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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 26, 2005
Here's a model for justice that any third world dictatorship could be proud of:
1) Dig up some really old urine samples
Gosh, maybe this segment of the French cycling community should quit its bellyaching and take the recent advice of one of its great former champions: Get out there and train harder! Otherwise, you'll continue to be stomped into the earth at your own event.
I'd like to congratulate you on your story, "L'Equipe doping story opens can of worms." This story answered many of the questions that L'Equipe's story raised, and failed to answer.
A good news article should be informative and avoid leaving holes in the story which only confuse the reader. It seems like L'Equipe is content to confuse readers as long as it possibly sells papers. It's as if they treat their stories like American soap operas, where they have already written the script, encouraging readers to "stay tuned for the next exciting episode where we'll reveal xxx." It's a game to them. Their doing the readers and the world of cycling a disservice. Fans don't want doping. Fans and rider want a constructive solution to the problem. A newspaper has a unique opportunity to be part of a constructive solution. Rather than using their position to help solve the problem, L'Equipe has chosen to use their resources for selfish, vindictive motives.
Your news service and others like Velonews have made an effort to fill in the holes left from these unethical stories, and reveal the real problems in testing protocol. Fans who are interested in the health of the sport appreciate this.
While not even considering the conflict of interest with the lab, newspaper and those involved, the legal/ethical issues of how the information became available, and questions about the validity of six-year-old specimens, I have some questions about the test itself.
1) From what I've seen on this and other sites it's not clear to me if this test is considered a "new" test or not. If it's a new test doesn't it have to be scientifically reviewed by someone other than the developer, then approved by the IOC, UCI and other doping associations before being accepted as a legitimate test? I haven't seen anything that says this has been done. If not then it's a non-test and this issue should be moot.
2) If this is considered a modification of the "approved" EPO test (although I don't see how it could not be with a new review protocol) then serious questions still arise. The EPO test in place was developed, scientifically reviewed, accepted by the various groups (and as beyond any doubt) then recently found to still be inaccurate on occasion. Now we have the "old" test that was found to provide false positives and an unsupported or accepted new protocol and we are supposed to accept findings from it without question?
It seems like there are lots of questions that need answering by those pointing the finger.
Springfield, VA, USA
"Jacques de Ceaurriz, the head of France's anti-doping laboratory, which developed the EPO urine test, told Europe-1 radio that at least 15 urine samples from the 1999 Tour had tested positive for EPO.
Separately, the lab said it could not confirm that the positive results were Armstrong's. It noted that the samples were anonymous, bearing only a six-digit number to identify the rider, and could not be matched with the name of any one cyclist.
However, L'Equipe said it was able to make the match."
Ok, ok, ok, settle down folks! The Lab cannot confirm, now suddenly L'Equipe can make the match; please explain to us how it was that you were able to decide that THIS anonymous sample was Lance's. That's right, you run the drug testing labs don't you? Oh Please! The lab also indicates there were a total of 15 positive samples.
So tomorrow's headline is French rider Benoit Salmon has received the distinction of winning the 1999 Tour de France. Having finished in 16th place, and since we can only deduce that the first 15 riders were the anonymous riders that were found to have tested positive, the French have their first winner since Bernard Hinault.
Haven't we heard enough of innuendos and speculations? When the lab itself says it is anonymous, then that is it! End of story! Anonymous is not another way of spelling Armstrong!
Hard facts, then I listen! Until then...
Michel van M
The allegation by L'Equipe that Armstrong used EPO during the 1999 Tour smells rotten on many levels, but I'll leave it to others to point them out. What strikes me as the foulest side of the story is this: there is absolutely no way now for Armstrong to show any hard evidence that could counter the accusations. The B sample has been destroyed. There is no C sample. There is only Armstrong's pledge that he did nothing wrong.
Now, of course, LeBlanc says Armstrong owes the world an explanation, but if there was no wrongdoing, there is no explanation to give: what more can Armstrong say than "I didn't do it, and I don't know why the test says I did"? And to his doubters, that is as good as an admission of guilt. L'Equipe has committed a perfect journalistic crime: accusing someone of cheating while knowing full well that the evidence that might exonerate him has been destroyed. I'm not sure what the word for that sort of behavior is in English, but in French I believe it's une montagne de merde.
Brooklyn, New York
To begin with, as bad as this may sound, the whole Armstrong "positive" test scenario seems so typically French - "Ah, so he has won, le Tour seven times! We shall bring him down and say he was on the dope!" Right. Now that Lance has retired, time to really tear him down. Maybe there is another motive here. There is a lot of money at stake from the good ol' US dollars brought to France by Americans wanting to see Lance kick some butt. Now that Lance is done, the gravy train could be over. Could it be the French want to really piss Armstrong off so he'll do another Tour? I wonder...
In my mind, if this EPO test was so accurate, where were these results before? Why has this not come out before this years Tour? Armstrong's test results do not really prove anything to me. Instead, it casts more doubt on the testing process as a whole. Questions about the test, those who administer it, etc., could be looked upon as proof that the whole system is as corrupt as the dopers they intend to stop.
Furthermore, WADA's Dick Pound, for one, seems to go too far with his comments on a regular basis about athletes' tests results, acting as though the results are complete proof of guilt. If the tests are shown to be flawed, are all statements by Dick Pound then open to litigation back to 1999? I, for one, would like to see this. Particularly since those who test positive are considered guilty until proven innocent.
Here is a simple question to ask yourself; If you did EPO, would you give your cash to fund test equipment purchase? Maybe, maybe not. But Armstrong sure did.
As reported by the Associated Press, "L'Equipe is owned by the Amaury Group whose subsidiary, Amaury Sport Organization, organises the Tour de France and other sporting events."
Why does no one seem to entertain the thought that a group with such a vested interest in tearing down the achievements of retired cyclist Lance Armstrong would not stoop to tampering? You cannot have unbiased testing, investigating, and reporting unless it is done by someone who does not care one way or the other and also by someone who cannot be "bought."
L'Equipe, and obviously the Amaury Group (note LeBlanc's quick ability to turn on someone in such a public manner), have for years been searching for a way to discredit Lance Armstrong. If this was somehow done to help cycling become clean, that would be one thing, but they clearly despise Mr. Armstrong individually and have not been shy about it either. L'Equipe has waited till the "right" moment when he has retired, and the fickle public is ready and willing for any new scandal to titillate them. It will become a war played out in gossip and mud-slinging.
The combination of cyclists who actually do commit doping offenses, scientists who want to make names for themselves with their questionable methods and tests, and so-called journalists who just want to wield public opinion to fulfill their own vendettas will now make it nearly impossible for Mr. Armstrong to ever prove innocence for every single year of his racing career. What would be the point, even if he could? People just are the way they are - they usually prefer scandal so that they don't have to look at how horrible they are themselves.
Bob Roll of OLN has always said that cycling is the metaphor for life, its ups and downs, struggles, and triumphs. Well, it definitely has brought out the worst in human nature.
Honestly, how can anyone take L'Equipe seriously? They have been on a witch-hunt against Lance, since what, the year 2000? If the results had been released by a governing body, I might actually blink. Secondly, the test for EPO has been around for at least four to five years. Considering that the French judicial system is clearly biased against Lance, I doubt they would wait this long to test samples taken over EIGHT years ago!
Lansdale, PA, USA
Of course since the French cannot even win a small race they must lash out at those who humiliate them and their poor performance. As noted, they say there is "proof" that Lance used EPO in 1999 to win his first Tour, and thus must be a cheat. As we all know Lance had just recovered from a series of massive chemo sessions and as we also know EPO has, and continues to be a valid and essential medication to aid in cancer patients' recovery. Even if there was some form of definitive proof of EPO residue in the urine test (which I doubt anyway) I can't imagine it not being some residual trace.
Orlando, Florida, USA
No doubt the recent news of Armstrong's alleged past doping history will have the letters bin overfull, and for what it's worth, here's my opinion.
Firstly, I know that all these years of his image building might be in the toilet if in fact these suggestions can be proven, and so far this may be the case. If Dick Pound from WADA, a rational and intelligent man, sits up and takes notice, I think he may see something. Obviously he has been watching this for a while. I know there has been an ongoing bun fight between the French media and Armstrong, but are they any worse than the British media and their constant scrutiny and questioning of footballers? I don't think so. Armstrong and his media men have either thundered their denials or threatened legal action, which along with his huge international pull, has generally been enough to put the hounds off. Now he's out of the saddle and a regular bloke, he may have to live up to his past without the mercy he may have had as a pro rider. He will be able to rely somewhat on his American supporters and the companies he is sponsored by, but even from the US I have read letters expressing some doubt of the miracle cure or wondering why Armstrong is so evasive.
If after exhaustive testing, his samples show up positive results, how will he fight it? Will he show that he's human and would do anything to win? It took an incredible amount of guts for Virenque to finally say, yes I did it, he survived and remains a popular figure...and he's not a patch on Armstrong popularity wise. If Armstrong comes clean and admits that he went from basically zero (if one believes his books) to TDF winner in 18 months, using whatever it took, I doubt if it would make a dint in his success story. If he tries to gut it out, he may really wreck that carefully manicured image, and leave a bigger smudge on his legacy, but that is something that he would have to decide once total proof has been established.
Palm Beach, QLD, Australia
In all this activity regarding the L'Equipe article, I am puzzled over a number of issues:
1) Is the new test accurate? Some scientists claim EPO degrades quickly and
can't be measured after being stored
I worked for a number of years at an environmental laboratory, doing PCB analyses from toxic waste sites. Most times I had no knowledge of the samples' source, and many times I witnessed low level contamination in "clean" samples, as a result of cross contamination in the lab. That is why we repeated tests many times over and had strict chain of custody procedures. We didn't want to place blame on a company incorrectly, as that would have major ramifications, both morally and legally. Also, we generally had less than 24 hours to test a sample since degradation of organic compounds can happen very quickly.
In this case, there seems to be no attempt to err on the side of caution. Is Lance that hated by L'Equipe and the ASO? Man, I have to rethink my love for the Tour De France.
Jean-Marie Leblanc says that the UCI would have to decide on whether Armstrong's victories in the past should be downgraded in the event any allegations are found to be true.
Is he, or anyone else in France, pushing to have Virenque's mountain jerseys downgraded as well? If not, why not?
Woodinville, WA, USA
Immediately after L'Equipe's article suggesting that Armstrong is guilty of doping with EPO to win the 1999 Tour, top lab officials question the validity of a test of older samples. The current credibility problems of EPO testing on current samples complicates this matter. But the idea that Lance Armstrong was dragged into the fray of accusation after recent tests of a very old B sample of his urine is an outrage because of the obvious violation of individual rights!
Whatever happened to the rights of the individual athlete? How can it be legal to test Lance's blood after six years have passed? I understand the idea that the testing has to catch up with the new 'do well' cheat who is ahead of governance with designer drugs, etc. but to hold a sample in perpetuity seems extremely unfair. This is not a DNA sample in a forensic case.
To me it seems suspect that WADA and the UCI were all too ready to assure Mr Armstrong, whose name has again been impugned by association, that there would be no sanction. You see the testing was just done as part of an experiment to assert the validity of the test itself...how can this be the basis of a sports news story?
If this test was of the only urine samples left, not to be used to sanction riders, and just for scientific purposes, why wasn't it confidential?
The French would do well to support Lance; who knows where he may end up?
Now that we know about Armstrong's EPO abuse, perhaps we should reconsider Ullrich's place in the cycling pantheon. Perhaps Ullrich, one of the greatest cyclists ever, suffered the grave misfortune of having a cheater steal his rightful glory.
But, on the other hand, I'm sure there will be numerous letters from Lance apologists giving all kinds of reasons why we should disbelieve L'Equipe's expose. None are so blind as those who will not see.
I'm tired of reading naive points of view by candid Americans who believe in miracles and fairy tales, especially in regards to their athletes. The super rich world of professional sports is doped to its teeth and that includes, it goes without saying, cycling. That's the reality. Wake up to it. And with the California BALCO lab scandal that has brought US doping (even in baseball!) into the international news, you would think more people in the States would be more willing to face the facts. Nobody in cynical Europe, for example, thinks that the pros come to fight the wars armed only with water pistols. That would be suicide, to say nothing of how disastrous it would be for the sponsors. Or that champions become such especially these days on bread and water, pane e acqua as they say in Italy, alone. Everything is licit that hasn't been caught. That's the mentality, and anybody in the sporting world that says otherwise is a big fat liar.
The fact that there were allegedly 6 positives makes me very uncomfortable.
To win the 1999 TdF, you absolutely, er, positively, had to excel in the three TTs and the three mountain top finishes. There were no other stages of note for the GC. Of those six, LA won all three TT's and the climb to Sestriere, came in with the lead group on Alpe D'Huez and lost a handful of seconds to Zulle and Virenque on the only Pyrenean mountain top finish at Piau-Engaly.
Either l'Equipe is being far too cute in its 'tabloid journalism', or LA wasn't taking any chances. It smells fishy on whichever side you believe.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Cyclingnews.com should hang its head for associating itself with the hype instead of the story of Armstrong's alleged positive test. The notion that a French newspaper is pursuing Armstrong was reported as "stunning news" by your fine web page. Stunning? Here's another "shocker" for you: Brad and Angelina were recently an item.
Seriously, don't denigrate what you do by hopping on the bandwagon. Call this for what it is by noting (somewhere other than in fine print) that this "news" has a long history that so far has gone nowhere repeatedly and if you want, list all the links to past brough-ha-ha about this c***. I'd much rather read an eight paragraph interview with up-and-coming revelation Saul Raisin than continuing speculative reporting on this side-show of cycling. If somebody really wanted to test aging urine samples to see if the tests might be working on old samples, let's start where there's very likely evidence using (if available) samples from early to mid 1990's "champions."
Regardless of what one believes regarding the latest doping allegations swirling around Lance Armstrong, it is indeed unfortunate that our most recent memory of Armstrong is of him riding with President Bush. The last thing Lance needs at this time is an association with Bush, a public figure dogged with a very real credibility issue over the dubious reasons for going to war in Iraq.
The American honeymoon with Lance Armstrong seems poised to end with L'Equipe's compelling revelation that his 1999 TDF victory may well be marred by banned substance use - a known pet peeve of President Bush.
It is unfortunate timing given the tête à tête these two cyclists had just the day before on a serious matter close to Lance's heart: cancer research funding. While his enthusiasm for the cause is laudable, public health is in need of a believable spokesperson who respects scientific research.
Now that he has retired from cycling, Armstrong is faced with a decision of where to apply his many and undeniable talents. Coming clean with the public and helping his friend, President Bush, in the 'crusade' to clean up professional sports would be a compelling chapter in a fascinating life story.
New York, NY
Following the news that Lance was planning to do a bike ride with President Bush, the photo image on your site of Damiano Cunego posing with Umberto Bossi after the Tre Valli Varesine was very disheartening.
I realize that it's hard for our sports heroes to refuse meeting or posing with powerful political leaders, but to proudly wear the green semi-swastika scarf symbol of a xenophobic organization with racist tendencies, The Lega Nord, as Cunego is doing in this photo (while in the arms of Bossi) is very disturbing. I, for one, will always run in the other direction when I see any political organization that has its followers wear a single color shirt (for Lega...it is green) in fascist paramilitary style.
Is Cunego a supporter of the goals of the Lega Nord: Separation of Italy north of the Po River and the establishment of a new country called "Padania"? Is Lance a supporter of President Bush? Are these two cycling stars being seen as supporters of politicians with questionable goals? What should we, as a cycling community, expect from our heroes...besides winning? Thanks and Grazie mille.
Hein Verbruggen is engaged in an illegal campaign to elect his successor to the presidency of the UCI. Verbruggen uses the UCI to bully and muzzle those he disagrees with, i.e., Sylvia Schenk.
It's high time Verbruggen is treated like the corrupt bully he is. For many years, he's acted out with impunity. One example comes to mind. Verbruggen jumped in Graeme Obree's path during the track worlds in the early 90s because Obree wasn't one of the boys - an unknown who dared to break the hour record.
Now, Verbruggen is trying to silence Sylvia Schenk for her courageous stand against corruption in the UCI presidential election process. UCI even went so far as to issue a libelous press release against Scheck. It's comforting to know that incompetence and arrogance aren't limited to the US White House.
I support Ms. Schenk's attempt to bring transparency and accountability to the UCI, and I admire her courage.
Just want to say thanks to Cyclingnews and John Lieswyn for his fantastic diary entries. Lots of race details and information about John's ideas outside the cycling realm made his entries a pleasure to read, and a break from the usual form letters of many pro diaries.
Thanks for giving so much to cycling, John, and for letting your fans in on your thoughts. Best wishes to you on your next chapter!
Congratulations on your career and your fabulous ability to write. You would be staggered by the number of people for whom your diary entries are one of the clear highlights of the fabulous institution that is Cyclingnews. I'm sure that once you've shut the door on your cycling career (which, for what it's worth, if it is going to be shut in my view should be shut firmly) a guy with your physical and intellectual abilities will find opportunities the existence of which had never occurred to you.
My name is Michael Ward. I live in Los Angeles. I am a friend and somewhat regular training partner of Lance Armstrong.
I just wanted to thank you for Tim Maloney's "Can Of Worms" article. It was very thorough, scientific, and non-biased. I appreciate reading something so informative when a story like this is breaking.
It amazes me that people forget what Armstrong has done for the world. Cyclists, cancer patients, parents, children - so many have benefited from what he has given to the world. Sadly, it doesn't amaze me that some pathetic group of French journalists wants to take him down.
Thanks again for the level-headed and very readable article.
Thank you, as always, for the great coverage of all things cycling. I'm hooked.
Concerning recent events and the Armstrong "Scandal": Amidst all of the accusations, allegations, speculation, and controversy taking place behind the scenes right now, I believe only one thing can be stated with certainty.
Dan Rather found a job at L'Equipe.
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