We Haven’t Had A Doping Scandal

As athletics stumbles around in the dark, or should that be stumbles because they’re wearing a blindfold, it’s different watching another sport get the treatment normally reserved for cycling. In fact so far this year we haven’t had a major doping scandal, to the point that the sport almost invented one in a reflex action.

Not that cycling should gloat or enjoy the Schadenfreude because it’s still in the shadows. On Russian doping alone Katusha’s actually been stripped of its licence before, a greater fall than Astana, the Rusvelo team was the first to self-suspend under the MPCC’s voluntary code and more. But of course this is not limited to Russia.

There have been doping cases this year. Frenchman Lloyd Mondory bagged a lot of top-10 places over the years but never really made a name for himself much beyond his native Cognac region. Now he’s infamous as the first ever cyclist to get a four year ban after being rumbled for EPO. Yet this never scored high on the dopage Richter scale.

Still waiting for the Paolini verdict

Ditto Luca Paolini who bought a ticket to ride the white line highway and was ejected from the Tour de France in flash. Tom Danielson’s case rumbles on with talk of a contamination claim but he will need strong proof to escape this, beyond him the case was humiliating for the team but not fatal despite previous throwaway claim that the team could fold. That’s it for the World Tour and there have been more small fry cases, think of the minnow Francesco Reda challenging Vincenzo Nibali for the Italian championships before the inevitable catch and Southeast may have changed its name for 2015 but the annual EPO roust doesn’t. So far, and there’s still time, there’s not been a noted scandal that’s earned an “affair” label, à la Festina nor a story worthy of the -gate suffix.

There is such a thing as bad publicity

In fact the closest we’ve come to a big scandal is the Astana licence saga. At times it looked as if some people almost wanted this to be a big deal, adding up the positives from the Astana development team to the World Tour team in a bid to amalgamate it all into a doping high score with bonus points for La Gazzetta saying Michele Ferrari had been spotted at an Astana camp but without supplying any evidence. Even the UCI President Brian Cookson got carried away when the UCI went public in saying it found something inside the team so horrible that the team had to stop:

“UCI strongly believes that it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the Licence Commission and request the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn”

Not stripping one or two individuals of accreditation, this was the governing body saying the audit had thrown up something so grave the entire squad had to be taken down. Sure enough the Licence Commission proved its independence and let the team ride on and in the wake of it all we learned the team’s problems were cultural concerns like language barriers, poor training supervision and other factors that could leave riders feeling marginalised and by extension vulnerable to the siren calls of “doctors” or dealers. So no doping, just a bad workplace but this would show up if they audited more teams as close. Astana should have treated their ISSUL audit more seriously but the UCI’s public shaming compounded the team’s pantomime villain image.

At times we’ve seen 2+2=>4 moments. Fabio Aru’s reported illness before the Giro was cited alongside his former U23 manager The Tour de France as a sign that something could be suspect. The Tour de France saw a battery of allegations following Chris Froome and Ritchey Porte’s 1-2 at La Pierre St Martin but it was a very unsatisfying moment. If you think think they’re clean this was a muckspreading exercise; if you think they’re doping it’s probably not the proof you crave. Team Sky took part with a small data release but it was inconsequential and rather like a combat helicopter firing a decoy flare to lure away an incoming missile. Sky dodged the heat but it was a handful of data points rather than a scientific rebuttal. Still it’s spurned Chris Froome into lab tests, the results of which are due out in early December. Meanwhile Lance Armstrong’s woes are legal issues that don’t touch on sport and therefore it’s easy to avoid.

The “war on doping” is a silly phrase but its battles continue and one side combat is the tension between the UCI and the MPCC. The voluntary group gets terrible PR despite its good work. It keeps pioneering new ideas like the no-needle policy, rest periods for cortisone and the UCI ends up importing the policy. The MPCC bans Tramadol and now the UCI want to follow suit too, if only WADA would cooperate. So far so good but when a governing body, in other words the rule-setter, looks lite compare to a voluntary code it grates with the “we’re doing all we can” vibe.

Another proxy war is over the ISSUL audit with some teams pushing back against the intrusion. It’s said to be over trade secrets, to ensure a  consequential deterrent should ISSUL staff leak details to rival teams but the risk is this is seen as rejecting the costly audit.

The UCI has also set-up it’s new “independent” anti-doping body. Good but the CADF is funded by the UCI and is based in the UCI’s HQ making it rather dependent. Still it gives more space operationally. Another promised reform is the turbo tribunal which the UCI is setting up to resolve doping cases faster than national federations or agencies. There’s no word on this but it should be ready.

There are squabbles but things are heading in the right direction. Even teams that don’t want to join the MPCC – Dave Brailsford says no, citing the MPCC’s refusal to adopt zero tolerance – should be asked if they’d sign up at least to voluntary cortisone rest periods and Tramadol testing.

There’s been no major doping scandal in the sport this year, a remarkable point. But is an achievement or just a statistical blip? The time to draw conclusions is several scandal free years. Doping of course hasn’t gone away away and there’s been a slew of positives across the lesser ranks. It’s just that there’s not been a big scandal. The biggest story turned out to be a non-story, the team of the reigning Tour de France winner was at one point considering its future only to be cleared to ride. Still, it’s only November.

88 thoughts on “We Haven’t Had A Doping Scandal”

  1. If Cookson has evidence, he should be open and transparent, and release it to the public. If he can’t do that – for legal reasons, one assumes – then he should have kept quiet in the first place.

    What he did further damaged cycling’s reputation and his own (same goes for the Kreuziger case).

    I suspect that he’s not an idiot and that he has seen things from these cases that strongly suggest something far worse than ‘a bad workplace’ (but, like everyone else, I’m only guessing) – same goes for the Katusha case – however, he shouldn’t comment before the cases go through the legal process (unless he wants to come out and tell everything – which I’d be very happy to hear).

    As it is, we now have a lot of smoke without knowing the size of the fire causing it.

    The entirely unfounded allegations against Aru and Froome are equally damaging – and there’s no reason at all why you couldn’t replace those two names with, say, Nibali and Quintana. In the absence of any evidence whatsoever, the media and others – including the UnSecret Pro – indulged themselves in faeces-flinging; often along xenophobic lines, it seemed.

    Froome can release all the data he likes – no-one is going to be swayed: they believe what they want to believe, either way. (And obviously he wouldn’t release data if it was suspicious – a pointless exercise, because you can’t prove a negative.)

    (And shame on TVG for training with Armstrong – even an imbecile could see that that was wrong; and even if you thought it wasn’t, you should still have the sense not to do it.)

    If the UCI and WADA were doing their jobs properly, the MPCC wouldn’t be necessary. They do have some good ideas, but having a voluntary group (supposedly) in charge of these matters is fatally flawed – as was seen by the number of teams un-volunteering when they didn’t like the MPCC’s decision. And being an MPCC team certainly doesn’t seem to make you a cleaner team.

    As for Armstrong, hahaha-hahahaha – the only thing funnier than him potentially being ruined is the fact that Landis (of all people) stands to gain the most.

    • Agree with this. On Cookson however. Damned if he does damned if he doesn’t. McQuaid, the more canny operator, would have kept quiet, Cookson as you suggest (correctly in my view), probably saw things that pissed him off and reacted as a fan of the sport. Ill advised politically but it is what I thought was part of what people were crying out for during past regimes.

      It will take a long time to reform the sport that contains many who feel no remorse for their past and topped by an organisation still containing personnel that were complicit and with as much, if not more, to hide. Rightly or wrongly Cookson’s first job as president is to ensure the UCI as a whole doesn’t go down.

      The more time passes the more SKY’s zero tolerance policy looks the way to go. It beggars belief that no one ever, ever asked Vaughters the Kimmage question, “what is it you love some much about these dopers”. Of course he IS one so allowances HAVE to be made.

      • Or maybe… (not saying this is the truth nor the way I see it, just an alternative version, as well-founded as the “he really saw horrible things there and couldn’t hold himself back as a fan”)… what if Cookson was just trying to create pressure on given teams for whatever reason – not necessarily doping-related – , something that has been very common in cycling, so why not? Because he’s such a good boy and great *fan of the sport*?

        • It is a mistake to focus on him. All I would suggest is that the position is irrelevant and therefore ineffectual not the individual.

          I suspect he shares much of our frustration………

          Let’s face it, if he has singled out Astana and Katusha for anything other than doping tough luck.

          • I’d agree on not focusing on individuals, but they may well be the visible head of different groups struggling for power inside cycling.

            If you’re referring to the licence thing as “singling out Katusha for doping”, that’s not the case. Read below.

            By the way, the answer to Kimmage question is that what some fans may love about some dopers (especially if you say “dopers” meaning “athletes”) is that they’re great cyclists, but when the UCI is concerned, what they love about dopers (especially if you say “dopers” meaning “people who dope cyclists”) is that they happen to be very close friends.

          • We’re talking about the UCI, a largely unregulated sports federation with a very checkered past of which Cookson has been a part. What of the years of Cookson’s inaction on the UCI’s management committee? His latest changes make the federation more secretive.

            Also Astana seems to have the Kazakhstani(??) government behind it pushing very hard, for example, for inclusion into the Tour de France in the past threatening to stop arms purchases from France. Kazakhstan’s record on reported doping is terrible on a per-capita basis. The point being, lots of politics at play far beyond the daily operation of a State funded cycling team.

        • Lose the usual sly dig in your final sentence and you’ve got a point.

          It may well be more sensible, more mature, more politic, more reasonable – indeed altogether more useful for Procycling in the long run – for people to view Cookson’s taking of and statement on the Astana case as “just trying to create pressure on given teams for whatever reason” rather than indulging in point-scoring in a zero-sum game.

          If nothing else, it showed Astana that he was serious about them needing to get their shit together; and it showed the “independence” of a UCI arms-length organisation – something which in every other context everyone always says is ‘a good thing’.

    • Let’s try not to forget that the Katusha licence stripping belonged to the McQuaid era, and some conspiranoic mind could even suspect that it was related to the troubles between McQuaid and Makarov – the latter being finally a very relevant supporter of Cookson.

      Speaking of Katusha, I’d be happy to know who, how and why decided to test again the three years old out-of-competition sample (27th of March or so) which proved positive giving room to the Giampaolo Caruso’s case.
      Random pick? If not, arriving at the point where you re-test such a curious sample means that you’re really on some sort of focused campaing. With a good deal of insider info, too.

      Also note that Caruso had spent the previous two year in Katusha, too, as well as the following three. Besides, 2012 (along with 2011) was one of his worst season ever.
      Which makes such a positive quite complicated to understand, unless we suppose that even the latest testing techniques (“new scientific methods”) aren’t very effective in detecting a high percentage of EPO use, plus/or that juicing with EPO didn’t prove itself that effective for Caruso’s performances, either.

        • That’s why I labelled this as conspiranoia ^__^
          However, we all know there’s no kind of connection between the UCI leaders (especially those) and other bodies, say, for instance, Antidoping labs… Besides, without imagining anything else, the Commission might have been prompted to act by the previous series of doping positive cases. Another matter which a Federation never, never, never messes with.

          • @Sam
            Not speaking at all of Cookson here, it was Katusha that I and inrng were writing about, and Cookson didn’t have anything to do with that. Also note the “especially those” parenthesis.

          • Actually, yes, there is a connection between the UCI and anti-doping labs.

            LAD, the “original” anti-doping lab and home to ADAMS, bio-passport systems, is run by Martial Saugy. Mr. Saugy has a long history of cooperation with sports federations. It’s very collegial, the opposite of an enforcement role.

            Lately he’s been implicated in the IAAF doping scandal and has previously made FIFA positives disappear.

      • ‘Let’s try not to forget that the Katusha licence stripping belonged to the McQuaid era’ – I know.
        What I was suggesting was that the people who did this perhaps knew things that they can’t necessarily prove legally.
        But, as I said, I don’t know.

        Generally, I’d be happy for people to come out and voice what they know, but if they can’t do that then they shouldn’t voice vague suspicions that they can’t back up (as with Cookson and Astana/Kreuziger).

        As for how they got Caruso; doesn’t matter. The more dopers they get the better: maybe it was targeted testing – if so, I hope they target others.

        • He has to act “legally”. A bit like Brailsford at SKY, we can say that X and Y were “obviously” doping in the past but if the individual insists and there is no official sanction and he fires that person, SKY get taken to the cleaners.

          How exactly is the UCI going to get rid of similar people within its organisation, have them investigate themselves? It is going to take culture change and the bad apples to move on or die off.

          +1 on Caruso.

          • As I say, if Cookson feels he has to ‘act legally’ and therefore cannot say what he actually knows/thinks, then he should say nothing at all and let the legal process take its course.
            What he did was hint at something very serious both in the case of Astana and that of Kreuziger.
            Therefore, once they were not punished, everyone is left with a feeling of suspicion and unease.
            Meanwhile, Cookson has told us nothing of any actual substance (either because he has nothing or lacks the courage to say anything).
            Almost seems like the actions of a politician…
            (CIRC was also a lot of talk followed by nothing of any consequence.)

  2. I thought Caley Fretz’s piece contained some prescient points for athletics (thanks to The Cycling Podcast for flagging it).

    Regarding cycling, it would be naive to think the sport is totally clean, but I doubt if any sport ever will be – society isn’t (hence we have a police and judiciary), so why should sport? As best we can tell, though, dopers (be they individual riders, doctors, team managers etc) are having to be a lot more careful and subtle (ie I hope/think cycling is in the position of being a functioning democracy, where things aren’t perfect, checks and balances have to be maintained, but it will be rare that anyone can get away with anything massive).

    (and Luca’s million magic crystals can remain tabloid piece rather than a serious investigation)

  3. I could do without people freaking out every single time a rider pops as evidence of the sport still being riddled.

    Some will always try to cheat. Deal with it.

  4. How many weeks before the Russian doping scandal is related to the russian cycling team ?
    I would say, before the spring classics
    AMA reports that the state supported doping includ many russian sports (cycling, hockey, tennis…)

    • Well, the Moscow lab that destroyed all its samples didn’t just destroy athletes’. It wouldn’t be inconceivable for the list of samples it was holding to emerge and for that list to contain some cyclists’ names.

      And was the Lausanne lab that also destroyed samples anything to do with the Lausanne body that’s been investigating World Tour teams’ compliance with their licence standards? (Genuine question.)

      • Replying to your last question… yes and not :-S
        (stressing the word “anything”, well, maybe more yes than not).

        Lab’s official website: “The University of Lausanne has entrusted our laboratory with an important education mission both at the Faculty of Biology and Medicine (FBM) and at the Institute of Sports Science of Lausanne University (ISSUL)”.

        Still, the ISSUL belongs to a different Faculty (Politic and Social Sciences), whereas the lab depends upon the Departments of Legal Medicine of the Universities of both Geneva and Lausanne, even if it’s physically integrated in the Department of Community Medicine and Public Health at the Universitary Hospital of Lausanne.

    • Speaking of the Russia Athletics debacle, it is reported today that Seb Coe has said “Russia could be banned..”
      If this were to be the case, and if the drugs web extends into the realms of pro cycling, would this put pressure on the UCI to act likewise ?
      There may well be another chapter to this Inrng article in 2016.

  5. The question of the relationship between the UCI and the MPCC is probable one of great importance. We have seen several teams leave the MPCC when the rules don’t suit them, without any possibility of sanctions being imposed. The fact that MPCC have been extremely pro-active, whilst the governing body has shown little initiative in these matters is to be much regretted. A club is one thing, an enforceable set of rules and regulations quiet another.

    It’s surely about time the UCI took its role of leadership more responsibly, and helped convince everyone that they are leading the fight against the doping that still exists, rather than simply following the lead set by private clubs.

    I accept that there have been positive moves from the UCI, but they have normally been too slow and often behind the curve !

    • But a private club can do things an institution can’t, or, better said, reasonably shouldn’t, like imposing principles with very little scientific ground and so on.
      Besides, the Tr4m4d0l story (banning that should be a no brainer, IMHO, or is there something I don’t get here?) shows that the UCI also has to negotiate with WADA, which a private club hasn’t to.
      I consider as a positive element the existence of a certain dialectic between the two.
      MPCC may be thought of like a test area, and it’s perfectly fine that you’re able to opt in and out – or simply stay away (like the ISSUL review had been during a first phase): at least, it makes your stance on given subjects public – then, people can form their own opinion about the matter involved and your decisions.
      At the same time, you’re not throwing in the sport right from scratch rules that perhaps you wouldn’t be able to defend against a more serious scrutiny, like the one that can be imposed by the TAS.

    • I am happy to accept all the points above, BUT the doping problem has not disappeared just because there is a members club. I have some sympathy for the MPPCs aims, but it has become clear that several members joined simply as a PR exercise. When they were called out, they promptly showed their real level of commitment to the anti doping movement.

      The argument that the UCI has its hands tied by higher authorities is patently true. I would like to ask the simple question of how those with sympathy for the present system how they see the way forward.

      I have just finished reading a recent publication, where a team claiming zero tolerance to doping somehow allows, even encourages, its riders to take caffeine pills without a second thought. No needles, but pills are fine. What is more concerning is the idea that taking a caffeine pill near the finish to boost performance is totally acceptable, potentially leading to the sort of problems the sport has faced all to often. I know, because I have seen the progression first hand. This is much more than simply clubs, rules, regulations and organizations. It surely has to start with a culture and attitude change from team management. Judging by recent MPCC team withdrawals, certain management judgements leave a lot to be desired !

  6. Great article.

    I’m ready for the backlash about my next comment, but I want to make it anyways. Someone above said that Team Sky’s zero-tolerance policy is the way to go. I completely disagree.

    Further, I’ve heard avid anti-dopers who have very strong knowledge of the sport say that Team Sky riders are loaded (ie. on PED’s).

    Don’t kill the messenger (me!), please but I’m just putting this out there – I think that people need to change their perspectives on sport. It isn’t about banning dopers and ex-dopers from ever riding a two-wheeled vehicle again, the way to go is to reconcile the situation, and move forward with the men and women who want to change the sport.

    I argue that guys like David Millar, Tom Danielson, Bjarne Riis, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, etc. all should be invovled in the sport and used to help the new kids coming in (eg. Tejay Van Garderen should consult with Lance).

    Oh, my rationale above does not apply to either Danilo Di Luca or Ricardo Ricco!!!

    • ‘Further, I’ve heard avid anti-dopers who have very strong knowledge of the sport say that Team Sky riders are loaded (ie. on PED’s).’ – Care to name names or show how and why they are so knowledgeable or is this just more spurious, baseless tittle-tattle? (Is this libel?)
      Are these knowledgeable people involved with Team Sky? Otherwise how do you imagine that these people ‘know’ that Sky riders are loaded? Seems odd that Sky riders wouldn’t keep that a secret.
      You are ‘just putting this out there’. And there are many other people ‘putting out’ this kind of thing all over the shop – doesn’t make yours any less pointless or preposterous.
      For your information, cyclingnews.com has now re-opened its comments section.

      • J Evans – I know, I asked you not to shoot the messenger.

        The people are guys I raced with and who still are involved with amateur racing. I’m not an expert, and I didn’t mean to upset you.

        I’m just asking people to take an objective viewpoint to the current riders. People think Sky have it right, that they’re doing the right things, but how is it possible that their riders are so dominant? Look at it objectively. They’re faster than riders from the doping era… I’m just saying that there is no one-size fits all approach to this.

        • I’m ‘shooting the messenger’ because the messenger is spreading an unimformed message that is based on nothing. Zero evidence; only gossip.
          Do you really think that amateur racers know what Team Sky are doing as regards doping?
          Sky were no more dominant in the Tour than Astana were in the Giro.
          I’m not saying either team are clean (or dirty); what I’m saying is that there is nothing objective about your viewpoint.
          I’ll leave you to discuss this with like-minded people.

        • Qn: is Sky that dominant?

          A: Yes, reasons could include:

          (a) they have superior training, nutrition and recovery systems;
          (b) they have more better quality riders which they buy with their very deep pockets

          A: No. Froome won the TdF but probly wouldn’t have if Quintana hadn’t got gapped in one stage. Of all the spring classics, they only won E3 and Omloop, hardly dominant. They didnt podium in the Giro or the Vuelta. They were a clear third in the overall UCI World Tour team rankings.

    • Because they’re ‘bad dopers’.

      The others are ‘good dopers’.

      What is the common ground within your list of ‘advisors’?
      They’ve all admitted it – well, not in Danielson’s new case – albeit only once they were caught. But I can’t see much else (other than they all speak good English, so you’ve perhaps read/heard their excuses).
      Hard to believe that anyone with such knowledgeable friends would include Millar on the same list as those others.
      And Armstrong, for instance, seems really, really sorry (like when he posted photos of himself in the room in his house filled with his yellow jerseys) – he’s definitely someone who has a lot to offer ‘the new kids’. Perhaps advice on how to lie in court or how to leave messages on women’s answerphones expressing the hope that they get hit over the head with a baseball bat (careful with that one – you want to terrify them, but you don’t want to say anything that could be used in evidence against you).

    • Blatant trolling. Well done for choosing the right thing to say to get a response though. I’m an amatuer racer and I know as much about the internal goings on and training methods of Sky as I do about the geological composition of Saturn’s moons. I’m guessing your mates are the same.

      • Funny response Richard S.

        I was merely stating that some people (one guy I quoted works in the sports nutrition industry) adamantly think that Team Sky’s methods qualify as doping. They definitely use advanced science to recover, lose weight, etc. The question is, do you think they are clean?

        I’m not trolling, merely giving an argument that might be unpopular. At one time, it was unpopular to say that Armstrong was doping…. do you remember that?

        Fans need to take this objective viewpoint.

        The fact that I received such strong responses merely proves my point. People are not looking at Team Sky or other top teams objectively. Racers are still making records, top GT riders are riding faster up climbs than Pantani and Lance used to, how is this possible?

        • Singling out Sky is not objective. Nothing you have said is objective – it’s all based on opinions, not facts: ergo, it is subjective.
          Sky’s dominance exists only in your mind: see Astana, Movistar, etc. Froome is barely, if at all, better than Contador and Quintana.
          Other riders on other teams are also making records. (Also, climbing times cannot be simply and directly compared because – amongst many other things: wind, etc. – they are achieved on stages with different parcours.)
          Also, do you think other teams are not using the same ‘methods’? Do you think when riders leave Sky and go to other teams, they don’t mention these special methods that Sky are using to their new teams?
          FYI, I am not a fan of Sky in any way and at no point did I suggest that Sky – or any other team – are clean.
          The reason I always claimed Armstrong was doping was because everyone knew – because there was (albeit circumstantial) evidence: too much to go into now. Where is your evidence about Sky?
          The reason you ‘received such strong responses’ is not because you have a uniquely ‘objective viewpoint’ and not because you chose Sky; it’s because what you are saying is based on nothing – just ‘What my buddies think’.

          • Honestly, we’re arguing the same things. I completely agree with your points. Thanks for finally making them. It took us 24-hours to get into a more indepth discussion on this.

            I agree, I suspect strongly that the top GT teams (I am not saying that I have proof, I merely suspect) share methods. Note that none of the top GT teams (ie. Astana, Sky, Movistar and Saxobank are my top 4 because of Nibali, Aru, Froome, Quintana and Contador) are part of MPCC.

          • So you agree with me when I say ‘what you are saying is based on nothing’.
            That applies to every single thing you have said on this page.
            Including this last comment where you have completely grasped the wrong end of the stick – and with that, I give up.

  7. Sorry, your last couple comments suggested you were taking this personally. I was just trying to show another viewpoint (which actually backed up your earlier comments that Froome’s scientific testing data won’t really change people’s minds).

    I raced and thought dopers sucked too (having got dusted by them on a few occasions). I still think that dopers should face the penalty I mentioned above.

    • ‘Sorry, your last couple comments suggested you were taking this personally.’
      – No. They didn’t.
      I simply pointed out the flaws in what you said.
      My comments were heavy with sarcasm – hard not to be in response to comments such as yours – but any other ’emotions’ you imagine I was feeling are precisely that – your imagination.
      I pointed out facts that you can’t repudiate and asked questions you can’t answer (just one example: how would amateur riders know what Sky are doing?). Because of that, you are attempting to say that I am taking it personally.

      ‘I still think that dopers should face the penalty I mentioned above.’ – However, as you say above, that very much depends on which dopers you’re talking about (not Danielson apparently).

  8. Leave it to a doping story to start the internet version of a screaming match. I’m wondering if pro cycling might be in a period where the doping scientists are simply way ahead of the testers? Dumb dopers using old technology dope get snared, but there are no big scandals. I can’t shake a sinking feeling that some of the current winners proclaiming their “cleanliness” might instead be using substances on the cutting-edge of science. Since these substances are not on any banned list, even if they’re discovered a decade from now, these guys can still say “I never tested positive for banned substances” despite the fact that they indeed doped. I have zero proof and make no implications as to who they might be – it’s just a sinking feeling about the sport in general.

    • Larry T – Exactly, this is what I’m afraid of too. Some current riders sound an awful lot like the riders of the past.

      In a way I don’t blame the riders for looking for cutting edge recovery help – look at the insanity of what they’re being asked to do.

      How great was it this week to hear about a serious international doping scandal and no one mentioned cycling?

      • I’m happy to hear about doping scandals ONLY as to somebody cheated and (finally) got caught. But the Russian thing seems to be less-than-cutting-edge so it’s only the dumb, careless or hubristic taking the fall…as usual.
        As to “insanity of what they’re being asked to do” I’d disagree, especially these days when the riders have only to turn the pedals while others do everything but wipe their a__.

    • Doping innovators getting ahead of the testing regime is of course always an existential concern. Compared with that, abusing thyroid medication via TUE’s the way Alberto Salazar is accused of doing with his athletes, and as Roman Kreuziger may have done, seems almost trivial. But the latter is exactly the kind of thing I was most concerned about with Sky/Froome during the 2013 tour: not that they were doing something that would clearly be banned once it is discovered (such techniques are currently banned using general language), but that they might have found a “loophole” somewhere. Announcing that Froome had no current TUE’s went a long way towards reassuring me in his particular case, even though I was unaware of the specific opportunity that was/is available by claiming a thyroid condition. For now I assume that that sort of thing (“gaming” the rules/TUE’s rather than violating them categorically) is the state of the art, and the advantage to be gained is apparently not of the same magnitude as classic doping. I would have a big problem with a TdF winner who was found to have a dubious TUE, but at the same time I am untroubled at this point by the Kreuziger case– considering that he was punished rather significantly by the process he was put through. Not saying it’s fair or speaks well for that process, but it worked out well in his case, as I understand it. The fact that I have not heard of him countering to clear his good name suggests that his camp may be similarly content with the outcome.

      • Just a start would be stopping TUEs.
        Simple rule:
        If you are so sick that you need a drug that will also enhance your performance then you cannot take that drug and ride.
        You are sick, that’s unfortunate, but that’s life.
        It is as patently unfair as it is illogical (and possibly unhealthy) that Froome was allowed to win the 2014 Romandie whilst taking a (legal) PED. (He’s not the only one, but this is a good and well known example.)

        • I think it is appropriate to tolerate some potential conflict between TUE’s/cortisone use and anti-doping efforts, in the interest of a humane approach to legitimate medical issues.

          • Nothing inhumane about not letting people take PEDs in order to ride when sick – I’m not suggesting they are denied treatment: they just don’t ride.
            When one is sick there are things one cannot do: that’s the same for all of us.
            Probably better for their health not to ride when that sick.

        • I agree, if you’re sick don’t ride. Everyone likes a hero who struggles on through the pain barrier but I’d say injury – such as when Thomas broke his hip or Hinault broke his nose – is different to being ill. Maybe one way to combat it would be to make it mandatory for all riders mothers to be at Grand Tours, to force them to stay in bed and sip warm vimto if they are poorly!

          • I would like to know to what extent, medically speaking, can medication on TUE”s assist a rider’s health ?
            I can imagine that if a rider were to contract the sniffles, sore throat etc – minor ailments – that can knock a vital, say, 5 – 10% off top shape immediately prior / during an important race, a TUE can lift them back to / near top condition.

            OK, strictly speaking, it is performance enhancing in the sense it is unnaturally overcoming an illness. But we’re talking of a rider’s professional livelihood. It is not practical that a professional can simply stop anytime a minor ailment strikes.
            Us mere mortals struggle to work with coughs etc; no different.

            When a rider gets *properly* sick, he stays sick and performance suffers.
            It is my impression that TUE’s overcome health ‘blips’ ?
            Should a chronic condition be granted a TUE however, of that I am very wary.

          • XNight, the thing about getting a drug such as cortisone as a TUE is that cortisone is performance-enhancing in its own right.
            The performance enhancement that a rider gets from this, therefore, might well not be solely ‘in the sense it is unnaturally overcoming an illness’.
            They might – and this is speculation – even be better being slightly ill on the PED than they would be healthy without it.
            Certainly, it is impossible to be sure that the drug is not enhancing performance.
            Therefore, even if there is a medical reason to take the drug it could well still be giving an unfair advantage.
            And that’s before you factor in the possibility of an abuse of the system.
            It’s unfortunate if a rider gets sick, but that’s life.

          • I understand your point but I think the relationship between an elite endurance athlete and peak fitness is such a complicated one, on many levels.
            Sickness is part of life, as you say.
            I read Paula Radcliffe’s autobiography about 10 years ago and there was a constant theme of her morbid fear of minor ailments.
            Are TUE’s required for training purposes ?

          • Yes, riders have to balance between peak performance and losing so much weight that they’re ill a lot (look at Porte and Froome – they look a lot more unnaturally thin, to me, than, say, Contador, Quintana, Nibali: perhaps that’s why they’ve had so many health issues).
            It’s a part of racing: as Joop Zoetemelk said about people (including Hinault, I think) saying that he only won the 1980 TdF because Hinault had dropped out, “Surely winning the Tour de France is a question of health and robustness. If Hinault doesn’t have that health and robustness and I have, that makes me a valid winner.”
            Your health is your issue – taking a PED to compensate, whilst still enjoying the benefits of your possible over-training is not fair.

    • I see where you are coming from but I think you might be being slightly over negative. And in any case if you are right and todays winners are on something we haven’t heard of yet then I’d be fairly confident it’ll catch up with them at some point down the line.

    • I loved what follows (caps lock as in the original):





  9. You’re right, we can’t cheer about there being no major doping scandal for one year. After 5 years maybe, especially when you consider there have been a few smaller ones. It seems clear to me that doping is still very ‘available’ in Italy and is still a very real temptation for some of the lesser riders on smaller teams there, or washed up riders on the way down from the big time like Appollonio. I also don’t trust Vinokourov as far as I could frisbee his stupid flat cap.

    Still it could be worse. I think athletics is just poking the tip of the ice berg. If Russia has a state sponsored/enabled doping programme then I’d imagine other places will to. And this Salazar guy who coaches Mo Farah seems to me to be the distance running equivalent of Dr Ferrari. As far as I am concerned you can’t have a great coach who churns out winners in sports that are largely or entirely endurance based, without it being extremely dodgy.

    • Well, he’s being investigated by USADA and Tygart. So lets see what comes from that.

      I take issue with ‘ you can’t have a great coach who churns out winners in sports that are largely or entirely endurance based, without it being extremely dodgy’

      No evidence to support that.

      Furthermore, if that’s your end point then that’s where confirmation bias creeps in.

      • I would say there is, most of it in cycling. The whole athletics thing looks very similar to cycling circa 1998 I would say. Just replace Russia with Festina and Salazar with Ferrari.

        • You said ‘sports that are largely or entirely endurance-based’

          Thats a very wide net.

          And still nothing to support your statement apart from harking back to cycling in 1998.

          • Well obviously I have no concrete evidence that would stand up in Court, I’m not an investigative journalist or a lawyer. If you think about it though Salazar appears to be similar to Dr Ferrari. He, like Ferrari was for cycling in the early 90’s, is the go to guy for top level coaching methods to achieve results. Ferrari wasn’t always a pariah, if you watch Rominger’s hour record on Youtube (the one where he goes over 55km) he is stood right by the track encouraging him and the commentators, including Stephen Roche, refer to him quite a lot. He was at the time celebrated. What I am saying is that Salazar is like that now (or say up to before the recent allegations against him), i.e a celebrated coach of endurance athletes who achieves record breaking results (I don’t know enough about athletics to know if Farah has actually set any world records similar to Rominger’s hour record but I believe his run of 5000 and 10000 metre golds in the Worlds and Olympics is a first?). Also that American guy he coaches came second to Farah in at least the Olympics, maybe others. I would question, knowing what we know about cycling coaches in the past, how a coach in an endurance sport is achieving that level of dominance. It may be nothing, or the Olympics 10000 metre when they were one-two might end up being the athletics equivalent of Fleche Wallone 1994.
            My reference to Festina is meant to show that in 1998 everyone assumed it was just Festina. Verinque and his team mates were lambasted, like Russia are being now. Obviously since then it came out that Telekom, Rabobank, Kelme, ONCE, TVM and others all had full team doping programmes. And then since that they’ve re-tested the samples and found that pretty much the entire field was on EPO. Russia, like Festina, are good but they aren’t dominant. So what are the others doing? And would you be surprised if it was found other countries had a similar programme? I wouldn’t.

  10. The point I am taking up is your statement ‘you can’t have a great coach who churns out winners in sports that are largely or entirely endurance based, without it being extremely dodgy’

    That is a statement so sweeping and lacking validation that I had to take you up on it.

    I have no insight into whether Farah is clean or not but seeing as you mention him, FTR one of the features of his success is that he has not set WRs. British records, plenty. But not WRs. And as with mass start road racing in cycling, are tactical – unless you are going out specifically to target records, with pacemakers lined up and all, you are racing against the rest of the field, not the clock. Farah also happens to be winning at a time when many of the strongest African long-distance runners have jumped from the track for the far-more-lucrative marathon scene. As I say, I have no idea whether he is clean or not, but I read a lot of very simplistic comments about him that ignore some basic factors.

    • Ok, well I’ll change my statment to ‘I am dubious of coaches who achieve dominant results in endurance sports’. I think that’s fair enough.

  11. “Good but the CADF is funded by the UCI and is based in the UCI’s HQ making it rather dependent.”

    Bull. The UCI provides a small percentage of the CADF’s funding, the main money coming from teams, with race organisers and riders also chipping in.

    “Another promised reform is the turbo tribunal which the UCI is setting up to resolve doping cases faster than national federations or agencies. There’s no word on this but it should be ready.”

    That would be no word since its judgment in the Mondory case? (And Mondory is not the first rider to get four years for EPO.)

  12. Even Brian Cookson agrees with me on Team Sky’s zero tolerance policy (http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/11/news/cookson-we-couldnt-run-pro-cycling-without-dopers_389189) – sorry for quoting another website Inrng!!!

    Cycling has been through more official doping scandals than any other sport, but arguably it isn’t dirtier than any other (our testing is just way stronger – eg. the NFL was only testing urine samples until this year).

    Now that we’ve had a decent season in terms of anti-doping, it needs to immediately capitalise on this to focus on the financial stability of the sport. People who are willing to help the sport (regardless of their doping past) need to be involved.

    I’d argue that if you continue to strengthen the financial stability of this sport you’d take away incentives to dope too. ISSUL and MMPC would agree with me.

    • It was never workable

      (NBA still testing only urine samples btw – a massive 6 urine tests per player for all of 2014). and the Commissioner still claiming that PEDs aren’t in the culture of the sport ‘eye roll’)

      The US sports like NBA, NFL etc have it all sewn up – and the players unions are very powerful in restricting testing and how much.

      There will always be people claiming that the UCI must be covering everything up – and tbf the UCI heads of the past have made that POV, understandable. But I’d still like to see hard evidence of it going on now before buying it.

  13. Maybe i am just a sceptic… but it shows that Cookson’s UCI is back in control of things in this regard. A few lesser knowns have been hung out to dry like Mondory, but can’t help but leave a bitter taste – if someone who places top 10 when they have a good day needed to dope to achieve those results; what does it say about the rest of the players?

    I feel this year Cycling bodies have worked more harder to suppress positives than to actually hold those responsible accountable – Katusha, Astana… it’s falling in line with other sports like Tennis where everything but the truth is revealed. In hindsight, it is probably better for the image of the sport – at least in the general public.

Comments are closed.