Sunday shorts

Yannick Noah Bernard Hinault

Oh Noah
Polls in France regular say Yannick Noah is “the most popular Frenchman”. An odd choice perhaps given the semi-retired tennis player is more famous in France for patronising rip-offs of West African music and tax evasion but he comes across as the cheerful sort, an eternal teenager enjoying life doing some good with charity work.

Go to Spain and the polling is all about the general election today. But if anyone tried asking I suspect Noah would win “most unpopular Frenchman” in Spain by some margin. He’s just managed to upset an entire nation with an article in French daily Le Monde:

When I dragged my racket around the courts, we weren’t humiliated, far from it, against our Spanish friends. The same on the football pitch, the basketball hall or the roads of the Tour de France. Today, they run faster than us, they are stronger than us and we’re only left with the crumbs. Next to them, it’s simple, we look like gnomes. What’s happened for us to miss out?

One question bothers me: how can a nation dominate a sport overnight? Have they discovered avant-garde training techniques and facilities?… …Between you and me, it’s hard to believe this hypothesis. Because today sport is a bit like Astérix in the Olympics: if you don’t have a magic potion it is difficult to win.

Magic potion? He means doping of course and sets this out in the rest of the article. Yet only this week Le Monde was in court to win a much-reduced fine but under the obligation to print an apology after linking Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona to doping. I find it too co-incidental that in the week the paper is on the defensive about Spanish doping, it gets Noah to pen an incendiary article.

There are real problems with doping in Spain but to confuse this with an entire nation is stupid and gets 45 million Spaniards on the defensive. Each country has its problems, the subject is serious but sadly Noah seems out of his depth. But he’s created a media storm in France and Spain, at least in the sporting pages.

The Tour of Rwanda is on. A nation still known for brutal tribal war, the cycling race is going some way to help a new identity. Cycling, and sport in general, is often used to showcase countries. See Kazakhstan with the Astana team, although I don’t think they promote the home country as well as they could. And now the remnants of the Geox team are waiting for Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to say yes or no to sponsoring the squad; like a Roman emperor his decision will see of the squad lives or dies. Rwanda’s Tour is a great way to show the country is open. If a bike race can access the country, anyone else can.

Team Type 1
The US squad is taking part in the Rwandan race and has already won the prologue. The team wants to go places in many senses. As L’Equipe reports the squad is handing out information on diabetes. It’s great stuff and noble. And the team is sponsored by Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical giant.

The sponsor is bolstering the squad and they hope for a sport in the Tour de France. Probably not in 2012 but there is a concerted attempt behind the scenes to woo the French media and court ASO, plus they’re hiring more French riders. But the squad itself has been dogged by tales of amateur management and unpaid wages. Hopefully it can carry a positive message and professionalise its management

Ca passe ou ça CAS
It’s all or nothing for Alberto Contador this week as his case will be finally heard in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Or rather the UCI and WADA are appealing the verdict and procedure deployed by the Royal Spanish Cycling Federation. Nobody knows what to expect and the verdict is not due for some weeks.

If this hearing is an appeal any verdict by the CAS can go further appeal in the Swiss courts, adding more delay. You half expect this to drag on but any appeal is restricted, available if the CAS has acted illegally or failed in basic duties, for example to give a fair hearing. Swiss law cannot be used to appeal a verdict that one side is not happy with. In short next week will determine a lot in the sport and the WADA code.

Whereabouts system vs human rights law
You might think rasmussen is Danish for missing after the tales of Alex and Michael. The riders are unrelated, Rasmussen is just a common surname, in fact until a couple of months ago Denmark had been governed different prime ministers called Rasmussen ever since the early 1990s.

De Saedeleer: human rights crusader

But the Whereabouts system of athletes reporting their daily location for out-of-competition testing is under threat. A group of Belgian athletes have hired a lawyer to contest the principle, saying it contravenes European human rights law, particularly on privacy (Article 8). Led by Brussels lawyer Kristof de Saedeleer, the case has been bouncing around the Belgian legal system for years but a verdict is expected soon.

The case hasn’t been reported that much but if Contador’s case is giving WADA worries over principles like strict liability, this case could see European human rights law trump WADA as well. Maybe I’ve got it wrong but if there is a legal argument to debate whether reporting your Whereabouts clashes with Article 8, it seems athletes complaining about their human rights is pushing it, especially since torpedoing the Whereabouts system is a doper’s dream. Surely so long as the data is kept strictly confidential then nobody is losing out? Or am I missing something?

Perhaps it will not come to this, indeed bureaucrats in the European Commission have been trying to find paths to ensure the Whereabouts system can be married with the human rights legislation.

Basque weakness

Basque force
Budget cuts

The Basques are a proud people and you’ll find strength competitions in this region of Spain. Known as herri kirolak, exercises include carrying stones and woodcutting. It’s not something the likes of Igor Anton excel at, only someone’s taking an axe to the Euskalktel-Euskadi squad for they will have just 23 riders for 2012 including three neo-pros. This is the UCI minimum.

The team is being chipped away, caught by the rising costs of running a cycling team and a funding model based on local companies and regional support. 2012 might be the last year we see the orange in action. Maybe they don’t win that often but imagine what stage races from Paris-Nice to the Vuelta would be without them.

17 thoughts on “Sunday shorts”

  1. Sad to think about no orange jerseys, you’d miss them blowing a race apart. As for Noah, he’s also called for doping to be legalised which only makes things worse.

  2. Have a lot of sympathy for what Noah is saying. Just look at what Spanish teams are winning, in how many sports: suspicious, or what?

    In cycling, to take one example, remind me someone which Spanish riders have won the Tour recently… We had three different ones in three years – including riders who have won virtually nothing else.

    There’s documented evidence that riders got identified by initials on blood bags confiscated in Operación Puerto: JU meant Jan Ulrich, OS meant Oscar Sevilla but the Spanish authorities were unable to identify any rider corresponding to the initials A.C.

  3. Another good thing from Rwanda: Awesome coffee. Imagine that – Bike races and coffee. Almost reminds me of a certain boot shaped country..

  4. Duncan: yes, I ignored that bit for the sake of brevity. As someone said on twitter this evening, “to legalise doping is to make it compulsory”.

    Tom: note that on Liberty Seguros there was Alberto Contador… and Antonio Colom. I fear Le Monde just used him to stir things up. As a former tennis player, Noah could have asked why tennis doesn’t do many blood tests or even check for EPO very often or why players are allowed cortisone injections before games. Blaming another country is just a sure-fire way to upset people via a polemic.

  5. Then you have Oscar Peirero, who just said on Spanish TV that doping is wide-spread in sport in Spain, mentioning how a bunch of football players have been caught doping, but nothing done in terms of penalties (sic) 😉 or sanctions! I can see the Dutch making a noise about this as they fanatically lost the Football World Cup to Spain last year! Meanwhile poor Oscar has to walk around Barcelona with a mask to hide his identity, or so he says! Could start a new fashion craze in Madrid!

  6. Please, get someone to proofread your articles before you publish them. There is at least half a dozen sentences in this one which don’t make any sense. It’s a shame to ruin such great information that you provide with grammar and stylistic inconsistencies that make my head hurt.. (and I’m not even a native speaker).

  7. Keep a close eye on Team Type 1. Founder Phil Sutherland is following every page in the Livestrong book (including his biography) and he is working the media harder than any other pro-conti team. This guy is extremely ambitious and he’s going to see how high he can go. They have lobbied hard for a Giro invite and if Zomegnan was still around, I would have said they were in. Still think they’ll have a shot with decent results early in the season.

  8. Regarding the whereabouts rule.

    As I understand European law there is a presumption that when a person freely takes part in a sport, there are allowances that, while doing the sport move that person out of the normal laws of the land.
    For example, in both boxing and rugby the law of the land is suspended for the sake of the sport and violence that would normally see you behind bars is allowed.
    In cycling the law of the land is suspended so we can ride through red lights during a race.

    The purpose of the European Convention on Human Rights is in fact (contrary to popular belief) to protect us the humble citizen from the overarching power of the State.
    Therefore to my mind, when someone of their own free will signs up to be a cyclist and the rules of the sport state that you should notify the authorities of your whereabouts so they can be sure you’re not breaking other rules, would I suggest, is not an overarching abuse of power, and should fail any test under the ECHR

    I would like to believe that anyone, who does not like this cycling rule has the free choice to leave the competitive element of the sport, in much the same way as they had the free choice to join the competitive element of the sport.
    In cycling we have better things to do than defend something that sustains a cloud of doping suspicion over the sport.

    Can you imagine in boxing if someone tried to use the ECHR to have their opponent charged with assault, it would be laughable.

  9. dear oh dear, what if this was the case? what if? There is outrage out there and I think it’s the way things should go, an outburst every now and then. Whether his is wrong or right it’s not complete hogwash. Most people have no idea what is really going on and when ……don’t be so quick to make the whole thing political, because that’s the side show.

    While professional cycling is getting cleaner, amateur cycling is going the other direction, he claimed.
    “The situation there is serious. I’ve met entire families who dope. From lawyers to manual labor workers, they do anything just to win a salami in ridiculous races.”
    Ettore Torri…..

    Hello Bloggers???

  10. Good job Feargal! Same with doping in general. Last time I checked NOBODY is forced into becoming a pro cyclist, it’s pretty much voluntary. Including signing the license applications where you agree not to violate the rules in the book you’re handed. So the “everyone else does” excuse simply doesn’t cut it for me. You’re either a cheat or you’re not, it’s fairly black and white. Don’t like it? No problems, paint houses or find some other way to earn a living but stay out of sports, please. There’s no question the whereabouts rules are a pain…I think there should be a way to surgically implant a GPS tracker so the dope-police could find you anywhere. I’d bet more than a few would take that, despite the privacy issues, if they could be relieved of the tedious paperwork involved and the fear of a missed test. Overall, the statements by the “winner” of the 2006 TdF are a good thing – perhaps public pressure will finally pull the lid off the doping investigations in Spain?

  11. Good on Noah. He’s likely 100% on the money. If anyone believes that just cyclists were implicated in Puerto, they’re deluding themselves. Spain is producing winning athletes almost overnight, and even some of their own have taken them to task.

    Cyclists are doping even on relatively small salaries. Don’t think for a second that the richer athletes in football, soccer, golf, tennis, etc. aren’t doing the same.

  12. Inrng, please don’t have someone go through your words to polish them to a boring luster that only a pompous thin skinned English language fanatic could read without gaining a headache. Your words, the nuance of the words, you choose are your own, not Google-Grammar. I enjoy your words and the thoughts and news that your words convey. But then, I don’t carry a grammatical microscope around in my saddle bag either. Thank you for your unpaid effort and time that you give to this blog.

  13. Rouleur: if I could find an editor, perhaps I would. I would also like more time to craft each piece. But there’s not the time. I realise I can type too fast and press “publish” on the blog too quickly but it’s a compromise between quality and quantity. For example above I could have dropped a story or two and used the time to sharpen the prose.

  14. It’s a BLOG, not a master’s thesis. Don’t worry about the random error. While I cringe at the horrible spelling and grammar of some posts (not many here, this audience seems pretty well educated) I don’t bother trying to correct them, they’re not turning in academic assignments, just adding their opinion to the mix of ideas out there. And I certainly don’t avoid the typo or general screwup on posts or my personal blog though I’m grateful for them to be pointed out on our website so I can fix them. Keep up the good work!

  15. I must admit I didn’t find anything incomprehensible in your article, must be because I am a native english speaker and am used to a more casual use and lax contruction of english than that found in english lesson books etc. Anyway I liked the picture of the herri kirolak wood cutters, sounds something like the highland games stuff.

Comments are closed.