Monday, February 28, 2011

Just a comment I'd leave at Cycling Central if it wasn't so big

I read this post by Mike Tomalaris and all the backlash he's been getting on Twitter for it, not to mention the comments underneath. I also was again discouraged by opening my timeline this morning and seeing more mob anti doping talk. So this is the comment I'd like to leave myself but it's too big a comment.

I have had many a chuckle over the past couple of weeks. A larger chunk of the RFEC decision was leaked (larger than the original that leaked) on the intertubes a week or two before this Fotheringham article. I chuckled at the bloggers and cycling fans - armed with their wanking socks - immediately turning to google translate to analyse it. Many admitted they could’ve got the translations wrong, ‘but surely’ (of course) they said or some such. Many just ignored what RFEC actually said or analysed it incorrectly. Some preferred others to do the filtering for them – bloggers and journos with also little knowledge of law or Spanish. Mostly, they used google translate or these bloggers and journalists to see their sports belief systems reflected back at them – only to ignore the fact that RFEC acknowledged WADA were far from comprehensive or contemporaneous in evidence collection and there looked like there was real doubt as to Contador’s negligence, let alone purposeful ingestion.

What also seemed to be largely ignored by many in the media and on sports blogs at the time (and before the Independent article) was Contador saying to the media that WADA et al would have hard time at CAS given RFEC’s actual decision. And it’s not hard to see why. One example, spelt out better by Contador’s lawyer to a journo who actually bothered to ask what the other side had to say was only 0.25% of Spain’s entire cow population is actually tested for clenbeuterol – 99.75% are not. (Yes, 0.25% is still actually a lot of cow).

This is not someone’s sister’s gardener’s wife’s nephew being on the inside and telling us this was political skullduggery, it’s not thousands of people in the media or on twitter caricaturing a country and its political processes and legal system. Simply - this would get thrown out in a normal court of law.

For some reason, sport's doping rules is expected to have a different burden of proof to most nations' criminal law. (This isn’t actually totally the case in even the WADA code, many athletes have tried to prove they weren’t negligent or didn’t intentionally dope, and were heard by their federation - but weren’t actually able to establish enough doubt or proof). Above the law of sovereign countries, countries riders reside and pay tax in are protected by, despite any conditions they signed up to be a part of the sport. But how can a sport’s code be seemingly above all other law? (which is actually all the PM said, if you look at his tweet, he chose his words carefully).

Especially when cycling and its riders even in recent months, embraces the law it wants to be above, when it comes to things such as contracts, defamation, tax, industrial relations – just to name a few.

But this isn’t even why I’m choosing to comment today.

In a previous life, I met and was involved in the aftermath of a case involving a woman convicted of murder. Statistics were paraded around by an expert witness who said it wasn’t possible (something like 1 in a few million) subsequent children could suffer from cot death. This expert witness was later struck off, and her conviction thankfully overturned. At the time and on the face of it, you’d think – she’s a murderer. Noone thought, what if this lady’s innocent, imagine how much pain and grief and suffering she must be going through, yet here she is convicted of murder.

On the face of it – without even properly translating and analysing the entire RFEC decision, people are assuming Alberto has done this.

Does this mean I think Alberto didn't do it? How would I know, I’m not with him 24/7. But it doesn’t matter.

But look how silly it is to even compare the two. Yet, some are screeching on and on like Contador has killed THEIR children…or a beloved kitten. It astounds me that the people I respect and follow on social media are liberal about everything in other areas of society and their lives – even their own questionable ethics, everything except the policing of doping in sport.

If they were like that lady and their child died of cot death, and they knew it, but they were convicted of murder, they’d want to afford themselves of the law available to them. Our law too also says even the guilty are entitled to their day in court.

But for some reason, this must be magically overturned when it comes to doping.

I’ve had to listen to people – including journalists, riders personally attacking proven or suspected dopers. – it’s been so bad, it’s moved me to change my views in the last few months of other riders I still don’t respect a lot of things they have done, but at least as a rider and at least could admit I’d love to have a drink with them.

The mob scream at Ricco and Contador and wipe tears away from their eyes when they recall Mercx winning something or other – forgetting he too failed tests – and for some reason Tom Simpson – as sadly addicted as Ricco allegedley – is cloyingly idolised and worshipped, even by the likes of Wiggins, yet Ricco he treats worse than dog poo. And the fans can’t forgive Contador for attacking Schleck on a mechanical – again, they recall history and yesteryear, without actually recalling history correctly – even if you look at just the 50s-70s, only one or two riders didn’t attack even on accidents – or they cite how selfish he was for not waiting for Kloden – again, look back in history – what DS would tell their number 1 rider, in super form and desperate to attack – to come back and help one of their riders who was going backwards just to podium 3 riders.

Noone’s asking – not even WADA it seems – why people are endangering themselves with things like clenbeuterol. There is still no known study that has shown there is any performance enhancing benefit for humans. Weight loss, yes, but it’s literally designed to make cows have more meat, not humans. Why are riders even using it? That’s the bigger tragedy.

It’s time to realise this is sport. An activity humans have played as part of – and a reflection of its society – for thousands of years. It’s not Disney land (even it has its problems and questionable history). People will stuff up like they do in other parts of society.

It's this hypocrisy and ridiculousness that will push me away from the sport, not riders who dope/allegedly dope.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On the Boards

For just over four minutes, a black train chases a red one along the track; an endless, silent rumble over sixty kilometres worth of Baltic pine.

“YES,” the first WA rider screams as he peels off the front and up the 42 degree banking a metre or two away from me. It’s time, their first change. He lingers, then fluidly finds his place at the back. I take a deep breath as he narrowly misses the third rider’s wheel. But of course he was never going to touch it.

I struggle to remember seeing something as glorious. Cancellara twice riding past me towards another time trial rainbow undoubtedly comes close. He skilfully rode along the barriers down a haunted Pakington Street, shielding himself from the Geelong wind. Any one of us could’ve coat-hangered him without fully extending an arm. Instead, we gasped at his strength and the definition of his massive muscles.

But here, there’s something else; the choreography, the silence, the intimacy. I’m part of the rhythm as two teams of four riders in their states’ lycra livery fly past me as one. They all know where they need to be and what comes next; the sporting equivalent of finishing off each other’s sentences.

A colleague told me earlier “Go down there Rach,” pointing to the closest seating to the track, atop the steepest bank. I looked down, I looked back up. She smiled knowingly at the reaction on my face.

I had fallen in love with track racing just two days ago, my first visit. Like tonight, I hadn’t planned to go. The Dunc Gray Velodrome is oddly located and hard to get to on public transport. On Wednesday I was not going to miss new 4km pursuit world record holder Jack Bobridge take on Rohan Dennis in the flesh.

I was privileged enough to be in the middle. Close up, a face and body I’d only seen in magazines powered out of the gate, all puffed out cheeks, and veins looking for escape out his neck and legs. Jack ultimately donned the green and gold fleece, but Rohan had him at every important time check but the last.

Despite the dizziness, I savoured the moments and images of the middle: ice vests on resting riders, churning powerade/Gatorade slushie makers, topless riders warming up or cooling down on the rollers; tyre pumps, starter’s guns and medal ceremonies piercing the calm.

I met a few of the riders too. I don’t cry when I meet sportspeople. Of course I utter the obligatory girlie “eek” internally but crying is for Bieber fans. But I was overtired. I started thinking in black and white cycling postcards and of myself in many years time. I whispered to myself “I met Jack Bobridge,” and I started to cry.

Now, Kaarle McCulloch is riding right in front of me on the banking. She’s wearing her usual costume: large reflective glasses and Casco track helmet. She is magnificent; an ethereal wasp.

She rides behind Anna Meares in their sprint heat. Anna looks behind at Kaarle for an entire lap. It is one thing to know that of course a world champion track rider is an exceptional bike handler; it’s another amazing thing altogether to actually see her weave slowly and effortlessly up and down the steepest part of the track without looking, taunting Kaarle. They track stand. Everyone cheers. They sprint home side by side, generating volts of energy to produce a result with barely a wheel in it. 

I can’t get enough of this. How is this not popular? I know it used to be. I’ve seen old pictures of crowds in Australian velodromes, some with so many people they are seated in the middle instead of the riders and the teams.

Apparently track cycling is becoming scarily dire. I don’t know how or why nor do I have any answers. Perhaps the solution lies in beer and flashing lights like Ghent and Berlin. But tonight, these men and women don’t need romantic aids like liquour and pretty lights to woo me; their efforts and feats are the spectacle.

Grand things lie ahead for some of the riders here this week; perhaps the boards in London, snow capped mountains in Europe, or the cobbled roads in Flandrian fields. But for all who rode, the Dunc Gray Baltic pine will forever whisper.

(This is a story about the 2011 Australian National Track Championships. These photos were taken on the first night I went, I don’t have any from the second.  For full results and photo galleries of the 2011 Australian National Track Championships, visit here )


I went, I saw, and I felt a world record holder...and another World Champion – Josephine Tomic, who just won the Australian title for the women’s individual pursuit

..and another World Champion, Anna Meares

…time to stop being handsy and borrow a camera. Kaarle McCulloch teams up with former Matildas soccer player, Cass Kell for the Team sprint.
Anna teams up with Stephanie Morton

Podium shots


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

That's such Schleck*

BFFNR - Best friends forever no returns 

(Bettini on Cycling News site)

Schleck said last week about how the hug atop the mystical and romantic Tourmalet meant nothing and:

“I have my arm on his shoulder, but I am not doing anything. It was his way of saying, look, we are friends” 

Translation -

I couldn't help it, I couldn't fight him off, I didn't want his Spanish cooties.  Frank almost got them once, and he paid for it
So all these moments too were just for the camera and the sponsors?

As you can see, Andy's words hurt Alberto:

In response he said in a press conference this week:

" Oh Andy, you came and you bought me deep fried turkey...
   Oh Andy, how I wish you had brought me a turkey, on that rest day instead, I had beef-y"
(to the tune of this song )

But surely Schleck* is full of schleck and Schlecking us all? Like someone said this week in regards to this photo (I can't remember who, sorry if it was you and I haven't credited you) he managed to fight off this unwanted attention from a handsy fan.  This guy could take Alberto surely.


Was he just being polite to Specialized to give them photos until Schleck switched to Trek (but then August happened)?  How good are the words of the Schlecks? Who knows, they're always doing it, not just about Berty.

Andy Schleck on Sastre and his own performance in TDF 2008, January 17, 2011:
"Yeah he won the Tour once but the years before and after that he was far from the podium.It was a fluke year and he had good teammates and although he won't say it he won the Tour because of us."
Andy Schleck on Sastre and his own performance in TDF 2008, 23 July 2008
it’s been a good Tour so far and I showed also some weakness which some others didn’t and that’s why I’m so far down in the general classification now. But I’m optimistic and I’m really happy to finish third today here, on Alpe d’Huez. I mean, I think I showed something and nobody else could have followed Carlos today. He was incredibly strong and also really confident when he had to be. When he left us, nobody could really do anythin
Here's what they said about Cancellara signing with them in October 2010:

(from this quarter's RIDE mag)
"(on 19 October 2010) That day Andy Schleck told L'Equipe that Cancellara wasn't going to join his team "I think he's going to BMC," he said. Two and a half weeks later...the Schleck brothers reiterated that Cancellara hadn't signed, Frank added, "not yet".  
But this is what happened (also from the same RIDE article)
But, according to Le Quotidien du Luxembourg, Cancellara signed his contract in the morning of 22 September."
So maybe Andy doesn't mean it also when he said Contador really won in 2010?

Well, they weren't even straight with Jens. They said, Jens, we will give you a lovely new Leopard branded Trek like this:

But this is what they are making him ride instead:

Scarf wars

(Sorry for heavy on the Leppard this week, but they do give lots of material)

A fellow tweep, @brassyn again alerted me to the next episode of a new series, I fully credit Scarf Wars to her!

(from this website) 

Basso outscarves Andy. And looks like he's nicked it off his wife or some random middle aged lady.  Thor outscarves everyone by not wearing a scarf.

Frank outscarves Andy, and also remembers to do up his zip.

Contador before he was suspended, also got into the act:

and who could forget this shot across the bow last year

The Sword of Self Righteousness (and the Hit Squad of Talent)

Who knows what happened at Garmin or if the spin will ever be unspun. But what we do know is that JV and Dave Millar unleashed the Sword of Righteousness on the Hit Squad of Talent to make it even more pure. They are willing to sacrifice their bestie in their fight against doping, this on Cycling News

It’s like a hit squad with so many excellent guys here...My wife said this morning...‘you look like a proper cycling team’....but we’ve kept our spirit, our relaxed attitude and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’ve not gone corporate but we’ve got that global international level. Losing Whitey was horrible. He’s one of my best friends. It came as such a shock, it came at us hard and it’s going to affect us for a long time. He was such a loved figure in the team and so charismatic but you’ve got to move on and I think we’ve got a lot of good guys.”

(is it just me or does Millar's wife in that article implying she thought they were shit before Cervelo joined)

Stay tuned - is JV/DM really the Anti-doping Messiah, The One promised to come to us all and save cycling from itself?

The Pen (or Tape Recorder) of Self Righteousness 

Not if Kimmage gets there first.  Landis is HIS new bestie.  He was even the one who persuaded Landis to announce his retirement from cycling.  Listen to Kimmage being an objective journalist about Contador, Schleck and the UCI - he gets more and more objective as the interview goes on:

And you can find the transcript of the Landis/Kimmage interview here:

But it can be summed up in ten seconds by watching this:

* Schleck - according to Princeton can be a noun and a verb but means to talk through one's hat, speak insincerely without regard for facts or the truth.