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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 3, 2007
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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Part 1: What about
team suspensions?, WADA vigilantes, Vino response, Vino excluded, but why the
whole team?, Unanswered questions, Tour de France doping "scandals", State of
cycling, Spanish ethics and the A.C. joke, Sinkewitz positive, Secondary testing?,
Editorials calling for ending Tour, Rasmussen's location, Quality control and
anti doping, Positively False, McQuaid: not the Godfather of cycling, Less mountain
LeMond, the voice crying out in the desert
Mr. Olsen's letter was profound to say the least! I was enthralled with cycling in the 80's when Mr. LeMond won his first Tour. The world was a better place for cycling then; at least in my mind. I know I was certainly naive; how could any human ride 100 miles daily for 3 wks?
In his re-run interviews during the Tour of California it was additionally profound to here him state that after his hunting accident and subsequent reconditioning up to what he thought was "Tour level", he couldn't believe it when the majority of the peloton ran away from him; that he felt it was at that point when he was certain doping had to be at the heart of it. What a sad, sad conviction of the ProTour Teams even then.
Like all things in this life, if you remove the Money you will remove the temptation and desperation to win. I know I have been heard to say, "If I could earn the living I earn now in Healthcare as a cyclist, I would quite Healthcare tomorrow." But, when you're getting' paid to be a cyclist, it's no longer about the fun of cycling; it's about nothing but being 1st place. That, my fellow cyclists, is the problem!
LeMond competed at a time when there were few of the doping controls today's riders face. LeMond took far fewer tests than any of the riders he now stands up and accuses, Contador, Armstrong, Leipheimer, and so forth. LeMond's only evidence that any of these riders did anything wrong is, as he so constantly states, that no one can cycle at these incredible speeds without doping.
Considering all of this, and considering that LeMond has the second fastest time trial in tour history--only beaten by Zabriskie, and that in an 8KM prologue--what are we to conclude? If newer technology, better nutrition, and more focused training can't improve speeds, why would we believe that aero bars can? Clearly, LeMond must be speaking from his own experience of winning the '89 tour by doping.
Or, perhaps, LeMond rode clean, in which case his entire argument that everyone is doping is completely shattered, and he is revealed as a mean spirited ex-champion who thinks that running other people down will restore his faded glory.
The Tour was great racing even with doping scandals clouding the real drama of the race. The last time trial was unbelievable drama. I thought that Levi was going to take it all. 55km at 53km/h. Is that possible even down hill with a tail wind? That is hauling booty.
It is unfortunate the hardest and, at times, the most beautiful sport in the world is tainted by all the idiots taking dope to enhance their performance. Fortunately, for mere mortals like us, we understand that achievement is better done with pure sweat and tears.
Unfortunately many in the sport search to win for the millions in endorsements and not the love of sport. Yet, the Tour transcends the spectacle of doping and provides a dream for a school age boy like my son or acts as a catalyst for a daydream of a 40+ master racer. To the tour! To the great racing! And to the dreams it provides when we are alone on the bike with the wind in our hair as musings muddle through our heads of winning the sprint on the Champs-Élysées or the climb up the Col d'Aubisque. To the Tour! Greater than any one rider. Greater than any human frailties.
If Vino is indeed guilty, I would expect that both his samples from the Loudonville stage are also positive for blood doping. Given that the half life of red blood cells is on the order of 120 days, one should expect nearly identical results two days apart.
If I were Vino, and I were innocent, I'd take the opportunity to have my blood tested by any willing laboratory (because no sensible person places too much faith in Chatany-Malbry) at whatever cost, and have their results published immediately.
Time is of the essence, Alexander. If you are innocent, and many of us would like to hold out some hope that you are, get yourself tested while this alleged second population of blood cells is still supposed to be in the system.
Standby for a barrage of excuse making from letter writers, journalists and other commentators about Vino, Rasmussen et al. It is clear to me that the lessons of 98 and 2006 and everything in between have not been learnt, not by the teams and riders anyway. When you cheat, the first person to be fooled is yourself because you somehow manage to convince yourself that you're not actually cheating and parts of the media can't seem to appreciate this.
I was appalled to hear Michael Tomalaris (SBS Television Australia) in an interview on ABC (Aust) Radio this morning saying that he understood the pressure that the riders were under to take drugs just to keep up in such a gruelling event and then he went on to say that "the Tour is bigger than this scandal". Now, where have we heard that before? That worn out old cliché got a pretty good airing in the wake of the Festina Affair.
It seems that Michael Tomalaris has morphed from objective sports journalist into cycling drug cheat apologist after 10 years of covering the Tour courtesy of SBS television.
Phil Ligget and his faithful sidekick Paul Sherwin are no better. They just can't seem to bring themselves to unconditional condemnation of the culture of drug use among professional cyclists. They just trot out the "cycling is now at a crossroad and new beginning" line that they used in 1998. Have we done a U-turn and come back to the same crossroads or is it a new one?
For the culture to change there has to be drastic action. The two year bans served by Virenque and Millar clearly haven't been sufficient deterrent. Give the cheats a life ban and make them get a 9 to 5 job like the rest of us, no-one has a "right" to a career as a cyclist.
Give me a break, IOC! If you took that stance in the past, we’d be left with bridge, and maybe tiddlywinks in the Olympics. Has the IOC forgotten weightlifting, or track and field, or snowboarding (OK, weed isn’t a PED, but you get my point).
The image of Ben Johnson carrying our flag around the track in Seoul, and the subsequent fallout over his drug use is a memory most Canadians would rather not have, but we still plunk ourselves down in front of the tube and watch every Olympic Games as though it were the first.
Taking cycling out because it has caught cheaters won’t help our sport or the Olympic Games; it will only serve to punish a sport that is having some success at cleaning up.
Sure I’m angry at these morons for doping up the sport I love, but what peeves me off to no end is the unfair bashing that cycling taking in the world’s media, and a the hands of Dick Pound and Jacques Rogge.
Why not focus on the fact that cycling is finally taking action against PEDs, rather than turning a blind eye, as was the case for so many years. How about Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire and their tarnished records? What about soccer, pro football, basketball and hockey? Stop treating cycling like the sporting world’s scapegoat and give it credit for trying clean up its own house.
LeMond's definition for dopers has apparently become "anybody who climbs as fast as Pantani." Since Pantani doped, anybody who climbs that fast must also be suspected of doping, according to the American's logic ("That's sufficient for the red flag to come up.").
So now performance is an indicator of doping? It's a slippery slope, to be sure.
When Pantani "won" the Tour in 98, he did so with an average speed of 39.983 km/h. When LeMond won in his last year (1990), it was at a speed of 37.5 km/h. That means Pantani was six percent faster, a fact that LeMond has previously attributed to doping.
But does the fact that Greg was more than six percent faster than Stephen Roche (the 1987 winner, averaging 34.98 km/h) suggest anything untoward in LeMond's performance?
The range of Tour de France winning speeds in the 1980s was 34.98 km/h to 38.96 km/h, 4 km/h, or more than 10 percent. This is quite an astonishing performance gain, to say the least. Why does LeMond think his 1980’s era excellence is evidence of clean cycling, while anyone else's excellence is a sign of cheating?
Greg LeMond was one of the reason I started cycling back in the mid eighties. His come-back story was great and among the most thrilling sporting events I have ever seen on TV was his win in the 1989 Tour on Champs Elysees.
I must say I am so tired of hearing from him. Are we really to believe this guy wins the Tour three times in a period when most racing was unregulated and everyone knew doping was rampant?
This guy, somehow, is only relevant when some pro cycling cheat gets caught. How the hell are we supposed to believe that the record holder for the fastest time trial in Tour history, raced clean? He is already accusing Contador of doping based on his ability to haul ass going uphill. Well under those criteria every Tour winner from now on will be, in LeMond's mind, guilty of something.
Greg, for the love of God, please go away and don't ever return. You truly are seem hell bent on destroying cycling. Based on your own arguments you could not possibly have raced clean.
I consider the German TV stations worse than dishonest.
For most cyclists, cycling is a sport or done for recreation and for the majority of TV viewers cycling, in particular the Tour de France is entertainment.
When will the TV stations stop covering rock concerts and the film industry where we get almost reports daily as to the antics of the “stars” in relation to drug taking?
Sure these guys are not on trial for murder, but improper process can be just as devastating to a career as murder when unduly deemed guilty of doping when not.
Due process is very important and protects the rights of those who have the most to lose. Just the issue of improper chain of custody numbers would have thrown out Landis' Stage 17 sample in any other analytical venue except cycling. Talk about lack of due process!
I have never been a supporter of time bonuses on mountain stages of the Tour de France, and this year has confirmed my view on this. Mountain stages already tend to generate big time gaps; there is no need to use an artificial means to widen them further.
This year Contador won stage 14 and was placed third on stage 16 thus gaining 28 seconds in bonuses. Evan however picked up just 8 seconds for his third on stage 9, but no bonus in the time trial as there are none awarded.
Hence in this bonus system Contador gained 20 seconds over Evans and the former's winning margin was just 23 seconds! If Evans' manager had been screaming in his ear during the last kilometres of that final time-trial `you're just 3 seconds away' we would have seen a different result. The Tour de France should be won on real time, not on bonuses.
Professional cycling, by anyone's judgement, is in a bad state at the moment. This state is made much worse by the ravenous media who take delight in reporting any case of doping or suspected doping. Once some cyclist has been named and shamed, he (notice that it's only men who dope, or so we are led to believe) they move onto the next day's target. The media’s appetite is insatiable and it has no regard for due progress: the hacks find out who has doped before the doper himself.
It's this environment that has led to the formation of the absurdly-puritan MPCC (Mouvement pour un cyclisme crédible), whose aims are to reintroduce credibility to cycling. What a blow this burgeoning movement suffered when one of its own riders, Cofidis' Cristian Moreni, tested non-negative for testosterone. This ragged army, made up of seven Tour de France-riding teams (one of them, Agritubel, are not in the ProTour), wants to protect the image of cycling. This, by itself, is admirable. It's not, however, very smart in its methods. It aims to protect the sport's image by placing the health of the riders in danger.
Françoise Des Jeux's Marc Madiot confidently reports no rider from any of the seven teams has a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for corticoid preparations like topical creams for rashes or insect bites, asthma medications, etc. Should a rider need to use one of these medications for whatever reason, they will be placed on "non-active" status for a fortnight. This will place riders in a terrible dilemma: risk their health (or their lives) to stay in a race unmediated or place their livelihood at risk by pulling out of races. This course of action by the gang-of-seven isolates riders further in a sea of risk and temptation, where their every move in the sport is already motivated by end-of-season contract negotiations.
Isn't it enough that punishment for doping is already individualised to the rider and not their supporters? Did anyone else notice the duplicity of Astana's Marc Biver when he fronted the media and sent Vino home like a disgraced child?
The puritan rhetoric of the MPCC is a dangerous development: it recalls the dark times when women were isolated from the community and the church for menstruating.
Let's hope the media doesn't start sniffing around the women's peloton.
Is it possible that the anti-doping authorities might now be making examples of specific riders by rigging positive tests in order to frighten the peloton into giving up doping?
Klöden suggested exactly this yesterday, something I had already wondered about. Yes, I realise plenty of people are suspicious of Klöden and the whole Astana organisation too. But having 100% faith in the testers and none in any of the riders seems just as naive as trusting the riders and being sceptical of the testers.
And what about Rasmussen's undoubted assistance to Contador in gaining time on Evans in the Pyrenees? Although Predictor Lotto seems magnanimous at the moment, and without wishing to take anything away from Contador, the final result surely must be considered a compromise and not a fair one.
Being an engineer, I hate to make judgments on early test results – so this belief extends to the recent positive doping tests in the Tour. Are some of these doping test results false positives or positive due to confounding factors?
Can a riders blood/urine chemistry be affected by sweat, injuries, illnesses, ingesting meat containing growth hormones (EU meat is supposed to be free of these but there have been exceptions), energy food/drinks, fluids poured onto climbers by spectators, sex with someone using banned substances, or breathing in exhaust fumes.
Are drug testing techniques and equipment properly calibrated and do not contain software that could confuse two similar chemicals.
For a start it would be a good practice to send samples simultaneously to two different labs for analysis – probably more expensive (but worth it).
There is another perspective on the current situation with pro cyclists using performance enhancing substances or methods. At the surface, blood doping looks like bad sportsmanship and it truly is.
However, one aspect of this behaviour that has not been discussed much is the fact that EPO and homologous blood transfusions were developed to help people with blood disorders. It is not clear to me how these so-called professionals get access to their performing enhancing method of choice; however, it seems entirely possible that somebody somewhere is being deprived of a life sustaining treatment.
I ride my bike everyday, I have been to see the Tour de France and I have watched my father struggle with leukaemia. His condition required blood transfusions every week as well as shots of EPO so that he could have enough blood cells to live.
Until the blood doping participants demonstrate some transparency and can somehow prove that they are merely cheating at sport I will continue to be outraged. It would be a relief to know that they were only cheaters. To any competitive athlete considering these methods of performance enhancement, please think twice about the ramifications of your decision. To any athlete who has utilized these methods to be competitive please consider giving some of it back by donating some of your blood to a blood bank. You will literally be saving someone's life.
I am responding in regard to David Millar’s stance on drugs- I feel that it is slightly hypocritical to criticize the current drug cheats when he himself was involved in taking banned substances (E.P.O) as well as at the time misleading people by proclaiming himself as the head of a “clean” generation of athletes.
I think he should be quiet and get on with his tarnished career instead of giving his smarmy lying opinions on drug taking, he makes me feel sick. He antagonized again at the Tour start when he proclaimed to all and sundry in the British press that he was the ideal person to represent the sport, as he had fallen from grace and subsequently returned.
Blah, blah, blah, what a horrible thought, he is the most self centred guy out there. I hope to god that all drug takers in the sport past/present/future are given lifetime bans and never involved in the sport again, this includes team managers and ex riders.
David should quit, he looks awful on the bike, I just cannot watch him as it feels so unwholesome, and seeing his blue legs on Wednesday made me laugh though! Was it his Sunday block or was it years of drug abuse taking its toll? He is no icon of cycling to me.
I'd love to believe in David Millar's conversion to riding dope free but I'd really believe it if he had named all the names and revealed everything about all the people that had supplied his drugs, helped administer them, turned a blind eye to his drug taking etc.
I'd have a bit more time for him. Unless we can unravel the networks of suppliers and pushers in cycling we're only ever scratching at the surface of the problem.
Vino could not have done the blood doping on his own. He needed a donor, someone to take the blood, freeze it and store it, transport it to the Tour and re-infuse it. He would also have needed room mates, team mates, soigneurs and officials all to be conspicuously absent whilst all this went on.
We need to attack the infrastructure of doping not just the dopers and when dopers only get two years' suspension it should be in return for uncovering all of that. If they don't tell they should be suspended until they do.
I really think that you should think before attacking a rider such as David Millar and his views on doping in the peloton.
David was a young and impressionable man with quite a fragile character (which he still seems to have) when he was tempted, and subsequently, used doping products. He never tried to hide from the truth, held his hands up (which neither Vino nor Rasmussen will do, mark my words) and served his ban. There were no phantom twins, no conspiracy theories and no long drawn out legal battles, he did the crime and served his time.
If he is outspoken on the subject of doping it is because he knows how it feels to be young and vulnerable, and to have peer pressure to use these products and doesn't want other young riders to have to go through what he did. Dave Brailsford of British Cycling sees this and David has been a friend and a mentor to riders such as Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas as they ride their first Tour De France's.
I think David Millar should be applauded for his attitude and stance against doping. He has risked being ostracised in the peloton for being outspoken, but still chooses to stand up for what he believes in and has shown us that a clean rider can compete in professional cycling.
If you don't like David's personality than fine, that's your (misguided and somewhat blinkered) opinion, but please don't use that against a rider that has the balls to stand up and fight against the blight that damages our sport again and again.
Bring on the cycling revolution. The events of the past few days have been very hard to take, and it looked as though cycling might not have come through it.
However reading some reactions from riders today, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Tom Boonen, bravo! Any rider who is convicted of doping should be kicked out of the sport, end of story. Jerome Pineau says that if Moreni was on his team he would have punched him in the face.
Cycling has a real problem, but the culture is starting to change. The governing bodies need to stop bickering about petty issues, and start coming together to fight a common enemy, before the sport slips away.
Its time to ban riders who cheat their fans, team mates, sponsors, for life. And good move by Astana and Cofidis to abandon the tour, if this was made mandatory, then I think a few idiots would think twice about having 8 team mates hunting them down if they got the team kicked out of a race.
The recent positive tests may turn out to be a good thing for cycling. The perception that they might get away with a bit of testosterone here, or some EPO and a missed drug test there has been changed forever. I can’t wait for the new era of cycling to begin!
People will think I'm biased because I'm Australian, but Cadel was robbed. When a rider who shouldn't have been in the race worked with Contador to put time into Cadel, where is the justice in that? What is the point in having a sporting contest when the best man doesn't get the win?
Cadel rode consistently in every stage (as he did in last year's Tour) without any spurts of improved performance. Given the fact he had little help from his team in the mountains makes his achievement more notable.
When was the last time a rider from a sprinter's team won GC? Without wanting to sound like sour grapes, I thought it was interesting that Tom Boonen nominated Cadel as the clean contender he would like to see win for the future of cycling and Le Tour. Cadel's greatest achievement has been his graciousness in defeat; something that we haven't seen since Miguel Indurain.
Kieran Hewitt’s ‘indictment’ of Johan Bruyneel for being ‘associated’ with cyclists who have doped (or have allegedly doped) and been caught with other teams. First of all, there is absolutely no way Bruyneel has any responsibility for Basso. Disco may have been naïve for signing him, but he gave them every assurance that he was clean, promised to do the DNA test, etc. He absolutely lied to them and they were not pleased with his lack of integrity any more than anyone.
Regarding Landis and Hamilton et al, I hold out hope that Landis was not a willing doper; there are certainly plenty of problems with the testing approach taken on his samples. But even if he did, his performances at the time he was part of US Postal were not of the same class as they were when he left the team.
Hamilton is the same way. If those guys were stage-winners or major challengers, okay. But both left to pursue opportunities that Bruyneel denied them with his Tour de France/Lance-first policy. What benefit would it have been for Bruyneel to deny these guys chances to press for race wins and encourage them to dope at the same time? As frustrated as several of the ‘super domestiques’ have been at Disco (Heras, Landis, etc) at times, one has to believe that Bruyneel would have been setting himself up for exposure or something if he had encouraged his riders to cheat and then frustrated them with lack of opportunity.
I think that the fact that riders like Heras, Leipheimer, Landis, Hamilton, etc have dramatically increased their performance in their post-Disco days would be more of a vindication of Bruyneel than anything, it would show perhaps that these guys left a disciplined stable and then slipped into cheating in an all-out effort to advance careers that they felt were stagnating under Bruyneel.
I agree that doping is bad, but it is this slap-dash rush to judgment by certain journalists and fans (many with their own agendas) and the absolutely disgraceful conduct of officials, laboratories and WADA that has led to the climate that we have today. How can anyone take WADA seriously? How can anyone trust officials to use proper discretion and follow proper protocols when some of them are guilty of leaking information to the press?
Without due process, honest riders are having their careers put in jeopardy. This trial by press and lack of consistency in handling non-negative test results shows just how easy it would be for unsavoury characters on the fringes of the cycling community to falsely malign honest riders and produce ‘evidence’ that they have been cheating. This may not have happened yet, but all it takes is someone having ‘recognized’ you here or have your dog’s nickname on a list there.
There has to be a better way.
I agree, test results should never be leaked. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The leaks always go to the same source, the French newspaper L'Equipe
L'Equipe is the owner of ASO, which is the company that runs the Tour De France. ASO also pays the French lab for all the drug testing they do. In effect, L'Equipe is a very large customer of the French lab.
I'm sure L'Equipe has made it clear that if the lab wants the Money to keep flowing, they had better play along and continue to provide the newspaper with whatever info it request.
It’s a clear conflict of interest, but its never mentioned. The riders must follow the rules, but the people enforcing the rules seem to be free to do whatever they want.
I second this opinion. Just as Rasmussen's lying about his location and indolence are obvious signs of something deeper, the lab's repeated leaks and their own indolence (see the coverage of Floyd's hearing) make it obvious that there's a major agenda there besides providing accurate test results.
How obvious is it that L'Equipe is paying someone off? How far will the lab go to give L'Equipe headline fodder? Just as riders can get sucked into doping gradually, it's a slippery slope to the lab personnel creating test results to suit the agenda of L’Equipe whether explicit or not.
Leaking lab results to the tabloid press before informing anyone else not only voids its credibility, it's just plain trashy. Irrespective of the actual doping, the lab/L'Equipe connection needs to be completely exposed. I bet the results of that would be more explosive than catching Vino.
Then let's go after the people who develop and provide doping and drug technology to athletes.
While it is easy for everyone to recognize Lance and Greg for all their achievements, I just want to point out one of the unsung heroes, and the first pure climber of American cycling, Andy Hampsten. In addition to winning the 1988 Giro, the only American ever to do it (both overall and mountains classifications), Hampsten took many other great wins including stage 14 to Alpe d'Huez at the 1992 Tour (4th overall twice and winner of the young rider classification in 1986). Not to mention the whooping he administered on Suisse soil, 2 time winner of the Tour de Suisse, and winner of the Tour de Romandie.
All this time he has been so quiet. No one in the press seems to give him any props for all he did to advance cycling in America. No one is asking him on the current state of affairs. I would really like to see Andy interviewing the riders at the Tour today.
Well Andy, if you are reading this, you were straight-up inspiring to me when I was a kid and I hope you are doing well. Your ride over the Gavia is, in my mind, still the most courageous thing I have ever seen. If anyone out there has not seen this footage of the 1988 Giro, you are missing out! You won't see anything like it today because they cancel races and run inside when this kind of snow is falling!
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