From today’s The Guardian, and excellent article by the first British winner of the Tour de France (sorry Sir Wiggo) and former Olympic and World Champ, Nicole Cooke, on CIRC, TUEs and the curious selective hearing of the authorities when it comes to doping.
Click the image below to head to the article.
Nicole Cooke says ‘no more heroes’ but, truth be told, she is one of mine. And to top all that off, she is so damn nice too. I met Nicole through her dad Tony, who responded to an article of mine which was on about how the bad guys get Gran Fraudos but the clean folk get nothing, like Obree and Nicole, and how much that sucks.
He sent me an email next day which said:
“If you’re interested in talking to Nicole perhaps I could set that up, I know her quite well.
Tony (Nicole’s dad)”
if i told you there was a mountain that was 105km long and that the last 8km averaged 17.5% would you believe me? unless you’ve heard of the Taiwan KOM Challenge, probably not. but yes, such a beast exists. this Saturday, the 15th of November, a bunch of hardy, wonderful and essentially mad souls are gonna race up the monster that is Mt. Wuling in central Taiwan.
i’ve raced it twice and trained up it against my will one other time and let me tell you, this is open heart surgery without anaesthetic. from just about ground zero to 3,275 meters, this is, and i say this without hesitation, the hardest mountain climb in the world. the last km averages over 20%. when i last raced it in 2012, a guy came up to me after and said “oh i almost caught you, i was only 500m behind.” i looked at the time and he was 4 minutes plus behind. that is jut about how long the last 500m takes. i keep banging on about this race because i am the Director of International Communications of it and also the official coach, but also because as a cyclist, i know that this achingly beautiful and painful mountain really should be ridden once – just once – by anyone who has ever slapped arse lube into their shorts. today was the official press conference of an event that has a total prize pot of over $100,000US and a first prize for the hombres of $38,000US. we also have dope testing and an official policy that bars any rider who has served a suspension for doping at any time in his or her past.
you’ll hear a lot more about this race because it will become the Unofficial World Hill Climb Championship in time, attracting the world’s very best climbers. today was the official press conference, featuring the invited riders and journalists, including the 2014 Tour of California KOM and Stage 4 winner Will Routley, Specialized-lululemon’s Tiffany Cromwell and, as a journalist, former World, Olympic, women’s Tour de France and Giro winner Nicole Cooke. enjoy the photos, more to come as the week goes on.
i’m not a sycophant – well maybe for Ma CrankPunk (yes she gets caps), because She Is The Greatest – but when Nicole Cooke rocks into town even i get a little starstruck.
World & Olympic champ, winner of the Giro, the Tour, Flanders and on and on, there at Taichung train station i strolled up to shake hands with one of the greatest riders of all time, period.
and not only that, she did it all clean and against some serious odds.
gracious to a T and friendly to boot, the last i saw of her she was off in speeding taxi with an address written in Chinese to go look at a field full of flowers, a photo of which she had seen in the in-flight magazine on the way here to cover the Taiwan KOM Challenge for the UK’s CyclingPlus magazine. she’d arrived at 3am and hadn’t slept before making the journey from Taipei to visit the factory of one of my sponsors, LEZYNE.
she has some energy.
Nicole’s interest ion getting in a factory visit whilst here comes from her cycling of course but also because she has just finished a Masters in Business Administration.
meeting us at Lezyne’s TW base was Uli Prokasky, Director of Marketing & Media, and Sam Chau, her colleague. they showed us around the offices, the warehouse and the assembly line – but not the R&D Dept., which was shielded behind a door that might have come from a Mission Impossible movie.
incredibly – tantalisingly – when i called Sam to arrange for us to visit at about 9:30 this morning he informed me that Uli was busy because she was in a meeting with Greg Lemond!
unfortunately he had left before we arrived. now that would have been a photo! Greg in a crankpunk tee, imagine that…
the Lezyne factory is famously clean, air-conditioned and well stocked out with Snickers (thanks guys). they also buy in lunch for all the staff and do the same for dinner if they have a rush on.
the quality of the product reflects the quality of the workforce, the design and the environment in which Lezyne stuff is produced. (i know, they do sponsor me, but this stuff rocks).
more on Nicole soon, we will get an interview done later this week.
In a weird, sad way, I’ve enjoyed watching the whole doping scandal unfold. It’s been somewhat cathartic, 20 years later, giving me a small, tiny feeling of vindication….but then again, not really.
More emphasis needs to be placed upon the System that facilitated this whole doping scandal, and how it has become so out of control. It really isn’t all about Lance (pun intended).
Lance was just the Golden Child that happened along, falling into the open arms of the United States Cycling Federation, currently USAC. The links that connect the main players, the likes of Eddy Borysewicz, Thom Weisel, Chris Carmichael and Jim Ochowicz have been covered up for years, and are best illustrated by the diagram below.
The Wall Street Journal article written by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell, entitled ‘New Twist In Armstrong Saga’ also, thankfully, has helped put things into perspective and is a must read for anyone trying to figure out exactly how incestuous this whole affair really is.
I don’t even know where to start writing about this insidious system. I am also well aware of the fact that I am not privy to all the information, but what I come away with from all this though is the firm conviction that these men, who have been controlling so much of the world of professional cycling, should be taken out of our sport.
They obviously own the sport. Thom Weisel and Jim Ochowicz managing the funds of the ex-President of the UCI, when he was still in charge? Thom Weisel putting in place the President of the USAC? Eddy B bringing in to US cycling the doping techniques he learned in the East? A famous coach ‘preparing’ young riders before races?
It’s so glaringly obvious that they need to be removed.
After reading the WSJ article, do you STILL think this is just about Lance?
He was just the fortunate golden child of the Big Boys, having fun being Boys.
Let’s dope the young kids coming up, tempt them with fame, money and drugs. Get them into The System, get them working, pull the strings, make money by any means necessary.
Starting to sound a bit like prostitution, isn’t it?
The Big Boys can slap themselves on the back, drunk with the giddiness of their power to control and manipulate ‘The System’ of cycling. They’ve been doing it for years. OUR beautiful sport. The one I desperately love! Just a toy for them. A toy for them to tear apart, to sully. Do you think they are fully aware of the damage they’ve done to our sport?
I wonder if they have that much self-awareness ?
I would welcome the public to help fight back by more emphasis being put on removing the Big Boys of ‘The System’. Not just the ones I’ve mentioned, but everyone implicated in this scam should be Black Listed.
It’s been too easy to point fingers at the riders. We need to be pointing our fingers at the Big Boys. I would like to invite the Bicycling Hall of Fame to take a good hard look at their roster of Inductees. Look at the men that have helped put this System together.
It takes courage to do the right thing, to take them out of the USA Hall of Fame. This would be a nice first step. Jail for these Big Boys would be a nice second step, but they seem to be above the law. I don’t believe that a cyclist that has a positive test in their history should be inducted either.
Only open the door to those who had and still have the courage to make the right choices in the face of adversity, otherwise, we, too, are complicit in the continuation of that line of thinking that goes: ‘It’s okay if you dope, we will forgive you’.
One can get caught with a small amount of marijuana and go to jail, but you can inject yourself with PED’s and just get a 6 month ban from your Federation? What’s wrong with this picture? Why are the coaches and directors pushing these drugs not looking at the same jail time that a drug dealer would face?
They are doping our children! Must we continue to count the number of athletes that have died or have health problems for us to realize just how harmful this is?
I’ve gotten some flack for my stance, people saying I should be more compassionate with those that get caught. Being told I should forgive. But when you put that needle in, it isn’t an accident.
I think the previous penalty of a 6 month ban was already pretty compassionate. It obviously didn’t work. Kinda like when a robber steals, a slap on the wrist probably won’t do much to stop his behavior. Potential jail time helps, doesn’t fix it, but at least there is a harsher consequence than a slap.
BUT, a cheating personality is a cheating personality, no matter what the consequence. Look at Philippe Gaumont, the French former pro who admitted to doping in a book in 2005 and who was recently hospitalized wit ‘unspecified heart problemns.’
http://www.velonation.com/News/ID/14439/Former-pro-Gaumont-in-a-coma-after-heart-attack.aspx I think the last paragraph of this article kinda spells out the mindset of those who choose to dope: “Although he has a wife and three children, Gaumount recently said that he hadn’t left the wild ways behind him completely. “
“I’ll never be on the right path. When I party, I do it completely,” he told 20minutes.fr in mid February. “If I want to kiss a girl, I’ll kiss a girl. The excesses are not finished. Besides, I’ve a big party this weekend for my 40th birthday.”
I believe that had Gaumount had a lifetime ban after his first infraction, he would still be healthy today to be a proper father and a husband. Do you still believe that a 6 month ban is appropriate? I’d like to talk to his wife and children and get their opinion. One could argue that our Cycling Federations are at fault for his current condition, for not enacting stronger penalties.
Think of all the Health Care Professionals that are at fault and called to account in the health care industry for not reporting or properly treating life threatening illnesses. Why shouldn’t our Federations be held to a higher standard too?
When a drug dealer sells drugs to our children, he does time in jail. I just bet they would love to be able to pay the victim and get the records sealed. Would you be okay with drug dealers convicted of shooting up your kid with drugs to pay a penalty fee, get the documents sealed and go back to dealing?
Yet, the men who doped Greg Stroak, without his knowledge, pay a penalty and get the documents sealed. We should be outraged about this! AGAIN, the penalties need to be changed!!!!
It is disturbing to see Spain allowing the destruction of evidence. This is evidence that could help clean up sports. I feel they, too, are complicit. At first, I thought Nicole Cook’s statement that they should be banned from hosting the Olympics was just too much. After thinking about this for a few days, I couldn’t agree more.
Why should a country that helps cover up doping be allowed to make money off the Olympics? Countries should also be held accountable for helping cleaning up the sport. Somehow, allowing them to host the Olympics seems like a stamp of approval for their cover up. Spain should be required to hand over the evidence in the effort to fight doping.
I believe that the U.S. International Olympic Committee should also vote against Madrid’s Olympic Bid.
Pat McQuaid was recently renominated for the UCI Presidentcy. I was left incredulous. Finally, after a bit of blowback, his nomination is being reevaluated.
It’s a start. I’ll take it.
When you put that syringe into the vial, either for yourself or an athlete, you should lose the right to continue to be a part of the sport. Any other profession has a code of ethics that must be followed. Cycling needs to step up to the plate and start writing a code of ethics for coaches, directors, sponsors, etc.
I challenge the pubic to actively call for stiffer penalties for those who dope and enable doping, and demand they lose their current position and any right to a future position in the sport.
Race Directors, please don’t invite them to cycling functions to be honorary guests and lead Gran Fondos.
Bicycling Hall of Fame, remove those that have doped or helped with the System of doping. Cycling bodies need to write a code of ethics not just the athletes but for everyone else involved in the sport too.
Fear will be one of the largest hurdles the public faces in the effort to fix our sport. Fear of taking a stand, fear of the loss of a job, fear of making enemies, fear of the judgments of others – and all in the name of taking the dopers out of our sport.
It seems so obvious that they should be removed from the sport. This is something we have to fight for, to provide a different, better and cleaner vision of the sport to our children., much like our forefathers fought for the changes in society and in law that allow us to live as we do today.
It seems so obvious now to us that black people should have been free men from the beginning, yet think of all the blood that was spilled over this difference of opinion. Women also fought desperately against the common thinking of the time and made many enemies in their quest to get the right to vote. Some even lost their lives.
Yet it seems so obvious, now, that women should have the vote.
I believe that we are at a similar crossroads with our sport today. It seems so obvious that any one, in any position, that has been part of the Doping System needs to be removed, yet we are resisting this move – being told to just forgive them, being told that they have a lot to contribute, that we need them to move forward.
I’ll forgive them once they are out of the sport. Until then, as I see it, they continue to do help facilitate doping even by merely being here, within the framework and fabric of the sport.
There is no one easy fix for what they have done to our sport. It will take many, many big and difficult steps to regain any real measure of dignity. This journey will be fraught with many battles, but the battles will be worth it if we can win the war against drugs and the business men that capitalize our athletes.
I seriously doubt many of those athletes, when they first jumped on the bike thought, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to take drugs.’
And yet look at the reality of their lives now.
GET THESE MEN OUT OF OUR SPORT.
Yes, OUR sport. They lost their privileges to the club a long time ago.
Inga Thompson was a professional cyclist from 1984 to 1993, during which time she rode in 3 Olympics, won National titles on 4 occasions, and finished 2nd in two World Championships. She can, as they say, ride a bit…
thanks for taking the time to reply _______, appreciate that.
i do feel that i did walk a bit in their shoes, at least half a mile, as did several other guys and women i know. personally for me, i spent 2 years in those shoes as a junior and aspiring pro when i was younger, and am doing that now too, racing in Asia against professionals. i race regularly with dopers. we know who they are, not all, but several. we hear the rumors, and the facts too. hushed up positives, whole teams disappearing for months, coming back super slow, guys winning by too many minutes over short distances, 5 guys on one team in the first 6 and so on.
but i, like hundreds if not thousands of others, make a choice every day not to dope. we are far from perfect but we will not cheat.
is that too black and white?
what can you do without dope? enough. you can certainly race and enioy the crap out of it, i know that. my 2nd career has been nothing more than a blip in the grand scheme of things, but i’ve had my own ‘successes’ – (none more than the fun i’ve had, btw). now, if i had doped? taking the extra 10-15% they reckon you get from EPO? in the tour i did where i got 2nd by 7 seconds, maybe i’d have won. when i got 5th by 2 minutes in another, maybe i’d have won. the 70km hill climb i lost by 10 seconds? maybe another win. on and on you could go, and i never do (until now, to make this pointless point) as it is pointless.
do i go home and punch the dog because of it? no. first of all my dog is dogdamn awesome and he lives for love, strolls, food and vigorous rubs from attractive woman (though not in that order). secondly, and this may sound odd from a competitive racer, winning is awesome but it is not what drives me. i love to crush souls and leave dreams mangled in the gutter, but i do this because it keeps me alive. and because i need the pain. i, like all my lycra brothers and sisters, am weird like that.
a win, if it comes, is a great bonus on top of what already feels like a success, just being able to line up on the start line.
i am not saying though that the guys who beat me in these instances doped (though in others, guys i stood and congratulated later were busted for EPO, an Aussie, an American, a South African and two Iranians, so far that i know), far from it, but if i had been doping, there is a high probability i’d have got back the time needed to win. and with it the prize money that went with it. and maybe a better contract this year…
but really, is that a ‘win,’ to win on juice? of course not. it’s defunct. moribund. kaput.
and those guys who did dope by the truckload in the 90s and early 2000s, you would be amazed to know how many are sick. strokes, heart attacks, all kinds of complaints.
the clean guys from that era that i know? nothing. very healthy middle aged men, and happy with that. most of them still ride many many miles a year and some still race, whereas some ex-dopers they knew then can barely leave the house now.
they hear and recount stories about their old peloton mates that would make your hair stand on end. failed kidneys, damaged livers, busted hearts. and the stories about what they saw then too, it was a proper cowboy operation at the beginning. these guys were the guinea pigs and now they are suffering the results. we may well see many current pros in the same boat in 20 years.
they are not winning anymore. that much is certain. there is a whole story to all this that no one hears. we just get Fignon and his cancer which he mused might be from dope. the Italian with cancer that went public and definitely blamed his C on the dope.
maybe an idea to talk to ex pros if you get chance. i know good, solid clean guys who carved careers out of hostile granite with nothing more than dessert spoons. they chipped and they persevered for almost no reward. think they feel cheated? you bet.
think they complain? generally no, because they knew the odds and resigned themselves to it. made the decision not to dope every day, whether consciously or sub-consciously, saw vials, saw needles, rubber hoses everywhere. tinkling mini-refrigerators being carried up hotel stairways. blood thinning agents stuffed next to bike kits. heck, it would have been easier to dope than not.
but they didn’t.
these are brave men and women who knew the big paycheck would never come but did it anyway, and for what?
for the love of it all. sounds stupid? naive? no way, never. they did it because they loved it, like a surfer loves the wave, a mountaineer the summit. that and for the sake of their health. it’s a simple question, but why would a human take something that has to be extracted (as HGH did then) from dead humans? why would a human take something designed for cattle and horses? I mean, really, what the f*ck?
the cheaters thought they were chumps for not cheating, but who is losing now?
persecution? get the lot of them out into the sun and let’s take a look at them. if this is winning then it is majorly f*cked up. i want 50 Tygarts, not just one.
personal agenda? don’t give a crap. LA had his for long enough, and man was it an agenda. he was a stone cold killer, and if you don’t see that he needed the same against him for all of us who gave a crap about the sport to get even close to breaking even, you’re fooling yourself.
that is worth repeating – we needed someone with the same single-minded determination, the same disregard for social niceties and reputation as Armstrong to bring him down. so when i hear people attacking the character of Tygart, i could not care less. he nailed the biggest cheat of all and it was beautiful, in the ugliest way. depressing, sad and demoralising in an uplifting, joyous and reinvigorating manner.
now, who’s going to do the same to LA’s partners-in-crime? we may be waiting forever, for that one. Anthony Moran stood up and felt he had to resign after the rest of the board let him down, let us down…
back to LA, it’s not about crucifying, what happened to him was not the result of a bunch of goodie-two-shoes whingeing and whining and gleefully getting their way in the end, not at all. it’s about penalising those who break the rules and – and this is so critical to the future of racing – about stopping young riders from following them. (damn, i’m so cranked i went into bold!).
where right now is the guiding light in the peloton? in the UCI? in the management? it’s all still full of ex-dopers, current dopers and a governing body that is more concerned with sticking around for a pension and milking the golden teet than anything else.
‘but hey,’ people say, ‘let it go.’ why? so they can win? so the sport becomes their plaything? who is going to push for the real changes we need implemented to rescue the sport? sadly, it seems to be laying right now, that responsibility, on a poorly organised and rather muddled bunch of normal cyclists, journalists and bloggers (and yes, i am calling myself muddled too, because i do not have all the answers as to what happens next, i just know that something must. and yet nothing is).
yes, the shortened bans for those who gave evidence against LA was wrong. they had to compromise to bring him down. is that wrong? yes. but look at what he and his cohorts did to the sport every single minute that they were active professionals, and especially Armstrong.
then that compromise doesn’t seem such a terrible price to pay.
so yes, it was right also to go after the biggest of them all – although the biggest, in reality, is up for re-election soon. and yet the sport stands by and twiddles its thumbs, because so many say ‘let it go.’ ‘stop whining.’ ‘shut up.’
and the riders? ‘well, the pressures of being a pro are terrible.’
give me a break.
Nicole Cooke had bigger balls than 90% of the male peloton. Inga Thompson too. on the male side, Graeme Obree, Bassons, and erm… wait, all those names… escape me… then all the Cat 1 and other ‘mediocre’ pro guys who were seriously good but refused to cheat to get up a level. all the kids who walked away. balls like KingflippingKong, cos they left the sport they loved or had to opt for a career without the payment their talent warranted. they still rode because they loved it, but the dopers attempted to humiliate them because they didn’t cheat.
they were derided and forced out.
i don’t like Armstrong the cyclist, Armstrong the public figure, because he cheated, because he destroyed other riders’ careers and those of anyone who challenged him, and because he is the sporting Nixon.
lying, cheating and screwing over anyone in his way is so ingrained in him that he saw nothing wrong in it. his truth was The Truth. any means whatsoever was justified by the end. watch Nixon’s resignation (‘I never cheated’) and then LA’s speech on the Champs, and it’s just a mask the Texan needs and Dick is resurrected.
did he warrant ‘destroying’, as many have put it?
let’s phrase the question differently – did he warrant having his public persona being exposed for what it was, a charade? did he warrant being stripped of his 7 Tour and other titles? did he warrant a ten year ban from WADA/IOC sanctioned sports? did he warrant having the fortune amassed through committing fraud taken back?
if that’s want you meant by destroying, then yes. without a pause, yes.
it would be great if LA went away and sorted himself out, repaired whatever damage has been done to his loved ones, especially his kids, and if he reached out genuinely to those he attacked so vociferously or donated half his millions to an independent drug test research facility, or something that would just do some good for the sport. but no, he’s knocking on the door again, glibly saying on Oprah that he didn’t call Betsy fat and that he doesn’t deserve a life sentence. hmm.
go, be good, get healthy, move on, best of luck to him. i wish him as a human no ill will, but his time here is over. along with The Others.
has to be.