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Letters to Cyclingnews - Special edition - June 9, 2006
I just wonder how one team can be banned without any guilt being proved by any kind of court of justice? All that fuss about doping and Manolo Saiz isn't explained yet, no one knows who, what and why - is it just my observation or pro cycling is one and only sport where you can exclude a rider or a whole team before not after proving any allegations.
A few days ago someone sniffed out Zinedine Zidane to be using banned blood transfusion methods. And no one really reacted. Imagine such case arising amongst cyclists, especially non-French ones.
Is Vinokourov trying to shoot himself in the foot by saying, "I trust Saiz"?
Even if you do Vino, given all the negative doping publicity around Saiz it sounds a pretty dumb statement to make if you are hoping to ride the Tour.
Why are the broader issues of dope/cheating not highlighted? I submit that the main problem is that there is no "corporate will" to do so. Would President Nixon have continued in office if investigative journalism been investigated (and "made the scapegoat") before the facts of Watergate were discovered?
The UCI is supposed to be the governing body of cycling and as such should be protecting the sport. The legal aspects of how the results are obtained are surely the business of other "organisations". I have maintained for many years that the historic records being kept by both they and the national Federations (especially the French cycling authority) now have sufficient data to identify the statistical occurrence of unusual results both in drug-testing and race-results to be able to target specific cases.
The UCI in association with WADA and national governments should then work to eliminate the problems instead of continued rhetoric. If they do not we can expect to see the sport of athletes becoming totally ruined. The amateur addicts like me will continue to participate but will not join organisations and pay to compete. End result - no UCI (and relevant other sports organisations) and these international rulers will be out of work because they didn't do what the "job" required!
With the publication of the Vrijman report seemingly backed by the UCI with the words "What strikes one most is that WADA leaves aside the main questions and conclusions of the report" and "WADA should not be allowed to divert the attention on side issues..." the UCI might justifiably claim that the rules were broken by WADA and L'Equipe but, more importantly, are the results of the tests scientifically accurate?
Surely the main (and only issue) is whether there is use of unethical medical/chemical assistance in use to obtain results. Whether the culprit is Lance Armstrong or Manolo Saiz will be argued by lawyers, to their financial benefit, probably for years. Meantime WADA seem to have detailed proof that there was EPO present in 1999 Tour de France urine samples. If there is scientific evidence of this then the logical next step is to perfect the test for future use. Follow this with tests on samples where the "relevant authorities" have seen fit to advise teams that their riders are displaying "unusual results when tested" or riders are producing results that are "extreme".
“The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) has announced that it will assist the Spanish investigation into alleged doping practices that has already implicated Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz and former Kelme team doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. WADA announced it would send scientific and general experts to analyse equipment, substances and blood bags seized by the Spanish Civil Guardia in the investigation dubbed 'Operation Puerto'. WADA was asked to assist by the Spanish Superior Council for Sports and has said it will do what it can to assist in the ongoing investigation.”
Reading between the lines – WADA are going on another crusade. Not content with the findings of the independent report into Armstrong which raised more questions about WADA’s own practices and procedures they are trying to bring the sport down from a different angle. Why don’t we ever hear of their involvement in any other sport? Can cycling really be the only one tainted with drugs? Of course not.
My conclusion? Someone at WADA has an agenda with cycling the one and only item on it. What sort of world body dismisses an investigation by a lawyer and comments that they ‘"completely rejected" it, calling it "defamatory" to WADA and the LNDD and "so lacking in professionalism and objectivity that it borders on farcical"’? With everything that has gone on since it was created WADA should be very careful about using “defamatory”, “lacking in professionalism and objectivity” and “farcical”, as the words “pot”, “kettle” and “black” shout out loud and proud. What they should be saying is “fair enough – we’re not perfect and have made mistakes, but hey! We’re trying to clean up sport and we need everyone’s help to eliminate this scourge.” Only when they are seen as a professional organisation and not a tabloid newspaper will they really have the authority to make a difference.
Wow. I must first confess to not having read the entire report, while I did read the final 10 pages, and now the first 17, but it would seem that this is as thorough a report as we are going to see until WADA, LNDD, and the French Ministry provide any missing information (if ever).
I am not going to go into any long drawn out discussion here, but I really liked the Executive Summary that opens the document. I thought that the beginning to 1.15 "The results reported by the LNDD that found their way into the L'Equipe article are not what they have been represented to be," pretty much says it all.
That clearly the analysis/research that was done, was not done to the standards and the rules regarding a true test for doping substances. "To suggest in any way that any of the analyses results could properly be associated with a particular rider or riders, is misleading and constitutes at least gross negligence..." is another statement from the same section.
I cannot say that my opinion of Dick Pound changed any after reading this report. Apparently my opinion of him was already at its lowest. In my opinion WADA (under Dick Pound) appears to lack any real credibility.
Dear Dick, your cab is waiting outside the lobby entrance.
I sat down yesterday to read the Vrijman page by page. Initially I thought it might be a cover-up vindicating Armstrong and cycling in general; however, I was wrong. The report points to a number of violations of procedure involving the French laboratory, the French Ministry and WADA that are simply shocking. How professional people involved in tracking the unethical use of drugs in sport could be so corrupt is stunning.
After reading the report I looked up `Dick Pound' on the web to find out more about him, I was surprised that his attitude to doping is not clear-cut (see the Ben Johnson case), and that he worked for the IOC at a time when it went out of its way to cover up doping.
I next thought back to the events of 1998 when the Tour de France came to a standstill. I was in France at the time and the `word on the street' was that there had been a falling out between the French government and the Tour organisers. The French government told the authorities to go in heavy on the Tour and the rest is history. The football World Cup had been held in France the same year, but oddly the French authorities took no action against the doping that was occurring in that competition.
So what we are left with appears to be a laboratory set up to test for the misuse of drugs in sport that is incompetent and prepared to break every rule of proper medical research, the rules of WADA and French law in order to sully the reputation of a rider. We have a French ministry that appears to share the corrupt values of its President. And we have WADA, an organisation headed by a man of dubious ethics, that is happy to break even its own rules for political purposes, and then blame others.
If you feel the same way about this as I do then email WADA (contact details at http://www.wada-ama.org/en/dynamic.ch2?pageCategory.id=244) and ask them when we can expect the resignations of the people responsible for this disgrace.
A letter to Mr. Pound,
I agree with your assessment that the UCI report does not address whether tests showing EPO in Armstrong's 1999 samples are accurate or not. However, it is clear that this issue will never be solved. The are no existing protocols for testing samples that old and duplicate samples were not saved. Just as in the criminal justice system, due process is critical in establishing a fair drug testing system. Armstrong is right to complain that precise protocols of testing and then distributing that information have to be followed in all cases. If the police illegally search your home, that evidence cannot be used against you, no matter how damning.
Bottom line, you have to let this one go. He never tested positive in a real test at the time of his events. You may believe he was beating the tests and doping, but I think you have to go by the tests in place at the time the event was held. Am I going to find out in 2011 that Basso didn't really win the Giro this year? A fan just wants to believe what he is seeing. If you think the athletes are cheating, come up with better methods of detecting doping at the time the events are held. Sloppily testing samples stored for years using questionable methods and then leaking that information to the press leaves fans in a horrible quagmire of whom to believe, the athlete or WADA?
I just want to take this chance to applaud the UCI for finally taking a stand and fighting for something (other than the ProTour, which I really think is a great idea albeit with some changes). But the UCI has finally gone and is standing up against the Juggernaut that is the WADA.
It seems to me that the riders are not being treated fairly at all and that this has been the case since the Festina Affair of 1998. I can understand the need to clean up the sport. But the WADA, in my opinion has overstepped too many times. As an amateur cyclist who has aspirations of riding as a professional it is VERY sad when you think about giving it up because of how unfairly the athletes are treated!
I don't know whether Tyler Hamilton doped or did not, but I feel his case was not treated in a fair manner, and the pre-emptive "We know he doped" was one of the most unprofessional things a large agency has done! Then the WADA decides to supposedly test samples for "research" but makes sure that they know which rider they come from? Even if this isn't true, the fact that it could be true scares me a lot!
The WADA is taking the stance that riders are guilty until proven innocent. Well in the USA it is innocent until proven guilty, and everyone should have a fair chance. The WADA has been pushing the limits, and is now doing more damage to sport when it should be trying to help grow sport! The riders have rights, and even if someone has doped there is a procedure that must be followed. If the WADA cannot follow its own drug testing procedures how do we know if they are following any other rules?
So good for you UCI, finally someone is standing up and saying that the WADA has overstepped its bounds...which in my opinion happened a long time ago! I hope they can get their act together, because I would like to compete in the most beautiful sport in the world knowing that athletes are being treated fairly and are given the respect they deserve!
It is especially ironic, now that the Vrijman Report “calls-out” WADA and Dick Pound for their obvious abuses of athletes’ due process that they (WADA and Dick Pound) now state that, “WADA has taken legal advice regarding its recourses against the investigator and any organisation, including the UCI that may publicly adopt its conclusions.”
Throughout the past WADA and Dick Pound have dismissed any attempt to use the legal system to hold them accountable…but now that they feel that someone has falsely accused them, they are quick to threaten legal action against “any organisation…that my publicly adopt its conclusions.” It’s hard to stop laughing.
Patrick J. Wilkie
Recent events have solidified my pessimism concerning professional cyclists, and professional athletes in general. I love the sport of cycling and enjoy watching it, and will continue to do so regardless of what the athletes do to enhance their performance. However, I find it insulting to listen to cyclists make claims that only a mindless person would believe.
I am sure that Tyler Hamilton had a "vanishing twin" in utero, that various professional cyclists' family members had EPO in their trunk for their own personal use and that, while most of the Festina team admitted to being involved in an elaborate drug scheme, Richard Virenque was clean for his whole career. Come on! I rarely read cycling news or other cycling-related news without being insulted by an athlete who has been busted and is doling out some lame excuse that we seem to mindlessly accept without criticism.
All of that said, I think that WADA and Dick Pound are missing the point on the Armstrong issue. I am not going to debate whether or not Armstrong used performance enhancers because, with respect to the L'Equipe story, it is irrelevant. One of the most fundamental pillars of scientific research is that those who volunteer to be studied be granted confidentiality. Can you imagine early AIDS research getting anywhere if subjects had not been promised confidentiality? It was absolutely unethical for the information linking Armstrong to a subject-number to be released. As such, any information derived from that link was fruit of a poisonous tree.
While the (apparently pointless) fight against doping must continue, it is too bad that those at the helm of the fight cannot see the folly in the way in which the "Equipe" story came about and dismiss it accordingly. In my view, this breech of confidentiality is more serious, and has more potential consequences, that determining whether or not Armstrong cheated in any of his Tour de France victories.
In light of the recent UCI findings, exonerating Lance Armstrong of doping charges in 1999, why can't this man accept the result of a UCI sanctioned investigation?
Does Mr. Pound have information that others don’t? Why then he does not publish it and give the complete and honest answer to this saga?
It is quite obvious that he trust a French lab, even though it is also clear that the lab has not followed unbiased and scientific procedures.
I admire the relentless pursuit of doping charges and cleaning up all sports of the use of illegal drugs, but this cannot be done as a wild and illegal chase.
THE ENDS DO NOT JUSIFY THE MEANS, Mr. Pound.
If you think of yourself as the totalitarian of Anti-Doping, ignoring rules and procedures, you are utterly failing your mission. After all, what is the difference between you (or the French lab) and the doper? And who is responsible for the greater offense?
Paul Hurdlow writes
It has never been about testing the use of EPO by Lance Armstrong in the 1999 Tour, as that was not and cannot be done under any approved protocol.
Well for me it is ALL about EPO use by Lance Armstrong. Which, as far as I can see from the facts, has been shown to have occurred, albeit by an unapproved protocol. Armstrong's use of EPO proves a couple of important things which people would do well to take note of.
1. Success at the top level of cycling for the last seven years (or just in
1999, take your pick) has been based on doping.
Who else out there cares more for procedural niceties than the truth?
Who to believe in this one? An independent lawyer appointed by the UCI or Dick Pound and an independent WADA, L’Equipe, and a Lab?
For mine the lab has behaved unprofessionally by not following protocols – The basic purpose of any lab.
WADA has compromised itself by not co-operating fully and with the UCI investigation – surely raising questions about its own integrity
Dick Pound has a history of misguided, baseless rants on the subject of who does/does not take drugs, The Australian swim team for example. He does so with impunity for he appears to answer to no-one.
L’Equipe has papers to sell, and let’s face it, is not much more than a sports tabloid – not generally read for its fearless dedication to journalistic standards.
The UCI did establish itself as the correct body to conduct the investigation, with the power to impose sanctions if required. They have been struggling over the past decades to re-establish themselves as the relevant and trustworthy arbiters in these matters.
They stand to lose a great deal if they stuff this up. And then the lawyer, anyone who said yes to taking on this one is obviously confident in his capacity to remain objective.
If proven otherwise, then he and his team become pariahs within their own profession, as well as the broader community. From where I sit, a distant observer with nothing to go on but what I read and hear in the public domain, I’m with the UCI on this one.
Someone should stand up for the injustice Phonak is committing against Santiago Botero and Jose Enrique Gutierrez. Isn't the Association International Group of Cycling Professionals (AIGCP) supposed to support its riders’ rights? Can Cyclingnews use its considerable muscle to obtain a statement from AIGCP about the withholding by Phonak of Botero and Gutierrez from racing? Shouldn't a rider be innocent until proven guilty?
Why is AIGCP allowing Phonak to withhold two riders who have never failed a drug test? Didn't Gutierrez just get tested (multiple times) at both the Tour of Georgia and Giro? Did he fail any of those tests? If not, and he is clean, how can AIGCP allow Phonak to cripple the careers of two riders? Shouldn't AIGCP threaten to sue Phonak is they don't immediately release both riders for racing? What T-Mobile did with Seville seems to be more appropriate, and if that was good enough for T-Mobile why isn't it good enough for Phonak? Are they just over reacting from the Tyler Hamilton issue, and if so, how is that fair to Botero and Gutierrez?
In a way this is like the Barry Bonds issue. We all know he took steroids between 1998 and 2004. However, at the time there was no rule prohibiting steroid use. When the rule was put into place Bonds complied, and has never been found guilty of being on steroids. Does that mean his homeruns from the past don't count? How could you disqualify homeruns that weren't illegal when they were hit?
So too with Botero and Gutierrez - even if they did do drugs back in 1996 with Kelme or any other team, how can you punish them today for something they have stopped doing? They are riding clean, and that is what the sport wants. Cycling wants its riders to ride clean, and should support them as long as that is what they are in fact doing. Richard Virenque won his polka dot jersey after stopping drugs, and we were all happy. Shouldn't Phonak be cheering for Gutierrez' fine second place finish in the Giro? Without current facts to the contrary, both Botero and Gutierrez should be riding today.
Maybe I'm just simple minded, or maybe I've watched too many crime shows on the tube, but the recent Spanish Operation shouldn't be too complicated. The Spanish authorities have many bags of blood. They also have a list with the names of many athletes.
First you DNA test the blood samples, then you DNA test the athletes. They don't have a "5th Amendment" in Europe, do they? Athletes who don't cooperate or their lawyers will have some explaining to do.
And while they're at it, maybe they should test the WADA and UCI Muckamucks to find out what they've been taking that causes such irrational behaviour and violent mood swings. It can't be legal. As for Manolo S, just take out the trash. He has more smoking guns in his past than a Dirty Harry movie.
I can hear it now, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"
A demoralised and dejected Santiago Botero gave an interesting interview to Colombian daily El Tiempo on http://eltiempo.terra.com.co/depo/cicl/cicl_int/noticias/ARTICULO-WEB-_NOTA_INTERIOR-2925752.html, where he calls his sporting year over.
He admits to seeing Fuentes and Labarca, as they were the team doctors over the years he was at Kelme. He claims to have continued to see them afterwards to carry out occasional effort tests, as they were the doctors doing this sort of procedure that he knew in Madrid, where he resides. Believe him or not (I choose to, but understand doubters given recent scandals), his explanation for sustaining some relationship to the doctors seems perfectly reasonable.
If, as it seems, Fuentes and Labarca are involved in doping, they could only put themselves in a position to do so by treating athletes legally first and building relationships within the peloton. They probably do not treat athletes exclusively for doping, and Botero's version is perfectly plausible.
It seems that, in assuming cyclists are guilty until proven otherwise, teams and governing bodies are attempting to put the good of the sport over the career or morale of any particular individual. I wonder if this is the right course of action, as it seems to rather multiply suspicion and, worst of all, cast doubt on the mechanisms that are most used to control doping, that is controls, of which Botero, Armstrong and others have had so many.
In response to Michael Gizaris’ letter, 27 May 2006
If we allow the people that want to 'charge up' do it openly and keep them away from those that remain clean, would we be better having 'clean' events and 'assisted' events? I know that in body building there are already 'clean' events. Why not take it to the logical conclusion and have a 'Drug Olympics' following straight on from the 'clean' version'?
Sport is more than just sport. It’s also business and entertainment. Which event would get the most viewers, the 'clean' or the 'chemically enhanced'? If a TV viewing figures favoured the drug events (and if they go faster surely they would) the advertising money would follow. 'Clean' sport would drop from the professional status it currently enjoys.
Add to this the confusion in the public's mind about what constitutes doping. Are those iron and vitamin injections cheating? How about caffeine pills? Are they any different to several cups of strong coffee? If I lived at altitude, why would that be different to EPO? If I can buy something at the chemists, without prescription, to help me with a head cold why should it exclude me from competition?
So what should we do? I haven't the faintest idea.
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