*use Google translate please on the Italian websites featured)
The Italians. Reel off the names of the heroes of Italian cycling and it reads like a Who’s Who of serious heavyweight dopers.
Mario Cipollini, Ivan Basso, Danilo di Luca, Francesco Moser, Riccardo Ricco, Emanuele Sella, Michele Scarponi, and of course the great imbiber, Marco Pantani. Let us not forget also Graziano Gasparre, busted for transporting a veritable drugstore about under his skin.
Gasparre was busted for amphetamine, EPO, HGH, testosterone and cocaine.
If you’re gonna do it proper, Graziano, do it proper!
Il Campionissimo, the great Fausto Coppi, is the greatest rider in a fine tradition of snorters, poppers and needle heads from the Old Boot, and he wasn’t shy about admitting it.
In a TV interview back in the day, he admitted taking ‘la bomba’ [amphetamine] pretty darn regularly.
Question: Do cyclists take la bomba?
Coppi: Yes, and those who claim otherwise, it’s not worth talking to them about cycling.
Question: And you, did you take la bomba?
Coppi: Yes. Whenever it was necessary.
Question: And when was it necessary?
Coppi: Almost all the time.
There’s no doubt that then that there are some pretty high profile dopers in Italian cycling, and you will often hear people – particularly the English and the Americans – cite the Italians (along with the Spanish) as being the ‘worst for doping’.
But is that actually true? In the past few years surely the highest concentration of dopers have come from the English-speaking nations, in particular from the USA.
‘Ah but ya see, like Lance said, they were just doing it to catch up!’
Yeah and that completely justifies driving what has been called ‘the greatest fraud in sporting history’ – and that is even if you believe that guff.
Back to Italy and their innate need to cheat – cos that’s what we feel it is, let’s be honest here – take a look at this report in VeloNews from back in 2011:
Is it a sign that things have gone too far? Or simply an effort to nip the doping scourge in the bud? Officials from Italy’s anti-doping brigade at CONI carried out controls on junior cyclists racing in an event Sunday in northern Italy. The Giornale di Vicenza reported that officials took urine samples from junior riders 13 to 14 years old. CONI confirmed it tests up to 40 juniors throughout the racing season. Italian cycling federation president Renato di Rocco defended the practice, telling the newspaper:
“We have to come to accept the fact that we have to start with prevention at the age of 13. The parents and society can have a guarantee that sport will be cleaner, that everyone is racing at the same level, something that’s been questioned for a long time now.
“But something must be said, with all honesty, that there are parents who put high concentrations of caffeine in the water bottles of their own children. It’s time we make a reflection and do all we can to prevent the next generation from entering the road to doping. It’s called prevention.”
I read this and I thought ‘Whoah, those Italians are doping their kids!
I’m sure you will agree, that is hardcore. My initial reaction though ignored the other vey important factor here, and that is that the President – no less – of the Italian Cycling Federation – no less! – was coming forward and saying that yes there was a problem, that yes, the ICF intended to do something about it, and that hell yes, parents of young kids who were coming into the sport deserve to “have a guarantee that sport will be cleaner, that everyone is racing at the same level.”
Is this happening in America, where some very questionable characters still dominate USA Cycling?
(If need be, google Steve Johnson or Thom Wiesel or, alternatively, just read this from me. For some real fun though, go read about American juniors being doped way back when by Chris Carmichael – damn, what a GREAT coach he is, deserves every penny of that wonga he sits on…).
Is this kind of an early, grassroots prevention plan that they have in Italy being presently undertaken by the UCI?
Not that I know of, and certainly wasn’t under Pat MacQuaid.
Even if the kids aren’t doping, and let’s hope they aren’t, this is exactly the kind of thing that this sport needs. I know it is terrible and awful to say that we need to test juniors and oh my goodness please let them be kids for just a little while longer but if this is all part of a system that educates them against doping later and means that parents have peace of mind that there kids aren’t going to be thrown to the wolves once they move up the ranks then yes, do it.
Italy isn’t shy at taking the lead on anti-doping in other respects either. You may remember that the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) went after Alejandro Valverde for doping when everyone else was happy to look the other way, it seemed.
As the article on Podium Café stated at the time:
‘According to CONI, Valverde has violated section 2.2 of the WADA code, “use or attempted use of a prohibited substance or method.” Note that a ride need not actually use blood doping to violate the WADA code, but only “attempt” to use. The Basso case provide the precedent in this context. If CONI can prove its case, the violation carries a two year suspension.
‘In Italy, the Valverde case has never sat well. While Italian star Ivan Basso sat out for two years after conviction in the Puerto case, Valverde continued to win races. Few in Italy believed that Valverde was innocent in the Puerto case. The Spanish authorities have all along proved slow to act on the Puerto evidence. So, too, has the UCI.’
The UCI? Slow to act on a doping case involving a major star? Never!
Did the Spanish federation assist CONI in its case in any way? Or at the very least, let them get in with the case unobstructed?
Valverde got a two year ban as a result of this, thank CONI, though he still protests his innocence, as any smart doper will, because fans prefer to be lied to and know it is a lie than to be told the truth as it will mean they’ve been taken for chumps.
Funny old world eh?
Still not sure about the claim that Italy is really not as bad as you thought?
Let’s move on then to Italian gran fondos and some information provided by Uli Fluhme, director of the Gran Fondo New York (GFNY) series.
“Italy,” Uli says, “is at the forefront of doping control in amateur cycling.”
How so? Well, let’s let Uli explain.
“A Gran Fondo in Italy means racing at the highest amateur level. Anyone who doesn’t make the jump from “dilettante” (elite amateur) to pro at 23/24 years old, races granfondo. Any other kind of masters racing is almost non-existent.
“Because cycling is extremely popular in Italy, it is also highly competitive. I’ve raced as an amateur in many countries around the world. Nothing comes close to the level of racing in Italy. While the first granfondo happened in the 70s, the real revolution came in the mid 90s with the introduction of chip timing.
“It allowed cyclists to compete in various categories throughout one big peloton. With that kind of competitiveness you get teams, team cars, sponsors, ex-pros – and of course doping. By the late 90s the level of racing at the front was so high that doping was the only explanation. More and more the regular rider and racer got fed up with granfondo superstars that raced like professionals – and doped for it.
“At first the bigger events liked the racing and the magazines talked about the races. But soon doping controls became the norm. More and more riders got popped. Thanks to a very strict antidoping law, the Italian police started crack-downs on doping rings that sometimes involved a pro here and there but most often dozens of amateurs.”
Hence those reports that come out of Italy and seem to make no sense to the rest of us about doping operations getting busted that come with a long list of amateur riders’ names. It’s not as simple as saying ‘well in Italy even the amateurs dope.’
It’s closer to the truth to say that these guys are doping because the prestige that comes with wining these races – and many are screened live on TV – is massive. You can see a similar trend in the USA in Masters racing. It is not the cash prize that so attracts these guys, but the lure of celebrity.
“In 2011,” continues Uli, “under the tutelage of the late Andrea Pinarello (he died of a heart attack at a race, only 40 years old), the Five Stars League was formed. It contained of the 5 most important granfondos in Italy.
“It had the following rules:
1. Ex-pros are not allowed to race granfondo for a certain number of years
2. Pros can ride but not race granfondos.
3. The Top 100 riders of the previous year are subject to blood testing before each 5 Star League event
[the TOP 100! – cp.]
“As a result, the speeds at the races dropped and many of the Top 100 riders disappeared from the 5 big events. Of course it didn’t stop all dopers but it was a good start. While the league does not exist anymore (trying to get the 5 biggest events at one table was probably too difficult), its spirit lives on in each of the event. Ex-pros are still not allowed to race for a number of years and doping controls continue to be done by the federation at numerous granfondo events.”
The number of names, the vast majority amateur, here on this list (in fact on the first page alone!) is impressive.
“The conclusion,” says Uli, “is not that Italians are all cheaters. The conclusion is that there is testing happening at races and events (Triathlon, Half Marathon, Gran Fondo) where other countries look away.
“Look at the Granfondo Roma, where organizer and attorney Gianluca Santilli also works for the Italian Cycling Federation (Federciclismo) and is part of the amateur cycling committee in the UCI. He’s at the forefront of the antidoping movement in Italian cycling. One of his race rules is that a rider testing positive at his event has to reimburse the cost of the test. Furthermore, if he/she is part of a team, the team can be held liable as well. It’s a rule we also implemented at GFNY.”
And finally, another notable first that I know of in cycling, the Italian national team management decided back in 2009 to no longer select former dopers for the national team, a decision that saw them clash with the Court of Arbitration in Sport.
The British team adhered to this rule until the British Olympic Association rescinded its ban on the selection of former dopers, meaning that David Millar could compete at London 2012.
If an athlete cheated in any other way though – for example a marathon runner getting in a taxi at KM12 and getting out ahead of the field again at KM39 – would they be allowed back?
What exactly is the difference there?
Anyway, I’m wandering. Back to the Italians.
One forum commentator said back in 2009 when the Italians selected their World’s team and left out Basso that “It is ironic because Italy does have some of the toughest laws but most corrupt administrators.”
‘Most corrupt’ – not sure how to measure that, but yes, there has been corruption in Italian soccer, cycling and athletics (such as in this case , but do remember Carl Lewis et al before you start spitting feathers), but with all the evidence, noted above, to indicate a real attempt by the Italians to clean up their most beloved sport, can we deny that they are leading the fight against doping in cycling in several major areas any longer?
I think not.
Will Routley, cracking fella, was fortunate enough to entice him over to Taiwan for the KOM Challenge just recently.
Will has been a pro since 2008 and just enjoyed his best year with Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies with a win on Stage 4 and the overall KOM in the 2014 Tour of Califiornia.
I caught up with him for a chat.
crankpunk: You’ve been in Asia before, racing, how does Taiwan compare to other areas you’ve been?
Will Routley: I’ve race in Malaysia, Thailand, Korea and also China. Taiwan seems to be more affluent, it’s clean, there’s no glass or junk on the road, I feel at ease and comfortable here. Even in Taipei, I don’t fee the hustle and bustle of other places I’ve been in Asia. The overwhelming chaos is missing!
Victor Okishev, a 20-year-oldAstana rider, has tested positive for steroids from a test taken in May.
that is now 4 Kazakhstani Astana riders in the past few months.
when i rode the UCI Asia Tour there was a feeling amongst the peloton that the Kazakh riders generally were not all they appeared to be. it was a hunch, going off performances we had seen. at the very least the nation seems to have something of a problem, as does its national team, with the abuse of banned substances.
it must have nothing to do with their general manager and national hero (destined to be president too by the looks of things) being an unrepentant doper himself.
no, not at all.
Nibali, what have you got to say now? time to get out, some might argue. but where to? Tinkoff? Vaughters and Garmin? any of the other teams staffed by former dopers?
yet again, the UCWhy reaps what they have sowed, and we get to choke on it…
Nicole Cooke says ‘no more heroes’ but, truth be told, she is one of mine. And to top all that off, she is so damn nice too. I met Nicole through her dad Tony, who responded to an article of mine which was on about how the bad guys get Gran Fraudos but the clean folk get nothing, like Obree and Nicole, and how much that sucks.
He sent me an email next day which said:
“If you’re interested in talking to Nicole perhaps I could set that up, I know her quite well.
Tony (Nicole’s dad)”
We had a decision to make. The 2013 winner of the Taiwan KOM Challenge had arrived on the start line of the race fresh from a doping suspension, causing heated debate on internet as to the validity of his victory.
The integrity of the event that we had been working hard on for so many months was suddenly unraveling before we even had the satisfaction of wiping our brows and putting the kettle on for a well-earned cuppa.
One of the pre-race favorites immediately suggested afterwards that the race needed doping controls to be able to claim that its results were legitimate. I know this guy and this venting was not merely the product of sour grapes, for he had raced with a bronchial infection and knew he wouldn’t win.
Rather, it came from a sense of this just not being right.
He was not happy, and in truth, as Director of Communications for the race, neither was I.
Yet we had done nothing wrong (according to the letter of the law) in accepting entries from riders with records of previous doping violations. The 2013 winner, Rahim Emami, had been busted for a positive for Clenbuterol in 2011 and had indeed served the full stretch of the two years that the UCI had handed to him.
He wanted to race, we had no rule in place stating that he could not, he was officially cleared to do so by the highest body in cycling, and so, he raced.
The Iranian team he raced for previously had quite a rap sheet when it came to doping.
Shane Stokes noted in his excellent article on the Iranian domination of professional cycling in Asia that there were plenty of examples of riders getting popped.
“Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour (of Tabriz Petrochemical) [received a] two-year ban for EPO, fueling concerns.
“Another Tabriz Petrochemical rider, Hossein Askari, tested positive for methylhexaneamine in the 2013 Tour of Singkarak, where he had taken stage one and led the race for two days. He received a one-year suspension and was eligible to return to competition on June 2.
“The performances of some of those in this year’s Tour of Singkarak also contain a footnote for past positives; Mehrabani Azar received a two-year ban for Metenolone in 2011, while Emami incurred a similar suspension in 2011 for Clenbuterol use.
“A number of other riders from the country have also been busted in the past, increasing suspicion.”
The row that followed Emami’s win here and the depth of feeling that this unleashed showed that a majority of cycling fans in Taiwan and in the rest of Asia, as well as many from the rest of the world, were not particularly happy to see former banned riders return from suspension to win.
It happens at the very top of the sport too of course, and several high level riders have served their time and then come back to re-establish themselves as winners. Alejandro Valverde, Alberto Contador and Alexandre Vinokourov are perhaps the top three examples of this.
However, we felt that something had to be done to reply to the disquiet felt by many fans to Emami’s win. We felt that things had come to the point where we had the right to write our own rules not just in regards to feed zones and the positioning of race numbers on jerseys, but also of the regulations our race would enact with regards to doping.
There was another reason to reevaluate our current rulebook. An injection of finances from our backers had seen the men’s overall prize rise from a few thousand to $38,000US, with over $85,000 available overall.
Immediately we decided that we had to bring in doping tests for the top riders. However, we also had to sit down to look at what else we could do.
A few months before we began this process, I had read that the Cape Epic had introduced a ruling that would ban from ever entering the race “anybody found guilty of an offence committed after January 1, 2013.”
This was, in effect, a zero tolerance policy. It was brave and it was pioneering, for no other race, to my knowledge, had ever adopted such a policy.
However, why not go one step further and decline entry from any rider who had previously been suspended for doping? As studies have shown, the use of steroids for even a short period can have an effect that can last a decade. Studies have not yet shown whether the same is true of blood doping or of EPO use, but one would suspect that the benefit from training harder and longer whilst using either or both would also last longer than the current 2-year ban an athlete receives if busted.
In light of this, we decided that we would move forward and insert a rule that denies entry to the Taiwan KOM Challenge for any rider who has ever been suspended for doping, in an event anywhere, ever. (We also left an open-ended clause in that would allow us to decline entry to any rider at our discretion, permitting us to turn away riders who might put at risk the reputation of the event as a whole. The decision to turn such riders away would, we decided, have to come from a committee and not one individual).
We are, as far as we know, the only event in the world to have this rule.
I have spoken this week to another race organizer from Canada who informed me that the board of his race were looking to implement a similar rule but felt hesitant because they could find no precedent.
We are discussing how we can work together on this and how any potential union might encourage other races to join us.
Some might say it is unfair to have such a rule as this amounts to a lifetime ban for formerly suspended riders in our race.
And the answer is that, well yes, it does.
That was our intention.
However, there are thousands of other races that these guys can do. Unless, of course, all those other races too decide to implement a similar regulation.
Personally I feel that the UCI should allow the organisers of the races that make up the World Tour to ban any ride that has doped at one of their events. After all, why should an organizer have to accept back on its route a rider whose doping has brought a stain upon his or her event?
Riders around the world often mumble and grumble about once-banned guys coming back to race in events that they turn up to, but there seems to be a lack of cohesion in any attempt to band together to use their collective power.
This is another reason we have done what we have done. We too are racers. We believe in the pursuit of a clean sport and we are in a position to do something about it.
Already our policy is bearing fruit. At least three ex-dopers who have ridden the Taiwan KOM Challenge before were politely informed of our new policy and, more encouragingly, some of the favorites for the race that will be held this Saturday, November the 15th, such as Will Routley (winner of the 2014 Tour of California KOM & Stage 4) and John Ebsen (Androni Giocattoli, winner here in 2012) have said that the new rule played a large part in their decision to come here.
We expect what the people paying to come to our event expect.
A fair race and a clean race and a legitimate victory by a legitimate rider.
Why would anyone expect anything less?
American former professional rider (he has just retired at 35) Matt Cooke came on the radar screens at crankpunk HQ when he commented on an article i wrote about dopers having those wonderful gran fraudos, as they do. we then chatted a little about doing an interview but never got round to it.
then i saw a comment from Matt on a photo of Zabriskie, attending some awards dinner or something recently, where Matt basically said ‘dude you robbed me’, and i knew we had to get that interview done.
so here it is, unedited, unabridged. one thing i am sure of is that he means every word.
crankpunk: Why aren’t you a doper?! Scared of needles?
Matt Cooke: I’m not a doper because I have never done drugs. Beyond that I think it takes away from what is great about sport. Or at least what we are all taught is great about sport ie. that it is a fair competition.
cp: Why should we believe you?
MC: That’s a tricky question because it’s hard to prove of course. But the real reason you can believe me is because if I took PEDs I would have progressed beyond continental racing in the US a long time ago. I am natural climber and I am actually pretty talented in that respect but if you gave me PEDs man I would go REALLY fast.
cp: How and why did you decide not to dope? Family environment? Experience of other riders? Or…?
MC: I like to think most people are pretty bright but the older I get I am finding out that is not so true. The choice not to do drugs is pretty easy. I want to do this sport fair. If I get beat I want to be able to actually congratulate the guy. I also don’t want to have to lie to everyone I know. It would kill me inside too. The truth is I am just too damn honest and I’m too sympathetic and I would feel for the guy I cheated.
But I did have a good family with very good values. There was never any pressure to perform at bikes. Maybe that helped. I was an Eagle Scout. All my friends had good families too. My friends were honest. As kids if we did the smallest thing wrong we felt bad about it. We had good values growing up.
cp: You’re pretty vocal about doping and about others who have been caught and continue to be lauded, so what are your thoughts on Zabriskie, Levi et al?
MC: I wish other riders would speak up because we could make a change. But some are still racing and they are afraid of losing their jobs, and they actually should be afraid. Hincapie runs a team so those guys can’t say anything. It would make the work environment pretty uncomfortable at Garmin if riders there spoke up. But when people like me speak out, we are actually saying the truth. How can the truth be wrong?
Fans do not like to have the curtain pulled back. They want to keep cheering for their favorite rider and not really think about what he did. They think “Oh he did a little cheating. But everyone was doing it. And he did his time.” ALL FALSE. One, they all blood doped, remember that is taking your blood out and putting it back in later! That’s just insane. Two, not all of them took PEDs, I never did and look where I am, I quit the sport because of how diseased it is (more on that later), and three, they did not do their time – most of them did six months in the off season and Ryder [Hesjedal] did no time at all.
And after those six months are done they go back to getting paid six figures. And remember they got to that pro tour level and they got on that clean team because they were once massive performance enhancing drug users – i.e. career criminals.
Without the drugs they wouldn’t have been there.
Let’s take them at their word for argument sake that they all did stop doping in 2006, independently and at the same time – well, they did drugs for many years prior to that. They got to do many grand tours, they did countless long classic races, they had access to the best training methods, coaches, doctors and places to train.
They were given access to all those things because they got great results because of their drug use. Without the drugs they would never have gotten to that point and that is what many people forget. Those people are so-called fans, fan-boy journalists, former and current racers and now I see it includes race announcers here in the US also.
This is the take away – you would never know their names if they had never taken drugs.
Something else that is painfully obvious but everyone seems to ignore or maybe they are just too dumb to see, is that we would never even know their names if they hadn’t have taken drugs.
Where would Tom Danielson be if he had never taken the drugs? Where would Levi be? No where. They got their fame through cheating and that included stepping on many clean riders like myself and many, many others. Even if they really did stop, they did all those grand tours and training for the grand tours, which is an advantage I and others like me never had.
If you’ve ever raced at a high level you know that the riders who have done grand tours have an advantage over the riders who haven’t.
Those guys I just mentioned, Horner too, came over to the US to do “training races” and they beat all our butts. And the fans cheered for them. They clamored to get their autograph. What a bunch of horseshit. They took prize money and podiums from us.
I just read a piece I wrote for a magazine in 2007 about my neo-pro season with Navigators (I could say a lot about that team too) and I was writing about the Cascade Classic that year. I was on the final climb and Levi attacked. There was a hesitation from the field and I said to myself “the hell with this” and I rode across to him.
I think I was there for ten seconds or so before I blew sky high and finished way down that day. That race and other instances just like that changed me, it changed how good I thought I could be. I thought “Oh I guess I am not as good as I thought I was. I need to reevaluate how high I can make it in this sport.”
Can you see how that changed what I thought I could do in this sport? Levi and all the others that are too numerous to name almost, not only stole money by way of placing’s but they stole the imagination of clean riders to reach the highest points of the sport.
And its also not just prize money, people forget about the opportunities us clean riders missed, spots on big teams, higher salaries. I have finished second in important races to riders who I knew were geared up. Imagine if I had won those races. I would have looked a lot more attractive to bigger budget teams.
Would you like examples? Several of the US Pro Championship races George and Levi won back to back. Then Cascade, Gila, Tour of California, Tour of Utah and the Pro Challenge. At all those races, guys who were totally lubed up stole major placings from clean riders.
cp: You recently sent a post to a FB post about some riders (it was Zab right? And…?) being patted on the back for some ride or other – can you tell us about that and, any blowback from that from the apologists?
MC: I think a lot of people have backed off because I was vocal. I feel fine with it because I am actually right. I’ve called out current pros from sucking up to Levi and they backed off from me. I don’t mind it but that is my business. I don’t understand why any clean rider would ever back off a guy who is fighting for his and her cause. I’m on their side yet sometimes they want to be closer to the guy who cheated them for years. I say, that’s their problem not mine.
And to be honest I have spoken out a lot but it is actually only a small percentage of what I want to say. There are some things I am afraid to say because there are powerful people in the sport that would give me a hard time. Not physically but we have mutual friends and I don’t want there to be tension.
cp: Do you get any feedback from others in the peloton/out on the road?
MC: Yes several riders came up to me and said ‘thanks for saying what you are saying’. ‘You are right Matt.’ Things like that. They are in a hard spot because if they speak out they won’t get jobs, and I understand that. I was leaving so I said “the hell with it, I am saying how I feel.”
cp: Might you possibly be risking an advancement of your own career here – being branded a ‘troublemaker’?
MC: Well I am not racing any more so I’m not too worried about that. It’s a shame because this could be a great sport but it really is so corrupted that it is hard to turn your head at the race buffet and not see a major cheater or hypocrite or enabler somewhere in your glance.
And really how could I be called a trouble maker? I believe it has been proven that Chris Carmichael actually did dope juniors, also I believe it has been proven Levi did test positive in 1996 and Will Frischkorn and another Saturn rider said a rider who is still racing in the pro peloton taught them how to use EPO. And I am sure you figure out who that is on your own. But I am just repeating these things. I didn’t do the drugs and steal the money, they did.
cp: Is cycling really getting cleaner?
MC: I do think it is getting cleaner. You can win races clean. At least here in the US and I’m sure you can in Europe too. Maybe not consistently over there but I believe you can. But that is just a small part of it. Look at the people still involved in the sport. Many of them were heavy PEDs users and they are the ones in charge. And then you tell yourself “Well once all the cheater riders retire it will be a better environment.” But that’s not true either because all those guys will be the next directors and team owners and coaches.
So my feeling is that this sport has no hope until after I am dead because I am about the same age as all those pathological liars.
Also consider how these guys like Levi are treated by current riders. So many of them love him. They go to his grand fondo, they have podcasts with him. It’s unbelievable. This guy actually stole from them and here they are having tea with him.
Did you see Chris Carmichael just got a podcast? Remember the law suit regarding the juniors? They were kids for christ’s sake. And he built an empire off of his lies. The bio on his website has no mention of Lance, yet he wouldn’t exist if not for Lance. They did books together for christ’s sake, how do people forget this stuff.
cp: Any thoughts on why American supporters of American dopers are so particularly gung-ho about still loving these guys?
MC: As you can tell what I’ve written I see no reason to love them. I do see how you could sympathize with them. You could imagine yourself in their shoes and start to rationalize the choices they made, but that doesn’t mean they were the right choices.
The reason the American supporters love them so much is they just want to be around famous people. That is where most of these “journalists” fit in. They are just terrible, none of them actually lived the sport. They are just fan boys. They can argue with me till the cows come home but the truth is they have never stood in my shoes and have not seen the things I have seen and so it is not possible for them to even come close to reporting the truth.
Why does Velo do an interview with Levi and not once ask him about his positive test from 1996? They’ve interviewed him multiple times over the past year but every time they asked softball questions and with no push back or follow up.
Now I’m sure they could and will come back and say “hey Matt we did ask 1 little itty bitty follow up.” But the point is the interview was just an opportunity to give him more sympathy and show how great of a guy he is. The fact is, he’s a career thief.
Is there any other way to look it him? No, there isn’t.
cp: Feelings on former dopers being involved in pro teams or coaching?
MC: They should not be involved, period. George is sponsoring some young guys which is commendable. I don’t think he is coaching them. I believe that situation of a team needs a very clean delineation of who is involved with what.
cp: What are your thoughts on the current two year ban?
MC: It’s too short. Four years and they need to be tested during their ban at their expense.
cp: How did it feel – and when did it dawn on you – when you realized that there were these two separate tiers on the peloton – and that, as the evidence has shown was actually true – you and others like you might be being robbed of wins?
MC: It dawned on me a few years in. It was more recently for sure. I knew I was getting beaten by cheaters but I never knew the extent of what they did and how big the advantages they gained were. I was teammates with guys who heavily used EPO for years but I didn’t find out until years after the fact.
Over time I realized that my early years in the sport were partly shaped by guys who cheated and that is a big reason I am so angry. I am not blaming them for the entirety of my career, but there were important things that were changed by them.
Of course I’ve never taken PED’s but I was told a few years after leaving Navigators by someone who was a teammate at the time “Oh you didn’t know? We were all using.”
He was exaggerating, not everyone on that team was using PEDs but many were and it blew my mind when he told me. So then I think back and remember instances in specific races where guys would make a big move in a race and I was cross eyed from trying to go with them. Or two guys I later found were juiced up racing each other for seconds in a TT and other blowing the field away. Stuff like that gets you mad because you know you could have done super well in a certain race had you not been going up against a guy who was geared up.
After Nav’s broke up at the end of 2007 guys went everywhere and the ones who were the big users kept using and kept at it on their new teams for several years after that. Those names I can’t not say right now because I don’t have photos or taped conversations but I do know it happened and authorities are being notified.
But if you put your thinking cap on it is not too hard to find out. I wish USADA and the magazines would put those thinking caps on because they could do a great deal of good.
cp: Any advice to young kids looking to go pro, and/or to their parents?
MC: If you like cycling go for it. Clean guys can win races these days. At least here in America they can, probably Europe too.
cp: What are you hoping for your own future?
MC: I hope to be as happy and as fun loving as I have always been. I have a great life. I have a wonderful wife and dog and I am doing a job search now that is a little scary but I believe it will be rewarding. Ultimately this is a big diverse world we live in and I want to see as much of it and do as much as I can before I die.
cp: Thanks Matt.
you know Levi right? that super talented bike rider who juiced for years then got busted – sorry admitted to doping cos it was EATING HIM APART, where’s the Kleenex? - but we should remember that he stopped cos’ he knew it was wrong but, miraculously, STILL won races godblesshimandhisslipstreamedhead – the one who then ‘retired’ with that stain of The Doper on him but who still has a fabulously successful gran fraudo and who is still winning races around the USA?
phew… yes, that one.
well he put up a race ride on Strava called Crusher in the Tushar and a bunch of Grown Men Who Love Levi came and – well, they just came, more Kleenex please – and he got a huge moneyshot load of Kudos except for one little, tiny, cheeky comment that somehow slipped by the RespectYourCheatingElders Police.
Reese Levine, 19 years old, wrote this:
Levi, I was that 13 year old kid who grew up watching you race in the Tour de France, and because I started riding in 2006, I looked up to you more than someone like Armstrong. When you admitted to doping in 2012, I won’t say I was particularly surprised, and I don’t blame you personally for participating in the culture of your time.
I don’t doubt that you raced clean in the last couple years of your career, and I believe that the top level is much cleaner than it used to be.
However, I am a little disappointed to see that instead of quietly and gracefully retiring, you continue to race.
And not only are you still racing, but you are also beating riders who took the high road and raced clean their entire careers, riders like Jamey Driscoll who deserved the win today a lot more than you did.
I’m not naive enough to think that a single Strava comment is going to stop you from racing, which you have every right to continue doing. But I would ask that you step back for a moment and think about how it looks to up and coming riders when they see self-confessed dopers still racing and still beating clean cyclists who are the role models that cycling really needs. Thank you, Reese Levine
polite but to the point. one you can’t really argue with right? (well, except that to believe Levi was clean when he said he was takes a leap of faith that would require, for me, a safety net, full body armour and life insurance that would see my family sorted for the next 50 years, and that I do believe that Levi has no right to still be racing – pop the cover on that vial and, in my opinion, you lose your seat on the bus).
but anyway. Reese is spot on, and his words echo my disappointment with the guy who got me into cycling, Stephen Roche.
frankly, we need more young guys like Reese out there, making their voices heard.
but not everyone agrees, shock. here’s the very next reply:
Reese is definitely entitled to his own opinion, but I see it exactly 180-degrees differently. To me I am blown away that the clean-Levi is still blowing professional racers away today. When Levi was training with Peter Stetina in and around Lake Tahoe a couple months back, Levi was schooling Stetina and setting KOM’s everywhere! What this proves to me is that a clean racer can compete at the highest level. I have to believe Levi would be very competitive in the TdF, I would also have to believe this is what Levi is paying back to profession, that clean can win. Good luck to you Reese, I’ll keep an eye out for your name at races in the future.
genius. i mean that seriously, what a genius for obfuscation Joe has.
Levi was next in:
Reese, thank you for the thoughtful and respectable response. I actually agree with your sentiment and it wouldn’t make sense for me to show up to national level races and compete. But please understand that the Crusher is a timed, mass-participation event with all ages and levels of ability, and it’s all about pushing yourself in a spirit of fun. It’s an event unlike the races that Jamie, for example, gets paid to do.
Furthermore Burke, who created and runs this event, is one of my best friends, we’ve known each other for over 20 years and I want to support him and the passion he brings to the Crusher. I met and spoke to a lot of people today that were happy to talk about the day, their experience and even my past in this sport. I was able to talk to people about what happened in the sport and my choices, which I hope provides some context for them.
I wouldn’t be able to have these conversations if I stayed at home and rode by myself. The people I talked to after the Crusher weren’t opposed to my presence because today isn’t about winning and losing, it’s about sharing a great experience on the bike, which is what sets this event apart from traditional racing. That being said, today was full of super strong guys pushing each other to excel and it was by no means easy for any of us.
ok, so the fact that the guys involved aren’t pros make it ok for dopers to turn up. the fact that he did nothing to make the sport cleaner but in fact only exacerbated the problem is not mentioned. And why he has to come along, race and win to be able to talk about his ‘choices ‘ – don’t quite get that one either.
there’s a similar – even exact – thread running through the continuing narratives of these guys who doped when they were pros – and it is this – leave us alone.
they’ve been bending reality and breaking rules for so long that they have become their own enablers, allowing themselves to continue to be blinded to the damage that their ‘choices’ have wrought.
even the use of the word – choice – sounds like it came from some image-rebuilding agency, some guy in a teal suit and an Italian silk tie, advising the Armstrong Gang to get the word out there as much as possible as it detracts from what really was going on – a daily, weekly, yearly and career-long decision to cheat.
‘my cheating‘ would be a little closer to the truth.
there was another dissenting voice, that if current pro rider Matt Cooke, who said:
You all must enjoy having your lively hood stolen from you because that is what you are encouraging. 1996 positive drug test [ephedrine – cp.] people, open your eyes.
but as usual, the following comments reveal that knuckleheads are in the majority.
you can check out the whole thread by clicking here and going to ‘comments’.
i’ll leave you with this not-at-all-ironic comment by Bradley Williams:
It’s NOT about winning at all. You’re a one-in-a-million inspiration Levi. Congrats!
thanks to Chuck Hutcheson for sending me the original link
the recent all-holds barred, every-punch-pulled interview by Daniel Benson of CyclingSnooze is about as wet as a kiss from your Grandma… who’s lost her dentures.
when did it happen that journalists got told – and complied – to leave their opinions (or personalities even) at the door? is it just me or does this read like JTL wrote the questions?
and the ‘The Court of Public Opinion‘ and ‘Head Held High’ captions under the images. every so slightly hamfisted there, lads.
click on image for link
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.