Tagged: doping

Where does Froome vs Contador rank in the list of cycling rivalries?

if you’re coming to find the original version of this article you are out of luck. it’s disappeared. here is the article as best as i can remember it.

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Coppi and Bartali, Anquetil and Poulidor, Anquetil and the lock on his stepdaughter’s bedroom door, Hinault and Lemond, Lemond and Lance, Cipollini and Soul Glo, Lance and The Truth, Verbruggen & MacQuaid raging against common decency as ‘up to 100′ (Phil Liggett’s words) riders died in the first decade of EPO, cycling has seen some cracking rivalries over the years, epic battles that remain threaded through the tattered, grubby tapestry that is professional cycling and all its dystopian ‘glory’.

soul-glo

versus

Mario-Cipollini-thumb

As I was sat not riveted to the telly last week as Chris Froome and Alberto Contador smashed ten bells out of each other in the hills of Andalucia, I listened to the commentators gushing bukkake-like all over ‘this enthralling rivalry’ and I wondered if it was really that enthralling and even if it was a rivalry at all, and then concluded that I don’t care that much anymore anyway.

Contador has 6 Grand Tours under his belt and is hailed as the finest climber of his generation and one of the finest in the history of the sport. He took that natural climbing ability and then added to it a truckload of TT work to become one of the foremost riders against the clock in multi-day races, and he showed in the 2009 Tour that he has some serious mettle, as he withstood the barrage from the twin barrels of Bruyneel and Armstrong.

After that race, Contador said that “Armstrong is a great rider and did a great Tour, but on a personal level I have never admired him and never will”, with Armstrong responding that “a champion is also measured on how much he respects his teammates and opponents.”

So, Conty knows a thing or two about reading  folk (though to be fair Armstrong is not exactly a book, more an ingredients list on the back of a packet of Fruit Loops – brief, uninspiring and full of chemicals), and Armstrong’s quote?

Well, another classic from the non-winner of 7 Tours.

But I’m wandering. Froome is not exactly a pushover, has to be said. He’s won one Tour and just about every other race he entered in 2013 and many feel he should have claimed the 2012 Tour also, had it not been for team orders and a certain Sir Wiggins being team leader.

Froome’s miraculous upturn in fortune seems to have coincided with the surgery to remove his biceps. I guess the loss of .00257 grams can make all the difference.

Pins he can manage, shoelaces are another matter, but since he got rid of the biceps Froome is .0000000012784 watts better off. Win!

Pins he can manage, shoelaces are another matter, but since he got rid of the biceps Froome is .0000000012784 watts better off. Win!

If you’d heard the commentators gushing and frothing all over their mics as Conty dropped Froomey and then the reverse happened that day after, you’d have thought that all the bad things that have happened in our sport just never did.

Now, I’m not saying Froome is not clean, nor that Conty isn’t either. Anything, as they say, is possible.

However as I sit there non-entranced to the screen listening to the gooiness oozing from these guys mouths, I’m reminded that we’ve heard it all before. Liggett was all over Lance back in the day, we heard it with Landis, Hamilton, Valverde, Basso, on and on and on.
Here we have a guy that was busted for Clenbuterol who carried on riding and bringing the sport into disrepute (a la Kreuziger) when he should have done the right thing and stepped away until his case was cleared being led out by a guy (Basso) who was himself suspended for dodginess on a team started by a confessed doper (Riis) and now run by one of the seediest guys in the sport (and that is saying something) and staffed by an LA apologist (Yates) and riding bikes supplied by a brand with a healthy record of sponsoring dopers competing against a guy from a team that empolyed Leinders even though the word was out that he was about as clean as a poodle’s arse hair and had a teammate (JTL) that half the world and my Gran suspected of doping way before Sky signed him, and STILL you ask me to stand and holler and whoop and get excited?

I feel sorry for the genuinely clean riders, I really do, because they have a crap time of it, but they have to take responsibility and stop letting riders like Mark Cavendish reinvigorate the Omerta once again. I’ve been saying this for years, they have got to unite and to find a voice to make the work of the authorities that really do want to beat back the dopers easier, to find a way to demand true transparency and to accept that yes, crap as it may be, the son bears the guilt of the father.

No longer can the excuse that they may lose their jobs for speaking out be valid as there are plenty of companies that would like to sponsor a truly clean team – and I don’t mean a Jonathan Vaughters-style clean team, a hey-we’re-clean-well-if-you’re-gonna-threaten-us-with-perjury-and-prison-then-ok-we’re-not-really-clean-but-we’re-sorry-we-had-to-cheat-our-way-to-wins-medals-cash-and-fame kind of clean, but seriously clean.

And not like a Sky ‘clean’ either, not with questionable staff and suddenly improved new signings and the like, with TUE kerfuffles and rumors of ‘special’ bidons containing opiates.

Magazines and websites continue to run endless articles on Armstrong, giving voice to his defenders, Astana continue to churn out a doper a month, the old boy network  of former dopers still reigns, the guys commenting on TV continue to overflow with sycophantic adulation that spews out like bilge from a busted sceptic tank, and the fans, a huge chunk of them, still remain rapt.

Last week I heard someone saying how awesome the action was when EPO use was truly rampant in the peloton, and I just sighed.

Here’s an article from Outside Magazine about doping, featuring the former head of WADA, Dick Pound, and an epidemiologist and expert in sports doping from Penn State, Charles Yesalis:

It may be impossible to ever know the true pervasiveness of the problem, or the guilt or innocence of riders. Further, gene doping, a science that would render current tests irrelevant, looms on the horizon. Throw in an event like the Tour de France—and the dollars at stake—and an immensely challenging picture emerges.

“It’s an elephant,” sighs Dick Pound, president of WADA. “There are very heavily entrenched entities in this, and a lot of economics involved.”

The two realities of the Tour—its enormous popularity and the specter of corruption—persist side by side. “If there was a large boycott—no one watching on TV, no one cheering along the side of the road—then maybe things would change,” says Yesalis. “But I don’t think the fans really care.”

This is from an article from 2004.

Some things, it seems, never change.

 

 

 

 

 

Lee’s Lowdown on PEZ: The Evils of Ego

The weekly column on PezCycling News went up earlier today, click on the image below to head over there to read it.

Basically it covers how ego is an absolute necessity – to a point, but that it is also the beginning of the end it left unchecked…

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Marijuana to enhance cycling performance? (& not just for downhill MTB kids)

Yes, apparently this might be happening. An article in The Guardian this week cites a report in The Wall Street Journal that an increasing number of ultra-marathon nutters runners are lighting up the doobies in training and pre- and post-race.

“If you can find the right level, it takes the stress out of running,” says Avery Collins, a 22-year-old professional ultramarathoner. “And it’s a postrace, post-run remedy.”

The right level… So, presumably not the level where you end up stuck on the sofa playing video games for 22 hours a day eating delivered pizza and MaccyD BigCracks whilst putting on 22lbs a week then.

“The person who is going to win an ultra is someone who can manage their pain, not puke and stay calm,” said veteran runner Jenn Shelton. “Pot does all three of those things.”

The Guardian article backs up the claims by runners that it helps them perform, stating that:

“A 2012 study funded by the National Institutes of Health…  found that exposure of up to seven “joint years” (ie 365 joints and/or pipe bowls) did not diminish lung function. That study actually found that marijuana users performed better on a lung function test – by a microscopic margin – than nonsmokers, possibly because of smokers’ “training” with deep breaths and holding smoke, the researchers said.”

But before you head down to the local corner for a dime bag, note that the jury’s not out on this one. The article goes on to state that:

“…marijuana “does have an effect of symptoms of chronic bronchitis”, Dr Donald Tashkin of the University of California said, including “cough and sputum” that develop when smoke irritates the lungs. “There are other potential risks that have not been confirmed,” he added, such as a possible associations for pneumonia, particularly for people with compromised immune systems, since the psychoactive chemical THC found in cannabis suppresses the system.”

But with some NBA players saying that 40-50% of athletes in the game are smoking weed, and the New York Times saying that could be as high as 60-70%, combined with the loosening of marijuana laws around the USA and indeed all over the world, it’s not too massive a leap to think that this is happening in other sports also.

The Journal article states that:

“In a nod to the growing acceptance of marijuana as a recreational drug, the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2013 raised the allowable level of THC—the drug’s active ingredient—to an amount that would trigger positive results only in athletes consuming marijuana in competition. That essentially gave the green light to marijuana usage during training, not to mention as a stress reliever the night before a race.

Hmm. So, is it cheating? I’m not that keen on PEDs as you may have noticed, but recreational drugs, no problem, as long as you are affecting no one else and keeping on an evenish keel, whatever floats your boat is fine by me. Yes they can be destructive but so can Krispy Kremes, and yes they can be rather interesting, as can… well, unlike Krispy Kremes.

God Bless America! And ganja! Cos how else could this thing possibly have happened...

God Bless America! And ganja! Cos how else could this thing possibly have happened…

THC and the reported effects means it’s not exactly EPO, and yes, riders and runners and other athletes are people too and they need to relax, but it doesn’t sit well with me this one. It sounds like these guys aren’t even actually smoking it for the sheer fun of it all, but because they believe it makes them better competitors.

Imagine if they legalise this and you get someone who gets all the bad side effects from dope, such as the clawing, feverish paranoia that comes with it, but the poor guy is in his room with a 6ft bong going slightly bonkers because everyone else is doing it.

Beta blockers block pain receptors right? And they are banned in most sports. We’re also moving into Therapeutic Use Exemption territory here too, where riders use pain killers by dint of permission from the authorities for an ailment (or not… possibly) which means they can ride on when they would otherwise have to stop – something again I don’t agree with.

So yeah, I feel like a party pooper here because a) some drugs are fun as long as they don’t make you give oral sex with scabby strangers in alleyways to get hold of them or turn you into Rob Ford (which is almost the same thing), and b) because I really like reggae. B

ut yeah – I’m gonna have to drop the trousers at this soiree.

Humbug.

click below to see the video report on this.

http://video-api.wsj.com/api-video/player/iframe.html?guid=540E2E9F-D35A-464A-9BE3-E15CD8E605BC

 

 

 

Talansky & Leipheimer: a bromance for the ages

Ever fallen in love with someone?
Ever fallen in love?
In love with someone
Ever fallen in love? (Love…)
In love with someone
You shouldn’t’ve fallen in love with  
The Buzzcocks

Andrew Talansky knows that feeling. When all around you judge you for nothing less wrong than lovin’. How deep it cuts. The scars it can leave. Ah to be young and in love and misunderstood.

But the young American isn’t being shy about it, not at all. In fact, he’s telling all and sundry about it on Twitter, and, as you know, if it’s on there it must be real.

It’s great to see these two have healed the rift caused by Talansky’s comments back in January 2014, when he witheringly said:

I feel genuine hatred towards Leipheimer. He’s a worthless lying scumbag making false statements that hurt the sport I love.

To have gotten over being called a ‘worthless lying scumbag’ shows Levi to be a bigger man than I though he… oh wait, sorry, got that wrong!

Talansky was in fact talking about Di Luca there, not Leipheimer. You can see how I got those two mixed up though, what with both of them having lied for several years and for making false statements for, well, just about every day they woke up as professional cyclists, knowing full well they were juiced and were going to do it again. And again, and again, etc and so on.

Indeed Talansky could have been talking about any number of old pros who later ‘admitted’ there were essentially high-speed pharmaceutical cabinets on wheels in their day.

It’s hard to keep track though these days, with these modern pros who say they aren’t doping and can we all please stop going on about it and who then launch attacks on one doping ex-pro but not another because they don’t like what the guy said to a journalist. I’m never sure just who is the bad guy, but as a general rule of thumb it seems that if they speak English and if you admired them when you were younger, then they’re the ‘OK Dopers.’

Johnny Foreigner Doper I don’t Know = Bad.

English Speaking Doper I know = Good.

Not quite E=mc2 but it’ll do.

Still not convinced? See Cavendish & Ricco vs. Cavendish & Armstrong.

Or Talansky & Levi vs. Talansky & Di Luca.

Or any of the hundreds and thousands of ill-informed and frankly prejudiced (notice how I avoided saying ‘f**king dumb’ there? Phew!) forum posts on this matter.

Maybe it’s also that these guys are a lot like the old guys. Jonathan Vaughters, Talansky’s boss, said as much back in 2012.

“It’s not cool to say so, but Andrew has a lot of the same personality traits as Lance,” said JV.

Yikes.

Talansky himself isn’t quite sure what he’d have done ‘back in the day’ either.

“I can’t say I would have said no or yes [to doping back in Levi’s era],” said the Garmin rider at a press conference after he’d won a stage at Paris-Nice in 2013.

Great backbone there Andrew.

Sarcasm aside, it is disheartening to see that at least one (there are actually many) of the leading lights of the new generation does not grasp that, in spite of the pressures riders may face it is ultimately up to them to cheat or not. Others held out and at great personal cost, too. And remember, these guys didn’t decide to cheat just once – they decided to do it every single day for years.

Kind of like if you come from an Italian neighborhood which was once full of body-chopping-up Mafioso but now things are better and you have a management position in a reputable company but you still idolise the old boys and figure “Hey, they had to do what they had to do.”

Anyone from outside your particular environment would see that kind of thinking as nonsensical because it’s never ok to terrorise neighbourhoods and to butcher people in country ditches with a cutthroat razor, but to you, it makes perfect sense, in large part because you are still idolizing the old guys. You are romanticizing and yes, like Talanaksy with Leipheimer, you are blinded by some sick form of love and a misdirected sense or loyalty to a guy who cheated himself rich.

And who, actually, is still at it.

Back in 2013 at the Paris-Nice press conference, Talansky said “You look at what I’m doing … and if you want proof that cycling is clean now, look no further.”

Alright, let’s look at what Andrew is doing then.

He attacked Di Luca so feverishly because Di Luca said that to get in the top ten at the Giro you had to dope.

He attacked a former American pro rider back in 2012, Andy Jacques-Maynes, who had tweeted that “My perception is that EVERYONE [sic] racing in Europe has been doped at some point.”

Talansky wasn’t happy about that either.

“I would like to call out Andy Jacques-Maynes,” he said at the time. “He went on Twitter and said that everyone who races in Europe has done drugs at some point.”

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, these two were clearly guilty of exaggerating, and they probably were. But by how much?

A recent study by Sporting Intelligence finds that at least 65% of top ten riders at the Tour from 1998 to 2013 were either busted for doping or caught up in doping investigations and stings.

“81 different riders took a TdF top 10 from 1998-2013… 53 of those – 65 percent – were almost definitely doping,” states the article.

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Have a look at this graphic from The New York Times also, gives a nice kapow kind of feel to the whole thing. You could play snakes and ladders on that grid quite easily…

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So, that is 65% that we know of. Ask a few former clean pros if 65% is an accurate enough number for that time and they will, to a one, tell you that it is not – it should be far higher. Ask them what they think about these current riders and they will talk about micro-dosing, the benefits to dopers of the passport system, the prevalence of former dopers in management positions, riders still going to dodgy doctors (see the Padua Investigation and riders visiting Ferrari) and the sheer number of ‘new generation’ riders still getting busted, and possibly ask you to look at the widespread increase in doping amongst amateurs who are so lacking in natural talent that they should really have jacked in the bike and taken up badminton, and it’ll leave you wondering what the f**k to believe.

But be thankful for Talansky, showing us the way. Thank the lycra-clad gods that here we have a dude who is consistent in his censuring of former DopeKings. Thanks Eddy that we have a guy here who understands that to have his photo taken with Levi and to attend his Gran Fraudo would be really kinda messed up and send out at best a confusing message, at worse, to make it look like he was saying ‘well doping back in the day was ok cos they were all so sensitive & frail.’

So yeah. Andrew Talansky, we salute you.

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Landis, Lemond, Lance and Leinders: Why it has to be all or nothing

Floyd Landis talks sense sometimes. (Note the sometimes). He’s one of the former EPOlogists that actually has something worth listening to. Sometimes. Yep, he denied his arse off when he got busted, denied it for way too long and messed around with a lot of people who supported him, but his contrition since then has been as complete as it can get for someone who did all that. He’s annoying, sure, he might benefit financially if (or when) LA gets the beating many feel he will on the Whistleblower case, he doped his arse off but, it has to be said, there’s more clarity to what he says than the likes of Hamilton et al.

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So when he headlined on CyclingSnooze recently, having  a pop at Greg Lemond, I had to read it. He felt that Lemond’s insistence that a lifetime ban for the guy who never won 7 Tours de France was absolutely spot on but that his record on other dopers sent out a mixed message and made it look more like Lemond was anti-Lance than anti-dope.

“I can certainly empathize with his personal distaste for Armstrong,” said Landis. “However, his inconsistent treatment of riders who doped is troubling and undercuts his argument that Armstrong should be banned for life.”

He cited the 3-time Tour winner waving to crowds at the Tour alongside Indurain – which basically meant Landis was saying the Spaniard was a dope cheat – and his statement that Pantani, the coke-riddled Pirate, was “one of the greatest ever” (bike riders, not dopers, though the latter is plainly true).

All this got me thinking about Lemond’s position and then of mine. Lemond has a very personal connection to Armstrong – the guy cost him his business, for chrissakes, he ridiculed and belittled him and obscured Lemond’s record as the only winning American of the Maillot Jaune with his chemically-enhanced march to Tour de France dominance.

who let this guy in?

who let this guy in?

So I kinda figure Lemond has reason to be emotionally-invested in all that. What got me thinking though was his views on Pantani. He’s wrong on that one, right? I mean, Pantani was not bad and all but what he was really good at was taking EPO. Some will read this and say ‘Well they all did it so yeah he was the best climber in those days’ but like many a good non-doping pro will tell you, that is no excuse – the decision to cheat is made not just once and ‘Oops, sorry bout that, I made a bad decision’ – no, it’s made every single day, every time the vial gets opened and the srynge inserted, the pill popped and the blood taken out of the refrigerator.

Pro cycling is like the financial industry – the top of it – in that its culture rewards dishonesty. Pantani may have been great but we will never know because another three guys who might have been better may have quit early on, disgusted at doping, and gone to work in insurance. We just will never know.

But then it came to my own position on doping. If you read cp regularly you’ll know I am pretty much against it and against accolades for riders who have been busted, and yet I, perhaps like Lemond too, was drawn into the romance of the sport, of the history of legendary rides and heroic riders, like Eddy Merckx.

For sure I was.

And in a sense I still am. There is a wall in my head that stood between two realms, one that thought that the EPO-era guys were terrible cheats, but that the guys from the amphetamine-era were somehow ok. Thankfully, that wall is rubble now, thanks to the massive holes in it, but the remnants of it are there still. Maybe I subconsciously don’t want to clean it up so that I am reminded of how easy it is to see those older riders as somehow ‘less bad’ than the guys like Armstrong, Pantani and Ricco.

I have a photograph on my ‘aboutapunk’ page that has me with Merckx at the Tour of Oman. I was in absolute awe of seeing this legend still breathing and moving. Since then I have changed my position. Merckx doped, he cheated, he was busted more than once, as did so many of his generation. Bartali might have been one of the very few – certainly amongst the elite – that didn’t dope, but the rest? Some things never change.

But the picture will stay on there, to remind me, as the battered ruins of that wall do, that this sport is and has been corrupt since very beginning.

Looking for heroes? Look hard.

It was not easy to admit to myself that I had been in awe of cheats, and that I had been misleading myself when it came to the older generations. It stripped bare the history of the sport all at once. I even had to go back and look at the very Tour stage that made me fall in love with cycling and the guy whose image was all over my little bike room when I was 16.

Landis is making a valid point, and that is that with Lemond saying that LA deserves a life ban but others can still be considered ‘great’, there is an inconsistent message being sent out there that actually gives validity to LA saying he shouldn’t be banned for life and that his treatment amounts to a witch hunt.

Should it be a lifetime ban for all serious drug abuse? Yes, I’m with Will Routley on that one. Personality should not come into it. Yes LA is a sociopath but as far as I know WADA don’t test for that – yet.

And let me reiterate something I’ve said many times but keep needing to repeat. These guys fully deserve to live their lives with something as close as they can get to contentment, for sure. They should be allowed to rebuild and to move on – but they should not be allowed near either the bureaucracy of cycling, nor the development of young riders, nor the management of teams at any level. Once you make that decision to cheat you should lose your seat on the bus.

Would you want a bent accountant managing your cash? Not a tough decision there.

Which brings us to Leinders. Proper dodgy, administering dope to (it seems) just about everyone on Rabobank, employed by Sky (‘We know nothing!’), banned for life by USADA for trafficking and yet still denying it on Dutch national TV and wherever else he can get a word in. How did he ever get onto Sky? I know that is not the first time that has been asked. Why not have an agreement between teams not to employ former dopers or those heavily implicated in doping? Leinders had been fingered by ex-Rabo manager Theo de Rooy as having been part of a decision to dope riders, before Sky employed him.

Some teams have been using stuff that is not yet banned but is said to bring big benefits – such as ketones – then saying ‘well it ain’t banned’, and it’s the same deal with employing people who they can say ‘well he ain’t been banned’ – in this, they are adhering to the letter of the law and not its spirit.

Then you have the UCI guy, Dr Mario Zorzoli, said to be giving Rabo a heads up when the testers were closing in and suggesting a particular steroid for Leinders to administer to Rasmussen.

Want to talk about corrupt? If that isn’t it then I don’t know what it. This is the same guy that sped through Froome’s TUE at Romandie. Had the UCI been doing its real job over the past 20 years – and just to clear this up, their real job under Verbruggen and McQuaid was not in fact to make sure that 95% of the peloton doped in massive measure – people like Zorzoli would have been identified and kicked out. And there lies the problem. We have so many – so, so many – dodgy characters in this sport that everything is, if you will excuse the language, royally f*cked up.

The UCI has unveiled its new anti-doping policies and yes, they are an improvement, but still are a galaxy’s width away from being what is absolutely necessary.

I’m reading Nicole Cooke’s autobiography at the moment and she talks a lot about the ineptitude and outright villainy that she encountered as a young rider trying to make an honest, dedicated go at being a professional. I read it realising that this wasn;t just true of women’s cycling, and that nothing has changed. With so many former blatantly dodgy characters still in the sport, nothing ever will, because this era is stained by the last one and it will continue until the culture, embodied by these individuals, is finally rooted out and a new education system is brought in for young athletes.

Cavendish wants everyone to stop talking about doping? Yeah, real change there. Gotta love that Omerta.

 

 

4 Italian amateurs busted for a total of 75 years

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You may remember an article I wrote on how the Italian authorities and race organisers are leading the way on anti-doping measures and testing not only in pro races but also on the amateur scene. News just in confirms that that drive sis continuing, with Gazzeta dello Sport annnouncing a few days ago that four amateurs have been handed huge suspensions totalling a combined 75 years.

Take that, 4 year ban!

Here is an excerpt from the Gazzetta (tidied up a little after Google Chrome translated):

A resounding blow has been dealt, the heaviest in the history of amateur cycling doping.It is difficult to define the measure by which the National Anti-Doping Tribunal (First Chamber) hit Alfonso Falzarano (ACSI), winner of the Gran Fondo of Rome in 2014, Raffaele Falzarano, Michele Sgambato, and Carmine Galletta.

Alfonso Falzarano was banned for 15 years (until January 14, 2030) for trafficking of doping. The others also received heavy bans: 15 years to Raffaele Falzarano (traffic doping), 20 to Michele Sgambato (traffic and administration of doping), 25 years to Carmine Galletta (possession of prohibited substances, trafficking and administration of doping).

All received fines and all were sentenced to pay court costs.

The full link is accessible here.

 

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Many thanks to Dave Christensen for sending this news in.

Cavendish: “Can you be 100% that one of these journalists isn’t f***ing your wife?”

Mark Cavendish love a good ol’ Omerta, if nothing else.

First he blamed Riccardo Ricco for all cycling’s ills, back in 2011:

“The sport’s better off without him,” Cavendish said. “He’s not a problem that the sport faces, he is the problem that the sport faces.

“He doesn’t mirror a lot of riders, he’s a special case and I think we’re better off without him,” Cavendish continued as those gathered who don’t swallow looked at each other and rolled their eyes. “Obviously I hope he does recover well, but I really do hope he becomes someone’s bitch in prison.”

OK the last part was funny but still, the point was clear – ‘blame Ricco, it’s all his fault.’

Then there was the Armstrong love, then the ‘anger’ as expressed in his autobiography and yet, somehow, he told us it was all ok to still cherish those memories of LA in his pomp:

“Now we’re asked to comment on Armstrong and have our morals judged on the strength of what we say, when a lot of us are, rightly or wrongly, too preoccupied with the here and now to have an opinion. Even though I was watching those Tours that Lance won, wide-eyed and innocent, I also can’t pretend that I’m eaten up with resentment or feel betrayed now I know it was a big charade.

“As unjust, as distressing as it may be, as hard as it is for us to accept, I’m sure that Lance still feels that no one and nothing can take away the emotions of those seven Tours at the time, and the same really goes for those of us who were watching.”

Then there was this episode at a Quickstep meet and greet last year:

And now this gem. Again, the message is quite clear: shut the **** up about doping, nothing to see here, move along, it’s all much better now.

Omerta? Who said that?

 

 

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

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no caption required

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

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

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

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

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

fo’ sho.

he’s denying all.

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

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

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

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

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

Cookson, Astana, and the Death of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Kennaugh of Sky tweeted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allegedly.

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

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

Thehamst wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yawn.

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Astana do not exist in a bubble – this is evidence that ZILCH has changed

ever notice how when a politician gets busted for something naughty, like – well, fraud is ok, they can do that, nepotism, check, that’s acceptable, dereliction of duty in the face natural disasters, no problem, rigging the courts to allow their relatives to get reduced sentences, all fine there, facilitating white collar crime, check, fine on that count, bailing out thieving bankers, that’s all kosher, invading sovereign nations for oil, yup, ok there, uh, remote bombings of villages and murder, ah yes, doing their duty et cetera on that one…

ok, um, struggling here for a really terrible, awful crime that politicians actually get busted for – ah! like leaving some semen on an intern’s dress?

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well, ever notice how when something like that happens we are encouraged by the fine and never subjective international media outlets and the other *still good* politicians to see the perpetrator as one bad apple in an otherwise rosy apple cart?

or how the same thing happens when young men and women in war zones placed in charge in jails go off on one and take degrading images of their captives? how we are asked to believe that the individual erred but that the system as a whole is essentially ‘good’ and correct?

ever consider how that might be bollocks?

well the same thing is going on right now in cycling. exactly the same mechanism rolls into action. (mechanism, not ‘crime’, let’s make that distinction).

wait – are you on about Astana? well come on, they’re Eastern Europeans

uh huh.

they’ve always been at it, that lot.’

do go on.

and Nibali, he’s Italian isn’t he.’

ok.

well just sayin’, the sport IS cleaner but this lot are just proper bad plums.’

as were, Festina say? or the Spanish?

well yeah.’

and half of Garmin?

and Armstrong, Tyler, all them boys?

well they had to do it to survive...’

uh… huh.

we read about another doping case here, another there and we think – because we are desperately hoping that the bad days are behind us – that it’s an isolated case. this, despite the fact  – and i’m not just on about Astana here – that there are positive tests every week in the news.

the dots are there. Astana have, remarkably, in a very short space of time brought a bunch of dots, marker pens and paper enough for everyone to get connecting.

Astana brought Vino with them, he is dodgy as a 47 pound note, we all know that. he’s like the thinking man’s Ricardo Ricco.

has also been the likes of Zabel coaching, Vaughters managing, Bruyneel and systematic doping over more than one of his teams, Kim Andersen and his ludicrous past (8 positives and counting), Rabobank, Sky using the dodgy doc, guy after guy just ‘visiting’ Ferrari, Carmichael still loaded and respected, editors and their journos refusing to join those little dots, and still – STILL! goshdarnit! – we are supposed to think these cases are ‘isolated’?

even Nibali can’t get us to believe that one.

Dr Michele Ferrari, centre, was, according to Usada, in charge of supervising blood transfusions

i remember watching him win the Tour and thinking ‘man, please be clean’. and now you tell me how we are supposed to believe not the wild notion that he is above suspicion but that he shouldn’t be – and deserves not to be – questioned about what is going on?

the Italian media broke the story that Astana met Ferrari then went on to categorically state that their Tour winner was not implicated in doping and that indeed he never met the Doc, a claim Nibali has stated more than once in the past, but this whole palava brought back the memory to me of this article on the venerable Cycling Weekly, which said that Nibali did in fact meet Ferrari, and trained with him, wearing all black kit.

the article quotes Ferrari as saying that he sued the claimants, and was awarded an out of court settlement. but you know, smoke + fire + blog = oxygen for the flames. and hey, this is cycling. and yes, it is that ridiculous. if they’d only just start wearing bibs only and smashing each other over the head with step-ladders, it might all make more sense.

in any case, His Nibs is looking not very well right now. what a mess.

of course, if one of our Grand Tour winners from 2014 was to be busted it would merely be an isolated incident.

look the other way folks, there you go, nothing to see here, move along.

and the sport IS getting better, every day, in every way.

right?