Thursday Shorts

Lotto are stepping down from sponsoring Dutch team Lotto-Jumbo. Their contract is up at the end of the year and that’s enough for them. The good news is co-sponsor Jumbo has said it will step up and become the main sponsor and even increase the budget to somewhere north of €15 million.

The team are already splashing the cash having just announced Steven Kruijswijk has a contract extension through to 2021 too, a rare long term deal. It’s good to read of this smooth succession of sponsors. Has pro cycling found its level? The sport may struggle to attract the likes of Coca Cola, Gilette or Samsung but Jumbo is a decent business in the Netherlands, one of the country’s biggest grocery retailers and now expanding in Belgium.

Things look rougher for Astana. As well as an open letter doing the rounds calling for the Kazakh government to stop funding the team, reader comments on this week’s Astana piece point to the Astana team’s problems stemming from a court battle between a Moldovan oligarch and Samruk Kazyna, the principal backer of the team. Anatolie Stati was into oil and gas in Kazakhstan only to allege the Kazakh state tried to loot him with trumped-up criminal charges and then seizing and nationalising his goods. A court ruled Stati should be compensated, the Kazakh’s haven’t paid and so court orders have been issued to freeze Kazakh assets abroad. This suggests pumping money into Luxembourg to keep the team on the road is somewhere between hard and impossible. The court proceedings are going to take months to resolve… the team may not be able to wait.

From Kazakh politics to China where some of the country’s richest men are feeling nervous. A top insurance company has been seized by the government and its founder and boss prosecuted. Now parts of the media are speculating whether Wanda could be next. The big conglomerate has already been clipping its wings by unloading foreign assets – it no longer owns Velonews – and there’s talk it could hive off its sports division which owns Infront, which in turns owns the Tour de Suisse and more in cycling as well as the World Triathlon Corporation. Wanda is also supposed to run the UCI’s developmental programme in China too. Outsourcing the usual UCI and federation role upset some – and I’m told cost Brian Cookson votes – but are there guarantees to protect the cycling in case of a political backlash?

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It’s not only team sponsorship that can hinge on faraway stories of fraud and politics, races can have to deal with it to. The Samyn took place earlier this week and saw Quick Step dominate the race in a way they couldn’t last weekend. One reason was the lighter field, the Quicksteppers were one of only three World Tour teams in the race. The race was defrauded by a former treasurer who apparently looted the race’s cash reserves. It meant last year’s race had no money and several teams were not paid and some of them didn’t return this year, despite the race moving to a Tuesday slot from the usual Wednesday in order to encourage them to prolong their stay in Flanders.

Still things could be worse, look at the Tour of Alberta which has collapsed with debts of over CAD$ 1.6 million, a vast sum for a small race and quite how the event was given so much credit by so many is a mystery.

To a small race with an asset this year. The Tour de Finistère is not a big race but its final 65km are identical to Stage 5 of the Tour de France and so the race is getting interest from bigger teams, Le Télégramme, a local newspaper, reports Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen will take part to test the course for themselves. Others are bound to follow. It’s on Saturday 14 April… will they stay on for the Tro Bro Leon the next day?

Talking of BMC Racing, remember Samuel Sanchez? He had an A-sample positive for GHRP-2, a kind of growth hormone. 196 days later he’s still provisionally suspended. Long but there’s also André Cardoso’s positive A-sample for EPO just before the Tour de France. He’s still provisionally suspended some 248 days later. These things can’t be rushed… but still.

On the subject of anti-doping, a small note on Froome’s case. Cyclingnews headlines “UK Anti-Doping data a blow to Chris Froome’s salbutamol defence” but it’s not really the case. It is a small blow to Sky’s media comments that these cases happen and are resolved in private and therefore by implication Froome’s case is just one of many only it got leaked. But we’ve known this, the stats exist on the WADA website too. But Froome’s case is not about others, statistics or the law of large numbers, it’s still about him proving he took a permitted amount as the reason behind the reported high quantity in the sample.

Finally full circle back to Lotto-Jumbo. The team will need an increase in funding because Dylan Groenewegen’s value must be going up and up, he’s on four wins already and just took Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. As well as retaining him he’ll want a strong lead out train. That’s him aged 20 in 2014 in the Trofeo Mallorca riding for the De Rijke Continental team, he’s celebrating but Sacha Modolo has got the win. That year he won the U23 Tour of Flanders – remember this race is hard but not the berg fest that is the senior Ronde – and has been steadily improving. What next?

60 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. “…these cases happen and are resolved in private and therefore by implication Froome’s case is just one of many only it got leaked. But we’ve known this, the stats exist on the WADA website too”.

    CN is pumping things up, you’re right, yet the article isn’t without relevant new content. Such content is obviously more relevant for the public debate than for the legal procedure: nevertheless, it’s worth a read.
    The point we can make from it is that – unlike what many commenters around (not necessarily here) were supposing – it’s not true that many of those “unknown known” happy-ending AAF cases are about salbutamol.
    In the case of UKAD, it’s not even one.
    People were defending that since so many athletes suffer from asthma, and given the statute of salbutamol as a specified substance and a preferred treatment, *surely* many of those AAF which didn’t go public and which we didn’t know about must have been about salbutamol.
    Well, no. We still don’t know what people get acquainted for, but it wasn’t salbutamol: surprisingly, there were very few salbutamol test over the (generous) margin the rules concede, and all of them ended up with a doping ban.

    So: “these cases happen” – well, very seldom if you speak of salbutamol – “are resolved in private” – it *never* went like that in UK with salbutamol during the last few years, ban means becoming public – “Froome’s case is just one of many” – one among some, if we don’t consider the substance; and none of those was really comparable to his, given that none was about salbutamol.

    And, as a side note, let me add that statistics may prove a key factor even in Froome’s case in itself. Probability of what’s being defended is paramount. Hence, lots of stats about clenbuterol meat contamination in Contador’s case, for instance. What’s normal for other athletes is becoming a more and more common feature when debating situations like bio-passport and so.

    • I agree with your assessment. This new information puts the Froome case in a much starker context. After reading those stats, I can’t imagine this having a happy ending for CF.

    • How many of those “other” cases would have involved an athlete with Froome’s financial ability to defend his corner? That, to me, is a huge variable here. Many athletes simply wouldn’t able to defend themselves or hire lawyers/scientists to fight their corner so I find this only marginally relevant.

      • The main point is that it *doesn’t exist* as a reality the solution “in private” of any other salbutamol case in which the threshold gets passed and nobody knows because it’s eventually proven that the athlete did everything fine.

        1 – Besides Froome, very few (3) athletes in UK ended up crossing the salbu threshold in years, despite the substance being impressively common use (70% of British Swimming athletes are classified as asthmatic, just as one out of three Sky riders).

        2 – The few which did were all found guilty, albeit they received the minimum sanction (not that bad a defense). Consequence: the theory “it’s one of many, we just don’t know… it’s just the leak which gave us a false perspective” never applied, in this vast set of data, to any case like Froome’s. Anyway, the point is not that it’s hard to escape justice when you’re caught with salbu (too small a sample to say anything like that): the point is that every salbu case became public, so there’s not an “unknown known” world of salbu acquittals which just were not leaked.

        Which means that your reply has little to no relation with the subject which was being discussed above.

        • On the contrary Gabriele, the fact the three athletes got the minimum sentence suggests they just accepted the findings without argument. Perhaps had they had the finances and will to argue a case they may have found evidence to escape any ban at all. “All the Salbu cases got bans” is a meaningless stat if none of them even bothered to defend themselves.

          • They didn’t just accept without argument, not at all, at least in one case (I read the footballer’s proceedings).

            But, again (and for the last time, as long as I’m concerned): “all the salbu case cases got bans” is a *fact* which is of little use to me in itself.
            It’s simply instrumental to establish its logical consequence: no salbutamol case is unknown due to an acquittal final result. Those three cases is all there is.

            As I said, it’s not necessarily relevant for Froome’s *case*, but it’s clearly relevant for the debate, because it makes much weaker – or just not fit – sentences like the one by inrng I quoted above in my first (mistakenly anonymous) post. And many others.

      • I’m not sure where money for defense makes a difference. Sure, they can hire experts, but at the end of the day, what can those experts testify to? With this new info, they can’t try to testify that the threshold for an AAF is too low, or that it’s very easy for a dehydrated athlete to have a crazy high urine level – we now know AAFs for salbutamol are surprisingly rare, despite being frequently used in many sports under extreme conditions. This is the crucial new info. This is the crucial new info, and puts Froome’s test in a whole new light. This data is actually an argument that the 1000/1200 ng/ml threshold might be too generous.

        Also, this isn’t the kind of system where expert lawyers can play games in jury selection, and then charm that jury, or exhaust the prosecution with legal games, as far as I can tell.

        • The simple answer to that is that those with money will always be able to testify to more than those without it. Until you do the work you don’t know what you can say. Research is finance dependent.

        • We may not like it but money does make a difference sometimes. When the bio passport was in place the UCI tried a small rider for the first prosecution as this helped established the precedent without it being undone by a legal siege, it was later that they got onto bigger cases.

          • Of course at this point there is ample precedent for salbutamol AAFs and how they are treated in cycling. And in fact Froome has returned the highest level that I’ve seen reported, so this isn’t a ‘grey area’ case. This new info further shows that salbutamol AAFs rarely occur. So, yes, Froome can hire lots of doctors and scientists to speculate, but speaking as someone with medical and scientific training, I cannot imagine any defense that they can actually prove.

            If this happened behind closed doors, then the money and pressure might get results. It has in cycling’s past. But the world is watching, and if Froome gets a pass without having an absolutely ironclad excuse, I think the sport will be severely damaged.

          • ‘But the world is watching, and if Froome gets a pass without having an absolutely ironclad excuse, I think the sport will be severely damaged.’ – watch precisely this happen (to go with so many others).

  2. Agreed – Provisional suspension of 248 days for Cardoso, Sammy Sanchez 196 days, Froome’s case is ongoing 150 days in, etc. This is ridiculous. It affects race and team’s ability to find new sponsors. I’m not saying this is direct cause and effect, but it is definitely linked. Froome needs to be suspended or let off by end of the month.

    We have multiple teams that need cash plus races that are folding as we speak.

    • Re: Cardoso. I think there was a problem with his B sample which didn’t show clearly enough EPO presence. I guess that if it was an A sample it would probably be just “negative”, but being it a B sample, the “independent” entity which now manages doping cases in cycling is apparently defending that it wasn’t “negative” but “inconclusive”, which would allow, according to them and the law department, enough room to get the rider DSQd all the same. I feel that this looks like pushing things quite far, but now an UCI court will need to settle that. Cardoso and his lawyer are obviousy upset and ready to ask compensation for damages.
      It looked like the typical positive test you use to send a message, the fact that now things got hugely messy just confirms that impression.

      • Thanks for the clarification, I wasn’t aware of the complications.

        Either way, delays in a conclusive decision makes the situation appear much worse than it is. And, if the B-sample can’t confirm the A-sample, doesn’t that mean the athlete should be free to compete? Isn’t that why there is an A and B-sample?

        With that being said, Cardoso will find it hard to find a job, but Cardoso should have a very strong case against the UCI/WADA for the delays.

      • On the one hand, the lack of speed is in itself lack of justice, as most international reports underline when dealing, for example, with Italian justice.

        That’s even more true when we’re speaking of the limited time span of a sporting career.

        OTOH, sport justice is as such different from general justice (the burden of the proof and so on). It’s about the common interests of a club in which people agree to a set of conditions. You can always appeal to general justice, in case you feel you can’t accept the way your general rights are harmed – but that usually means you’re out of the club, albeit with a compensation.

        I’d say, but this is very personal, that the length of the procedure should be the result of a fair negotiation among the parts: authorities taking excessive time, often without offering a decent technical explanation (the old Caruso case), is just an abuse, pretty much as I’d consider it an abuse when an athlete is bidding his time in an exaggerated way, especially if he’s being allowed to ride meanwhile – and I’m thinking about my hugely appreciated Contador, because Froome’s case, until now, frankly hasn’t become that serious, yet. It would be if no UCI court was held before, let’s say, April.

        • Taking excessive time can be somewhat unjust I agree, especially if it is a deliberate playing for time. But in any case the justice should be lenient and move at the pace of the case concerned rather than within arbitrary time limits as every case is different. Both Contador and Froome had the resources to produce more evidence than many others would be able to. They should not be blamed for that. And what should we do, ignore any evidence they bring because of some arbitrary time factor? Provided they can show the time being used is being used to prepare their case then they should be allowed a liberal amount of time. 6-9 months is not unreasonable.

          • Agreed.

            Yet, just note that if you happen to be also racing while you’re defending yourself, the limit between a fair defense and taking advantage of a lenghty process becomes blurred. The risk was there for Contador and it is for Froome. Given that it’s sport justice and not general justice, the “club” also must defend its general interest. It’s a question of balancing everybody’s rightful issues.

            However what you suggest when you speak of 6-9 months is perfectly acceptable to me, in general terms and we don’t have yet any evidence that Froome’s lawyers will make it last much longer. We’ll have time to complain – or to consider changing rules – later. For sure, it would be better for the sport if he didn’t ride the Giro in such a condition, but I can live with that. Giro and Tour would be frankly excessive and the damage on the sport much greater.

          • OTOH, I’d say that the justice should be more lenient… with those who have less resources!

            Let’s say a longer time for a proper defense might be granted you if you’re rich enough to make good use of it, but if you’re “poorer” you should be correspondingly allowed a greater benefit of the doubt. But I’m a dreamer…

            As a side point, I’d add that more resources *can* also mean being faster in gathering the data you might need.

            The above is only intended to suggest further POVs, it’s not like I’ve got a very definite position on the matter.

          • I think I disagree with the notion of “justice”, inasmuch as it relates with due process and procedural guarantees and other procedural considerations, when applied to basically cheating at a game. I think the concept is “refereeing”, which has (abstract) justice (but not judicial) implication, but whose main purpose is to function speedily (in real time) as the game progresses. It matters less if a football referee wrongly awards a penalty or a red card than if the decision should take weeks or months. In real life, lack of guarantees means unacceptable injustice by principle. But the principle shouldn’t apply so absolutely to sports refereeing, abd it should be balanced by a principle of minimal mandatory expediency.

          • I like your distinction between “justice” and “refereeing.” It made me think of the Sagan DQ in the TdF. A snap judgement call was made, and there was no meaningful appeal. In retrospect, it was an injustice, which the UCI apologized for (no review of available and exculpatory videotape, no interview with Sagan to get his side of the story). The referee’s decision cost Sagan a record-setting Green Jersey, probably several stage victories (last year’s TdF had many stages tailor made for him), and probably the points title. One could argue those losses were on a par with the damage that would have happened to Froome if he’d been pulled from the Giro after his salbutamol AAF. In some ways, it was worse for Sagan, since it denied his sponsors what they paid him millions for – the win on the biggest cycling stage in the world.

            In the Sagan case, there was a moderate hue and cry, but the racing when on, and it didn’t become a festering sore. Everyone got over it. In the Froome case, it’s like a stinking fish that smells worse with each passing day. I’m coming to the point of thinking that if Froome does escape any penalty, it will be even worse for his reputation and future than if he’d have been immediately DQ’d, served a brief suspension, and gotten back to training for 2018.

          • +1 I’m very tired of the bleating about workplace law, human rights and such when it comes to cheating at sports (games). Let’s face it, no “workplace” rule entity would in any way sanction racing a plastic bicycle downhill at 100 kph clad only in spandex with a styrofoam hat on your head, so spare me the right-to-work claptrap.
            In the end if you don’t want to play by the rules (rules you know about way in advance) go paint houses!

          • Those with less or no resources usually just accept the charge and receive a minimum sanction. Those who mount an expensive defence should be liable to a greater punishment as a fair balance.

          • “Those who mount an expensive defence should be liable to a greater punishment as a fair balance.”

            Many justice systems agree with you, which is why there are reduced penalties for pleading guilty, compared with being found guilty. The WADA system is among them. So if Froome is found guilty, he should expect a longer ban than if he’d just accepted the consequences.

          • Is there a greater indictment of judicial systems generally (and including those in sport, but with far lesser consequences) that those with more money receive a better defence?

  3. Thanks Inrg,

    Reading of the continued demise of road races just reinforces my continued support of
    some of our local road races here in Northern California.

    Hope others feel the same way.

  4. Given that Froome knew he would be tested after the Vuleta stage because he was in the leader’s jersey, there is no reason for him to have deliberately “over-used” the medication. Moreover, it is difficult to have such massive doses delivered into the body by inhalation (through the lungs) alone–if Froome is to be believed that he gave himself the normal number of squirts of his inhaler. Therefore, it would stand to reason that someone perpetrated a “prank” on Froome by slipping into some food or drink massive doses of the substance, and then having Froome ingest it without his knowing.

    Personally, I believe Froome on this one. He is no idiot, and certainly no hard-headed bully. He is certainly no Lance Armstrong! As for motive, he has lost popularity among his teammates and his team management, especially with conflicting personal aspirations at THE GC title that counts, and given his reactions (of weak support or even criticism) to prior accusations of misconduct against upper management, namely, Brailsford in the Jiffy bag matter. Such a “prank” might be thought of as cruel justice by some or most of the team, and might be deemed to be the equivalent of dragging Froome’s feet over the coals. Whatever, the case might be, we shall soon see. I hope that justice will prevail in the end. One never wants to see bad things happen to good people.

    • That could be a novel defense – if some minor character at Team Sky came forward and claimed to have slipped a bit of a salbutamol pill into Froome’s dinner, and caused the AAF, then would Froome get off? That sounds a lot like the defense other riders have used, that someone else tainted their food or supplements. As I recall, most of the time that defense is rejected.

      And as from Froome being unpopular enough to be sabotaged – really? Successful people always inspire some sour grapes, but if that kind of “pranking” went on then there’d be about 100 other far-less-popular riders having AAFs and positive tests. My impression is that Froome is one of the better like stars in the peloton.

    • Joe your drawing a pretty long bow with that hypothesis, I don’t think Froome is a cheat but he did somehow double the permitted limit and regardless of how he should suck it up and accept the consequences.

    • He could try a “the salbutamol contaminated my gel caps” defense like Daryl Impey. Pay some pharmacist to claim he filled an RX for the banned substance just before something innocuous for “Il Frullatore” and there you have the excuse for double the allowed amount while only taking the allowed number of puffs from your inhaler. Sounds like complete BS to me, but amazingly this worked for Impey.
      A question for RonDe – You write “Why the rush? I’d rather that correct decisions were made and if that takes a few extra months fine by me. Speed is not justice.” but would you write this if the rider in question was sidelined like Cardoso or Sanchez instead of free to race ala Contador?

      • Larry T: The main points of the reasoned decision tell a slightly more credible story and explain why neither UCI nor WADA went further with the case
        Kevin: German Sports, Doping, and Politics: A History of Performance Enhancement, pp. 152-154 tell the story about the famous “my toothpaste was contaminated by a former Stasi agent” defense used by Dieter Baumann when he tested positive for nandrolone in 1999

        • I read that back then and reread it now but fail to understand how it’s not a case of “My gel caps were contaminated, Mommy!” despite all the “testimony” that backs up Impey’s claim.
          SKY/Froome could pay some folks big wads of pounds or euros to “testify” to the same type of BS (in my opinion right up there with Il Pistolero’s contaminated beef excuse) claim that got Impey off the hook. I’d forgotten his Salbutamol issues, so this caper is more connected to Froome’s than I thought!

    • Important: what I’m writing below isn’t referred particularly to Froome, it’s just a set of general considerations about the logical content of what Joe K. says.

      The “he knew he’d be tested, why should he do that?” reasoning is one of the weakest ever. As a top rider in a well-organised team, you both tend to know how not to test positive although you’re being doped *and* so often in the history of cycling you also may have a *strong feeling* that any possible positive test will just be covered up by institutions if you’re the right person at the right time.
      The huge number of USA olympic medallists which were on doping and tested positive without any consequence, without anyone even ever knowing, as denounced by Wade Exum some years ago, they all “knew they’d be tested”.
      Troubles may start when there’s a sudden change in institutions, or when the institutions don’t like you anymore.
      Surely, things can happen to have you test positive, nevertheless. The latest news about Pantani allegedly confirm such a situation for Madonna di Campiglio – yet, note that it’s not like he *wasn’t* doping. He knew he’d be tested, and he knew as well that he was going to be below the threshold. In that case, they probably manipulated the test. In other cases, a lab can push a positive for a EPO gray area result. Or the institutions can just decide to avoid covering up what they’d normally do.
      The final result is that, although you know you’re going to be tested, you’re on doping – but, eventually, something doesn’t work as you’d expect.

      Of course, there are difference among riders. Thanks to the Fuentes “training” papers we know that during the Armstrong era some riders weren’t on any treatment during races, too risky for them (which doesn’t mean that at least in training they’d get some pharma support, which is why they were working with Fuentes all the same).
      And everybody always tried not to test positive, even when you know you’re back is covered, because a leak can happen anytime and because nobody likes to be blackmailed by institutions. So, you obviously try anyway not to test positive, which doesn’t mean avoid doping – but, if you are in the right position, you don’t even need to try too hard, because you know that if for whatever reason you’ll go to far, there’s a further protection net to fall in. Unless the firemen take it away on the very last minute.

      Sky’s overcontrolling mentality makes it even harder to believe that it was a sabotage. It should have been the team as such – not even a rogue team member (ok, maybe the cook…). But if it was the team, this would go deep into conspiracy theory, given the huge amount of backfire they’re suffering in this specific moment because of previous context. Sure, we can imagine that they for some reason want to be sunk, but the whole thing becomes more and more complicated with few hints for it being like that, instead of something way more simple.

      Garzelli’s story was far more convicing but most cycling fans nowadays don’t believe it. Do you? (I personally do, FWIW).

    • To be frank, I find it more credible to believe Sky’s current claim that Froome took a load of puffs after the stage and immediately before the test, without expecting to trigger an AAF, than that he had his food/drink spiked.

      • If Froome did that, then he is truly stupid – why risk it? I don’t think he is stupid.
        Spiking, a massive number of puffs, some weird kidney event – all of these seem more unlikely than taking salbutamol, whether immediately before the stage or weeks/months previously, for its performance-enhancing effects and that salbutamol then being in his system or being re-introduced.
        All of that is speculation, but the ideas that show Froome’s innocence are all so far-fetched.
        But the rich and powerful usually get away with whatever they do and Froome/Sky probably will.

      • The problem with the “he probably took a load of puffs after the stage” idea is that this is not how salbutamol inhalers work. First, it only takes 1-2 puffs to have a full effect on breathing. If one’s pulmonary passageways are really constricted (i.e., the person hadn’t been taking any salbutamol for a while), then it might take a puff open up the proximal airways, then then an additional puff or two after a minute to open up the distal airways. Additional puffs do not help breathing, and only cause potentially dangerous side effects.

        Second, the salbutamol taken right after the race would take a hours to work it’s way into his urine. The inhaler delivers it immediately to the lungs, but the path to the urine has a lag of hours.

        Bottom line: taking a “load of puffs” is NEVER an effective way to use salbutamol inhalers, and Froome as a long-time user would know this better than anyone.

    • Joe K, you think it’s more likely that Sky decided to sabotage their best rider, who is on the point of possibly achieving something historic (6 TdFs being possible, winning all GTs also being possible) and take that massive PR hit than it is that a sports person cheated?

  5. Who could have predicted that being reliant on funding from despots would be so precarious?
    Still, it doesn’t matter where the money comes from the sport is automatically improved with more money.
    And, you know, ‘globalisation’, which is always and inherently a good thing.
    Looking forward to a spring of great races in front of a public who are actually interested, rather than the temporary playthings for dudes to spend their ill-gotten gains on.

    • Hi J Evans – I usually disagree with your comments but couldn’t agree more.
      I think sporting ties to many shady regimes is despicable and really puts me off watching.
      I know the world is a complicated place and where do you draw the line (Oil Companies? etc) but I wish there was less dubious backing in sport overall.

      It won’t happen I know, but it would be a nice step for cycling at least to make the teams less dependent on precarious backers, an argument I’ve seen raised before here and shot down soon after, but I still believe there must be a way of making this possible.

      • “…it would be a nice step for cycling at least to make the teams less dependent on precarious backers, an argument I’ve seen raised before here and shot down soon after, but I still believe there must be a way of making this possible.”

        I agree that the precariousness of the funding of cycling teams (and races!) is a huge problem, but it’s not my impression that suggestions to improve this are “shot down.” I’ve never seen realistic and specific proposals to fix this. There are only a relative few “revenue sports” (i.e., sports that bring in enough money to pay for themselves, as opposed to sports that are money losers). Pro cycling is fundamentally different than those money-spinning sports.

  6. Very interesting on the cyclingnews debate – I don’t want to start any more Froome arguments but I have found their coverage of Team Sky in particular has put me off visiting as much of it seems excessive, with every single minuscule story is suddenly presented as further validation of a Postal-esq conspiracy.

    And yet I don’t remember similar coverage of Contador’s case – whilst also (listening to their podcasts) despite his doping violation there never seemed anything but love and praise?

    Are they getting massive hits because of the Sky stories or is it a vendetta?

    I do obviously think Sky need to be reported on, as has been done here in what seems like a fair and balanced way, it’s just cyclingnews do not seem to be doing this.

    (I hope the backlash isn’t to harsh here for this comment! I enjoy watching Froome (the 13/14 Froome) and think he seems like a nice guy, along with Geraint, but also like Quintana, Porte et al and wouldn’t say my view is skewed by being anything close to a die-hard Sky supporter!)

    • I was wondering the same thing about Cycling News. Them, as well as Sean Ingle at The Guardian, have really got it in for Sky and have done for a while now. Sure, Sky have been shady and SDB (and his cringeworthy Numberplate) has been disingenuous at times but it seems they’ve taken the marginal gains / grey areas matters as some sort of “personal affront”, when anyone with half a brain at the time could have worked out what was happening.

      • Maybe they didn’t like starting to be aware that “gray areas” was a code word for “black areas”, that is, Sky isn’t simply exploiting the holes in the rules, they’re digging their own holes to go through or under the rules, just as all those whom many cycling fans are keen to call “cheaters”.
        The Zorzoli TUEs story was already well beyond gray, and if the recent testo patches news was confirmed, that wouldn’t be exactly gray, either. Just as it wouldn’t be gray at all to take salbutamol otherwise than via inhaler.
        Taking newly discovered substances or pushing the limits of a *meaningful* TUE can (perhaps) be gray, other things just aren’t.

        That said, I suspect that the end of the honeymoon is more about having long been snubbed – and good ol’ clickbait, surely enough.

      • I think you may have a point about the ‘personal affront’: I always found CN to be ridiculously pro-Sky/BC until the Wiggins affair and then they went very much the other way, like a spurned lover.

      • Ah Sean Ingle – I was genuinely dumbfounded by his article on Froome vs Mo Farah entitled ‘Chris Froome and Mo Farah are united in success and disputed legacy’. It was one of the worst articles I’ve ever read that purported to have something to do with cycling 0 essentially a hatchet job by someone who seemed to know very little about cycling and was defaming another athlete in the exact way he was complaining about Farah having his reputation tarnished. *(And amazingly it was written before the failed drugs test).

    • You’re absolutely right about CN boosting the whole subject, even beyond what seems to make sense (this last piece of news was interesting, though).

      Some ideas below about the progressive ending of their Sky honeymoon (it grew and grew year after year, as any dramatic-love-story crisis).

      Speaking of honeymoons, theirs with Contador – which I didn’t notice but only because I don’t read or listen to them that much, I’m happy to take your word on that – must be relatively recent and maybe itself related to the Sky conflict.

      They used to bash the Spaniard when they felt like that, and they went on citing the clenbuterol story (usually in a slightly negatively biased way) every single time they named him, be it relevant… or not even by far. A practice which they obviously don’t apply to each and every character in cycling.

      • You read CN enough now to know that they are ending their Sky honeymoon but not enough to notice their Contador honeymoon. But you once read them enough to know they used to bash the Spaniard every single time they named him.

        Confirmation bias, thy name is gabriele. You’re like Arsene Wenger. You only ever see what you want to see.

    • I have two thoughts about the idea that news outlets are responsible for controversies, or that they should back off until everything is 100% proven and public. First, most of these sites are driven by readers. If they don’t give their readers what they want, those readers go elsewhere. Look at the CN comments sections when Froome is mentioned, compared to any other articles. Clearly people are going to that site every day looking for updates on the case.

      In the same way, I know on my smart phone news feed that I will get more articles like the ones I select to read. If I don’t read articles about celebrity gossip or lurid random murders, I stop getting those articles. I get fed what I’m willing to eat. It’s the readers who are driving most of this coverage, and as long as the news outlets aren’t inventing ‘news’ out of thin air, then you are probably better off blaming your fellow fans. “We” are ultimately the final arbiters of what reporting is supported.

      Second (and more important, I think), the claim that a news outlet or writer is on biased (“it’s a witch hunt!”) is an common counter-attack by those who don’t want to be investigated. We saw it in spades with Lance Armstrong for years, and we see it now with American politics (sorry to bring any of that here). In a world where the cycling authorities and doping agencies have frequently and historically not done their jobs, I’m thankful for an aggressive and free press. Yes, there will be excesses, and there will be tabloid nonsense, but the opposite situation is much much worse.

      • Comments don’t always equate to articles being well-read, just topics that get some people excited. A “Roads to Ride” article on here is often very well read but gets a handful of comments at most while a doping topic can generate lots of comments but often among 10-15 people asking questions and debating.

        • I realize that comments don’t equate to readers, but having run my own blogs, and seeing how what I click on drives what ads and articles are directed at me, I stand by my opinion that there is a feedback loop between what people click on (and read), and what these news sites give us.

    • Completely agree – they have blown every Sky story as vindication of a fascist regime. In a couple articles they do say that Brailsford/Sky PR won’t grant them interviews or speak to their reporters in the scrums. It appears the entire thing is now personal.

      I agree, I’m very turned off by it, especially when they have a huge lovefest with Contador who, IMHO used the exact same or similar preparation techniques as Sky/Movistar/other non-MPCC teams.

      • Exact or similar? Perhaps…
        The main difference in the last five years or so being the UCI presidency and especially the staff brought alongside to Aigle (plus, the existing HHRR which might be available to serve & protect).
        I don’t know yet if such a factor mattered someway (motorised bicycle email aside…), but I must admit that I wouldn’t be too surprised if it was so. And the connections between British Cycling and Team Sky look worryingly tight, too.
        Maybe my perspective will change when I’ll know about, say, a Movistar doctor ordering testosterone patches – and loads of triamcinolone – to be sent to an institutional, public structure (assuming that the news in inrng twitter feed make sense). That shows a notable degree of confidence, to me.

        • Exact or similar or different but on the same level?!? Either way, the entire situation leaves question marks all over the place about results.

          The thing is to me, sponsors and general sports fans don’t always care about the exact specifics. All they care about are perceptions and if the fan perceives cycling to be dirty with questionable results, then guess what, sponsors leave.

  7. To get off the doping topic for a moment, I want to pat myself on the back for highlighting Groenewegen in the comments of the Riders to Watch piece. Glad to see him coming through so quickly. Excited to see his growth this year.

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