Matt White

October 16, 2012

So Matt White is outed by USADA as a USPS doper, admits to it and is suspended while Cycling Australia investigates. This makes no sense.

Cycling Australia hired White after he was fired from Slipstream for sending a rider to Dr. Del Moral for a health check, instead of letting the team doctor refer the rider to a doctor as is the team policy.

Cycling Australia investigated White in 2011 to see if he could remain their performance coordinator and if he should be hired for Orica-Greenedge. This makes it strange to investigate him again. There are three options:

  1. In 2011, they forgot to ask White if he ever doped himself, in which case there is no point in having an investigation – the Cycling Australia board should simply step down.
  2. They asked White if he ever doped and he answered truthfully, in which case there is also no need for an investigation or a suspension – the Cycling Australia board should simply explain its decision and stand by it. Or alternatively, the board should resign again if they feel their decision in 2011, having had all the facts available to them, was wrong.
  3. They asked White if he ever doped and he lied, in which case there is also no need for an investigation or a suspension as he should be fired right away.

Thus, the investigation sounds more like a smoke screen, one that is gaining in popularity in cycling nowadays.

I think this week will see new blog posts more frequently, if you don’t want to miss one, you can subscribe here.


The future?

October 15, 2012

So we have revelation upon revelation now, the question is what the end effect will be. Will we simply see one muppet replaced by another, or will there be real, lasting change? Is it really possible to change 80% of the people in charge in a sport? The folks at Sportenkort.dk asked me:

Given the latest revealings in USADA’s Armstrong-case, we would like to get your initial reaction, and what the case might mean to pro cycling going forward. Specifically, what impact will the findings of the USADA make on the pro teams ability to attract new sponsorship deals?

In case Danish is not your first language, here is my answer to them in English (or at least as much of an answer as I was willing to type on an iPhone.

The effect of the USADA report on the ability of teams to find sponsors depends entirely on the sport’s reaction. If the sport uses this occasion to truly clean up on an epic scale, it can be a lighting example of the future of clean sport and the most desirable sponsorship entity on this planet.

Because don’t forget, the implicated doctors like Ferrari and Del Moral (as well as Fuentes earlier) all work in other sports too. So if a sponsor has to choose between soccer, tennis, or any other sport pre-cleanup versus cycling post-cleanup, the latter is the much better and safer bet.

Of course, this is all conditional on this epic cleanup actually occurring, a cleanup that has to include the federations, the teams’ management, doctors, staff, etc. Right now it is not clear how this would happen – the people who can do this exist, but they are not currently in positions of power.

Frankly, the best chance I see is for some ethical VC to take over ASO and organize a completely fresh pro league around it. Given that this would rely on the ASO owners selling (which they don’t want to do) and on finding an ethical VC (sorry, couldn’t resist, but of course those exist), even the odds of the best chance materializing aren’t huge.

This doesn’t mean all hope is lost, the change will happen, it will just happen slower and less visible and so the attraction to sponsors – your initial question – will be much less.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


LanceGate – what strikes me so far

October 12, 2012
  • USADA speaks of the bullying and coercion to get riders to dope. Although there are prime examples of that (Zabriskie for example), it seems a lot of riders were not forced by USPS to dope but were already doping before they teamed up with Lance & Johan.
  • While some needed bullying and coercion, many others seemed to have been pro-actively seeking out the various options. They don’t wear the victim cloak very well.
  • Releasing all the evidence by USADA is both awesome and awful. It reads like a crime novel, but it’s not fiction. People got hurt, their careers trampled, their life made a hell.
  • Furthermore, many people are mentioned in the documents but not charged (either because they fell outside the scope or because the evidence wasn’t strong enough). Yet they will now face the court of public opinion indiscriminately.
  • This release of evidence is unlikely to be the closure some may have hoped for; instead it will probably be the start of a huge cleanup. Will the public opinion be able to generate enough pressure to make that happen?
  • Will those who doped as a rider and then supported/encouraged/administered doping as a staff member or manager be taken out of the sport for good?
  • USADA calls the USPS program “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”. But I’m mostly struck by how amateur it all sounds. The methods and products seem to be pretty standard for the era, a lot of riders seemed to be storing and administering the drugs and blood themselves, and for many races they had to beg the team to set up a proper program so they didn’t have to do it themselves.
  • Take Tyler Hamilton, does the part in his affidavit where Bruyneel sends him to Del Moral for blood doping sound more sophisticated than when Riis sends him to Fuentes? None of it seems too sophisticated or professional. Definitely not when compared to Balco for example, with designer drugs, etc.
  • The USPS program also appears quite sloppy, it’s rather shocking nobody ever got caught. Yet as soon as these riders went to other teams and kept doing the same things, they got popped left, right and center. There are a lot of inferences about Bruyneel knowing in advance of tests, but no real mention of USADA that this is the case or how that may have been achieved. So for now we’ll just chalk it up to USPS being extremely lucky and riders leaving the team being extremely unlucky.
  • This affair forces a lot of people in cycling to say something, and it is rather revealing. For every thoughtful response from Marcel Kittel or Fabian Cancellara, there are ten that beg belief.
  • Sky’s refusal to deal with the Leinders issue has come back to bite them in the ass. Instead of looking like the progressive, zero-tolerance outfit that they’d like to, they look reluctant and non-committal.
  • Back in the CTT days, I suggested to the UCI that instead of having 18 large top level teams, it would be better to have 25 smaller teams (better match for smaller sponsorship budgets at corporations, as well as a host of other advantages but that’s for later). I remember one of the responses was “where would we find 25 competent management teams?” USADA seems to agree with my reply of “where would you find 18?” Half the current team managers seem to have some explaining to do about themselves or some of their staff.
  • On the positive side (no pun intended), Iwan Spekenbrink of Argos-Shimano continues to impress me. Great team, well-run, and he seems to give his riders the freedom to express themselves and they do so very well (I am not sure if these riders are naturally worldly or if the team also helps them in that regard but it’s either great selection or great education on Spekenbrink’s part).
  • Will this report spark a look into the dropping of the federal investigation and the people who dropped it? With this much evidence (tons of which was also known to the Feds), it seems somebody there has som explaining to do as well.
  • Will the media, sports federations, WADA, etc dare to admit that USPS is not so special, that the same happens in other sports? It is well-documented that Ferrari, Del Moral, Fuentes and others worked with other sports too (and it would be ridiculous to think that these people would restrict themselves to cycling, instead of pushing their services onto any athlete who can afford them).

Fabiani is getting old

October 9, 2012

I so did not want to write my next blog about doping. In fact, I have a whole slew of non-doping posts in the works, ones that actually deal with the part of cycling that is worthwhile instead of all the politics and other nonsense.

I let stupid stuff from Fabiani pass in the past few days when he called the USADA evidence the same old stuff from the same old people.  Clearly it is new stuff from new people, which doesn’t make it true or false but it does make it something other than what Fabiani says.

But I just couldn’t let this latest Fabiani gem (from California Watch and passed on by cyclingnews) pass. It’s in response to alleged blood value irregularities.

“The rules are clear to everyone but USADA: You either pass a drug test, or you fail it. There is no in between. Lance Armstrong has passed every test ever given to him, including every test administered during the 2009 Tour de France.”

Sounds like the same old answer from the same old people. But worse, are we supposed to believe that Fabiani has been dealing with this for several years, and he still doesn’t understand how the biological passport works, since it has nothing to do with passing or failing a drug test.

Are we supposed to believe that the biological passport is “clear to everyone but Fabiani”? No. Because I don’t think Fabiani is stupid, far from it, he just says stupid things. Which must mean that saying stupid things is the smartest thing he can do, likely because the smarter things would make his client look stupid.

On the other hand, it is getting equally tiring how the people who have a clear job to do (like USADA) seem to be playing the cycling world via the media instead of letting the evidence they claim to have speak for itself.

I promise, the next posts will be positive (no pun intended) and awesome. Subscribe here if you don’t want to miss it. (or unsubscribe if you’ve had enough of course!)


Openness behind closed doors!

September 19, 2012

It seems in vogue to let riders testify behind closed doors about their doping sins. While I can understand the benefits during an active investigation, I fail to see how it helps anybody but the rider after that.

We’ll see what happens eventually in the USADA case and if all the statements will become public, but for now let’s use Basso as an example. Here is what he told cyclingnews.com recently:

Asked directly who put him in contact with Fuentes, and whether it was Riis, he said: ‘I told the Italian Olympic Committee how I contacted Fuentes, and I told the truth. A person of 27 or 28 years of age can find things out for himself…”

No, you can’t find out things for yourself when you’re looking for help with blood transfusions – it’s not in the Yellow Pages. And no, you can’t find out things for yourself if you’re known as a pro rider who needs to consult an agent or manager for even the simplest tasks.

But isn’t that handy, the secret statements come to the rescue. He’s already told everything behind closed doors, so we should shower him with gifts and not bother him with pesky questions.

Even if he didn’t say a word to CONI, we can’t prove what happened behind closed doors, allowing riders to simply keep on lying to fans like they always have.

How do I know he wasn’t completely open to CONI? Well, there are three indications:

  1. He got a 2 year ban, so no reduction for being helpful.
  2. Nobody seems to have been charged after Basso’s statements to CONI
  3. His own lawyer confirmed Basso didn’t name any names.

As always, Basso wants to have it both ways. Just like he merely “attempted to dope” without ever succeeding, just like he only extracted blood from his body without ever putting it back in, he now wants his colleagues to believe he didn’t name any names and his fans to believe that he was completely forthcoming with CONI.

Unfortunately for Basso, while he may not have changed in the past ten years, the fans’ appetite for fairytales has.


Motoman madness

September 17, 2012

This was something I didn’t see coming, somebody out of Tyler’s confessional turning into a cult hero. Motoman, the character who allegedly shuttled EPO in refrigerated panniers during the Tour de France.

Motoman would have been nothing but a funny name had it not been for the fact that he and his bike shop appear in photos with Sean Yates, a Team Sky car, various Radioshack riders and Lance anno 1999. Now everybody sees sinister connections.

While I love a good conspiracy, this “evidence” is a total joke in my view. Although it may be completely accurate that all these people had some funny business together, the photos don’t prove anything (nor do they prove the connections are innocent, BTW).

If a photo of Sean Yates or these riders and a guy (allegedly) involved in doping in some way constitutes proof, then surely the thousands of photos of any of them with Bjarne Riis, Johan Bruyneel, Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso, etc, etc, etc would have “proven that point” already. What’s so special about Motoman, other than that it actually means less, since you can very plausibly say you had no idea who he is and what he does/has done?

The guy is a Trek dealer, that much is clear. And if you ride a Trek bike for a living and a Trek dealer asks you to pose for a photo with him, you oblige. Pretty logical I think. You don’t first run a background check to make sure the guy is in fact a bike dealer and not a drug dealer. So the photos of him with Radioshack riders at various races seem pretty normal to me.

The photos in front of his shop are a bit different, at least those people must have made an effort to get there. But again, it doesn’t have to mean anything. The bike shop seems to be a legitimate business, so it’s difficult to ascertain whether these riders or Yates go there because it’s a bike shop or because of Motoman’s side business.

What is worrisome is that nobody is commenting. If you don’t have anything to hide, why hide?


Lessons learned?

September 5, 2012

The failure of many sports governing bodies to treat the drug problem more seriously and to take more effective means to detect and deter the use of drugs has contributed in large measure to the extensive use of drugs by athletes. Added to the laxity of enforcement has been a laxity of investigation.

Sounds pretty current, doesn’t it? It’s actually from the Dubin report from 1989 (the Canadian investigation coming out of the Ben Johnson schandal). He also says:

When an athletes was detected using performance enhancing drugs, only the athlete was disciplined and the incident was treated as an aberration. No enquiries were made about the circumstances under which the athlete took drugs and whether responsibility should also attach to coaches, physicians, or indeed the athletic organisations themselves.

Current as ever. I came across these quotes and much more interesting information while reading “The dirtiest race in history” by Richard Moore (@richardmoore73). I highly recommend the book.


Trait 11 of champions

September 3, 2012

And here we go, the last of the Traits of Champions. Seems as appropriate a moment as any to discuss these. I hope you liked them.

An eleventh attribute that is harder to define in a single word is probably as important as any. Ultimately, a bicycle race is just a bicycle race, lives are not saved, the homeless are not housed. Champions seem to realize this as well, and realized that the lessons of racing and training are really only valid when applied to our life as a whole.

And that concludes the 11 traits of being a champion as used by Toby Stanton (@hottubes). If you want to see what a team based on instilling these traits in young athletes looks like, follow the amazing Hottubes Junior team.

It’s a small team always struggling to continue year after year. Nobody is getting rich off of it, quite the contrary. But it’s done for all the right reasons. Check out the team here, although you will quickly see that Toby is too busy running the team to do a great job of marketing – the site is slightly out-of-date.

There are some really nice people who support behind the scenes. If you would like to join them, contact Toby. Or why not offer a small token of your appreciation and have your frame repainted by Toby, as he does an amazing job with that.


Eurobike clever stuff

August 31, 2012

Not so much big news at Eurobike this year if you ask me. 10,000 electric bikes (9,997 of them ugly), in general very nice (mostly understated) graphics and lots of 650B mountain bike wheels and bikes “because we don’t really like it but we don’t want to miss the boat”.

Two of the smartest things I’ve seen so far are very small:

Syntace showed a really clever solution to having a quick release on their X-12 thru-axle. Instead of having a quick release lever both fornt and rear, they have a small allen key that stores inside the axle when not used.

It locks in tightly, so you won’t lose it during your ride, and when you need it you simply pull it out and use it for your front or rear axle. Or for our seattube collar or any other bolt on your frame of that size. It’s quite light (around 30g) with a very clean design. Brilliant.

Rotor has big news with a new aero crank (the Flow) and a new power-measuring crank (which measures both sides, pull and push, also very nice). But the little news was cool too.

With so many bottom bracket standards, press fit bearings come with sleeves in a gazillion widths. That means that when you need a replacement, chances are your store doesn’t have the right one. Rotor now offers a one-size-fits-all solution, with a harmonica design. Very clever.

That’s it for now, too many meetings here at Eurobike to write too much. Enjoy the weekend.


Never leave home without

August 29, 2012

A short break from the crap side of the sport, important to remember that regardless of what some clowns do, the best part of cycling is still to just get on a bike and ride.

So here is an ode to the smallest piece of apparel I wear, but my favorite. I have various types of jerseys, shorts and even shoe covers, but nothing is quite as versatile as the skull cap. Yet I rarely see people use one.

I got my first skull cap from RnH, the now defunct Canadian apparel brand that was big in the nineties. It was fleece, perfect to protect your head (especially your ears) from the cold.

My second skull cap was from Mammut, pretty similar in design. They both had the same drawback. Their thickness meant that in the spring or fall, when the weather fluctuates and you sometimes ride with or without the skull cap, you need to adjust your helmet straps constantly.

That problem diminished as I started to wear a skull cap even in warmer weather. If it didn’t protect against the cold, it would protect against the bugs and the sun.

Especially when follicly challenged as I am, that’s a big thing. It’s funny to have a “helmet vent-shaped sun burn on your head once, but the fun wears off a lot quicker than the burn does. The only problem; It gets pretty hot under that cap.

The winter skull cap from Castelli, the “Viva Thermo Skully”

Now Castelli has solved both issues.

First off, their winter skull cap is very thin, even though it is still fleeced. This means you can use it under your helmet without needing to lengthen your straps.

It keeps you warm, including your ears, and you don’t really notice you’re wearing it, it’s that comfortable. This is what I have used for the past year, until I lost it a few months ago.

The summer skullcap from Castelli, called “the Summer Skullcap” (yes, yes)

Talking to Castelli about a replacement, I found out they also solved the second problem, that of the hotness in the summer. Next to the winter skull cap, they now also offer a summer skull cap.

I’ve used the latter for two months now, and I love it. It’s thin and light, doesn’t cover your ears (like an elephant, I use my ears to cool down), it is very comfortable to wear and it offers sufficient protection against sun and bugs. It also holds on to sweat, and any sweat that is locked into that cap won’t run into your eyes.

You can find more info about the summer skull cap here and about the winter skull cap here.

Disclosure: I do and have done some business with Castelli from time to time, though not enough to make me love a skull cap I don’t love!


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