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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 7, 2006, part 1
Dr Fuentes' comments on Thursday, July 6th ("[Cyclists] are very special sportsmen because they reduce their heart rate by half when resting," he continued. "Their hearts are big, and when they stop cycling their hearts reduce their size to normal within six months, which results in what we call 'sudden death'.") are extremely worrying, if they are translated correctly.
While many endurance sports cause physiological hypertrophy to deal with the increased cardiac output demanded by the exercise (which also decreases the resting heart rate as a consequence), a regression of this hypertrophy does NOT lead to sudden death. It is simple muscle disuse atrophy - if you don't need the big strong pump, it literally shrinks back to normal.
If Dr Fuentes believes that such changes result in sudden death, then he may as well just hand in his licence now (although we know he's not going to have it for much longer). Marathon runners also have similar cardiac hypertrophy - I'm not aware of the "plague" of sudden deaths in those athletes when they stop running.
This would be akin to saying that a weight-lifter who stops lifting weights and loses his biceps muscle mass will suffer muscle cramps or tetany as a result of this normal physiological regression. It's all complete nonsense. Of course, things could be different in Spain.
No this isn't about excusing any lying, cheating cyclists out there, and there seems to be a fair few of them. But, is this latest Spanish doping scandal actually a cycling scandal?
When the brown solids first hit the fan, it was made public then that of some 200 names implicated, about 50 were cyclists. This means that the vast majority of sports' cheats involved are NOT cyclists. Why then is this latest debacle being presented in the media as a cycling scandal, when it's clear that it involves more sports than cycling? It seems that at least tennis, athletics and football are also implicated.
So can anyone tell me why, when most of the sports' people involved in this latest Spanish doping affair are not cyclists, the media and the governing bodies of other sports are being so darned quiet about the involvement of non-cyclists? Why are those cheats who from other sports not being exposed in the media and banned from taking part in their sporting activities?
Other major sporting events going on at the minute include Wimbledon (tennis) and the World Cup (football), so where are the public statements from the authorities running those events about how anyone involved or suspected of being involved in doping will be stopped from taking part in these major sporting events?
The way the media presents this, you'd think it was only cycling where doping is a problem, when the truth appears to be that it's in many a sport.
I feel empty inside. This day has been one of the worst days for cycling in history. Here is a sport that has a great history but still needs the support of the cycling fans. No other sport in history has been so scrutinized than professional cycling. I can think of no other arena where a person or athlete is asked to sacrifice everything they have worked for in life by being judged as guilty before their innocence is proven. It is a shame that that all of the team directors voted to suspend a rider who was under suspicion for doping. I think the ASO, UCI are actually hurting their sport. It appears that everybody is trying to fulfill their own agenda rather than improve the sport. I do not think that anybody in professional cycling is thinking about the fans.
We constantly hear day in and day out about news regarding doping. No true cycling fan supports doping. Who will be suspended next? How many fans will not watch the tour because they were routing for Basso, Ullrich or Mancebo. I know there are other riders who are very capable winning the tour. However when you are a fan, you definitely have your heroes and that is why you watch the sport. Then the eve before the biggest race of the year, their hero is suspended. The fan knows there is no definitive proof of doping, but only suspicion. Why would you want to watch a sport that does that to their fans?
Michael G. Skardasis, MD
I can't help thinking that amidst all of the discussion of who should lead the Discovery Channel team at this year's Tour, the most obvious candidate has been the one least mentioned - Jose Azevedo. This is someone who in 2004 finished fifth on the general classification despite being Lance Armstrong's chief domestique in the mountains. He managed to score tenth in the flat individual time-trial and fourth in the mountain time-trial, and his ride on the Mont Ventoux in this year's Dauphiné Libéré reminded me of just what a solid climber he is. He is a stronger bet than either Hincapie or Savoldelli in the mountains, and clearly has the ability to limit his losses in the time-trials.
Of course, I do think it would be wise for Discovery not to put all of their eggs in any one basket at this point, but I believe that as long as the form is there then Azevedo is their most likely candidate for a high placing on GC.
It doesn't matter what length the stages are. The race needs to slow down not decrease in distance. Quite a few cyclists of all levels have ridden a tour route in 3 weeks but leave early in the morning before the stages start. They seem to manage it and don't have the latest high-tech equipment, masseurs, chefs or any of the other luxuries supplied to a pro team. It is possible !
What's this? Basso ejected from the Tour as well as Ullrich and others?
Surely the greatest Giro victory margin since the dawn of time (OK, maybe not that long) wasn't achieved via doping?
With both Basso and runner-up Jose Enrique Gutierrez on the list of riders implicated in the Fuentes doping scandal and should further investigation prove that Basso's doping checks in the Giro were dubious, the victory would logically be awarded to...
Oh sweet, sweet irony.
By the way, you can't help but feel sorry for Vino, though. With all the riders under suspicion on his team, soon he'll be the only Astana-Würth rider in the Tour 2006 peloton! ;-)
I'd like to be the first to congratulate Gilberto Simoni on his third Giro win in May. It seems now as though his outspoken comments about Basso, much criticised at the time, were actually correct.
It must be the case that the pros and cycling journalists must often suspect that particular riders are doping but nobody ever says so. They just wait to criticise after the rider is caught.
Is everyone reluctant to "spit in the soup" or are they afraid of being sued (we all know how litigious some riders are)? Whatever the reason, it seems that the fans are left in ignorance of their heroes when everyone in the know is aware of the truth.
I for one am beginning to wonder why I should bother to follow pro racing any more.
Remember all the letters slamming Simoni after the Giro? Literally overnight, Simoni has credibility and Basso is a liar and a cheat. I wonder how all those defenders of Basso feel now? Maybe the same as Simoni felt after losing the Giro?
I started riding on the road properly when I was 16 as a way to cross train for Rowing during the 2002 season. Since then the bike has become a all consuming part of my life. Last year rather than buy a car I bought a bike fully decked out with Dura-Ace. As I clipped in and pushed down on the pedal for the first time I couldn’t believe the feeling. I was in love. Now not a day goes by when I don’t get on the internet, pick up a cycling magazine or talk to a friend about what I believe is the greatest sport in the world, I am a bike geek. Cycling had well and truly got me. Last night I went to bed dreaming about me riding in the Tour de France next to my hero and favourite rider Ivan Basso. I woke up and smiled because I was going riding. The bike is the only thing that can make me smile at 6am.
I know my dream of riding the Tour de France is just a dream because what Ivan, Jan and the other riders I read about every day do is incredible. They are so far above my level that what they do seems super human. Then this evening I find out that what they do is truly “unhuman”. My heart has been broken. How dare these riders tarnish the image of this sport because of greed. When they cheat it is purely because they want money and glory and that is not what cycling is about. To me cycling is about freedom, suffering and escape. It has nothing to with glory or money.
I ride because the different feelings it gives me. The freedom of going down hill at 80km/hr, the suffering of going up hill at 10km/hr. During both of these extremes and everything in between I have learnt so much about my limits as a “human being”. I have reached points where I thought I could no longer go on… and then I have found something else and redefined them. This has happened time and time again. I am now struggling to put to words what I feel when I ride. I am so grateful to bike and cycling for giving me these moments in my life. The best way to describe what I feel is love.
Love is something none of the cheats have and I feel sorry for them for not having it. I am sure they became cyclist for the same reason I did. Yet somewhere along the line they lost there love for the sport and found lust for money and glory. The bike offers them no love and can no longer give them the more gratifying things in the sport and that is truly sad. I will still ride and I will still dream about racing in le Tour only now I will train harder so that even if you cheat I will still beat you because I will enjoy the suffering on the way up L’Alpe-D’Huez when all you can think of is the money, the glory and ultimately the guilt.
Even though we're all pissed off, let's take a moment to feel sorry for poor Vinokourov -- who, as of yet, appears to be clean, and who may well have won this Tour had not his team fallen out from under him. Don't they have contingency plans for this sort of thing? Couldn't a few benchwarmers have been brought in?
At any rate, I certainly wouldn't want to be the guy who sabotages the chances of a personal friend of the post-Soviet kleptocracy. If I were Manolo Saiz, I'd keep a close watch on my thumbs these next few months.
Not you Ivan, not now. Not just as your are poised to become the next truly dominating cyclist. Not just as your team, who have trained tirelessly for your benefit, prepares to line up for the world's biggest bicycle race. Not you Ivan, not now.
I have watched your career closely since you turned pro with Fassa Bortolo. A consummate professional, you have developed yourself into one of the world's best conditioned athletes. But now the news arrives that you may have doped? Ivan please, for the sport of cycling, admit now your wrong doing if in fact you doped. Stand up, look the sporting world in the eye, and admit your mistake. Don't allow others to reveal your transgressions. Don't let others undermine your hard earned reputation as a class act. Don't let your family and friends find out what you did from the newspapers.
I rode with you when you came to San Francisco in 2005 for the Grand Prix. We spoke of your future hopes, and what your plans were. Even though your season was coming to an end, you still asked me if you looked fit. You still stated that you had much training to do before a short break over the winter. Riding with you was my greatest moment on a bike. Later that evening, you signed what I believe was your first autograph on American soil. I framed the magazine that you signed, and hung it on my wall to keep me motivated, to remind me of what greatness looks like. Don't let me down Ivan, not now.
If you doped, and can admit it, then at least you can still claim to have your integrity. Your children can still look to their father with pride and affection, knowing that he was honest even in his most difficult moment. Make no mistake about it Ivan, the way you handle this situation will define you for the rest for your life.
Because of your past behavior, I will give you the benefit of the doubt until you have had a chance to defend yourself in court. If however you are guilty, I implore you to take matters into your own hands and clear your conscience before it is too late. Your fans are behind you Ivan, no matter what you did, as long as you can be honest about it. Your team mates have trained tirelessly for you. Your fans cheer you until their voices are hoarse. Bjarne has trained you like you were his son. You owe it to all of them to give them the truth. Bjarne, your team mates, your fans, your family, await your response.
The current media enthusiasm for cycling's darker side smacks of McCarthyism. Are cyclists the only one to admit blame? Why does the Association Football governing body not demand drug tests of those pampered teenagers who run around for 45 minutes before being substituted? Or marathon runners? Extreme sports? Time for some commonsense... as well as a substantial clean-out in ALL sports.
Rob and Jane both make very good points and, as a veteran touring/commuting cyclist who has cycled all over Europe, in North America and Australia, I know where they are coming from.
I believe we are all missing a vital element in the roads' equation by focusing on cars versus bicycles. What about the roads themselves and the people who design, build and manage them?
Aren't they just as guilty as any motorist, for not providing safe infrastructure for ALL road users: pedestrians and cyclists, little old ladies and learner drivers, not to mention school kids trying to cross busy roads?
A couple of decades ago Britain's Cycle Touring Club sued local councils every time a cyclist was injured by one of their lethal 'wheel swallowing' storm water grates. Very quickly every one of those dangerous pieces of infrastructure was replaced with a more cycle-friendly alternative.
In Australia those same 'wheel swallowing' grates are still the rule rather than the exception, even on established cycle routes.
Only when cyclists and pedestrians (well their lawyers actually) start dragging road authorities into court for not providing suitable roads-sealed shoulders, pedestrian over/underpasses near schools, cycle-friendly roundabouts and intersections etc-will we see safer conditions for all.
Even if we could lock up every driver who hit other road users we wouldn't solve our problems entirely. We would simply be creating more victims, some of them innocent victims of lethal infrastructure. Drivers, unless they are pathological, are also deeply traumatised when they injure or kill another person.
What we need is a design solution to Prevent accidents and create a win-win situation for everyone. Once roads are safe for everyone I believe we'll see a massive shift away from cars to more Active Transport.
Sharing the road #2
David Sprawls, I think it is only a hopeful belief that car drivers' attitudes are affected by cyclist following the road rules. There is no evidence that drivers behaviour improves when cyclist follows the road rules strictly, or the converse.
Are all those cyclists who are injured or killed by car drivers not following the road rules?
David gave an example of a driver attempting to hit him as he crossed against a light. Would the driver have done that if David was driving a truck and not a bike? No, it is pure bullying of a smaller road user on the part of car drivers.
I have had cars buzz me in the same way when i was using the bicycle lane. Following the law but still subject to aggressive behaviour by drivers. How is that explained then by this theory that drivers behaviour is effected by cyclist following the road rules?
Road rules have been developed to regulate motor vehicles that are heavy and travel at speeds that give them enormous killing momentum. How do those road rules then apply logically to cycling?
I agree that it is a minority of drivers who are bullies and use the power of their vehicle to intimidate others, but so what? That minority are the problem and their behaviour is not affected by cyclist strictly following road rules. Their behaviour is only affected by enforcement.
Andrew B Duncan
Sharing the road #3
The South Australian "Wheels of Justice" rally was very poignant which grew out of the McGee/Ian Humphrey case, lives on in Wheels of Justice's advocacy now at www.woj.com.au. In addition other worldwide initiatives have grown in recent years to widen the message of cycling advocacy for safety and reduction of deadly incidents between motorists and cyclists.
The International Ride of Silence takes place every year now in May, it is a worldwide day when the memories of those killed whilst riding are brought to public attention and wide media coverage is given.
This year Cyclingnews.com gave great support by mentioning the ROS in its news items.
Over 270 cities across the world held rallies, in Australia we had Sydney, Bendigo, Melbourne and Brisbane with simultaneous rallies on the 20th, a Saturday, and in the day time to ensure safety, visibility and media coverage. This is the closest activity that aligns with your thoughts.
I firmly agree too, with other correspondents on this item re: Jane Higdon, that all road users should be accountable under the law, cyclists and motorists alike. It is for us all to draw others into line, and to support enforcement actions and initiatives by authorities. To learn the hard way of breaking the law, for too many may also mean them losing their own life. It needn't happen, just as actions by some motorists, harassing and then killing cyclists shouldn't happen. We can all do something about it, locally, nationally and internationally.
There are "Ghost Bike" movements across the world now as well, which originated in Seattle and have moved as far south as Tasmania with the recent sad news of the death of Bicycle advocate Tasmanian cyclist Kate Tamayo who died last Sunday, June 26, while riding her bike on Hobart's Eastern Shore. The Ride of Silence (www.rideofsilence.org) has a definite presence and a strong future. I coordinated the 2005 & 2006 Melbourne rides, and with the help of a committed group of fellow advocates we managed to encourage the other three Australian cities to join us this year. 2007 will be bigger, Adelaide has the opportunity to join for several rides, plus Perth, which has organisers ready with media promotion already in train. All cities and towns across the world can have their own Ride of Silence in May 2007.
The opportunity to "capture" incidents is certainly now with us due to technology. And I firmly believe this will become the norm for serious regular cyclists who have to run the gauntlet of some city and country roadways where constant harassment by overzealous drivers is too common. Something akin to "Cops" on TV , with reality capture makes a lot of sense., especially as for many, cycling is solitary and the luxury of a witness to an incident isn't always available to secure a complaint to authorities.
I have had way too many unprovoked incidents directed at me personally by drivers acting with either blind arrogance or plain bloody mindedness. Incidents which have prompted me to report such drivers to the website www.idiotdriver.com.au . This is an initiative I applaud . One which allows a database of ridiculous and illegal activity by road users to be recorded and recalled by authorities in due course. I am sure it is monitored, and repeat offenders alerted to those who can do something about them, the opportunity exists and should be pursued.
On Tuesday, the 4th July, there is a facilitated discussion in Melbourne between peak cycling , road safety and policy development groups from Industry, Government, sporting and grassroots organisations with the agenda to discuss and resolve the process to improve driver/cyclist interaction to reduce the road toll of cyclists and prevent senseless death and injury.
I am fortunate to have an invitation to participate and I hope this, along with other initiatives will assist to produce outcomes that drive a greater perception amongst cyclists and motorists that we can all share the same roadways with respect and awareness of the responsibilities we all have to each other and our future generations of bicycle riders and motorists.
After-all, as human beings, we all breathe the same atmosphere, have mothers and fathers and the will to live and enjoy our lives with our families and friends.
To do this, with the added joy and freedom of riding a bike, is wonderful. Sadly our lost cyclists like Jane Higdon, Amy Gillet, Kate Tamayo and too many others, cannot do that anymore. But we can, and in their memory, we can fight to reduce this senseless toll and ride bicycles to benefit ourselves and our communities.
May we be able to do it in peace, safety and repeatedly.
I am trying to locate a book by JB Wadley called "My Nineteenth Tour de France" printed in about 1974, and I wondered if you could possible ask your members on your Web site or through your magazine.
I would appreciate all the help I can get as I have exhausted all other possibilities.
Many Thanks for your time.
Mrs Morina Bramwell
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