Category: dopepunk

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.

 

 

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?

 

 

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:

rooster

“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.”

Rabottini suspended for EPO, and to think we almost had him at the Taiwan KOM…

no caption required

no caption required

last year, when I was looking for KOM winners of the Grand Tours of recent years to invite to ride the Taiwan KOM Challenge, i received a mail suggesting i get in touch with Matteo Rabottini of Neri Sottoli.

Rabottini had shot to fame with a victory Rabottini on the stage to Piani dei Resinelli at the 2012 Giro d’Italia, taking the KOM classification. the following year he was 17th on the GC. he was young (25 when he won the KOM at the Giro) and charismatic, and looked perfect for the KOM.

(shortest video on Rabbo’s win i could find, excuse the music – sounds like cycling on drugs… oh wait…)

anyway, at the last minute negotiations fell through, can’t remember why, but did we dodge a bullet or what?

why? well cos the Italian just got the results of his B sample back, from a test taken on August 8th. and they confirmed he’s been on the EPO. for sure though he wasn’t on it when he won the KOM jersey.

fo’ sho.

he’s denying all.

at the time of the KOM classification win he laughed about having been given the nickname Rambo by his teammates. CyclingSnooze wrote:

‘“I’m not like Rambo”, joked Rabottini as he wanted to underline that he’s not naturally gifted.’

perhaps he should have underlined that he’s unnaturally gifted.

this is now the fifth time i have either raced against a guy who was later found to have doped or been in talks to get a guy to enter a race who was later found to have doped. i am not in a rush to get to number 6, but suspect it will happen sooner rather than later.

just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…

Cookson, Astana, and the Death of Hope

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And the first rule of Twitter is that you should never tweet something you will live to regret. Not many people follow that rule but it is quite a good one, one that Brian Cookson OBE (Oh! Benevolent Entity?) was never taught, quite obviously.

The decision to award Astana a World Tour license for 2015 has elicited widespread anger from the cycling world and is a decision that even the most hardened doping apologists will have trouble defending.

After the Astana organization had five riders return positive tests for banned substances, the majority of cycling commentators believed it would be curtains for the Kazakh team, one that has had several other run-ins with the anti-doping authorities over the years.

Surely, went the thinking, there’s no way that a UCI run by Brian Cookson – the man who knocked Pat MacQuaid off his perch as president of the world governing body, the man who had promised to get tough on cheats – surely there’d be no way he’d allow Astana to keep its license?

Well… yes, actually. There was a way. He just said yes.

BRIAN_COOKSON

It involved ignoring the anger and general fed-upness of cycling fans and the few outspokenly clean riders out there, it meant that he’d have to face the opprobrium of the social media for a few days, and it would essentially cause anyone who gave a fig about doping to come to the conclusion that the UCI is not to be trusted as the overseer of this beautiful sport, but apparently that’s all in a day’s work for Brian Cookson OBE.

As you know I am no fan of the UCI and I lost faith in them many years ago. I don’t believe that the UCI has the best interests of the fans nor the vast majority of its members at heart. Yet even I was amazed by the news that Astana would not lose its license.

I’m not alone. Amazingly, ProTour riders are speaking out – well one, at least.

Peter Kennaugh of Sky tweeted:

“Riders who were only ‘trained’ by Ferrari I mean come are you really that stupid ? And do you think everyone else is to? What a joke this sport can be! The clean riders of the peloton need to get together and push these cheats out enough is enough.”

Kennaugh’s tweet avoided calling out the UCI and Cookson which may be smart with regards to his job, but there’s no hiding the fact that the decision is what prompted his tweet in the first place.

Cookson for his part has said that Astana will be under probation, which must have Vinokourov quaking in his boots.

Now, it could be that the UCI is fearful of banning Astana after the debacle of last season when they had their decision not to give a WorldTour license to Katusha overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

If that’s the case they could at least have made the symbolic gesture. What this move has done is to strip, mangle and burn the last bare shreds of the UCI’s credibility in the eyes of right-thinking fans.

Early rumors that stated that Vinokourov was seen entering the UCI HQ with a carrier bag full of Kazakh bank notes have been quashed, but other rumors that the basement car park has been rigged with high explosives have yet to be either confirmed or denied.

Allegedly.

It could be a combination of things, the Katusha factor, the power and wealth of Astana (they are backed by a national government), and it could be, one online commentator suggested, to do with Vinokourov’s contacts.

In The Telegraph’s online version, one reader wondered if the MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling).

Thehamst wrote:

I suspect the head of the MPCC has had a major say so in this. Astana management and Roger Legeay go back a long way; all the way back to doping at Credit Agricole in 2008 actually. The same Roger Legeay banned for doping himself now in charge f the Movement For Credible Cycling – you really couldn’t make it up.

What is intriguing with regards to Astana not being denied a World Tour license is that another team, Europcar, was just denied one for 2015 (despite a fantastic Tour de France) on financial grounds.

“Regarding Team Europcar,” said Cookson, “it is of course regrettable that the team has not been able to secure sufficient financial guarantees to remain in the UCI WorldTour, but I very much hope that they can continue as a Professional Continental Team.”

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So, why not find some ‘financial irreguralities’ with Astana? If you can’t kick them out for bringing the already tarnished image of the sport further into the gutter, then make something up.

Also interesting to note was an interview with Cookson just two days ago in which he stated that cycling was not the only sport with doping trouble, and trotted out the old line about how cycling was doing way more than those ‘other sports’.

“I have always held the view that doping was not a practice solely restricted to the sport of cycling.

“In my view there are two groups of sports: There are those that have a doping problem and are actively trying to do something about it, and I would like to say that we are in a leading position on that.

“And there are those sports that have a doping problem and are still pretty much in denial about it. And sooner or later they are going to have their problems.”

Yawn.

To be honest Brian yes, we know other sports might have doping on a similar systematic scale as we have in cycling, but that argument doesn’t wash. You’re in charge of cycling, not table tennis.

However it is interesting to wonder what FIFA would do if say Barcelona suddenly got busted for a string of massive doping positives.

They’d probably say it was an isolated case, that it didn’t involve the management, was not systematic, that the players were very sorry, and that generally the sport was clean.

Sound familiar?

The truth of the matter, for me, is that the sport these guys at the top do is not the same sport I do. It is also not the same sport that 99.99% of cyclists around the world do.

We don’t cheat. We don’t think about doping ourselves. We don’t accidentally fall on srynges of EPO or drink our own blood by the baggie-full.

What we do do however, is love this thing called cycling.

Against our own better sense, we still tune in for the Tour, the Giro, Roubaix and the World’s. We still love the sight of the peloton coming through the clouds to summit on Ventoux, riders strewn about hither and tither, love seeing the fans – people like us – by the roadside, cheering them on.

We are the guardians of the history of this sport. We are the keepers, the rememberers, the people who make it live and breathe.

We buy the kits, we buy the books and the DVDs. We go to the races. We get up late at night when the family is all sleeping and pay our subscription to get 120 channels even though there’s only one we want to watch.

And yet we are nothing. We are disrespected and barely acknowledged, unless it’s to wring money from our pockets and to thrash the faith from our weary hearts.

This decision and the statements that have followed it from Cookson show that, again, and all too clearly.

Welcome to the world of the UCwedon’tknowf*ckingWhy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Doper-lovers are no different to battered wives”

“What is he on about?” I hear you thinking.

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First off, this was a comment I overheard recently in a bike shop. It forced my eyebrows up and got me thinking.

The guy’s assertion was that because these cycling fans that keep shoveling the love onto exposed dopers are forever getting trounced by new evelations of cheating and fraud yet keep going back, it’s akin to abused partners returning to their spouses despite the fact that they know it will end in tears and, most likely, bruises yet again.

My first reaction was ‘yeah, he’s right’.

You could posit cycling as a professional sport itself as ‘the aggressive spouse’ in that formula, I thought, and it might just work.

After all, abused partners can just leave, right? Yet they don’t, much like those fans who still kneel at the pedestal of Hincapie or Pantani.

Read the forums (especially from America, where a good many think those good ol’ boys just did what they had to do to survive) and you’ll be struck by how many commentators still flock to defend those proven categorically to have been cheating for years.

Should we really be surprised though? A recent survey showed that convicted dopers that own up to their doping see a huge fall in their approval rating amongst sports fans. But what happens when the athlete maintains their innocence? The approval rate dips slightly but still stays high.

Seems people would rather be lied even though the evidence points to guilt, rather than being made to feel like a chump that’s been taken for a ride.

Some brands make direct emotional plays on this mis-directed and delusional love, such as Rapha recently with its Marco Pantani-inspired kit, to sell their stuff.

The blog that is connected with the Pantani jersey talks about how the Italian was mentally ill and vulnerable – which is very true, yet makes no attempt to hide the fact that all profits go nowhere – certainly not towards a charity treating mentally ill athletes, for example – other than into Rapha’s own delicately designed and very expensive back pocket.

The riders (and the brands that make money from being associated with teams that contain dopers (Specialized with Astana) and individuals (Oakley and Nike with Armstrong)) have monetized the art of duplicity, getting rich from their riders’ doped up success whilst the sport they profess to love is left to rot.

The act of doping is a direct middle finger to the sport and to its fans, and yet, as mentioned, there are those who always trot back for more.

Just like a battered wife to her violent husband.

Right?

Well no, not really.

Despite initially agreeing with the guy in the bike shop, on closer inspection I realized that this was not a fair assessment. In fact, it was one that ignored the truths regarding spousal abuse and avoided the reality that these fans who keep going back to worship at the pedestal of their fallen idols are indeed mentally insane.

I laughed as I just wrote those last few words, but bear with me.

Before I go on I would like to say this is not intended to be a flippant nor facile article that belittles those who suffer from spousal abuse, in fact quite the opposite. What I intend to do is to demonstrate how the mental and emotional pressures that abused spouses are suffering from is so very different to the ‘doper-lover’.

Much of the rhetoric about inter-relationship abuse is met by outsiders (ie those not being abused themselves) with the question “Why don’t they just leave?”

This is a question that simplifies and distorts the problem and places the responsibility firmly into the lap of the abused.

First of all, an abused woman very often simply has nowhere to go.

The cycling fan? Where does he have to go? Well, anywhere. There are scores of cyclists out there worthy of respect. Nicole Cooke, Sir Chris Hoy, Taylor Phinney, local riders who ride clean, others like Will Routley are riders who have shown that you can win clean at the highest level.

There are others on the World Tour circus who sound clean and look clean to consider too.

Secondly, a battered partner can very often not afford to leave.

Can the cycling fan not afford to leave the abuser?

Course they can. Most are fairly minted, for one. And if their circle of bike buddies still herald the achievements of the Grand Dopers then they should either find a way to voice their opinions or finds new friends.

That is called ‘growing a backbone’, not gathering the Herculean courage to leave a man who might, and might actually intend to, kill you.

The third reason that abused people in relationships have such a hard time leaving is that batterers tend to be very controlling individuals.

Now clearly in cycling these dopers – oh wait. OK, I’ll give you that one.

These fans invest time, energy and very often money (buying the same brand of bikes, jerseys, DVDs, magazines that have their idols in them, and of course their ‘i’m only sorry i got busted’ books) in these guys and they have most likely defended them online or on bike rides or even to their non-cycling friends.

They also stay silent about national and international federations that have allowed (and in some cases actually facilitated) doping.

If they actually do know that this is ridiculous, it must kind of be like becoming a vicar, then realising after 20 years that you don’t believe in God.

How much would that suck?

Whatever goes on in the head of those cycling ‘fans’ that still defend the Old Boys (and the New) who juice is beyond me. I can see the threads of what looks like reason there peeping out of their heads but they just trail off to nowhere in the end.

Much like a computer with a virus, that is a problem I cannot even begin to try to fix.

 

The Official DoperFanBoy Club Theme Song…

 

 

Tejay van Garderen reminds us all that the thing these guys do is not the same thing that we do

definitely not TvG and LA

definitely not TvG and LA

i read about LA motorpacing Tejay and i realised that, although nothing should surprise me anymore when it comes to this kind of thing, these guys were born not only with very good ‘rider DNA’ but also with the capacity to be as thick as two short planks at times, and that this means that there will always be surprises.

opening up CyclingSnooze is like Xmas every day. presents abound. if it ain’t some Kazakh being dumb enough to get busted by a system that is three steps behind the dopers – they call these guys ‘dopey dopers’, cute huh – it’s something like this.

like the Schlecks being coached by Andersen for years. like guys still going to doping doctors to learn from their ‘vast experience.’ or like current pros going on Shamcapie Gran Fraudos.

now before 68 and 1/2 irate ‘Pologists start pounding their keypads with their knuckles let me state that i’m sure TvG is a smart lad, i’m sure he can manage the dials on his shoes and zip up his jersey all by himself and that he can string a thought or two together, but – and this deserves italics –

seriously?

this is a guy that rides for a team that has a media dude that mailed me last time I wrote about Tejay to request that i change the ‘v’ on ‘van’ from a large one to a small one.

that is some serious micro-management.

and yet… they let this go?

nobody paused to think about it?

bells did not ring?

what this is, quite clearly, is yet more evidence (as if we needed it) that shows that these guys inhabit a different world from the rest of us. whereas anyone remotely located in the real world would look at this scenario and say, ‘you know what, this might be a bad idea’ – these guys just don’t see it. it’s business as usual for these top guys, to be associated with former dopers, to be managed by former dopers, to be overseen by a federation head who is questionable to say the least, to be interviewed by doping apologists and to be lauded as heroes by guys who see nothing wrong with a current pro hanging with the Track Mark Pack.

why should we, really, expect anything else? Tejay is riding for a team run by a guy who should not be in the sport, Jim Ochowicz.

want to know why? read this by Inga Thompson and check the chart.

or this from VeloNews about Floyd Landis claiming that Ochowicz knew about doping at U.S. Postal.

Tejay rode Hinshabbie’s Fraudo just recently too.

can you see a thread emerging here? these riders may well be clean, i hope to the outer reaches of the universe that they are but they are living in castles in the clouds. they are not equipped with the mental faculties (and  not because they aren’t intelligent, they clearly are, but they are also products of their environment) to see that for the normal bike dude in the street what they are doing and who they are associating with is disturbing.

i keep coming back to the same thought, and that is this:

the thing these guys do is not what we do.

that is not our sport.

i don’t even know what it is.

some are going to say ‘well, LA and those guys are human too’ and they are correct. but let them do their rehab away from this fragile and busted sport.

let TvG call LA anytime, i still think it’s not right but if we don’t know then – well, we don’t know. but this kind of brazen act, just like riding with George, it suggests that the thought process is untethered from common sense.

and if it’s not that, if it is rationalised and considered, then it is a hefty f**k you to the people who love this sport and want it cleaned up.

the last thing i can think of is that this rider may be placed in an uncomfortable position by being on a team run by a man associated with LA for so long and feels that he can’t say no. i don’t know. it’s possible.

i wonder how Brian Cookson feels about all this? a new poster boy hanging with an old one, one whose sheen is very much gone.

yeah i just don’t get it. please, if you can make sense of this feel free to impart your wisdom upon me.

what to do about Astana and Nibali?

DoctorNurse (aka Stephen Nurse-Findlay) commented on my article from last week about Astana & Alexander ‘ChimneySweep’ Vinokourov and my call from them to be turfed from the sport.

i was going to leave my reply as a comment too but realised that it might be worth posting. here it is, with DoctorNurse’s initial comment first.

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from DoctorNurse, Dec 1st, 2014

“Is banning ASTANA the best option? I mean, for sure 5 (count ‘em *5*) doping positives is a massive amount for any one organisation in spite of their protestations of innocence…

BUT, I was rather looking forward to seeing Nibali defend his title against the est in France this Summer, and was also looking forward to seeing if Aru is the real deal in Italy this spring. Do you think that we should eliminate the best(VN) and brightest (FA) of Italian cycling from contention for the action of a few seriously misguided dudes on their teams?

I mean, where would Nibali go? Who could afford to pay his salary, plus the 6-7 dudes he will requires? You have any ideas?

Given your experience and background, it would be interesting to hear your recommendations as to what could be done in addition to your well articulated opinions on what has already happenned…”

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It surely is the only option. What message does the sport and, critically, the UCI want to convey – and never mind to the fans, the TV companies, the sponsors or anyone else – to the teams? That even this is acceptable? No, they have to be turfed out.

We need regulations in place for this very scenario – multiple positives from a single team. Indeed, we need serious and enforceable penalties in place for a single positive on a given team. A fine and a reduction of UCI points perhaps, as well as maybe a ‘strike’ against the team that could be cancelled after say 3 years, unless the number of strikes increase. Three in three years and you’re out? Maybe.

But five in three months? It’s mind-numbingly negligent at very best.

Should Astana be banned for good? Or for a decade? Or for four years? If, long before now, the UCI had enacted some meaningful criteria by which to judge and punish these teams that return multiple positives, then maybe we’d all be OK with a ten-year ban for the Kazakh outfit.

(I’d be almost fine with that, for the record).

Nibali: between a rock and a hard place

Nibali: between a rock and a hard place

It also brings back into focus (not that it should ever be out of it, in my opinion) the problem of having dopers in management positions. I can’t think of another profession where people who have been found to be corrupt are then welcomed back as overseers, trainers and managers.

Bent coppers coaching new recruits? Crooked lawyers teaching the bar? Footballers who’ve found to have influenced games for cash allowed to manage pro teams?

Never happens, so why in cycling? Cos so many were corrupt? Well that tells us that we need to stop this more than ever then.

About Nibali and Aru. If we had rules in place such as those I mention above, then perhaps the riders would use their collective clout and really and seriously get behind the anti-doping movement. Why can’t a guy have a clause in his contract that says he can leave if the team and/or other members of that team act in such a way as to damage his or her reputation or image?

Why not let him go to CAS to sort it out?

If you have this then surely the teams would do more to properly crack down on doping and they’d be signing riders who had better reputations than these guys who keep popping up year after year. No need to name names here, just look at the peloton over the past 15 years.

Do this, and maybe we’d edge closer to getting a clean peloton.

The dominant message still being conveyed by having guys around like Vino, Hincapie, Vaughters, and by still having measly 2 year bans and no criminal penalties is being heard loud and clear: cheating pays.

To the question of where would he go – well, if we had real movement on these points then maybe he wouldn’t have to change teams cos crap like this would be far less likely to happen. As it is though, maybe we need a top guy getting ripped like this, hard though that will be on one rider, to wake the rest of them up.

I mean, Nibali sounds clean, he does, but he’s been going to work every day in a crack den for the past 2 years.

What, is he really shocked? I rode with Astana development team guys over three or four years on the UCI Asia circuit and I knew enough to be very dubious about what I was seeing.

Nibali is asking us first to believe that there is no connection between the 5 positives (remember two were brothers so that’s why they doped, and the others were on the Conti team so, zero connection there either, right Nibs?), and then he’s asking us to believe that he was either just incredibly naive enough to join a team and not to have known or inquired about their reputation, or to believe that he is just plain thick.

Either way it doesn’t look too good for him right now.

Imagine a rider going to a team for an interview and the rider asking what kind of independent testing procedures the team had, before he asked about how much cash he was gonna get. Imagine every team proactively chasing guys known for being clean, or at least above suspicion. (I sound like John Lennon here with all these ‘imagines’.). Sure, there’ll still be cheats, but at least give the clean guys a chance by enacting something close to the regulations this sport actually needs.

I think of all the guys I know that are clean that are seriously good riders and how they had to deal with Nibali’s conundrum long, long before they even got close to racing in a Tour de France, never mind winning one.

Get this sh*t done for them and for the kids who are out there dreaming.

They have to come first.

imagine all the pipe dreams...

imagine all the pipe dreams…

Groundhog Day at Astana HQ: Vinokourov to star in classic comedy remake!

groundhogday_blog

Bill Murray was brilliant in Groundhog Day, playing the cantankerous Phil, the weatherman who woke up every day in the same day, trapped in a town he hated, a fate that drove him to several failed suicide attempts.

Playing Rita, the love interest, was Andie McDowell. Phil tried day after day (quite literally) to bed her, using each identical day to find out more about her likes and dislikes so as to present himself as her perfect (and very fake) man to finally get her under the covers.

21st Century Flops have just issued a press release announcing that they intend to re-make the film, starring none other than our favorite Kazakhstani flat-capped chimney sweep, Alexandre Vinokourov!

Vino in his last film role, the box office hit 'It weren't me Guv'nor!'

Vino in his last film role, the box office hit ‘It weren’t me Guv’nor!’

Vino was deemed to be perfect for the role after experiencing a Groundhog Day-type experience of his own, waking up every day to find that yet again an Astana man had been busted for dilly-dallying with banned substances.

With no less than five – count ‘em – five men who wear the Astana colors testing positive for banned substances in the last two months, it’s an achievement that has to go down in cycling history and surely confirms that Astana are the biggest bunch of f**kwits currently in the business.

And let us not forget young Roman Kreuziger, who’s also been suspended for returning ‘unusual’ blood values from testing done whilst at Astana.

So let’s call yesterday’s positive for Artur Fedosseyev of Kazakhstan the sixth, not bad at all. To use baseball terminology, Astana have knocked that one right out of the ball park and into the car park – the one where Brian Cookson’s car sits.

Six broken windows now Brian – how are you going to respond to that I wonder?

Reports today state that Vino has suspended the Continental team that the last three positives have emanated from, which is interesting considering that he and Vincenzo Nibali have gone out of their way to claim that the World Tour team has absolutely nothing to do with the Continental squad.

“People have to understand that they [the Astana Continental Team] have nothing to do with this team Vinokourov told Gazetta dello Sport. “ The only thing we have in common is the jersey and the name.”

And the doctors and at least one DS. The teams share the services of one Dmitri Sedoun, who is a direteur sportif on both teams.

Poor Vino, it’s really coming at him from all sides isn’t it. It is worth remembering that Vinokourov was dogged by rumors of doping in his career and actually suspended for blood doping in 2007 and that he has just been charged with bribery for his alleged payment of 150,000 euro to Alexander Kolobnev in 2010 for throwing the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic.

(And who says crime doesn’t pay? The fools.)

He made a comeback from his doping ban to become the least applauded winner of any Olympic road race ever, when he won in London in 2012.

Vinokourov should be ok though in spite of all this, proving that a Kazakhstani cat really does have 23 lives. Back home, Kairat Kelimbetov, president of the Kazakhstan Cycling Fed, has resigned and has been replaced by Darkan Mangeldiev, a close friend of Vinokourov.

So despite all travails his path to the Presidency of his homeland still looks clear, and he does have the remake of Groundhog Day to look forward to, which is some consolation.

Playing the role that Andie MacDowell filled so well, love interest Rita, will be Cycling Fans – leaving us finally in no doubt whatsoever that Vino really is trying to screw us.

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Interesting video here featuring former KCF president Kelimbetov talking about Astana at the 2014 Tour de France. Iglinsky (busted) gets singled out for praise, whilst Vino is mentioned as ‘a rider who only comes about once in a hundred years.’

Not too sure that is true Kairat, because we’ve had Ricco, Pantani, Armstrong, Ulrich, Virenque, and on and on and on. Check out the Alternative History of Cycling and you’ll know what I mean…