Cycling can learn from baseball (and I don’t mean in finding new tricks for hiding needle marks)? No, how about we borrow the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ concept? Because if we did, we’d be free from the shambles that is Astana.
In case you missed the news, a third Astana rider has been popped for le dopage within 3 months of the first. llya Davidenok has returned a positive A sample from a test taken whilst a stagiaire riding the Tour de l’Avenir for Continental Team Astana this August. Young Davidenok’s drug of choice, it seems, is anabolic androgenic steroids.
These are the steroids of choice for bodybuilders, used to increase strength (5-20% as reflected in various studies) and increase lean muscle mass whilst cutting fat, but they do not appear to affect endurance performance. It would be possible of course, that Davedinok was on other drugs that would helped with his endurance, but that they had already passed through his system.
But that would be a very cynical view to take. Banish that thought.
So, three guys with the same outfit.
Nice work lads! I was originally impressed with the stupidity of the Iglinsky brothers for getting busted within a few weeks of each other (because, seriously, to get busted these days you have to be breaking the rules of micro-dosing, and with EPO having a half-life in the blood of just 5 hours, well, you get the picture), but now it seems that a low IQ, coupled with a propensity for cheating, are common on this squad.
Strike one, strike two, striiiiiiiiike three! Yer out!
Right? Um, well…. No.
Vincenzo ‘BrassNeck’ Nibali explained today why three positives on one team within three months of each other was not a problem at all, just in case you had the cheek to ever entertain that ridiculous idea.
“I don’t think there are big problems for Astana’s licence,” said the 29-year-old.
“The incidents that happened concern the Iglinskiy family, it’s a separate thing. As a team we can’t respond to what two brothers got up to. As for the last one (Davidenok), he’s not one of ours, he’s part of the Continental team and is not managed by us but by someone else.
“Certainly things happened a few years ago but the team has changed and it’s also my responsibility to give more clarity on my part. But there is great serenity in the team in terms of my way of racing and my sporting seriousness in these years.”
So, all ok. Phew. Serenity now!
(Nibali in the back seat…)
And here I was thinking it was a proper disaster over on the weird blue and yellow bus. Apparently, it was never thus. As long as the two guys that get caught within days of each other are related, it has nothing to do with the team. Next we’ll be hearing that Davidenok is a second cousin, and all will be swept right under that bulging Kazakh carpet that’s already reminiscent of a boa that’s just swallowed a large wild pig.
Imagine a football team or a rugby squad that had three positive tests in a month, two from first team players and another from the youth academy. Would the same bilge be dished out by a teammate – as is here by Nibali, whose disingenuous claptrap is doing him no favors at all – in that situation?
It might, but no one would buy it. But cycling is different you see. We are infected like a piece of rotting flesh by a culture that constantly and immediately apologizes for those responsible for this never-ending trail of cheating. And lo, if Astana wriggle free from this one who would really be too surprised by that?
“Certainly things happened a few years ago but the team has changed,” said Nibali as he rubbed a dollop of metal polish into his gleaming neck, completely ignoring the fact that the in latest infractions in Astana’s grubby ‘past’ was uncovered just hours earlier.
Let’s hope he gets that myopia seen to soon or at this rate, he’ll be falling off his bike at every corner.
In all seriousness, if ever there was an instance of a rider having the right to demand to move off a team that has been shown to produce dopers, it is here and now.
Nibali won many admirers for his ride in the 2014 Tour de France, and there was a groundswell of opinion that he may have been doing it clean too. Or cleaner. So where does that go now? Why, it has to be asked, would he not distance himself from all this rather than spew out statements that a five year old could contradict within seconds?
Upon hearing the news that the UCI was thinking of reviewing Astana’s ProTour license, Alexander Vinokourov, former doper himself and the man behind the team jumped off the merry-go-round, spat his dummy out and proceeded to have a full blown tantrum right in the middle of the playground.
“I don’t see why the team should have to pay for the stupidity of two [er, three – cp.] riders. The rules are the same for everybody and the commission will decide if we are working correctly or not.”
Let’s hope so Vino, for it would make a change to see a cycling commission do the right thing.
He then spoke of his own suspension for blood doping, saying that he felt that he and his team were being punished still as a result of it.
“I paid for it with my two-year suspension. I can’t pay for it all my life,” he said.
Well, let’s add the doping past (that he never admitted to in any case), along with the fact that the UCI, on August 20th this year, charged him and Alexander Kolobnev with bribery after Vino allegedly paid Kolobnev 150,000 euro to throw the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and the fact that he has now three doped riders on his current squad and, well, it’s all a little more serious than the 2007 positive.
“Maybe I was too naïve about the Kazakh riders on the team sometimes. It’s been a big lesson. When you’re a manager you have to be very strict with your riders,” he said, blissfully unaware of the ridiculousness of that statement.
How can a rider who once doped (and is from Kazakhstan!) be ‘naïve’ about riders from Kazahkstan on his own team? And was it just the Kazakh riders, Vino? Roman Kreuziger’s recent doping brouhaha (of which he was cleared by the Czech authorities but which the UCI and WADA will appeal) stems from his time at – you guessed it – Astana.
Here is the point that Vino is missing. He was a professional rider and a very successful one. Then he was shown to be doping and thrown out for two years. Then he came back and won the Olympic road race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Then he moved into management with Astana and became even more wildly popular in his home country, where, it is rumoured, he will one day run for president. And he’s loaded.
What in that story does not tell you that doping pays?
What in the Alexander Vinokourov StoryBook would suggest to a young rider that it is worth taking the chance? Two years out does not seem to big a price to pay for the riches, the wins, the success, the love. And even if you do get kicked out for good you can still find many a team willing to pay you top dollar for your ‘experience’.
The UCI it seems, might finally be ready to flex its muscles. Let’s hope they follow through, because this is a mess that needs cleaning up, and it is one that they are largely responsible for.