Landis, Lemond, Lance and Leinders: Why it has to be all or nothing

Floyd Landis talks sense sometimes. (Note the sometimes). He’s one of the former EPOlogists that actually has something worth listening to. Sometimes. Yep, he denied his arse off when he got busted, denied it for way too long and messed around with a lot of people who supported him, but his contrition since then has been as complete as it can get for someone who did all that. He’s annoying, sure, he might benefit financially if (or when) LA gets the beating many feel he will on the Whistleblower case, he doped his arse off but, it has to be said, there’s more clarity to what he says than the likes of Hamilton et al.

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So when he headlined on CyclingSnooze recently, having  a pop at Greg Lemond, I had to read it. He felt that Lemond’s insistence that a lifetime ban for the guy who never won 7 Tours de France was absolutely spot on but that his record on other dopers sent out a mixed message and made it look more like Lemond was anti-Lance than anti-dope.

“I can certainly empathize with his personal distaste for Armstrong,” said Landis. “However, his inconsistent treatment of riders who doped is troubling and undercuts his argument that Armstrong should be banned for life.”

He cited the 3-time Tour winner waving to crowds at the Tour alongside Indurain – which basically meant Landis was saying the Spaniard was a dope cheat – and his statement that Pantani, the coke-riddled Pirate, was “one of the greatest ever” (bike riders, not dopers, though the latter is plainly true).

All this got me thinking about Lemond’s position and then of mine. Lemond has a very personal connection to Armstrong – the guy cost him his business, for chrissakes, he ridiculed and belittled him and obscured Lemond’s record as the only winning American of the Maillot Jaune with his chemically-enhanced march to Tour de France dominance.

who let this guy in?

who let this guy in?

So I kinda figure Lemond has reason to be emotionally-invested in all that. What got me thinking though was his views on Pantani. He’s wrong on that one, right? I mean, Pantani was not bad and all but what he was really good at was taking EPO. Some will read this and say ‘Well they all did it so yeah he was the best climber in those days’ but like many a good non-doping pro will tell you, that is no excuse – the decision to cheat is made not just once and ‘Oops, sorry bout that, I made a bad decision’ – no, it’s made every single day, every time the vial gets opened and the srynge inserted, the pill popped and the blood taken out of the refrigerator.

Pro cycling is like the financial industry – the top of it – in that its culture rewards dishonesty. Pantani may have been great but we will never know because another three guys who might have been better may have quit early on, disgusted at doping, and gone to work in insurance. We just will never know.

But then it came to my own position on doping. If you read cp regularly you’ll know I am pretty much against it and against accolades for riders who have been busted, and yet I, perhaps like Lemond too, was drawn into the romance of the sport, of the history of legendary rides and heroic riders, like Eddy Merckx.

For sure I was.

And in a sense I still am. There is a wall in my head that stood between two realms, one that thought that the EPO-era guys were terrible cheats, but that the guys from the amphetamine-era were somehow ok. Thankfully, that wall is rubble now, thanks to the massive holes in it, but the remnants of it are there still. Maybe I subconsciously don’t want to clean it up so that I am reminded of how easy it is to see those older riders as somehow ‘less bad’ than the guys like Armstrong, Pantani and Ricco.

I have a photograph on my ‘aboutapunk’ page that has me with Merckx at the Tour of Oman. I was in absolute awe of seeing this legend still breathing and moving. Since then I have changed my position. Merckx doped, he cheated, he was busted more than once, as did so many of his generation. Bartali might have been one of the very few – certainly amongst the elite – that didn’t dope, but the rest? Some things never change.

But the picture will stay on there, to remind me, as the battered ruins of that wall do, that this sport is and has been corrupt since very beginning.

Looking for heroes? Look hard.

It was not easy to admit to myself that I had been in awe of cheats, and that I had been misleading myself when it came to the older generations. It stripped bare the history of the sport all at once. I even had to go back and look at the very Tour stage that made me fall in love with cycling and the guy whose image was all over my little bike room when I was 16.

Landis is making a valid point, and that is that with Lemond saying that LA deserves a life ban but others can still be considered ‘great’, there is an inconsistent message being sent out there that actually gives validity to LA saying he shouldn’t be banned for life and that his treatment amounts to a witch hunt.

Should it be a lifetime ban for all serious drug abuse? Yes, I’m with Will Routley on that one. Personality should not come into it. Yes LA is a sociopath but as far as I know WADA don’t test for that – yet.

And let me reiterate something I’ve said many times but keep needing to repeat. These guys fully deserve to live their lives with something as close as they can get to contentment, for sure. They should be allowed to rebuild and to move on – but they should not be allowed near either the bureaucracy of cycling, nor the development of young riders, nor the management of teams at any level. Once you make that decision to cheat you should lose your seat on the bus.

Would you want a bent accountant managing your cash? Not a tough decision there.

Which brings us to Leinders. Proper dodgy, administering dope to (it seems) just about everyone on Rabobank, employed by Sky (‘We know nothing!’), banned for life by USADA for trafficking and yet still denying it on Dutch national TV and wherever else he can get a word in. How did he ever get onto Sky? I know that is not the first time that has been asked. Why not have an agreement between teams not to employ former dopers or those heavily implicated in doping? Leinders had been fingered by ex-Rabo manager Theo de Rooy as having been part of a decision to dope riders, before Sky employed him.

Some teams have been using stuff that is not yet banned but is said to bring big benefits – such as ketones – then saying ‘well it ain’t banned’, and it’s the same deal with employing people who they can say ‘well he ain’t been banned’ – in this, they are adhering to the letter of the law and not its spirit.

Then you have the UCI guy, Dr Mario Zorzoli, said to be giving Rabo a heads up when the testers were closing in and suggesting a particular steroid for Leinders to administer to Rasmussen.

Want to talk about corrupt? If that isn’t it then I don’t know what it. This is the same guy that sped through Froome’s TUE at Romandie. Had the UCI been doing its real job over the past 20 years – and just to clear this up, their real job under Verbruggen and McQuaid was not in fact to make sure that 95% of the peloton doped in massive measure – people like Zorzoli would have been identified and kicked out. And there lies the problem. We have so many – so, so many – dodgy characters in this sport that everything is, if you will excuse the language, royally f*cked up.

The UCI has unveiled its new anti-doping policies and yes, they are an improvement, but still are a galaxy’s width away from being what is absolutely necessary.

I’m reading Nicole Cooke’s autobiography at the moment and she talks a lot about the ineptitude and outright villainy that she encountered as a young rider trying to make an honest, dedicated go at being a professional. I read it realising that this wasn;t just true of women’s cycling, and that nothing has changed. With so many former blatantly dodgy characters still in the sport, nothing ever will, because this era is stained by the last one and it will continue until the culture, embodied by these individuals, is finally rooted out and a new education system is brought in for young athletes.

Cavendish wants everyone to stop talking about doping? Yeah, real change there. Gotta love that Omerta.

 

 

Bike music

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This is pretty good, a tune made entirely from bike noises. This is a tune called Bespoken by Johhnrandom, a guy who males music from everyday things and has a particular love for the humble bike.

The first video shows how he made the music, the second is a video someone made featuring the whole track.

Lee’s Lowdown on PEZ: the bicycle in war

Third installment of my weekly column over on PezCycling News, this one is about the use of the trusty old bicycle during wartime, from pre-1900 to just last year, when a bike was loaded with explosives and lots of sharp nasty things and used to kill 45 people at a market in Kandahar.

Yeah. Nice huh.

There is hope though, as the bike has been used for very good things during war too. Read on to find out how and when.

Click on the image below to access the article, thanks!

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4 Italian amateurs busted for a total of 75 years

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You may remember an article I wrote on how the Italian authorities and race organisers are leading the way on anti-doping measures and testing not only in pro races but also on the amateur scene. News just in confirms that that drive sis continuing, with Gazzeta dello Sport annnouncing a few days ago that four amateurs have been handed huge suspensions totalling a combined 75 years.

Take that, 4 year ban!

Here is an excerpt from the Gazzetta (tidied up a little after Google Chrome translated):

A resounding blow has been dealt, the heaviest in the history of amateur cycling doping.It is difficult to define the measure by which the National Anti-Doping Tribunal (First Chamber) hit Alfonso Falzarano (ACSI), winner of the Gran Fondo of Rome in 2014, Raffaele Falzarano, Michele Sgambato, and Carmine Galletta.

Alfonso Falzarano was banned for 15 years (until January 14, 2030) for trafficking of doping. The others also received heavy bans: 15 years to Raffaele Falzarano (traffic doping), 20 to Michele Sgambato (traffic and administration of doping), 25 years to Carmine Galletta (possession of prohibited substances, trafficking and administration of doping).

All received fines and all were sentenced to pay court costs.

The full link is accessible here.

 

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Many thanks to Dave Christensen for sending this news in.

Cavendish: “Can you be 100% that one of these journalists isn’t f***ing your wife?”

Mark Cavendish love a good ol’ Omerta, if nothing else.

First he blamed Riccardo Ricco for all cycling’s ills, back in 2011:

“The sport’s better off without him,” Cavendish said. “He’s not a problem that the sport faces, he is the problem that the sport faces.

“He doesn’t mirror a lot of riders, he’s a special case and I think we’re better off without him,” Cavendish continued as those gathered who don’t swallow looked at each other and rolled their eyes. “Obviously I hope he does recover well, but I really do hope he becomes someone’s bitch in prison.”

OK the last part was funny but still, the point was clear – ‘blame Ricco, it’s all his fault.’

Then there was the Armstrong love, then the ‘anger’ as expressed in his autobiography and yet, somehow, he told us it was all ok to still cherish those memories of LA in his pomp:

“Now we’re asked to comment on Armstrong and have our morals judged on the strength of what we say, when a lot of us are, rightly or wrongly, too preoccupied with the here and now to have an opinion. Even though I was watching those Tours that Lance won, wide-eyed and innocent, I also can’t pretend that I’m eaten up with resentment or feel betrayed now I know it was a big charade.

“As unjust, as distressing as it may be, as hard as it is for us to accept, I’m sure that Lance still feels that no one and nothing can take away the emotions of those seven Tours at the time, and the same really goes for those of us who were watching.”

Then there was this episode at a Quickstep meet and greet last year:

And now this gem. Again, the message is quite clear: shut the **** up about doping, nothing to see here, move along, it’s all much better now.

Omerta? Who said that?

 

 

crankpunk’s first proper bike features on GCN

Well it’s not actually my bike, it’s Stephen Roche’s, but it is exactly the same, down to the groupset and even the saddle, that I had when I was 17 – my first proper, proper bike. Every penny of pocket money I had went into this machine. That I sold it for 400 quid to my mate’s little brother a few years after i quit cycling at 18 breaks my heart even now, but there you have it.

I’ll never forgive myself.

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Ain’t she a beauty? And after you’ve watched the video you can read my article on Old Bikes vs. New, and on why Stephen let me down.

 

 

The Aussie conundrum, new UCI anti-doping regulations and their failings, and an African breakthrough

This article originally appeared on The Roar

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Can you feel it? It’s that time of year again, and I don’t mean the Tour Down Under. It’s the buzz of a new season, the sharpening of the knives, the shaving of the legs, the thrum of the media and the froth of the forums!

Bring it on.

One thing that caught my eye last week was a statement from Matt White, sport director at Orica-GreenEdge.

“Porte is the strongest rider in the world right now and he’s my tip for the race,” said White. “He’s the favourite and having seen him on the bike first hand, I can say that he’s absolutely flying.”

We all know that Porte had a season last year that’d stink up an outside toilet for half a decade, flitting between too few high notes and altogether too many lows.

Porte said as much in an interview with The Courier:

“Anyone who follows cycling would know I had a shocker of a season last year,” the 29-year-old said.

“I was pretty good here (at the road nationals) and at the Tour Down Under, but that was about it for me – my season finished up at the end of August.”

Fair play to him for getting his mojo back but I was struck by the thought: who on the World Tour roster apart from the Aussies is ‘flying’ right now?

Seriously, and not to sound denigrating, but it’s not too hard to be ‘the best in the world right now’ when now is January – you just have to be the best Aussie and you take that mantle by default.

Sure, there are always some non-Aussie riders who arrive for the TDU in smoking form but they are few and almost always the usual suspects, and you can be sure, apart from maybe Andre Greipel, that they won’t be going great in the European mid-season.

I’m aware that the Aussie cycling season follows in large part the Aussie weather, but might it not be time for the Australian National Road Race Champs to be held in line with the European national champs?

To require a World Tour rider to be in top shape in January and then to try to hit those heights in May say, for the Giro, or in July for the Tour, well, there are only so many times in a year a rider can be in top top form.

Or maybe the guy who wins the Australian nationals is in pretty good shape but not great shape? Is the competition being devalued somehow, now that so many of the national contenders are based in World Tour teams?

I’m not sure. Maybe you can tell me.

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The new UCI rules regarding doping were announced and were in large part met with a kind of wearied shrug of the shoulders it seemed, by both the press and the fans.

Some of the changes were expected, such as the 4-year ban for ‘serious’ cases of doping (but what is ‘serious’? Clenbuterol and platsicisers in the blood? Cocaine ringing the nostrils on the start line? Or EPO track lines on the arms?) as WADA had already brought them in back at the end of 2014.

Yet there is a proviso in there that states that anyone that admits ‘promptly’ can have the 4 years dropped to 2. Not sure how that will change anything, except leaving us with more calculated ‘admissions’ of guilt that change nothing.

Teams will be charged 5% of their annual budget is a second and third rider get busted for doping, which is surely too little. If three positives result only in a 10% fine then the fans – myself for sure – will feel conned.

One interesting change is the ‘banned associations’ ruling. This states that riders can be banned for associating with any banned individual in any capacity, meaning that Frank Schleck’s excuse that he paid banned doctor Eufemiano Fuentes 7000 euro because he ‘just kinda did’ will be a enough to see him banned.

But again, whilst moving in the right direction, how about taking out all former banned riders who now work in management, and applying the same rules to those now working with riders who were not actually banned but who were heavily ‘associated’ with doping and characters involved in doping other riders?

Maybe because, well, we’d have almost no management left? Probably.

That old line about ‘well they were all doing it’ is still left with the shreds of validity because there has never been an official counter to it. Why? Because the UCI facilitated it, the management encouraged it or even forced it in many cases, dopers bullied those who would not do it and drove so many of them from the sport. It wasn’t a case of ‘they had no choice’ – never. The had a choice. But those who were inclined to cheat, who lived to cheat, were allowed to not only be left alone but to actually thrive.

And those who did refused? Take it or leave it and be mocked as you walked away, that was the rule.

There are too many caveats in the new rules to make this whole thing effective in the way it could be, in the way it should be.

It is better but it is not enough, not by a long shot.

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Finally, some great news: MTN-Qhubeka are going to the Tour de France!

Yes, the African team received one of five wildcard invitations Wednesday from race organizer ASO and they are going to the big boys’ party in July. Amazing! What an achievement that is.

Shame their kit is the worst in the history of cycling but you can’t have it all I suppose. Don’t they know vertical black and white stripes have a slimming effect? What cyclist needs that? Sometimes there is a reason why no one ever tried something before…

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But it’s not surprising that the team is thrilled (if not with the kit), after being founded with this very dream in mind, back in 2007.

General manager Brian Smith said:

“The team is different and the Qhubeka foundation makes a difference, that’s why I took the job on. When I stood in front of them at the team camp in South Africa, I told them that I’d help them reach their goal.

“The Tour de France invitation … It’s emotional. I shed tears realizing that this team is coming along. I’ve seen how Qhubeka makes a difference in the townships. This will make the world ask, ‘What is Qhubeka?’ And it will give so much brand awareness.”

Yeah, what is Qhubeka? As they say these days, google it.

Well done lads!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Hebdo, le dopage & cartoons

Very interesting article in today’s The Guardian by Suze Clemitson about how Charlie Hebdo taught her more about the reality of doping in cycling than she would ever have read in the pages of Pro Cycling or Cycling Snooze.

“I learned more about the murky world of cycling from the cartoonist’s pen than from the editorial team of L’Equipe and their ilk'” she writes. “The cartoons – those precise, puerile, perfect slashes of black pen on white paper – gave the game away by daring to show openly what others could or would only to hint at.”

Clemitson tells of how, after moving to France, it was through Charlie Hebdo and its ‘wiser’ older brother Le Canard Enchaine that she learnt the language and the culture, seeing cartoons such as this, published just after everyone’s favorite GoldenBoy had declared his comeback but before most magazines dared vice their concerns, in 2009.

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With the great champions, it’s their mental attitude that makes the difference” reads the caption, as our Maillot Jaune jumps from one bend to another to get ahead of the pack.

Another reads ‘Legalise doping, for a French win.’

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Both, you will note, are by Cabu, one of the cartoonists killed recently in Paris.

I came across a few other cartoons on my search that also show the power of the form.

And my two personal favorites, the first of which could be LA, Hincapie, Leipheimer, Hamilton, O’Grady, etc:

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And one that isn’t quite a ‘toon, but does show the man not as a chicken but as a cock, which he undoubtedly is:

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“The cartoonists who have stabbed their pencils at the dirty heart of professional cycling have left an indelible visual vocabulary,” writes Clemitson. “It’s cheap humour, but it makes its point with elegant economy. It says the unsayable in a way that, once seen, can never be unseen. Armstrong is right when he says that the history books may no longer record his victories but that nothing can unstop us seeing him in Yellow in Paris year after year. That is the power of the visual image, the power that Cabu and Charb, Tignous and Wolinski exploited with such deadly effect.

“Armstrong reacted to the Charlie Hebdo atrocity by tweeting “PariSTRONG’, a pun as painfully self-referential and egotistical as he could possibly have made under the circumstances. But he is forever a cartoon character with a syringe sticking out of his arse, skewered on his own perfidiousness. And that is why Je Suis Charlie.”