- Article published:
- October 20, 2012, 20:07
- Cycling News
"We who make up the past have to take responsibility for the future"
In the aftermath of Rabobank's decision to park their sponsorship ties at the end of the season a flurry of varying reactions ensued. Garmin-Sharp's David Millar was one of the first to react on Twitter, with, "Dear Rabobank, you were part of the problem. How dare you walk away from the young clean guys who are part of the solution. Sickening."
Millar started his professional career in 1997, a year after Rabobank entered the sport, and both parties have been part of cycling's tapestry. After his initial reaction Millar returned to Twitter to announce that his full opinions would be published in the Dutch publication, De Volkskrant.
Here's the letter in full:
Before I explain my initial reaction to your announcement of pulling out of sponsoring professional cycling (@millarmind: Dear Rabobank, you were part of the problem. How dare you walk away from the young clean guys who are part of the solution. Sickening.) I’d like to tell you what Rabobank represents to me as a cyclist, and a British cyclist at that.
It represents the Netherlands, from the orange kit to the comprehensive national support across the board, from grassroots level to men’s and women’s professional cycling. The Netherlands is the cycling nation, that’s how we see you, the fact you had a national bank who was willing to nurture and carry your nation's cycling hopes seemed so wonderfully appropriate.
There was a certain jealousy for me that I wasn’t Dutch, that I didn’t have that sporting ladder to climb up, from racing as a school boy to one day doing the Tour de France all within a national team. Of course, now it does exist, with Sky whose sponsorship starts at grassroots participation right up to their British Tour de France team. A sponsor that is inspiring a country to become cyclists on a very similar model to what Rabobank have done. Contrary to Rabobank and the Netherlands this is only a recent development for the UK.
I have raced against Rabobank riders since I turned professional in 1997, and it’s always been a powerful team, a team other professionals have been envious of with its big budget and massive support and strong national affiliation. Like me, and many others, it lost its way. To the point where it was accepted by Theo de Rooij that doping was tolerated within the team. The truth, which the world is now accepting, is that at the time doping was tolerated within the sport to some degree.
The downfall of Lance Armstrong has opened the world’s eyes up to what most of us within the sport knew, if not in the detail that the USADA file has revealed, that to win the Tour de France and many other big races was impossible without doping for a certain period of time. Of course races were won by clean riders, and many clean riders achieved remarkable careers, especially in hindsight, without doping, but the bottom line is that doping was rife and necessary to be the best.
Who is responsible for this? Most of us involved in professional cycling were in some way or another, it became a way of life. I’d hoped the Festina Affair would force change but the problem was too deeply embedded to be changed by one event.
It took several changes to take place. First came the anti-doping controls, they became more advanced, the drugs that had been previously undetectable became detectable.
Doping became a criminal offence in many European countries allowing for criminal investigations to delve deeper than any anti-doping agency or cycling governing body ever could; it was a criminal investigation that discovered my history of doping.
A whereabouts system was put in place, giving anti-doping agencies the ability to do doping controls out-of-competition effectively for the first time; out of competition being the time when most doping took place.
As the anti-doping measures became more effective more riders and teams found themselves being faced with doping scandals. This had the effect of sponsors asking questions, or simply withdrawing their sponsorship, thus making team managers more responsible for the actions of their doctors and riders. Some teams reacted more strongly than others, Marc Madiot and FDJ are a prime example of a manager and sponsor who made the decision in the late 1990’s to eradicate doping from within their team. They didn’t rely on anybody else, they did it themselves.
This is where my critique of your withdrawing stems from. The sport in the past five years has cleaned up massively, my team and our sponsors came into professional cycling with the intention of having a 100% clean team, we knew what the sport was about, Jonathan Vaughters our team manager is an ex-doper, I was the lead rider and I am an ex-doper. Our sponsors understand what professional cycling is about because we have explained it to them, they share responsibility with us, we have explained cycling’s history and how it is our intention to change the future through our actions every day.
Rabobank the cycling team is an institution, the amount of dreams that have been shattered by your pulling out are uncountable. You have some of the most amazing athletes, I’ll mention Marianne Vos and Robert Gesink because they are the most famous, but there are many more who do not deserve to pay for the mistakes of the past.
Those of us who make up the past have to take responsibility for the future.
You have stood by your team through scandals, I credit you this, but did you really try hard enough to prevent those scandals before or after they happened? I don’t think you did. Is your team clean now? I believe it is. Should you be proud of your cycling team and what it represents today? Yes, you most definitely can.
Yet you choose to pull the team, and within your statement make this remark, “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.”
You are wrong.
We have made a huge difference these past few years. I KNOW it is now possible to win the biggest races in the world clean, that is a fact. I can empathise with your disillusionment with the sport, but please do not belittle all the work we’ve done and difference we have made. You are throwing away the chance to be part of the future of what is, in your own words, “…a beautiful sport.”
I admire your decision to not discard the teams immediately but to have them race in unbranded jerseys next year, many other sponsors would have seen this as an opportunity to jump ship. This says something about you. Maybe take some time to understand the sport, find a way to be part of the continued change. I believe all of us who were part of the recent history of cycling have a responsibility to accept we made mistakes (deliberate or not) and a duty to fix what went wrong.
That is the ethical thing to do, and more importantly, it is our duty.
- Article published:
- October 21, 2012, 10:18
- Cycling News
American also returned suspicious test at 2002 Dauphiné
Lance Armstrong provided a suspicious doping control at the 2001 Tour de Suisse but did not test positive for EPO, according to Martial Saugy, the director of the Lausanne laboratory which carried out the tests.
Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton both testified to the US Anti-Doping Agency that Armstrong had told them that he had tested positive in Switzerland in 2001 but that the UCI had covered up the result. The UCI has denied any such collusion.
Speaking to AFP, Saugy said that Armstrong did not test positive for EPO but his sample was one of the three from the race to be flagged as “suspect." As an "important competitor," Armstrong was called before the UCI to provide an explanation. Armstrong returned another such suspect sample at the Dauphiné Liberé in 2002, which was analysed by a different laboratory.
“There was no positive test on the Tour of Switzerland in 2001,” Saugy told AFP. “Armstrong had another suspect result during the 2002 Dauphiné Liberé. The politics of the UCI at that time, if there was such a result involving an important competitor, was to meet them and ask for an explanation. That was their approach to prevention.”
Saugy said that it was only in 2002 that he realised that Armstrong had been among the riders who had returned a suspect sample at the Tour de Suisse.
“The UCI said to me at the end of June 2002: 'we warned the rider for whom you had a suspect result in 2001, he gave another suspect return at another lab and he would like to know by which method it was tested,'” Saugy said. "The rider was Armstrong. It was then that I learned about it."
Saugy also noted that while Armstrong’s sample from the 2001 Tour de Suisse was suspicious, from a legal standpoint, it would be difficult for USADA to consider it as a positive test.
“There's no way today that this could be defended as a positive result, it's impossible," he said. "Since 2003, procedures oblige taking into account the risks of a false-positive which could verify that urine had not been affected by the physiology of the cyclist or degraded by bacteria.
"This was not done at the time and the urine no longer exists because the rules did not require keeping it."
- Article published:
- October 21, 2012, 12:34
- Cycling News
Disciplinary committee applied the rules, says FFC
The French Cycling Federation (FFC) has defended its decision to hand Christophe Bassons a one-year suspension after he missed a post-race doping control at the French marathon mountain bike championships on September 1.
Bassons abandoned the race 20 kilometres from the finish but did not go to the finish area before travelling home. He was only informed that he had been selected for doping control two and a half hours later, while he was on the road to his home in Bordeaux, by which time it was too late to return and undergo the test. On Saturday, Bassons revealed that he had been given a one-year suspension for missing the test.
“Following all of the comments surrounding the suspension of Mr. Christophe Bassons for a missed anti-doping control, the French Cycling Federation notes that this rider infringed on anti-doping rules by not presenting himself for an anti-doping control for which he had been selected,” the FFC said in a statement late on Saturday.
“The national disciplinary committee who examined the dossier did nothing other than apply the rules by suspending the athlete for this offence.”
The FFC also noted that the normal penalty for a missed control is a two-year ban, but that in this instance the sanction was reduced to a year “following the explanation offered by Mr. Christophe Bassons.” FFC president David Lappartient will examine the possibilities of appeal in the coming days.
Bassons was a member of the Festina team but famously refused to partake in the squad’s systematic doping programme. In 1999, Bassons abandoned his one and only Tour de France after a number of riders, including Lance Armstrong, made clear their dissatisfaction with his anti-doping sentiments in a column for Le Monde.
Disillusioned with his treatment by many of his fellow professionals, Bassons retired in 2001 and he currently works for the ministry of youth and sport in the Aquitaine region.
“The FFC wishes to underline that Mr. Christophe Bassons was judged like any other rider and his suspension has no link to his recent declarations in the press or to the positions he has taken against doping,” the federation statement said. “The FFC has the same determination as he does to eradicate this serious scourge which is polluting the sport of cycling.”
- Article published:
- October 21, 2012, 13:25
- Daniel Benson
Australian signs anti-doping pledge
Despite a successful season on the road for him and his team, Richie Porte (Team Sky), knows all too well that the subject of doping has dominated the headlines in recent weeks. The fallout from Lance Armstrong's USADA case has affected almost every professional team, with Sky no exception, but away from the controversy the Australian is also looking forward to having opportunities for himself in 2013.
"Personally it was a brilliant year. I started well, wining Algarve, and then I slotted into that team which ultimately won the Tour. What more can you, it was just incredible," Porte told Cyclingnews.
Porte was a key member of Sky's Tour squad. Wiggins and a select number of teammates rode almost identical race programmes in the build up to the Tour and picked up wins in Algarve, Paris-Nice, Dauphine before July's major triumph.
"People were questioning Bradley's form the whole year but at the end of the day Sky has a pretty good sports science background and we were all sure of where we were. Personally I wasn't in peak form, my best form was probably in February but we went to the Tour with a clear plan and executed it like clockwork."
It's as yet unclear whether Wiggins will defend his Tour title or target the Giro d'Italia in 2013 but Porte's desire is to ride as part of Wiggin's team, whatever the final programme.
"Whatever Grand tour Bradley is focusing on I think I should be there with him. Also I'm going to have my own opportunities to ride for myself. You learn a lot riding with guys like Bradley and Mick Rogers but I'd like to have some of the pressure too."
"I've not seen the route but for the Tour yet but I know that Brad isn't hell bent on total domination at the Tour. I know he wants to have a go at other races as well. It's a nice dilemma to have, having Chris Froome and Brad in the same team."
Sky's post-season debrief
Porte competes in Sunday's Chrono des Nations, having recently attended Team Sky's season debriefing in London, England. The event was supposed to be a look back at the team's success in 2012 but it was dominated by the need and desire to ask all staff to sign an anti-doping declaration. It's a move that could cost a number of riders and staff their jobs.
"The environment is always good when you get the team together but at the end of the season where we've won basically some of the biggest races you can't hide from what's going on. At a team like ours, where it has a clear anti-doping stance, it had to be a topic of conversation and it was," Porte told Cyclingnews.
"I wouldn't want to be in Dave Brailsford shoes, and it's super stressful for him but cycling is bigger than any individual. It still has a few more body blows to take but I'm sure it will survive."
Each member of staff will go through an interview and screening process before they sign the declaration. Some interviews will be more difficult that others and Porte is aware that some of his closest teammates will face closer scrutiny than he did.
"I've had my interview. This is the thing. For the guys of my generation there isn't much to say on the topic. I came into the sport in 2010 and from what I've seen it's different times. And you do feel sorry for the guys from the generation before because people can change. It's hard to look at this in a positive light and it's on everyone's mind because the sport's dirty washing is being publicly aimed."
While Sky has dominated a number of races this season, they have faced criticism on a number of fronts. They have had to deal with the fallout of the Geert Leinders affair and Michael Barry's admission to doping, which undermined their initial hiring policy. However Porte believes that the squad are sometimes unfairly perceived.
"That's the thing. When you sit in the room with all the Sky riders it's funny to think because it's a friendly environment and we're just guys riding bikes. Maybe on the road it looks a bit intimidating to see a whole team lined up on the front and riding as we did but at the end of the day we get results. I think we're friends with most guys in the peloton and Brad is a gentleman on the road. It's a totally different perception in the peloton to guys watching from the television. There's a human side to it as well."
And Porte understands why it's easy to doubt every performance, every win and every quote.
"I understand that it's hard for some to sit back and watch on TV what's happening but at the end of the day I hope they trust that we're doing it the right way. And I know that even just saying that is going to get me flack but the sport is cleaning up and what's tarnishing us young guys now is the past.
"It's easy to be cynical; with social media everyone has a voice. In some ways that is great and part of the tide of change is coming from the fact everyone has a bit of input. But I don't know how I can be more transparent. Short of having Paul Kimmage around for a sleepover, and even then that's not a guarantee. You have to have faith in the passport and the controls. It's a little unfair that in a lot of respects we're sitting ducks but the sport has itself to blame for that."
- Article published:
- October 21, 2012, 19:00
- Cycling News
Spaniard reflects on retirement
Oscar Freire has revealed that he turned down the opportunity to ride for Euskaltel-Euskadi in 2013 and then continue in a management role at the Basque squad. Freire retired from cycling at the end of this season and the world championships in Valkenburg was his final race.
“Igor [Gonzalez de Galdeano] offered me the chance to do another year as a rider and then to carry on as a directeur sportif afterwards, but I had already decided to retire unless I became world champion again,” Freire told Marca.
“From the beginning of the year, I said that it was my intention to retire at the end of this season. My team Katusha asked me a lot of times over the year if I wanted to continue, but I was clear that I didn’t want to race anymore.”
At the age of 36, and with three world titles and three victories at Milan-San Remo on his palmares, Freire said that he did not have the necessary motivation to continue at the highest level, even though he posted a number of impressive results in 2013 and came close to Classics victories at both E3 Harelbeke and Amstel Gold Race. “I had already achieved a lot of my goals and I knew that I couldn’t reach the other ones,” said Freire.
Asked if cycling’s damaged reputation had impacted on his decision, Freire said: “Everything is relative, even if, in recent years, although Spanish and winning races, they’ve left me in peace and I haven’t done as many controls.
“Spanish riders have had a bad reputation, but sometimes with good reason because there have been too many positives. But it’s also true that cycling has improved greatly in recent years.”
After riding for Vitalicio Seguros and Mapei, Freire spent nine seasons at Rabobank. The Dutch bank announced on Friday that it was pulling out of the sport after 17 years in the peloton.
“They were great seasons, but in the end I left disappointed. I had to leave the team and I still don’t know the reason. But then I understood that I needed a change of scene,” Freire said.
Freire’s final race as a professional rider was the world championships and he left Valkenburg bitterly disappointed after Alejandro Valverde broke from the Spanish team’s agreed tactics on the final climb up the Cauberg. A month on, however, Freire has come to terms with missing out on a fourth rainbow jersey.
“We did very well until the finale but in the end there wasn’t a lot of understanding,” he said. “We got a good result because a medal is important, but it wasn’t what we had decided in the team meeting, so I went away with a bit of sadness.
“It’s not possible to go back, but I’m comforted to know that Gilbert was unstoppable, and that I wouldn’t have taken the rainbow jersey that day.”
- Article published:
- October 21, 2012, 23:27
- Cycling News
Belgian describes Rabobank decision as a "massive blow"
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) believes that the onus is on Lance Armstrong to end the doubt over the American's racing history, and is frustrated by catharctic change currently engulfing cycling.
Speaking on the Belgian television program Sportweekend, Boonen described the USADA dossier as a file of "rehashed information".
The former teammate of Armstrong on U.S. Postal said: "I do not so much care, because we have nothing to do with it. We must now explain this matter, but perhaps it's something that Lance can do even better. Only he can put an end to it." Boonen rode two years as a stagaire with the outfit before moving to a full-time role in 2002 where he finished third at his first attempt at Paris-Roubaix in the senior ranks. He said that following his 2002 season, he was never a fan of Armstrong but maintained that the importance of USADA had also been exaggerated.
"They see themselves now as the most sacred bean of the world, while they only talk nonsense," he said.
Boonen was also hopeful that the increased scrutiny on the sport as a result of the USADA investigation and the associated fallout, would lead to a new appreciation of the current generation of cyclists.
"We must just keep doing what we do now, everything is well with us," he said. "The only thing we can do is perhaps imagine that they follow us 24 hours a day, so the world can see what is happening in racing and so we recover our credibility."
The 32-year-old also told of his frustration in response to Friday's announcement by Rabobank to end their involvement in cycling.
"I think it's a massive blow that a sponsor like Rabobank would stop after so many years," he explained saying that he had been angered by the Dutch bank's decision.
"Rabobank is a team bursting with young talent. It's a shame that these guys now have no chance."
- Article published:
- October 22, 2012, 01:50
- Alex Malone
Giramondo "formulating team for races like Qinghai Lake"
One of Australia's most successful Continental teams, Drapac Professional Cycling will be mixing things up next season. The team's sporting director Agostino Giramando has decided to forgo the usual European stint in favour of an increased focus on the steadily growing Asia Tour.
Giramondo wants to build a team capable of rivalling the strongest teams on the Asian circuit in some of the toughest races. The Asia Tour has presented the team with plenty of opportunities over the years but the European campaign has meant a number of invitations have been turned down. In 2013 however, the team will race a much heavier Asian schedule while ensuring the National Road Series, which begins later in the season, is not left forgotten.
"Next year is going to be predominantly Asia. We've decided we are going to give Europe a miss in 2013. We really want to do more racing in Asia. We want to target Qinghai Lake, we've had an invite for the past two years but we've been in Europe. We are formulating a team that can ride those types of races," said sports director Agostino Giramondo to Cyclingnews.
Tour of Qinghai Lake is a notoriously difficult tour which has seen even the most seasoned professionals struggle with the conditions and altitude, that frequently reaches in excess of 3,000m above sea level but Giramondo is confident his team will be more than capable. A number of riders are moving on and stepping back in 2013 but Giramondo will ensure the roster is appropriately filled for the coming season.
"There's a few riders scaling down and a couple will be leaving. We are negotiating with two or three other riders but once again we will have a very strong squad," Giramondo said.
With victories at Tour of Tasmania and Floris Goesinnen's victorious weekend at Melbourne to Warrnambool and Shipwreck Coast Classic fresh in the air, many would assume Grafton to Inverell would be the next stop for the team ranked second in the NRS team standings with three riders in the top-ten of the individual classification however, a timing clash means they will miss the final NRS race of the year.
"We are going to China for the UCI 2.2 Tour of Lake Taihu. We would have to fly out the day Grafton finishes. If it was a little bit closer to home we could do it but it's just a bit too much of a logistical nightmare. We will have one or two riders in the race but the majority will be flying to China."
Considering the Australian calendar starts in January with the Bay Classic series and is quickly followed by the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and National Championships, racing this late into the year means that most of the riders take a short mid-year break and have limited time off at the end of the year.
"Two weeks after Taihu, the last race of the year is another UCI tour in Japan, the Tour de Okinawa. The calendar starts on the 1st of January with Bay Crits and Nationals and here we are approaching November and into late November and the guys are still racing. It doesn't give the guys much of a chance to rest before restarting again for January," Giramondo told Cyclingnews.
Missing NRS races like Grafton to Inverell is a situation Giramondo hopes won't always be the case in 2013 but he admits that it will require careful balance. While the team is increasing their Asia Tour focus and removing the European campaign, it won't mean any less racing for the riders. Giramondo also hopes to be able to field teams in Asia and Australia when and if they overlap.
"There's Qinghai Lake in China, Tour of China and next year we would like to venture into Korea and another one or two tours in Malaysia. Taiwan is again on the programme - Rhys Pollock won that race this year. If you add those races it makes up for that stint we usually do in Europe."
"It will be a balancing act trying to race Asia and still do the full NRS. In past years we know that we go to Europe in May and June, rest in July and then we know we can do nearly all the NRS races from the 1st of August to what we have done now. In saying that we missed three NRS tours this year being in Europe so hopefully we will be able to do them next year.
- Article published:
- October 22, 2012, 04:50
- Cycling News
Fränk left "depressed" after Xipamide positive
Johny Schleck, father to RadioShack-Nissan’s Fränk and Andy, has advised his sons that they should hang up the bike.
Speaking to French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, Schleck said he reached the conclusion after both his sons experienced a horror 2012. Andy was elevated to 2010 Tour de France champion after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title following a positive test for clenbuterol. His 2012 season ground to a halt following a fractured pelvis suffered at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June with the 27-year-old only returning to racing at Binche-Tournai-Binche earlier this month.
Meantime, Fränk tested positive to the banned diuretic Xipamide in a sample taken on July 14 at the Tour de France, but denied having knowingly taken the drug. He was suspended by his team. Last week, he fronted the Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency (ALAD) with a verdict yet to be reached.
According to Johny Schleck, the experience has left Fränk "depressed" such has been his effort.
"He spent a lot of money on medical analysis and lawyers fees trying to prove his innocence. This is not a life," he explained.