Confessed dopers Tyler Hamilton, Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie are rumoured to be planning a surprise party for Stuart O’Grady, welcoming him to the club.
It’s a very select club, one that refused entry to the likes of Jan Ulrich, Floyd Landis and Riccardo Ricco.
In Ulrich’s case it seems he crossed the line by taking recreational drugs (ecstasy) and having a drinking problem – so he wasn’t ‘just’ a doper, he was also not quite presentable.
Ricco? He made the mistake of getting busted too early in his career (and not just once), and by not being ‘contrite’ enough when he was busted.
Not that it matters if the contrition is real or not.
And Landis? Well, he was just a mess from the off, got too big for his boots, got on Armstrong’s wrong side (many now see that the wrong side is in fact his only side) and got busted at a time when is just wasn’t fashionable to do so.
The Great White American Hopes in Floyd’s days were not supposed to be dirty – he was, as Ricco was once described by Mark Cavendish with a naivety that strayed well into stupidity, one bad apple in an otherwise healthy basket of bright, shiny and very clean apples.
A crock? Yep, obviously, but the majority of the cycling public smelt that load back then and declared it to be smelling of roses.
How times have changed.
Such are the levels of envy among former pros who did in fact dope, but never got caught, at the post-confessional financial successes of riders like Hincapie and possibly now O’Grady (if enough people buy his book), that many are thinking of making a comeback.
Of loading up on EPO, getting caught, then getting busted before they take a six-month career-ending ban to go off and write a book.
It’s interesting that O’Grady has titled his book Battle Scars. I can’t help think that the choice of title has been heavily influenced by the news of his doping.
Had he finished his career on the bike and not been exposed, how different it all could have been.
From hero to zero, so very quickly.
He says he’s just enjoying “being normal”, but I don’t know many ‘normal’ people that profited from doping (he says just once), got busted, wrote a book, made profits from that book and then headed out on a national book tour.
That’s not normal, not in my book (and no need to excuse that terrible pun).
In an interview with CyclingNews, O’Grady said, “We had pretty much wrapped up the book when my personal situation came out so obviously we had to rewrite it a bit and add a few chapters.
“It will be interesting to see how people take it on board. I just hope people can put into context and try to understand what it was like back then.”
So, the “extra chapters” – ie, the truth would about him doping and cheating – may never have been included had he not been busted.
Instead, his devoted fans would have read the ‘clean’ version, but now it is in there with ‘yes I did dope but please try to take it all in context’.
But wait – that was then, this is now. There is zero excuse for the fact that until the news of his positive came out he was quite prepared to bury it. That wasn’t ‘then’, it’s very much now.
So he was still willing to connive and perpetrate fraud by hoisting a blood, guts and glory but no mention of doping cos ‘I never did it’ tale onto a fawning public.
He also says he never had any idea that Armstrong was doping. Well, to counter that, anyone who has ever raced a bike kinda wondered, even if they were really into the Texan’s feats, if the big guy was maybe, just maybe, digging into Dr Ferrari’s bag of tricks to aid his superhuman performances.
Do we need any more wool foisted over our eyes? Do we need anymore ‘confessional’ books that make money for the confessors?
What ever happened to the ‘Son of Sam’ law that was enacted in the USA and Australia, to prevent criminals from profiting from their illegal activity?
Is it time that doping in professional sport be made a criminal activity on every country with an Olympic body?
I’m sick of these guys rolling out the books and the films and the Gran Fondos and the double toaster sets.
Vote with your wallets. Don’t buy this book.
brilliant article here from Suze Clemitson in The Guardian, thoroughly investigating the links between the pressure the sport brings, doping and depression.
“Perhaps Obree put it best: “It’s not that sport makes people depressed. A lot of people who suffer from depression have a tendency to have obsessive behaviour – that’s why more of them exist in the top end of sport. The sport is actually a self-medicating process of survival.”
is it just the pros though? i don’t think so.
by Dr. Conor McGrane
Brian Cookson seems to have delivered on his election promise to set up an independent commission to investigate the UCI’s actions during the doping crisis which included the Armstrong era. In Dick Marty, Peter Nicholson and Ulrich Haas he has appointed a heavy weight group of politicians, sports lawyers and even war crime investigators.
Interestingly the UCI is fully funding this commission, one of the reasons I believe the one proposed by Pat McQuaid fell was that he wanted WADA to part fund it.
There doesn’t seem to be any guarantee of amnesties or reduced bans for those who co-operate and I suspect we all have mixed feeling on this.
Over all though it looks a strong group with a wide ranging remit and a large amount of independence. They aim to report within a year and we should all look forward to this although I suspect many involved with the sport will do so with trepidation.
In parallel to this, other processes are ongoing.
The MPCC (of whom I am very proud Cycling Ireland was the first national federation to join) continues to examine the practices of medics involved in the sport. Not only do they look at WADA restricted drugs but they also look at the workings of other drugs. Recently they asked member doctors to stop prescribing the painkiller tramadol in competition. This is something that Sky’s doctor has said they used to do but have now stopped in competition and indeed was something I personally prescribed but have now stopped as well.
The honestly of Sky’s doctor on this issue was something I found refreshingly open and honest and something to be applauded.
It also opens Pandora’s Box on other drugs permitted under WADA but about which there are concerns.
Cortisone in its many forms remains a useful drug in treating inflammatory conditions but is also a drug which can be abused.
There is also a drug used to treat high blood pressure called telmisartan which has reputed fat burning properties. I have heard anecdotal evidence it is being used in pro cycling (and presumably other sports). It should have no place other than in treatment of high blood pressure and again is something which needs monitoring.
I suppose my point is again that outside of banned drugs there is a large grey area where drugs which have a useful role in treating illness are being used in healthy athletes with the aim of improving performance.
The fight against doping is not just about avoiding banned drugs but also about avoiding inappropriate and indeed unethical use of others.
If we want fair and open sport then we need doctors who are bound by ethics somewhat above and beyond that of simply avoiding the use of banned medications.
We have a long way to go but with the UCI making moves in the right direction, organisations like the MPCC bringing issues like the above out into the open and doctors in teams starting to speak out openly and honestly, I see genuine hope that we are starting to change the culture of pro cycling.
There is however no room at all for complacency…
“We learn from history that we never learn anything from history.”
In October last year, the Italian cyclist Mauro Santambrogio opened up his smartphone, browsed to the twitter app, typed in two words and pressed ‘send’.
Four months earlier, Santambrogio had been informed by the UCI that he had tested positive for EPO during the Giro d’Italia. He had won a stage of the race and finished ninth overall, it was by some distance his best ever performance in a Grand Tour.
But his joy at such an achievement did not last long. Having previously been mentioned as part of the Mantova investigation, this time there was little doubt – he was a doper. He lost his job, was facing a two year suspension and his life would never quite be the same.
Then, that October evening, Santambrogio sent out his chilling tweet:
In December last year, news broke that Michael Rogers had tested positive for clenbuterol at the Japan Cup. On the same day, another rider also tested positive for the same substance, the lesser known Jonathan Breyne.
Rogers, being a member of a World Tour team, was much more to the forefront of the headlines. Breyne on the other hand was an afterthought in the cycling news of the day. But privately, it was Breyne who was suffering greater consequences.
The day following the news of his positive test, Breyne attempted suicide by taking an overdose of pills.
Recently I came across an article where Belgian cycling physician Dr Roland Marlier made a number of proposals to the UCI Medical Commission regarding reforms on anti-doping procedures.
These reforms included:
- To institute a system of licensing for doctors attached to cycling teams.
- To give more thought to the method of publishing of doping control results, publishing ‘positives’ only after a counter-check has been made.
- To allow the rider to be advised by a lawyer and a medical counsellor in cases of alleged doping.
The first point is something which has become more and more relevant in recent years as doctors like Michele Ferrari, Pedro Celaya and Eufemiano Fuentes have all received sanctions from the UCI. There are now UCI rules pertaining to who can and cannot be hired as a team doctor and the specific qualifications they must hold but these rules are currently not enforced.
With regards to the second point, according to the UCI’s own rules, in the case of a positive ‘A’ sample, they are only required to notify the rider, the national federation of the rider and the national anti-doping agency of the rider. In spite of this, it is the UCI’s tendency to release details of positive ‘A’ samples on their website.
The third point is one which has been addressed by the Australian anti-doping agency. They state on their website:
“This initiative provides an athlete, who has been notified of a possible anti-doping rule violation, with free access to independent and confidential counseling with qualified professionals…The aim of this initiative is to provide short-term counseling and strategies to help individuals deal with very stressful and potentially life-changing circumstances.”
Thus far, Australia is the only country in the world which provides this service to its athletes.
Fortunately for Mauro Santambrogio and Jonathan Breyne, both men are still alive, unfortunately for the entire sport, none of the reforms suggested above have been adopted by the UCI as policy.
But what is the most unfortunate thing of all, is this – the article I read containing these reform proposals was written in a cycling magazine from 1973.
great article here on The Outer Line about the UCI’s decision to have an independent commission look into the doping past to work out what happened and how.
but, they ask, it is enough? could the real reason behind the reluctance to have a T&R commission be the cost?
check it out, right here: Pay Now, or Pay Later?
I awoke the other day to read that Chris Froome had said something that sent me into a 30 minute bout of head shaking, so frustratingly indicative was it of all that has been and still obviously is wrong with professional cycling. I originally intended to write this article yesterday but I was having some trouble working out just how to start, and, to be truthful, I still am.
What did he say? Most of you will have read it but just in case you didn’t, here it is, in all its technicolor profundity:
“I genuinely believe people want to stop talking about doping now. They want to have someone to believe in.”
Did he mean that we are so sick of finding out that riders are doped up that we truly desire the sport and (as history has revealed) most of its participants to clean up so that we can finally stop talking about doping?
Perhaps? Maybe? Possibly?
It was in fact the paving of the way for another round of ‘the sport is way better now than it ever was’ – the same stuff that we, suffering with our cauliflower ears, lumpy from all the damage they’ve taken, have been listening to for years.
“We can’t force people to believe, it’s going to take time,” he said, which may remind you of similar words that emanated from the slippery lips of the zero-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong.
“You should stand around and believe… There are no secrets… Hard work wins it.”
Froome did though give a nod to the ‘un-believers’ when he said that he understands “why there are still a lot of critics, cynicism and doubters out there. Of course, no-one can actually know 100 percent if I’m clean or not, except me.”
So that is good, that there was recognition as to why people doubt, but the first line quoted here completely counterbalances that, and then some.
“People want to stop talking about doping now,” he said, which sounds to me far more like ‘Can all the rest of you let it go now please?’, which is the last thing that we need right now. This line of thinking, the ‘Let’s move on’ line, it implies a few things. First off, that those of us who do talk about new drugs, both illicit and unbanned, and about the need for greater incentives not to dope – those of us who ‘talk about doping’, you could say – actually want to talk about doping.
Which isn’t true. I’d much rather be spending my time and yours talking about a great ride, a new talent or widescale improvements at the UCI, but I can’t do that often because there is still a persuasive case to be made that drugs are still used widely in the pro peloton. There is also the very real fear that if we don’t take this unique opportunity to work out this problem, by starting to work out how it began, who did what, and how to remedy it, then we will slide right back to where we were.
Why is that a real fear?
Remember Tommy Simpson?
Remember a bunch of dead young pros in the early 90s?
Remember Oil for Drugs?
All taxtbook examples of the sport ‘realising’ it had a very real problem, and then doing absolutely sweet FA about it.
‘Move along now, nothing to see here.’
No, nothing at all. Just a few dead bodies, ruined careers, men now in their 50s and having multiple strokes and other serious ailments, and a whole lot of frauds.
So, how long, in reality, have ‘we’ all been talking about doping? I mean, really talking about it, out in the open, as we are now, here and in other places on the web and in the cycling magazines.
No, it’s been about eighteen months. Since the word came out on LA and the federal investigation. That’s a year and a half, roughly. 18 months in which we have had a glorious opportunity to really get to the bottom, or somewhere near (cos it’s a hell of a way down there), of this huge problem.
How long though have dopers been taking whatever chances they can to beat their fellow competitors?
Since 1886. That was the year that the first recorded death of a cyclist, who had been taking (then legal) substances to be faster, occurred.
So, all apologies to those out there like Froome who are getting a little tired of people talking about doping, but heck, many of us are just a little tired of doping.
I get it though. These guys just want to ride, they just want the same opportunities that LA and the others had, to ride without suspicion, and, if they are to be believed, to ride clean. Problem there though is this: that’s what they said too. We’ve had so much wool pulled over our eyes that we’re in fear of the smell of mint sauce.
[Disclaimer: this does NOT mean I am saying Froome is not clean, just acknowledging that there is a precedent here].
And you know what? These guys are operating at the highest level of a sport that right now is in dire need of a strong voice from inside the peloton, and until we get one, or until someone, like Cookson maybe, really does sort all this out, then they will just have to put up with the doubters. The sport is in need of a man (unfortunately it has to be, women just don’t have enough exposure) of unique ability, one willing to stand up to the pressure from within and without the peloton to keep quiet, who can then unite those other riders also committed to riding clean, and bring in the UCI and the anti-drug authorities, and – crucially – the fans – to form a power great enough to tackle this problem head on and with real resolution.
Is there anyone within the ProTour peloton to do this? If there is, he’s doing a good job of biding his time. And it won’t be Froome, I can tell you that much.
Back to my list of opportunities the sport has had to make changes. Will we be adding a new one in 5 years or so? This one:
Remember Tygart vs Lance?
If Froomey and Cavendish and a few others have their way, then yes, we probably will.
yes yes i know, what an amazing pun. or terrible, depending on erm, who you are.
anyway, this 62 yeard old dude, David LeDuc, just got busted for EPO, steroid and amphetamine use. apparently the ‘phet was a by-product of a prescription to control attention deficit disorder, so that’s OK.
i mean, really? why bother saying ‘oh yeah well i did take the other two to cheat but not that one, that one yada yada’ aw man, just shut the f**k up, you idiot.
i apologise for the profanity and for the bluntness but when will they learn? apparently not even at 62.
Leipheimer - sorry, i mean LeDuc – also claimed he’d only been doping since the start of 2012, so that’s a huge relief. if we do believe him – and i see no reason not to, it’s not as if he’s untrustworthy or anything – then it’s comforting to know that he was cheating just a little, and not a lot. now we can rest assured that his Masters Worlds win over ten years ago was legit.
the silver lining of the tale is that LeDuc has confirmed that he will be back to race again after his 22 year suspension (sorry, TWO years, 22 was wishful thinking), and that in the interim he will not stop doping (sorry, sorry! training, i meant training).
“I’d have to be put in a rubber room if I couldn’t ride my bike,” he said.
one other fillip in all this is that, despite the fact that many in his local cycling community have criticised him, several others have offered their support, leading LeDuc to “understand what’s really important in life, and it’s those people.”
sometimes you just know what’s important, and other times, you just have to con and cheat those around you to smell the coffee…
plans for a film, book deal and promo tour preaching to 50 year olds about the perils of doping are most likely on the schedule too.
well done, fella, well done…
i’ve written this before but it’s worth noting again i think. when i started crankpunk i was between journalism jobs and seeking an outlet to write about what is one of the driving passions of my life, the bike, and all things cycling. as a rider and a racer who dropped out of the sport at 18 largely because of a disenchantment brought on by a growing awareness of doping at the top level, i was aware, as i returned to the sport after an almost two decade hiatus, that pro cycling was probably dirtier than ever (this was 2008), but had my love rekindled by rediscovering the simple joy of riding, and soon after, racing once again.
that the beginning of crankpunk coincided with the breaking of the investigation by USADA was a coincidence, but one that had and continues to have a profound effect on the content of this site. i believe that it’s impossible to separate that love for this sport and the curse of illegal substance abuse in cycling, and though it is a scandal in itself and an indictment of the severe failings of Verbruggen’s and MacQuaid’s UCI presidencies that it has fallen to ordinary fans to drive for the change so needed in the sport, this is where we are.
the bureaucrats failed cycling, many of the pros failed cycling, the team managers, doctors and organisers of races too, for so many years, that the onus is on us to make some f*&%ing noise. don’t listen to anyone who says it doesn’t matter anymore. it matters more than ever, with a certain Texan trying again to write his own script and squirm back into something resembling respectability – and not just him, others are at it too, some do it in their own passive aggressive manner, a la Leipheimer, others do it whilst polishing their own home-spun halos, like Hamilton, whilst countless others just go away for 2 years then resurrect careers and watch their bank accounts grow once again.
the web offers us an opportunity to make a little noise here and there, and though it is difficult to quantify how much, it does get noticed. whether these voices will ever influence policy is another matter, one that yet remains to be seen. but with people like Steve Tilford out there, and sites like Bike Pure amongst others, and with others coming along here and there, the clamour is growing.
one other that i’ve mentioned here is The Outer Line, whose authors have just posted an article very much worth a read, entitled The Forgive Me Roadshow, offering another reminder (and yes, it seems it is required, judging from some of the comments people post on cp and in other places) that nothing has changed for LA – his ‘Tour of Redemption’ (as termed by Betsy Andreu) sees him pulling out all the old tricks and carrying on business as usual.
a recommended read.
how meaningless all this seems now, but worth a watch to remember how much things have changed.
oh how the media lapped it up…
by crankpunk. this article originally appeared in The Roar
The Saxo-Tinkoff team released the following statement relating to Michael Rogers’ positive doping test on their website on Wednesday evening CET time:
“Today, Michael Rogers has been advised by the UCI that he returned an adverse analytical finding for clenbuterol in an A-sample taken in connection with Japan Cup on the 20th October 2013.
“Michael Rogers immediately informed Saxo-Tinkoff’s management about the notification from the UCI.
“The Australian explained to the team management that he never ingested the substance knowingly nor deliberately and fears that the adverse analytical finding origins from a contaminated food source.
“Michael Rogers participated in Tour of Beijing the week before the Japan Cup and travelled directly from China to Japan.
“Michael Rogers now has the opportunity to request an analysis of his B-sample. According to the team’s Anti Doping policy, Michael Rogers is provisionally suspended with immediate effect.”
Rogers was not the only rider this week to be found to have Clenbuterol in his system. Joining him was Belgium’s Jonathan Breyne (Crelan-Euphony), who rode in the Tour of Taihu Lake, also in China, on November 5.
This is of course the same drug that was found in Alberto Contador’s system and both Rogers and Breyne are claiming, as the Spaniard did, that he ingested the drug unknowingly after eating tainted food.
While Contador’s claim aroused some obvious questions as the drug is not commonly found in beef in Spain, Clenbuterol is known to be used in the meat industry in China. There have been other cases of athletes testing positive for the drug and support from WADA for their own claims that the drug was ingested unknowingly.
In 2011, a study by a WADA-accredited lab in Cologne, Germany, found that 22 of 28 travellers returning from China tested positive for low levels of clenbuterol, “probably from food contamination”.
WADA chief David Howman said at the time that:
“There seems to be some evidence that some beef in China may have been stimulated in their growth by the use of steroids.
“We have written to the Chinese minister to ask for a full explanation of what happens in the industry in China. We’re waiting for a response.”
There’s also precedent of riders having tested positive for the drug after travelling to a country that uses Clenbuterol in cattle being cleared to race soon after. In early 2012 Dutch XC rider Rudi van Houts was cleared after testing positive in 2011.
At that time, Dutch officials decided not to ban Van Houts, yet though he was not acquitted he was found “guilty without punishment”.
However, Chinese rider Fuy Li, then with Radioshack, did receive a two-year ban for the same drug showing up in his system in April 2010. He was furious with the ban, as was the Chinese cycling federation and as were Chinese cycling fans.
However, he does hail from a nation where the Chinese swimming team is banned from eating beef in their own nation. It’s worth noting too that in 2011 WADA released a statement warning riders to take care when travelling to Mexico and China, lest they eat contaminated beef.
And so what exactly is the attitude of the authorities to cyclists claiming that they ingested Clenbuterol-infected beef unwittingly?
As the case of the Dutch rider van Houts and the cases of Li and Contador showed, it is one that is difficult to work out.
For example, though Van Houts was not made to serve a full suspension, when Contador received his ban, WADA president John Fahey said:
“Every time a cheat is caught out, the decision is very good news for anti-doping, no matter what discipline he practices or which flag he defends.”
Rogers is not new to controversy over doping-related matters, which is also worth noting.
In May 2011, Rogers was included on the leaked UCI report that ranked riders according to the level of suspicion with which the UCI regarded them.
He was placed in a category that said that the riders included showed “overwhelming evidence of some kind of doping, due to recurring anomalies, enormous variations in parameters, and even the identification of doping products or methods”.
Rogers also left Team Sky for Tinkoff, a move that coincided with the team management requesting all riders and staff to sign an agreement saying they had never doped.
Rogers claimed the move was for financial reasons, and it is best not to speculate on that, but, at the same time, it should be noted.
So, where does this leave the fans? Further in the mire, one could argue.
As ever, I hope that these riders did indeed ingest the drug unknowingly, and there are precedents for this having happened before, but this is a sport in which riders have shown themselves willing to take banned substances to get ahead time after time.
Might a rider be tempted to take Clenbuterol knowing that they are going to or in a nation where there is a history of tainted beef?
Cycling, as with life, tells that anything is possible.
That we simply can not be sure about anything these days is a sign of where our beloved sport currently resides in relation to banned substances.
And as cases like that of Stuart O’Grady prove, we simply can no longer be sure about anything other than the fact that we can be sure of nothing.
What will the outcome be? With Brian Cookson and the UCI looking to send a clear message to riders, sponsors and fans about doping and their eagerness to tackle the issue more firmly that in MacQuaid’s day, a ban for both riders looks on the cards.