Take the lead

July 25, 2012

Last week I commented on why the Schleck case won’t change cycling’s anti-doping quest. First off, I fully understand why nobody is really saying anything right now, as virtually nothing is known, but also when more info comes out, that won’t change. Nor will this be an impetus to drive a wider anti-doping discussion.

And when you think about it, whether this is a case of tainted supplements, poisoning or a top rider still not learning, it would warrant a serious discussion on where cycling wants to take its anti-doping effort. The reason it won’t happen is that everybody in cycling is so intertwined that nobody can take a stance:

  • Radioshack is not in a position to take the lead. Schleck is their rider and even if not, the last thing they want to talk about is doping, with Bruyneel facing a possible life-time ban over USADA’s Lance investigation.
  • Riis can’t take the lead because Schleck rode for him for years and he supported him when the Schleck-Fuentes link came out.
  • GreenEdge can’t take the lead because their PR man used to work for Riis and wrote the now infamous press release when the Schleck-Fuentes situation came up (you can read it here and remember, this was after Schleck denied for 3 months there was any link to Fuentes and somehow ignoring the fact that when you pay 7000 Euro and don’t get anything in return, most people would ask for their money back).
  • Then there are probably a half-dozen teams who contacted Schleck in the past month after it became clear the brothers were trying to leave Radioshack, and they wouldn’t want to get into a pissing match of “well, you criticize me now  but last month you thought I was great”. So nothing will come from there.
  • Additionally, commenting on Frank Schleck may annoy some of his friends at Radioshack who also want to leave (which may include some VERY desirable riders), so if you’re trying to sign any of them, you will probably stay quiet too.
  • Sky won’t take the lead because they don’t want to be associated with anything doping-related right now since their excellent performances are making some people suspicious (unwarranted in my opinion, but that’s another discussion).
  • Garmin-Sharp won’t take the lead as they don’t want to put focus back on the USADA five right now (the second paragraph principle, after the main news is put in the first paragraph, the second paragraph is for a related bit of info and on this topic, nobody wants to be that bit).
  • The UCI has been “100% behind” Leopard before it even existed, and they have a complicated relationship with Bruyneel, so they will do their duty in this case (unlike some I have no doubt about that) but I would not expect them to use this case to really punch through with sweeping changes.
  • The national Luxembourg federation and ADA, what can they be expected to do when Schleck and cycling are one and the same in their small country? (which is why we should forget about national agencies being involved in anti-doping procedures to begin with).

So as a result, this will be a case that will take its course, which may range from a warning to a two-year ban, but it won’t spur any bigger shake-up. And this sort of inter-connectedness is by no means an exception.

In case you wonder, you might think I wouldn’t have anything to say either because Schleck rode on a bike I had something to do with until 2008. But I have already spoken my mind on this, I don’t think I can add much to what I said here.

But it’s not all bad, so in one of the next posts we’ll look on the bright side. Follow it all by subscribing here.

16 Responses to “Take the lead”

  1. Luc Prévost Says:

    What do you think of Antoine Vayer’s analysis of the watts produced during the 2012 TdF?

    http://www.lemonde.fr/sport/article/2012/07/23/tour-de-france-c-est-schleck-qui-a-raison-le-poison-agit-encore_1736926_3242.html?xtmc=&xtcr=2

    Do they make sense to you?
    The implication is… énorme!

  2. Sal Ruibal Says:

    Nothing will change until the culture of the UCI changes. The sport is rotting from the top down.

  3. Evan Shaw Says:

    Bravo Gerard. Brilliant. I think your understanding, experience, and knowledge allows you to see the big picture. You are an optimistic and fair minded person, but no ones fool. I thank you for your sharing this knowledge. As you know there is still a great deal of reticence if not outright omertà present in the industry.

    Gerard, why is it that of all the hundreds of cyclists it is only Frank who turns up with a prescription medication and a dangerous one at that to be used to either decrease climbing weight or mask other doping agents? This is either unlikely or not possible to be in a supplement. It is a very old medication actually, not in much current practice of being subscribed. And massively dangerous to use for an elite athlete. He could have suffered serious if not lethal consequences from using it. And it brings up the question of who prescribed it, obtained it and gave it to him as well.

    Poisoned? I am a believer in due process and legal protections for athletes but oh my god, it is so unacceptable for each and every athlete to go down this road of denial.


    • Why is it that out of hundreds of cyclists only one tests positive? This is the issue, the sport can’t win. If it catches some, it’s seen as dirty. If it doesn’t, people say the testing isn’t effective.

      Why is it that Fuentes, Del Moral and others are so active in tennis yet nobody is ever caught for anything there and no names ever leak? Why is it that in tennis, only the player who loses the match is tested? Imagine if cycling would do that, so instead of testing the yellow jersey wearer daily we only test the guy who finishes last. The media would be all over it, yet in tennis you get silence.

      • Evan Shaw Says:

        Well this speaks to the larger issues of classism racism status priveledge and power in society and sport. Tennis historically like golf is an elite sport of the rich. It has a players union excess of money and political connections. Sports like football soccer baseball basketball were working class sports that became so large financially there was class warfare and unionization. The forces in all these sports are huge and thus doping is institutionally driven to keep the players playing to feed the industry. only now that players are realizing that they are exploited as in conclusions brain injury death reduced life expectancy arthritis etc is there reason to move past the omertà of these industries. College football awaits this development.

        So where does cycling fit in? Not to justify it but perhaps doping in cycling in some ways is a form of asymmetrical power by the cyclists to combat poor working conditions authoritarian feudal management and lack of benefits etc.


  4. Realistic ananylis, unfortunately. Particularly your point about the UCI (last but one). Who, in the end, is going to ‘clean the stables’ – not all those vested interests.

  5. Whit W Says:

    Is it “connectedness” or the fact that power is so fragmented than no one has ability, or confidence in their ability, to lead change? Isn’t this another aspect of the discussions earlier this year (generally related to the Rothschild Gifted Group proposal) on the need for a new, rationalized top-level pro cycling structure. Yes, such a change would mean winners and losers — and I am not taking sides on who should be which — but wouldn’t that be required to effect the change needed? Thoughts….


    • The connectedness in my opinion means that nobody can easily take the lead. Of course if power was very concentrated, then that entity could take the lead regardless of the consequences.

  6. Luc Prévost Says:

    The power is in the hands of the racers. But their inability to create a real trade union like in football, hockey or baseball will report the beginning of any real change… Why wait for the UCI really! TdF is the 4th major world event but it is still run like a 19 century factory. With Twitter we have a better knowledge of the sleeping conditions, travel conditions, etc… Teams now bring their own chefs and food supply to give decent meals to their workers! Cycling on one side is super hightech but is still a feodal system in terms of social structure. When I talk of doping with my everything, i always tell her that procycling is a testing unit for the US army;-).

    • Whit W Says:

      Hey, as a retire US Army soldier, I resemble that remark … ;-). Seriously, I agree with the need for a rider union, but my question is who would they negotiate and contract with? The teams? The ASO and other race organizers? The UCI? The national federations?
      We can say what we want about previous regimes/leaders within each of these entities, but — in my opinion — we have instituted piece meal changes and reform that have at times tended to create tension with other (equally good) changes.

      • Luc Prévost Says:

        At ease! ;-) An exemple: Frank Schleck had the right to stay in the Tour… The situation is so brittle that riders do not even take advantage of their protection. Teams encourage riders to not exercices theirs rights… I understand the overall situation but it is clear that organisers have a power that does not belong to them. Maybe with the new anglosaxon blood in the peloton, a new way of representing the riders will emerge. It is urgent.

  7. Evan Shaw Says:

    And then there is collegiate football where promises of millions only true for 1/10th of one per cent no salaries concussions and arthritis and brain damage await. Cyclists like athletes in most realms escaped factory work but had to fight to unionize.


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