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 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.

28 Responses to “Openness behind closed doors!”

  1. Skater Says:

    Good call Gerard. And what about those who told the truth to save tehmselves from jail (USADA/FED cases) and are now happily riding along, give or take a quasi voluntary absence from an Olympic race? Still making millions as a pro rider, although they ought to be charged before their confessed doping acts expire!

  2. MikeB Says:

    Its almost as if these people live in a parallel universe – and don’t live in the real business world of brands and sponsorships or have completely forgotten what makes great brand great – trust. He’s completely eroded his trust and standing . It doesn’t help either by cycling commentators going on about how Basso has just “finished coming off suspension ” as if he had to stand on the naughty step for 5 mins or labelling him an “elegant rider” – he’s not , he’s a convicted in-denial dope cheat. I would have more respect for the guy if he just said – yeah I doped, sorry about that, it was normal for the time, I’m clean now etc etc

    But how do these so-called cycling “brands” treat their “customers” ? That’s you and me by the way – not by coming clean that’s for sure – they are either outright lying direct to fans faces or treating them with derision a la Basso.

    Can you imagine what would happen if Apple said “No we didn’t do it, you are all liars” or “Sod off – we have answered your questions” in response to a query ? With real brands you have the opportunity to sod off yourselves – to take your business elsewhere with the added zest of telling the entire world what a crap shit brand experience they have just given you.

    So since we can’t put Basso out of business that easy – i.e stop Basso riding – fans need to take every opportunity by not rewarding them (make them irrelevant to the sport going forward and let cycling commentators know exactly what you think). Defriend them , drop them from Twitter and if you feel strong enough go on the offensive and write to the bloody Liquigas sponsor.

    While I am on a roll – I have another request – that we stop just calling them dopers – in English this is not a strong adjective – but “cheat” is. They are dope cheats.

    There – I feel better now.

  3. The thing I find hilarious is the fact that the UCI is going to try to punish people who are attempting to provide transparency because they don’t want their own negligence/incompetence/corruption to come out. There really needs a “truth and reconciliation” commission or at least some sort of amnesty period to allow for people to tell the truth. Lets air it all out and move on.

    • Q Says:

      I agree. Unfortunately, some riders have more than just the UCI to worry about. Former members of the Postal program face the very real possibility of an expensive legal fight with a vindictive former teammate.

  4. Sal Ruibal Says:

    Investigators can use the threat of perjury to make sure what people say is the truth. If all the alleged dopers’ interviews were made public the next guys would know what to say or not say. Not knowing what has been said adds pressure to tell the truth.

  5. Jesse Says:

    On another note…Not to state the obvious Gerard, but didn’t you sponsor CSC and Basso? Did you honestly have no clue that the team was rife with doping? I like your blog and generally agree with you but was curious how you would answer this.

    • Leandro Says:

      me too. And is the same feeling for Sastre who never was caught?

      • Evan Shaw Says:

        Gerard has given open and full answers to this before. However, he can speak for himself I am sure. For me it shows how one person cannot stop systemic pervasive criminal enterprises. He was fortunate to not have been defamed and destroyed like the attempts with Lemond, and others who spoke truth to power. For example, there are still those who think LA was the most superior athlete of all time and drugs made an illicit but equal field. NOT SO. These same folks denigrate Lemond saying he doped, when his riding record shows he had one of the highest VO2 max readings since even as a teenager, and when pushed by the dopers over trained to keep up. So good luck Gerard responding here.

      • Hi Leandro, please see my response to Jesse. As for Sastre, that’s an asinine way to ask a question. Not only was Sastre never caught, there was never even any suspicion against him. And read Riis’ book and his frustration with Sastre. You can read into that whatever you want.

        Aside from one German magazine, which applied the logic that since Sastre and Fuentes both lived in Madrid, they must know each other, I’m not aware of any suspicion. Perfect logic in a city that size, isn’t it? Aside from how ridiculous that statement was to begin with, the funniest part is that Sastre doesn’t even live in Madrid!

        Then another thing. I am convinced that most riders in the peloton know who’s clean and who’s not. And after the 2008 Tour, riders were quite open saying the sport didn’t have to worry about this winner. Hadn’t heard that before (nor did riders ever say “you should worry about this winner”, I guess the omerta was/is alive and well). Remember he only won the Tour after several others got caught for “undetectable” CERA and several others mysteriously slowed down or quit the race.

        Now, this doesn’t “prove” anything, but it certainly proves it’s unfair to paint him with a broad brush.

        You can also see that his performances have been very stable throughout his career, what changed is the performance of the people around him. Check out Sastre getting passed at 25s into this video and you’ll see the speed difference:

        • Steve Beckett Says:

          thought it odd that Riis didn’t talk about Cervelo in his book – that brand/product was a cornerstone of his team

        • Simon George Says:

          Isn’t that Moreau in the front group on the Luz Ardidens stage in 2003? JV swears that he was clean at CA. If so it’s an impressive ride and nice to see at least two honest riders near the front even in 2003.

    • Hi Jesse, I have commented on this several times, to journalists and in this blog ( I’m traveling right now but when I get back home, I’ll write a longer response if you still need one after reading the above.

      • Moskowe Says:

        Hi Gerard,
        Thanks for the reply about Sastre, that’s an interesting take on his career, given how he’s always been somewhat ridiculed by fans and the media.

        I still find it hard to believe (re the post on May 28th) that you would only have “suspicions” about doping in CSC with a more privileged access to inside information when a lot of outsiders had already reached that conclusion. But then again, I don’t know just how secret they made it.
        I really appreciate following your blog, and your openness about pretty much everything related to pro cycling, but on that specific topic, especially with the further involvement of Cervelo in the Test Team, it sounds a least naive to say “I didn’t know.”

        • Hi Moskowe, this privileged access is a misunderstanding, it doesn’t exist. Funnily enough it has always been one of my main gripes, that access is negligible for sponsors of pro teams. Once they have your money, you are considered a nuisance – their goal is to win races, not help sponsors. We had some access to do our bike testing, and we’d spend a few days in the team hotel at training camps and Grand Tours, but that’s it. I can honestly say that in my years at CSC I never saw anything suspicious. Absolutely nothing.

          It’s correct that in 2008, our feelings changed a bit. Not that we all of a sudden saw people running around with needles, nothing of the sort. But the team changed and we didn’t feel comfortable anymore. We also didn’t think it would be that different at other teams (which I think was the correct call at that time) and so we started the TestTeam.

          It’s easy in retrospect to decide something was always obvious, like the people who now say they always knew Lance was doping but somehow were wearing yellow bracelets five years ago.

          At any rate, it’s an interesting topic of how much you see or how suspicious something looks, in this case I think that as an “insider” (though again, that was very limited) it can be even tougher than as an outside. I’ll try to put that in a future blog.

        • Moskowe Says:

          I can’t directly reply to your post – Thank you for the reply. I would love to read more about your experience as an “insider” when you were sponsor, and what it entailed.
          I know it’s easy for us to say now that “you should have known,” and it must be annoying to have to justify yourself to skeptical fans.

        • Hi Moskowe, yes, the replies only go 4 deep here. Anyway, this works.

          I think your question is legitimate and your skepticism understandable, so I don’t mind. It’s not really annoying, it’s logical.

  6. Evan Shaw Says:

    The main reason Basso is silent is a quid pro quo with protection and Riis. I read his book and now it looks like a very smooth and horrid attempt at image management. Riis leaves out his having his managed team doping. And it points to the sad conclusion that Contador had an echo positive ie that a blood bag with prior Clentbuterol and plasticizers followed by a plasma bag to hide the ratio of bone activated cells. Just as you say the past is not the past. They are using more sophisticated means now.

  7. ankush1983 Says:

    Good one Gerard, well noted point. We need to kick out liars like Basso out of the sport. Dan Benson, Shane Stokes are doing a good job, hope they keep up the pressure on the cheats.

  8. RT Peotto Says:

    Your comments are commendable.
    Unfortunately, business runs on money and only the successful riders gain popularity for themselves and their sponsors, selling more product … perpetuating the circle of silence.
    I felt the USADA’s stance against doping went after all of the people involved – directors, doctors – not only the riders, which is necessary to start weeding out the dopes.

    • I disagree that only successful riders gain popularity. When we did fan events and asked people to rate the riders and who we should resign, the riders topping the lists were always the unknowns, and frequently even the injured. They had the time to engage with fans, and fans rewarded them.

      Of course you need some results too, but the idea that winning riders sell product is a fallacy. At Cervelo we certainly never saw a boost from winning the Tour de France, not exactly a small race.

      At any rate, sponsors are voting with their dollars. The various state-sponsored and sugar-daddied teams can’t hide the fact that corporate sponsors are hard to find nowadays. So this may be an area where the market is pretty efficient.

      • Steve Beckett Says:

        Sponsorship is about an association with Values, Behaviours & engagement. Not just performance & mass exposure. Sponsors want consumers to warm to their brand (and hopefully advocate & buy their product) because of their association and investment in the sport. Sponsorship is no-longer a badging exercise. If you want proof (1) look at Team Sky (2) have you wondered why sponsors have been so few and far between during the last 10-15 years compared to other big sports?

        Gerard – well done on the blog – it’s absolutely fantastic.

  9. Evan Shaw Says:


    A VERY important scientific article analyzing ascent rates for all TDF climbs during the doping years. Hope you look at it and comment.

  10. Joe Papp Says:

    Why should any rider – or anyone else accused of a doping violation – have to testify publicly as if they were accused of and being tried for a criminal offense? There’s a total loss of perspective on just exactly what’s at issue here, and anti-doping seems like it’s becoming some kind of fanatical cult exercise for some people.

    • On the surface, you’re right. These are not criminal charges. [Money laundering, tax evasion, etc. are crimes, however] Cycling and other sports reap millions of dollars from the emotional and financial investments of the fans. The global bicycle industry uses the excitement of racing to sell products and a cycling lifestyle. Otherwise its just a commodity: human-powered transport. People who have invested emotionally with the sport feel cheated and that anger you so easily dismiss is real. It is a product of their emotional investment because they now feel that their love of the sport was not returned by the sport. That’s human nature and it appears in all endeavors that are important to us.

      • Joe Papp Says:

        [Money laundering, tax evasion, etc. are crimes, however]

        I agree with you there and, had there been grounds to pursue a criminal case based around those allegations, we might’ve expected to be able to hear the evidence read-out in open court, and an appropriate defense mounted.

        But then just because someone has emotionally invested themselves into something completely incapable of acknowledging and matching that investment – like a inanimate sport, like cycling – for “fans” to claim to be so upset that they demand the right to force other humans to subject themselves to the same kind of treatment that would be meted out in criminal court – over the topic of non-criminalized attempted doping – is indicative of a complete.lose.of.perspective.

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