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Letters to Cyclingnews - June 23, 2006
Discovery's naming of George Hincapie as a team leader is nothing more than another Bruyneel marketing ploy. This is due to the fact that the American team has to make up for the fact that they have only one American on the tour team and no real GC threat, and therefore, do not merit anywhere near the American media attention they have received in the past. For American viewers, it is much more interesting to follow real GC leaders like Levi and Floyd. Rather than focus on the goings on at the Disco bus, I would like to see the US media focus on Zabriskie and the other two Americans on the CSC roster or even Fast Freddy and the tenacious Horner at Lotto.
Wow, what a great opportunity for our up and coming guys! Getting to go to Europe, developing their talent with an eye to a future pro contract, this is certainly the way to incubate men's cycling. These young men are a bright future, and I'm thrilled for their opportunity.
Guys ask me all the time why more women don't race bikes. I generally tell them that it's a variety of factors, usually having to do with lack of development opportunities, lack of races, and intimidating "open" races that no guy would put up with. I can tell you that some of our local fast rides have gotten so unsafe that I can not recommend them anymore. I now lead a secret ride, with the eye on developing skills, in an effort of doing away with the fear of riding with strong guys, with poor skills. Like most women, I have a serious aversion to leaving body parts on the pavement. My boss frowns on it.
Cat 5 guys in VA do not race anyone but Cat 5 guys. A Cat 4 woman can expect to have to race Cat 1 women. As a result, many women here race a few times and never come back. Again, its a safety issue. It's also an opportunity issue. There may be 5-7 men's races in a day, and 1 or 2 women's races. Yes, some of those women's races will be small, but we have mighty small men's 1-2 races all the time, and somehow we seem to find a way to have them, and to give them the largest purse of the day.
Soooo it was with a wry smile that I read the story on the boys in Europe. Are there really no junior girls in the entire USA that deserve a development chance? Not one? I can nominate one from our local association, Holis Owens. I bet she'd love an opportunity like that!
The loss of Jane Higdon is another blow to cycling's warriors of the road, those who love their sport and who embark on a ride with faith that our fellow humans will respect their lives and keep a proper lookout.
Drivers across the world are implored by governments, advocacy groups, and road safety groups to keep a proper lookout for less vulnerable road users, yet this sad event of a loss of life through either ignorance, attitude or drug abuse is constantly with us.
This is made worse when hit-runs occur, or the drivers refuse to show remorse for their lack of consideration that a life was lost and they cant see themselves as responsible, even though they were either speeding, drunk or not looking.
Names like Ken Kifer, Kyle Forth, Mathew Cole, Amy Gillett, Luke Harrop, Russel Mockridge, Brendan Saul, Stephen Burrows, Ian Humphrey, Tim Ledgwidge, Allan Scott, Larry Schwarz, and far too many more valuable members of our worldwide community of humanity and of cyclists have been taken from this life whilst riding their bikes on the public roads of the world. Most of these deaths could have been avoided by simple respect for life by the drivers of the vehicles that struck them keeping a proper lookout.
Attitude and behavioural change in drivers must be a priority for road safety authorities across the world. Cyclists certainly must be mindful of observing the road laws, and those not doing so add to the ire of drivers who then think all cyclists are of the same senseless class of cyclist and thus fair game to harass.
We lose too many cyclists across the world to this carnage, and governments all want a healthy population and encourage cycling to drive that and reduce health care costs, and in many places lower the road traffic density, but seem to do little to work to bring about attitudinal and behavioural change by road users.
What is the answer? Is it never going to be an easy thing?
Do cyclists form such a small percentage of road usage across the world , that they can be ignored?
Does dependence by established economies and the emerging countries on motorised transport for urban transport mean nothing positive will be done to stop this senseless loss.
I have a strong interest in advocating for improved driver education, raised awareness to cyclists having a right to use the road way and it be sheared by all road users, and full accountability under the law for all road users, but I am disgusted with courts, legislators and aggressive and inattentive motorists across the world who think the life of a cyclist is worth less than a piece of road kill.
Tell me I'm wrong and things will improve!
According to the official WADA statement (pg. 9) and the Vrijman report (pg. 57), "There may be appropriately stored residue still available for DNA and other further analysis." This implied offer goes back as far as September 2005, when the French minister of sport, Dominique Laurent, indicated that Mr. Armstrong could still clear his name because urine samples from the 1999 Tour de France remain available for possible re-testing. Rather than call for Mr. Pound's head, let's ask for a counter-analysis at another accredited lab to help clear up this mess for good.
In doing so, let's not allow Mr. Armstrong, under guise of advancing the Olympic movement, to take revenge against the rules of fair play, the tests, and the testers. How do we advance the Olympic spirit if we rail against the most reliable tests we have? How do we maintain a level playing field if we allow athletes to shift their doping practices to contemporaneously undetectable means such as EPO before 2000, hormones and blood doping today, or potential genetic manipulation in the future? Furthermore, where under the UCI, WADA, or Olympic charters or the UN charter for that matter are athletes or anyone else allowed to defraud the public in secret?
I think Mr. Armstrong protests too much. The UCI has already disciplined its employee most directly responsible for linking his name to his test results, and published a 130-page report that "completely exonerates" him. Yet the recriminations go on. In response, we the people can make and enhance the rules. Nowadays, common drug and alcohol violations can lead to arrest and one or more tests under implied consent law. Refusal to take the test is admissible as evidence. Therefore, Mr. Armstrong, you say you didn't dope, here's your chance to prove it!
Like him or not, Lance Armstrong is dead on in his analysis of the WADA situation and his characterization of Dick Pound. Pound loves the limelight, and he relishes his Batman persona as the vigilante who brushes aside "trivial" ethical protocols to do real justice. But the fact is that the only way strict enforcement can actually reduce cheating is if it is predictable, reliable, incontrovertible and is recognizable and trustworthy to riders as well as bureaucrats.
There is no way that athletes can trust enforcement and regulatory agencies if those don't abide by their own rules and clean up their own messes. Actions like those of WADA make it substantially more likely that athletes will cheat because it makes the athletes feel more vulnerable than if there were reliable rules and processes for surveillance and testing, however oppressive those might be in themselves.
WADA has essentially created a wild west atmosphere complete with bounty hunters and lynch mobs serving as a proxy judiciary while we all wait for civilization to emerge. If anything goes for the bureaucrats, why not for the athletes? It goes without saying that media thrive in the chaos and become enthusiastic leaders of the mob.
The way to enforce rules is impersonally, predictably and reliably - but who doesn't have an agenda in this situation? Not WADA, not the athletes, not the media, and when it becomes clear to fans that truth isn't the priority at every point in the process, that is when the whole system loses credibility and takes the sport down with it.
Armstrong's letter to IOC #2
Lance said it all, clearly and directly and succinctly. I am glad someone with some clout has said what I have thought for a long time. I hope the IOC has the ethical principles to actually do what needs to be done.
Mr. Pound should resign immediately or be forced out. Mr. Pound has clearly demonstrated his total lack of respect for athlete's rights, for ethical and scientific testing of athlete's samples, or the investigative process. My only thought when I heard Mr. Pound's comment on the report by Emile Vrijman: "The Vrijman report is so lacking in professionalism and objectivity that it borders on farcical" was that Mr. Pound was finally and accurately describing himself in public.
Having read the entire report, I was struck by it's thoroughness and most importantly its emphasis on the ethical and critical procedures that must be in place AND FOLLOWED to protect the athletes. I'm thankful that someone at the top of the sport actually cares and takes that seriously - at least in theory. May it actually be put into practice so that testing results can actually be trusted and the ethical procedures in place to protect an athlete's confidentiality are actually followed.
Mr. Pound we will all accept your resignation immediately and gratefully.
I cannot believe the ridiculous and utterly stupid accusation by this chap, and can only say he doesn't know Landis, and that his worthy results of from pure hard training, and extra work on his weakness, and by having very honest and smart people interpreting his data and training. Its unbelievable what people say when a rider reaches a level of his best, through hard work, maturity, experience, and good team-mates and team.
Defending Landis #2
Wow, Phillip, that's quite a leap. I don't know Floyd Landis, but your assertion that because two of his team mates could be implicated in a possible doping operation combined with a less than stellar performance in a tune up race means he's a possible doper is a jump of epic proportions.
ASO is a business. Maybe if some of the sponsors and teams refused to participate in their events, they would change their nasty ways. Until then, viva la Tour.
Mark Burton proposed an amnesty to encourage cycling's bad behaviour to be brought to the surface. I'd vote for that.
If 90 percent of professional cyclists are doped up it makes not the slightest difference whether Lance Armstrong was amongst the 90 percent or the remaining 10 percent. The probability is the last 10 percent of the Tour de France finishers are where you'd find the small minority of clean riders.
I think that basically only half the 90 percent would take dope if they weren't so pressurised by the various layers higher up the pyramid...you know "we want wins and if you win you get a contract for next year" and "I'm manager because I'm a past winner, and I'm a past winner 'cos I took the best dope"
I have two proposals to cut the doped percentage from 90 percent to 45 percent:
1. An discount tariff, of up to 100 percent on the standard punishment on offer (i.e. you go free) to the first rider in a team to come clean with details of the doping regime in his team. This would have kept Manzano's head high and would have sunk the rest of the Kelme hierarchy, for example.
2. Squads in stage races to be made up of 12 riders... only six to ride on any one day...so one day on, one day off. It would cut the pressure to take recovery drugs.
If you accept that 90 percent of professionals are drugged, it's not too bad. You accept that everything you watch is entertainment. You chuckle at news that entire teams have gone down with dodgy food. You smile as entire teams have better or worse seasons.
Why did no-one ever listen to Philip Gaumont? Why did the peloton tell Christopher Bassons to shut up? Why would a father like Stephen Roche let his son become a professional?
The trouble is that once we have memories, have had the enjoyment of the thrill of a race, be it live or television or video, and have a "winner" logged in our memory, we ourselves don't want that picture to be tainted. At that moment we go into denial.
Once through the hoop and into history, we can only see heroes... the likes of Tommy Simpson and Eddie Merckx. They are safe. We don't mind the accusations. They bounce off. Museeuw nearly made it and only had a trailing foot in the door so he also has fans everywhere.
I took the time to read the UCI’s independent counsel report (all 130 some pages). I will make the assumption that this attorney is “independent” and does not have his own political agenda. If you have not read the report then you probably should refrain from passing on the guilt or innocence of Mr. Armstrong. If you are going to be critical at least do us the courtesy of doing some home work. The Clif notes version of the report goes something like this:
* WADA was instrumental in pressuring the French Lab to connect the dots from the doping control sheets to the riders. They probably had something to do with getting the French newspaper the information they needed.
* The French Lab was using a protocol that is not approved by WADA or anybody else for that matter. They refuse to release the protocol (to the independent investigator) after the fact so no one has the ability to determine if the method they used was valid.
* There is no integrity in the “chain of custody” of the “B” samples. In other words the samples have been sitting around for 6 years with researchers dipping in and out of the inventory conducting tests with no effective inventory control. There is no way to tell if the samples that are Armstrong’s were actually the samples they tested.
* Some research evidence has indicated that if frozen samples are not handled properly they can test for “false” positives in later analysis.
* There were 4 or 5 other riders who also tested positive for EPO, but the French lab refuses to disclose their names (WADA has the names and the UCI does not) because of rider confidentiality issues. Where was Mr. Armstrong’s confidentiality?
* After calling (loudly I might add) for the UCI to independently investigate this matter WADA changed its tune once the UCI appointed independent council began to uncover some dirt (WADA and the French Lab dirt) on this whole process. WADA (and the French Lab) shut off all communication and sharing of information with the independent council. Innocent parties that want to get to the truth don’t do that.
There are numerous other similar instances of unethical behavior (these were just the biggies) by WADA and for that matter even a little by the French Lab. I understand that nothing is ever as it seems and I am not naïve enough to think that some riders are clean all the time. Given the information before me it appears that Lance was right when he called this a “witch hunt”. They (newspapers and WADA) released this information at a time (the EPO test has been available since 2000- why not test the 1999 results then?) when it appeared that their only intent was to smear “Lance Armstrong”
Personally, I don’t know Lance Armstrong. Personally, I don’t care for his public image and would not hold him up to my kids to be a hero. Personally, the work he does in the cancer community I think will be his true legacy in America and for that you must give him all the credit. Most Americans don’t care diddly squat about some little bicycle race they have in France. Most Americans don’t care about France (unless the Euro is weaker than the Dollar and then they are willing to vacation there because it is cheaper than Cancun.).
There are a couple of things that Americans hold dear and that is “Liberty”
and “Justice”. I don’t see any justice for Mr. Armstrong if this independent
investigator's report is accurate. That is a shame. Mr. Armstrong has now been
put in the untenable position of fighting (1) some guys that buy ink by the
barrel (French Newspaper) and (2) City Hall (WADA) . If he is smart (which he
appears to be very capable) he will simply lay low and let this blow over. WADA
will want this to go away since they seem to have culpability in trying to organize
a smear campaign. The French newspaper will spend a couple of months trying
to fan the tabloid flames, but if no one responds’ then the readers will lose
interest and those yahoo’s will look worse than they already do.
WADA is desperately needed, but not under the leadership of a guy like Mr. Pound. Right now he is harming their reputation and will eventually make them an ineffective voice.
Oh, by the way Mr. Armstrong won 5 more tours after they developed a test for EPO. How many races has Iban Mayo won after they developed a test for blood transfusions? Just a thought.
The Armstrong/L'Équipe/WADA/Pound affair #2
I’ll state this again. Doping procedures may have not been followed, but the facts appear to indicate that Armstrong used EPO.
I care whether Armstrong used EPO. The UCI does not. WADA does. I have not read the UCI report myself, but the journalism around it suggests that the report does not touch on the issue of Armstrong’s EPO use at all.
I believe the EPO test used on Armstrong’s samples is the same test used to strip Roberto Heras of his Vuelta title. I have read that it is an improved version of the EPO test specifically developed to address past issues with false positives and possible methodological errors. If I am incorrect, journalists at Cyclingnews will be able to provide the facts on the test.
The heart of the matter is whether you believe the Chatenay-Malabry lab is competent. They have publicly stated that their procedures were rigorous. Of course it is a possibility that they are incompetent or liars. Here is my bias, clearly stated: I believe they are neither incompetent nor liars.
I am not interested in seeing Armstrong penalized, nor can he be, because the correct protocols have not been followed. In the same way that we know Tyler Hamilton is a cheat with a gold medal, we know that Armstrong is a cheat with a Tour victory. As I said before, they are not the only ones.
That is the sad reality of professional cycling.
The Armstrong/L'Équipe/WADA/Pound affair #3
I think the key thing here is that the lab in question were basically range finding and looking for new methodologies, not testing according to approved protocols.
After wading through the Vrijman report you can agree with the recommendation that "taking into account the conclusions drawn in this report as at this stage of the investigation, the UCI is recommended to refrain from any disciplinary action whatsoever regarding those riders alleged to have been responsible for causing one or more alleged Adverse Analytical Findings, on the basis of the confidential reports of the LNDD Recherce EPO TdF 1998 and Recherche EPO TdF 1999, and should inform all of the riders involved that no action will be taken based on the research testing by the LNDD".
You can also agree that, the testing didn't conform to agreed International testing standards, yes it probably was unethical and a breach of confidentiality, but, they did find something interesting in the urine samples of several competitors.
So no matter how much you ingratiate yourself in the legal and ethical subtleties and semantics that Vrijmen has prepared, you have to ask, well what was it and why does it only appear when you are tinkering with a test for rEPO?
I would have more respect for athletes if they just stood up and said "yes we ballsed up, we are only human, we are not the first and we sure as hell wont be the last", instead of sanctimoniously berating all and sundry who err.
And in doing that they would do the sport a huge service by showing just how big the pressure to have to dope is and maybe lead to some sensible rules rather than the mess we seem to have at the moment.
The Armstrong/L'Équipe/WADA/Pound affair #4
I have just caught up with all of the cycling news having been away for a couple of weeks racing, amateur, as I am 68, climbing Mont Ventoux, and watching the Dauphiné Libere. I was so interested in the various reactions to the Vrijman report that I decided to read it myself. It took nearly 4 hours and I just finished. In light of this I have several comments.
1. In order to intelligently comment, one must read the entire report, not just the conclusions or a summary.
2. The entire report is much more damning of WADA, Dick Pound, LNDD (the lab that did the research work on the 1999 urine samples) and Professor De Ceaurritz (its director) than any summary I have read. The gross lack of professionalism and integrity in both what they did and in the aftermath is absolutely outrageous and appalling.
3. Dick Pound MUST be fired!!! Only people with integrity will resign as a result of a severe professional mistake or misjudgment. His comments after the release of the report have made it absolutely clear that he has none.
4. If Pound is not fired, the governments responsible for funding WADA, at least the US as one of their citizens has been most aggrieved by what he has done, should withdraw their support until he is.
5. In order to have any hope of being able to protect themselves against gross abuse of power by WADA, professional athletes need a more dynamic and coherent organization.
I just finished reading the latest WADA response to Vrijman and believe I must have joined Alice “Through the Looking Glass”. They strongly imply without stating outright that because LA has not sued L’Equipe in a French court, he must be guilty. And these are the people with the power to effectively end the career of an athlete.
The Armstrong/L'Équipe/WADA/Pound affair #5
For god's sake, how much time, energy, resources, money, etc. does Mr. Pound and WADA have to expend in this silly nonsense? Spending all this time, energy, resources, money, etc. in the pursuit of one guilty sporting verdict against one man, Mr. Armstrong! How is this possibly going to make the world a better place? What a shame, the time, energy, resources, money, etc. expended by Mr. Pound and WADA would be of much better use feeding the hungry and sick of the world.
The entire Operation Puerto and the reactions of ASO, UCI, and WADA have this looking more like a Senator Joseph McCarthy communist witch hunt then an actual investigation. Riders and people in various capacities within each team are being found Guilty by Association instead of Guilt beyond a Reasonable Doubt as a result of a full investigation complete with affidavits, witnesses, testimony, and burden of proof.
Phonak suspends Botero and Gutierrez because they are seen on surveillance videos entering the building where the crimes took place. Yet no video showing them entering into the office where the crime(s) supposedly occurred. No witnesses or hard evidence linking them to the crimes.
ASO disqualifies Team Communidad Valencia from the TdF even though there is no evidence linking the riders to the crime or doping. They are also considering disqualifying the Würth team just because Manolo Saiz is circumstantially involved.
Okay ASO,UCI, and WADA go ahead and suspend the team personnel who are involved in the investigation. But it is irresponsible to suspended riders or other individuals who are associated with them when no proof exists and the investigation has not been completed.
At the very least WADA should test the riders who are on those teams. UCI should investigate itself for allowing these individuals who were formerly associated with the Kelme scandal to be licensed and be involved in bicycle racing. And the ASO should wait until results of the investigation are released before deciding which riders or teams are disqualified from the TdF.
As far as everyone knows the riders mentioned have all tested negative for doping, EPO, HGH, and anything else WADA can throw at them. Otherwise they would not be racing.
This whole affair resembles the Spanish Inquisition or the American anti-communist hearings where guilt was decided based upon association and not fact.
The only thing that will be accomplished by this method is that riders will have their reputations ruined and not be able to pursue their professions despite any evidence against them.
Spanish doping allegations #2
Come on. Rumour? Speculation? Saiz is caught with bags of blood and over $60,000 Euros and there are people out there thinking he wasn't up to no good. Come on people, open your eyes, Saiz is as guilty as they come. I mean this guy has the biggest mouth normally in professional cycling and yet he hasn't once talked to the press to claim his innocence since this all blew up.
If he was truly innocent and he knew that the authorities didn't already have damning evidence against him, he would right now be screaming bloody murder to every reporter that could stomach sitting across from him. I think that Saiz has already admitted his guilt through his silence in the press.
Just my opinion, but the evidence will no doubt bear me out here. Vino can support the man all he wants but he looks dumb for doing it. I bet Vino is right now thinking why did I go to Liberty in the first place. He should have joined AG2R instead, as they really do seem to have built an up and coming team there.
Pro cycling is a team sport isn't it? That hard and fast fact that the general public has such a difficult time understanding and the savvy fans appreciate so much as they assess the caliber of guns stacked up to propel a Basso, Vino or Landis to the podium has lead me to ask this question: Why aren't the teams punished when one of their riders is nailed for doping?
When we were at the Tour of Flanders in '05 we wanted to see Armstrong and the Disco boys propel George Hincapie to victory. We had prime spots on the cobbled Kapelmurr in Gerardsbergen where the winning attacks often take place. It was all over for Hincapie by that point though as the winning break with Boonen in it came by. Armstrong had tried to chase them down and when he came by he looked as toasted as I've ever seen him.
Being real cycling fans we had to hand it to Boonen's Quick Step team for pulling one over. Well before the Kapelmurr his team mate Marc Lotz launched Tornado Tom across to the break and on to victory. Lotz had done what he was paid to do as a pro on at top ranked team - burn off the competition. I called him "homeboy" since he hailed from my namesake town of Valkenburg in the Netherlands though he lived across the border in Belgium.
Then a couple of weeks later a real shocker hits the cycling press. Belgian police raid Lotz' home and seize his stash of EPO. Before I can get out "Say it ain't so Marc," he admits he's been doping, gets the boot from Quick Step and a two-year suspension from the UCI.
So who are the losers? Lotz - he deserved what he got. Hincapie and the other contenders who couldn't catch his Boonen launch. The fans who thought they were watching a fair competition. And who are the winners? Well, Boonen obviously and Quick Step too. If cycling is a team sport maybe we should see a new rule that if a team member is proved to have doped in a race the whole team is penalized by forfeiting their placings and whatever points they acquired. I'd bet we'd see a lot less doping.
Phil Van Valkenberg
Hincapie's Tour de France stage win wasn't poor sportsmanship, it was smart riding. Pereiro was the climber. There was no way he could beat Hincapie in a sprint. It was Pereiro's job to set a pace on the climb that Hincapie couldn't match. He just wasn't able to do it. If it was so easy to follow Pereiro's wheel, why didn't anyone else do it?
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