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Ed’s Rant: Davide Rebellin – Good Doper Or Bad Doper?

Ed’s Opinion: What makes a rider a good guy that doped or a bad doper? Ed Hood has found that Davide Rebellin has fallen into the second group of the unforgiven miscreants. Why is Marco Pantani a hero while Alejandro Valverde is a villain? Ed takes the lid off a tricky can of worms.

Rebellin, still at it after all these years!

I posted two pictures of Davide Rebellin on my FaceBook page t’other day, I’d just spotted that he’d won a stage in a UCi 2.2 race in Indonesia at 47 years of age after 25 years as a professional rider. I posted a pic of him with MG back in ’93 – he rode stagiaire for them in ’92 – and one in his current Kuwait team.

I’m fully aware of his indiscretions but he did serve a suspension for his sins and whilst I expected a bit of flak I didn’t expect to be accused of ‘glorifying a doper.’ I felt, and still feel that it’s a remarkable achievement and he’s a remarkable athlete.

A young Davide Rebellin was 2nd in the ‘Amateur’ 1991 Worlds

Albeit, former Olympic Champion Alexi Grewal has pointed out to me that Rebellin is going to find it hard to write chapter two of his life after 30 years of doing nothing but sit on a bicycle saddle. The hatred for the man surprised me and once again sparked off the curiosity in me about what’s a ‘good doper’ and what’s a ‘bad doper?’

Hoogvliet - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Milano - Sanremo - Olympic gold medalist Alexi Grewal epitomising the idea of looking cool and relaxed while racing a bike - foto Cor Vos ©2012
Olympic champion Alexi Grewal has his thoughts on the subject

When I pointed out that some of our sport’s most revered characters are ‘convicted dopers,’ including a personal hero of mine, Eddy Merckx – three ‘busts: ’69, ’73 and ’77 although the ’69 was over turned – I was told that those were ‘different times’ by one critic of my post.

Let’s go back to 2004 – one of Rebellin’s best years – and check out the UCi Rankings, the top 20 contains Erik Zabel, Alejandro Valverde, Rebellin in sixth spot, Lance, Stuart O’Grady, Alessandro Petacchi, Ivan Basso, Danilo Hondo, Francisco Mancebo, Jan Ulrich, Roberto Heras, Erik Dekker and Michael Bogaert. That’s 13 out of the 20 – 65% of the world’s top riders in that year were involved in a doping scandal so to forgive Eddy on the grounds of ‘different times’ doesn’t work. Rebellin’s ‘times’ were just as ‘jet fuelled’ as Eddy’s.

‘Big Ted’ failed a doping control and was disqualified from the 1969 Giro d’Italia

Another commentator says that; ‘he’s probably still on it.’ The UCi may be daft but they’re not stupid, the figure I heard was 17 for the number of times they tested ‘Cobra’ Ricco in the 2008 Tour de France before they nailed him. And as a friend of mine who knows about these things will tell you; ‘there’s no such thing as a random dope test.’ Riders like Rebellin and Valverde will find themselves tested more than the average pro. But it’s not just great riders like Merckx from the amphetamine fuelled 70’s who we still hold in the highest regard, let’s take a look at our current crop of TV pundits – Sean Kelly, Robert Millar (now Ms. York) and David Miller have all fallen foul of the testers. So can someone please explain to me why their selection as commentators doesn’t arouse the same fury that a picture of Davide Rebellin does?

Tour de France, foto Marketa Navratilova/Cor Vos ©2000 Etappe-2, David Millar en Lance Armstrong
David Millar and Lance Armstrong – One on TV, the other…

The expensive and influential British ‘Rouleur’ magazine, voice of the ‘Rapha Generation,’ from November 2nd to 4th will be promoting their ‘The Monuments’ experience in London with ‘special guests’ and ‘unique experiences.’ Among those guests will be, Johan Museeuw, Alberto Contador, Felice Gimondi, Philipa York (formerly Robert Millar), Brian Holm, Nico Mattan, Andreas Kloden and Oscar Camenzind. I have great admiration for most of these riders but have to inform you that all are guilty of doping violations; they will be feted at this ‘extravaganza’ but are no different to our pariah, Rebellin. And back to the ‘different times’ argument, Museeuw is on record as stating; ‘nearly every cyclist of my generation doped.’

If you have any doubts about the culture rolling into the next generation of riders after ‘The Lion of Flanders’ then read Tomas Dekker’s book, ‘The Descent;’ he tells us ‘doping was a way of life at Rabobank’ – given the number of riders who’ve been caught, ‘fessed up’ or been exposed it’s hard to see how a young rider could actually resist kitting up in those eras.

Rabobank days! Thomas Dekker and Michael Rasmussen

Then there’s that august body, ASO promoters of the Tour de France; park up in the press car park at the permanence and you’ll see an SUV with Richard Virenque’s handsome, but a little chubbier than in his prime, face in a huge colour graphic splattered across the doors. Lance wasn’t the biggest scandal ever – Festina was, it stopped the Tour in it’s tracks and for a while it looked like the race wasn’t going to make it to Paris – ‘Tricky Dicky’ was at the heart of all that but there he is, larger than life on the race he had a part in almost destroying.

The tears of a clown!

Is it because Rebellin and Valverde didn’t give us a tearful mea culpas, or because they didn’t write books about how ‘the sport’ corrupted them that they’re the worst of the ‘bad dopers ?’ They simply kept their mouths shut, served their time, came back and got on with their jobs – as was their right. Or is it because they’re ‘dodgy southern European, Latinos?’

Rebellin, second in the 2008 Olympic Games – Not

The current ratio for Anglos losing Tour de France wins for doping infringements to Spaniards or Italians suffering the same fate stands at 8:0 by my calculations. And to rattle off the names of a few more confirmed ‘dopers’ who are ‘living happily ever after.’

Tyler Hamilton, who’s a very pleasant man but who was part of Lance’s entourage and then joined Phonak – and there’s another story – where he was busted along with Botero and Landis, is now running a coaching company with paying clients.

Tyler and Bjarne – Both still involved

George Hincapie who was Lance’s ‘enforcer’ and with the Texan on every Tour win, not to mention a key witness in the seven times Tour winner’s downfall now runs a clothing company and sponsors a racing team for U23 riders.

Hincapie was Lance’s right-hand man

Floyd Landis who lost his Tour win due to a positive test – then wrote a book proclaiming his innocence before he ‘fessed up’ and took Lance down in the process runs a company which produces marijuana (now legal in a number of states in the USA) and is the subject of a ‘blokey’ interview in Rouleur.

Carcassone- Frankrijk - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - Tour de France - 12e etappe Luchon-Carcassone - Floyd Landis (Phonak) - foto Wessel van Keuk/Cor Vos ©2006
Floyd Landis – A strange story

Freddy Maertens, who put the ‘C’ in cortisone works at the Tour of Flanders Museum in Oudenaarde and is loved and revered by all comers.

Hinault, Poulidor, Thevenet and Merckx – Poulidor was said to be clean

Bernard Thevenet, who by his own admission was on cortisone for three years but is a Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur is a kind, friendly man who’s still loved by the French public 40 years after his Tour wins.

Alejandro Valverde and Davide Rebellin – Both long careers

To the Rebellin and Valverde haters then I would say; either accept that they did wrong, served their time and allow them to move on.


If all dopers are the same then rip up your Francesco, Freddy and Big George posters, chuck that Hincapie tracksuit top in the bin and put an axe through that Eddy Merckx frame.


Try to convince yourself that Rebellin’s 25 years as a pro is all down to drugs and has nothing to do with talent, dedication or love of the sport.

Rebellin – Not quite in the same league as Armstrong

It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,500 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

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