What's Cool In Road Cycling

Armstrong Vs. Pound: Words Are Not Enough

By now most of us fans have read about World Anti Doping Agency boss Dick Pound’s comments on the state of cycling. Like me, you probably read Lance Armstrong’s reply to it first, and had to look backward to Pound’s words…

Pound and Armstrong could both have said something more or different.

Pound paints Cycling a certain color, because he didn’t use words like “some” or “a few” or even “the majority” to clarify the statement; “ they know Tour De France cyclists and others have been taking prohibited substances…”. He also screws up by implying but not saying exactly who “they” are (the UCI, or the Public…?), while also saying that the Public are not fooled and that the UCI need to admit that there is a problem… Lance was right to take offense and right to comment.

After Lance’s reply, Dick tried a pretty lame attempt to clarify that he never singled Lance out, but who does Pound think the world has in mind when someone says “Tour De France rider”? Unfortunately, it ain’t the Richard Virenques of the world that come to mind first…

Dick also says he was suprised that Lance would “attack” someone (Pound) that he (Lance) has never met. So I guess Pound has met each and every guy who has raced the tour? I wouldn’t be shocked (given the money problems at WADA and the problems they have doing their job in general) if Dick Pound isn’t frequently suprised… And for the record, Pound’s comments came first. It’s not Lances fault if he doesn’t know Dick… (ahem).

If Dick is gonna step up and do the executive Point-and-Bitch, he should, as the head of a world body, also have the ability to show he deserves his job by coming to the table with a solid list of suggestions as to what “Tour De France Cyclists” and “The UCI” could do to make things better. Otherwise he looks less like an executive trying to work for the good of the sport and more like the third word after “Point-and” written above…

My only gripe with Lance is that (in my opinion) he could do more to readily acknowledge the full severity of the problem, or at least the public’s perception of the problem of doping in cycling. He did acknowledge and does acknowledge the problem, but those comments are usually close in proximity to others also indicating that doping is somehow better now, or that cyclists are already tested a lot.

Lets face it, there are only two reasons Cipo rides the tour this year… Either:
1. Le Blanc is trying to get the last stab because he thinks Cipo has had it and can’t beat Petacchi & the Aussies, and doesn’t want the last Tour memory of Super Mario at the Tour to be winning four stages back to back (to back to…) or
2. (only very slightly more likely, but much more logical) because there just are not enough major sponsors to field enough solid teams, and Cipo gets in by default.

The sport is having a hard time finding marketing executives of major corporations that are willing to trust their job and career to Cycling. Take a look at the major players of the recent past and present and you will see that principals (the kind that can’t easily be fired, or can’t be fired at all) of major companies are far more often the one’s willing to step up. And thank God (or your choice of higher power) for them! But this just doesn’t cut it, and our sport is not on many folks top priority lists of places to spend a few Million bucks of your company’s marketing money.

It’s not Lance’s job to step up and fight doping. It’s his job to pedal faster and longer than other people, while presenting himself in a way that attract people who want to sell stuff by associating with him. It’s not a question of whether Lance’s abilities or story would be anything other than trivial if there were no cycling. The real question is: does Lance want to help the sport (personally I would take the money and run…).

I say this not to be crittical of Lance (he’s done nothing wrong…). I write it because Lance’s words will not carry nearly as much weight when he is done with Cycling as they do now…

While creating a better place for professional riders is not Lance’s job or responsibility, it is his opportunity more so than anyone else in the sport, past or present (more than The heads of the UCI, The Tour or WADA).

To simply and unconditionally acknowledge the problems that the riders face (and create) and encourage the UCI and the rest to find a solution is as much a hero’s quest as winning 6 Tours (and getting rid of doping might be a longer shot than comming back from Cancer!). It would be wonderful if Lance, Jan, Gilberto, Mario, Roberto and a few others decided to step up and make the UCI a union for Cyclists instead of a Union for sponsors and governors, by addressing things like health insurance, real payment guaranties, pension, the application of a collective bargaining agreement and yes, doping.

It’s just a thought, but in my view, we should be seeing Fat cat politico’s dropping dead of heart attacks every few months or dieing penniless, not the riders…

Lance’s Open Letter to Dick Pound
“On behalf of myself and the professional cycling community, I am compelled to address statements made by Mr. Dick Pound,” Armstrong said in the letter issued by sports daily L’Equipe on Friday.

“I am abashed and saddened by the fact that a person with such responsibilities as Mr Pound can issue such long-range declarations that clearly mean that me or my colleagues are taking drugs”, the 32-year-old-American added.

The letter was also sent to Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport, Spain’s Marca, the New York Times, the Herald Tribune and USA Today.

Armstrong, who is chasing a record sixth Tour victory, asked Pound to focus on the fight against doping rather than lashing out at the sport.

“Mr Pound, if you truly want athletes to be clean, go fight for that rather than slinging dirt at them in such an irresponsible manner.

“I ask you to focus your efforts on the fight against doping rather than spending your time accusing innocent athletes without any evidence other than your own speculation,” the U.S. Postal rider said.

“My eyes are wide open. I know WADA would be useless if there was no doping but this is not a reason to assert the athletes are not clean, even when their tests prove negative.

“Thus, the way Mr Pound is pointing the finger of shame at us is offensive.”

Cycling has been hit by a number of doping scandals in recent years.

In January, French drug squad police raided the Cofidis headquarters and office of a team doctor after a nine-month investigation. They seized the medical records of several riders.

The affair has been branded the biggest judicial investigation into cycling since the Festina scandal of 1998 when banned substances were found in a team car shortly before the start of the Tour.

Festina were kicked out of the race and the team’s riders later admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Dick Pound’s Respnse From The WADA Website

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

I write in response to the open letter that you sent to this publication as well as several others.

First, let me say how pleased I am to hear the commitment that the winner of the last five Tours de France has made to the fight against doping in sport. I’m also happy to see that you acknowledge that cycling “had its problems.” While it’s tempting to believe that cycling has cleaned up its act, as you so claim, recent incidents suggest otherwise. As an example, the recent Cofidis affair, where certain cyclists and their entourages were found to allegedly be trafficking in doping substances, leads me to believe there remains a great deal of work to be done.

In the interview that I gave the newspaper Le Monde in January, I simply pointed out that cycling, like other sports, faces substantial difficulties in ridding sport of doping, despite efforts made by the International Cycling Federation and others. The Cofidis affair is but the latest in a long line of incidents, and other persons, including Jean-Francois Lamour, France’s sports minister, have also expressed their concern and urged the world of cycling to clean up its house as quickly as possible.

As the organization charged with coordinating the fight against doping in sport, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) must point out the problem areas and sports and sound the alarm when necessary. We have done it in the past, for cycling and other sports, and I, as the president of this organization, will ensure that we will continue to do so as long as doping exists.

We are at a particularly crucial juncture in the fight against doping in sport. For the first time, the sports world and governments are joining in this fight through WADA. Governments have tools at their disposal that sports organizations do not, including the ability to fight trafficking of doping substances across borders, which was demonstrated in the Festina and Cofidis affairs. The World Anti-Doping Code, the first document harmonizing rules regarding doping across all sports and all countries, has been accepted and is being implemented by sports organizations this year. Governments will follow by 2006 through an international convention. UCI is, unfortunately, one of the few international sports federations that has yet to sign this important document or to provide a clear indication as to when it will do so.

Finally, at no time have I spoken out personally against you or your accomplishments, which makes your strongly-worded personal attack somewhat of a surprise. If, indeed, we share the same desire to see all sports free of drugs, I should have thought that we should both be supporting a harmonization of the anti-doping rules and that you should not be making a claim, about your sport generally, that suggests the problem is all but solved.

At any rate, the message I prefer to take from your letter is your strong commitment to making sure your sport is clean. The future of sport depends on acknowledging the problem of doping and coming together – athletes, governments, sports organizations, coaches, trainers and sponsors – to find a solution. WADA, more than ever, counts on athletes like yourself and international federations such as UCI to help with this fight.

Richard W. Pound, WADA President

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