Archive | Dopage RSS feed for this section

Deconstructing Self-Destruction

1 Feb

I got into a little Twitter dust-up this weekend with VeloNews’ John Bradley. It wasn’t on purpose—yes, I did tweet a rebuke at him, but it was based largely on my misinterpreting something he’d written.

He responded strongly—justifiably so, I think—and I apologized, attempting to explain where I’d missed his point. I don’t know John personally, but I like what he’s done in the past, and I think he brings a skillset that really shores up some of Velo’s soft spots. I had, and continue to have, no interest in antagonizing him.

That said, I was a little disappointed by his commentary that same day on cycling’s supposed “Self-Destruction”—of which Femke Van den Driessche’s motorized bike is apparently just the latest example.

There wasn’t anything inaccurate or offensive or lacking about the piece per se (I certainly didn’t dislike it as much as some people did—though they later made up) and it certainly covered some ground every long-term fan can relate to.

But this one line sums up what I found so sour:

“Cycling is not the most corrupt of sports, but it is one that the masses don’t understand.”

Now, for contrast, here is a screenshot of the VeloNews homepage from earlier today:
Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 10.10.08 AM

(click image for big)

There isn’t a lot of what I’d refer to as content that will help people develop an understanding of racing.

I hasten to add that VN’s recap article on the men’s race was quite good, but it’s practically buried less than 24 hours later, and there’s nothing in terms of deeper analysis on a race that delivered the blend of hell-bent carnage and nail-biting tactics that should have the sport’s journal of record salivating.

If “the masses” don’t get the awesome aspects of racing on the homepage of the biggest cycling publication in the US, then where the heck are they supposed to find them? As Bradley himself notes, it’s not going to be in SBNation or the New York Times.

On the off-chance a mainstream writer gets a tip to check VeloNews, they’ll see only headline after headline on a rule-breaking DNF in the women’s U23 race, a bit on a disappointed US Champ, something about a guy being spit on, and nothing on what made #CXZolder16 awesome.

It’s not that cycling-aware writers aren’t always lurking out in the larger publishing world—Sam Abt famously brought the sport to NYT and the International Herald Tribune between copyedits. But the few out there who do get it aren’t getting paid for analysis beyond humping eyeballs for the story’s semiquaver of relevance. Only a concerted effort by the publications they reference will sway headlines from the vapid quick hit.

This isn’t meant to be a rip on Bradley or VeloNews, just a nudge that cycling fandom and reportage do not have to be cast as this hopeless cycle of self-destruction. There’s plenty I don’t know about editorial, but I’ve worked for advocacy groups and political campaigns. Messaging and framing drive the marketplace of opinion, and there’s all the more hunger for context when the optics are blandly and obviously bad.

It’s not like Velo couldn’t do this—I mean, the content exists already. Andrew Hood’s article on the evolution of the UCI’s motor checks does fantastic work putting The Femke Affair into the context general publications so desperately need, and I have reason to believe that Dan Seaton will be producing another of his striking and accessible photo essays on the World Championships (update: delivered).

But I always seem to sense this notion across the cycling press, a kind of chicken-and-egg thing, that no one understands the sport, because explanations of why it’s awesome can’t be made, because no one will read them, because no one understands the sport. And that dogma is as wrong as it is self-defeating.

I cannot tell you how many comments I get about HTRWW getting absolute n00bs into watching bike races, and c’mon—CXHairs delivers the meat of what makes people want to watch in seconds-long clips on a pretty much daily basis. The van der Haar pass requires neither background knowledge or explanation—and 1400+ Instagram users will back me up on that.

A video posted by In The Crosshairs (@cxhairs) on

So I guess the self-destructive cycle I see here isn’t so much within the sport, but in the way its covered. I mean, when a moto-cheater gets caught after years of concerted attempts at moto-cheater-catching, that feels to me like cause for minor celebration, a footnote to a marquee event that absolutely delivered.

But when literally the day after one of the best races in recent memory, the lead pieces are gear testing and mechanical doping, you can see where I stumbled into the cynical misunderstanding that started this piece: “racing is a downer, let’s be stoked about our advertisers instead”.

Improving the "Credibility" of the MPCC

29 Mar

Script

(not verbatim, contains typos, and sometimes I go off-book)

What is the definition of credibility? In cycling, the term has largely become what you are not.  I am not glibly big-ringing myself to the top of Hautacam. I am not suing the living daylights out of every journalist and assistant who dares suggest that I used performance enhancing drugs.  I am not driving a car load of hormones and EPO across France for my sick mother-in-law.

I but I think it’s never a good idea to define yourself as a negative. I did not have sexual relations with that woman. I do not recall approving a shipment of Hawk missiles to Iran.  I was careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack on America.

And thus it’s somewhat alarming to be barraged by a steady stream of what cyclists are not doing—even if, for the first time in recent memory, we have fairly solid reasons to believe they actually aren’t doing it.  But more alarmingly, the one body in cycling that is focused on racing clean—instead of catching people who are racing dirty—isn’t doing a whole lot to convince the rest of the world of i’s own credibility. I am speaking, of course, about the MPCC.

It pains me, somewhat, to put this organization in my crosshairs. After all, they were anti-doping before anti-doping was cool—formed in 2007  when only two Tour de France winners had been unceremoniously stripped of their titles post-race and when Lance Armstrong had still felt bad because we didn’t believe in miracles.. And to judge from their website—the snappily-titled domain is MPCC.unblog.fr—we’re still back in mid aughts sometime.

Now get that having your own domain name can be tricky—so it’s completely fair to start your site a place like unblog or blogspot or tumblr.

But after a certain point—when you start to get a critical mass of membership, when you start soliciting donations, when you have a reasonable expectation that media sites might start using you as a resource—it’s time to step it up to a “real” website, free from anyone else’s branding. The first thing I think when I see the MPCC’s site is “these guys are a disorganized bunch of doofers”. it doesn’t help that the site is exclusively in French, but I’m going to get to that later.

Let’s start by going back to the earliest entries on this page, from 2007. Where you might expect to find some sort of founding charter, or statement of principle we instead have a list of teams—several of which have different names or longer exist,  and a reference to a previous document—a never-enacted ethical charter discussed in 2005—which…I guess I’m supposed to spend another 20 minutes googling.

Scrolling up the page, I see a word doc press release and a bunch of organziational minutes articles requiring something called a “mot de passe”. Which…I mean, are you kidding me? Rasmussen has gotten in front of a camera and given down to the day details on his doping from at this exact moment in history, and yet you still can’t be bothered to let anyone else read your  meeting minutes? If that doesn’t scream credibility, I don’t know what does.

So let’s check out the “about page and—holy crap, some English!—nice! “Noticing that the decisions, relative to the ethics of their sport, and taken unanimously, by the”—ugh, look guys, I appreciate effort, but this isn’t how the language works. Subject, verb, object, repeat, it’s very simple. Lemme see if I can parse this down…”The Managers gathered to create a movement to operate any necessary means”. Yeah, I think you’re still going to have to workshop that.

But hey—you’ve got wristbands and a snappy slogan—”le Dopage ce suffit!”. That actually sounds pretty cool. And there are english ones to—”Doping that’s enough”. Look, as Inner Ring already pointed out that’s dangerously easy to suffix— Doping that’s enough…to win the Tour de France”. “Doping that’s enough…to make it as a professional cyclist”—but more concerningly, the idiom in English really carries a connotation that there is some acceptable limit to whatever it is that you’ve done enough of.

For example, if I were pouring milk on someone’s breakfast cereal, when I got to a certain point they’d say “that’s enough milk” and I’d stop pouring. But then next morning, if I began pouring milk on their cereal again, they wouldn’t be like “whoa, what are you doing!? I told you yesterday that was enough milk.” They’d sit there and watch me pour it until they had what they considered an acceptable level, and then they’d say “that’s enough”.

And while the phrase isn’t antiquated by any means, it does sound a bit like something the father character in a 1950s family sitcom would say to a rambunctious child, perhaps while smoking a pipe and taking the evening edition of the Post from his favorite easy chair. And haven’t we already gotten enough of that parochial bullshit from the UCI?

And it’s not just the website that’s the problem. Your Wikipedia page—that’s Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia that anyone can edit, hint, hint—is all of three sentences long. Jon Vaughters, one of your more actively involved managers recently couldn’t say much about your group other than it was kind of like “a religion”—not a particularly compelling statement to a fan base repeatedly burned by taking things on faith.

But the real problem here isn’t what your current internet presence says to the fanbase. It’s what it says to people who might otherwise be fans, but who are put off by the stream of cyclist-on-drugs stories they get from lazy media outlets. Or worse, what it says to lazy reporters from

those lazy media outlets attempt to paint a balanced picture of the current state of affairs. And worst of all, it’s a readymade punchline for douchebag snark merchants like Deadspin.com.

So here’s what you gotta do, MPCC:

  1. Hire a real live Anglophone to translate your site. I respect that your organization was founded by French teams at a French race after a decade of French managers and riders had suffered the “peloton at two speeds.” But your sport is international, your mission is international, and your audience is international. Crisp, comprehensible English is the best way to reach as many of these people as possible.
  2. A mission statement. Talking points. An elevator pitch, something—anything but the “we agree with this previous thing that didn’t get approved” that currently serves as your group’s raison d’etre. “Le Dopage ça suffit” at least sounds like you have the political will and marketing ability to steer yourself in that direction, though as a monoglot, I can’t really say for certain.
  3. Protect your brand. MPCC is far too ambiguous to serve as a sole identifier, and already digital properties that should be yours are already pointing elsewhere. Crediblecycling.com, for example, points to a Facebook page with similar goals as your organization, but apparently no direct affiliation. if you’re going to be the central authority on the fact that clean bicycling racing is taking place, you can’t have have this sort off-message fragmentation—Wikipedia pages included.

And just to show that I really do believe in both the mission of your organization and the viability of my suggestions, I have purchased two domain names to advance the cause: crediblecycing.org and cyclismecredible.fr—which like most French things was far more expensive and almost certainly less useful.

These domains currently point to this rant page, but I will, upon adoptation of suggestions one and two above, be happy to apply them to your shiny new, useful website,  or donate fully them to your organization to be used in any way you see fit. Just send me an email–cosmo@cyclocosm.com.

On Dave Brailsford and "Innuendo"

14 Mar

Transcript

Hey there Internets—as I mentioned on Monday, I’m a little cranky this week and so I figured, what with my ample amounts of free time and top shelf home production facility, I might as well turn some of that angst into entertaining multimedia web content.

So I guess I want my first rant to be me going on record that I think Dave Brailsford is so right to hit back against the “innuendo’ directed at Team Sky from the “internet”. It’s so unfair that Brailsford’s squad should face this sort of thing —why I can’t think of another cyclist or team that anyone has ever associated with doping. And as for the Internet, it’s so out-of-place that they’d expressed an unfounded, mean spirited opinion about…nah, sorry bro—I’m [expletive] with you.  

Dave, I shouldn’t have to tell you—actually, I know I don’t have to tell you, I’m just doing it so as to make you look ridiculous—that since 1995, there are only three Tour de France winners—Carlos Sastre, Cadel Evans and your boy Wiggo—that haven’t been sanctioned, convicted, or through some method of due process definitively linked doping. In other words, my friend, innuendo comes with the fruitbowl.

But as someone who “writes things” on the “internet”, let me address your concerns more directly. First, this “Innuendo” as you put it, or the coy suggestion, often leveraged in the pursuit of humor, that your team might be doing so well due to the use of performance enhancing drugs is completely fair.  No one owes you taking you at your word just cuz—and frankly, you haven’t done much to engender faith in yourself.

You made a lot of noise coming  onto the scene about how you were going to do it differently, cleanly with doctors from the UK, or at least outside the european road scene. And for the most part, I think the reception was positive, if somewhat skeptical.  But you know, two years later, twenty-eleven Vuelta, you’ve hired a Geert Leinders, a career cycling doc, who probably doped one of your then-directeurs sportif, Stephen DeJongh back when they were both at Rabobank, and suddenly, some Kenyan kid no one had ever heard of outperforming your prize pig in the third biggest race in cycling. Give us a reason other than “because I said so” not to connect those dots.

And really this—THIS—is where you’ve screwed it up the most, Dave—communication. You couldn’t communicate hazing to a fratboy. When Leinders’ name started coming up last July, you didn’t immediately fire the dude. When people reminded you about him in September, you said (and I’m quoting) “I think we’re working on it”; by October, he was out the door, but you asserted that ”nothing wrong” had happened. It was not until earlier this week, practically 10 months later, that you took that one, that first step toward accountability and said that hiring the guy “was a mistake”.

But that’s ok, Dave, that’s ok. Because I’m here to help you. Believe it or not, I really like cycling, I want these rants to be as productive as they are entertaining. And most of all, I want to communicate the desires of cycling fans who actually buy the products sprawled across the jerseys of the spandex-clad denizens you command.

You want to get the Internet fanbase off your back? Follow this one rule: ask What Would Lance Armstrong Have Done, and then do the opposite.

You see, you’ve really backed yourself into this combative, us-or-them relationship with these vast groups of others “the media” “journalists” “the internet” “wankers”, and you just, you can’t hang out there. When you say “There are plenty of journalists who like to think that we’re at it”, you’re casting the very same “unfair” aspersions you decry in your online detractors. Nobody wants to think you’re “at it”; they want to think that you’re winning races because of brilliant tactics, clean, smart, training, and the best support crew money can by.

Maybe this stark dualism has the same root as your zero-tolerance policy—but I swear it really is possible to be “half-a-cheat”. Erik Zabel, for example, who mentored Mark Cavendish—winner of over half your team’s races last year—has admitted to doping early in his career and yet is otherwise known for being square and unassailable as his iconic flat-top haircut. David Millar, Damiano Cunego, essentially every American cyclist aged 30 or over—has dabbled in drugs, and managed to move on.

Some other Armstrong Manouvers you might want to cull from your playbook? Stop referencing irrelevant results—like saying 15 years leading a team to  dominance in three-minutes track events somehow equals clean Tour de France success. And hard work. Sure, it can be the difference, and sure, cycling has it’s share of Ivan Quarantas and Dario Pieris, but don’t insult your opponents work ethic and your fans intelligence by saying your rider won a race because he “wanted it more”.

So yeah—if you have any interest in improving things on the communications from, here are some next steps:

  1. explain, in detail, how an apparently dyed-in-the-wool dope doc like Leinders slipped through your extensive vetting program. You should do this with facts: how many other doctors did you consider, what criteria were used in a final decision, can anyone verify these things, etc.
  2. Ditch your zero tolerance policy. Everyone—even Wiggins—thinks its a stupid idea that perpetuates the Omerta and the sense that getting caught slash confessing is the real shame in doping, not the actual act itself. This way, you won’t have young, impressionable riders surrounded by dudes like Dario Cioni, who almost certainly has a past to talk about, but who can’t be honest for fear of losing his job.
  3. Do not take anything personally. It’s not personal. After the past 15 years, anyone in this sport thinking they’re going  get even the suggestion of the benefit of the doubt, is completely ignorant or clinically delusional. You’re going to be scathed, criticised, browbeaten, picked on, picked over and no matter how clean you are or transparent your make your process, some people will still not be convinced.

But given the still-radioactive fallout left over from the alternative, I don’t see how you can say that that’s not a very good thing.

A New Year’s Resolution for Cycling

27 Dec

Nys Rides the Sand

Not dodging anything, just a little body english / by PelgrimsPlekke, cc-by-nc

I consider myself among the more optimistic commentators as far as cycling and doping go. But as the year wraps up, I can’t help but think a nice Resolution for the sport might be to stop asking me to ignore what a more cynical man might call “the obvious”.

Consider the example of Sven Nys, who won yesterday’s World Cup in Zolder in a not-exactly-unpredictable fashion. This same Sven Nys rode the first decade of his career on a Rabobank team that’s alleged to have had an in-house doping program, and at the very least, explicitly tolerated doping for the sweeping majority of the Belgian’s time there.

In fact, when Nys finally did announce plans to jump ship to Landbouwkredeit (after an introduction from confessed doper Filip Meirhaeghe), it came just a few months after the Rabobank team had conducted a thorough investigation and sweeping internal changes in the wake of the Rasmussen Debacle. (more…)

Rabobank Brings the Fight to Aigle

25 Oct

“We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport. We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future.”

Rabobank, on their departure as a professional cycling sponsor

Rabobank team car

We’ll be seeing you later…or will we? / by Gerard Stolk, cc-by-nc

That about sums it up.

As someone who has advocated, and continues to advocate, that cycling is getting better when it comes to drugs, it’s slightly painful to agree with that statement. Maybe this is how Fatty felt when he finally faced the music. Regardless, I can’t find any fault with Rabobank’s assessment—and I’m the sort who believes there’s no such thing as bad press.

Since my last post, I’ve been trying to come up with something else to say. Something that wasn’t furious, or venting, or profanity-laced; something constructive, beyond retreading the obvious and occasionally malevolent ineptitude at the top of the sport, and the deception and chaos this has wrought below. And I think Rabobank beat me to it.

The only way cycling can begin to restore credibility is through more sponsors following Rabobank’s lead.

I don’t mean sponsors should simply bail from cycling. Quite the opposite, really—Rabobank’s exit was a tactical masterpiece. Cessations of cycling sponsorships have historically been messy, catastrophic affairs—a phony check, a sea of rumors, riders high and dry. Rabobank’s staged withdrawl, which continues to pay existing contracts without brand representation, is the antithesis of these historical collapses.

More tellingly, Rabobank is continuing to remain connected to its cycling initiatives unencumbered by the UCI—amateur squads, development, and youth programs. The sound bite at the heart of its press release even targets the UCI in the most-certain terms possible (“international professional world of cycling”) without risking any undue attention from Aigle’s notoriously busy legal team. The message here is clearly “Pro-cycling, anti-UCI”.

While painful and heavy-handed, this approach leverages the rest of the world’s only representation in Aigle’s kangaroo court: money. By writ, the UCI is beholden only to the IOC, but as they’ve shown in their dust-ups with teams over radios and the Tour of Beijing, and with the Grand Tours over TV rights, their pocketbook can be a useful pain point.

The UCI is Useless Shirt

Remember back when this (still available) shirt was produced in jest? Click through to learn more.

If I were a major sponsor, or even a man with access to funding and an inclination to support the sport—not to name names, but someone along the lines of @dbrogan or @holowesko—I might go so far as to place some very public hunks of cash into a trust fund, to be invested in a UCI team upon the resignation or removal of Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen from the governing body.

Because, frankly, it is impossible to believe there will be any change while the current regime in Aigle is in charge. McQuaid’s recent sentiments declare whistleblowers to be “scumbags”, and have effectively said that if we can’t detect doping, then it’s OK not to catch dopers. It’s the same blind-eyed (how many positives would a 53% HCT limit really return?), kill-the-messenger (study the UCI reaction to Jesus Manzano in 2005) approach that’s worked the sport into this ugly little quagmire.

It won’t take long for there to be an impact—another two or three sponsors or potential sponsors, of the big, multi-national sort that the ProTour was invented to attract—will make it clear that professional cycling cannot be financially tenable until the UCI cleans house. But until sponsors start voting with their checkbooks, the UCI can continue to insist that they, as guardians of this sport, have nothing to atone for.

"No Comment" is the New Doping

30 Aug

Lance Armstrong looking grumpy at the start of a TT

Fine—I’ll just do non-ITU Triathlons / by Kevin Saunders, cc-by-nd

There’s an easy way to make a million people agree with you—present an argument that’s both simple and entirely compatible with their existing values.

An example: A man is suspected of burglary. He has left fingerprints near, but not at, a number of crime scenes, 11 friends are willing to testify against him, but the suspect has never been caught in the act of robbing a house. Should the state press charges?

It’s hardly a moral dilemma, and you’d certainly be hard-up to find many people who’d call it unjust. And yet, last Thursday a suspected burglar convicted doper effectively pled “no contest” after the authorities brought just such a charge, and in the process convinced millions that not only was this slam-dunk of a case a witch hunt, it was somehow “#unconstitutional” as well.

(more…)

Saxo Bank Stress Test is a Self-Defeating Effort

14 Feb

Saxo Bank director Bjarne Riis and Alberto Contador

Don't worry, Bertie. We're still friends / DancingOnThePedals.net, cc-by-nd

It’s a welcome change each February to watch the lead stories in cycling move from the minutia of law and bio-pharmacology to the nuance and verve of actual bicycle racing. The wild line-changing leading into a bunch sprint, fading desperation of the second echelon, and poker-playing as a break pulls itself appart before the finish are the sort of nuanced, dynamic things that make bike racing an interesting sport.

You’d think that an organization entrusted with the management of such a sport would strive to cultivate an appreciation of these things. But the UCI seems to see the situation differently. In even holding court over whether or not Saxo Bank should retain its World Tour license, the UCI is essentially saying that only the winner of a WorldTour bike race should receive credit for the victory.
(more…)

The Spanish Cycling Bubble

24 Jan

Hey remember me? I was on Vuelta podium...for like a week. / Rafael Uñach, cc-nd-nc

I was on Vuelta podium...for like a week. / Rafael Uñach, cc-nd-nc

20% unemployment. Massive cutbacks in public funding. A looming credit downgrade. There’s no question that “La Crisis” marks a major threat to the fortunes of the Spanish peloton. But if recent history is any indication, the increasing internationalization of cycling will force a near-total collapse of the Spanish peloton in the next few years, if the nation can’t take the management of its doping cases more seriously.

Let’s start in Germany in 2010: after some 14 years at the forefront of the sport—reference Erik Zabel’s 6 green jerseys, Team Telekom’s two Tour wins, and the perpetual candidacy of Jan Ullrich—the most powerful nation in Europe found itself without a single top-level squad. There are plenty of fingers to point, but the German economy, having recovered smartly from the Crisis of ’08, seems an unlikely culprit.

(more…)

The Piti of an Unrepentant Valverde

10 Jan

“[T]hey wouldn’t even do that to a criminal. None of what they did was legal”
-Alejandro Valverde

It’s tough to imagine a doping scandal more fraught with irony than Operacion Puerto. Even before it had a name, the fantastic contradictions were there; Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes ran a doping ring where he saw his job as ensuring “that riders could put up with the physical demands being made of them”, but a client alleging his health had been ruined by the treatments was what finally blew the lid.

Two years later, when the scandal finally broke, the investigation proved itself an embarrassment to nearly everyone involved—Fuentes, who could have better concealed his clients’ names with a cereal box decoder ring; the Guardia Civil, who revealed their investigative skills outstripped in ineptitude only by their inability to prevent leaks; the riders themselves, caught red-handed; and the Spanish courts and anti-doping officials, for being unable to drive home a slam-dunk case.

Manolo Saiz

Is that 50,000 EUR in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? / pd, wikimedia commons

Most embarrassed of all were the ASO, organizers of the Tour de France, who now had to host a race where everyone even remotely considered a favorite had run on the front page of every sport daily from Lisbon to Kiev in a photo collage of blood bags and syringes.

The Tour’s response to Operacion Puerto was blunt and idiotic: cajole any TdF teams with riders implicated in the scandal to voluntarily withdraw them before the race. I’ve scattered ample pixels already on the inequity of this—let’s just say I found it wonderfully poetic when Floyd Landis’ late-race urine sample came up positive a few days after the Tour finish, giving the ASO the very “Tour Winner Was Actually On Drugs” headlines their pre-race purges had been conducted to avoid.

Strangely enough, Valverde could have saved the Tour organization from this embarrassment. While no one can say for certain what would have happend if the Spaniard hadn’t broken his collarbone in a mundane crash on Stage 3, Valverde had long gotten the better of Landis in the mountains, and his 5th place finish in the dead flat ’06 prologue was as brilliant as it was suspicious. It’s the opinion of this humble commentator that the 2006 Tour was Valverde’s race to lose.

Still, I hesitate to call Valverde’s crash “bad luck”. While Puerto left entire teams fluttering in the wind, Valverde healed up and battled gamely for the Vuelta title—holding the leaders jersey and taking a stage win in the process—before making the podium at the World Championships later that year. Puerto fallout continued into 2007, as investigations pinned Ullrich to hijo rudico and retirement, while Basso, accorded no other option by investigations in Italy, made the ludicrous claim that he didn’t inhale—but Valverde kept right on riding.

In fact, from the day some Spanish cop found a bag labelled “val.(piti)” to 2009, Valverde’s right-to-ride encountered only one major challenge: the Germans attempting to keep him from riding at the ’07 Worlds in Stuttgart, a prohibition summarily overturned by the CAS. When you’re riding dirty, it sure doesn’t hurt to have your national cycling federation, and indeed, your country’s entire judicial system willing to bend the rules on your behalf

For all of McQuaid’s flack about “mafia nations” it was the Italians who finally clipped Valverde’s wings, matching DNA taken from a rest day sample at the 2008 Tour to DNA in the EPO-laced Bag 18 seized at Operation Puerto. After another year of trial and appeal, the CAS concurred with the Italians, and slapped a two year ban on Valverde, backdated to the beginning of 2010.

To recap: Valverde, for a bag of blood that showed he’d been cheating in 2006, got 18 months off racing, a few results scratched from the records books, and four years of otherwise unencumbered competition, during which he amassed palmares including—but hardly limited to—a Vuelta, a Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a San Sebastien, and two Tour stages. And somehow, this is his idea of rough justice.

There have been a few interesting reactions to Valverde’s unrepentant stance. Joe Lindsey respects the blunt, twisted honesty of it, while @inrng sees holding the Armstrong line as a media management mistake and a bad example. But for me, the biggest problem of Valverde’s response is the delusional excoriation of the very system whose assumptions of innocence let him continue to ride.

Valverde’s sanction wasn’t the result of nefarious forces arrayed against him—it was the product of being extended the benefit of every doubt available. For anyone who missed Tyler Hamilton’s appearance on 60 Minutes, Valverde’s continued sense of persecution might be the best example of the insidious self-deception that is so often the byproduct of an artificially high hematocrit.

The Dissatisfying Taste of Due Process in the Contador Case

21 Nov

Contador sprays spumante in the Maglia Rosa

Don't worry, Nibs—plenty of bubbly left / Jacinto Vidarte, nc-by-sa

Seventeen months after testing positive for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador—or rather, those who seek to have him punished—will finally have their day in court. After a provisional suspension, a one-year suspension recommendation, a surprising clearing of all charges, and more delays than I care to Google, the sport will get a final answer on whether or not all the wins Contador has collected since last July will actually count.

Previous CAS decisions strongly suggest the outcome will not be favorable for Contador. Alessandro Petacchi had been cleared to compete by his national federation when the CAS restored a one-year sentence agaisnt him for turning up too much of a substance for which he already had a TUE. Even more forebodingly, the panel actually extended a suspension against Danilo Hondo when he appealed a one-year national federation sentence.
(more…)