Cycling can learn from baseball (and I don’t mean in finding new tricks for hiding needle marks)? No, how about we borrow the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ concept? Because if we did, we’d be free from the shambles that is Astana.
In case you missed the news, a third Astana rider has been popped for le dopage within 3 months of the first. llya Davidenok has returned a positive A sample from a test taken whilst a stagiaire riding the Tour de l’Avenir for Continental Team Astana this August. Young Davidenok’s drug of choice, it seems, is anabolic androgenic steroids.
These are the steroids of choice for bodybuilders, used to increase strength (5-20% as reflected in various studies) and increase lean muscle mass whilst cutting fat, but they do not appear to affect endurance performance. It would be possible of course, that Davedinok was on other drugs that would helped with his endurance, but that they had already passed through his system.
But that would be a very cynical view to take. Banish that thought.
So, three guys with the same outfit.
Nice work lads! I was originally impressed with the stupidity of the Iglinsky brothers for getting busted within a few weeks of each other (because, seriously, to get busted these days you have to be breaking the rules of micro-dosing, and with EPO having a half-life in the blood of just 5 hours, well, you get the picture), but now it seems that a low IQ, coupled with a propensity for cheating, are common on this squad.
Strike one, strike two, striiiiiiiiike three! Yer out!
Right? Um, well…. No.
Vincenzo ‘BrassNeck’ Nibali explained today why three positives on one team within three months of each other was not a problem at all, just in case you had the cheek to ever entertain that ridiculous idea.
“I don’t think there are big problems for Astana’s licence,” said the 29-year-old.
“The incidents that happened concern the Iglinskiy family, it’s a separate thing. As a team we can’t respond to what two brothers got up to. As for the last one (Davidenok), he’s not one of ours, he’s part of the Continental team and is not managed by us but by someone else.
“Certainly things happened a few years ago but the team has changed and it’s also my responsibility to give more clarity on my part. But there is great serenity in the team in terms of my way of racing and my sporting seriousness in these years.”
So, all ok. Phew. Serenity now!
(Nibali in the back seat…)
And here I was thinking it was a proper disaster over on the weird blue and yellow bus. Apparently, it was never thus. As long as the two guys that get caught within days of each other are related, it has nothing to do with the team. Next we’ll be hearing that Davidenok is a second cousin, and all will be swept right under that bulging Kazakh carpet that’s already reminiscent of a boa that’s just swallowed a large wild pig.
Imagine a football team or a rugby squad that had three positive tests in a month, two from first team players and another from the youth academy. Would the same bilge be dished out by a teammate – as is here by Nibali, whose disingenuous claptrap is doing him no favors at all – in that situation?
It might, but no one would buy it. But cycling is different you see. We are infected like a piece of rotting flesh by a culture that constantly and immediately apologizes for those responsible for this never-ending trail of cheating. And lo, if Astana wriggle free from this one who would really be too surprised by that?
“Certainly things happened a few years ago but the team has changed,” said Nibali as he rubbed a dollop of metal polish into his gleaming neck, completely ignoring the fact that the in latest infractions in Astana’s grubby ‘past’ was uncovered just hours earlier.
Let’s hope he gets that myopia seen to soon or at this rate, he’ll be falling off his bike at every corner.
In all seriousness, if ever there was an instance of a rider having the right to demand to move off a team that has been shown to produce dopers, it is here and now.
Nibali won many admirers for his ride in the 2014 Tour de France, and there was a groundswell of opinion that he may have been doing it clean too. Or cleaner. So where does that go now? Why, it has to be asked, would he not distance himself from all this rather than spew out statements that a five year old could contradict within seconds?
Upon hearing the news that the UCI was thinking of reviewing Astana’s ProTour license, Alexander Vinokourov, former doper himself and the man behind the team jumped off the merry-go-round, spat his dummy out and proceeded to have a full blown tantrum right in the middle of the playground.
“I don’t see why the team should have to pay for the stupidity of two [er, three – cp.] riders. The rules are the same for everybody and the commission will decide if we are working correctly or not.”
Let’s hope so Vino, for it would make a change to see a cycling commission do the right thing.
He then spoke of his own suspension for blood doping, saying that he felt that he and his team were being punished still as a result of it.
“I paid for it with my two-year suspension. I can’t pay for it all my life,” he said.
Well, let’s add the doping past (that he never admitted to in any case), along with the fact that the UCI, on August 20th this year, charged him and Alexander Kolobnev with bribery after Vino allegedly paid Kolobnev 150,000 euro to throw the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and the fact that he has now three doped riders on his current squad and, well, it’s all a little more serious than the 2007 positive.
“Maybe I was too naïve about the Kazakh riders on the team sometimes. It’s been a big lesson. When you’re a manager you have to be very strict with your riders,” he said, blissfully unaware of the ridiculousness of that statement.
How can a rider who once doped (and is from Kazakhstan!) be ‘naïve’ about riders from Kazahkstan on his own team? And was it just the Kazakh riders, Vino? Roman Kreuziger’s recent doping brouhaha (of which he was cleared by the Czech authorities but which the UCI and WADA will appeal) stems from his time at – you guessed it – Astana.
Here is the point that Vino is missing. He was a professional rider and a very successful one. Then he was shown to be doping and thrown out for two years. Then he came back and won the Olympic road race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Then he moved into management with Astana and became even more wildly popular in his home country, where, it is rumoured, he will one day run for president. And he’s loaded.
What in that story does not tell you that doping pays?
What in the Alexander Vinokourov StoryBook would suggest to a young rider that it is worth taking the chance? Two years out does not seem to big a price to pay for the riches, the wins, the success, the love. And even if you do get kicked out for good you can still find many a team willing to pay you top dollar for your ‘experience’.
The UCI it seems, might finally be ready to flex its muscles. Let’s hope they follow through, because this is a mess that needs cleaning up, and it is one that they are largely responsible for.
alternate realities? string theory, perhaps, where near-identical universes thrum alongside each other, where other variations of you live out their existence doing the same stuff but with different outcomes? or the confirmation that the world has truly gone bat-shit crazy?
whatever it is, George Hincapie and his cheery band of fellow travelers have somehow managed – again – to write their own histories. Hincapie IS NOT a drug cheat. he is in fact a good ol’ boy who gave and still gives a whole load of something back to cycling. god bless him and the flea-bitten horse called Hypocrisy he rode in on.
for his Gran Fraudo this year, a whole raft of guys who know a crapload about hiding needle marks will be attending. Lance will be there, Michael Barry and Tom Danielson too. Dave Zabriskie was supposed to join in but has since said he can’t make it – perhaps he’s realised the absurdity of this thing that is nothing less than a de facto celebration of cheating to win. perhaps not.
a whopping 27 sponsors are lining up for the ride, that costs $215 to enter on the line. a gran fondo in Europe will cost somewhere in the region from $30 to $100. and it’s not a difference in scale – La Marmotte in France draws up to 7000 people and the cost is 50 euro. not quite sure why Georde’s Fraudiolo is so expensive – maybe you’re paying per doper?
cos you sure get your money’s worth if that is the case.
some are going to say ‘but hey, this is for CHARITY.’ well whoop-de-doo. let’s rewind. the reason these guys are drawing crowds is because they are famous, successful ex-professional bike riders. the reason these guys are famous, successful ex-professional riders is because they doped so very well and had the cash to get away with it. the message here is that doping pays. and the ‘it’s for charity’ stuff – only the truly naiive would fail to see that this can be used as a cloak to deflect criticism. it also means a nice little tax-break at the same time – double ker-ching.
there are countless other ex-pros out there who NEVER doped who would be happy to do a ride for charity who are not raging sociopaths, but for whom nowhere near enough people would turn out. why? because people are just plain f*cking stupid. if you are going to this event then yes, you also, are firmly tucked away in that category. and a quick note on Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp, and why is Vaughters letting you go?) and Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing), Brent Brookwalter, Tejay Van Garderen and Larry Warbasse (all BMC) – sort your shit out, fellas. you can read their reasons for doing this here at VeloNews – but be warned, cos it MAKES NO SENSE. it will hurt your head.
George has this to say on the whole Fraud thing:
I met Thor Hushovd once. I was racing in the 2012 Tour of Qatar as a member of the RTS Racing Team, previously known as the Giant Racing Team. We’d been invited by virtue of being the third best team in Asia in 2011, after two Iranian teams.
So, there I was, sat at the back of the peloton and getting a daily pummeling. One day I ended up riding in with none other than Mr. Hushovd, who had punctured with about 10km to go. I caught up with him and we rode in together.
“I like your kit,” he said.
“Really? I don’t!” I replied. The black and bright yellow kit wasn’t my cup of tea at all.
“I like yours though,” I said.
“Meh,” was his response.
I’d always liked Hushovd as a rider. There seemed to be an honesty about his riding, a sense of graft to the effort he put in. Then there was his brilliant win in the Points Classification in the 2009 Tour de France when he rode solo on Stage 17 to scoop up points, which, much to my amusement (and no doubt many others), left Mark Cavendish markedly nonplussed.
“You’ve won the green jersey now but that’s always going to have a stain on it,” Cav said he told Hushovd at the time, ever the gent.
So it was nice to meet the man himself and to find that he was a decent bloke too.
He was one of those riders I always really wanted to believe was clean. Perhaps those of you reading this will know what I mean. Some of you may have felt that way about Armstrong. Or O’Grady. Or Basso. Or… the list goes on.
Hushovd recently gave a press conference to publicise his new autobiography. In it, he talks about both Christophe Bassons and Lance Armstrong. Bassons is widely regarded to have been a clean rider during his career, with Armstrong of course having been exposed, since his retirement, as the perpetrator of what has been termed as ‘the greatest sporting fraud of all time.’
Curiously however, in the press conference Hushovd had stronger things to say about Bassons than he did about the American, which is particularly strange as Hushovd claims that in 2011 Armstrong told him that he, and everyone else, had been at the dope.
Speaking of Bassons, Hushovd said that the Frenchman’s claim that it was impossible to win clean during the EPO heyday was false and more indicative of Bassons’ lack of talent or preparation than anything else.
“He [Bassons] probably had a rough time when riding, but he should also have the guts to look at himself,” said Hushovd. “Because, he has said it was impossible to compete at top level without using doping. Then he has to look at himself: Did he do a good enough job? Was his talent big enough? Did he eat the right food? He must look himself in the mirror. I’ve never seen anyone ask him those questions. Because it is possible. I did it.”
It does seem to me nothing short of ridiculous that a rider of Hushovd’s experience would basically dismiss Bassons’ claims without considering that EPO is widely accepted amongst athletes to give an endurance athlete a boost of 15-20% (though one study claimed that EPO increases performance levels by 54%) and without balancing what is nothing short of an attack on Bassons (history repeating itself?) without also considering how widespread the use of EPO and other drugs and methods such as blood doping were amongst the peloton at that time.
Are we to accept that, if Hushovd is indeed telling the truth, that he was over 20% better than those in the peloton who were using EPO when he claimed his many victories?
Speaking to a friend the other day, we posited this: what if, at that time, the peloton had its fair share of what would otherwise be average riders who were vying for wins thanks to illegal aids? What if, if that were true, a very talented rider was at the peak of his game on a given day? In that case, we wondered, could the truly clean and truly gifted athlete then beat the not very gifted and not at all clean athlete?
‘Maybe’ was the only (unscientific) conclusion we could agree on. It might be the case with Hushovd’s career, if he was indeed clean. Who’s to say either way. Some will say no one could have been clean then, others will say some were, and others still will admit to being nothing other than completely unable to say one way or another.
And then Hushovd moves on to Armstrong and the criticism he received from the Norwegian cycling authorities for not passing on the contents of what amounted to an admission of doping by the Texan in 2011.
Hushovd says that Armstrong said to him “Thor, let’s face it. Everybody did it.”
‘It’ of course being doping.
“Maybe I could’ve told the anti-doping bodies,” he said at the press conference. “But I don’t think it is my job to. And they were already working a lot on this issue at the time. If this would’ve happened again, I would probably have done the same thing. I’ve chosen to handle doping related issues in my own way during my career.
“If I had said that Lance did this, there wouldn’t have been a lot left of me. I was supposed to ride a bike. That’s my job. And I’ve done it pretty well now and then. Others will have to discover who doped or not. That issue I raise in my book as well. Why doesn’t the anti-doping government catch those who cheat? I think that’s worth raising questions about.”
‘There probably wouldn’t have been a lot left of me’ is a fascinating line, which could refer to the media and the frenzy that would have kicked off, or to the reaction by the peloton to a rider breaking the Omerta.
For me, Hushovd words on Bassons at the press conference amount to the Omerta rearing its head once again. Any rider who said that many doped and that it is either very hard or ’impossible’ to win, as Bassons did, was ostracized and, if we consider Hushovd’s words when he says it is not a rider’s job to call out dopers, isn’t he saying that the Omerta has its uses?
This method of calling riders who complained about doping inferior or weak (Paul Kimmage springs to mind) was the favoured technique, tried, tested and trusted, of Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid.
I’d also ask, when exactly is it a rider’s job to expose another rider who admits to doping? When the sport is half-standing, punch drunk from allegations and denials, as it was 15 years ago? Or when it is actually kneeling in the dirt, its reputation in tatters, as it has been these past few years?
We need riders who will stand up, riders who will find a voice. Hushovd is right in a sense in that, technically, exposing drug cheats is not a rider’s job, but in this era, being what it is, someone within the peloton has to make that breakthrough.
When asked at the press conference if he believed Armstrong had had a negative impact on cycling, Hushovd’s words, once again, were open to interpretation.
“Yes [Armstrong did damage cycling]. But he has contributed to building of the sport. I don’t defend what he did, I’m one of those riders who cried while climbing mountains because of Lance and the other dopers.”
And yet there is that line, ‘he has contributed to the building of the sport.’
Well, that depends on whether you fully accept that the reason he was in a position to do that was because he was the best doper in the peloton or not. Some say that Armstrong would never have won a Tour without doping, some feel that his ‘positive’ influence, which did drive bike sales up considerably, was still overshadowed by his doping and all that that entiled.
I still think Hushovd is a decent guy, but I also think that these comments from him, which are naiive at best, show how ingrained certain destructive attitudes are and how deep the culture of the Omerta lies.
this article originally appeared on The Roar
Either that or, we should all just stop being so British (and Scandinavian).
For, according to Mike Costello, sports writer, it seems that it is the UK, Finland, Denmark and Sweden that almost uniformly castigate drug cheats, whilst “in other parts of the world [the reaction] is nothing like as venomous.”
In fact, says Costello on a recent BBC Radio 5 program, “Some people chuckle at how venomous we can be, and also countries like Sweden and Denmark and Finland, countries that have a real passion about coming to grips with drug cheats.”
It wasn’t so much that there wasn’t enough to write about on any one of the subjects included here in the title of this article, but more that all three are deserving of being given some attention, the first because it is constantly overlooked, the second because it is an example of the willfully overlooked, and the third because well, it’s worth looking at (again).
So, not so much as a ‘Top 3 Talking Points’ but more like ‘Top 3 Things That Suck.’
What sucks about the Giro di Lombardia is that very few people seem to be bothered taking it seriously. A travesty! The Classic of the Dead Leaves (or a classica delle foglie morte for those who’ve eaten all their spaghetti) is just that, a proper classic.
The first edition was in 1905, which makes it 108 this year, an age bettered by very few one day races anywhere. It was originally called Milan-Milan for reasons I can’t quite fathom, but it does lack a little in the imagination. Not that that should detract any from what is a magnificent race.
The route has changed a great deal over the years but the two constants are Lake Como and the Madonna del Ghisallo climb, the latter of which is one of the great iconic landmarks in world cycling. Sean Kelly and the great Henri Pelissier are the only non-Italians to win the race three times, but it is the Italians who have dominated throughout the lifespan of the event, winning a whopping 67 times, compared to Belgium’s 7 wins, the nation second in the rankings.
Why is it so good? It’s not just the length that it has been running, it’s also the hilly parcours, the winding lanes that feature towards the end no matter, it seems, where it finishes, the Madonna climb, the sweeping views of the lake, the fact it is in Italy and they are mad for it, the fact Fausto Coppi won it five times and because it just is a proper classic of a one dayer.
Why has it been neglected so often? Well it doesn’t help that the organisers change the route so much, nor that it comes at the end of the year and after the World’s when many a fan is ready to hibernate or do something unfeasibly ridiculous like build up a fixie and buy a flat-nebbed baseball hat, nor that it has had its name changed from the Giro di Lombardia (its proper name), to Il Lombardia and finally now to the Tour of Lombardy.
Get a grip, please, Signori! Anyway, watch it, you’ll be suitably rewarded.
On to Astana. First Valentin then Maxin Iglinsky get popped for le dopage. Well done lads, maître must be proud, she’s raised a proper little pair hasn’t she? I raced against both these guys and I didn’t like them then. That was a few years ago now and there was a rumour that all was not as it seemed in that Kazakhstan team in which they then rode.
Ah well, they got them in the end I suppose, though not until both got some decent cash out of their flaunting of those things, what are they called… ah yes, almost forgotten them – the rules.
So what would you recommend? If you have two riders on your team busted for doping shouldn’t the management get a special prize?
Like a lifesize toy -the kind you get at the circus for knocking over bottles with a BB gun – maybe of Mickey Mouse? Or perhaps the UCI could dock the team 500 UCI points and see how they get on the next time their World Tour license comes up for revision? Or maybe we just do… nothing.
I vote for the latter. Why change things now, when they are running so smoothly.
Astana though did sign the MPCC charter, which calls for any team that has two riders test positive within 12 months to withdraw itself from competition for 8 days. However Astana will still be lining up at the start in Lombardy this weekend because they say they will wait for the return of Iglinsky’s B sample. Another example, like so many others, of a team putting itself before the integrity of the sport from which it feeds.
And finally, at the back end, as they usually are, the women.
What an absolute load of tosh I have been reading these past few days after what was in all honesty a dull old World Championships. Many male commentators watched the women’s race and then said it was ‘boring’, so the women (and anyone else who points it out) should shut up about the yawning chasm in prize money. A reasoned point of view that one, well done lads.
One that needs no further comment, really. One dull race does not an argument make.
But more seriously, I have first hand experience with the difficulty of changing things around when it comes to getting the pay levels raised. I am a consultant for a big Asian race and we have several fantastic female riders coming over, absolute top level riders.
In fact, so good is the women’s list looking that it rather puts the men’s in the shade, and more than a little. This in spite of the fact that the men’s prize pot is something like five times bigger than the women’s.
And yet there are several top female cyclists mailing me and still wanting to come. Why? Because they very often race for absolutely nothing, and something is better than nothing.
The other reason is that several male riders won’t get out of bed for less than a few grand. The vast majority of female riders though are living proof that women do not get into this sport to get rich – they truly are doing it for the love.
Now, personally I’d like the pot for each to be the same, but I am not funding the event. It really is a step by step deal. It is frustrating, and I am probably going to get in trouble for saying this, but it should, absolutely, be equal, but the sponsors have different ideas.
So we hope for success this year, to have something tangible to show, and then we push for more next.
Something even close would be good, and I think that is something many women who race desire and that many who moan on about this issue negatively don’t get – it is not necessarily absolute parity that is the demand of most – it is just to get somewhere even close.
Something like 400 euro for the winner of the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race, 95,000 euro for the men. I mean, seriously?
And on that note – enjoy Il Tour di Lombadia on Sunday!
a rather long and amazing race in Mongolia kept me away from the computer for about 2 weeks (lordy lordy hallelujah) and as a result depraved PezCycling News of my lowdowns on the Vuelta.
but fear not, folks, for there was just time to get one in, the final roundup of the Spanish Grand Tour.
read it and weep.
click on the image below to go to the article on PEZ.
This isn’t a new story. It’s been kicking around now since the end of January.
Yet there’s been very little commentary written on the deal that will see last year’s surprise Vuelta a Espana winner of 2013, Chris Horner, twinkling his little magic toes all over the World Tour again this year.
I haven’t written more than a dozen words on Horner, ever, and I wasn’t going to write anything this time. You may be of the camp that thinks ‘Good on him’ – after all there aren’t many 41-year-olds who’ve won a Grand Tour for the first time in their life.
Well, there has never been another, in fact.
The magnitude of Horner’s feat did not go unnoticed, though the reaction to it was a little less in awe than I’m sure he would have wished.
The cycling forums went mad with all kinds of allegations and suspicions that were largely to be expected.
Horner’s win though came at a point in the history of this sport when older riders were suddenly finding themselves without contracts in greater numbers than ever before.
If you were older and had any kind of suspicion of doping infringements lingering around you, like Luis Leon Sanchez, then boom, you were cut loose and cast into the wilderness.
Horner was rumoured to be going to Christina Watches for some time until the news that he was being welcomed on to Lampre-Merida, a move that some in the UCI would have been less than thrilled by.
See, there is something about Horner that just doesn’t smell right. I’m not saying anything new there, but it’s still worth looking over the reasons why for a moment.
First of all, a little known rider (outside of the USA) named Matt DiCanio went on record as far back as 2005 to say that another rider, Phil Zajicek, was offered help to purchase EPO and HGH when both rode for the American professional team Saturn.
DiCanio has also gone on record to say that Horner once said many years ago “It isn’t cheating if everyone is doing it.”
Secondly, Horner’s blood values from the 2013 Vuelta “fit with the patterns that anti-doping authorities look for as a sign of cheating.” Not my words, those of Michael Puchowicz in Outside Magazine.
The article states that Hornet’s hemoglobin concentration is simply too high to be natural. The other marker is the lowered reticulocyte count which is another sign of the use of EPO.
Puchowicz’s observations were seen by Shane Stokes of VeloNation, who passed them on to anti-doping authority Robin Parisotto, who works with the Athlete Passport Management Unit in Lausanne, France.
“It is not 100 percent clear that there is anything untoward happening,” Parisotto told Velonation, “[but] there’s certainly unusual patterns.”
He compares Horner’s bio passport to other profiles he has seen working as an anti-doping authority and concludes that “…most of those that come across to us are suspicious. Most are there for a reason. What I have seen with this particular profile is similar to those other profiles.”
Why didn’t the UCI investigate this? No idea.
Is any of this enough reason to suspend Horner? My gut says no, but if an anti-doping authority is stating that Horner’s values are suspicious why isn’t the UCI investigating?
One person who is probably asking himself these very questions and who has far more of a divested interest in all this than just about anyone else is another American rider – or should I say ex-rider – Craig Lewis.
Some of you may remember the now 29-year-old rider, who has just announced his retirement.
At 19, riding in the Tour de Georgia, Lewis was hit by a car and suffered two punctured lungs, internal bleeding and several fractures all over his body, almost passing away as a result.
Months of recovery followed before he returned to the pro ranks with Slipstream before moving on to HTC, where he won the team time trial at the 2011 Giro d’Italia. Days before the end of that race he broke a femur, forcing him out and eventually on to the Pro Continental Champion Systems team, which folded just last year.
Then he got a berth on the Lampre-Merida team. Well, he would have had a place there, had the management not decided to go and sign a 41-year-old American called Chris Horner.
The same guy who says he saw no doping on Bruyneel’s teams, the same guy who defended Armstrong until it became impossible even for his greatest apologists to do so, the same guy about whom all those rumours have been flying around.
“I thought we had already hit rock bottom, but it keeps going down,” Lewis said in an interview recently with Cyclingnews. “The sport just doesn’t market itself, and it needs some big changes – a lot has to happen for the sport to be appealing for companies to sponsor. It’s not sustainable the way it is.”
With riders like Horner still finding places to ply their trade, you’d have to agree with Lewis.
“Being cynical is the only thing that is still fun about cycling,” wrote Willard Ford, and I love that line so much that I might put it on a t-shirt. But here’s an interesting thought – which came first, the doping, or the cynicism?
There are several different kinds of cycling fan, of course, but for the sake of argumentative journalism, please allow me to generalize. We’ll say there are three broad types.
Type One never believed a word of it from the get-go and knew these guys were popping something akin to rocket juice straight into their butt cheeks from the early 90s. Hardcore riders and/or racers themselves, they knew that what they were seeing was not physiologically possible. They understood the history of the sport and knew that from way back in the late 1800s all the way up to Mr. Merckx himself and beyond, cyclists had been cheating.
Why did they cheat? Because they were human, plain and simple.
They spent years in the shadows, these Type Ones, whispering under their breath and looking over their shoulder lest they accidentally let it slip that they believed that 99% of the peloton was more chemically enhanced than Timothy Leary on a three day bender.
Few spoke out because if they did they would be vilified, labeled as envious and bitter. Some were writers and broadcasters but they still kept schtum, lest they find themselves out of work. They were, however, vindicated in the end, even if it never made anyone really feel too good.
Type Two believed in The Lie for a long time then realized, finally (despite Festina, Puerto, the Italian with the big ears and all the rumors about needles, vials and exercise bikes being brought into Grand Tour hotel rooms to help riders keep their blood thin at night), that yes, their heroes doped. For this, we can thank Lance Armstrong.
It took the fall of the good ol’ boy from Texas to finally convince Type Two that even English speakers dope too. Heaven forbid. So, David Millar was not an isolated case. Turns out, in fact, that it had been these American guys that were at the head of the most sophisticated doping fraud in the history of the sport.
Was nothing sacred? Could we please just go back to blaming the Spanish and the Italians? Wouldn’t that be easier for everyone?
Then we have Type Three. Denied sufficient oxygen at birth, Type Three sees nothing wrong in doping and wishes everyone would just shut up and allow the dopers to get on with it. Who cares? Type Three certainly doesn’t. Happily unburdened by the weight of intellect they will tell you that they just don’t give a ****, which, as we all know, is one hell of a powerful argument.
Personally, I’m either an optimistic cynicist or a cynical optimist, so in my case I’d say I was definitely ready for the dawn of the EPO era, because I was already pissed off. When a bunch of Dutch kids died in the early 90s because they didn’t know how to use blood thinning agents to counteract the thickening of the blood that EPO causes, I got pissed off even more.
Later when these man-hulks were racing up mountains so fast that even the Colombians were shocked, I delved even further into my natural store of cynicism. It was a match made in heaven, professional cycling and me, because I have always loved having something to complain about. And here it was. A beautiful thing being destroyed by chancers and pimps, enablers and drug addicts. The cheats rose to the top and the good guys got zilch. Less than zilch, in fact, because they even got a kick in the teeth as they were being thrown out.
All of which brings me to Jonathan Tiernan-Locke.
When he rocked up in 2012 and started winning stuff and putting riders who had for a long time, on paper at least, been better than him to shame I thought ‘hmmmm’. You probably thought that too. My Gran even put a bet on him eventually getting busted, he looked that dodgy.
‘Give him the benefit of the doubt,’ some said.
‘Hey, innocent til proven guilty!’ clamoured others.
Why? Because so often when a rider has come along and shown form that he had never previously exhibited they don’t later on get busted for doping, or ‘admit’ it when the gun’s to their head? Like, Bjarne Riis. Or Levi Leipheimer. Or David Millar?
I wished JTL was clean. I am that stupid that I wanted to believe it. I wanted to believe because I love those stories, I’m sure many of us do, of the underdog who rises to the challenge, who comes to the stadium to watch then gets asked to play and hits the skin off the ball to bring home the win.
I wanted to believe because I’m human. But something said ‘hmmm’ in my head because I had reached the point where I just could not take it anymore. The data shows that a vast majority of cyclists throughout history have doped. Recent years show that for every step forward we take 5 back. It all shows, indeed, that if you think anyone is really, really clean, then you’re conning yourself.
This doesn’t mean no one is clean. It just means that you really, seriously should not believe any of them.
Yes, a brilliantly ridiculous conclusion, but you go check the numbers. Let’s hear your summation.
JTL’s rather Boonesque excuse for his results was that he had necked 17 pints just before the test, but that he couldn’t be bothered to challenge the results cos he has no cash and he figured he’d been stitched up enough.
You know what that ’17 pints’ excuse really is? It’s like when you’ve done something really quite wrong at work or at a party or indeed anywhere where there are people you have to face later, and you’re not brave enough to admit the truth. So you spin a yarn that is outlandish and frankly pathetic, but because everyone is nice they go along with it. For those who weren’t there at the time of the misdeed or who aren’t so close, your little lie does just enough to sow a miniscule grain of doubt in the mind.
‘Oh of course he did it,’ they think… ‘But he did say that he…’
And that is what JTL’s excuse essentially is. He will go back to his pals and his family and they’ll be able to pretend to believe that he is innocent. The veneer will survive, just. It’s the coward’s way out though, make no mistake, but, amazingly, it works.
A study in the USA found that sports fans prefer their idols to lie about doping, despite the evidence of a positive test. Denying works. Your ratings might take a dent but hey, he said the reason was this, or she said that. Admit it though, and your popularity will really fall.
So yes, people would rather be lied to than hear the truth, in a great many circumstances.
For me though? Sheesh, gimme a break, the kid is as guilty as OJ. But then, he did have 17 pints.
Come on cynicism, don’t desert me now…
this article originally appeared on The Roar
Eurosport’s coverage of the 2014 Tour de France had a section at the end of each stage that was entitled ‘LeMond on Tour’.
This featured the combustible-looking, three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond chatting to a host of the Tour’s personalities.
One day his French co-host ushered onto the makeshift set none other than Alexandre Vinokourov. Vinokourov is the one-time crowd favourite Kazakh army colonel who is now Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana team boss.
El Vino is also infamous for being kicked out of the 2007 Tour de France after he was caught for blood doping, which triggered the removal of all his Astana teammates and their entourage.
His reaction to getting nabbed – to basically skirt around the issue for years and to never fully own up to his breaking of the rules – lost him many friends, leaving the majority of cycling fans decidedly nonplussed when he won the 2012 Olympic road race in his final year of racing.
Whoever decided that it would not be decidedly uncomfortable for LeMond, an avowed anti-doper and long-time Lance Armstrong foe, to exchange pleasantries with a man whose arrogance and nefariousness are the polar opposite of everything the only American winner of Le Tour stands for, must soon have realised their mistake as soon as the Kazakh hero stepped into view.
LeMond’s body stiffened visibly and he had trouble even forcing a smile. Vino was and remains a poster boy for the good old (recent) days, when riders thought nothing of doping up to get ahead.
That he is managing a top-level team is bad enough in my opinion, and the fact that his rider won the Tour is the only blemish on Nibali’s otherwise sterling and hugely impressive win.
Such is Vinokourov’s esteem (and political contacts) in his homeland that some reports say that news of his positive test were never fully reported in Kazakhstan.
That Kairat Kelimbetov, the president of Kazakh Cycling, is now pushing for a Grand Depart in the eastern European nation reflects the growing popularity of the sport there. However it must be noted that the awarding of such a prestigious gift by ASO will be seen as a victory for Vinokourov, something which I hope Christopher Prudhomme, head of Le Tour, will take into account.
Christian Prudhomme reacted recently to the report that several former Tour winners believe that Armstrong’s seven Tour ‘victories’ should be reinstated in the record books with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and a definitive shake of the head.
“And the same goes for the public,” he said. “You ask the people along the route. It’s clear, his name will not be on the list again. Period.”
All very well and good, but where does he stand on Vinokourov heading a ProTour team at a race he once disgraced?
In the argument for the special and singular treatment of Armstrong, his sociopathic nature is often trotted out, but it is not up to the rules to define who was the worst cheat.
A cheat is a cheat is a cheat, and, if anyone is asking me, they should all be removed from the books and all be banned from further involvement in professional racing, or, at the very least, in the races they were caught cheating at or during.
Bjarne Riis is another case in point. The career domestique won the Tour in 1996 then in retirement admitted that he had doped during that victory. ASO removed his name then reinstated him, placing an asterisk next to his name to indicate doping offences.
He skulked off for a spell after a successful career as a team boss. He then sold his share to the Russian Oleg Tinkoff, admitted depression as a result of all his troubles, disappeared for a spell then turned up again driving the Tinkoff-Saxo team car in races this year, most noticeably at the Tour.
I’m not the only one who has noticed all this, and indeed the UCI president Brian Cookson touched on the subject in an interview a few days ago in The Guardian, reacting to, I can only guess, the public mood regarding the sight of Vino and Riis at the Tour.
“I would like both of them to come to the [Cycling Independent Reform] commission,” Cookson said. “The commission doesn’t have powers of subpoena, but there is a court of public opinion here which is really important; those two people and others as well need to bear that in mind if they want to continue to operate in our world, opinion in the world of cycling would be much more favourable towards them if they came forward.”
That’s all well and good, but is it enough? The commission was designed to look into cycling’s doping past, but there is a groundswell of opinion that believes that there is no place in cycling management and in the bureaucracy for former dopers.
“We’ve got a rule that says if you’ve got a major anti-doping violation you can’t be involved with a team,” continued Cookson, “but our advice is that it’s difficult to employ that retroactively.”
How so? How about we get rid of the lot of them? To name only Riis and Vino is another example of that old attitude that the apple cart is generally healthy and that there’s just a couple of bad apples in there, but in truth, in the era of Vino and Riis, it was very much the other way around.
This is one reason that any truth and reconciliation hearing would turn up very little truth and absolutely no reconciliation, because so few former pros would have anything to gain from admitting to using drugs. In fact, they would have everything to lose.
Cookson started off well enough and made all the right noises. There is no doubt that the support of women’s cycling has improved noticeably. However, until the UCI decides once and for all to ban all the cheats from management we will continue as a sport to make one step forward and three back.
All the while, Armstrong’s repeated cry that he is being singled out unfairly will gather more support.
We just had a very good Tour with a winner that has no doping suspicion hanging over him and saw several new and young faces emerge, so why are we still seeing the smug Vino center stage?
A shambles. Nothing less.
Bjarne Riis reads from the usual doper script and tells us how ‘difficult’ the decision to first dope was.
this article originally appeared on The Roar
Many would have never heard of a TUE until last week, other than the one that brings you closer to FRI, but in the past seven days or so ‘Therapeutic Use Exemption’ has entered the lexicon of cycling fans the world over.
Reaction to the news that Sky applied for and received an exemption for glucorticosteroids on Chris Froome’s behalf just before the Tour du Romandie back in late April has been mixed on cycling websites and forums.