Tuesdays with Wilcockson: Phil, Paul, Bob … and Scott!

I just had breakfast with Scott Moninger at a Boulder diner. The 45-year-old Colorado resident is probably the greatest American bike racer who never rode the Tour de France—but he is going to his first Tour this week. Not as a racer, but as a television commentator to work with Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll in the NBC Sports “studio” at every stage finish for the next three weeks And judging by our conversation over eggs and French toast on Monday, Moninger will make a great addition to the team.

In a pro career that lasted almost two decades, Moninger raced for teams such as Coors Light, Mercury, HealthNet and BMC Racing. He won 275 races. Not bad for a climber! His palmarès lists some 30 overall wins in stage races, including Australia’s Herald-Sun Tour, the Redlands Classic and Tour of Utah, along with multiple victories in the Mount Evans Hill Climb and Nevada City Classic. In other words, Moninger knows quite a bit about bike racing!

Since ending his pro racing career in 2007, Moninger has remained in the sport, first as a team director with Toyota-United, and presently as a coach with Peaks Coaching, and as a national brand ambassador for Speedplay pedals. But it’s his knowledge as a bike racer, along with his calm, confident voice and solid demeanor, that should make him a perfect foil for Roll’s wacky style. “And they wanted an American,” Moninger emphasized, referring to NBC Sports.

Moninger’s presence will add an extra degree of knowledge to Tour coverage on network television. He may not have ridden the Tour, but he raced with or against many of the men who competed in Liège-Bastogne-Liège earlier this spring, including Tom Danielson, Cadel Evans, JJ Haedo, Greg Henderson, Ryder Hesjedal, George Hincapie, Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie. That personal connection will help give viewers an inside perspective on the peloton, while Moninger’s up-to-the-minute knowledge of training and tactics will add considerable depth to the NBC team’s daily analysis of the Tour.

Moninger doesn’t have the experience of his three veteran co-commentators (Liggett will be calling the race for the 40th time this year!), “but they wanted someone with a fresh voice,” Moninger told me. He may not be a seasoned TV “talent” but I’m sure he’ll be that fresh voice NBC Sports producer David Michaels is seeking.

I don’t want to give away any secrets, but Moninger, who said he has diligently watched the Tour on TV for the past 20 years, shared many fine insights on the Tour over breakfast. We talked about all the contenders, their teams, the likely strategies, the unusual layout of this year’s Tour, and the Olympic road race that follows a week after the Tour.

Moninger can also talk knowledgably about any doping topics that surface because, as most people remember, he was a victim of the anti-doping rules a decade ago. He tested positive for the prohibited steroid 19-norandrosterone at Colorado’s Saturn Cycling Classic in August 2002, and he was given a two-year suspension, which, on appeal to a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency tribunal, was reduced to one year.

Moninger explained at his hearing that a month before the Colorado race, when he couldn’t buy the amino-acid supplement he’d been using for years, he switched to another brand—and though no prohibited substances were listed in the ingredients, an analysis later showed there were some unknown anabolic elements in the supplement.

The appeals panel didn’t accept that explanation, but they did cut Moninger’s sentence because of a provision in the anti-doping rules that allows a panel to modify a suspension because of the “character, age and experience of the transgressor.” They also recognized that this was his first positive result in more than 100 drug tests he’d undertaken in his then 12 seasons as a professional cyclist. In its verdict, the USADA panel wrote that “the evidence clearly indicates that he is one of the most respected and trusted members of the American cycling community.”

That experience wasn’t something he wanted, but it certainly gives Moninger an insider’s knowledge of the anti-doping process, and that knowledge could be of great value over the course of a Tour. Although no one wants another doping scandal to scar the sport, Moninger will be able to expertly discuss subjects like Alberto Contador’s current suspension and USADA’s ongoing investigation of the alleged “doping conspiracy” in teams led by Lance Armstrong that is keeping Johan Bruyneel from directing his RadioShack-Nissan team at the Tour.

Moninger, and the rest of the NBC viewers, would much rather discuss the promise of a new Tour, where Evans and Brad Wiggins may be the favorites but, as we discussed at breakfast, there will be some great challenges from the likes of Hesjedal, Horner, Leipheimer and half-a-dozen others. So it should be a good first Tour for a popular American seeking to be the new voice of cycling.


Follow me on Twitter: @johnwilcockson

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  1. Souleur

    Moninger is a class act, and i cannot wait to see him expose’ the Tour tidbits

    I got a good nod from him as he was at the last Tour of Missouri, walking through the crowds and nobody recognized him, but I did, & when he walked past I said ‘hey, moninger, last time i saw you…you were hauling down the pass into breckenridge to win the Red Zinger’…he stopped, smiled and said ‘good eye man’. We had a nice conversation briefly & it made my day.

  2. Quentin

    I look forward to it. I like Phil and Paul, but I do agree that a younger and an American voice would benefit the coverage in the US and make it sound less like a foreign sport in which Americans are outsiders. That was the case 20 years ago, but certainly not now. I would also add that after Chris Horner retires from racing, I really want to hear him doing TV commentary at some point.

  3. Peter

    I agree that Scott Moninger is a class act and will lend a voice of authority to NBC’s TDF broadcast. Moninger’s cautionary tale of a tainted supplement (and I’m convinced that was the basis for his positive test) should have been taken to heart by his contemporaries and the next generation of cyclists — supplements are unregulated, full of random chemicals, and in general have no scientific basis for enhancing health or performance (amino acid supplement — are you kidding me? How about a steak (as long as it’s not from a Spanish butcher) or another helping of fava beans?). Kind of like cigarette smoking — anyone who takes it up in this day of age (or supplement use) pretty much have no excuse if they get sick (or test positive).

  4. Ed W

    TOM, it seems you haven’t been around cycling very long, google Coors Light Cycling Team. Most of the guys did the big hair thing: Scott McKinely, Chris Huber, Gaggioli, Moninger, Joe Parkin.

  5. Marilla JWhitney

    Seems to me a better choice would be an American who had raced in Europe. Bob will have to put in all that info as both Moninger and the “host” Liam McHugh are not familiar with that. Nor has Moninger had long and close contact with folks in the European peloton. But from what I read, at least Bob, Scott and Liam will be doing studio work from Paris, not on the route itself. Maybe that saves NBC the cost of hauling around the portable studio, rooms and meals and driving in a crazy atmosphere, etc. Only 4 more days! Yes!

  6. Tominalbanay

    @Ed @., You’ve got that right. TdF since LeMond vs. the Badger. However, only the last 5 years for the other Grand Tours and the Classics. Live Update Guy has got me into the whole thing now!

  7. Peter Lin

    Nothing against NBC sports, but I prefer Eurosport coverage. As much as I would like to love their coverage, it leaves me less than satisfied.

  8. Pingback: Scott Moninger at the Tour with Phil and Paul

  9. Scott

    He “fell victim to the doping rules”? Come on. He violated the doping rules, even if only in letter and not spirit.

  10. armybikerider

    After watching Moninger these last couple of days covering the Tour I’d love to give him a couple of words of advice……

    Smile for Christ’s sake. It’s bike racing….don’t look so serious and have some fun! Show a little personality and relax!

  11. Tom Burke

    I agree that Mr. Moninger is a good addition to the broadcast, but the idea that Phil, Paul and Bobke are going to have an accurate, much less honest or candid, discussion of the role of drugs and drug-testing in cycling is utterly ludicrous. This broadcast team has been either willfully naive or shamelessly dishonest throughout the EPO era, and the few comments they have made on the whole issue of drugs and drug testing have been insulting to the intelligence of anyone who follows the sport.

    I understand that as broadcasters they are paid to promote the sport, and as human beings they wish to think well of all they cyclists, but even a small amount of nuance and care would be appreciated. For example, when will they stop talking as if a negative drug test ends all discussion about an athlete’s use of PED’s? They are well aware, after all, that many of the most prominent cyclists of the past two decades “never tested positive” yet have admitted to PED use–and many have been sanctioned. Indeed drug tests are just one of many tools used to catch PED users.

    Their comments over the past two days about the USADA investigation have been typically dismissive and silly. Why not simply say that they await the results of the investigation and leave it at that? Perhaps Scott can move them in a more productive (and less embarrassing) direction.

  12. Tom Knox

    Scott is an amazing guy. As Scott finds his legs in this new career it should really compliment NBC’s current crew with his serious intellect and dry sense of humor. Perhaps Scott could be the man to fill the void when someday Phil decides it is time to make a comeback on the bike. It is interesting why this is Scott’s first visit to the TDF.
    It is not an accident that Scott is greatest American bike racer who never rode the Tour de France. It was a very conscious choice by Scott to race in the USA where the competition was not so tough he would have to dope to compete. Not that the USA was any cleaner in that era. And although he had a spectacular career I am sure he wonders “What could have been” if he was born a few year later in this cleaner era and been able to race the best in Europe. The to me is why it is good the sport the sport is having it’s current growing pains.

  13. Tom Knox

    Scott was one of the only riders I knew was clean throughout his career. One detail left out in the above article that I think is very significant. The reasons his suspension was shortened was because the supplement in question proved to be truly contaminated, when the same product and lot number were independently purchased they were also found contaminated.
    I thought even six months was extreme since although the rule clearly state the rider is responsible for anything they ingest it was not reasonable to expect a domestic based pro would have the resources to independently test everything they eat. Knowing Scott’s story shows the importance of always giving the benefit of the doubt when accusations are made.

  14. steve awesome

    Scott Moniger- “Um, excuse me, Mr. Waiter, I did not know there were steroids in my soup!”
    Waiter- “STFU, doper.”

    1. Padraig

      Steve: That was less than awesome. Your comment shows a lack of understand of both RKP’s policy about commenting and Moninger’s case. In the future, if you can’t engage the conversation in a constructive manner, don’t bother.

  15. N. Peter Armitage

    I liked Scott Moninger tremendously, both from a perspective of a competitor and as a fan of the sport. But many of the above comments as well as Wilcockson’s original article replay the completely discredited point of view that Moninger was somehow setup or a complete victim of tainted supplements. The facts may be never known by us completely, but what evidence there is shows that Moninger is probably much less then the “victim” that Wilcockson and Moninger’s admirers says he is.

    I encourage those of you with an interest in this case to read the report of the USADA Abritral opinion that can be found at http://www.usada.org/files/active/arbitration_rulings/arbitration_ruling_4_3_2003_Moninger.pdf

    This report details a number of things. After Moninger tested positive for 19-norandrosterone (which is a metabolite of Nadralone and other anabolics) and claimed contamination of some his supplements, some bottles of said supplements were tested. According to Moninger’s own testing company, the OPENED bottles showed contamination large amounts of 19-norandrosterone, which is the steroid METABOLITE that had shown up in his urine. The UNOPENED bottles, according to UCLA tests, did not show 19-norandrosterone or other steroid traces. The UCLA tests showed steroids only in the OPENED bottles. Do we all understand what a metabolite is? This is the chemical that is made by your body from the chemical that you put into your body. So how did steroid metabolites get into the supplements? There is no conceivable way that they could have gotten there by accident due to indiscriminant manufacturing.

    In this regard, Catalin testified that it extremely unusual for a steroid metabolite to be found in supplements and moreover that the levels of of contaminants reported (again only in the opened bottles) were 28,000% higher than that find in any IOC study of supplement trace contaminants.

    You can use your own imagination about what actually happened here …. But there is a reason that Moninger’s suspension was actually HARSHER than many others who had claimed contaminated supplements around this period. That reason is that is story had so many holes in it to anyone who understood the science that was completely not believable.

    1. Padraig

      Peter: Thanks for the link. It is definitely an interesting read. I reported on his suspension way back when, even interviewed him and never got access to the report. What’s interesting is that Moninger told me he submitted nothing but unopened bottles. Kinda funny how the number 28,000% jumps out at you even when reading a low-quality photocopy.

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