State of the Cycling World

When I woke this morning, the first thought I had was, “What other bad news will be revealed today?” I’m not one to experience ennui, but this morning, I didn’t have any energy to go for a ride, didn’t want to look at the news and really only wanted to hang out with my family and enjoy a leisurely morning.

None of those things happened, mostly because I did look at the news. For those who aren’t keeping score:

1)    The Tour de France champion tested positive.

2)    The president of the UCI denied that Contador was being investigated the day before he admitted the existence of said investigation.

3)    The Vuelta’s second place and a teammate tested positive.

4)    The home of Riccardo Ricco has been raided and unless Italian police don’t know what aspirin looks like, something suspicious was found in a cabinet belonging to a guy who has been convicted of doping once before.

5)    Oscar Sevilla has tested positive yet again.

6)    The sister of the winner of the Giro d’Italia isn’t permitted to attend sporting events because of her role in the distribution of doping products.

7)    Ex-Oakley employee Stephanie McIlvain put her finger in the dike against the many accusations against Lance Armstrong.

8)    Allen Lim told a grand jury that he wasn’t hired to help Floyd Landis dope.

9)    Operacion Puerto is to be closed and all the evidence destroyed. The truth won’t out.

The only good news for a jingoistic Yank rests on the shoulders of the world’s third-most-popular Taylor (let’s not forget Swift and Lautner), a 20-year-old who we all must hope never comes to the attention of the Eugenics movement. (If you can breed dogs, you can breed people, right?) Taylor Phinney’s gold and bronze medals in the U23 World Championships aren’t news, they are simply confirmations of his talent. With two more years in that category at the world championships, he could wind up the most-medaled U23 rider in history.

Let’s cover this in reverse order: The blood bags are going to be destroyed and we’ll never know the true depth of Fuentes’ business, but it a way, it’s such old news suspending a rider now based on that case seems kind of irrelevant. What’s significant here is the lack of institutional will to get to the truth and clean up sport. This is going to haunt us like a drunken kiss at a New Year’s Eve party.

How often does a job description reflect the job as performed? Who hasn’t had additional had additional duties thrust upon them out of necessity. The subtext here is that Allen Lim may not have admitted all the ways that he assisted Landis. Lim told, “When I worked with Floyd, I repeatedly told him that he didn’t need to dope and should not dope, and I was absolutely not hired to help him to do so.” Okay, so you weren’t hired to help him dope … but did you? Landis may seem kinda desperate and crazy, but no one has suggested that he’s trying to slaughter innocents. Are we really to believe that Landis would screw saint? That doesn’t fit the bill.

Despite the existence of an audio tape made my Greg LeMond in which Stephanie McIlvain reveals that she did hear Armstrong admit to using performance-enhancing drugs, the former Oakley employee—whose husband is Oakley’s VP of sports marketing—testified to a grand jury that she had no knowledge of Armstrong’s use of drugs or that she heard him admit to using them during a meeting with doctors at which Frankie and Betsy Andreu were present and which they claim she was present as well. One wonders what other questions she was asked besides those two; presumably it shouldn’t take seven hours on the witness stand to say “no” twice. While McIlvain has certainly protected Oakley’s (and by extension, Armstrong’s) interests, investigator Jeff Novitzky has secured perjury convictions against athletes who lied to a grand jury.

Elisa Basso, sister of Giro winner Ivan Basso and wife of former pro Eddy Mazzoleni was snared along with her husband as part of Operazione Athena. Mazzoleni was given a suspended sentence for his role in the drug dealing, while Elisa received a ban that stopped just shy of saying she can’t watch sports on television. Not only can she not work for CONI or any of the national governing bodies for sport in Italy, she can’t attend the events or even enter a place frequented by athletes or their coaches. And competing herself? No chance.

Oscar Sevilla, who tested positive for the EPO masking agent hydroxyethyl starch (HES) has been allowed to return to racing until his B-sample analysis is returned. Technically, the product isn’t banned, but its only use is to mask doping and it can only be administered by transfusion, which itself, is not permitted. Sevilla told, “Let’s say that justice is done because there is no reason to suspend me. There can be no direct doping case, as with a forbidden substance, since hydroxyethyl is not on the banned list.” Even weirder, he added, “I take all the steps and face the situation. Ideally, the B sample will be negative. But if not, then the cycling federation will meet to decide on my case.” Ideally? Methinks the rider protest too little.

Some 50-odd tablets of unknown composition were found by Italian police in a cabinet at the home of Riccardo Ricco. Naturally, Ricco—let us not forget Ricco’s previous suspension for CERA use—claims they are nothing elicit.

Ezequiel Mosquera—the darling of the 2010 Vuelta—and his teammate David Garcia have both tested positive for HES—the same stuff Sevilla tested positive for—a substance of use exclusively to cyclists trying to hide evidence of transfusions or EPO use. Hmm, every positive for HES happens to be with a Spanish cyclist. Coincidence?

Credit or blame (depending on your outlook) that we know anything about Alberto Contador’s positive test can be given to German journalist Hans Joachim Seppelt with the news organization ARD. He specializes in doping stories and learned of Contador’s positive (presumably from the Cologne lab that did the testing) before the UCI had announced anything. When he approached Pat McQuaid, the UCI president denied knowing anything, yet less than 24 hours later a press release was issued. Based on what we know of the case—that clenbuterol and traces of a plastic used in transfusion bags were found in Contador’s urine—there seems to be ample evidence that a suspension is in order while the case is adjudicated. The question is why two months passed since the end of the Tour de France and the public is just now finding out; even Contador knew of the test result in late August.

Of course, the big news of the week is how Alberto Contador not only tested positive at the Tour de France, but the UCI gave him time to prepare a defense. While Mosquera and Garcia found out about their positives through the media, Contador got the bro’ heads-up.

Add to this the just-announced positive of Margarita Fullana for EPO. Fullana would have us believe she only used EPO this year, in which she got virtually no results, and not in previous years when she was blowing by the competition like the Road Runner going by the Coyote. Totaled, we have four positive tests announced in less than a week. Curiously, all of them are by Spanish riders. This little detail seems to suggest that Spain has a bigger problem with doping on a cultural level than any other nation in cycling. While it’s impossible to say that there is a permissive attitude toward doping in Spain, that nation is the highest ranked in cycling according to the UCI with 1868 points, compared to Italy’s 1071 and Belgium’s 882—and that’s even after points were subtracted following Alejandro Valverde’s suspension.

According to a poll in the Spanish paper Marca 78.5 percent of the Spanish people believe that Alberto Contador is innocent of doping. But that figure isn’t quite right. Newspaper polls are notoriously unrepresentative of the actual population; it’s much safer to say that of cycling enthusiasts who read Marca 78.5 percent believe Contador is innocent. Theoretically, this group is better educated about doping and ought to feature a higher percentage who accept that it’s very likely Contador received a transfusion during the Tour de France. Given the number of American cycling enthusiasts who can’t even contemplate the possibility that Mr. Big Shot doped, maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised by this.

Based on last week’s news, I’ve drawn three conclusions:

1)    Clenbuterol is the red herring in Contador’s doping case. There’s a reasonable argument to be made that Contador didn’t intend to dope using clenbuterol, as well as a reasonable argument that strict liability is an absurd standard by which to judge an athlete. However, the plasticizer present in Contador’s sample cannot occur from an unintended source. He got a transfusion and this, ladies and gentlemen, should not surprise us. This is how the game is played currently. I hate re-writing record books and results, but if we want a clean sport, chasing brilliant leads like this is how we’ll get there.

2)    McQuaid is a bigger problem than I thought and the UCI needs to clean house. Of course, that’s like suggesting to a hoarder that what they should do is toss out the junk and sweep the floor. There’s a fundamental problem with the UCI’s mission. It is charged with governing the sport by overseeing the promotion of races. If the sport of cycling suffers as a result of poor race promotion, the responsibility is the UCI’s. However, it is also charged with disciplining athletes who dope. Punishing your biggest stars is a conflict of interest if ever there was one. Clearly, WADA should have jurisdiction over informing the riders of positive tests and disciplinary proceedings should be turned over to CAS. After all, if WADA was charged with disciplining the athletes they tested, there would never be another false positive or flawed administration of a test. They would bat 1.000 against riders, which is pretty much where things stand.

3)    Something’s rotten in Spain. Again, it’s impossible to say where the root of the problem lies, but it strikes me as cultural on some level. Writing that troubles me. I’m not a bigoted guy, but we’ve seen statements from the head of the Spanish federation defending Valverde, an unwillingness by the Spanish judiciary to get to the bottom of Operation Puerto, Spanish cyclists testing positive at a rate far higher than cyclists from any other country. Of course, while it’s nice to have someone call out the Spanish federation, even if it is Pat McQuaid, what we need is a dog with some teeth to go after them.

And now Alberto Contador is threatening to quit the sport. Isn’t that like saying you hate the movies after being grounded? Seriously, though, has he read the Wikipedia entry on Jan Ullrich? Changing nationalities and retiring didn’t really end the scrutiny of his activities.

Lingering in the background of all this doping news is a thought I hadn’t been willing to articulate until now. The French are the only nation of cyclists incapable of producing a rider able to stand on the podium of their national tour. I’ve come to the conclusion that French cycling (ranked 14th among nations) sucks because they—more than any other cycling superpower—really took to heart the whole no doping thing. Remember, we haven’t seen a Frenchman on the podium of the Tour since the Festina Affair.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Author

    Hey Gang, sorry about the incredible length of this post. As one friend noted on the ride yesterday, I’m a little worked up. Frankly, I didn’t know it was going to end on the note it did. Thanks for indulging me.

  2. michael

    When I woke up today the skies were grey but the forecast was for sunny breaks during the afternoon. I immediately checked the 7 day forecast, as I am heading to the King Ridge Granfondo and will travel down to San Francisco. Forecast of cloudy with clearing skies.

    Detecting a theme, I decided that today would be a good day for a ride. So will this weekend. So will my outlook on professional cycling be – it’s cloudy with clearing skies. We always new it would get worse before it got better again. This “Spanish” polemic will be short-lived, and all the editorializing on the subject will have ended up being nothing more than forgotten words.

    I don’t mean to cast down on all those who wish to debate the issue – i just think that the glass is half-empty writing amongst the cycling press, bloggers and mainstream media is just a microcosmic example of our 24 hour per day agenda driven media. It is too easy to just ignore all the good that is happening out there (other than the almost mandatory Phinney reference).

    I posted this on “The Bust” tonight, and I am re-posting it here as it bears some thought. If it gets me censored from the site, so be it. I’ve grown tired of the drama. None of us are in a position to affect any positive change on the situation, other than celebrating the good instead of throwing a spotlight on the bad.

    “Hello, my name is Thor. This past weekend our sport celebrated a grand event, a little something called the World Championship.

    It was a riveting race – those pesky Italians were very strong and did their best to make us all hurt. Those crafty Belgians as well, they were all over the front of the race. Nay, making the race.

    The outgoing World Champion, Cadel Evans, finished off a remarkable year as champion by further doing honor to his status as champion by racing aggresively. I thought for a long while in the last 2 laps that he just might manage to defend his title!

    In the end,the race came back together with only 3km to spare after over 260. As luck would have it, I won the race.

    Hi! My name is Thor! (waves frantically at the masses consumed by the dark side)

    I think I might do a pretty good job at this just like Cadel. Why don’t you come over, jump on the train (like i will for Garmin-Cervelo) and enjoy the ride? I know I will. See in a couple of months in the cold and dark of the North.

    Unless of course you continue to prefer to holiday in Spain. I hear it is supposed to be quite sunny, though it seems rather dark these days.”

  3. Jaycee

    If you focus on the negative stuff surrounding our sport, you will get worn down…. So don’t do it!
    Make a post of the new World Champ, and I promise you will get amped to go riding hard!
    Thor is the savier!

  4. sophrosune

    Padraig, In an article where you cite doping scandals of Italian(s) and American(s) you feel compelled to argue that something is wrong in Spain? It’s cultural? Oh dear. Let me give you another perspective on Operacion Puerto, which seems to be at the root of your ire.

    In this case, the Guardia Civil (the equivalent of the FBI) took it upon themselves to break into Fuentes’ offices. I am not clear why they did this because as it turned out what they confiscated provided no evidence of a crime on the books in Spain. It did, however, reveal that doping may have occurred among athletes from a number of international sports.

    Now try to imagine that the FBI without clear probable cause broke into Armstrong’s home or his teams’ head offices and their doctor offices through the early 2000s and confisciated everything they found. The judge and the court would say that this material was gathered illegally and could not be used to prosecute a crime. Further, there is no crime on the books preventing people from using EPO.

    That’s what we saw in Operacion Puerto. I think one could accurately describe it as an example of how the Spanish legal system deals with due process and chain of custody, and is probably quite similar to how the US legal system would have handled it, though I am no lawyer.

    You may think the judge should have handed this evidence over to the UCI, but he was under no obligation to do so and had rational arguments of why he should not. Not the least of these would seem to be that the evidence should have never been collected in the first place unless there was reason to suspect that a crime was being committed.

    Now is this cultural? Is due process cultural? Maybe it is but I think in that line of thinking it would be more a virtue than a sin.

    If you’re having troubles with expressing your conclusions that you think may appear bigoted, perhaps there’s a very good reason for that. Spanish riders are not more dopers than the rest of the riders in the European peloton, or even among US pros. If you argue that they are, then where’s the hard numbers? Provide the number of doping convictions in professonal cycling, break it down to country, breakdown the number of pro cyclists by country to provide some percentage, i.e. Spanish riders make up only 20% of the pro peloton but make up 80% of doping convictions.

    I am afraid if you’re going to take Operacion Puerto, Sevilla, Mosquera, and Contador of your evidence of something culturally wrong in Spain then we need only turn to your own article to say the same about Italy and the US.

    This is not worthy of you, Paraig. Think on it again.

  5. Champs

    I don’t have enough time to follow the Armstrong investigation professionally, but where I read about McIlvain’s testimony, the question seemed to be about specific drugs, giving her some wiggle room. It’s one thing to ask about PEDs, and quite another to ask about doping at large.

  6. mark

    We don’t actually know what McIlvain told the grand jury, nor does her lawyer, because he wasn’t allowed to be there. Her lawyer has offered some conjecture on what she likely said, but nobody who wasn’t there actually knows anything.

    Playing Devil’s advocate regarding the Spanish, is it that they have a higher rate of doping, or a higher rate of getting caught? It’s easy to look at results and say they were achieved through doping, but to take results as evidence of doping is a fallacy. It smells of a rat to be certain, but Joe Lindsay’s post today is a good example of sticking with what you know and asking tough questions to try and ferret out what you don’t.

  7. todd k.

    Michael: I’ve been waiting to see if Padraig or Robot to provide a dedicated post on Thor’s victory to give him props. Given the otherwise bad news, it further underscores why I seem to prefer the Classics and the World Championship cyclist over the typical Grand Tour cyclist.

    1. Author

      Sophrosune: This isn’t the first time you’ve read more into what I’ve written than was there. I’m not at all certain that turning the bags of blood over to the UCI would have resulted in the most just outcome. That said, people who know Spanish law far better than I do (no great achievement, in fact) have said that there were laws on the books that would have allowed a motivated prosecutor and judiciary ample opportunity to move forward with the case.

      There’s an obvious issue before us: No other nation has riders testing positive at a rate that even comes close to Spain. Is it not fair to ask the question: Do Spanish pros see the issue of doping through eyes different from the French pros? The attitudes of Spanish pros (and I’m deliberately using lower case here) toward clean racing have nothing to do with due process.

      Given that your perspective on this is quite different from mine, let’s pose the question to you: Is there a problem with the head of the Spanish federation defending Alejandro Valverde as a clean cyclist? Should the Spanish federation defend its cyclists in doping cases? My personal perspective is that both Spain and the U.S. are getting it wrong. National federations ought to be neutral, so that when a rider tests positive they seek to investigate, not actively prosecute or defend.

      Champs: Based on previous testimony by the Andreus, there doesn’t seem to me to be much wiggle room. McIlvain was asked the same questions they were about the meeting at the hospital. Seemingly, she’d have all the same answers as Betsy Andreu, unless your perspective is that the Andreus fabricated their story about Armstrong.

      Mark: Yes, we don’t actually know what McIlvain told the grand jury; based on what her lawyer has maintained, I’m making the assumption that she hasn’t changed her story. Things will get very interesting if she did.

      I think it’s fair to ask the question if there isn’t more doping in Spain than in other countries. They not only have the highest rate of positive tests, but also the greatest success by at least one objective measure as I pointed out in my post: UCI points.

  8. Alex

    The State of The Cycling World… oh boy! In view of the recent declarations from Bernard Kohl at the USADA symposium in VA, I can only think they´ve created the Tour de France as the ultimate, inescapable, unavoidable conundrum: a race that can´t be won (perhaps not even finished) without artificial help.

    Is cycling is forever doomed to chase its own tail? I feel like it´s been like that since forever, so it´s unlikely the battle against doping will ever go away, least say won. It´s hard to think of a way out of this depressing thought, so I´ll just go home, take my trusty, silent 20 speed carbon-made friend and go out for a nice ride to sweat it all out!

  9. randomactsofcycling

    I love this stuff.
    Given this is a blog, I think Padraig is entitled to write just about whatever he wants and given it is much better informed opinion than most of us can offer, I give his views the respect they deserve.
    Certainly as Michael and Jaycee alluded, there is a glass half full/empty debate we could have here but everyone is entitled to wake up on the wrong side of the bed occasionally.
    Having been politically correct so far (i think) I would like to say I agree with a lot of Padraig’s conclusions. Where there is smoke there is fire. Not going after allegedly guilty parties is like a fireman refusing to try and put out an electrical fire because he was told it was a paper/wood fire. “Oh, sorry. No, you gave me the wrong information, I’m going back to the station”.
    It defies decency. Every clean rider should feel insulted by those that are found guilty and enraged by those that have an opportunity to do something about the problem but prefer to sweep it under the carpet.

  10. jc

    I found myself agreeing all the way through your post…I’ve been muttering similar thoughts lately, and for a while now w/ respect to Spanish Sport. Then totally surprised by the first few comments. Like it or not, it’s part of our sport and deserves dwelling upon and talking about in detail. I don’t love it, but I don’t want to ignore it.

    While no commander of specifics, it’s pretty clear that w/ respect to Op. Puerto that there was a (put on your tin foil hat) cover-up that had less to do with cycling than it did with Soccer. That the impetus (read pressure on the judge) to close the Puerto case was a cover for its more successful and (nationally/fiscally)important soccer players. @Sophrosune, just track back to E. Fuentes’ own comments about who got busted/targeted w/ OP evidence. He (of all people) expressed frustration about how only cyclists got busted. I say this has less to do with chain of custody or anything that prosaic- talk about a red herring. I’ll just throw that out there for public consumption since we’re in the comment section on an internet site.

    In ref. to UCI points, see also: Tennis,Nadal and (Mark Mcguire-like ‘growth’)and see also: Real Madrid (same city as Judge who closed OP case), Juventus Turin, FC Barcelona, et al.

    As far as Landis is concerned…I’m not sure I can draw any conclusion about his state of mind, or about what he’d do or not do. He tried pretty hard to hijack the TOC, and you might argue that that organization didn’t deserve that any more than Lim might not deserve the shaft from Landis.

    Great post.

  11. The Potato Man

    I know I am taking umbridge at a single paragraph on an US based website but Taylor Phinney isn’t the only super promising U23. But if you judge by popular cycling media coverage you could be forgiven for thinking that he it.

    Some other names you may like to look up (most of whom have as good palmares as Phinney): Jack Bobridge, Cameron Meyer, Michael Hepburn, Luke Durbridge (2nd to Phinney by 1.9seconds in the TT despite wet road and no time splits) and Michael Matthews (outsprinted Phinney Cav style in the road race).

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Phinney has a great attitude and as a brilliant cyclist, I am just sick of how much attention he gets.

    1. Author

      Everyone: As always, thank you for your thoughts; whether you agree with me or not, I’m glad you join the conversation. Sophrosune gets extra points for being such a devoted reader, even when he disagrees.

      Jaycee’s point is well-taken. RKP won’t focus on doping to the exclusion of all else for that reason, but we love the sport and have to take the good with the bad. And there is definitely some bad … and some great.

      Potato Man: Phinney got mentioned for a few reasons: 1) comic effect. 2) He just won gold at worlds and while those other riders are terrific and will keep us excited about the sport in years to come, Phinney is clearly the top of the class. 3) He was only meant to serve as a reminder of what else was going on last week; it wasn’t meant to be a state of American cycling post. 4) While we tried to hide the fact that we were Americans at BKW, I make no such pretense at RKP. While our readership is VERY international, American readers dominate the traffic, hence the crack about a jingoistic Yank.

  12. willis

    Is it a coincidence that the grand tour GC riders are the ones doping? I wonder if there is something about the tactics of their particular game—wars of attrition up long hills to a mountain top finish—that makes it especially advantageous to dope? Perhaps the grand tours should forego those types of mountain stages and open up the GC to other types of tactics (other types of riders) that are less conducive to doping. I’m not an expert on this stuff, so please let me know if I’m missing something, but other traditionally non-GC riders don’t seem to get in trouble as much*.

    As much as its a blast to watch those pint-sized men blow away the peloton and ride through the high-mountain fog of the Pyrenees to victory, we’ve been let down time and time again. Its stupid.

    *it may just be that the non-GCers lower-profile makes it easier to avoid getting caught, or the fame, glory, and money are not theirs, so they don’t bother with doping currently.

  13. The Potato Man

    Padraig: Your points (all except #3 anyway) are well taken and my comment wasn’t really directed specifically towards you (apologies if it came across as such). It was more of a comment directed at the greater cycling media than yourself.

    You are Americans and as such have every right to revel in the promise of a great up and coming american rider. However, Phinney does seem to dominate the media in the category of young riders, which is unfortunate as there are many other young riders out there who deserve recognition as well. Hopefully my list will inspire some of the RKP readership investigate those awesome young riders.

    Back to point #3. Maybe it is national pride, but I wouldn’t put Phinney above any of those Aussies. Hopefully Phinney can do half as well as Bobridge and Meyer in his first year with the big boys and they will all be WOWing us with their exploits for the next decade or two.

  14. sophrosune

    Padraig, I would like to know on what basis or what source you make the confident claim: “No other nation has riders testing positive at a rate that even comes close to Spain.”

    Again, I ask, where are the numbers? Surely for this to be so obvious there should be some easy source for us all to access other than last week’s news reports. I took a quick glance at one admittedly incomplete list of doping charges in cycling (see here, and I didn’t walk away thinking that no one comes close to Spain in doping convictions or investigations.

    As for the role Spanish cycling federation, I suppose they believed that they are not just the tool of the UCI’s whims sort of like in the case of Belgian Iljo Keisse, who was acquitted of doping by his national federation after successfully using a contaminated supplement defense, but later had his ban re-instated by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Valverde never tested positive. That is the fact.

    Lashing out at Spain in the way that McQuaid did this past week is just not being completely honest about the problems of doping in cycling, and just rings false. In fact, McQuaid being the spineless type that he is later denied his statements, arguing that he was misquoted to Albert Soler, director-general of sport at the CSD, Spain’s principal sporting body.

    As far as where there’s smoke there’s fire argument, i.e. that because of success in cycling you have to think there’s some doping going on, I turn you back to your own defense of Armstrong, Padraig. You can have suspicions all you want, he only tested positive once and managed to get a post-test doctor’s note for the steroid, so can we really say he was guilty of doping just because he won the Tour 7 times in a row? Isn’t that how the argument goes?

    What happened to that line of thinking?

    And, of course, we can all have opinions but one would hope that through strength of argument that one opinion would appear more valid than another. We all have prejudices and it is better to have them than indifference, but that is just a starting point.

  15. David A

    I, like so many of you am not in the least bit suprised by the “shocking” news that Contador was tested positive. Like I metion in another post the closest PRO sport I can compare Pro cycing with is WWE or WWF when it was in full swing. I was living and racing in Belgium when a young guy named Joe Parkin came over to show what he could do. I was there before him, at least 2 years. We raced together sometimes. He was a great rider, his determination and hard work under played in his books. I got my ass kicked until i figued out how to ride Kermis races and finish in the top 20. All around deeply in-bedded in the beautiful and painful sport of cycle racing is the temptation to ride “chemically” assisted sometimes knowingly sometimes not. I personally went to see one of the top cycling sports doctors in Gent for a year and got scripts and injections for “Big Power” “Good for the Lungs” etc etc. I could work in the factory for 9 hrs and go home and train for 3-4 hours….a little suspect. I asked the Doc what he was giving me…Anabolic steroids and other things was the answer. I never saw him again. Pros and top Elites are treated like gods and rock stars…Watch The Wrestler instead of Breaking away…some guys will do anything to keep from working in a plastic or sugar beet factory. We know it is wrong but once we have tasted what it is like to be elevated to a certain level in a already insane and addictive sport it is hard to come down. We want to ride it out to the end, becausethat is what we know never give up even if it hurts you….because we are after all bike racers.

  16. randomactsofcycling

    @sophrosune: I love your passion in defending Spanish cycling and requesting hard data to support accusations, but in reference to ‘Where there’s smoke there’s fire”, I think the smoke is more the number of allegations and the amount of innuendo that surrounds Spanish cyclists, rather than their results.
    Yes, we’d love to have hard data, but is it not troubling to you that several Pros at the recent Worlds in Geelong expressed a lack of surprise at Contador’s dilemma?

  17. Hank

    “There’s an obvious issue before us: No other nation has riders testing positive at a rate that even comes close to Spain. Is it not fair to ask the question: Do Spanish pros see the issue of doping through eyes different from the French pros? ”

    The question you should ask is are any other nations riders cleaner (with the possible exception of France)? As a result of the Novitzky investigation we are likely to find out every American who stood on a podium doped. I guess the difference is the US athletes hire better doctors. Does that make the US “cleaner”.

    There is a constant complaining about what a waste of taxpayer money the Armstrong investigation is. Yet many of those doing the complaining will be happy to tell you how dirty a sports nation Spain is. So wasting Spanish taxpayers money OK, US taxpayers money? not so much (I am not accusing you of this position).

    An Italian prosecutor who after several years of investigation said all cyclists dope (I’d say the few exceptions prove the rule). I’d like to see prosecutors in all the cycling nations including Spain clean house. It’s quite possible there is no political upside to such investigations in many nations in the current economic climate. Maybe the Novitzky investigation, IF it’s successful will provide the needed jump start, justification or what ever.

    Finally, the Contador case once again proves the UCI is a corrupt disgrace and should be completely overhauled.

  18. Hank

    On Spain versus world doping averages:
    According to the anti-doping laboratory in Madrid, in 2009 the percentage was 1.2 Spanish adverse findings, while WADA’s worldwide average was 1.11

    “During 2008, 2009 and 2010 in Spain, there were 11 sanctions by the UCI, and Italy in the same period there were 10. ”

    Not a proud record but that is the case for cycling in general.

    1. Author

      To me, the issue of the rate of positives is more a perceptual issue. Objectively, there are lots of tests all over the map. But where are more of the big stories occurring? Why is it alumni of Liberty Seguros/ONCE continue to turn up in doping news?

      To put a finer point on it: I really don’t consider a guy like Kirk O’Bee in the same class of rider or doper as Ezequiel Mosquera. O’Bee is an idiot, but he’s too small a fry to give cycling a black eye, except if noted as part of a large pool of dopers. Mosquera is a footnote to Contador, exacerbating that embarrassment.

      The post I wrote concerned Spain and it’s riders. Yes, the title suggested something larger, but the concern is the current state of affairs. When Novitzky’s investigation starts spitting out results, rest assured, I’ll post on that. However, the only complaining about the “waste of taxpayer dollars” the investigation may or may not be has come from Armstrong’s camp. I do think there’s a difference between the BALCO case and the Armstrong/Postal case in that BALCO manufactured and distributed PEDs and Armstrong/Postal are accused of being organized users. There is a significant difference between what Novitzky is investigating (past doping) and what I was pointing out with regard to Spain (present doping).

      And the UCI? They’re not fit to judge the pinewood derby.

      All that said, I’m done with the issue and ready to move on.

      I’m traveling, but will try to get a fresh post up tomorrow. Thanks for your patience.

  19. sophrosune

    @Hank I saw those figures too, which go to support my point that Spain is no better or worse than any other country. Thanks. Another statistic missing is how much of the pro peloton is made up of Spanish and Italians…alot. There aren’t really that many Brits, Americans, Swiss, etc. Like the Lithuanians have great basketball teams because they’re a tall people, the Spanish and Italians have the right phyisque for cycling and therefore excel. They make a majority of the pro peloton so therefore have more positives. “Cultural”? I think not.

  20. Hank

    If cycling was as popular as American Football in the US you’d see vastly larger numbers of US pros. I’m not seeing any major inquiries into doping in US Football. Is it because it’s clean and un-worhy of investigation? Does that indicate some cultural failing?

  21. MattyVT

    I’ve come to realize that doping in cycling is like political corruption because they are both endemic problems. While attempts are made to clean up corrupt political regimes it is impossible to eradicate corruption altogether.

    Realistically I don’t think there will be a day when there are no more failed tests. It’s a goal worth pursuing, but I don’t think that it’s possible to completely cure or eliminate the problem.

    While the WADA and UCI won’t end it, they can curtail it, and as long as Hushovd, Evans and Cancellara don’t return any adverse analytical findings I’ll still have some faith in winning clean.

    1. Author

      Okay, I have to grant that the number of Spanish cyclists in the pro peloton may be larger than many other countries, which will cut down on the statistical incidence rate relative to other countries, but given that the Spanish federation has just announced that they are looking closely at another FIVE (5) cyclists (which I take to mean they are convinced these guys are doping, but just haven’t caught them yet) means that even Jaime Lissavetzky, Alejandro Valverde’s one-time apologist, has gotten the message.

      Hank: Is there a cultural failing in U.S. football vis-a-vis doping? You betcha. Try to remember, I’m talking about the culture of sport as expressed through the behavior of its pros, not the entire culture of a country.

      Sophrosune: Are you trying to suggest that there’s a racial reason why people from English-speaking countries aren’t professional cyclists? If so, that’s an argument not worth addressing. Try to keep in mind my post was not an indictment of your home country of Spain, but of the behavior of a noticeable number of Spanish cyclists. The culture of cycling, not the culture of Spain.

  22. Hank

    “Hank: Is there a cultural failing in U.S. football vis-a-vis doping? You betcha. Try to remember, I’m talking about the culture of sport as expressed through the behavior of its pros, not the entire culture of a country.”

    Thanks for clarifying that. I think do to the fiercely competitive nature of athletes controls are important and it’s not just athletes… the same can be said of bankers, mortgage brokers, hedge fund managers, etc., etc.,. Sans effective and fair regulation ambition and greed can overwhelm all else.

  23. Robot

    I think MattyVT makes a good point. Doping is inherent in sport for money. Where money goes, so goes corruption. Doping is merely the avenue of corruption for the pro cyclist, and, I think, for most other pro athletes.

    As Padraig mentioned, our American sports are rife with PED abusing athletes. I would argue that the “sporting culture” of a country is really not about whether or not the native athletes will cheat (they will), but rather how concerned the supervising authorities are in catching the cheaters.

    Again, in the States, the overseers of the baseball and American football leagues have shown almost zero will to root out the dope, to the detriment of the health of the athletes and the legacy of the games.

  24. Alex

    Those with a greater power have greater responsibility. Or should have. That´s to say I agree with Padraig that if Spain and Italy are carrying out the top flag of world-class cycling, by the force of numbers and/or the level of their athletes and achievements, then perhaps they should be the ones working extra-hard to make sure it´s clean by enforcing clean cycling.

    And every fallen angel the stature of Contador and Mosquera indeed put a bigger dent on cycling´s reputation and general public perception.

  25. Robot

    @Alex – I was thinking this same thing. If you cheat in a relatively small race, like, say, the Giro d’Emmilia, you get a two year ban. If you cheat to win the TdF, you get a two year ban, though, obviously, someone like Floyd Landis has done FAR more damage to cycling as a sport than someone like Kirk O’Bee. Does he then deserve a longer suspension? I think so. There ought to be some sort of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ clause.

    Speaking directly to the AC situation, I remain unconvinced of either his guilt or innocence, but, if like Landis, he’s cheated to win the Tour, then he ought to be banned for life. Same for Landis. Same for Armstrong, should he get nailed by the feds.

    Unfortunately the UCI has not named me to the committee to revise the anti-doping rules. I’ll let you know when I get a call…

  26. sophrosune

    @Padraig I don’t believe there is such a thing as race and our knowledge of DNA has shown this to be the case. There is no gene that differentiates races. There are genes that differentiate the pigment of our skin, our hair, our height, bone structure, etc. In Spain and Italy, the genes that create physiques beneficial to cyling are more prevalent than in England or some other countries. If you’re 6′ 10′ and 300lbs, you are just not physically suited for cycling, but maybe football or basketball you would be great. Is that racisit? So, no, I wasn’t saying anything remotely like that. Just as you didn’t say anthing remotely like the problem in Spain is just the authorities who oversee cycling in Spain. Here’s what you did say:

    “Something’s rotten in Spain. Again, it’s impossible to say where the root of the problem lies, but it strikes me as cultural on some level. Writing that troubles me. I’m not a bigoted guy, but we’ve seen statements from the head of the Spanish federation defending Valverde, an unwillingness by the Spanish judiciary to get to the bottom of Operation Puerto, Spanish cyclists testing positive at a rate far higher than cyclists from any other country. Of course, while it’s nice to have someone call out the Spanish federation, even if it is Pat McQuaid, what we need is a dog with some teeth to go after them.”

    “Cultural” is your speculation for the problem with Spain and that “No other nation has riders testing positive at a rate that even comes close to Spain.” I have shown you that the problem of doping in Spain is no greater than any other country. So, you’ve put a finer spin on it, i.e. the riders being accussed are of a higher caliber. I have explained to you that Spanish judiciary could not prosecute any crime in Operacion Puerto because none had been committed to which you have cited unnamed laws that could have been prosecuted. I’m waiting to edified.

    So, the points you want to make were not that something is wrong with the culture of Spain that encourages doping, but that the authorities are too lax in their prosecution of doping, and not that there are more dopers in Spanish cycling than any other country, but that the quality of the riders who are caught for doping in Spain are of a higher quality than those caught from other countries. Okay…that’s not what you said originally so I am glad I followed up on it.

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