UCI & ASO need to ban Riis and Vino (& the rest) from Le Tour

this article originally appeared on The Roar


Eurosport’s coverage of the 2014 Tour de France had a section at the end of each stage that was entitled ‘LeMond on Tour’.

This featured the combustible-looking, three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond chatting to a host of the Tour’s personalities.

One day his French co-host ushered onto the makeshift set none other than Alexandre Vinokourov. Vinokourov is the one-time crowd favourite Kazakh army colonel who is now Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana team boss.

El Vino is also infamous for being kicked out of the 2007 Tour de France after he was caught for blood doping, which triggered the removal of all his Astana teammates and their entourage.

His reaction to getting nabbed – to basically skirt around the issue for years and to never fully own up to his breaking of the rules – lost him many friends, leaving the majority of cycling fans decidedly nonplussed when he won the 2012 Olympic road race in his final year of racing.

Whoever decided that it would not be decidedly uncomfortable for LeMond, an avowed anti-doper and long-time Lance Armstrong foe, to exchange pleasantries with a man whose arrogance and nefariousness are the polar opposite of everything the only American winner of Le Tour stands for, must soon have realised their mistake as soon as the Kazakh hero stepped into view.

LeMond’s body stiffened visibly and he had trouble even forcing a smile. Vino was and remains a poster boy for the good old (recent) days, when riders thought nothing of doping up to get ahead.

That he is managing a top-level team is bad enough in my opinion, and the fact that his rider won the Tour is the only blemish on Nibali’s otherwise sterling and hugely impressive win.

Such is Vinokourov’s esteem (and political contacts) in his homeland that some reports say that news of his positive test were never fully reported in Kazakhstan.

That Kairat Kelimbetov, the president of Kazakh Cycling, is now pushing for a Grand Depart in the eastern European nation reflects the growing popularity of the sport there. However it must be noted that the awarding of such a prestigious gift by ASO will be seen as a victory for Vinokourov, something which I hope Christopher Prudhomme, head of Le Tour, will take into account.

Christian Prudhomme reacted recently to the report that several former Tour winners believe that Armstrong’s seven Tour ‘victories’ should be reinstated in the record books with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and a definitive shake of the head.

“And the same goes for the public,” he said. “You ask the people along the route. It’s clear, his name will not be on the list again. Period.”

All very well and good, but where does he stand on Vinokourov heading a ProTour team at a race he once disgraced?

In the argument for the special and singular treatment of Armstrong, his sociopathic nature is often trotted out, but it is not up to the rules to define who was the worst cheat.

A cheat is a cheat is a cheat, and, if anyone is asking me, they should all be removed from the books and all be banned from further involvement in professional racing, or, at the very least, in the races they were caught cheating at or during.

Bjarne Riis is another case in point. The career domestique won the Tour in 1996 then in retirement admitted that he had doped during that victory. ASO removed his name then reinstated him, placing an asterisk next to his name to indicate doping offences.

He skulked off for a spell after a successful career as a team boss. He then sold his share to the Russian Oleg Tinkoff, admitted depression as a result of all his troubles, disappeared for a spell then turned up again driving the Tinkoff-Saxo team car in races this year, most noticeably at the Tour.

I’m not the only one who has noticed all this, and indeed the UCI president Brian Cookson touched on the subject in an interview a few days ago in The Guardian, reacting to, I can only guess, the public mood regarding the sight of Vino and Riis at the Tour.

“I would like both of them to come to the [Cycling Independent Reform] commission,” Cookson said. “The commission doesn’t have powers of subpoena, but there is a court of public opinion here which is really important; those two people and others as well need to bear that in mind if they want to continue to operate in our world, opinion in the world of cycling would be much more favourable towards them if they came forward.”

That’s all well and good, but is it enough? The commission was designed to look into cycling’s doping past, but there is a groundswell of opinion that believes that there is no place in cycling management and in the bureaucracy for former dopers.

“We’ve got a rule that says if you’ve got a major anti-doping violation you can’t be involved with a team,” continued Cookson, “but our advice is that it’s difficult to employ that retroactively.”

How so? How about we get rid of the lot of them? To name only Riis and Vino is another example of that old attitude that the apple cart is generally healthy and that there’s just a couple of bad apples in there, but in truth, in the era of Vino and Riis, it was very much the other way around.

This is one reason that any truth and reconciliation hearing would turn up very little truth and absolutely no reconciliation, because so few former pros would have anything to gain from admitting to using drugs. In fact, they would have everything to lose.

Cookson started off well enough and made all the right noises. There is no doubt that the support of women’s cycling has improved noticeably. However, until the UCI decides once and for all to ban all the cheats from management we will continue as a sport to make one step forward and three back.

All the while, Armstrong’s repeated cry that he is being singled out unfairly will gather more support.

We just had a very good Tour with a winner that has no doping suspicion hanging over him and saw several new and young faces emerge, so why are we still seeing the smug Vino center stage?

A shambles. Nothing less.


Bjarne Riis reads from the usual doper script and tells us how ‘difficult’ the decision to first dope was.

Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

13 thoughts

  1. Lee, I get your outrage and can see how the Eurosport guys effed this one up and hopefully LeMond will have this reviewed. However, your puritanical, one dimensional, unimaginative and predictable “Bonfire of the Vanities” approach to just surgically remove the sins in cycling history will be as destructive and ineffective today as it was for Savonarola in 1497….

    Dude, retroatcively trying to impose straight lines, clear boundaries and distinct ideas of right and wrong in a sport as messy as cycling (a) simply will NOT work (b) is *completely* ridiculous and (c) incorrectly assumes that doping will not affect huge swathes of the critical history, and legacy of cycling, which is an elemental part of the sport. You are too experienced and too influential (as a pundit with an audience of millions) to be this näive, this reductive, and this simplistic.

    Case in point- YOU said…
    “A cheat is a cheat is a cheat, and, if anyone is asking me, they should all be removed from the books and all be banned from further involvement in professional racing, or, at the very least, in the races they were caught cheating at or during.”
    “How about we get rid of the lot of them?”

    Fine…Kick the bums out!! To the pitchforks and torches! Riis and Vino are confired dopers so they should be OUT!!!
    Ermmm….So Lee- what do you propose we do with THESE confirmed dopers?

    Arch-cheater Eddy Merckx (’67 Giro, ’73 Lombardia, 77 Fleche wallone- WIpe his dastardly acts from the record books!!)
    Über-liar Felice Gimondi (’68 Giro, ’75 Tour He is meaningess! Erase his memory!!!)
    Cheater Mario Cippolini (retroactively popped for EPO in 1998 TdF- NEVER invite him to the Giro again!!)…

    And what should we do with these diabolical DS’?
    Slippery Character Marc Madiot (Self admission that he took amphetamines after the ’89 TdF- FIRE him immediately)
    Confirmed Cheater Jonathon Vaughters (part of the USPS drama- Pink slip added to argyle)

    As confirmed cheaters, should Phil and Paul never mention the words “Coppi”, “Simpson” or “Anquetil” at the TdF ever again?Should we wipe away THEIR names from the history of The Alpe d’Huez, Mt Ventoux, or the TT?

    Shall we excise Charly Gaul from the record books? Riger Rivere? Gastone Nencini? Raphael Gemiani? Maertens? Musseuw?- A simple wikipedia search will reveal many, many, many other names- Do we just ignore them all??

    See Lee? Näive. Reductive. Simplistic.

    (Lance Armstrong threatened people, pursued his cheating in the courts, and actively sought to destroy people. He took his cheating to another level so I am okay with the the extent of his ban)

    Look, blanket, retroactive punishments of old men for cheating with no nuance, no suntlety and no sensitivity for different eras is counterproductive, inane and certainly not going to help anyone or advance the sport. It sets up slipprey slopes of poor precedents that become impossible to manage and destroys consistency

    My suggestion? Focus your puritanical zeal on not only improved testing, but a faster adjudication process so that the Roman Kreuzinger situation does not blow up 2 days before the TdF Grand Depart.
    insist that the UCI to be clearer on its ridiculous rules so that SKY cannot get a TUE via FedEx, and that standardises inhaler use…
    Applaud riders who have terrible days and who visibly crack (Talansky, TJVG, Panzermagen, Kwiatowski) for their bravery, and assure them that they will get stronger- slowly, over time by continuing to train clean….
    Celebrate the exploits of clear genetic freaks (Nairo, Kittel, Cav)
    Push for greater testing at cycling events and so on…

    We also, as a cycling community accept that as a sport based on competetion between genetic winners and losers, some men WILL cheat to make up for a lack of natural talent. It cannot be completely stopped.
    So we should do our best to find them, punish them, sanction them and their teams and then move on…Even when it is a bit distasteful like Riis and Vino.

    Are their histories shady? Sure. But their tactical nous, vast experience and eye for talent allowed them to mastermind the development of a pair of teams that won 7 stages, the overall and KOM champions in this year’s TdF while ostensibly riding cleanly, and with class, style and panache. They played a massive role in making this TdF a watchable event for millions of fans- You also have to acknowledge THAT bit of their history….

    Getting rid of doping is like building cycling fitness- It takes time, and short-term, short-cuts like the one you suggest are counterproductive

    Lee, you are a smart, experienced and highy articulate analyst who writes a great blog.
    This is EXACTLY why I hold you to a higher, more imaginative, more sophisticated and certainly more innovative standard-

    You can do better than this…


    1. Have to agree 100% with DocNurse. Can’t selectively kick a few people out when it was the whole culture. Appreciate your passion for the sport and clean cycling CrankPunk, but this isn’t just a black or white solution. Cycling has an ugly past that can’t really be fixed in a scorched earth way. We get smarter, we move on.

  2. Sadly I have to agree with DoctorNurse, yes please work on present day testing and present day winners losers, Eddie et al are part of cycling history, lets make the future better.

    1. Sure…. the history of cycling and its doping is there BUT I agree with Lee. We are in the ‘now’ and NOW is the time to clean out all offenders 100% who are operating NOW! Start a new, clean path, its the only way. Do you get what I mean by now like? NOW

      1. Well Grary, fine- But where is your starting point? Kick out Riis, but keep Jalabert and Virenque? Dump Vino but keep Thevenet and Poulidor? Its an impossible standard you propose and a lazy, unimaginative approach to the problem….

        My alternative? Change the narrative, not by punishing 10, 15, 20 year old errors, but by telling the cycling community and the public at large about these very interesting stories-

        Stories about talented young riders who took years of steady progression to develop their natural abilities to their ultimate peaks (Cancellara, Nibali, Wiggins, Cadel)…

        Stories that shows that it is normal to blow up into a million pieces when racing at a high level, especially when you are a young rider like Kwiatowski, or Mollema, or Bardet…..

        Re-set expectations for performances during the year- Nibali’s form was a steaming pile of crap all spring long (to the point that he was doubting himself) but then came good in July…Similarly, Contador did little-nothing all of last season and needed several focused months of serious training to perform like he did this Spring and Quintana needed some time to find his legs before smashing everyone else’s in the Giro…As strong as ASTANA was, they never sat in front of the Peloton pulling all day USPS style, Nibali had to graft his way to time gains in all weathers and all terrains

        Have teams publish their training numbers and/or number of k’s ridden or metres climbed in a typical training camp week, so that people can see what it takes to be great at the sport- I seem to remember Wiggins saying he climbed like 100k vmetres prior to his TdF win, and Nibali publishing something like 25k vmetres in a week of his training camps when he was being criticised….Put their courses on Strava or Garmin Connect, so that you or I can try to replicate their efforts (and vomit on the side of the road…)

        Talk about the true physiologic freaks who can recover like Horner (Who is clearly made of Adamantium) or Contador (one of the best at being fresh every day in a 3 week GT). Bike handling savants like Sagan or de Vlamanick, pure aerobic effeciency monsters like Quintana or LeMond. Men with iron will like Hinault, explosive power like Purito, Bettini or Bartoli, longevity like Zootemelk or Jens! or elegance, suppleness like (Stephen) Roche or the power, bravery and skill of Hushovd. Make it clear that even though they are all once in a lifetime riders, one can learn to develop some of their natural skills and most importantly, that the consistency of their performances over time which is what makes them believable, not any single performance they did.

        Focus on the importance of the blocking and tackling skills in big time pro riding- Riding/descending in all weather, high and low speed bike handling, reading the peloton, pack positioning, sprinting (positioning in a sprint Mr Talansky), and off season preparation. Focus on the fundamentals that when mastered allow men like Luca Paolini to have long productive, valuable careers, and when ignored turns talented men with enormous engines into Andy Schleck or Jan Ullrich…. These skills are as important as any heroic, multi-pass solo attack in the high mountains, and arguably more valuable

        Emphasize that the best cyclists have a steady progression, hit a tremendous peak, and then start to lose their edge, so when you see a man at the very top of his game (Tony Martin, Nibali, Quintana) Appreciate him, because soon he will be like Cancellara, Cadel, Boonen, Gilbert, Valverde and Purito- Still incredibly powerful, compared to you and me, but not able to do it every day, or all the time at the highest level ….Some cyclists never quite get there in the GTs (JVDB, Purito) some get their only once (Valverde, Cunego), while excelling at other elements of the sport (1 week SR’s, one day races)

        etc, etc, etc…

        THAT (in addition to many more great ideas detailed elsewhere) as opposed to throwing ld men out of the recordbooks will go a much longer way to changing how cycling is viewed, the way that expectations set and how riders respond to those expectations…

        Its not a total solution, but I reckon its a better start than what Lee proposed….

  3. Myopic and just plain stupid article. Obviously written by someone that never won as much as a Cat 4 race.

    DoctorNurse – Your comment is absolutely 100%right. Perhaps you should take over for this clown!

  4. Very simple Nursedoctor… start a new page, anyone who was/is a doper and who is managing/leading/coaching a team…. that’s the end…. errrrrrr I mean the starting point.

    Don”t you want a clean sport? Is it so unrealsitic to you Doctor to have a healthy sport? Start as we mean to go on …. etc

  5. Extremists and theit views push movements forward, then the status quo settles down, falling short of those extremes so……. Lee keep pushing! but I must say I can agree with many (almost all) points made by DocNurse (well written!) reality and extremeism just won’t mix well when it comes to the doping problem/saga

    My question is, with the future of doping being gene manipulation that will be un-detectable thus rendering testing obsolete…….. what then?

  6. While I understand the sentiment. Punishment can’t go beyond the WADA code without ending up in CAS, and most likely being reversed. Hence why British Cycling was required to let their convicted dopers compete again for the national team, once their suspension was over.

    Prohibiting an appearance at a given event outside of the ineligibility period goes beyond the scope of the proscribed punishment. It is akin to the US legal principal of double jeopardy (simply stated, punishing someone twice for the same crime, or later convicting a person after they were found innocent of a given charge).

    I suppose race organizers could lean on teams to leave home certain riders and staff, but they currently have no legal authority to force anyone to comply. Also at this point, one can’t prevent a non-suspended person from making a living in the sport. Not only would this go beyond the scope of most WADA sanctions, one would face employment law entanglements in a variety of jurisdictions. If additional punishment is retro-active, it further complicates things.

    The best way to change this scenario is to lobby for change to the WADA code.

  7. This article isn’t about the record books, it’s about the dopers in management positions.

    It is in truth a difficult situation as some who doped did not get caught and yet most, in fact, we know about. But a start would be to make the ‘no dopers in management’ rule retroactive. Secondly, encourage sponsors to become aware of the histories of the men that run the teams they pay for. Money talks, whereas rules break down. Financial pressure is the key here. The UCI should push their coaching program and make it mandatory, such as it is in football, get in riders who are known to not have doped, and champion them, highlighting their past.

    The culture of cycling is always heralded as being so rich and wonderful and it is, but it is also a culture that is infested with cheating. So let’s work on changing the bad part.

    Come on DN, you can do better. Head out of sand please.

    1. Lee, your rhetoric is far, far ahead of your logic which ultimately discredits your entire argument….

      Let’s look again at what you said:
      “A cheat is a cheat is a cheat, and, if anyone is asking me, they should all be removed from the books and all be banned from further involvement in professional racing, or, at the very least, in the races they were caught cheating at or during.”

      If THAT is your standard, then the article is NOT just restricted to dopers in management- My point about the impractacality of banishing former riders who doped is undiminshed and unchallenged, but let’s leave that point aside.

      Let’s just look at exactly what you mean by “Cheat” in terms of DS’/Cycling managers.

      Okay- so lets apply the Crankpunk “No Dopers in Cycling Management” rule…
      Again, Great! let’s toss them all out! I’ll get the pitchforks and torches ready again, but….
      Ermmmm…Who EXACTLY do you kick out?

      Do you throw out someone like Martinelli who is certainly has a shady history, in spite of the masterful job he did of getting ASTANA and Nibali ready for their Tour de Force?

      Do you toss out people like Riis, Vino or Vaughters who doped as riders but are easily some of the best DS’ in the business, who bring money to the sport like Vino, are brilliant talent spotters and tacticians like Riis or who who have dragged the sport into a new era of clean team management like Vaughters. (Do you also rescind David Millar’s ownership stake in the team as a former doper?)

      Do you send a man like Sir Brailsford into cycling exile given that he is (a) not at all averse to playing fast and loose with TUEs, tramadol and inhalers, (b) perfectly happy to hire a man like Gert Leinders when it suits him and (c) is a fountain of opacity in terms of his riders whereabouts, training data and so on. Of course, he also revolutionised GT racing and training and played a key role in making UK cycling what it now is- At least some of the success on British roads and velodrome is due to his masterplan. Or does that not matter?

      What about Gallopin? Lots of rumours about him…Michele Bartoli is working with LAMPRE and he was in his pomp at the height of the EPO era – Do you toss them out based just on the time they competed? Madiot is responsible for developing some critically important French cycling talent and has been a stalwart of French cycling for decades and also has a questionable past- Is he out too?

      You may think that my head is in the sand, but that means that my feet are firmly on the ground- I am trying to be realistic with what cycling is, was and can be and recognise that this beautiful sport can only move forward if we honestly acknowledge all its glorious imperfections, warts and unpleasantnesses…

      I stand by my position that your rigidly puritanical doping “litmus test” approach to selecting cycling managers is unfeasible to legislate against, impossible to define, and impractical to manage for managers aand for riders alike making your approach ineligible to be considered as a viable way forward for the sport.

      We can ALL do better than that….

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