this article originally appeared on The Roar
It seems to be catching, like the sniffly cold your kid brings back from school that explodes into full-blown influenza and ravages the household. Except this isn’t merely a cold virus – it seems that several members of the cycling fraternity have developed collective amnesia.
Forgetting, it would appear, is this winter’s black, it’s that fashionable. Just when you’d have thought that lessons had been learnt from and opportunities to tackle the problems that blight cycling presented, heads are heading right back into the sand after their brief excursions into bleached-out daylight.
We, they, can no longer say we don’t know just how institutionalized the doping problem in sport is/was (delete as you see fit), and yet still individuals and companies that should know better are pandering to former dopers and, in one hard to believe case, even trying to cripple the agency that may have brought an end to a once seemingly glittering career.
One such instance is that of disgraced American professional rider and career doper Levi Leipheimer, who still turns up to thrill the masses at the annual Grand Fondo that bears his name.
Several large companies still flock to sponsor the event even after the ‘admission’ by Leipheimer that he doped for large swathes of his fairly successful career.
Some people seem to have no problem with this, but I have several. The former state that this is a great event that brings out over 7,000 people to enjoy the joys of cycling, but if the sponsors insist his name be taken off and if he didn’t turn up, wouldn’t the event surely be better for it?
What message is this sending out to young riders? That you can dope, have a financially rewarding career, apologise when you get caught, then carry on as if nothing happened?
And what of these companies? Will there be no blow-back for them for supporting the race and, by extension, the man whose name is attached to it?
I find this, in all honesty, unfathomable.
Next up we have Nicolas Roche, the Irish pro rider who plies his trade with the Tinkoff-Saxo team. Now, I’m not suggesting that pro riders have an automatic responsibility to put their careers in jeopardy by criticizing their manager and back room staff, but when you manager is about to be hauled before the Danish courts for his admitted doping offences and for the allegations by Tyler Hamilton, Jörg Jaksche and most recently Michael Rasmussen, who say he helped them dope, then surely it’s better to keep your mouth firmly shut.
But no, Roche is on CyclingNews telling the venerable website that Riis is all that and then some.
“When Bjarne’s around, the team is just that extra bit focused and that brings some extra excitement to the race,” said the son of Stephen Roche. “He comes with ideas that change the profile of the race. He takes the extra bit of risk in races, when maybe some sports directors mightn’t be ready to take the risk, which is normal too.”
The mention of risk comes, apparently, without irony.
To make matters worse, Roche is now on a team owned by a certain Oleg Tinkov, a man who said last week that “doping is over, cycling has changed.” Did the team members collectively cringe when they heard that? Didn’t everyone?
Fear not archaeologists, it looks like the dinosaurs are not yet extinct, at least not in professional cycling.
This brings us nicely to the Schleck brothers. The two lads recently will be working with Kim Anderson as their DS through to the end of 2014, a former pro that they’ve been guided by for some years now.
The excellent dopeology website states that Andersen tested positive seven times in his career and was finally banned for life – from riding, that is, not from being a DS.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Frank at least values the knowledge and experience of Andersen – he was banned last year for doping himself, and was found to have transferred funds into the account of the doctor at the center of Operacion Puerto in 2006, Dr Fuentes.
Schleck was on the CSC team at the time, a team managed then by, you guessed it, Bjarne Riis.
Aren’t these little coincidences amazing?
Finally, we come to Jeannie Longo, the Frenchwoman with a palmares longer than Eddy Merckx’s who is currently trying to cripple the French anti-doping agency, AFLD.
Longo has had her brushes with suspensions but never actually received one. The nearest came in 2011 after she missed no less than three out-of-competition tests.
If you remember that loveable rogue, Michael Rasmussen, he got tossed from the Tour after just one missed test. Longo however got out of a lengthy ban via a loophole that everyone involved (except of course Longo herself) agreed was a proper cock-up.
No doubt about it – she dodged the tests and should have been banned.
Move on a little later and her husband gets busted after being named by dope-dealer Joe Papp as one of his customers. Seems that Longo’s husband was buying EPO from the American, dope that Papp said he was told was intended for Longo.
In early 2012 Ciprelli was charged with the importation of the banned substance EPO, on which he is said to have spent 15,000 euros on 15 purchases in 2007.
But do not fear, it was all apparently intended for him to help him recover from a cycling injury. That is some costly rehab.
No charges were brought against Longo, but she is seeking 1.1 million euro in damages from the AFLD, for her damaged reputation.
In a completely unrelated note, former pro rider Inga Thompson, a renowned anti-doping advocate, alleged in a November 2012 U.S. radio interview that Longo had used performance enhancing drugs during at least the latter part of her career.
Has Longo forgotten what the AFLD is supposed to do? And can she see no possible reason just why the AFLD and others might just maybe be a little suspicious when her husband is buying bucketloads of the very drug that makes cyclists go really fast?
Seems not. Seems like everyone’s just too busy forgetting.