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Letters to Cyclingnews - November 4, 2005
Maybe what we heard from the Tour organisers was that a successful business arrangement has come to an end. Armstrong stepped in as the saviour of a badly bruised Tour after the Festina scandal with his touching comeback story. For seven years it made them both rich and famous.
Maybe the Tour organiser has known a lot about Armstrong's victories and the way they've been achieved, but they decide to look the other way since it would be disastrous for them both. Armstrong became such a strong icon in cycling that no one, not even the UCI would have dared to challenge (although they were the ones giving out his test sheets in the end) him even if they had the facts.
Now that Armstrong has stepped down there's no need to honour any silent agreement - instead it's time to be honest. And really, after Festina do we really believe in miracles?
I'm utterly sick of hearing about how Lance, and by extension the USA, is being persecuted. I'm sure he (and America) is doing fine these days, and is not suffering a lack of recognition for his Tour greatness.
Anyway, it's debatable as to whether Lance is the greatest ever cyclist, and that if he was, this would somehow piss off the French directors. Eddy Merckx, though he didn't win seven Tours, won 476 professional races in 13 seasons, five Tours, and took six of the other Grand Tours (Italy and Spain), neither of which Armstrong has won.
In this case, the 70's would also have been a "bad chapter" for the Tour to get past. They weren't pissed off at Indurain, either. If anyone was to reread the comments by the Tour directors in an objective manner (see this part of Cyclingnews' 2006 Tour de France coverage), it's debatable as to whether it's more an anti-Lance comment than a general comment about how drugs have plagued the Tour. In fact, I find the directors' comments rather naive in assuming that the press problem with drugs has passed. Who wants to bet that this is going to pop up sometime soon, i.e. in July 2006?
Does this mean that the directors will then be anti-Italian if they slight the victories of Basso? (CSC has also been subject to steroid allegations.) Hats off, in any case, to the directors for wanting to start afresh. Let's get out of Lance mode. The Tour is now open, and it's not just about him.
Furthermore, there is always implied in this debate a nauseating 'anti-Frenchness' - especially in comments such as Bruyneel's, that the US had four riders in the top 10 and the French only four in the top 100. It's as if those immoral, cowardly and stinky Frenchmen were trying to get back at Lance for winning seven times. Not only would this be childish, but it is just as childish to function within its logic by reacting as if this was an attack on America's greatness by some jealous Frenchmen, as many articles and letters to Cyclingnews seem to be doing.
Emile de Rosnay
PS I'm part-French. Does that make me a cowardly hater of American greatness?
I agree with the writer of this letter, Lance's biggest battle was not with the riders around him, not even with cancer itself!, but it has been with all of those who have questioned his ability due to the obvious fact that they do not like him as a person, an athlete and an American. LeBlanc's comments were totally biased and unprofessional.
What an embarrassment for this organisation! So much for being neutral, professional and most important FAIR to all of the riders! Being that the Tour de France is an international event, why is such a biased person in charge of this event?
I for one am glad that Lance will not be riding anymore in the Tour, and thus being subject to such vicious attacks without proofs. Although it may sound a bit harsh, I would love to see Americans boycotting this event. Perhaps once the French realise how much money American tourists bring to their event, our athletes will gain some respect and the recognition they deserve!
Here in France we get to see not only the tour on TV but, while the race is running, a daily history of the tour. 'Tour de France' in the minds of Anglo-Saxons is about the glory of man's effort to win a grand prize. However, from the start the tour was part of a battle to win readers in two competing sports newspapers. One of these newspapers was l'Equipe - which still owns the tour. (Yes, for those of you that don't know, Le Tour is a business first, sporting event second). Le Tour was L'Equipe's weapon in this war which it won. So, not only was skulduggery in there from the start, it was the very reason for the Tour's existence.
Aside from the Tour management choosing people to be whiter than white (Prudhomme) while doing black deeds, a section of French society goes along with this farce. Laurent Jalabert and Bernard Thevenet are French Television's 'honest John' front men. Laurent organised a cyclists strike to defend Virenque and the Festina team, who were a bunch of crooks. He has never gone back on this position. Bernard never mentions the dirty deeds of his day (BTW, how did he get dropped in the mountains and come back to Merckx to win a tour?)
It is, in a way, reassuring that the image of the Tour is bigger than the people who manage it.
Just a last little tidbit to show how small minded these guys are. The Women's 'Tour de France' was taken to court for calling it that. They were banned not only from using that name but from using the term 'maillot jaune'. How the hell can le Tour own an everyday term such as 'yellow shirt'?
Leblanc and Co. at ASO who run the Tour and the paper that "exposed" Lance Armstrong's alleged doping have dispelled forever the notion of fair sport. It is obvious now that they were all out to get rid of Armstrong by whatever means they could. Denying his contribution to the tour shows a bitterness beyond belief. By running the tour and several other races and being hand-in-glove with the L'Equipe newspaper, it's obvious that fairness and impartiality towards non-French athletes does not exist. It's time for all of the major teams to look closely at whether they really want to be part of the tour again. How refreshing it would be if the main contenders gave next year's tour a miss and concentrated on the Pro Tour instead. What would LeBlanc and company do then?
I'm afraid that my interest in Le Tour has dropped to an all time low - and I have been following it for decades; long before Lance came along. The tour organisers have shown their true colours - they are bitter, frustrated and sad individuals who only want French winners. Well, let only French teams and riders take part and watch the revenue from advertisers and TV companies drain away.
Those of us who live in the UK have known about this French trait for years so we should not really be surprised by this turn of events. If nothing else the actions of the ASO has convinced me (not that I needed convincing) that the recent allegations against Lance Armstrong were completely without foundation. At least ASO have managed to prove Lance innocent now and themselves highly suspect.
I agree with LeBlanc and the ASO about turning the page on a very long chapter of the TdF. The last chapter I watched fervently. In the next chapter I'll pay scant attention. The incessant politicking and self-aggrandising of the race organisers simply leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I watched it for entertainment - but now it seems almost as politically charged as abortion or theory of evolution.
Long live the Giro and Vuelta! I'd love to see Discovery Channel aim its guns at these two races and ignore the TdF altogether. Perhaps other top pro teams would follow suit and reduce the significance of the TdF in cycling world.
The Tour de France organisation wounded itself this last week with the snubbing of Lance Armstrong. The ASO has demonstrated that, while the TdF has become one of the premier international sporting events (thanks in part to Mr Armstrong), its organisers are still provincial in their beliefs and petty in their methods. Such an outdated and limited view of their grand event can only serve to diminish the Tour's status in the years to come. Like him or not, Lance Armstrong's presence brought millions of additional euros to the TdF. His compelling story and consecutive victories elevated the Tour, bringing a new level of exposure and awareness for the event itself and its many sponsors. Americans have money to spend and more of it than ever was flowing to the TdF. ASO's Eurocentric attitude will cost them money as fewer people pay attention to the TdF. Some of this is inevitable because of LA's departure. But the ASO has hastened this decline with their snub. Some might say that biting the hand that feeds you demonstrates a singular lack of intelligence.
One irony to be observed: many within the TdF organisation decry the 'American style' and everything that goes with it. I opine that this is the foundation for the anti-Lance movement within the ASO. However, the ASO this week demonstrated a most American of traits. Total capitulation to its corporate parent E.P.A. in order to promote the sales of one of its own newspapers is a most American tactic. Bravo...The Fox News Network would be proud!
The Tour de France snubbing Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel in a bunch because Discovery didn't get props, Tyler Hamilton's "phantom twin", and private documents leaked to the press... it goes on and on. Pro cycling has become the TV car chase report. Sensationalism and gossip-mongers have fully taken over this sport. Here's a news flash: Boring! Do you think it's just me?
If I were a sponsor, I would not put my name on a jersey and I love watching Pro cycling! The sport is fantastic but it's overrun by the gossip train, which in turn makes the sport look laughable.
There is so much written about doping, the average cycling fan can qualify as a PhD now. The amateur and weekend warriors now even think about doping as a viable boost. Can you tell me things are not askew?
A bunch of little mice fighting over a piece of cheese - that's what it looks like outside the rat cage. Can cycling get back to focusing on the steak instead of the peas? Maybe they need to clean house, maybe sponsors should pull out and regroup...whatever it is, the status quo ain't cutting it.
Bored of watching the bickering
What I find interesting regarding EPO are the many details.
1. EPO is a standard safe medicine, when used correctly, administered daily within the medical community. It is given prior to surgery to boost red blood cells (erythrocyte) blood concentrations. It is given to anaemic patients and cancer recovery patients. Blood doping is also used, taking then returning a patient's own blood.
2. Cyclists are allowed to live in Boulder, Colorado; sleep in hyperbaric tents; train at high altitude; all activities of which increase the erythrocyte concentrations of the blood.
3. The measure of the blood erythrocyte concentration, whether totally natural, high altitude induced, or medicinally elevated, is the hematocrit level. (normal values are 40.7-50.3% for males and 36.1-44.3% for females).
4. The Masters Nationals held at Park City, Ut, USA were a dramatic example of the disparities. Top caliber athletes from sea level (Seattle) were blown away by Colorado based competitors.
5. With all of the various methods available (mostly somewhat artificial),
why not base illegality strictly on the hematocrit level. All athletes, regardless
of their locale or wealth would be able to compete at a standard blood erythrocyte
level. There are recognised standards of safe hematocrit levels. We're already
doing the screening. Examples of this testing are Marco Pantani and Genevieve
John H McKain
Bellevue, WA, USA
What a stupid letter, which obviously demonstrates the writer's ignorance and lack of empathy. Those who suffer from exercise induced asthma face potential life threatening bronchospasm. Many would not be able to compete at all without medication without risking life. Furthermore, modern beta agonists used for asthma have little cardiac stimulation effect. Other medications, such as inhaled corticosteriods and Singulair like medicines have no stimulant properties whatsoever (and please,let's not forget that corticosteriods are NOT anabolic steriods and actually have a catabolic effect on muscle). If one extends this type of illogical and poorly developed reasoning, one could claim a rider can't have a broken leg leg pinned and return to the sport because he used medical therapy "beyond" what his/her own body was capable of healing. Ditto for Armstrong's cancer. May I respectfully suggest that Mr. Smith think before he writes such a letter again.
Oh good grief, again! As an asthmatic myself and having to endure upon occasion the opinions of those about me who are uneducated about the disease I would like to tell J Smith (in last week's letters column) that for an asthmatic to be denied his medication during his sport would be like denying someone who wears glasses to compete. Who knows? Those glasses just might be allowing them to view something just a little bit better or quicker enabling them to win over their blurry eyed competition. Believe me, whether it be a kindergarten student just trying to play with the rest of the kids at recess or a world class athlete just trying to keep up with the rest of the guys during a Tour, all any asthmatic really just wants to do is to keep breathing and avoid at all costs the terrifying experience of feeling like you're drowning on dry land.
Actually, if I were an elite athlete in an endurance sport and I was passed by someone I knew to be asthmatic I would definitely be far more concerned about my own training programme and health status than any medication he might be on! You have to also appreciate the fact that with Roland whose lungs are impaired we have someone who is still capable of keeping up with and sometimes winning out over athletes with lungs that are genetically superior to the average human! I think Roland would agree with the saying, "If you can't breathe, nothing else matters."
As someone who has suffered from exercise-induced asthma my entire life (50+ years now) and knows what it is like to gasp for just one good breath of air, I take issue with this writer's view that using an otherwise banned drug should not be allowed. The drugs that asthmatics use only level the playing field. They allow the athlete to breathe normally, not give him an extra boost. Without certain asthma drugs I would not be able to climb a short hill, ride against the wind, or some days, even ride around the block. In short, I would not be able to do what "normal" people do every day. I think it is a disservice to the hard work of asthmatic athletes to make it sound like the drugs that help them to breathe normally give them an extra edge. If the letter writer had ever suffered even one asthma attack, he might not be so quick to think that asthmatic cyclists should not be able to "perform beyond the point that their bodies are naturally capable of reaching."
I too suffer from exercise-induced asthma on some days. Believe me it doesn't enhance performance to use albuterol or other branchial dialators. It just gets you back to what you were capable of yesterday; a day that you didn't get an asthmatic reaction. Ask other racers that have it. They'll report the same. On a good day when the lungs are behaving I can contest normal criteriums. If I'm having an asthmatic reaction I won't finish the first five laps. The medication does not enhance performance it restores the machinery to the functional level you have built it up to in training.
I am a 49-year-old masters racer, I wouldn't make this up.
As a Canadian living abroad I would kindly request that you refrain from mentioning Dick Pound's nationality. We're all rather ashamed of him and his behaviour. His brash self-righteousness and bullying egotism are antithetical to Canadians, (and to reasonable, well mannered people the world over.) Thanks.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
PS: Am I the only person who has noticed that his name is proof perfect of
Jung's Theory of Nominative Determinism? Or is everybody else too polite to
Since "LeBunk" and "L'Peep" insist on turning it into "Le Sewer de France"... I say let the good ol' USA host the greatest bicycle race on earth; The Big Belt Buckle, the Tour of US, inspired by the awesome Tour de Georgia and the upcoming Tour of California.
The U.S. has plenty of hors categorie climbs, beautiful scenery, friendly fans, Freedom Fries, and California wines that knock the socks off that French stuff. I say we invite the Pro Tour to participate in one of the wealthiest cycling events the world has ever seen. I say we hold it annually during...the first full three weeks in July sound good to you?
That way the French would never have to worry if a Frenchman will ever win the Tour de France again. A Frenchman could win every year, since all of the world's elite riders will be racing in the USA every July! Whaddya say, Lance? Is that a good enough challenge for you in your retirement? Pulling that off would probably feel just as good as, if not better than, winning number seven!
Dennis T. Miller
Tujunga, CA, USA
I preface my remarks by stating that I'm as excited as anyone that the Tour of California is actually going to happen. I'm also aware of the hundreds, if not thousands, of logistical details that factor in to organizing an event like this, including (but not limited to) money, weather, traffic, volunteerism, etc...
That all said, if THE Tour had announced a race route that followed only the western edge of France, we'd all be a little hesitant to call it the Tour de France, right? I'm disappointed to see that the Tour of California is confined to the central/southern coast, and skips much of the enormity of California. Northern California is complete left out, despite terrain and routes that would (in my non-organizer opinion) make for fantastic stages. How 'bout sending them up some of the old highways in the Sierras?
Ashland, OR (Formerly of Redding, CA)
I read with interest that FINA and the IOC have announced today that the 10km open water swim will now be included in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The sport of swimming has not had to drop any event to include this new discipline, compared to cycling, which has had the Kilo/500 debacle.
I believe that the reason for dropping the Kilo and the 500 was to "reduce the total amount of competitors" or keep that number stable. Introducing open water swimming brings a large number of extra competitors to the games does it not?
There appears to be a very big double standard; double standards and the IOC? Never!
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