News for September 21, 1998

Australian Cycling Problems

Charlie Walsh happy

With the world laughing at the way we run cycling here, Charlie Walsh, the National Track Coach who doesn't seem to have the confidence of several of his riders, told the press after the track racing was over at the Commonwealth Games that he was happy with the performance of his team. Stress his. Non-Commonwealth readers should note that there is a large debate in Australia at present as to whether the Commonwealth Games mean anything anyway. They are essentially a second-rate competition and make Australia look good. The real tests this year have been the World Championships and Australia's track squad did not look very good at all compared to the World's best.

The scandals and dissention that has blown up in the face of cycling officials in Australia will now have to be dealt with. As is usual, the enquiries will probably be done by the very officials that are in question. Talk about the cops investigating police corruption!

The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) conducts it yearly review of sports under its control and it will be interesting to see what happens.

Walsh told Roger Vaughan (AAP journalist) that: "I'm very happy - considering what we came with and the competition we faced, which had certainly stepped up, I was quite happy to walk out of here with what we had done. I'm very proud of the athletes we had and the way they put themselves on the line."

To be fair, the fiercely loyal Walsh said he thought every rider gave it 100 per cent including a major enemy at present Lucy Tyler-Sharman who is now the only Australian athlete ever sent home from a Commonwealth Games.

The figures however say that we have slipped even at this level. It was not the clean sweep that the crowing Australian cycling officials predicted to allay fears that something was wrong in our sport. Compared to the last Games at Victoria, Canada, our performance was slightly inferior.

But is taking legal action...

National coach Charlie Walsh announced that he was taking legal action against Lucy Tyler-Sharman and Darryn Hill, two of our best performed track cyclists. It is believed that he has told the ASC that legal action against them and other sporting federations (presumably the Australian Cycling Federation) could be taken on the basis of exposing coaches to dangerous work situations.

Charlie Walsh was reported in the press as saying: "The Australian Sports Commission is aware, as employers, as are sporting federations, that they have to look at the possibility of legal action from coaches. Because coaches cannot be put in an environment where they are threatened, harassed, abused and sworn at, which is the situation that I have been placed in this year."

An enquiry by the ASC has announced a formal enquiry into the Australian cycling. This is really part of their annual review.program.

And Lucy is unrepentant...

Lucy Tyler-Sharman, World Pursuit Champion arrived back in Perth after being expelled from the Commonwealth Games for her comments about national coach Charlie Walsh in an unrepentant mood. She said the battle has just begun. Her principal claim in KL was that the team management had sabotaged her by forcing her to change pedals just before the semi-final of the 3000m pursuit. In addition, she implied a sickness just before the race may not have been coincidental. People close to the incident have indicated that a lot of abuse flowed the night prior to her expulsion. See Charlie's comments about dangerous work environments above.

On arrival in Perth, Lucy said she was on track for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She read a prepared statement.

"I've had a very stressful week and I'm tired. The issue I have is not with the Commonwealth Games team or the officials. They have in fact been very understanding and helpful. My problems relate to ongoing troubles with my sport, track cycling and its officialdom. I'm proud to return to Australia as world champion and to my knowledge the first female in Australian cycling to do so. It is the realisation of a career-long goal and it is a personal triumph to have succeeded in such trying circumstances. I will now turn my full attention to preparing for the Sydney Olympics. In the interests of my colleagues, friends and team-mates please now focus on their achievements in Kuala Lumpur and let this week belong to them. That is all I have to say tonight."

She then departed from her statement and said that the matter was far from over. Her husband, Graham Sharman had however offered some comments to the press prior to her arrival. He indicated that her performance was down at the Games because of the pressure Lucy was exposed to within the team.

He said: "Psychologically, if your mind's somewhere else you can't go into a race and try to expect to perform at a good level. If you're an artist you wouldn't start painting a painting if you were in a bad mood and you know you'd do it really badly. You don't do it. You wait and do it properly. It's also a mental burden when you know there's problems and you're putting it off and trying to shut up for a couple of days and do a race. The next two days would be hell if she waited to race on Sunday. Priorities and principals and ethics are all you've got and you've got to stand by them, more so than whether the public thinks you should stay or the public thinks you should go."

And the drug claims continue..

The head of drug unit of the UK Sport Council, Michelle Verrocken, has accused the Australian track team of using an illegal growth hormone which is a compound found in colostrum tablets. Charlie Walsh ordered the purchase and use of Colostrum to held his squad overcome the threat of illness which devastated the team during the Perth World Championships in 1997.

It is believed that this decision in part led to the breakdown of the relationship between Charlie Walsh and Lucy Tyler-Sharman. She refused to take the drug which contains Insulin Growth Factor-1, which is on the IOC's banned list.

Verrocken issued a statement which said: "We have to ask whether it is a scientific advance of sport or cheating."

But the Australian medical offical at the Games said she did not know what she was talking about. Brian Sando told the press that she had not done her research. He said: "Colostrum is high in IGF-1 (human growth hormones) but the simple fact is that when it is taken orally in tablet form, the IGF-1 is denatured in the stomach and cannot be absorbed into the body. The only way it can be absorbed is by injection. Colostrum in tablet form is nothing more than a training aid, as vitamins are, and it helps stave off infection."

Tyler-Sharman issued a statement alleging that the Australian team had spent $18,000 of tax-payer's money buying banned human growth hormones.

Team doctor Peter Barnes also denies it is cheating. He told the press: "We would not get involved in administering anything that was dubious. Colostrum is a dairy product, not a drug. It is produced naturally at the moment of birth for babies to suckle before breast milk appears." It seems that the official defence is that IGF-1 is banned, while colostrum is not. But the former is contained in the latter.