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Letters to Cyclingnews - June 30, 2006, part 1
The ASO has missed a golden opportunity to show their race as clean. In the midst of Communidad Valencia trying to re-instate themselves at the Tour, it would have been tremendous if ASO had accepted their re-admittance on the condition that ASO run the back-office for the team, creating a control environment that won't exist on any other Tour team. Imagine the ASO carrying the rider's bags to the hotel, managing the meals, observing the riders 24/7. ASO could have removed all the moments of question for these riders to show that the event is ride-able without additional medical preparation. Sure, there'd still be the chance that a cyclist could roll to the rider's village in the morning and have something handed to them over the fence, or that something is put in a bottle handed up by a spectator, but even these contacts could be limited even if they couldn't be eliminated. It's their race, why not have their own team? This was a chance, missed. The Tour is in part great because of the commitment of the riders and organizers, it would have been great if these two committed groups could have worked together.
The seemingly never-ending maelstrom of accusations and counter-accusations, shocking revelations, and suspensions has nearly destroyed my interest in the sport, especially this year. My enthusiasm for tracking the progress of my numerous 'favorites', whether races or riders (and, no, my favorite riders are not always GC competitors) has waned to the point that I've paid only desultory attention to races that once captivated me.
I do not know where the truth lies. Nonetheless, the flurry of ad hominem arguments are unsavory at best, and the seeming lack of good scientific controls (I'm a biochemist) dismay me. Why would I be interested in admiring someone's amazing feats of athleticism when that person might have 'benefited' from a (bio)chemical advantage? Why would I wish to support a sport in which some encourage practices that might damage the riders' long-term health?
Has cycling reached its nadir? Is an additive-free future possible?
Kafryn W. Lieder, Ph.D.
Doping & fans #2
Time to recalibrate my view of professional cycling. El Pais has the names of 58 riders likely involved with a doping scandal. Some of the best, some of the most trusted, some of the untouchables. Two credible witnesses testify under oath in sealed hearings that the hero of heroes was on it, after a research test had already indicated such. And now everyone's favorite, cuddly perennial almost winner appears in files as the son of... what? Are they all sons of organized crime? The descriptions of the organization are mind-boggling. Centralized blood-cleaning, a steady supply of illegal substances, retainers paid to corrupt doctors, and blood carrying couriers who zigzag across Europe to collect their clients plastic plasma bags.
I think it is time to state the most likely assumption: professional cycling is on dope. It's not a small minority of black sheep who enhance their natural abilities. It's the vast majority of riders. Let's not fool ourselves: this is not the only clinic who provides these kinds of services. Finally, we have an explanation for those bad days, when strong contenders look like they're out for a stroll. When Phil Liggett says "they've given their all..." they have: to the blood bags.
What seems to me the most important lesson from this is that testing does not work. The "professionals" have tools to mask and evade. Contrary to the rules of law, reality says that a rider who tests clean just hasn't been caught. From now on, anyone who proudly announces that they've never failed a test can expect to receive no more than a "job well done".
How deep does the corruption go? How dense is the web of deceit? Can cycling clean itself? Everyone who pounds Pound better wake up. He seems to be on the right track and probably has inside knowledge and many more suspicions he cannot state. Unfortunately, defending a rider once they're accused now seems perilous.
Where to go from here? The paradigm needs to change, but how? Whom can we still trust? Jens Voigt who has been elected the speaker of the rider's union? Is Bjarne Rhijs who runs his team like a military operation trustworthy? Can we believe Johan Bruyneel who guided Armstrong, Heras, Hamilton to victories? Can we lay our hopes on Floyd Landis who in the Dauphine Libere looked like he had just donated to his own Tour supply? Any Spanish rider?
Doping & fans #3
I'm an American who is relatively new to following cycling. In the few years that I've been reading and watching the pro peloton, there has hardly been a day (and certainly not a week) where one or more individual's are accused, convicted or suspended for doping of one sort or another.
Up to a point, you can believe that these are isolated instances, but, no matter how dedicated to the sport, at some point you have to say that individuals who are caught are not the exception but the rule.
For me, I think I've reached that point. I now feel that they are just the tip of the iceberg. The recent Spanish affair involves only one group of doping professional yet the number of implicated riders is reportedly over 50. What about other doctors or labs who are doing this? Do the math, how many riders will start the TDF? What percentage probably have or are using illegal drugs?
Most cyclists and fans just shrug and say: "Its terrible." But do they really care? I don't think so. As long as their favorites win the climbs or sprints it seems to be okay. The international powers that be beat their gums and take actions that seem to satisfy their own egos rather than those that will clean up the sport (if they even want this to happen).
I don't see how any reputable company can sponsor a pro team. At some point their good name is probably going to be associated with a drug criminal.
I believe the riders pay the price even if they don't get caught. Cancer and other illnesses associated with hormone abuse is always a possibility.
Will it change? Probably not. Riders who can't sprint at 40+ mph or climb mountains leaving their compatriots sucking wind aren't very exciting. It's like watching strike-replacement football players drop passes and fumble the ball.
The sport is more likely to die out than make responsible changes.
The excitement built throughout the Spring. The players began to step up, and show their potential First, Landis grabbed three titles as he marched toward preparedness for the Grand Boucle. Then Valverde grabbed a couple of the big Classics in convincing style, followed by Cadel Evans snatching the Tour de Romandie in the closing Time Trial. And then the real stage setter, Ivan Basso trounces all comers in Italy, begging the question, Can he Double with a Tour de France victory. Which was followed shortly by victories for Leipheimer and Ullrich, at Dauphine and the Tour de Suisse respectively, And so the stage was set for a dramatic showdown! But let us take a step back, for just a moment. The Era of Armstrong was a resurrection of sorts for Bicycle racing. From the ashes of the '98 Festina debacle rose the Phoenix of a cancer survivor, who came back from near death, to win the greatest bicycle race on earth. After seven years of Armstrong's dominance, that many had grown to dislike, we return to a familiar place. Instead of reveling in the open, exciting and competitive possibilities. We have suddenly mis-stepped into the quicksand pit of the blood doping underworld, and as the Tour is about to begin, the picture is getting unmercifully darker and darker. It's a shame that revelations, once again, from a newspaper are putting a black mark on the bicycle racing world. Nothing has been proven, riders have not been indicted, yet names are flying all over the place. It goes so far that sources have been quoted as saying that Jan Ullrich may get pulled in for questioning by the police, after on of the stages that finishes on Spanish soil! Wow, that's insane. I hate to say this, But is this a Spanish conspiracy to undermine the Tour de France, while they destroy their own cycling world? All I know is, The Armstrong era was much more appealing than all of the sordid witch-hunting that is consuming the sport now, and almost destroyed it prior to his era. What a shame,, for all involved.
Ralph Michael Emerson
At this rate most of the pros won't be riding the Tour. Everyone seems to be implicated in doping. Who's left to ride? Maybe I have a shot at the GC this year! I'll have to sign up my mom as a super domestic. She's not comfortable with shifting but if I leave her in the low gear she could be a factor in the mountains. I'll have to ask her not to stop at ALL the little churches for a picture.
Tyler Hamilton is guilty of doping. Period. After the latest revelations from "Operacion Puerto," there is no longer any doubt as to whether Hamilton is guilty. The amazing part here is that Tyler seems the least likely athlete to be involved in doping. This is a man who rode tirelessly for years as a domestique for Armstrong. While Lance donned yellow jersey's and reaped promotional opportunities, Hamilton willingly stayed behind the scenes as Lance's number one protector. When he moved over to CSC, Hamilton remained as humble as ever, often riding in support of Laurent Jalabert. When it was his turn to be a leader, he took on the mantle with the utmost humility, never bragging or becoming a disruptive influence to his team. Tyler earned fans worldwide for his toughness on the bike. A broken collarbone in the Giro, and still he pressed on. Time and again, he dug deep to remain a contender when others would have faded.
In the past, I would have thought that this was an example of a man who was extraordinary. Now, I realize that he was only a cheater. No matter what Tyler says going forward, he must be guilty. Faxes to his wife, and seized papers recounting his drug use? How long can this man protest that he is innocent? And as sad as it makes me to say it, Tyler is another example of classless (see Barry Bonds) athletes that will stop at nothing to cheat. As an average cyclist who looks up to these pros, it hurts me to think that one of my idols couldn't perform on his own without assistance. It hurts me to think that someone who seemed so honest and forthcoming is nothing more than a liar, a cheat. Worst of all, I have no idea what to think about the rest of the peloton. I feel betrayed, as if there is no one out there who can be trusted. However, there is one: David Miller. A cheat himself, at least Miller had the strength to admit his wrongdoing. He never failed a blood test, yet found it within himself to stand up like a man and take responsibilities for his actions. I salute him, and will cheer him on July 1 in Strasbourg. As for Tyler, I hope he disappears. If there is a team out there willing to give him a chance, shame on them. He doesn't even have the decency to be honest even in the face of a mounting mountain of evidence. Let him fade away, a footnote in the war against doping. And take away that medal he stole at the Olympics.
Surely if anybody tried to use Viagra to enhance their cycling performance we wouldn't need a blood test to find out who they where. The 'side effects' of such a drug are difficult to hide in cycling shorts.
I think it's time for Greg LeMond to go on a Hunting Trip with Dick Cheney, If you know what I mean! I wonder how no one ever told Greg that saying that so many of us learned when we were mere tykes. The saying sort of went like this: "If you haven't got anything nice to say, SHUT UP"!! I think that's what it was!? And if it wasn't those words exactly, in LeMond's case, those are the words that would be appropriate. Back in the Eighties, when I was a ski racer I had an accident that nearly took my life. And I remember while I was rehabilitating I stuck a picture of LeMond , taken from Sports Illustrated, onto my refrigerator, because he was a role model to me, because of his struggle, and eventual success in regaining his Tour de France winning form after being shot during a hunting trip. Now, he seems to be no more than a bitter, blabber mouth, with no self control, constantly spewing foul things( especially about Lance). He talks to get attention, and it's rarely about anything good. His behaviour is disgraceful, and he ought to be ashamed of his neediness, and the behaviour that results from his desperate need for that attention. His comments can't be proved or disproved, And they do no good for the sport of cycling, on a more general level. It's a sad shame to hear his latest comments about Lance, and it just makes me wonder what's really on his troubled mind. Unfortunately, the media will be there to scrape up every nasty comment he upchucks, But, I for one, could do without his newsflashes, and I'm sure I'm not alone.
Ralph Michael Emerson
Greg Lemond #2
Regarding recent comments by Greg LeMond, what's incredible is that Greg LeMond continues to complain about Lance and try to paint him as a cheat, intimidator, fraud, etc. It's too bad--Greg was a fine champion, just as Lance was. But I think in a few years when we're celebrating new cycling champions we'll look back on the glory days of American cycling and appreciate Lance (not Greg) for his fortitude in the mountains, his focus in the time trials, and his ability to bring a team together to share the glory of numerous Tours won.
We'll remember Greg for his sour grapes attitude when his accomplishments were overshadowed by one of the finest athletes of our generation. Greg was clearly one of the greats, but now all I think of is his whining.
And let's make one thing clear: my feeling is that Lance was a great champion, but I wasn't always hoping he'd win another Tour. Variety is the spice of life, and it's good to know that there will be a different winner and some new drama at this years Tour.
Greg LeMond #3
I wish I could submit a political cartoon to capture the latest embarrassments that LeMond has inflicted on American cycling.
My cartoon would show L'Equipe personified, sitting at the table of a Parisian cafe with Dick Pound. Both would be wearing "I hate Lance" t-shirts. Also wearing this t-shirt is LeMond. LeMond, however, is not depicted as a person -- instead, he a puppet on the hand of L'Equipe, who mouths the words for him: "Lance tried to kill me! And my family!"
Come on, LeMond. In the whole world of sports, I can't think of a more embarrassing example of one athlete showing such resentment at his legacy being surpassed and eclipsed by another athlete's achievement.
Did Merckx or Hinault or Indurain whine when Armstrong broke the record they all shared by winning his sixth Tour? No.
LeMond, your comeback was incredible. But then you got fat and lost the edge -- despite your unconvincing medical claims to the contrary. You subscribed to the Ullrich training philosophy: Gain too much weight in the off season, and then try to round into form at the last possible minute. This worked in the '89 Tour. It barely worked in the '90 Tour. Indurain dusted you at the finish on Luz Ardiden in the '90 Tour, and that signaled the impending end of your reign.
You did not maximize your potential. Period. Lance did. Period.
What gnaws at LeMond is he knows this to be true. He thinks he should have won five or six Tours himself.
LeMond is Iago to Armstrong's Othello: a study in resentment -- though LeMond's pathetic machinations are not nearly as clever or well-articulated as Iago's.
LeMond, I would suggest that you stop your whining before you irrevocably tarnish your image, but too late. My image of LeMond, the Tour champion, has been replaced by that of LeMond, the ungracious sore loser.
At the end of "Othello," Iago's last line is:
"From this time forth I never will speak word."
Would that Lemond would follow suit. Woe is me.
Greg LeMond #4
It must be difficult for someone like Greg LeMond to have been, at best, a side note and, at worst, completely ignored during the golden days (or more appropriately, yellow days) of US media coverage of cycling during the Armstrong years. When Greg was winning bike races, his achievements never quite captured the interest of the American public. When the US media finally started knocking at cycling's door, he had a chance to become an ambassador, with impressive credentials that the public could now appreciate. But ambassadors are discrete, gracious, positive, and humble, and take pains to remain above the fray. Had LeMond shown any of these qualities during the past 8 years, he might not have to rely so much on scandal and innuendo to get attention. The French media are playing him like a fool. Every time he gives them what they want, he further compromises his integrity and class, and once they're gone, they're gone.
Aenesidemus in the 1st Century B.C. opined that truth varies infinitely under circumstances whose relative weight cannot be accurately gauged. He therefore concluded that there is, no absolute knowledge, for every man has different perceptions and arranges and groups his data in methods peculiar to himself; so that the sum total is a quantity with a purely subjective validity. Having said that I firmly believe that the ends don't justify the means and the means must uphold the values of the end. Mr. Pound's apparent predilection for expounding conclusions in the absence of data undermines all he says about truth, justice, purity in sport, WADA, the IOC and UCI.
Ralph G. Hildebrand
I am beginning to see the pattern in the Dick Pound/L'Equipe smear campaign against Lance. Since they were unable to find a positive dope test for Lance during his 7 Tour wins ( with the exception of cortisone for a saddle sore, where he was exonerated), this dynamic duo, with the able assistance of David Walsh (a man who never had a bad word for Sean Kelly, who did test positive for amphetamines), tried to go back to frozen urine specimens from 1999.
When that blew up in their faces, they tried to go back to 1996, with the able assistance of Frankie Andreu and his charming wife Betsy. She claims that she heard Lance admit to taking just about every bad drug you could imagine, while in front of his doctors and a crowd of about 10 people. I'm surprised she didn't add pot belge!
Of course, Frankie swears to this as well. Funny, but I never heard about the great Andreu going on an anti drug crusade in recent years. Seeing how he was on Motorola, I am sure he saw all this drug usage going on. Got any personal usage stories to tell, Frankie? I am sure Toyota/United Pro would love to pick your brain.
The most fascinating part of this is the mention of Greg LeMond taping phone conversations regarding the Oakley rep corroborating this story. Boy, Greg's stock just fell in the toilet on this one. What a bitter person. By the way Greg, what was in that "iron" shot you got during your comeback at the Giro?
After this latest tale dies down, I am sure Pound and L'Equipe will interview Lance's teenage friends, trying to find out if he mainlined Ephedra during his triathlete days. Or better yet, maybe they could get a Cyborg to go back in time and eliminate Lance's bloodline 100 years ago, ala "the Terminator". Whatever it takes to save what's left of Pounds rapidly dwindling career and L'Equipe' journalistic greatness.
This story would be funny if it wasn't so viciously motivated. Lets see some "investigative" journalism regarding Leblanc and Pound. Now that would be fun to read.
Armstrong, L'Équipe, WADA & Pound #2
Mr. Hubbard weighs in again on "facts":
"....but the facts appear to indicate that Armstrong used EPO."
What facts? Just because someone, even someone credible, says something is so, doesn't make it a "fact". Remember Dan Rather? How's his career doing these days? He reported "facts" on US national television. When people started questioning his "facts", he staunchly held his ground and repeatedly stated his "facts" came from a "reliable" (aka "credible") source. He doggedly defended his "facts" right up until his "credible" source admitted that the "facts" had been manipulated and weren't as "factual" as Mr. Rather claimed.
Let's not forget that the lab is a business entity. Being "WADA Certified" is a great asset to them from a business (aka revenue generation) perspective. And so, they are subject to the same pressures that drive professional athletes to dope. They are expected to perform to a prescribed standard, or risk losing their source of income. So when WADA comes knocking and asks them to break the rules "or else" it's no different than a team director knocking on a rider's door and saying "break the rules, or else....". Why do we assume the lab is honorable under these conditions, but the athlete is not?
Just because the lab says EPO was found in Lance's 1999 urine, doesn't mean it is a fact. How did they come to that conclusion? If there was EPO in the sample, how'd it get there? They have yet to disclose the procedures and protocols they used to discover this "fact". I'm not claiming there wasn't EPO in the sample. There very well could be. I'm not claiming Lance didn't dope. He very well could have. Until the lab comes clean regarding the methodology used on these samples, there is no credibility (aka accuracy) to anything they claim to have discovered, and hence, no "facts"
The Vrijman report does not prove Lance's innocence. It does, however, prove that the lab and WADA failed to prove his guilt.
Jon M. Hobbs
Armstrong, L'Équipe, WADA & Pound #
Mr Hubbard is presuming guilt and starting from there with his conclusions. The independent UCI report clearly states a problem with "chain of custody" and other problems pertaining to how these samples were handled over the last 6 years. Any attempt to ascertain the truth in an objective manner would have to include reading the independent report. All 7 Tour wins. Lance's inherent abilities, his Spartan like work ethic and all the testing day and night, at all hours, at all times of the year for years on end. There's nothing except reported here say from people who have an obvious axe to grind. You want to include Carmichael and Bruyneel in this accusation? They would have to be involved.
As for Tyler, we know he lied. It was proven in the most fair and rigorous scientific manner. Time has revealed an even darker drug use history for this cheater. This kind of behavior tends to come out one way or another. It's not just innuendo from people on the periphery.
Mr. North, Lance Armstrong is likely the most drug-tested athlete of all time, and you are suggesting he clear his name "once and for all" by submitting to one more test using a urine sample from 1999, a sample for which, "There may be appropriately stored residue..."? Give me a break.
A call for one more test #2
You got to be kidding. Lets test the residue? Hasn't this guy been following this story? the main problem is it's been handled in an inappropriate manner. Possibly contaminated from the UCI perspective. Definitely contaminated from Lance's viewpoint.
A call for one more test #3
I have the greatest admire for all the professional cyclist in the world, it is clearly the toughest sport in the world. But how can it be possible that we are reading and hearing all about these doping accusations all the time? Is the doping system clearly so far behind, that we can never find the truth about the athletes? I recall Heras crying for innocence, yet he has been linked again to this new huge doping affair. This makes it very hard to believe, that the athletes are clean. I hope they get the tests modified so it would be almost impossible to cheat?!! And for Lance, I really hope that he have not doped, but he has finished his amazing and inspiring career, so please, leave him now alone and think about them whom are still riding.
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