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.


  1. The weeks roll on....the sharks circle. Self-professed experts abound nowadays. I use this social media as a quick,easy way to read about pro-cycling. I'm not a doctor,lawyer or physiologist. It gives me the irits when "they" hunt down articles etc, proceed to wank-off over "a source said" and claim it as "gospel". Some, I think, just like to "hold court". There are good bloggers which I believe give a fair and balanced comment. It's the "rednecks" baying for a virtual public flogging that angers me. If you disagree you are wrong. A personal opinion is just that. Allow some room for respecting that. Damned if you do and damned if you don't . Enjoyed reading your blog.

  2. Yes i agree-I didn't mean to give the impression -and I apologise if that's the case-that there's people who have expressed measured opinion who have disagreed with my view that I don't respect what they say,i do and i like talking to them,it's just that there's some that u can't even raise fact about the doubt existing,they can't even consider possibility they might be wrong. Even people who dont get ranty about other things and u can rationalise With them about Other stuff. I've just seen some bad stuff past few months -not just re Contador,and IMO THAT is also not great for the sport

  3. It seems, after reading your blog, that you are able and willing to ignore facts to enhance your opinion aswell. Your SIDS metaphor is tenuous at best but more than likely irrelevant to the reality that pro cycling is a closed enviroment where to enter one must submit themselves to constant scrutiny that is considerably more intrusive than, say normal life in Australia. It is this way because of the real temptation for a rider to gain advantage through illegal means. Your yearning for parity between society and sport seems a little naive, after all, Nike isn't spending millions on promoting "average Joe" for their next big campagain, no they are looking for a return on their millions. So they spend to make money, just like an athlete invests in him or herself to get results. Hence the temptation to stand out from the peleton, the financial returns are enormous and in the eyes of many, worth the increased risk of getting caught. You mention Tom Simposon and how he is respected by todays riders, should this not serve to warn us about the mentality of the peleton? If dying on a mountain while riding your bike doped to the eye balls is legendary, then surely that is more than tacit approval for doping. It is this very history that comples rigorous drug testing, does it not? Lastly, sport may of been played for thousands of years, true enough. Big money has only been involved for 30 years, around the same time that new designer drugs designed to enhance performance entered the sporting arena. If you can't see the connection between the two and you honestly believe that the ethos hasn't changed over the millenia and more recently with the introduction of big money, then rose coloured glasses must be very comfy. Oh, lying and cheating are, to my eyes at least, more offencive than hypocracy and the ridiculous. Spare a thought for the cyclists who didn't cheat and lost every time a cyclist cheated and won. I'm sure they would agree. In any case it's the hypocracy about drug cheats that is killing the sport, that is truely ridiculous. Yours truely, il Pirata.

  4. Mike Tomalaris - SBSMarch 1, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    Interesting piece Rachel. In the original draft to my latest blog I actually compared the Contador case to famous moments in recent history (nothing sport-related) where an alleged murderer and alleged child sex abuser were cleared by the law courts despite evidence proving otherwise.
    As mentoned with doping cases, although assumptions can be made, it's a grey area until the concrete evidence is officially released.

  5. Il Pirata - if you study sport's history through the ages - you will see money etc hasn't been far from it - e.g. the athletes at the original olympic games ran for $/a living. the modern games were sold as some pure amateur quest based on the mythical "athleticism"- but was tied up with sponsors and the world exhibition. as was the TDF, most of the classics, giro etc - they started as a way to sell papers etc- that's it. it is naive of yourself to not know this about sport. i was watching stars and watercarriers recently and merckx (?) i think was spoken about as earning over $250,000 a year (might've been more, sorry, forget),hardly small figures for the time. society hasn't really had the big money we see today either the last 30 years - there's more and more cash looking to be invested. and where you can see an increase of wealth in societies, you can see an increase of money that's invested in many sports. but let's not forget during those 30 years, sports like NFL, basketball in the US, football in europe/england were profitable. i think i can have a point of view and still not condone doping. it's like many are scared that if you're not screaming all the time about anti doping the sport will collapse in a heap and cyclists will lie around dying of organ failure from doping too much. i don't condone cheating, i just want due process - something that is missing. and an acknowledgement of people's humanity - not super humanity. i also want a bit of balance - a journalist can't even quote contador's lawyer and the actual RFEC decision where there was considerable doubt - without a torrent of anger and fury being rained upon them.

  6. To Il Pirata's deleted second comment which he/she deleted him/herself - i see no difference between your distinction of big money or small money - people were still making some kind of living out of it - whether riders or business owners using sport to make ends meet. i was just conceding to your point, that yes it seems like there's more money now, but that's just coz there's more money. there is no more, or less corruption in sport. and to say there is is simply untrue. to say so would deny what it is to be human. your hostility is dumbing down the argument - how very human of you to go for the hostile when someone dares to disagree with your point of view. and again, thanks for coming back to my site to keep my stats going up.

  7. Enjoy reading the blog but I disagree with some of your thoughts on this issue. I was going to details my thoughts but this piece does so much better than I ever could.

  8. Lee,thanks for reading my blog and this post and leaving a comment. yeah,i already read this science of sport one. i don't totally agree with his point on contador, (i do and i don't if that makes sense) but i agree with pretty much everything else. i think people misunderstand me - i do not condone doping nor do i want it to be legalised. i just want a fair process. i don't want assumptions about his past brought into things or a test that's not been properly tested and a lab leaking that. i said myself the other day, clen shouldn't even be on the list - from a number of perspectives, but mostly so WADA doesn't look stupid - i mean, something like this has been a long time coming if you ask me. that sort of stuff needs a total review - or at least a rethink about results needing to be released if they're such little amounts. while the code says an athlete is responsible for what they put into their body,contador's defence was an interesting one legally in regards to proving negligence - his team said, how can you be responsible for what you put into your body if there's an assumption (made by contador previously) that spanish beef is safe. this even went beyond the cases where say someone was in mexico and widely known clen still knowingly used there - and i think it's a fascinating argument (i love law pron!). please note, that doesn't mean i necessarily believe him. i just think if he didn't intend to deliberately ingest (which none of us know) - then why not use the code and the law with whatever means you have to fight it - he just wants to ride his bike - i don't think he worked outside the code at all and that's why i don't agree with the science of sport guys. i also don't have a doomsday view like many. plenty of things (rightly or wrongly and IMO more morally wrong than doping) plague different sports - while each one does its best to work on its problems,some are doing not much at all - but still the sport goes on - as it should. cycling is unfairly obsessed about - inside and outside - when it comes to doping. other sports have their problems - AND they aren't doing as much as cycling is with doping. e.g. why are there so many team sports that don't have an individual whereabouts system - it's purely whenever they are with the team. others also didn't sign onto the wada code until quite recently.

    there are bigger problems within cycling too - e.g. UCI's rules on bicycle manufacturers - knock on effects for the grass roots.

    but it will still go on.

    as to bans - i don't agree with life bans for a first time offence, but i do for a second one - nobody can be that unlucky - but they need help for life afterwards - they cheated at sport, they didn't rape someone or defraud government out of money (even they though get a chance to rehabilitate)...there are more stories to this beautiful sport than doping and associated tragedies (which are stories in themselves) and i'm sick of not hearing about it. it's everywhere you turn - on the cycling sites, in mags, on twitter when i log on in the morning from people i like, or it's someone bleating on about how righteous their team or they are. even with doping comes beatufiul stories - now i know some won't agree, but if you believe basso - and with no or little evidence, i have no reason not to, then it's a great story of redemption. this is what sport - and we are about.

  9. Totally enjoyed reading the blog but disagree with some of your the way nice blog...Thanks for sharing it !
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