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Letters to Cyclingnews - February 2, 2007
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The sanctimonious need to be taken out back
Many media outlets, including yours, have asked over the past several months whether the current furor over allegations of drug use are enough to turn fans off from cycling. I have always answered to the negative. But, recent commentary from sanctimonious sporting directors and race directors alike just about has.
It is bad enough that cycling has become a complete circus, where WADA, the UCI, and the Grand Tour directors are in multiple combinations of stand-offs. But now we have to deal with Pro Tour sporting directors and individual race organizers that decide to take renegade justice into their own hands and expunge teams and riders without substantive proof. Holczer, Madiot, Worre (Tour of Denmark organizer), Rapp (Tour of Germany organizer) and their brethren somehow believe that by targeting "suspicious" teams and riders they are instilling integrity back into cycling, but instead they are devolving it to a new level of chaos and calamity that besmirches the sport. Riis takes it a step further, where he appears to want to show himself to be the victim in the Basso ordeal, when he himself merely played the fool.
By comparison, there was an organization in the 1970s in the US that had drug problems, violence problems, an image problem, and failing finances for owners and team members alike. A new organization was birthed to make changes -- eliminate those problems -- and expand its franchise beyond the US. That was the National Basketball Association. Today, you no longer see the rampant drug problems, fighting, and other highly problematic images that tarred the sport, and the NBA is one of the most highly valued organizations in the world. What I wouldn't give for David Stern to takeover cycling.
The inmates are running the asylum that is our sport. And it has to end.
When Le Monde slammed Oscar Pereiro a couple of weeks ago for "testing positive" after stages 14 and 16 of the 2006 Tour de France, it was strange that nobody wondered how the so-called journalists were privy to the details of the dates and the substance for which the rider was tested.
Apparently, either the LNDD (Laboratoire national de dépistage du dopage) or the AFLD (Agence française de lutte contre le dopage, the French agency that controls the LNDD), simply gave the information to the press. Of course, had the AFLD and the LNDD behaved ethically, Pereiro's test results would have been communicated in confidence to the rider and his team, perhaps in support of a request to supply whatever paperwork was missing in regard to his "therapeutic use exemption". No doubt that would have taken care of the matter.
It is a sad commentary on pro cycling that everyone takes for granted the spectacle of confidential lab data being disclosed to the media in order to tarnish a rider's reputation.
So the French Anti Doping Authority (AFLD) have cleared Oscar Pereiro of doping, because he has documentation. Great news, glad to see it worked. But what we really should question about their statement is: "was among 11 riders cleared. Their names were not released."
Doesn't anyone question how it is that Oscar's name was made public but the other 10 were not? Because his name is the only one that had any weight to it. This whole thing (doping) is just a way to sell newspapers, and if we think it is going away we (cycling fans) are dreaming.
As long as the public continue to buy, and I do mean buy, into this, the newspapers will continue to speculate. They have to make a profit, and advertisers will spend more to be in the newspapers that sell most.
So for simplicity sake, can we ask that all newspapers have a News section and a Speculation section, that way I will spend my time reading about what actually happened, and avoid the rest. Gossip doesn't do anybody any good at any time.
Michel van M
Well, after today's fantastic second place finish by Katie Compton in the World's I'm ready and willing, happy even, to eat my words, and a big helping of crow. Hanka K. did have bad luck, but that's cross.
Congratulations to Jonathan Page for his silver as well!
Why are Ivan, Paco, Jan et al. persecuted like criminals, for over six months, without evidence? Lance side-stepped allegations and still rode the 2005 Tour. The difference was that Patron Lance was the commodity and story that brought the TdF/cycling into the multimillion dollar North American arena. Enough money can calm any swell of turbulent waters.
I believe in consistency: they should all be 'hooked', or held up to the same mirror of denial.
What about the links of Drs. Cecchini and Ferrari (Lance, Levi, Ullrich, Basso, Hamilton, Cancellara, T. Dekker, Cunego, Petacchi, Casagrande, Bartoli, Cipollini, Tafi, P. Richard, R. Soerensen, G. Bugno and B. Riis)?
What about Vino missing a drug-check at the Tour of Spain? Has everyone forgotten about Contador/Valverde's connections to Kelme, Fuentes and Saiz? What about P. Lefevere's recent admission of cheating/doping and his continued acceptance and involvement with the UCI and Quick step?
Where does one stop? The dirty relationships between the current top 50 riders and peripheral players are staggering and embarrassing. In the next few years resentful books will be written by Ivan, Jan, Tyler et al. and then we'll hear the 'truth that is out there'. If and when Landis tells his story, that story will sell like no other.
In reply to Bill Sandoe's letter. I have it on good authority that "Fuzzy" is, in fact, body hair-happy megacelebrity Robin Williams. No, he is not a competitor, but the Tour de France's stature is such that even attending a time trial up Alpe d'Huez is an exhausting ordeal, and certain people choose to unfairly prepare themselves with such products as beer and adrenaline. How dare they!
I think it's time for a more radical strategy in the fight against doping. How about something akin to South Africa's "Truth and Reconciliation Commission", which had the power to grant amnesty for political crimes, fully and truthfully confessed, committed during that country's period of apartheid.
I propose that cycling do like wise. Why not have a period of time, six months or a year, in which anyone currently associated with cycling; riders, coaches, directors, whoever, can come forward and confess their past and current doping crimes and infractions, and in return for their promise to ride fairly from now on, they will be completely forgiven and allowed to continue their careers?
The sport would have much to learn from their stories I'm sure, and could use this knowledge to the advantage of the fight against doping. But right now, there are clearly many still involved in the sport, who have skeletons in their closets and are afraid to come forward and admit past mistakes because there is too much at stake for them selves. Museeuw's case is surely an example.
Maybe this is not the perfect solution to doping and I'm sure others may point out problems with this. But again, the current system to clean up doping is clearly broken. It's time for some new thought on the subject.
RE: Floyd Landis' statement that his high testosterone level was due to alcohol consumption the night before his great ride.
See this source article excerpt from BBC Sports November 14, 2006:
"The Irish Sports Council (ISC) has accepted the Irish Sport Anti-Doping Panel's decision to clear Belfast's Gareth Turnbull of a doping offence.
"The ruling found the athlete's elevated testosterone level from a test 14 months ago 'as a matter of probability' had been 'induced by alcohol'."
I hope this helps Floyd Landis and cycling.
All one can honestly reply to you letter is simply 'grow up'. Are you someone that has never made mistakes? How about we remember Museeuw for the great champion he was and not the disappointment you obviously find him to be. For there will only be one 'Lion of Flanders' and that is Museeuw.
I would like to take this opportunity to comment on Mr. Thompson's letter decrying your winning ways.
Dear Mr. Nys, I would like to see you continue on, season after season, winning every race you are capable of winning. Unlike some others, I believe that in order for racing to mean something, you have to beat the best and not the second best.
In response to Mr. Arsenault's letter regarding the lab not knowing who the sample vial belonged to. If you had taken any time at all to review Landis' defense, you would see that the lab knew exactly whose sample they were testing. One of the many questionable practices in this particular case.
If you don't want to give to the Floyd Fairness Fund, fine. Why are you afraid of Floyd finding out the truth? Then again, folks are known by the company they keep, and since you seem to think Floyd doesn't have the right to a fair hearing, your company includes one Dick Pound.
The Floyd Fairness Fund #2
I couldn't agree more with Mr. Arsenault. The fact that this 'cause' has raised $150,000 is absolutely ridiculous. Imagine what more worthwhile and meaningful things that money could be put towards. And if your argument is that its a good cause because he deserves a fair defense, then why not donate to everyone else who's tested positive or been banned?
What, are there too many? Okay, how about just Phonak riders?
Lets see, that's Jochen Summer, Mathias Buxhofer, Oscar Camenzind, Tyler Hamilton, Santi Perez, Tomas Nose (okay, so he didn't actually test positive, he was just caught with a suitcase full of doping products), Santi Gonazlez (okay, it was just a high hematocrit. Nobody cares about that as long as it's not Marco Pantani, right?), Sascha Urweider, JE Gutierrez (just one of those innocent Puerto guys), Santi Botero (again with the Puerto thing), and Fabrizio Guidi (who's B sample actually came back negative, and was thus cleared of all charges and allowed to race... funny how that works, isn't it?).
So, that's 11 defense funds for one team in five years. That's a lot of cheques you people have written. It's a good thing because those labs really seemed to be out to get that team. At least they all received fair defenses with your contributions.
Everytime I hear Lance/Landis/Hamilton/Basso/etc deny doping, I cringe. Every time I hear Dick Pound accuse someone/anyone of doping, I cringe. Teams signing riders that are under suspicion of doping, riders admitting it after the fact, riders accusing other riders, organizations pointing fingers at other organizations, questioning of lab results and procedures, etc, etc, etc.
Five years ago I knew next to nothing about pro-cycling. Then I got into racing and started eating it all up. Now I find myself watching for the next scandal rather than even looking at results anymore. That's weak.
I think I have had enough. The sport - in a professional sense - is a joke. Debate it all you want but that's what it is right now. Doping, bickering and lawsuits. I challenge anyone to describe it as anything more.
Memo to pro-cycling: from here on, you'll have to carry on without me.
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