Wednesday Shorts

Frank Schleck

With news this week that Andy Schleck will ride the Tour Down Under there’s no word on his older brother. The update on the Frank Schleck case is that there is no update. He tested positive in the Tour de France 120 days ago now and he’s yet to be cleared or convicted of an anti-doping violation. The case should be a black and white case because the rules say any rider who tests positive for the banned substance in question gets punished unless they can prove to comfortable satisfaction where it came from and that ingestion was wholly accidental. But when the news broke Schleck said he didn’t know where it came from, throwing this defence out of the window. Therefore a two year ban awaits.

But the delays are also caused by international structures. Normally there is a UCI calendar to handle cases but this one has been passed to ALAD, the Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency and they are a national agency and not subject to the UCI’s rules, unlike, say, the Luxembourg Cycling Federation. Therefore it can take its time. Plus we speculate that ALAD is a modest bureaucracy and sanctioning one of the country’s most high profile stars is a massive deal and so they’ll be extra cautious to proceed.

Tour de Pologne
The Polish national tour looks like quite a race in 2013. With the bizarre start in Italy it will tackle the climb to the Madonna di Campiglio on the opening stage and then the giant Passo Pordoi awaits on Stage 2. Sylwester Szmyd is already getting excited, his home tour as long been a festival for the sprinters but 2013 seems almost designed for him. To the point where he was planning to go to a Depeche Mode a few days before the race but is returning the tickets so he can rest in time. But if he has a good chance of success at the start of the race, winning it overall looks hard given a 42km final time trial around the Wieliczka salt mine.

Sky’s New Coach
Team Sky have hired Shaun Stephens, the Australian national triathlon coach. He’ll fit into the gap left by Bobby Julich but also marks the team’s willingness to go outside the sport of cycling, adding to Tim Kerrison the former swimming and rowing coach.

No Coach Nibali
In a recent interview with La Gazzetta Vincenzo Nibali said he’ll probably coach himself for his new year with Astana, adding he’s experienced enough. I find this interesting, clearly an experienced athlete should know their body well and a millionaire rider like Nibali will hopefully have some sports science back up even if he decides how to train. Still, it’s shows the variety of models in pro cycling, even amongst the biggest teams and top riders.

Nibali’s Luck
In the same interview he’s asked what will make him from a good rider into a great rider and his response is “la fortuna” or luck. Some might say he needs more tactical skills, to avoid his trademark solo attack launched too far from the finish. But luck can play its part, he’s just got married but the honeymoon in the Maldives did not suit The Shark… his new wife Rachele fell ill and had a strong fever.

Nutella Tax
Nutella is a popular read on here and seems to be a hit with many cyclists. But the French are moving to tax it. Actually this is not true but the media in France are calling a government plan le taxe Nutella and the Nutella amendment. But it’s not a tax on Nutella, nor hazelnut nor chocolate but instead the palm oil that forms much of the oleaginous paste. This ingredient certainly isn’t Euro and comes essentially from Asia and Africa where its production is leading to a lot of deforestation and environmental destruction, although helping locals too. The irony here is that Nutella’s success is in part due to tax because in the mid 19th century a tax on chocolate in Italy led enterprising confectioners to exploit hazelnuts as a substitute and from this Nutella was eventually born.

VCDL – Brian Smith Interview Part II
VC Don Logan
I mentioned the good interview with Brian Smith, the man behind the CervĂ©lo Test Team and the Endura Team on the VC Don Logan Podcast the other day. Part II is available and equally worth listening to for Smith’s take on his brief time with Lance Armstrong but also his other experiences as a rider and his plans as manager, he’s now part of the merged NetApp-Endura team and planning more surprises for 2013.

UCI Doping Hotline
Something audio that’s proving more amusing is the idea of the UCI’s anti-doping hotline. In a letter sent to pro riders President McQuaid mentions the UCI is looking at setting up a “confidential hotline”.

This has generated a lot of laughs, along the lines of “Press 1 to be labelled a scumbag by President McQuaid, Press 2 to make a donation.” But the serious point is that if riders do have suspicions there must be a way to report this and it could be a vital intelligence gathering tool.

Tchmil Makes His Move
Paris-Roubaix winner and ex-Katusha manager Andrei Tchmil has announced his bid to stand for President of the European Cycling Union and to unite it with several federations from Eastern Europe and beyond. The UEC is not a big name in the sport but represents many European federations and the president, currently Igor Makarov, gets an automatic seat on the board of the UCI’s Management Committee, roughly the executive board.

It’ll be worth watching, especially as Tchmil is Makarov’s man. If Tchmil wins by definition Makarov steps down… unless he steps up to become UCI President in the elections to be held later this year. One to watch.

26 thoughts on “Wednesday Shorts”

  1. Even though Frank Shleck is a ‘massive’ star in Lux should it really take so long to reach a decision?!
    I would think the more massive the star the more important to work toward a resolution/decision in order to settle the matter and move on!

    As for the Tour De Pologne, I would still do the DM concert! Give some extra good feeling/vibes for the race, something to play in your head while climbing! Maybe they can have fans with big sound systems along the route playing live recordings of DM for him!

    Somehow I feel the Slavic take-over will be a moot point!

    Thanks for the ‘Shorts’ posts!!!

    • He’s not just a massive cycling star here but literally one of the biggest names in this (admittedly small) country. You can almost guarantee that if a shop has a picture of someone on the wall other than the royal family, it will be the Schlecks. I would imagine ALAD are trying to figure out how to sanction him without becoming the most vilified people in the country. In Luxembourg it’s not seven degrees of separation, it’s rarely more than two.

  2. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if ALAD allow Schleck to exploit a spurious loophole and hand him a 6-month, back-dated ban. Is there any practical reason that sentencing is carried out by national authorities? To me it seems unrealistic to expect them to severely punish their own national stars.

  3. there’s something missing in the part with Nibali when you state: … to avoid his trademark solo attack launched too from the finish. It should read too early from the finish, shouldn’t it?

  4. For Sky going outside the sport, I’ve heard this a lot since this announcement but I don’t know how this is a surprise. Given their creation out of Team GB cycling, you only have to look at how the performance coaches there are just good sports coaches, not specifically from the track world.

    Mind you, one other way to look at it is to say that yet again, road cyclists look down their noses at triathletes and say they’re not real cyclists 😉

  5. I actually think that Frank Schleck stating that he didn’t know where the positive came from was the right thing for him to say. When Contador came out saying ‘It was the Steak that done it’ he boxed himself into a corner where he had to then prove that it was the steak. Frank at least left his excuse options open, he just has to prove that it was some poisoning rather than him using Xipamide to mask or flush out a performance enhancing drug… We may be in for a long wait.

    • Now they have a tri coach they won’t even be stopping for nature breaks. This pursuit of marginal gains has gone too far!

      Also, it’s nothing new. Clearly Tyler Farrar has had a triathlete coaching him bike handling skills for years.

  6. I used to think that people like Frank Schlek were victims of bad luck. It may still be the case. But one gets the feeling after reading The Secret Race that 90% of these stories are really just cover ups.

    I use to think that these people were innocent and should be given opportunity to prove their innocence. Now I think that the number of unlucky truly false positives must be very few. It would make sense to me, to say that unfortunately the credibility of the peloton is so low that each person found positive or suspected of doping by strong circumstantial evidence (EPO, testosterone and HGH in a rider’s wife’s car boot) should be banned summarily and then be forced to prove their innocence. It seems that the odds of getting caught were so low that the people doping felt no pressure to stop. Of course we are told that the peloton is different now. To a large extent it probably is. But incidents like this reflect an unwillingness to act on the sport’s darker side. Yes I understand that this particular proceeding is being stalled by a beauracracy independent of the UCI. I think that a decision needs to be made to either play true hardball or announce an amnesty period. Until this occurs low level EPO and testosterone use will plague the sport. I also think the changing attitudes towards doping is a move forward, but cycling must be given a true chance to leave this period behind it. That opportunity has not arisen yet in my opinion. Garmin represents a positive step forward while organisations such as the Australian national organisations and Sky’s clandestine approaches only cause a deepening of the secrecy that shrouds cycling.

  7. Many anti-doping bodies already have hotlines and web based confidential doping intelligence gathering pages, or at least they can be contacted in a confidential manner with such information.

    All that is needed by the UCI is a policy to encourage their licence holders to promote and use the existing resources, and a real desire for cultural change (ha).


    and so on…

    Now I can see how it might help for Hotlines and hotline processes to be harmonised around the world as much as possible, in the same way that WADA assists to harmonise anti doping code and processes now.

    However I simply don’t think UCI should be the ones to do this. Doping control and investigation needs to be (at minimum) at arm’s length from the UCI, in particular and especially while ever they decide to have an active role as a promoter of events. That’s already too big of a conflict of interest to layer this on top of it.

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