- Article published:
- October 11, 2012, 19:55
- Daniel Benson
WADA director-general reacts to USADA report
While WADA and the UCI closely study the USADA's extensive report into Lance Armstrong and doping at the US Postal and Discovery teams, the question has arisen as to whether such a systematic doping regime could function in the current climate.
According to USADA’s evidence, the US Postal team ran “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”. Testimony from several riders illustrate that tactics of bullying and coercion were employed to ensure control and lure riders into the doping practices that helped Armstrong win seven straight Tours and dominate the face of cycling.
According to the evidence amassed by USADA, it was a global operation, with funds used to facilitate the purchase and distribution of doping products.
David Howman, Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency, is currently studying USADA’s report but called it “a very thorough and reasoned decision with luminous amounts of evidential material. I think USADA have conducted not only a co-compliant process but a very thorough and professional process,” he told Cyclingnews on Thursday.
Howman was unable to go into specifics of the case at this stage. WADA still have the right to appeal and there are other USADA cases still far from completion, including that against US Postal’s former team manager Johan Bruyneel. However the WADA head argued that the landscape had changed, comparing the 90s to the wildwest and pointing out that the WADA code, the cooperation with police forces and other measures had helped to tighten the noose around the necks of the cheats.
“In every sport there’s the ability for people to take shortcuts to succeed,” Howman said when Cyclingnews asked if a US Postal equivalent could exist within the current framework of cycling.
“I would be hopeful that it couldn’t because of the new methods and ideas we’ve put into the system in recent times, which includes gathering evidence from police, and customs and so on. So that if even these things were happening and be able to engage others to find out about it. That’s what I would hope.”
“But I’m also somewhat of a cynic and know that people get away with things right underneath your nose or will try and do that. So I wouldn’t be dumb enough to say it’s not happening, but I would say that there’s a better chance of finding it earlier in the campaign. You would think that with things in place now, a whiff of that would come to your notice, whether it’s through good investigative journalism, the police, or information and because of the harmonious efforts we make worldwide now you can feed that to people who can make use of it. I don’t it would exist for the extent of time that this one did.”
The US Postal team formed in 1997, competing in their debut Tour a year later and within another twelve months Lance Armstrong had won his first Tour. The American still denies doping and despite refusing to fight USADA charges has seen his seven Tour titles stripped.
How the US Postal team, and the majority of the peloton in that era were able to navigate around slack anti-doping laws at the time is still under debate. In his recent autobiography, former Postal rider Tyler Hamitlon explained how the team employed doctors who were better qualified and resourced than those tasked with running tests. WADA only came into being after the Festina scandal of 1998, with their code only receiving ratification by the UCI in 2004. This gave way to universal sport laws, that helped to unify sporting federations and nations.
Again Howman would not talk about the specifics of the USADA report, for example how the US anti-doping agency were able to come to the conclusion that Armstrong likely doped during the 2009 and 2010 Tours, but he also stressed that the UCI’s passport was still a decent tool in the development against doping.
“The code and the way in which WADA operated didn’t start until the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. Secondly WADA only came into existence because of a cycling saga in 1998. So there was a culture that was existing in cycling in the 90s that had to be addressed. It took a few years for that to come into being. At the time we had in the anti-doping community almost a situation of chaos where every sport had different rules. What was going on in those times was hardly better than the wild west,” he told Cyclingnews.
- Article published:
- October 11, 2012, 21:17
- Cycling News
Italian team defends its record on doping
The Liquigas-Cannondale team has issued a detailed and complex statement, denying claims by former rider Leonardo Bertagnolli that he was given permission by team management to work with Dr. Michele Ferrari.
Bertagnolli made the claims when questioned by police from Padua on May 18, 2011 as part of detailed investigations into Ferrari for USADA.
Bertagnolli said he asked the Liquigas-Cannondale team management and its team doctor if he could be followed by Ferrari because of a long-standing thyroid problem. He agreed to pay Ferrari 12,000 Euro for treatment in 2007 and spent time in St Moritz, training with other Liquigas riders. He said Ferrari told him how to take EPO to avoid detection in anti-doping tests. There is no mention in the six-page statement and subsequent phone taps of Ferrari treating Bertagnolli for his thyroid problem.
Bertagnolli specifically names Franco Pellizotti, Roman Kreuziger, Enrico Gasparotto and Francesco Chicchi and claims that he knew that his then-Liquigas teammates worked with Ferrari because they talked about it and the team knew about it. He claims that Ferrari explained how to carryout blood transfusions in 2008 and even advised him on the model of industrial fridge to buy to conserve the blood.
Liquigas-Cannondale claim in their statement that riders were formally asked who their personal coaches were in 2007 and then in late 2007 a clause was added to rider contracts banning them from using external coaches. The only exception was Ivan Basso, who was allowed to work with the late professor Aldo Sassi.
Liquigas-Cannondale claims that "From 2008, Liquigas Sport continued its campaign and acts of prevention against doping by choosing not to renew contracts of riders where there was evidence that they didn’t respect this rule."
The team refused to name the riders involved when asked by Cyclingnews but gave information about Bertagnolli in the press release.
"It's important to deny what was said by Bertagnolli, that the team allowed him to visit Dr Ferrari for his thyroid problem: no athlete could see an external doctor other than the teams' own medical staff. Bertogliati was allowed to see a specialist endocrinologist in Ferrara, Prof Degli Uberti," the press release reads.
Doubts about Bertagnolli
Liquigas-Cannondale claims in the statement that the team's medical staff indicated that Bertagnolli had anomalies in his physiological values and so was only allowed to race a minimal number of races. They did not take any further action, claiming that there were only clues but no real evidence to take any other action against the rider.
“We worked hard internally to prevent any problems,” Paolo Zani, the president of Brixia sport- the team’s management company said in the statement.
“From 2008 the team has never hired riders who have had any kind of problems, even remotely, with doping. The only exception is Ivan Basso, who we believe is an example for young people to learn that it is possible to win clean.”
Bertagnolli left Liquigas after the 2008 season. He raced for Amica Chips in the spring of 2009 and then for Androni Giocattoli. In 2011 and 2012 he rode for Lampre-ISD and details in his statement to Italian police how he continued to work with Dr Ferrari until the end of 2010.
In June 2012, Bertagnolli retired after the UCI opened disciplinary proceedings based on apparent anomalies in his biological passport data.
- Article published:
- October 11, 2012, 21:56
- Barry Ryan
Zabriskie, Vande Velde and Danielson suspended for six months
When Dan Martin turned professional as a raw 21-year-old for Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream Sports outfit (now Garmin-Sharp) at the beginning of 2008, he joined what on first appearance seemed something of a paradox – a team with a firm anti-doping policy that was backboned by a core of veterans who had ridden for Lance Armstrong's former US Postal Service squad.
Garmin's much-publicised philosophy was a thinly-veiled response to their experiences at US Postal, but in spite of the attempts of David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde, Tom Danielson and manager Jonathan Vaughters to start anew, it seems the past is never quite past.
During the last two years, the quartet have provided testimony to the United States Anti-Doping Agency as it built a case against Armstrong, manager Johan Bruyneel and the doping culture fostered at US Postal. On Wednesday, USADA announced that Zabriskie, Vande Velde and Danielson would serve six-month suspensions after they confessed to doping as part of their evidence in the Armstrong case.
Speaking after he finished second on stage 3 of the Tour of Beijing on Thursday, Dan Martin said that he supported the Garmin team's decision to stand by the three veteran riders. The Irishman pointed to the anti-doping philosophy that the trio had helped to inculcate at the team, saying that he felt fortunate to have developed in such an atmosphere.
"It's hard to comment on it really because I haven't really looked into the case," Martin said in the shadow of the Great Wall of China at Badaling. "Garmin-Sharp's philosophy is anti-doping and we're going to stand behind those guys. We have confidence in those guys and I'll be happy to have them back racing as soon as possible, and that's all I really want to say really."
Zabriskie, Vande Velde, Danielson and Vaughters' implication in doping practices at US Postal Service has long cast a shadow, and its hue grew ever darker as the federal and USADA investigations into Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel's team gathered pace.
De Telegraaf reported during this year's Tour de France that Zabriskie, Vande Velde and Danielson would be among the riders who would receive reduced six-month doping suspensions from USADA in return for their testimony against the doping culture at the US Postal team, but Martin said that the mounting speculation surrounding the fall-out from the Armstrong case never impinged on morale at Garmin-Sharp.
"We haven't really let it affect us," he said. "We're proving every day that it's possible to win clean – Ryder [Hesjedal] won the Giro clean.
"I'm very fortunate to have been able to turn professional when I did and ride for a team like Slipstream Sports, and that's why I'm very happy to continue with the team – the very strict anti-doping policy and the philosophy of the team. That's very important for me and something that all of the riders believe in."
Martin said that he also took encouragement from the fact that Vande Velde had produced the stand-out performance of his career while racing for Garmin, when he finished 4th at the 2008 Tour de France. Vande Velde has been stripped of his results from June 4, 2004 through until April 30, 2006 and handed a six-month ban following his confession.
"Christian's proven that he's stronger than ever since he came to this team. He's had his best results while racing clean at Garmin," Martin said. "That says a lot, and that goes for all three of those guys, not just Christian."
Martin was philosophical when asked if he was frustrated that his teammates' past sins were overshadowing his own current efforts on the road. "I suppose it's frustrating if it puts new sponsors and fans off the sport, but we're doing what we're doing now and that's about as much as we can do," he said. "We can't change what happened in the past. We've just got to move on and continue what we're doing."
Martin was speaking after he had finished in a fine second place on stage three of the Tour of Beijing to Badaling. The Irishman was pipped in the uphill sprint by Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), but moves up to 3rd overall, 50 seconds down on Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
"The finish wasn't as hard as I would have liked it to be, but we somehow managed to get a good result," Martin said. "I'm just a bit disappointed to miss out on the stage win by half a bike length, the road just kind of ramped up a bit towards the end and I was a bit over-geared for the last 25-30 metres. But Gavazzi's a faster sprinter than me, so I was happy enough to get second and the time bonus."
In spite of being the last race on the WorldTour calendar and in spite of its lack of heritage, the second edition of the Tour of Beijing has been the site of some fiercely contested racing, something which Martin feels is an unavoidable consequence of the ongoing arms race to accumulate WorldTour points at every available opportunity.
"I think it just shows how crazy cycling's gone with these silly points everyone is chasing. The sport's becoming more and more professional every year," he said. "Every day has been fast so far but hopefully it's a bit quieter tomorrow, and then maybe on the last day we can try something on the last climb."
- Article published:
- October 11, 2012, 23:55
- Cycling News
Tour champion sad to see blanks next to seven years of history
Reigning Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, interviewed by Sky News, has called the USADA case file on Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team's doping conspiracy "pretty damning", but said he was not surprised by the "shocking" contents of its dossier.
"It's been coming for a long time, the evidence has been building slowly. It's pretty much three years now [since the investigation began] and it was always going to come to a head," Wiggins said. "It's been released and it's pretty damning stuff."
Responding to criticisms of the USADA case from Armstrong's attorneys, Wiggins said, "It's clear it's not a one-sided hatchet job."
Wiggins reluctantly took up the issue, acknowledging that he is expected to as the current Tour de France winner. "I've got to answer the questions, pick up the pieces, expect to be the voice of everyone behind me. Which I'm not happy about doing, but I understand why."
He hopes that his performance this year "is the future of cycling in this country and the future of our sport".
"That's where it moves forward. I would say a lot of this happened nearly 15 years ago, the sport has changed considerably and we're a big part of changing the sport."
Yet as a part of Tour de France history, Wiggins also finds it sad to think that there could be a blank space next to seven years of Tour palmares.
"I don't know what they do now - strip him of his titles and give it to the guy in second place who's already tested positive as well and been banned from the sport? Or give it to the third place who's already subsequently been gone? I think there was one report that in 2003 they'd have to go down to fifth place to award the victory
"It's a shame that the race that I won, this historical race, is probably going to be without a winner for those seven years, which is quite sad. What happens to those history books?"
In a separate video interview on Sky, Wiggins denies having ever raced against Armstrong at the Tour de France, clearly forgetting being 37 seconds off the podium behind the third placed Armstrong in 2009 - a position which he now stands to inherit.
Of the US Postal/Discovery Channel era, Wiggins said he "had a good idea of what was going on" at the time, and said he is part of ensuring that what happened in the past won't happen again. "As long as I keep banging that drum, and doing what I'm doing, I'm the example."
- Lance Armstrong
- Article published:
- October 12, 2012, 00:58
- Cycling News
"Amnesty for athletes" should be considered says Mueller
Cycling Australia today released a statement following USADA’s reasoned document and stated that it’s up to the UCI to respond to specific matters. They will however, require time to digest the more than 1000-page dossier before considering if any Cycling Australia members were implicated.
Klaus Mueller, the President of Cycling Australia expressed his disappointment in the findings of the case and believed that the weight of the findings will prove to be a real turning point for the sport.
"Our members, staff, officials, volunteers and fans are passionate about cycling and all of them are entitled to feel angry when cheats tarnish our sport," Mueller said. "We hope the magnitude and profile of this case will prove to be a turning point for the sport and an opportunity for everyone involved in cycling to reinforce their commitment and efforts to stamp out doping."
With such an extensive package of documents, Muller says that it’s too early to state whether any Australian members are involved and that now may prove the ideal time to introduce an amnesty for athletes who confess to past anti-doping rule violations.
"Until we've had a chance to do that it's impossible to say whether any Cycling Australia members are implicated," said Mr Mueller.
"But it might now be time to consider a range of options including an amnesty for athletes who have cheated in the past to own up to any wrongdoing and have their confessions mitigate any subsequent penalties. "This would be dependent on the nature and extent of any infraction/s.
"This case also provides an opportunity for the Australian Government to review the resources and powers of ASADA especially in light of the extensive investigation and action taken by USADA in their pursuit of this case."
It would appear that Mueller and the national federation has been inundated with questions and concerns from the Australian cycling community and will, in time, be answered.
"As the sport's governing body it's our responsibility to do everything possible to protect our members and the sport but we urge everyone involved with cycling to do their part as well to help us do that."
- Article published:
- October 12, 2012, 01:55
- Cycling News
Leipheimer claims Australian attended Tenerife training camps
Amidst the fallout of USADA’s reasoned decision and sworn affidavits is the claim by Levi Leipheimer that Michael Rogers attended multiple altitude training camps in 2005 alongside fellow clients of Dr. Michele Ferrari. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Rogers’ relationship with Ferrari ended in mid 2006 under the instruction of his T-Mobile Team and has since had zero communication with the banned doctor.
Rogers previously stated he worked with Ferrari from 2005 and severed ties shortly after recording his best result at the 2006 Tour de France where he finished in 9th overall. At the time Rogers said he worked with the Ferrari because "he is the best coach in the world," according to the Sydney Morning Herald. However, his team encouraged him to cease contact shortly after the completion of that year’s Tour.
"He has made some mistakes, and I think he has learnt from them. But with me, he never mentioned anything of that [drugs]. It was just hard work and training," stated Rogers at the time according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
"I have nothing to hide, I am glad you asked. It gets it out there. I have complete transparency," Rogers said.
Rogers has since spoken to the media in regard to his relationship with Ferrari however there has been no response to Leipheimer’s claims regarding past training camps in which Andrey Kashechkin, Alexandre Vinkourov, Paolo Savoldelli, Yaroslav Popovych and Eddy Mazzoleni reportedly attended.
"When T-Mobile asked me to sever my ties with Dr Ferrari I obviously cut them," he told the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday. "I haven't got anything to add. I was very transparent. We came forward to the press and told them my position. Since [then] I have had absolutely no contact with Ferrari whatsoever."
Sky’s Dave Brailsford expressed his disappointment following Rogers' teammate Michael Barry’s admittance and lies about doping during his career however, Rogers’ past links with Ferrari were already known. Brailsford has emphasised the team’s strong zero tolerance policy towards doping and riders with a past history although Rogers has remained firm on his position that his association with Ferrari was strictly for training programs.
"I didn't really get that much out of it," he said to the Sydney Morning Herald. What can I say? It was an error to go to him. He didn't have the best name in the industry, but that was the mistake I made... I certainly regret [it]. I can understand it tainted, maybe, my reputation; but it's an error I made. I have to accept that."
"But I can absolutely guarantee it was only [for training]... he hardly had time for me.
"He had a lot of riders. I wasn't really that happy even with the amount of time I got," he said
- Article published:
- October 12, 2012, 03:15
- Cycling News
Former Ullrich mentor doubts Bruyneel will remain in sport
Jan Ullrich’s former director sportif Rudy Pévenage says he was "shocked" after reading the details in USADA’s reasoned decision report. Pévenage was considered to be Ullrich’s mentor during his career before both rider and team manager were fired from T-Mobile following after their involvement in Operación Puerto.
Pévenage previously admitted his involvement in assisting Jan Ullrich’s visits to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes in preparation for the German’s 2006 Tour bid however, his connection with the infamous doctor goes back to the days when Pévenage was racing.
"The rivalry pushed us to give it everything to try and beat him," Pévenage told L'Equipe in 2010. "With all the money he earned, Jan could not afford to be beaten. He was stressed out by the pressure and even put on weight because of that. Stress poisoned his career."
In light of USADA’s report Nieuwsblad reports Pévenage now compares his methods "petty compared to the gangsters surrounding Armstrong". In addition Pévenage believes the real change came about when Johan Bruyneel arrived.
"It surprised me how far the team of Armstrong went. It was also strange that they could use EPO and continue working while we were all strictly controlled. Everything changed with the arrival of Bruyneel.
"I had a really difficult time when Ullrich and I were pulled from the peloton," Pévenage added. "If you see that the others just continue, you ask sometimes why you are at home on the couch.
"The fate of Bruyneel is now up to the UCI. I wonder how long he can continue to deny. I would be really surprised if he still has a future in racing."
- Article published:
- October 12, 2012, 04:25
- Alex Malone
Drapac rider looking to take a step back in 2013
Having helped his teammate Lachlan Norris to win the recent Tour of Tasmania, Drapac Professional Cycling’s Rhys Pollock is eyeing what could be his second win at the historic Melbourne to Warrnambool this weekend. It’s a race he’s had a strong passion for since his first participation in 1999 and it would take until 2010 before he finally won the race in brutally-tough conditions that had the peloton battered by rain, sleet and wind gusts up to 60km/h.
Pollock admits that he doesn’t enjoy the difficult weather conditions often encountered during Australia’s longest one-day race but that it doesn’t change his attitude in the race. He would rather race in the sun and without wind but he recognises that if conditions turn foul come, others will suffer more than himself.
"I dislike it [bad weather] as much as anyone. I’d much rather race in the sunshine with no wind but I guess that sort of weather suits me. I don’t lose motivation if rains or gets windy or slow. I just keep going," Pollock told Cyclingnews.
"That year [in 2010] was pretty slow that’s for sure. I was really starting to cramp at the end but I guess if it’s like that again then so be it. If we have a day like that hopefully I can replicate it again."
Returning back to his home city of Melbourne and his full-time job as a draftsman, Pollock says it’s not just about being physically ready for a race like Melbourne to Warrnambool. The 262km distance is something most of the domestic riders are unfamiliar with and it’s just as important to be mentally prepared for these longer races.
"I think the Warny is about being mentally ready as much as physically ready. Being prepared for a long day and trying to be smart about how you use your energy throughout the day. If you waste too much energy early in the race or even the half-way point, you are going to pay for it later on," he said.
"Nutrition and hydration obviously comes into play as well. For most guys in Australia we don’t race this kind of distance. Goulburn to Sydney is about 170km and besides Grafton [to Inverell] there aren’t many races of that kind of distance. Everyone is sort of in the same boat so it’s a matter of managing it throughout the day."
While Pollock would love to win Warrnambool for a second time, he’s entering the race with a powerful eight-man Drapac team that he adds could see any of them win the Australian classic.
"It’s one of my favourite races of the year, it always has been. This year I think it will be very interesting. We’ve got a really strong team for the race. Darren [Lapthorne], Lachie, Floris [Goesinnen], Gordon [McCauley]. I think any one of us has a chance to win it. Everyone will be trying to get the numbers in the front and hopefully we can do something special.
"Of course I’d love to win it again and I think some of the other guys would love to win it as well. Being such a tough and long race you just never know what can happen.
"You might have good legs but maybe only for 180km, not 260 so it’s just a matter of seeing how you feel on the day.
A second Melbourne to Warrnambool victory would be the ideal way to finish the season for Pollock who began his year by winning the general classification at the UCI 2.1 Tour de Taiwan and most recently won the KOM classification at Gouburn to Sydney. In 2013, Pollock is still motivated to race but he’ll step down from the Continental-registered squad while continuing to race domestically.
"I’ll be 33 next year so it’s time to start looking at other things I would like to do in life. I still want to stay with the team next year as I really enjoy racing with the guys we’ve got. Hopefully I can pass on some of my experience to some of the younger guys on the team," Pollock told Cyclingnews.
"I’ll probably just race in Australia next year but without the added pressure of being registered on the Continental team and having to maintain a certain amount of racing overseas.
"I’ll be doing Shipwreck [Coast Classic] but I won’t be doing Grafton. I think after this weekend I’ll take a couple of weeks off and just have a little bit of a rest. It’s been a good year so we’ll just have to see how this weekend goes."