you can’t keep a good man down eh? or a crap one, it seems, if the news that everyone’s favorite snake in the grass Riccardo Ricco is trying to get his 12-year ban from cycling quashed is anything to go by. they’re saying that Ricco is appealing, which is nonsensical really, as he quite obviously has no appeal whatsoever. crankpunk is never going to win an award as the biggest fan of the ever-chippy Mark Cavendish but when he commented on Ricco’s self-administered autologous blood transfusion earlier this year, which led to the Italian ending up in hospital, i did crack a smile, i have to admit.
if you’ve forgotten the dead-panned musing from the PocketRocket, it was this:
“Obviously I hope he does recover well, but I really do hope he becomes someone’s bitch in prison.”
Oscar Freire, on the other hand, is just about as different a fellow than Ricco as you can imagine. crankpunk had the pleasure of interviewing the triple world champion just over a year ago and came away with the impression of a man that was not only at ease with himself but also rather humble. if his recent statements about his attitude to doping are anything to go by then his achievements on the bike seem even more extraordinary given the era in which he rode.
this particular comment from Freire resonated strongly: “The problem with this sport is that many don’t deserve to be cyclists, and it is best to go elsewhere rather than fill it with dirt.” here here old boy. damn, i really do hope he was clean.
another of the OldSkool who has come out to proclaim he rode clean (and still does, at 41) is Jens Voigt. he has a blog here and it’s a decent read. here’s a taster:
My friend Thor Hushovd won the prologue in Strasbourg (at the 2006 Tour de France), just after Basso was thrown out of the race. Thor is one of my oldest and closest friends, and we raced together on Crédit Agricole for years. He was the best man at my wedding. I was just so happy for him. But what I remember most is that when I went to congratulate him the next day, he said: “You know, the most satisfying thing about winning the yellow jersey is that I know I did it 100 percent clean. It goes to show you can get great results without drugs!”
Thor is like me. We often talked about dopers and how there should be no mercy for them. For us, dope has always been a no go. And to be perfectly honest, I never felt that Thor and I were alone in our position. I know we weren’t.
whilst Thor’s comments might seem a little too Disney-esque to be true, you get the point, and whilst crankpunk, like many a cycling fan, has suspended his disbelief so often that it’s practically retired as a result of hearing rider after rider proclaim they are clean, at least Jens is putting his cards on the table, and that is to be commended. at least he did something. he says he never saw doping firsthand in his career but did hear about it and did know that there were dopers in the peloton – which to me is a whole lot different to saying ‘wow i never suspected a thing!’ a la Merckx, O’Grady, Liggett etc. Jens goes on and makes a point about his career, that it could well have been even more successful “if everybody would have been clean”:
I still managed to get three stage wins, but who knows what else I would have achieved if everybody would have been clean! A 10-time Tour de France stage winner sounds a lot better to me than three-time winner. But to be honest, I don’t want to contemplate such things for too long because it only makes me bitter. It poisons my soul.
His conclusion is this:
The future of the sport is in our hands. And if we want to avoid losing other great sponsors such as Rabobank then there are no excuses. It’s up to us, the riders and the teams, to prove that we are worth the support of our fans, families, partners, and sponsors. I know that I am willing to fight for your trust and belief.