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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 25, 2006
Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.
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The crash of George Hincapie, and the consequence of handing the lead to Stefan Schumacher, demonstrates the sort of problems that can arise in bicycle racing.
I would bet that Stefan would have felt a good deal better if the judges had found some method of awarding the win to George.
But I believe that the judges did the proper thing. It wasn't Stefan's fault that a fan caused him to veer. Neither was it George's fault that he was in the way of the swerve.
Racing sometimes leads to peculiar results and this is one of them. Stefan may have won by judgment but he and everyone else realizes that he lost on principle.
Let's hope he has more chances in the future without some overenthusiastic fan destroying his real chance.
The sport of professional road cycling has been through more mud lately than any cyclocross racer would enjoy. Yesterday the sport suffered another indignity with Stefan Schumacher's hollow victory in the Eneco tour. I am curious to know what Gerolsteiner thinks about the importance of winning over sportsmanship. Schumacher certainly could have slowed his pace or even stopped to check on Hincapie. That might be an unusual precedent for cycling, but such an act of sportsmanship certainly would have been a glorious moment for Schumacher, the sport, and the sponsor. Instead, everyone involved made the motions through a dreary awards ceremony; and cycling, not George Hincapie, lost another Pro Tour race. Shame, nothing but shame.
Schumacher took the risk of going close to the barriers, but Hincapie paid the price. It is difficult to make a rule for such circumstances, but it would have been appropriate to set a precedent. Could Schumacher have complained? I doubt it.
First Hincapie, Gusev and Hoste in Paris-Roubaix; then Landis at the Tour; now Hincapie in Eneco -- all of the bad luck that Armstrong never had in seven years is suddenly being heaped upon the heads of his associates!
I'm not sure I understand the obvious bias in your reporting of this incident. In one of your pictures, the caption describes Hincapie on the ground "after crashing into Schumacher". What? Even if one feels Schumacher's move was justifiable, he crashed into Hincapie, not vice versa.
The author of your article also states that Schumacher "caused the crash through no fault of his own." This is rendering a biased opinion and not reporting the actual events. From what I can see, Schumacher was not put out of control by any contact with the spectator. Furthermore, his swerve to his right was far in excess of what he needed to do to avoid the fans along the barrier (look at your own pictures of his distance from the barriers at the time of the crash). In the heat of a finishing sprint it is true that one only has time to act on instinct, and not careful consideration of one's actions. Still, if those actions disregard the safety and position of other riders, they need to be penalized.
This was a bad decision on the part of the race officials, and your reporting is even worse (which is my opinion, but I'm not a journalist who ideally should be neutral in his reporting).
After seeing the finish of the last stage of the Eneco Tour today, I can't help but feel sorry for poor George Hincapie. The situation was totally out of both George and Stefan Schumacher’ hands. Surely however, in this sort of situation the jury has no other option than to declare the stage ‘null and void’ as far as the GC is concerned?
I don't understand. People are saying, including George, that he was robbed of the win when Schumacher "crashed" him. I think the result is correct and Schumacher should be happy about his win. George should have been in front of Schumacher, ensuring he was in the safest place on the road. He followed wheels and did the minimum needed to win. That led to him crashing. He needs to be a more aggressive rider anyway, in all of his races.
Good job being in the right spot Schumacher!
This has been the darkest season of professional bicycle racing I have eve, it's fans along the barriers trying to slam the riders, as they fly by , towards the finish line.
The finish of the Eneco Tour was a shameful affair. Schumacher should have been disqualified for veering off of his line, within what seemed to be the final 50 meters, and causing the spill of George Hincapie, who then lost the tour because of the spill. How unsatisfying that end result is.
This after Bjarne Riis whined about damage to HIS reputation because of the allegations against Ivan Basso. Bjarne, get a grip on yourself, this ain't about you. Ivan's career is on the line, just as it was about to peak, and all poor Bjarne can do is fret about his own reputation. Well I've got a question for Bjarne: Which direction were you looking while Tyler Hamilton was allegedly loading up on drugs back in 2002-2003 according to reports about Tyler's "Diary". Maybe Bjarne knows more than we suspect, about Tyler's habits. Maybe that's why the parting of ways went so quietly when Tyler left for Phonak, Bjarne was happy to get rid of such a risk. The soap opera is endless!
No, Bicycle racing is not having a good year, by any stretch of the imagination. I think I'll sign off here and ride MY bike, instead of immersing myself any further in the melodrama.
Ralph Michael Emerson
I would like to see anyone who is interested in attempting the hour record have a go, even Bodrogi. Gonchar seemed to be on fire. So, what are you waiting for? We could use a positive boost for our beloved sport. That also means we should have given Sosenka more credit than just a blurb or a side box in cycling magazines. Why not make some new rules to get the ball rolling. How about records for steel and carbon bikes, street/track legal and triathlon legal. Why not include the faired bike records of the IHPVA?
And what would I like to see for next year's Tour? How about a downhill mountain time trial. I also think the winner of a time trial deserves a time bonus. Every other stage winner gets time. Why should climbers, sprinters, and everyone else get time bonuses, but none for the riders who work the hardest for a half-second victory?
It seems a shame that many cycling fans ignore women's racing. Maybe if they had three major races end in disgrace, they would get the attention that they deserve.
The problem with cycling today is the absence of a body that has a complete control of the sport. The UCI, which is supposed to be that body, is a lame duck in relation to ASO and the TdF, the biggest event in cycling. It cannot be denied that ASO is more influential than the UCI.
The AIGCP is also a lost body, if we listen to the words of its president, Patrick Lefevere regarding Floyd Landis. And what about the ACP and Francesco Moser? Not a whimper.
Cycling needs a body like the ones run by Sepp Blatter or F1. Cycling's situation (UCI vs ASO) is similar to the ATP vs Wimbledon a few years ago, when Wimbledon made their own seedings in violation of the ATP seedings. However, tennis woke up and look where tennis is now in terms of popularity!
I would like to draw people's attention to the similarities between these two cases. Both athletes were from religious backgrounds and were found guilty by the media after the discovery of testosterone in urine samples. Modahl was able to prove that the testosterone was produced in the sample before testing by bacteria. It took two years to prove that the problem was not with the athlete but was with the lab. Diane Modahl wrote a book about this called The Diane Modahl Story published by Hodder and Stoughton.
I would like Floyd Landis and his Lawyers to read this fascinating story.
Dr Marker has made some good points, but seems to have missed one glaringly obvious aspect of the case.
If there were some naturally occurring process causing the conversion of exogenous cortisone into testosterone in Floyd Landis, why did the abnormal testosterone levels show up on this one test only?
To me, it seems beyond the bounds of coincidence that a "naturally occurring" process would happen just once, precisely when needed to come back from a tour ending breakdown. Processes associated with disease or bacterial degradation of cortisone would be apparent in previous samples.
Unfortunately, the most logical answer is that there was no outside conspiracy and testosterone from an outside source was administered. My own suspicions are that testosterone patches were used to enhance recovery and someone got the technique wrong. A less likely possibility was that the testosterone was administered to Landis without his knowledge by Phonak team officials. Either way I find it hard to believe that Phonak did not play a role considering the previous history of doping in this team.
To follow on from Paul Marker's comments (and after all he seems eminently qualified to comment) I would like to add that I recently read of a study into failed tests for testosterone done by UK Sport, covering a 5 year period. They found that during this period, in 30 out of 45 positives it subsequently transpired that there was no case to answer. Stripping out the cases involving weight and power lifters, there was no case to answer in 24 out of 28 failures. Seems we should, as Paul says, wait and see before coming to final conclusions.
I too am a scientist and although not working on biomedical research – I do consider the facts. And the fact I would considered in this situation is - if it were possible for gut bacteria or enzymes to change a glucocorticoid to androgen, wouldn't it have done this more than once (Landis was reported to have had 4 tests during the tour with only one showing large T:E differential and therefore drawing the attention of UCI).
Just a thought.
[Submitted in response to/conjunction with Phil Anderson's July 31st reply to - and quote from - me]
I know it's a bit of a delayed response, but I wanted to 'briefly' reply to Phil Anderson's comment, "No Doping Control is Insane", regarding my quote [which of course he takes entirely out of context]. The problem with his statement, that "[T]here is a line drawn on illegal drugs...", is that it is not only completely inaccurate, but epitomizes the 'bandwagon' (lack of) logic which is so prevalent among those who blindly ride the coattails of popular opinion - and who do not engage in original and autonomous critical thinking.
Specifically, he makes an all-too-familiar but no less erroneous association between (and thus conclusion drawn therefrom) "ILLEGAL drugs", as he [mistakenly] refers to them, and PROHIBITED substances. And the distinction, while arguably subtle, is enormous and lies at the crux of the matter. For pretermitting the soundness of limiting the ban [in the context of sports] solely to illegal "drugs", the fact of the matter is that the list or scope of banned substances in cycling [and most if not all other WADA-governed sports] is MUCH broader and encompasses hundreds of perfectly legal - and arguably innocuous - substances. To be sure, illegal drugs/substances comprise only a fraction of the "Banned Substances" list.
Thus, while a rider MIGHT be successful in securing a Therapeutic Use Exemption ("TUE") for certain banned substances, there are no doubt too many situations - such as Landis', in conjunction with his hip condition, for which he receives (otherwise) "banned" cortisone under a TUE - in which an athlete is denied a reasonable TUE request and therefore must either choose not to compete or risk being sanctioned - even when a legitimate medical condition warrants a particular drug/substance's use.
[The existence and use of TUE's is but one example of a fact of which many may be unaware; any rider or other governed sport participant can apply for and receive - ENTIRELY CONFIDENTIALLY - a TUE for ANY substance if certain criteria are met (which are outside the scope of this discussion). Therefore, it is theoretically possible for a rider to obtain, while remaining within the Rules, a TUE for ANY drug or substance, legal or not (one that fits the former category which comes to mind is marijuana; an athlete with glaucoma or cancer could conceivably be granted a TUE for its use)],
And these factors demonstrate just some of the subjectivism and 'slippery slope' issues that obscure and underlie these matters and, in my [humble but at least somewhat informed] opinion, render the utilization of "doping" rules and restrictions [or, more accurately, the testing for use/abuse of same] rather meaningless and inequitable - at least at this juncture/stage of scientific knowledge and pragmatic limitations.
Testing, how it is done, and what it means, has become part of story of sports. However, how much trust would we put in the results of a sports event if part of it was secret?
What if the NFL had secret rules, or relied on non-public information to call a game?
Yet months after a very well publicized test result in cycling, nobody outside of a lab in Europe knows exactly how the carbon isotope ratio test was performed, how reliable it might be, and what could go wrong.
Drug testing may have been started to create a fair, public contest, but it has done so by using secret processes: exactly the real problem the tests were designed to solve.
Fairness is essential, or the public must at least be able to judge for themselves based upon public information if someone cheated or one of the judges made the wrong call.
If we want fairness, that implies that we should be able to judge it for ourselves, not take the word of a judge.
It is a time honoured tradition in sports to question the judges. How have the drug testers escaped this tradition? Its like we have finally found a truly objective group of humans which have no biases and make no mistakes so we have to leave them alone to work in secret. This is not sport, this is not even science, this is a witch hunt.
In regards to Matt Williams' letter about Prof. Franke: he is a well-known anti-doping expert and has been involved in the Ullrich case as soon as it became public. The German authorities have brought him on for his expertise. He has been a warrior against doping for a long time. Unfortunately, the news bits that are being reported about him outside of Germany are incomplete and don't paint a full picture.
I would like a sports medicine and physiology expert to answer this question:
Is it physically possible for a clean Lance Armstrong (or any human) to dominate a doped competitor such as Ullrich or Basso? Is it absolutely necessary to infer that he must have doped?
To Mike Holt regarding his letter of August 11, 2006: What makes you think it is so hard to find a transvestite in Texas?
The cycling community has been totally amateur in its approach to drugs. The riders and team owners are the ones that have to control the health of each cycling professional and that needs a dedicated independent medical team. The medical team should have free rein to test whenever and for whatever they like. Only by stringent pro contracts and a professional approach to the cyclists' health will teams be able to protect themselves against drug takers and riders from false positives.
The cyclist may not have the means early on in their career to really put a history of full test results together but it is in everyone's interest to have the weekly, daily , yearly numbers available to all. Transparency is now the only way. If I was in the pro peloton today I would have all my results available immediately via an independent medical community. This is finally the sad part about Phonak's decision. I believe that the team could have avoided all their problems but lacked the will to install a truly independent professional medical infrastructure and routine.
Ms McBroom contradicts herself in her assessment of Floyd Landis. She says she believes he is innocent -- despite all evidence suggesting his guilt -- because her "instincts" and "gut" tell her so. She then claims she is not naive and had personal experience with the sporting/media world that showed her that "things are not always as they appear".
Since Ms McBroom does not personally know Landis, then, how can she fairly judge him based on the character she perceives only through the media and public filters? Her instincts about Landis are based on the very thing she claims is "not always as it appears". The vast majority of us do not personally know Floyd Landis enough to judge his character, and so we should all stick to the facts and actual evidence...for once. That said, I take even greater exception to her line about "cycling being flawed".
Cycling is not flawed. It is the people involved with cycling that are flawed.
Dear WADA, it’s quite exciting to see Mr. Pound named in a defamation lawsuit. While I'm all for “a level playing field’, the head of your organization deserves to be prosecuted for his behaviour and is ,quite unfortunately, not helping the problem of stopping doping in sports. He IS, in fact, part of the problem and until he steps aside – or decides to keep his giant mouth closed –the organization called WADA will be swimming upstream in a big river.
His contentious attitude and shoot from the hip style only hurt all the world's sporting organizations coming together to fight doping. Funding for WADA - the Dick Pound Agency should be stopped until he removes himself from the spotlight -which he seems to need to feed his insatiable ego..Do something positive –at the very least –find a new spokesperson for the organization.
Craig Antonides, athlete and sports fan
Come on boys. What else can Dick Pound and WADA do? Festina, Pantani, Hamilton, Heras, Landis, Botero, Perez, Basso, Ullrich, Saiz, Pevenage et al. Their excuses are all so laughable, weird, strange, childish, cupid and stupid. The independent labs run by scientists are doing the talking. Pound can only respond in kind to the athletes. And he is not only talking cycling. He's already stated that fully one third of National Hockey League players take some form or other of drugs. Same probably applies to the National Football League, as recently stated by a man who apparently knows something about the matter, Lance Armstrong. And baseball, and athletics, and soccer and whatever.
So just lay off Dick and let him do his job.
Testosterone does not have to be administered by trans-dermal patch or injection. I was prescribed a testosterone cream (aka "the clear") to bring my level to normal. Anything like a massage cream could be spiked with it.
Orval Hart writes: "Who does (Julich) think he is fooling?" Julich was in fact quoted out of context by a cyclingnews.com headline writer. Very unimpressive writing that twists the meaning of Julich's comments. Read the fifth paragraph of the news story in question: "(Julich) said it's a confusing time for all cyclists and athletes, but the athletes must recognise the tests are getting better, and calls for tests that are '100 percent waterproof where there is no second-guessing', 'where no-one is able to cheat anymore'."
I am curious why Floyd does not hire a world respected polygraph expert and have him conduct an examination. If I was Floyd and clean that would be my first response.
A few friends have pointed out to me that my letter (Letters to Cyclingnews - August 11, 2006, part 1), as composed and sent to cyclingnews.com doesn't clearly presume Landis is innocent. That was an error in haste on my part. Given the main point of my letter, that the drug testing procedures and agencies wouldn't stand up to American-style legal proceedings, it would be hypocritical to suggest that Floyd should be presumed guilty at this point. I apologize to your readers, your staff and to the Landis camp for my error.
To be perfectly clear: I have not made up my mind about Floyd's innocence--I meant, but failed, to clearly phrase my letter in manner consistent with my opinion: from what we know, Floyd's test result may be the result of something he did or something someone did to him, with or without his knowledge.
I will be disappointed if it is eventually revealed that Floyd knowingly doped.
I am ALREADY disappointed in the choice forced on riders regarding testosterone: in the absence of routine isotope mass ratio testing, one can either take testosterone/epitestosterone in equal measure, or quietly hope he is not unfairly beaten by those who do.
First there was 1998, then Operacion Puerto in 2006, and, what, a (relatively) few individual busts (Rumsas, Millar etc) and positives in between. Hardly evidence that supports the claim (most notably by Dick Pound) that every rider in the pro peloton is doped. One can surmise the following: either a) the authorities (UCI, WADA, customs, police, IOC, whoever) have not been testing, investigating, raiding and searching with any efficacy, b) the thousands of people that make up the entire pro-cycling world, from high level amateurs, junior development, stagiaires, continental and Pro-tour riders, their doctors, pharmacists, directeurs sportif and soigneurs are successfully eluding any such investigations, or c), most plausibly, it just isn't going on, at least not at a systemic level. To think otherwise is to attribute monumental and systematic incompetence, or to believe in conspiracy theories.
I don't deny that the expertise to elude drug tests is out there, and that, given that in many tests the line between ‘positive’ and negative is a few percentage points, more use of doping goes on than is revealed in positive tests. That is not the same as asserting that the entire sport is bad.
Since 30 June, 53 days ago, I have read numerous press reports which get more exaggerated by each journalist, on the guilt of 58 riders following a police investigation in Spain. This investigation apparently has also implicated other pro cyclists, athletes from tennis, football and athletics who have not been named by the press, yes the press, not national associations!
But you would think only one rider is implicated; Jan Ullrich is being hounded by the media. As far as I can tell from the facts he was removed from the TdF, a decision taken by all the ProTour teams and remains suspended with no charges against him. (One fact not reported very often, he has been tested 11 times this year, in and out of competition and has no positive results.) Ullrich, his lawyers and Swiss Cycling Federation have been waiting for a 'dossier' from the UCI to clarify any charges. The Swiss Federation received the dossier on 14 August but has ruled they cannot use the documents forwarded by the UCI as they are not legally certified and are now asking for the original Spanish report causing a further delay. Ullrich and 57 other riders have been suspended since 30 June with no charges against them, except the speculation of a manic media. Imagine you where in this situation, I don't think you would think this is fair and not very good for your sanity. I ask journalists to do their job, stop speculating and demand the UCI to clarify what the charges are and not leave these riders in this horrendous state of limbo.
If and when the UCI and national federations clear riders I hope the media will be just as quick to accept these decisions as they are to condemn?
The pending court cases will be a lawyers' benefit, but I'm surprised that none of them has questioned events of Friday 30th June when, says Spanish magazine 'Ciclismo a fondo', ProTour teams held a meeting re. the Guardia Civil summary of Operacion Puerto. This fairly long document was in Spanish, of course, and it was read out and rapidly translated by Discovery Channel's d.p.,Johan Bruyneel! Why? Could ASO, UCI and team officials not find a qualified legal translator? In Strasbourg? The city must be awash in translators.
Johan speaks several languages extremely well but, so far as I know, he is not a licensed translator. Fluency in languages does not guarantee a pass in the translator's exams! Now, I don't know how much time Johan was given to study the document, and I'm not saying that he mistranslated (probably not) but that's not the point. The point is that, after the meeting, Basso, Ullrich, Sevilla and Mancebo were sentenced to instant dismissal; their careers and reputations in rags - on the strength of a rapid reading and ad hoc translation! Unless there's a lot more that the press hasn't told us, why does no lawyer denounce this as unjust?
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