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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 14, 2006, part 2
Legalising doping #2
I wonder why Henry bothers watching cycling. If it is simply reduced to robots turning around pedals then where is the spectacle, what is the competition (and thus the concept of sport) derived from? The essence of sport is competition between two or more entities (in this case riders) with a special talent coupled with hard work, determination and a commitment to squeeze the absolute best out of themselves. This in-turn provides enjoyment and sometimes inspiration to us poor talentless souls working 9 - 5 living mundane lives. Any sportsperson who simply injects drugs to change their physical ability is cheating all those that use hard work, commitment and dedication to supplement their physical ability. They are not demonstrating any ultimate performance in the pursuit of glory, and are cheating the poor mugs like me who appreciates watching these guys use their natural ability to achieve something well beyond my own capability.
If anyone could inject drugs and run 100m in 9.73 seconds - who would care? There would no longer be sport. And then what would we do?
Legalising doping #3
Why not legalise doping, be it by blood manipulation or by chemical means? Clearly, the tests and/or the testers are flawed, and every new test is seen as a challenge to find new ways of avoiding detection. The rogue doctors make a fortune. Now the riders' lawyers are going to make a tidy lot of money.
The point that everyone's missing is this: The Tour de France is not a sport or a sporting event. It is showbiz! Nobody tells theatre managers or TV producers to forbid the appearance of certain pop stars on their stages or screens, even when there's no secret that these pop stars are on cocaine and (surely?) 'a bad example to their young fans'. Nobody arrests them just as the band plays the first few bars of their music. So why treat the cycling branch of showbiz differently? This year's Tour has raised complaints from fans (read any Forum) and they're right, It's slow. It's boring. The air is so full of suspicion, it won't matter who wins he'll be a dope suspect; and maybe we don't even care who wins now.
These riders are old enough to know they may be risking their health. The Festina Affair, 8 years ago, was supposed to be the watershed event. This current Operation Puerto shows that nothing has changed. Legalise doping & let everyone get on with the spectacle, the circus, the greatest cycling show on earth. And as spectators, let's stop kidding orselves it's sport we're watching.
Wow! I was shocked. I don't surprise easily. I was floored. One of those moments when you read, re-read, check the date (not April Fools Day), pinch yourself, read again, ask a friend to read it for you, check another website to be sure...
Then the Tour starts and I'm mesmerized. The racing is so competitive and so much more interesting. GC, green and mountain jersey. Very tight. So this is what it's like when real humans compete. Those who mourned the boring, inexorable march of the Blue Train to Paris for seven years came to mind. I see their point (although I enjoyed watching Lance's willful refusal to lose and don't believe he doped). I don't miss Ulrich or Basso or Mancebo or Beloki. The race is just so interesting. It's many happy days for cycling fans after just one sad day.
On another website, I saw a picture of the fax to Haven (Tyler's wife). I was furious. I defended Tyler because Dick Pound is the ultimate blowhard. And still Tyler denies it. Like some doctor crafts an invoice to Haven (using her Polish maiden last name, which I'm sure everyone know) and lists a fax number of a hotel in Girona where Tyler lives. Uh, ok. I can explain that... uh, uh. Of course! He never sends it! Puts it in the drawer under "broma" (joke in Spanish). Ha-ha. Right.
And David Millar rides that very same day. At least he's a true man and admits his faults, takes the punishment and then rebuilds. How much easier to cheer a human being that made a mistake (who hasn't?) but strives to overcome it? A man who loves cycling and honestly states how much he missed it (many sad days for him, hundreds in fact).
To cyclingnews: find every original document and source and post it. Your links to the Dutch report on Le Affaire Armstrong and the links to Armstrong's responses are true reporting. Hard work to read but we can actually make up our own mind based on lots of facts (rather than itty bitty factoids). Get a copy of the whole 500 page Guardia Civil report and post it in its original form. Give us as much real, unbiased information as you can.
Thanks to all for loving cycling.
There is absolutely no reason to believe that these professional riders have lost their love for the sport. You could even say that they love it so much that they risk their health. There is a reason that far more than half of the pros in Europe have been diagnosed with "Exercise Induced Asthma". Human bodies are not made to do what we expect these men to do. Breathing as much as they do the pros are tearing apart their lungs bit by bit. I'm sure everyone who has raced to their limit, whatever it happens to be, has experienced the coughs and pains that come with going all out.
I'm not saying that I agree with doping as a good solution to these problems, I'm just saying that above a certain level our expectations as fans can become unreasonable. Don't condemn these riders as bad or evil people. On the other hand leniency with regards to doping is not going to help. I believe that WADA and the various other organizations need to hand out lifetime bans for anyone caught. Then we will see if the riders have a love for the sport. If they keep cheating after rigorous new measures are put in place then go ahead and condemn them.
"Like your old friend David Millar...". Yes, it was good he owned up without proof. But is this really coming clean? If you see one of your workmates committing a burglary do you not report it because he is a workmate? Unless I've missed something I've seen no account from David Millar about how he was recruited into the doping circle, I have heard no names, I have not heard from him how widespread it is. I have not heard him denounce any others who dope. That, it seems to me, would be coming clean.
I don't wish to be mean to David Millar - he is already a step above most of the others. What I don't understand is the apparent relief felt in the remainder of the peleton that the Fuentes affair has broken. This is just the latest in a series of systematised doping organisations. Is is not naive to believe there are not others? As long as cyclists themselves continue to hide the facts that the sport cannot be clean. When a doper gets up in the morning and looks in the mirror and says to himself, "My behaviour is destroying my sport and destroying the lives of young people", then we might be getting somewhere. Why, I wonder, does such an attitude appear so rare?
I'd like to join Gregor Barclay in congratulating Gilberto Simoni on his 3rd Giro win this year. Seems like all the Gibo-haters are eating crow now. Does Simoni have a big mouth? Yes. Is he a sore loser? Yes. But he has also practically owned the Giro for the last 7 years. When a rider like Basso comes along and almost effortlessly beats previous Giro winners like Gibo, Cunego and Savoldelli by 12-20 minutes, something is wrong. It's too bad that the UCI can't go back and strip Basso and Gutierrez of their 1st and 2nd places (and Jan of his Tour de Suisse title as well). Just like Barry Bonds' home run records, Basso's Giro win will always have an asterisk next to it, as far as I'm concerned. And how about poor Koldo Gil, who was set to win the biggest race of his life before Jan cruised to victory in Switzerland? Surely he must feel cheated. I'm all for due process, and if these riders are proven innocent, then I will gladly eat my words and sincerely apologize to all three. But for now, as in the increasingly depressing case against Tyler Hamilton, it appears that the pressure to win at all costs has turned gentlemen and nice guys into a bunch of lying cheaters. Give them all lifetime bans and let riders who win by training hard ride the Tour. I'd love to see Simoni exact some revenge by winning the polka dot jersey or the stage to Alpe d'Huez.
Just a side note, what the hell happened to Levi in the TT? Leipheimer is a very good rider in one week races, and even in 3 week tours, but he always has some sort of meltdown in the Tour. He may finish top 5, but I doubt he'll ever win the Tour.
I was critical of Gilberto, as were others. The issue had to do with Simoni's unsporting comments following the Giro. Simoni has now admitted his allegation that Basso had offered to let him win the stage if he paid Basso money was false. The issue has nothing at all to do with the suspension of Basso. I remain convinced that Gibbo acted in an unsporting manner and he should be sanctioned by the UCI. Perhaps he should try for a position on the Italian soccer team :-)
Basso (and others who are in a similar position) should be afforded the presumption of innocence. He has not been proven, to any standard, to be a liar or a cheat. If he is proven to be a liar or a cheat then your comments might have merit, but until then your comments are premature and libelous.
Ken LaFleur writes that because of a suspicion of doping (no proof positive yet, no sanctions) Ivan Basso is the scoundrel that Simoni claims him to be.
if we go back to that little spat, the issue was whether or not Basso asked Simoni if he wanted to buy the stage win or not. Simoni later crying to the cameras about it.
yet oddly enough, when Simoni went to court to take Basso to task for it, the judge warned Simoni that if he did not have proof of this the court would look harshly on him (Simoni) for wasting the courts time, he recants and throws his handlers to the front with silly statements like " Gilberto is a racer not a diplomat..." and the ever popular "he spoke out of frustration, don't take it out of context..."
don't get me wrong, i admire Simoni's accomplishments, but i also dislike his spoiled child antics to draw attention to himself. let's not forget, this is the guy that was "going to be a threat to Armstrong in the mountains..." and now, Gilberto?
Believe me, I am as big a fan of cycling as anyone out there, but I am not bothered by the "scandal" that is going on right now. I do not believe that they are ruining the purity of the sport. Nor do I believe that they are doing it because of the money and the glory. I believe that they are doing it because they have to do it. I believe that all pro cyclists are doing it. And, fundamentally, I believe that they are doing it because of the demands put upon them by fans, managers and sponsors. Riding the speeds and distances that they do, they have no choice.
We are fans because we believe that they are incredible athletes that move and perform on a plane other than our own, that they are capable of feats beyond what we can do and that they can do it day after day after day. There is no way that they human body can recover from this normally. Therefore, as we demand faster speeds and tour stage after tour stage with challenging, nay brutal climbs what can they do but use every means at their disposal to finish, and to entertain us? In earlier days cyclists used tobacco, then cocaine, then amphetamines. All that has happened is that science has moved on and now they use EPO.
I don't blame them, I blame the system that on one hand tells them "Do not dope," but then effectively puts the needle in their hands and looks away. I just worry about what it is doing to their health and well being.
Shervyn J. von Hoerl
I agree with Nick from Australia, as I began cycling at 16 in Ireland when Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche were the heros of the day. I remember going for a 90 mile spin on a summers day when the sun shone, but with 20 miles left it, it poured rain (we're not blessed with great weather in Ireland), I got one puncture, changed it and got another right down the road. I had to call my father after that as I had ran out of tubes. Dutifully he drove to where I stood dejected at teh side of the road and brought me home. I promptly fixed the tube and went out before dark to finish the 90 miles I had planned though stayed near the house and did two mile loops, ten of them.
This is the essence of cycling, training for ther lovve of it, going beyond pain, through pain and growing in the process. Now twenty two years later I'm fitter than many half my age, race against kids in New York, Mass., Conn. and other places in the U.S. North East on an amature team. My love for cycling has gone beyond the media hype of the Bassos et al.
Back in the late eighties and early nineties, corporate sponsorship of the pro races wasn't very sophisticated and riders joined teams for the love of the sport. But gradually hunger to race was replaced by greed, cheating/doping and satisfying corporate demands. T-Mobile has a budget of 30 million euros! Imagine that.
Anyway, my love for cycling, racing and all that it entails from humid days of 90 degrees F. to freezing days of 7 degrees F. in Central Park, New York City has strengthened and will continue to do so no matter what the dopers do or don't do!
One only needs to look at Greg Lemond's history of verbal disputes and whining to realize how wrong he is. He whined about being cheated out of a Tour victory during Hinault's last win. He whined the next year when he perceived his team reneged on their pledge of support for his first victory. His companies fell into financial ruin when he failed to oversee them properly and he blamed it on his family for cheating him. He ended his career in a state of depression (excuse me, mitochondrial myopathy).
Overall, Lemond's failures in life have always been someone else's flault. Armstrong's triumphs have always been the result of determination, nothing else. Lemond can not understand that. Armstrong's success has to be illegal, Lemond could not fathom such success born on determination alone as Lemond never had that in him.
Greg LeMond #2
It's ironic that Mr.Bernard used the terms "shrill" and "thoughtless" to describe attacks on Greg Lemond. That's exactly what I thought when I first heard Greg Lemond make his (now revealed)baseless arguments against Lance. The insurance arbitration trial transcripts have shown no witnesses or evidence of any kind other than second hand gossip and hear say. Greg and Kathy Lemond had no first hand knowledge and as such should have followed the difficult route of staying above the fray. Maybe Greg Lemond thought people would forget his place in American cycling. Instead most cyclists I know look at Greg as less then a class act who profoundly discouraged us.
Although I feel for Vino, whose can no longer compete in the Tour de France given the decimation of his team, there is a bit of hubris at play here. Last year Vino was a member of the T Mobile team (now lacking Ullrich) who whined, complained and generally misbehaved in his role supporting Jan for T Mobile. Though I am definitely sorry not to see him compete this year, had he behaved less egotistically and stayed with T Mobile, he'd be in the race as their leader right now.
Even if Ullrich had competed again this year, I personally don't think he would've been around for too much longer–Vino might have wanted to wait a bit longer or at least try to sign with a better team. But who would sign him, knowing how poorly he comported himself at T Mobile? The Tour is a team sport, after all.
I'm sorry about the doping scandal but I'm even sorrier about the absolutely horrid fashion that the Tour de France has treated Lance Armstrong, who has brought the sport so much attention (and dollars) in the last years. Unbelievably rude statements by the Tour. I am assuming that this is just ego at work here too–wouldn't it have been better for the Tour if they'd embraced Lance and invited him to participate in some way? Their fascination with the sorry, whining spectacle of Greg Lemond seems so unprofessional to me. And journalists, those of you who love cycling, my advice would be to show way less of Greg Lemond today; let's remember him for his achievements as his personal conduct now and then doesn't bear scrutiny.
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