What's Cool In Road Cycling

MailBag: Readers Respond on Doping

Nothing opens up the email lines like a good comment on doping, and Ed Hood’s plan for rider rehab sparked off a toasty blaze of opinions from all directions. We toss in some overdue Tour mail and comments on our ToolBox – and it’s the fattest mailbag ever!

Pez Sez: Let it be known that we do try to respond to most of the emails we get, but we’re now getting more than we can keep up with on some days. So if we don’t reply, or reply right away… don’t think we don’t appreciate you thinking of us and taking time to drop a line, because we do!

Here’s what some of your said about Ed’s Comment Taking Action Against Dopers

Misses The Biggest Opportunity
Making team management and doctors accountable is the bigger solution. The rider focused speeches are virtually useless.

Holding the team accountable, meaning management fines, loss of race slots or race placement period (like hockey, you have to go short handed for a few days or races) is a great start. Fine team doctors and or management.

Rasmussen was a classic case. Doping in cycles is how it’s done and how tests are avoided in race environments. The out of competition testing is critical as is team monitoring…

A team doc that notes someone’s h-crit level, Vo2 Max / Watts at threshold number jump double digit percentages in a short period of time should have a red flag to suspend the rider, not to give him a bit of plasma to make sure he won’t fail the 50% limit…

Who out there really feels like speeches and steeper penalties will work? The old guard in team management have no problem chewing up riders and spitting them out nor do they mind kicking a rider while holing up “white gloves” as evidence they’re doing all they can, when the white gloves are really latex simply to keep from having to wash the blood of the riders off that they’ve just used up.

More accountability is required, not more focus away from the system managers and governing bodies that have always used riders as stepping stones.

– Charles Manantan, PezCycling

Cycling Dopers Anonymous
I agree with your suggestions, however, there is one aspect that is missing: A good case could be made that the cyclists who are doping are actually drug addicts, and should receive treatment for their addiction.

Like most drug addicts, the “product” is taken behind closed doors, bought on the black market, and they “lie, cheat and steal” in order not to be caught. Once they are caught, most of them deny that they have a problem. Their “habit” can also cost them their job, their financial security, and does untold damage to their personal life and their moral character. In addition, the drugs these athletes take do not only help them to perform better, but they actually make them feel better (i.e. stimulants, testosterone, etc.). These drugs are mood altering, and (I believe) may be at least psychologically addictive. If this isn’t a “drug addiction”, I am not sure what is.

It is time that the UCI, WADA, and other agencies that deal with this issue begin not only looking at the punishment aspect, but also dealing with these athletes as drug addicts, not just “cheaters.” This is not to say that the athletes are “victims”, but rather that their actions in taking these products is similar, in many respects, to those of a common drug addict.

Stephan Andranian
Costa Mesa, California USA

Pez Sez…”new pro’s should be told what doping does to the body…”

I was told that years back, a survey was taken at the United States Olympic Training Center (Colo. Springs,Colo.) and the question was posed, “if there were a pill that would guarantee a Gold Medal, but would kill you in 10yrs.,would you take it?”, 70% said yes.

There is currently a large group of former N.F.L. players that are trying to get medical benefits, because, at the age of 50, they cannot walk. Yet there is no shortage of young men trying to make it to the pro’s.

And let’s talk of N.F.L. players who’ve had surgeries, have made over $50 mil. during their career, yet try to come back… Mike Alstott, neck injury, hasn’t ruled out coming back…

The very same… lack of… self preservation that allows someone to descend at 60mph or sprint at 40 beside Graeme Brown seems to apply to drugs.

It’s complicated. Patrick Sinkewitz signed a contract that called for him – if caught doping – to pay back two years of his salary. If enforced – it’s an interesting way to go.

Otherwise, like I said, it’s complicated.

– D Surowiec

Southern Style Justice
I totally disagree with this article. Let’s lynch a few and see what happens.

Carman Espinoza
A fed-up fan and participant of cycling

Go Stand In The Corner For 10 Minutes
I don’t want to demagogue a serious proposal (which has some good elements) but ARE YOU KIDDING ME … why don’t you just give them a tap on the bottom and a stern NO!

You are right about one thing (and there is a saying that goes along the same lines – which I can’t remember exactly), when money and/or power is involved people will cheat. CSC, Slipstream and T-mobile are taking the right approach, and in the context of two year suspensions – you have to have a true stick – it seems to be making riders be serious about riding clean. Look no further than Linus Gerdemann’s comments from T-mobile, and David Millar’s resurrection as a rider and strong anti-doping proponent.

Incentives for shorter penalties for cooperation seem to make a lot of sense. Making others pay the price for doping – because it’s not happening in a vacuum – is another one.

Your full proposal, however, runs the risk of cycling becoming pro football (which I enjoy, by the way). What did you think when Shaun Merriman (from the Chargers last year) and the guy from the Browns this year who got a handful of games suspension for steroids? JOKE! They should be kicked out! I don’t want either sport to be the equivalent version of the WWF and unfortunately football is too painfully close.

There will be those that will always take advantage of the system. And it will happen even within Slipstream and as we’ve seen in T-Mobile. There should be no safe haven or easy way out for the dopers, and your proposal I’m afraid is just that. Why not dope when all that’s required for being caught is a few months suspension and a talk to a few kids about how “I’ve seen the light” – shoot, you’d probably be more popular in the perverse way things seem to work sometimes.

David Millar has paid a steep price, and has really had to earn his acceptance back to “the peleton” (meaning more than just the professional peleton). Any shortcut to that is ultimately a dis-service to the sport.

That’s my two-cents.
– Bruce

Maggy Enforcement
Any time spent counselling a doper would be equivalent to time spent
counselling Brittany Spears, Lindsey Lohan, or Paris Hilton. I suggest any convicted doper spend a few moments with Magnus Backstedt. That would be just fine. [Read Maggy’s comment here]

– Joe, Northampton County, PA

I wish more cyclists felt the way and expressed it so well! I look forward to the day the camera shows a few riders pulling over to discuss doping,…. followed by the a-hole getting a good pounding!! Better than watching them slow down for a “nature break”. Any potential fines or suspensions would be dependent upon the drug tests that would certainly follow.

Keep up the great work,

Joe Bowler

The Psychologist Says
I am a psychologist and I have a few thoughts on your comments and proposals.

First of all, harsh penalties may indeed be working, just not on everyone. You don’t know how many riders chose not to dope because of the harsh penalties, more effective testing procedures, and fear of the humiliation resulting from getting caught. Those that dope may conclude that everyone else is and this is the only way to be competitive and to win. The mind plays tricks – we can talk ourselves into and out of some amazing things. Those that use doping methods can in their minds make something very negative seem less so. It’s the old cognitive dissonance principle at work.

I think they also see it a lot like gambling. If they get away with it they get results, money, and fame. If they don’t they lose everything. Some people are always willing to gamble and go for broke. They may feel this is their only way to achieve it. Also, we always think it’s the other guy that will get caught. Denial that it can happen to them. Also, in every society throughout history there has always been a percentage of the population willing to break the rules and laws.

I do like your proposal of having a rider caught doping go on an educational tour giving a presentation explaining why what he did was wrong. Studies show that doing this type of thing can have a powerful effect on one’s psychology and opinion on a subject. This can convert a previous hard-core doper to a major anti-doping advocate. Not always, but there is great potential for this. It’s a powerful psychological technique. David Millar seems to be showing some of this change.

I also think Slipstream is doing a great thing. They are aggressively trying to change the deeply entrenched history and culture of doping in professional cycling. I suspect that many riders who race clean detest being associated with cyclists who dope and would like to be on such a team. Other teams such as T-Mobile also seem very committed to have a clean team. The culture is changing and it will take a number of factors to do this. It will take time and eternal vigilance. But they must change the culture of pro cycling.

Kent Peppard, Ph.D.

Amnesty For All
I don’t intend to belittle your suggestions, but I think cycling needs some bolder fixes than the ones you suggest which are completely rider focused. Yes, the riders are the ones doping, but until recently the economic motivation for teams, sponsors and organizers made them turn a blind eye, if not outright promote doping. I think in the past a rider that doped and won garnered the sponsor enough positive publicity to offset the risk of negative publicity if caught, particularly when the testing was less frequent.

Here would be my suggestions:
1. Offer amnesty to riders, doctors and all team personnel this October. Why October? Because cycling needs to prevent a repeat of the Tour’s PR disaster. Publish all the doping stories to use up all the negative ink in October so that Giro, Tour and Vuelta can be filled with positive stories centered on the races and racers. Also, to get amnesty, a person would need to give concrete details, especially names. So, a rider would need to list the doctors, managers and other riders involved. Similarly a doctor would need to lists all the riders he “treated.” Anyone given amnesty but dopes again is banned for life from any association with the sport.

2. With the information acquired from giving amnesty, create a list of banned doctors, pharmacist, trainers, etc. who didn’t come clean. Associating with these individuals should be equivalent to doping. Also, create and publicly distribute a list of riders who didn’t come clean but were sited by multiple individuals. I doubt one of these riders would be able to get a contract with the current climate in cycling.

3. Teams should be suspended when one of their riders is caught doping. The first time it happens, the team is suspended for 1 month, the second time for 6 months, and the third time they loose their Pro Tour license. Such a rule explicitly aligns the team’s economic interest with anti-doping. This also creates a peer pressure for rider not to dope as it would greatly hurt their teammates, and teams will not hire suspected dopers.

4. If the riders and teams are severely punished for breaking the rules, so should the other organizations. I think a lab should publicly release the A sample results before testing the B sample but after notifying the rider, team, UCI and event organizer. If the lab fails to comply and leaks the results to the press first, then it should be suspended for 3 months. (Drug testing would have to be done at another lab.) If the lab work is sloppy, it should be suspended for 3 months. Similarly, the heads of the organizations should not publicly ‘convict’ riders until they’re B sample is tested. So, if Dick Pound can’t stop himself from making inappropriate comments on subjects he’s not familiar with, then he should be suspended too.

5. Collectively fund anti-doping efforts since everyone has a vested interest in a clean sport. All riders are subject to a 5% anti-doping tax; $500,000 of a ProTour license should go for anti-doping; and events pay for anti-doping based on their length and size, with each grand tour contributing $500,000. The collective funds are used for both for in competition testing, out of competition testing and a team’s internal testing.

6. Increase the number of test, decrease the time to perform the tests, reduce costs and avoid human error through automation. Frankly, I’m surprised lab technicians are even involved given the clinical chemistry machines available on the market today.

7. Stop the UCI and grand tour bickering. OK, this isn’t directly related to doping, but the current circus is embarrassing. For the good of cycling, both the UCI and grand tours should get together and appoint a commissioner that promotes a unified sport, just like other sports do. The commissioner is also responsible for enforcing rules, not only anti-doping but also other rules such as ensuring that a course’s sprint finish is on a safe road.

Craig Latimer

Concrete Cycling Shoes?
Seeing the Soprano’s are out of work, what about them being in charge of random drug testing and enforcement? You have to fear something or the consequences of your actions to stop the action.

Thanks for all the cycling information you guys provide.
– Pete

Thanks for your great coverage of the other side of the Tour De France I really enjoyed reading all of it. It is nice to see behind the scenes of the tour which you covered well and the photos were great as well. Some of us can’t afford to go to France so this was the next best thing.
Thanks again and keep up the good work..

Scott Padbury

On Rabo
Regarding your statements praising Rabobank, I would like to ask why
didn’t they fire Rasmussen before the tour when it was already known
that he had avoided testing and lied about his whereabouts?
The Danish Olympic Committee knew about it, why didn’t Rabobank?
The answer: They didn’t care, they wanted a winner, and didn’t act
until forced to by the fans and the press. How could they have
innocently been so ignorant with large sums of money at stake?
Tim Paradise

Using the lyric of a once popular song, What a strange tour its been. Indeed. As I contemplate the action of Rabobank sacking Mr Rasmussen I feel great appreciation for the great love that team and sponsor have for professional cycling. It seems truly remarkable that the more lasting good of the sport outweighed the temptation for claiming all the euros that go to the melliot jeunne (sorry for the spelling) in Paris. It is uncommon for folks to overlook immediate gratification of this magnitude. Can I open a bank account at Rabo?
– Matt Anderton

Pez crew!

I just wanted to give a mighty “thanks” to you guys for the awesome Tour coverage. There were many websites out there giving the GC standings, but you guys were the only ones that I saw showing the tour’s heart and soul. Thank you for riding the course and showing photos of the fans and the cyclists’ tired faces and the scenery that makes you want to stand and applaud. I had a blast every day (tho sometimes I had to wait until I got home and had watched the footage myself to not be spoiled!) keeping up with you guys and Michael Carmichael’s insights and all that good stuff.

Anyhoo, I know this Tour had its ups and downs, but following the updates made me sound that much smarter when I talked to my friends.
Thank you, and keep up the awesome work!

— gnat! (the pink haired girl with Greg Lemond)

THANK YOU for providing the balanced tour coverage that you do. Your editor (and probably chief bottle washer) has got the formula of factual race results and, for lack of a better term, human interest features down pat. I look forward to reading your features each night. As I suffer withdrawal symptoms, mainly waking up in the middle of the night to catch Phil and Paul who are no longer there, I can drift back to sleep with the picture of your trusty reporter enjoying a glass at a local pub, taverna, or cafe.
Thanks again!
– Boots

Like you said post tour blues. (See Tour Wrap: Moments Defined). What a roller coaster ride. I think it’s a purge that will be heal in the long run though and it’s good to hear the riders talking openly and with some real anger. I took a ride the day after one depressing stage. I wasn’t sure I could care anymore. Just me and my beloved LOOK it turned out to be pretty long one just shy of 200km. Windy as hell, it rained and by the time I got back I was a hurtin’ Albertan. Yet at the same time happy. I had fun yelling at the cows who didn’t know what to make of me and getting strange looks from folks at gas stations when I came in for food and fluids. I feel good about the sport again.
Just thought you might want know. Worked for me.
Marc Wiart

I agree with your defining moments. I also think Linus Gerdemann did an amazing job winning his stage in the Alps. As for the doping, every sport has it. I’m not sure why cycling’s issues always make the headlines though. What about Barry Bonds and his alleged abuse? Do people stop watching baseball because of it? In fact, the only time you even hear about the Tour, unless you’re a cycling fanatic, is when there is a doping scandal. Until all the crap hit the fan in week three, it was difficult finding a blip in the sports section of the newspaper about Le Tour. At any rate, it’s still the greatest thing to watch. Some day I’ll make it in person!
Keep up the good work!
C Thomson

I just wanted to say thanks for the latest batch of TdF images. And the captions (comments). Especially Boogerd’s quote, and the stadiums the players play in. Hadn’t ever looked at it that way. I was talking to a riding buddy a couple days ago (after Vino). It is about the bike. It’s not about glamour, fame, glory, or even competition. It’s about you, the bike, and the road. Simply riding. It happens on a bike.

And now it’s time for me to get on mine… 😉

Keep up the good work.

This tour I was deployed out of the US and was a grateful reader of PEZ daily online to quench my 2007 le Tour thirst. Thanks again for the best damn website on cycling. You Rock!

– Lt Col Paul “PT” Theisen
Commander, 944th LRS
Luke AFB

PEZ Sez: Thank again to everyone who reads PEZCycling, and who took the time to share thoughts with us – one thing is for sure- there’s never a dull day in pro cycling…

PROSHOP: Haf Time Break
I just read the Half Time Break, by Bruce Hendler. The bit about resting if you race every weekend makes a lot of sense especially if you combine it with the pressures of working as well. I have now put myself down for a break after acheiveing a couple of my goals, thanks for an enlightening article.
– Bruce P

TOOLBOX: Mental Training
I have very much enjoyed the entire series of mental training tips, and forwarded some of the articles to many of my clients.

While most of the article is spot on in my opinion, it’s interesting that you open with a quote from a national champion that she could just suffer more than the rest. In my opinion, this type of statement (while she may really believe it) is misleading at best, and damaging at worst.

It’s misleading because it ends to minimize the importance of physical ability. Especially on the (quite selective) Seven Springs road course, it doesn’t really matter how much you can suffer if your competition can do 5W/kg at threshold, and you’re at 4W/kg. I prefer the statement that ‘I managed my energy and emotions better than my competition on the day’. I know, not the same ring to it.

It can be damaging in that, when you lose, you can wind up telling yourself that you are less of an athlete because ‘I didn’t suffer enough’. It can impact one’s sense of self value.

My question is, do you think I’m incorrect in these points?

BTW, I especially like references to Frankl and Monty Python in the same article.

-John Verheul

Marv Sez:Thanks so much for your kind words. It’s readers like you that make the writing so meaningful for me.

I agree completely that an athlete can take the champion’s quote in the ways you mention. And there’s the rub. As I see it, when we hear these things from athletes like her or Lance or the guy down the street who we’re competing with every week, we always have a choice about how we’re going to interpret/take/use them. Your statement is far less likely to be used negatively by an athlete, but as you point out, not nearly as likely to be made, not nearly as likely to be in the vernacular. So it’s tricky, not only for athletes but for us coaches who are helping our athletes interpret these phrases/ guidelines/ sayings.

Her contention is that she won because she could “suffer more” on that day. We’ll never know if that’s indeed true. To me, I hope the truth of it is less the issue for readers than the self-examination that I hoped it would help provoke. (“What’s MY relationship to suffering on the bike?” “How and when does it affect my performance/success/goals?” “Am I letting my focus on — or obsession with — suffering get in the way of accurate self-assessment, eg. being aware of my power output as compared to other competitors?” and so on)

Running away from the killer rabbit,

Gotta Comment?
If you’ve got a comment or opinion you’d like to share, send us an email and we might just publish you in glorious pixelated black & white! Letters may be edited for grammar, spelling, length or just to make ‘em better.

Send your comments to:[email protected]

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.