Dear Mr. Frei,

May 1, 2012

I read with interest that you want to regain our trust with openness. If you follow the mountainbike world, you’ll know that I’m all about being open. But seriously, since you would like to be open and transparent, five simple questions to prove your willingness to be open:

  1. Aside from the EPO that you tested positive for, which other doping products did you use?
  2. Who sold it to you and who else was involved? You want to be part of the solution, so surely helping to prevent them from continuing to sell doping products to you and others is high on your priority list.
  3. Are you still in contact with the people who sold you the drugs and helped you with your doping practices?
  4. Do you think we should trust you if you are still in contact with these people?
  5. After you were caught doping, did you agree with certain people to stay quiet about their involvement in your doping practices? Do you think that staying quiet helps to re-enter professional cycling?

I would think these are five simple questions to answer for somebody striving for transparency. If you answer them honestly, you will have earned my trust.

Sincerely,

Gerard.

21 Responses to “Dear Mr. Frei,”

  1. Anax Says:

    Ouch…. Nice post !

  2. Nancy Says:

    Why is he worst than David Millar or Thomas Dekker?


    • Where do I say he is? I don’t think he’s worse than anybody else per se.

      • Nancy Says:

        Both are convicted positive and they did not have to fight to get their job back or named their friends. Now, they are almost considered as the definition of clean riding.

        Frei wants to get his job too. Why would he needs to do more than these guys? It is a bit of double standard your post.


        • I don’t know how much Millar had to fight, that was before my time, but Dekker definitely had to. At least he had to fight me all the way. I lost.

          So no, not a double standard. The same standard. The only difference may be the place where I fought the fight. But I fight it where I think the impact is the biggest. Also there, I’m not always right.

        • Jason Says:

          These are questions that _should_ be asked, they need to be asked if we ever want to get to a place where clean cycling has a chance to flourish. Just because they haven’t been asked to every rider previously suspended for doping doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t ever be asked in the future. They have to start somewhere and with someone. Gerard is standing up with the courage to ask these questions while almost no one else will.

          I’d argue that Frei needs to do more because of the position that he found himself in. Who put him in that position? Does everyone have a right to be a pro cyclist for a top level team? no.

        • peter Says:

          Dekker offered to provide WADA information, even before his ban had ended: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/dekker-to-provide-information-to-wada

          There has also been a book by him (although that doesn’t go into any specifics of his dope use) and there was a documentary on Dutch TV. While I think at first he made some mistakes when his positive test was announced, he has really come a long way since as far as I can tell. David Millar in turn is one of the most outspoken riders against doping.

          For me, just doing the time after a doping offence isn’t really enough to be redeemed and start ‘clean’ again. A rider needs to speak openly about his dope use. Not necessarily to the press or to the public, but at least to anti-doping officials and in the peloton.

          I mean, we must all clearly see the difference between the post-ban Dekker and the post-ban Valverde! Gun to your head, who would you trust to be clean more?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Funny how people seem to read this as an attack on Frei. Especially answers to questions about others involved should help riders in the long run.

  4. Jason Says:

    Great questions to ask anyone coming back from a doping suspension (and I’d love to see them posed to David Millar and Kim Anderson). Thanks for using your voice.

  5. ankush1983 Says:

    These are some valid questions. As Gerard mentioned, if Frei wants to be transparent he should answer these questions without any hesitation. It will make him a more respected rider and nothing less.

  6. Piti Says:

    As we all know, if Frei would truthfully answer these questions, he will never come back.

  7. Kiwirider Says:

    Ok, so I’ll start this post by saying that I definitely believe in individual responsibility when it comes to doping. I am not in any way trying to excuse athletes’ decisions to dope.

    But what I do definitely believe is that doping cannot be tackled by this naiive game of putting all of the blame on athletes – it’s actually about getting around to addressing the system that they’re in. As a lawyer, I’ll say that to me this is just basic criminology – look to the underlying root causes of the crime that you’re trying to stop, and address them rather than simply imposing sanctions on the ultimate offender.

    So, against that background, Mr Vroomen here are a couple of questions for you …

    1. One of the factors that is often talked about by athletes as a reason for doping is the pressure that they receive from a number of quarters – including from sponsors/potential sponsors – to perform “at the next level”. Can you honestly say that you and your company have never put this type of pressure on any of your athletes – either directly, or through pressure on teams/managers, etc?

    2. Cycling is notorious as a hard sport where most elite practitioners have a very limited earning capacity. The mandated minimum salaries are fairly low – yet the salaries for the top riders are many times these minimum levels. All of this presents a serious economic incentive on a cyclist to use “whatever means are available” to increase their earning capacity. As a sponsor, you are the ultimate paymaster of the cyclists – and have the ability in your contractual terms with the teams to ensure that these issues are addressed. What steps, if any, have you taken along these lines?

    3. Related to question 2, the prospects for riders after a career in pro cycling often aren’t that great. Often their focus on biking has come during the time when most people acquire the qualifications that they use to set themselves up for future careers and earning capacity. Some sports recognise this and teams will actually run programmes to help their athletes earn qualifications and prepare themselves for a post sport life. This ability to “see a future” has been cited as reducing some of the incentive to dope (by addressing the same pressures as noted in question 2). Again, as a sponsor who clearly cares about addressing doping, what terms have you written into your contracts with teams that you sponsor to ensure that measures to help cyclists transition into a post-sport life are put in place?

    4. As a North American, you will I am sure be aware of incredibly naiive attitude that the majority of the media on this continent has towards doping in sports. The on-going adulation towards one American cyclist in particular springs instantly to mind. I have noticed advertisements for your company’s product during programmes and in magazines that continue that ridiculous adulation and that show that same level of naiivity in their on-going reporting of our sport. Can you explain to me how you can reconcile supporting these media outlets (through payment for the advertising) when their message and attitude is so blatantly at odds with your condemnation of doping?

    5. Lastly, you’ll tell from my questions that I strongly believe that the problem with doping is systemic and that much more needs to be done to identify the broader root causes of the problem and to then identify potential strategies to address those causes. Whilst WADA does a good job of attempting to address these issues, as an organisation that is primarily a “police officer”, it is hard for them to do the wider criminology type research. This is the same sort of situation that has been encountered in many other fields (eg., combatting recreational drug abuse). The solution in those areas has been the support of targetd research by companies and other third party funders – which has in turn been used to create strategies that are implemented at the front line. What is your company doing – either on its own or in conjunction with other companies who sponsor professional sports – to help fund similar research measures related to doping in sport?

    I will finish this rather long post by saying that this isn’t designed to be having a go at you. My questions are genuine and the point of view that they describe is one that I genuinely hold. I also have a genuine interest in your response.

    Thanks,
    KR


    • Hi KR, I agree 100% with you that the naive game of putting everything on the athlete is not fair. That’s also not my intention. It is actually the opposite, which is why the majority of my questions deal with the people behind. In that sense it mirrors your “basic criminology”, in that the rider is the one who gets caught (it’s the only place the sport can look, other authorities have more investigative reach) and then from the rider you somehow need to get to the structure behind.

      I’ll answer your points in a blog, it’s a bit long here.


  8. Interesting set of questions Gerard.
    Whether past rider, or present director, many of those questions whilst straight and to the point, would (if replied truthfilly, decimate the professional cycling world, in one fell swoop.

    You’ll struggle to find one current rider, who’ll answer all with clarity.
    The peers whom they would name within the responses, would ensure they raced for the exit door quicker than a shower taken when a blood tester knocked unexpectedly upon the door of opportunity.


    • While you are right, I am not so interested in the peers. The one rider who rats out another, that just gets you one more rider. And evidence of such a claim would be tough anyway. But a rider exposing his supply and support, that’s a different story. You are absolutely right that right now this might also mean the end of the rider’s career, but that’s exactly the problem.

  9. Raymond Says:

    Dear Gerald, I castigated you at length on my FB page, here’s a rerun: I had that Mr Vroomen in the back of my van for a week during the Tour 09 and he’s as uncompromising as ever, if not pedantic to the point of unrealistic expectations of others. If we and our betters in suits displayed the type of openness and honestly that Gerald expects of Frei for his unsporting behaviour, then fine, but it isn’t like that and never will be. Frei has been processed in and out by the system, so change the system Gerald not the hapless cyclist.

    and now again in your support of Stephen Roche. You appear to coming at this from the angle of “give the man a chance” and ” I deplore what you say, but defend your right to say it” very commendable indeed, however if Roche is angling for a credible position in our subconsious for a future role in the UCI or other cycling body, then he’s off to a bad start by using the “Freddy Star ate my hamster” method of promotion. Roche will forever be associated with Zippergate to be taken seriously for any other issue you blog about, however commendable.


    • Hi Raymond, as I said elsewhere, Frei or any other rider doesn’t owe the world anything. If they sit out their time, they are allowed back in (that’s a right I would protect also). However:
      1) No team is obliged to choose an ex-doper over a guy who can get a first chance
      2) If a rider returns speaking of transparency, then it’s not so strange to ask questions, is it?


  10. [...]  too) I’m turning it into a blog. I have summarized his questions, for the full questions you can check here. For the final installment of “a bit of Frei and Gerry”, subscribe to this blog as I [...]

  11. Joe Papp Says:

    While it’s not my responsibility to answer for Thomas, while you wait to hear from him (you did send him these questions, yes? if not, email me and I will pass along his contact info), here are some proxy-answers.

    1. Aside from the EPO that you tested positive for, which other doping products did you use?

    – none, just micro-doses of EPO starting in summer-2008 while w/ Astana.

    2. Who sold it to you and who else was involved? You want to be part of the solution, so surely helping to prevent them from continuing to sell doping products to you and others is high on your priority list.

    – obtained the EPO from an acquaintance who he sought out and convinced to provide him with the substance; no one else was formally involved in managing or facilitating the doping program, though his closest friends and his siblings were aware of what he was doing.

    – decided not to name the supplier to authorities, ostensibly b/c he felt that he (TF) had been the one to pressure the supplier to provide the EPO, not vice versa, and the person did so reluctantly (but of course still in contravention of rules governing pharmacy profession?); authorities accepted Frei’s unwillingness to denounce the supplier but as a result he did not receive any reduction in sanction

    3. Are you still in contact with the people who sold you the drugs and helped you with your doping practices?

    – as no one else helped him orchestrate doping regime, apart from seller who provided the EPO, do you mean has he broken w/ his friends and family since they knew about his doping?

    4. Do you think we should trust you if you are still in contact with these people?

    – again, the contention is that he doped only w/ EPO, which he obtained from a personal acquaintance, though friends and family knew he was doping – but they did not guide him in the process of doping. this information he obtained through independent research [note: it's not hard to find basic micro-dosing protocol online]

    5. After you were caught doping, did you agree with certain people to stay quiet about their involvement in your doping practices? Do you think that staying quiet helps to re-enter professional cycling?

    – did not have anyone to make arrangements to stay quiet with, since he was dependent on anyone else to devise the program, save for the individual who provided the EPO, who he declined to identify, feeling that he (TF) had pressured the individual to supply the doping products, and not the other way around.

    – insofar as you may be wondering if his team encouraged him in his doping, TF has said that the team did not pressure him to dope or provide him w/ any guidance or logistical support in doping, but nor did they question the improvements in his form and performances that resulted from said doping. in fact, they offered him a contract extension and a raise. this he spoke very openly and publicly about.

    – regrettably yes obviously riders like Basso and Contador who say nothing or deny everything relating to the charges they are convicted of have an easier time returning to the top-level of cycling; likewise Vino, Scarponi, and Valverde. Clearly cycling prefers its villains not spill the beans on anyone else.


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