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.
This article originally appeared in PezCycling News.
Let’s cut to the chase. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Michael Rogers is a divisive figure and many would have watched the finale of yesterday’s Stage 11 of the 2014 Giro d’Italia in a slightly perplexed state, unsure whether or not to cheer on the Australian’s undoubtedly impressive solo break that culminated in a handsome victory.
Much of the blame for that uncertainty lies in large measure with the UCI, given that of the three incidents involving Rogers that have led people, rightly or wrongly, to suspect that the rider in question may have knowingly doped in the past, the world’s governing body has been directly at fault in two.
The first of these ‘incidents’ came in May 2013, when the French sports newspaper L’Equipe published a list that had been leaked from the UCI that was laughingly labeled ‘secret’, which contained the name of 40 riders, ranking them according to the level of suspicion with regards to doping.
Rogers warranted a ‘7’ on the scale, which was defined him as having supplied values that provided “overwhelming evidence of some kind of doping, due to recurring anomalies, enormous variations in parameters, and even the identification of doping products or methods”.
Was there any action taken as a result of this list? None. Not by the UCI, nor the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA), nor by any team or rider in the form of litigation against the UCI or L’Equipe.
Everyone kept mum, and it was business as usual the very next day. Had the list been leaked to try to ensure a clean Tour de France that year? Was it an attempt to name and shame riders into cleanliness? Why were no blood values ever released to support the claims made? Why did not one single rider ever speak about the list?
Too many questions, and absolutely zero answers. It was a screw up by the UCI of rather mammoth proportions, and it left the cycling public more confused than ever as to the state of their beloved sport whilst simultaneously guaranteeing a smudged question mark over any remarkable performance by any of the riders high up on the list.
As in yesterday, as with Rogers.
Next cock-up for the UCI where Rogers was concerned came when he tested positive for Clenbuterol on the 20th of October, 2013 at the Japan Cup, after having been in China previously. We all know about this little cherry-bomb of a drug and China and there’s little need to go over that too much.
However, it’s worth noting the UCI’s inconsistency in dealing with Clenbuterol cases. Alberto Contador and WADA dragged the sport through the mud for months before he was finally banned then cleared then banned then stripped of his titles won during the period when he was riding but shouldn’t have been and yes, it is all very confusing.
Rogers and other riders who returned positives after racing in China have been cleared whereas Chinese rider Fuy Li, formerly of Radioshack, was suspended for 2 years for a positive test for Clenbuterol.
In the case of Rogers, it seemed that there would be little to gain from taking minute amounts of the drug and most felt that he had indeed ingested contaminated meat. However, having said that, the UCI must decide what level of Clenbuterol deserves a positive ranking, and thereby apply the full sanctions to anyone over that limit.
The riders too must take full responsibility for the food they eat, and any rider with any trace of Clenbuterol below any limit set by the UCI should automatically be banded from racing for one year. This will send out a clear message that the ‘I didn’t know what I was taking’ defence is unsupportable in the current climate.
The fans deserve more. They deserve to know exactly what is going on and the UCI must establish a rule of consistency to bring back the trust of the public with regards to doping in our sport.
This needs to be done because I am sure that many of you out there were in a similar boat to myself, watching something on the road into Savona that left you uneasy and unsure of how to react. I also apologise for taking up perfectly good column space with 700 words on doping, but having read several articles on the stage this morning it was obvious that there was yet again a glossing over of what is the most pressing issue that our sport faces.
All this was brought about by a victory by a man on a bike – something that should be so uniting and beautiful, and yet, thanks to the incompetency that has gripped the UCI for far too long, was not much short of utterly confusing. Rogers though also shares some blame for the doubts, as he is yet another rider who worked with the infamous Dr. Ferrari in his career, between 2005 and 2006.
“It was a mistake,” he said at the time, hand-winding the gramophone upon which that old record was playing.
What else happened? Ah yes, Cadel Evans was again so comfortable that he may as well be racing in his slippers and wearing a smoking jacket. He will win this Giro, if his luck holds out, and if you can find a more deserving winner of a Grand Tour in the past few years, I’d like to know his name.
Evans is all gumption and very little style, but his aggressive tenacity is hugely impressive. All those years I thought he was the most boring man in the room, he was probably just the cleanest…
Rogers may well owe Evans and BMC a pint too for his win. Evans is not a sentimental man but it looked for all the world like he sent his teammate to the head of the race in those final 3km to slow down the chasers that fancied their chances of reeling Rogers in.
In the end though, the Australian veteran won, and, in the end, I’m still not sure what to make of it all.
As news broke of Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies rider Will Routley’s victory on Stage 4 of the 2014 Tour of California, the majority of cycling fans could be forgiven for being unable to name any of his previous victories or his team’s name. Indeed, for many it would have been the fist time they’d have heard of him.
But make no mistake about, Routley is a rider who combines a sackload of talent with great courage and, last but not least, one commodity that many a pro cyclist has been shown to be sorely lacking in recent years: honesty.
Seriously, why bother? We love a sport that hurts. It hurts if you participate and it hurts if you’re a fan of the professional side of it too.
As a rider you spend a great deal of time suffering, head bent over stem, muscles screaming, tendons taut, sweat pouring out of every pore and a string of saliva hanging from your gob.
Better halves and non-riding friends often just don’t understand why you’d want to do this as a ‘hobby’.
I do not know where to start when it comes to George Hincapie. Ex-Lance Armstrong teammate, ongoing Lance apologist, ex-doper, supergrass, writer, hotelier, clothing entrepreneur, and team sponsor.
George wears so many hats that we really shouldn’t be surprised that even he gets confused from time to time as to which one he’s wearing.
Let’s start then with the facts. George was a pro rider from 1994 to 2012. He rode for Motorola, US Postal, Team High Road and BMC Racing.
His didn’t win a great deal apart from Gent-Wevelgem and came close in a big Classic or two, though he was national road race champion of the USA three times over his 18 year career. He also finished 17 Tours de France.
He is most famous as being, for much of his career, Lance Armstrong’s faithful domestique and for being a fully committed doper for (according to him) at least a decent chunk of his career.
He was doped good too, by the best. The very best.
What is it about Team Sky that rankles so? Why do the come across as mirthless, joyless automatons? Can it be because they actually are? Or is there more to it than that?
Unlike football teams, cycling teams generally lack a definable character and so generally it’s hard to truly love or dislike a team. With that in mind, Sky have really outdone themselves to draw such opprobrium from cycling fans.
very interesting article here on The Outer Line, by Joe Harris and Steve Maxwell, head over to their site to check it out.
here’s a snippet:
“I had to do it just to survive” –Closely related to “everyone does it,” is this mantra – which perhaps comes the closest to being understandable or admissible. This person feels like he has to dope just to keep his place in the peloton, essentially bolstering his “skill set” so that he can remain employed in the industry. This person is the most trapped or caught up in the corruption – able to work but probably unable to do so without cheating. However, this group doesn’t see the irony in the fact that they are cheating others out of contracts by participating in the doping to begin with. There are hundreds of untold stories of talented up-and-comers who were denied the possibility of joining a professional team because of the actions of these types of riders, who did whatever they could to hold onto their spots on the roster.
“The evidence establishes conclusively that Mr Bruyneel was at the apex of a conspiracy to commit widespread doping on the USPS and Discovery Channel teams spanning many years and many riders.”
“Similarly, Dr Celaya and Mr Marti were part of, or at least allowed themselves to be used as instruments of, that conspiracy.”
The above statement came fast on the heels of the decision by the American Arbitration Association to hand down a 10-year ban to Johan Bruyneel, and an eight-year ban each to Dr. Calaya and trainer Jose Marti for their part in enabling the doping that permeated the US Postal and Discovery teams.
These three now join Australian Matt White, who was also banned (for six months), in the wake if the fallout from the USADA investigation. This was the investigation which eventually saw a lifetime ban given to Lance Armstrong.
Bruyneel is mewing and spewing that his ban is unfair, and, goshdarnit, he is right.
Because it is way too short.
this article first appeared on The Roar.
What do we do with these guys huh? They come along to a race, doped up, get busted, go away for two years or even less.
Then at the end of their suspension, they swan along again and slot right back in to the groove of things, taking part in the very event that they got caught doping in in the first place.
Numerous top-level pros and not-so top-level pros have done this before, and yet the organisers of these races often feel powerless (if they care at all) to prevent the ‘reformed’ doper from returning to the very event that their selfish actions tainted.
In other cases, event organisers know that an athlete has tested positive in the past and that their participation will serve to antagonise some of the other participants.
Yet again, they have no precedent to fall back on of these guys being denied entry, and lack the nuts to be the first to make a stand.
In other cases, the organisers themselves actually suspect that these ex-dopers are still doping, and still feel powerless to do anything, as they know that testing is hit and miss and that, despite a rider putting in truly incredible – not credible – performances, they probably won’t get caught.
And so they pass the buck, let the guy in, then cry bloody murder when he gets busted.
Michele Acquarone, formerly director of the Giro d’Italia, said as much about the performances of Danilo di Luca in the 2013 race.
Claiming at the time that Di Luca had an addiction problem, after he tested positive for EPO, Acquarone said “I’m angry because I think: ‘How can a rider or a person of his age be so stupid and not understand that the music has changed and not understand the damage he’s doing to himself and the whole movement.”
At that time, Giro d’Italia technical director Mauro Vegni refuted the suggestion that RSC Sport should have been suspicious of Di Luca’s performances after his successful but very late comeback to racing.
“It’s not up to us to evaluate a rider’s performances. I think it’s up to the team, not the organisers,” Vegni said.
“He’s got a licence from the international federation and so that’s OK for us. He undergoes all the controls, like all the riders. He got caught by one of them. I don’t see why we should evaluate his performances.”
But is that attitude really good enough? Remember, these are the same organisers who watched Maurio Santambrogio enter their race then get busted for EPO too.
“Of course I’m not happy, but I’m not even surprised,” Acquarone said. “We all knew.”
What an incredible statement: ‘we all knew.’ And yet, he still entered the race. As Vegni argued at the time, should the onus be 100 per cent on the teams, the cycling federation and the UCI to hunt down the dope cheats?
I’d say yes. But, do race organisers bear some responsibility in all this too? Again, yes. I’ve done enough races where guys come straight back from suspensions and smash the field apart just as they did when doping.
I’ve also known organisers to allow guys to ride without a word even though, privately, they suspect that these guys are doping.
It’s a tricky one, isn’t it?
One race has finally come through though with a policy that could and should mark the beginning or race organisers beginning to pick up the slack and to make statements where dopers are concerned.
Six days ago, the organiser of the Cape Epic MTB race announced that two riders had been banned for life from ever taking part in the event again.
One rider was already provisionally suspended by the South Africa Institute for a Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) and the other was suspended for three months for returning an “adverse analytical finding in an in-competition test” in May, 2013.
Neither are professionals. It is worth noting here that amateur riders still receive cash and other prizes, can get sponsored bikes and equipment on the back of good results and attain social stature too, all of which have a value.
“I don’t care whether a rider has been banned for three months or three years, if you cheat then we don’t have time for you – even if you are not earning a living from cycling, as is the case with these riders,” said Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak. “This is a new era in cycling, things are changing and I don’t want to entertain anybody who still feels the need to dope.”
Unfortunately, the ban will not be applied retroactively pre-December 2012 (when the organisers made the statement regarding the life-time bans) as they felt to do so would be ‘naïve’.
“We’ve chosen not to apply this retrospectively because we believe that would be naive. Cycling has a dark past. Many riders from this previous era have rediscovered the joy of cycling as mountain bikers and participate in the Absa Cape Epic as their expression of riding clean.
‘Previous offenders, who have served their suspension term, may ride future Absa Cape Epics. We want to be part of the new era of cleaner cycling, and therefore only future offenders will receive the lifetime bans.’
Personally I think that is a cop out, and the fact that guys like Floyd Landis could sign up and ride serves to make my point. Yet still, this is a move that other events should take note of.
This is an example of organisers taking matters into their own hands and setting out their stall. They out in massive efforts to get people to ride and they have every right to call the shots. As a result of a policy such as this, more people will be drawn to participate and its reputation will only benefit.
Worth stating clearly is that the Cape Epic decision is one of zero tolerance. So, no second strikes. One strike and done, you’re out.
Is that fair? Again, it’s a tough one, but more and more I am starting to think that, unless the UCI comes up with a better proposal, then the race organisers worldwide should sit down and make that decision themselves.