Scandals

by Shaun Audane   March 24, 2009  

These days doping obsesses the world and its wheel bag. Is it me but have we lost touch with the riders as three- dimensional characters? The human- interest factor seems to have been passed over in favour of soulless “professionalism”. The riders I still hold dear are the enigmatic and somewhat tainted figures of Rooks and Theunisse. However, questionable as their behaviours may have been, I also miss the antics of Anquetil and the character of Coppi. Jan Ulrich may have got into a pickle with his partying, Porsches and go-go dancers but nothing terribly noteworthy. Has professional racing lost its soul?

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I miss Jan… the two girls in a Porsche + his mate and bottles of champagne, you can't imagine Lance being that much fun. Erm and wasn't it a bike rack he ended up crashing into? BTW Shaun, hope you don't mind me asking, but how old are you? I had you pegged for a bloke in his 30s you must have a phenomenal memory if you can remember Anquetil's antics As for today's pros, well Wiggins is fairly interesting and Cav seems quite a character too and what about Svein Tuft - left home in his early teens cycled all round the Canadian wilderness and up into Alaska on an old bike pulling a homemade trailer with only his dog for company, or Chad Gerlach who raced against Armstrong as a kid and rode the Tour of California, but a little over a year before was living on the streets as a crack addict. I think there's still some interest left

hammergonewest's picture

posted by hammergonewest [105 posts]
24th March 2009 - 22:16

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Yes, I take your point on all fronts and there clearly are some interesting folk on the professional circuit. Your observations surrounding Anquetil's antics are indeed correct, much of my knowledge is via old footage, photos and personal research... However, there was a scandal in my own family. Some twenty three years back we had a young Austrian Au Pair and legend has it she fell for a colleague of my father's. The colleague in question was a very, very good time trialist who often rode his ancient Hetchins to work and back and thought nothing of a fast-fifty afterward. 

Looking 35 but with a chronological age of 60, he took her to dinner...It was a while ago but if memory serves me correctly, they didn't elope- his wife was a faster time trialist than he..... 

Shaun Audane's picture

posted by Shaun Audane [726 posts]
24th March 2009 - 22:44

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I read this heading as 'Sandals' and was thinking "Oh an interesting discussion about flip-flops", i feel slightly let down now.

Sorry for the tangent, please continue....

Oli's picture

posted by Oli [102 posts]
24th March 2009 - 22:54

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yeah I thought it was Sandals too, but passed up on the chance to discuss open-toed footwear

Spinning on a wheel

Hammy's picture

posted by Hammy [97 posts]
24th March 2009 - 23:07

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Benjo Masso makes a similar point in "The Sweat of the Gods", arguing that focussing on catching dopers harms the sport more than their cheating.

I disagree, personally. I think one of the big things about the rEPO era is the way that (according to Kimmage et al) it all but robs the clean rider of any chance of competing with the doper - I don't think this was true of the days when amphetamines &c were the PED of choice.

I think the advent of more "professional" riders is also inevitable given the demands of the sport - I can't see another rider emerging who followed Anquetil's diet, for example...

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
30th March 2009 - 9:55

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But in what era, up until possibly now, has the clean rider had a chance of competing with the doper, unless he also enjoyed some sort of natural physiological advantage that set him apart from his peers?

Anquetil pretty much came out and said that doping was the professional thing to do, and going back a generation earlier isn't the story that Coppi and Bartali(?) once decided to ride the mountain stage of a grand tour without taking drugs to see what it was like and then afterwards both vowed to one another never to do anything that stupid again!

One thing people often forget is that pre-1964 amphetamines weren't even illegal

On a bike somewhere…

thebikeboy's picture

posted by thebikeboy [138 posts]
30th March 2009 - 10:21

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thebikeboy wrote:
But in what era, up until possibly now, has the clean rider had a chance of competing with the doper, unless he also enjoyed some sort of natural physiological advantage that set him apart from his peers?

I can't remember the source, but I'm sure I do remember an article giving the relative performance gains of Amphetmines and rEPO - the feeling in that piece at least was that a good rider on a good day had a chance in the pre-epo era, he simply didn't with a peloton where rEPO doping was widespread, the performance gains from the latter being so significant.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
30th March 2009 - 12:28

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Okay, that's the theoretical advantage, but there are lots of other variables to consider.

I remember talking to a coach a few years back who said that effectively the best riders got the best drugs - pro bike teams didn't waste expensive drugs on guys they didn't think would win, (effectively the old level playing field argument) and that on the inside there was no thought that this was cheating it was just what a good pro did which was why they got so pissed off with riders who wouldn't "take their beans" especially if they then talked about it

The evil of EPO was not that bike riders cheated, it was that so many of them died unnecessarily simply trying to be 'good pros'.

On a bike somewhere…

thebikeboy's picture

posted by thebikeboy [138 posts]
30th March 2009 - 12:49

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One of the other problems with dopage though is that it drives sponsors from the sport.

Again, Masso's book charts this - his contention is that whilst sponsors came from the sport (bicycle makers, effectively) they were more content to look the other way. The "extra-sportif" sponsors that dominate the sport now are less likely to, and more likely to abandon cycling following a scandal.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
31st March 2009 - 8:50

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thebikeboy wrote:
... and that on the inside there was no thought that this was cheating it was just what a good pro did

I can't help feeling that that attitude has grown inevitably from the era where everyone looked the other way concerning PEDs.

My personal feeling is that it has to change if the sport is going to survive - but that;s certainly not borne out by history, as I'd readily admit.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
31st March 2009 - 8:52

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It's also the case that up until recently at least, and probably still I'd guess, cycling fans on the continent take a much more worldly view of drug taking.

Back when it all blew up at the 2006 Tour the Indy's man in Paris recounted a conversation with his Belgian grandmother, a lifelong cycling fan, when he mentioned the drugs scandals her response was a shrug of the shoulders and "'Pffff' it's a hard sport what do you expect?"

Historically there has been a difference between the Anglos Saxon world view and the Gallic or Latin we once ran an interview in C+ with Hein Verbruggen when he was head of the UCI where he said that against the Anglo Saxon stance on drugs in sport was unrealistic and insisted that the best policy was one of harm reduction. People dying, as the bikeboy points out, is worse than people cheating. It's not the fans of cycle sport who have forced any change it is multi-national sponsors.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
31st March 2009 - 20:29

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The "traditional" attitude will keep cycle sport in a ghetto - people who "get it" will follow it, and people who feel duped after cheering on rEPO fuelled attacks by the like of Ricco, and companies that don't want to be associated with a sport where PEDs are rife will stay away.

Talented riders who don't want to turn their blood to sludge will too.

Is there a downside to taking on the cheats head on, and chucking them out of the sport?

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
1st April 2009 - 10:01

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My point is that If you're sitting in Spain or Italy I doubt it feels like cycle sport is in a ghetto. A lot of people over there do care about cheating, but equally I'm pretty sure that a lot don't, or they care in as much as they wish people would stop talking about it.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
1st April 2009 - 10:10

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