MailBag: The Tidal Wave Cometh
It’s not uncommon that our editorials strike a note with many readers, but in the case of our recent comment on the ASO and the UCI’s less than acceptable running of the sport and it’s major properties, we appear to have struck a “crank it up to 11, power up the wall of Marshalls, and fasten your seatbelts power chord” of response from cycling fans across the land.
Without question we’ve received more letters in response to Charles Manantan’s comment (See Absolute Bullshit here)than any story ever posted on PEZ, and I stopped counting at 100… Given that the silent majority rarely speaks, I’d say public opinion is pretty clear on the current management (or mismanagement) of our sport.
Here’s just a few samples of what you had to say along with a few responses from Charles.
I have decided that the TDF and Giro do not deserve to be followed day by day. Over the past 10 years I have watched both whenever possible. This year I will watch when it happens to come to my attention. I thought the Giro had more taste but apparently they are just as petty as the TDF. I hope a Frenchman wins the TDF so they can get the credit they deserve: cut out some of the best competitors and see if we can win. What a joke this is turning out to be for professional cycling.
– Ted Palfini
CM: Ted, the Giro have come around a bit and invited High Road, so that’s a reasonable first step, then again an invitation to a revamped High Road alone simply magnifies the injustice to Astana.
Damn! Absolutely right freakin’ on! Yes, the riders themselves, they whose livelihood is dependent solely on the opportunity to get to the start gate, should finally do something. I thought the riders missed a perfect chance before the start of last year’s TdF. Of course, I’m nobody, a complete nobody in the cycling world, merely a passionate fan. No, I will not miss a car payment if I don’t start the ToC or the Giro or the Vuelta, but the riders are job scared, afraid for their immediate livelihood and are not looking at the bigger picture. Cyclists are the least organized and represented of all pro athletes, so they are the easiest targets. American baseball, football, and basketball players belong to very strong unions, and instead of banning the players, the President of the US is talking about pardoning a doper who has lied under oath to a Senate committee before the guy has even missed a start! Talk about stroke. And really, I don’t hear many people even talking about the doping problem in baseball, etc. Cyclists are demonized the world over while footballers get a free pass. Is doping acceptable? Well, doping has been declared illegal and therefore is not acceptable. But let’s be a bit rational. Manantan, good job, Sir.
– Dennis Fernandez
Well said sir! Thank you for standing up for procycling and the riders who actually are the only ones who make a race or event what it is. Thank you for shinning such a clear light on what can and should be done to fight this continuing degenerate circus.
– Morgan Hunter
CM: Morgan, let’s not forget the likes of FIFA and the footballers union… The Puerto investigation went absolutely nowhere with either FIFA or the ballers as, unlike cycling, both FIFA (The UCI’s counterpart) and the ballers union are no place near the easy whipping boy that the UCI and CPA are.
That was beautiful man. Everything you said was spot on. The riders need to strike if anything will ever change. All the powers that be have forgotten that without the riders there is no Tour de France. Someone should call the Teamsters or MLBPA and figure out a way to get this done. You think any of this shit would happen in the NFL or MLB, no way. The riders have zero power when they should have most of it. I think you should forward your letter to Cedric Vasseur, he needs to read it.
– Rob Rybacki
Owner Pedal Sports
Well said I can’t add another word that would not spoil all you have said. THE RIDERS SHOULD PUT THEIR FOOT DOWN JUST THE WAY YOU’VE SAID Without riders there’s not Giro, Tour or Vuelta no race period. SAY IT LOUD CLEAR RULES or no RACE.
– Valdes White
Excellent item! Finally someone with the guts to lay it out like it is and say what’s needed to be said and done.
– Christopher Hollinshead
CM: Christopher thanks, but I’m a bit gutless too… Guts will come from the riders and those inside cycling… I’m in the cheap seats without nearly the risk. Tip of the hat to Michael Ball at the TOC press conference though for standing up and saying the riders need a better union. After all, they would be united against Michael as well…
This article is simply fantastic and echoes far more eloquently my own
thoughts on the cluster few*k pro-cycling has become. Thank you for
posting it on your site and bravo to Charles Manantan. I deeply pray the
professional cyclists can look to real sports leagues like the NFL, MLB,
and NBA and see exactly what a player’s union is supposed to be like and
how they should stand up for themselves- if the riders don’t care about
each other why should ASO/RCS/ UCI give a rat’s ass about them? The UCI
got their cash for teams belonging to the failed “Pro Tour” and the
organizers will get their cash for putting the race on- unless the
riders man up and tell those pricks to pound sand unless the best riders
can compete. If Cadel Evens smokes the field this year is anyone outside
of Australia going to give a crap? Big deal, he won without last years
winner, a 2 time runner up and last years 3rd place there. So what will
he have accomplished? If I want to see amateur hour racing I’ll go check
out the next available cat 4 race in my local area- I care about pro
cycling to watch the bast cyclists race and the whole season is tainted
if I know some of the best riders are sitting at home because of
political bullshit excuses on the part of the organizers. I really
couldn’t care less about pro cycling right now than I do- it is a
– Jason Flanagan
CM: Thanks Jason, but let’s remember that, while Cadel is most notable for being the best wheel follower in the peloton, any of the guys riding and winning a tour completed a massive personal effort… That said I would rather see Cadel and the rest be recognized for simply not dressing for the race from day one.
While Cadel isn’t known as Mr. Excitement on the bike, he could quickly be the most exciting man in racing if he stood up today and said “no thanks, I’ll pass unless my compatriots are allowed”.
Oh my goodness. Charles Manantan has it completely correct. And the fact that Team High Road is kissing ass because they were selected for the Giro isn’t helping anyone. Winning a race means nothing when the best racers are not there to race. It will be like Oscar Pereiro winning the Tour. I mean, come on.
– Matt Larson
I think that Charles Manantan should be placed in charge of the UCI
and WADA at this very minute. He should have the authority to silence
the blowhards which are ruining our sport, and we should follow every
single thing in this article to the letter.
Best article on the whole doping crap bar none in any magazine or
website, hands down.
– Regis Chapman
Not a bad rant, but I would also add these additional points:
1) Labs must be held to higher ethical and professional standards: If a drug
test comes back non-negative, it can not be sent to another lab for
additional testing. If proper sample handling or testing procedures are not
followed, the lab can be fined or suspended. If test results are disclosed
to the public before the rider has seen the result, then the lab can be
fined or suspended.
CM: How about Sued? And the CPA should be in charge of that.
2) The riders should propose and strike for a new set of rules that puts
them out in front of the “war on doping” and creates stability and harmony
in cycling. Strategically, asking for a tougher set of rules will make it
harder for the UCI and grand tours to turn them down. For example, they
could ask for:
a) 25% of the ProTour license goes into an anti-doping fund and provides all
the testing needed for all the ProTour teams. A hodgepodge of anti-doping
practices is too confusing to restore faith in cycling.
b) Automate the anti-doping testing with clinical chemistry machines. This
will increase through put allowing all riders to be tested and drive down
costs. Ideally, there should be portable anti-doping labs where results
could be determined by the following morning and riders could have their
B-samples tested immediately.
c) Streamline the anti-doping appeals process. If the tests are automated
as described in (b) and every rider is tested, then the one rider who fails
the test has far fewer arguments as to why they failed. All appeals should
go through a new independent governing body that has equal representation
from riders, UCI and event organizers. Consequently, the appeals process
could be shortened to months rather than years.
d) If someone is caught doping, then that person is suspended for two years.
e) If someone is caught doping, then that team looses its ProTour license
for the following year. Peer pressure can be the strongest motivator
f) Given these strong anti-doping rules, a ProTour team offers greater
protection against negative publicity for grand tour organizers. So, there
should be 16 ProTour teams, and all must be guaranteed a spot in the grand
tours unless they have had a doping offense that year.
If the riders are to go on strike, they might as well fix all of cycling
with one broad stoke.
CM: Craig, there absolutely should be fewer teams. There should also be a feeder system for logical selection for the next teams to be considered… This allows the Tour / Giro and Vuelta several appointment slots for teams to select. This also means that teams could logically work toward inclusion while the two bottom placed teams from a points system would be up for review (maybe it’s an every two years process unless a team drop out of it’s own accord).
The problem is that the UCI are too greedy and want to charge fee’s to more teams than are necessary, and also want to be “courted” by teams trying for a license rather than simply letting teams earn a spot.
And I don’t think a team losing a license for a year is good, but I do think that if a rider is positive that his team should be out of that race (if in progress) and also lose the ability to race for a period of time afterward… And for the reason you state… Teams should be accountable to keep riders clean, not just “testable” and to give proper incentive, they should also pay a penalty.
This could also be the only way a French rider could win the Tour. Remove the competition, etc. etc. etc. . .
– Bill Bales
CM: I don’t even think this is enough, but yeah….
Glad someone with the light of the press had the guts to write a piece like this. I spent a very brief, humble 2 years as a USPRO, and I never understood the lack of support or alliance among the athletes. The ASO and the other monkeys involved in this crap throwing contest have made a mockery of a time honored sport and given it a black eye in the name of greed and power. The problem is they never had to earn those limited spots on a professional roster in payments of blood and sweat, so they have no respect for the effort and sacrifice, let alone the person behind the lycra. Nothing will change their perceptions except a punch to the wallet, that’s the only pain they feel.
I hope more people have the huevos to lay it out like you have, thanks for the ray of hope and sanity.
– Mike Gann II
I agree whole heartedly and feel the only thing that will cure this sick sport are the riders. The riders are the ones being abused, the riders are victims of the UCI/ASO/WADA in every case. The riders need to act now!
Good for PEZ for creating this debate, good for being clear, honest and seeing the truth.
STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!
– Glenn Murphy
…I could not agree more. This will not get better until there is a strike. Personally, any event sponsored by ASO or its Giro counterpart should be hit. ASO seems to think it and its events are what people want to watch – that the Tour is why millions of Americans began tuning in each July. What idiots! It is the drama, excitement and glory created by the men who ride in them. It has been so since the beginning. Where would they be without Fausto, Bernard, and Lance? No where!
… Enough! Fuck it! I am on strike. I have cancelled by cable subscription. I will also actively lobby to anyone who will lesson to do the same. I encourage all active riders to do the same. In fact, I will go so far as to say that even the heroes of the past need to step up and show their support. Where are you Lance? How about you Eddy? Miguel?
Well, I got that off my chest. Now I need a ride. With the snow on the ground, it will be on the spin bike in the basement. Usually I watch an old Tour or Giro video, but no more. Hmmm, I wonder if pro wrestling is on tonight?
– Jack Ferro
CM: Jack, this will absolutely require the stars to stand up. Frankly I wouldn’t support my team leader if he didn’t stand up, as that’s what “leaders” should do, no?
Part of the problem is that the UCI are fairly well joined to select managers with heavy influence too. It was a great service for the riders getting rid of Manolo Saiz and frankly there are still a couple others that need to go… Managers have always held the “who rides and who doesn’t card” and that’s part of the problem too, along with the UCI and Race Organizers.
I have heard now from a couple of guys that are leaders that are in support. It will be interesting to see if they can finally stand up… As the top dogs can simply not be ignored by their managers…
Cycling’s undeniable “Ten Commandments” could be no more than; Tom Boonen, Cadel Evans, Paolo Bettini, Damiano Cunego, George Hincapie, Levi, Robbie McEwen, Ale Jet, The Schleck Brothers.
These guys could stop cycling in it’s tracks with a “we won’t race” agreement.
Well put. Someone should get this out to Astana and get them to stand up for themselves. I agree with the whole article.
– Aaron Weiss
I like what you have presented and in my mind you are absolutely correct.
I simply do not understand why riders or Teams do not stand up and fight these organizers. For the life of me I cannot understand why Teams sit by and allow this to happen. Are they just happy they got an invite and are scared what would happen if they speak out. Are they afraid of being excluded since their sponsors might be upset. The sport needs to be unified. The riders and Teams needs to be much strong together and stand up for one another. As much as I dislike unions and disagree with them I would take the next approach and ask that riders and Teams be properly protected.
Case in point:
Is there a minimum guarantee of prize money?
Are hotels in grand tours of 4 or five star quality guaranteed
Is distance travel limited between stages – a max allow able
Are rider given sufficient rest
Are distances accepted by the riders
I know these answers, and I know little regards is given to the riders. I hope this time the organizers arrogance will come back to haunt them.
Look at the NHL and NBA – do you ever wonder where those athletes stay and what they have in their agreements – for money, per diem, hotels comfort.
Do you know a PGA golf player will earn more winning a 4 day PGA event than a person who wins the Tour De France – I am not going to ask the obvious, but golf is tough and it is only 4 days of competition.
Why don’t the pro’s put the hammer down? Why don’t the Teams put the hammer down?
They need to understand, they are the show, we want to see them, we want to watch good racing, and more importantly, they need to step up and unite.
– Peter Metuzals
CM: I would agree to some level, but note that the teams have the AIGCP as a union and they were ready to block riders ability to earn a living, suspended or not, by simply being associated with Puerto… The teams have shown an alliance with the UCI that, at times borders on collusion against the riders. The riders might agree or disagree with the teams coincidentally but I think the riders need fully independent representation. The teams absolutely have a conflict of interest with the riders.
I have been reading letters on many cycling sites about the tour and yours is by far the best yet. I wish all the cycling sites would post the contact information for the UCI and ASO and let your readers make the choice in sending them email or not. Maybe with all the cyclists voicing their opinion for once, although I doubt it, someone might actually listen. Also list the contact info for the CPA so that maybe they could actually see how other cyclists feel. I have already sent email to ASO and Versus to let them know that I will not be viewing the Tour De Farce this year. Instead, the Bianchi will be on the road and I will be getting more exercise. Absolutely great article and it is definitely ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT!
– Marshall Brinson
I am rarely inspired to participate or add my thoughts to most opinions, editorials and the like, but this is absolutely the most concise and candid summary of the state of cycling to date.
Charles, I applaud you for sharing your time and thoughts with everyone who loves this sport as much as I do. You stepped up to the plate and you are rightfully asking everyone to do the same. Enough of this unacceptable circus and bullshit, there are enough people who love cycling to make a difference, and I am one willing to do what I can to support Charles’ views if it can help our sport.
Needless to say, I was also able to see right through ASO’s ludicrous decision to exclude Astana, which has been polarized further with the inclusion of Confidis and Rabobank. For the first time since I knew how to use a remote, I am going to boycott the tour and everything that has to do with it this year, should ASO stand by its decision to keep Astana out. The riders ARE the race, they, the spectators and the fans deserve so much more and yes, I wish the riders would also stand up and show equal fortitude and strength against ASO and they always have on the road. Enough is enough and I too ask for fan solidarity to give ASO a taste of its own medicine and boycott the tour around the world.
To Johan Bruyneel, Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Kloden and everyone at Astana including the sponsors, I applaud you for how well you are dealing with the news and for showing strong team solidarity. You are truly a classy and professional collection of people.
Christian Prudhomme and Jean-Marie Leblanc, I am French and I am nothing less than disgusted with your lack of integrity and for lowering what should be one of France’s historical and cultural masterpieces. As Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France is also a fan of the tour, I wish he would get involved, wield some leadership and vision, fire your asses and bring in some capable people from outside of this infected world of cycling “management”.
– Valentino Sebic
There certainly exist many perspectives on the etiology of the plight in which cycling finds itself. While the written comments of Charles Manantan contain certain points that I believe are valid, particularly those regarding the differential enforcement of the rules by the organizations that make and apply them, there is one aspect implied by his discussion that must be further examined. The general tenure of the piece implies that riders are somehow the innocent victims in this melodrama. However, in many/most of the cases in which riders have been found to have used banned performance-enhancing technologies, the root of much of the situation we find ourselves in, it was the riders making the ultimate personal decision to engage in the activity.
I’m certain that in response to this assertion there will be discussion regarding an institutional pressure to perform that encourages/enables these riders to make this choice. There will also be discussion that under certain circumstances the use of illegal performance-enhancing technologies may have been at least condoned, or in some instances encouraged or mandated by team directors. However, and make no mistake on this issue, using the performance-enhancing technologies was always the final decision of the riders.
I can hear certain individuals saying that it was the only way they could continue to make their living in cycling. Fine. Choose another profession. Or better yet, “out” the system that pressures riders to cheat to maintain competitiveness. But if you weren’t willing to be a part of the solution, then you were a part of the problem…and therefore NOT a victim.
As for a solution, let’s encourage every rider to be a part of the solution (1) accepting personal responsibility (what a concept) to not use illegal performance-enhancing technologies, and (2) through participating in institutional pressure to “out” those who choose otherwise. Out with “code of silence” and in with the code of “personal responsibility and ethical behavior”.
– Dr. Pete Watson
While your vocabulary and structure are commendable, I’m not sure you could have missed the point any more completely.
Your take on this is exactly what the governing bodies and UCI are hoping for in that a portion of the public won’t see past the smoke screen that the war on doping has become and recognize that they, along with Dick Pound are simply looking to use any means necessary for self promotion and power grabbing…
Your suggestion is the UCI’s suggested riders pledge. I’m not sure it was the cure nor a portion of it, but it does make the UCI seem like they’re doing something…
I don’t condone doping nor do I justify why dopers dope and I agree it is a problem.
But rather than Prudhomme playing Jacques in the Box promoting himself in the image of the pope before him while out the top of a team car or Dick Pound-ing away in an effort to get his next gig, the UCI setting up as many guideline as they can as long as they don’t limit their own flexibility or the organizers tossing up teams and riders who are not dopers for self serving gains, I think we need a voice that can force genuine change in the system.
“Make no mistake”, doping is systemic. While the riders are ultimately punished they are not completely responsible, accountable nor the only ones to benefit. And while doping gets the headlines, it is not the only problem.