any argument that if a second peak is visible the only explanation is a second RBC population."
This was stated as further support that false positives are possible. Mr. Campbell went on to write; "The Nelson Study left out the possibility of false positives as a result of faulty laboratory practices. This omission is odd because it was a Nelson validation study that demonstrated that in its quantitative testing method, laboratories falsely identified second RBC populations where none were present up to a level of 1.1%. The Nelson Study called these false positives background events and stated they were caused by incorrect gating and other problems. Mr. Hamilton's sample in this case was within the range of a background event....concerning background events, it is significant that the WADA criteria and the Testing Methods fail to require a consistent method of gating."
To WADA I ask; what is meant by "other problems"? Why is this not defined? Why is Tyler's sample deemed positive when it is within the range of a background event?
It is also interesting to note, that while the test for threshold levels for haematocrit has a second test to back up the initial reading, there is no way to validate the HBTT test. (Taken from the aside in Part I of Wire in the Blood; "So in order to be stopped, a rider has to have a haematocrit reading higher than 50 percent five times on two different samples and two different techniques, and as a side-check, a haemoglobin value more than 17 g/dL on four separate occasions.") This is what is required in order to stop a rider for approximately two weeks, not suspend, fire, and sanction. It appears that in order to suspend, fire and sanction a rider he need only allegedly fail a test that is not conducted identically at different labs, fails to meet prevailing standards in the scientific community, and is vehemently regarded as being inappropriately applied to doping testing by those who are experts in the scientific community.
Circumstantial evidence; piled up, it looks impressive. Take it apart piece by piece and it caves in. Perhaps a rereading of Mr. Campbell's dissent is in order. Quoting UCI doctors who have a stake in only presenting one side of the case is not a well researched article; not to mention all the top notch scientists who were quoted in the May New York Times article speaking about mixed populations, stem cells, chimera's and more.
All the quoted material was taken from the American Arbitration Association document handing down Tyler's sentence.
After reading your article, "Wire in the Blood: Hamilton's Last Hope" I was quite disturbed on so many quotes from an unnamed source at UCI. I understood that no one was to comment on the case before CAS until the final deliberations were done. Your statement," Anthony Tan spoke to two of the sport's foremost scientific and medical experts to examine the factors", makes me wonder who these "experts" were. Are they the experts who have put many hours into the FACTS pertaining to the case, or some "experts" who know little about the actual case? I am sure you contacted Tyler and the experts he has had working on his case to be sure you are covering ALL sides of the debate. I sure have learned a lot about blood doping, as well as the politics and control of power, that are surrounding Tyler's case; much of this I have had to look to other sources than your publication which seems to be pretty much one sided. I know I am commenting before I read Part Two which may address these concerns but from the little positive comments I have seen from you, I decided not to wait.
I don't know whether Tyler is guilty or not (I sure like to think he isn't), but I think the most pressing issue has become: How freakin' long can it take for the CAS to render a decision? Are you kidding me? Over a year wait? And they still don't have a final date. Hondo hasn't waited nearly that long. Get on the ball people, we're tired of waiting (and speculating, and reading, and judging, and...)
It is absolutely outrageous that Mr. Andy Turnbull quotes as facts, figures relating to testing of urine frozen for more than six years with no reliable chain of custody that may or may not have been that of Lance Armstrong. This was so clearly an attempt by some French to diminish an incredible achievement and by so doing explain why their cyclists have been doing so poorly. The appalling commentary at the presentation of the TDF left no doubt at to what the plan had been.
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
It amazes me how quick people are to judge others. You seem so convinced that Lance Armstrong was 'under the radar' in 1999 by micro-dosing epo and in effect passing every test in 1999 but failing an illegal re-testing of frozen six year old samples. Is it even possible that his six year old urine would contain epo but his blood tests all proved clean? It is much, much more likely that the concentration of naturally occurring epo increased over time due to the evaporation of the samples. Have you ever seen old ice cubes in the back of the fridge? They shrink over time.
The real miracle is that Armstrong would need drugs to win his first Tour, then win the next six straight without the drugs. That plus the fact that he would decide not to use epo in 2000 after not being caught the previous year. He must be a psychic cyclist. His being the foremost proponent of more testing was then a masterful genius of disguise.
Whether Heras used or did not use has no bearing on Armstrong. Ditto for Hamilton and Millar. Each case stands on its own merit. Personally, I think all test results should be published. Give me the percentage and hemocrit. A pass or fail is too vague in our world today. But don't test things years apart with different results and claim that one result has to be correct and the other result is 100% wrong.
Timothy (always drug free) Shame,
Anyone who knows anything about Olympic sports knows that the American television
audience is the driving force in the operation. They're what cause NBC et al.
to pay many billions for TV rights, advertisers to cough up multi-millions to
use the IOC logo and therefore they indirectly keep the IOC in business. The
US does very well in both athletics and swimming, and they are by far the most
popular sports at the Olympics, so FINA and the IAAF are the golden children.
It's hardly surprising that cycling got shafted in their favour. American interest
in cycling pales in comparison with their interest in swimming and track & field.
Finally, the US is arguably stronger in BMX than track cycling, so maybe this
is why the UCI chose it over the TT/Kilo?
Exciting again? You bet.
I totally agree with these surrounding sentiments expressed here, regarding the fragile nature of Lance's position in the last 7 Tours, regardless of where he was or wasn't in the GC and whether he was or wasn't controlling his physiology with ALL means available, within stated, publicised and accepted limits. To win a tour, you have to turn your pedals for every one of the 3,500kms. You have to prepare, train, implement all available technology in all fields, but above all - you must survive. You must be there at the finish. How easy would it have been to snap a collarbone or a metacarpal when the hand of God smacked him to the ground instantly and totally without warning on the Luz Ardiden (the boy with the musette)? On the descent into Gap, Lance was sitting right on Beloki's wheel when Joseba's career and entire future was indelibly changed - yet it wasn't Lance who rolled his tyre, was it? Let alone making it down that paddock without incident - what, no rocks? No fences? No deep ruts or holes or even a stick? Incredible! Not even one Scotch Thistle, Prickle, Thorn, Briar Patch? Breathtaking, predictable? No. Is he in league with the devil?
No Tour or stage of it has ever been predictable, even if the results appear so. Every stage is, always has been, and always will be exciting, full of potential and infinitely 'watchable'...and it always will be. The UCI ProTour denegrates the Grand Tours at its own peril. The TdF is shown brilliantly in Australia by SBS; it reaches a huge 'non-cycling' audience. The TdF can make those viewers take their children along to the local club race, the TdF can lead to those viewers buying a new bike, the TdF can make those viewers seek to view Paris-Roubaix or Milan-San Remo...it's the window to Pro Cycling for millions of people who may not otherwise be exposed.
For me, Merckx is the greatest...did he ever take anything? Don't ask me, I will not even give that thought credit, I DON'T CARE. He, Merckx, raced under the same conditions that everybody raced under at the time - training, diet, lifestyle and pharmaceutical custom and practice included. The donkey at the back of the bunch will not become a cycling God by doping. Tom Simpson didn't expire so heroically on Ventoux because of a genetic defect. The world is just what it is at any given time. Sure, times and practices are changing. It must be said that it is us, the viewers, fans, sponsor's customers that are changing...we lead the dog ... our expectations and desires are changing, the riders are only trying to keep up with what we want. You cannot test samples from six years ago using today's knowledge and retrospectively point fingers...well, not as long as you are the self same people who exonerate and apparently beatify Richard Virenque. You increase your testing technology as you go, you test as you go, riders pass or fail, limits are set, and everybody plays on the level field at any one time.
After the lid was lifted from the GDR programmes on the global stage, was there ever talk of retrospectively confiscating every medal won at every Olympics by athletes under a State sponsored program of doping? How did it get to such proportions that it became important enough to be State sponsored anyway? We, the people did that. We made it that important. We lead the dog. We still do. So, now we move on, we change our limits and we change our tests, we announce our methods, our limits, and we display our results. Some athletes will also move with the times, hence the circular nature of things. The premature sudden death of certain high profile athletes sends it's own message to those who do. They do it at their own peril. In my humble opinion it was us, we the people, who failed Marco Pantani miserably, even though his was an 'out of competition' event. We the tifosi edged him on, and then dropped him like a stone. Il Pirata, Marco, requiescat in pace. I bet he would've loved the chance to say..."Just put me back on my bike".
Vive Le Tour.
Well done Lance, your victories are chiselled in history. You were tested by the same global standards every day, every way, like every body else. You didn't fail one single test. What work you had to do and personal sacrifices you had to make to win, will never be understood by us. The mis-placed voices of derision may be heard, but they do not represent all of us. There is a quiet, but vast majority, we cover the entire world. We watch the Tour, we dream of the Tour greats and their achievements. We recognise that individual people in Tour management are just plain assholes. (Thats a truly global thing - it doesn't matter what your nationality, if you're an asshole - it shows). Lance, you won, you were great. I honor you, and all who came before you. You had the world's best apply their measure and you won. Retire in peace. Your achievements shall not be brought undone by those slings and arrows. You won, seven times.
So, now - bring on the next Tour and the future...who will it be? Jan maybe, Ivan, or Robbie in green? It's exciting just thinking about it. I for one, and my son - the fourth generation of cyclists in my family - will be watching.
I thought it was fairly obvious what Howard was trying to say, and Mark's misunderstanding in last week's letters seems a little forced. Lance clearly embodies what is currently a peculiarly American, and what seems very much a Texan, stance. Americans are the "bullies of the world" according to Bill Hicks, a point of view that current world affairs, or many of Lance's actions over the years, can only bolster. And an attempt to explain or excuse such behaviour by reference to history, or rioting in France, is frankly weak. Let's see a French team win the hilariously named World Series for series years running and see if you keep your pretence of high morals.
A thank you to Mark Jenkins for his a well-written, logical letter in response an increasingly popular attack on the US and Americans using stereotypes and nonsense. Perfect. And it's on a cycling site. Could you write one to the International Herald Tribune letters to the editor too? The same type of logic is used to trash the US and its citizens there too. It is amazing that the letter writters prove themselves as ignorant, ill-informed, and bigoted as the claim Americans are.
Excellent reply and much needed.
David R. Hufford,
On the surface, Jean-Marie LeBlanc's back-handed slap of LA would appear to be rather foolish. As owner/promoter of the Tour (aka, a multi-million Euro business venture), JML certainly benefited from Lance's exploits of the past seven years. Hardcore cycling fans always have been, and always will be, fans of le Tour. However, Lance's participation drew in many casual fans, as well as exposing the sport to many people around the world that had never seen or experienced this grand sport. Many of these new fans came from one of the largest commercial markets on the planet. With out a doubt, the Tour grew tremendously in stature and prestige in the world sporting arena and I'm sure the bank accounts of ASO and Mr. LeBlanc grew significantly as well.
To diminish the previous seven tours is to bite the hand that fed them.
On the other hand, without the compelling story of a cancer survivor on the comeback, without the tantalizing tale of a man attempting to re-write the record books, there will be less media attention. Many of the new cycling fans will soon forget about le Tour. Many of the casual fans will return to being apathetic to the goings-on of the Tour. Many of the cancer patients and survivors that were glued to their tellies every July will no longer watch now that their hero has moved on to other things. Yes, it is highly intriguing to see who wins in the 1st post-Lance Tour, but only to us hard-core cycling fans. So, how does ASO and JML continue to keep interest and hype levels at all time highs? Create controversy. As one Hollywood star once said, "there's no such thing as bad publicity".
Would there be so much buzz about the 2006 Tour if the presentation had gone according to everyone's expectations?
During some discussion with teammates and friends on some long rides, we have come up with a proposal for athletes testing positive for doping that would, in our opinion, remove the doubt, denial and legal wrangling that seems to take place after virtually every doping positive.
The proposal is as follows. Upon receiving notice of an A-sample positive, an athelte is given a choice. Admit that the substance was used and accept the result as positive, forego the B-sample test, forfeit any future legal action on the positive test, and receive an 18-month suspension. Otherwise, if the B-sample is positive, the athlete receives a 36-month suspension and is free to appeal or dispute the positive test.
The length of the suggested penalties are based on the 2-year penalities imposed on cyclists who test positive.
Fellow cycling lovers
Once again I have had my enjoyment of weekend racing spoilt by those club racers who are taking part in the weekly World Championships. These races are held everywhere around the world however only a small number of the competitors know how high the stakes of the race are. And you thought you were just doing it for fun or for some extra training for a state or national level race. No my friends you have been mislead. You are taking part in the weekend club world championships. It is usually fairly easy to spot those in the know. They are the ones who believe that having extra carbon bits on your bike will make a difference in a flat criterium and they push barge and shove in races in an attempt to win at all costs, after all the stakes are high.
Sadly people like this detract from our sport. This win at all costs mentality is an ugly in a club race and not to be admired in any way. Ours is a beautiful sport and one to be embraced. Just remember when you go down to race your next club event, what is really at stake and are you racing in a way that is appropriate for the event. Club racing is meant to be enjoyed by everyone, not just the winner. if it isn't, then our sport will be the poorer for it.
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