Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Return of Manolo Saiz - Venga!

Manolo Saiz is plotting his comeback to professional cycling, according to, and is supposedly organizing a top-level team for 2012. While Twitter and the forums are abuzz with outraged cycling fans who claim the Spaniard should somehow be refused the chance to return to the sport, I say "Venga."

There is so little money in cycling relative to the truly professional sports like the NFL, MLB and NBA - and so much instability and unpredictability - that it's incredibly short-sighted to reject Saiz based on his alleged-involvement in doping via Operación Puerto (remember, he was never convicted of anything - we must be accurate in describing the historical record). If he can secure the backing to fund a team that will employ 20-plus riders and at least that many staff, if not double, then he should be welcomed with open arms and a stern warning - or at least a reminder. Doping has been criminalized in Spain now, so Saiz wouldn't be able to escape sanction were he proved to be involved in systematic doping at the level of the team. And his riders would be controlled by the Biopassport, which adds a layer of dissuasion.

I support clean-cycling, no doubt, but at the same time, I support the right of the riders to earn a living. And unlike Formula 1, professional cycling simply cannot have too many (ProContinental) teams. If the squad offers a stable paycheck to both rider and staff alike, then in the absence of an active sanction or ban enforceable by the UCI, Manolo Saiz should be welcomed back to cycling and the positive economic impact of his efforts should be acknowledged, even while he is warned not to get up to any funny business.


  1. I'm sorry, Joe Papp, but I don't agree with your support for Manolo Saiz and I do not think he should be welcomed back to the cycling peloton, because he is a cancer. And any athlete who would align hisself with Saiz does not deserve your support, or the support of any reight-minded person.

  2. Ho sento, Joe Papp, però no estic d'acord amb el seu suport a Manolo Saiz i jo no crec que cal celebrar de nou al pilot ciclista, perquè ell és un tipus de càncer. I qualsevol atleta que seria alinear-se amb Saiz no mereix el seu suport, o el suport de qualsevol persona assenyada.

  3. Je suis désolé, Joe Papp, mais je ne suis pas d'accord avec votre soutien pour Manolo Saiz et je ne pense pas qu'il mérite d'être saluée Retour au peloton cycliste, parce qu'il est un cancer. Et tout athlète qui se rallient à la Saiz ne mérite pas votre soutien, ou le soutien de toute personne sensée.

  4. I have very mixed feelings on this one. On one hand, I agree that he was never convicted and served his time. OTOH, I have to wonder who would want to be aligned with him? Maybe if there is some way to punish him if anyone on the team tests dirty? Just a thought

  5. Jim, I can understand your concern. If Saiz can succeed in convincing a company to put money into cycling, then I think that has to be encouraged, or at least not opposed. The regulations are in place to monitor, test and ban riders who are doping - so if there is dirty business in the team, it should be discovered - if the controls are working. Which isn't a guarantee. But if every other director who was active at the time of Saiz is still welcomed in the sport, then I think it would be massively hypocritical to say that Saiz wasn't welcome.

    But for me it's something I look at in economic terms - it's very difficult to find money to build a team. If Saiz can do it, that should be our first concern - creating viable work opportunities for pro riders. I don't think the situation is one where Saiz is going to recruit a bunch of Nazi Frogmen to forcibly inject his riders with EPO. Sure, in the past he looks to have been involved in paying the frogmen that his riders wanted to work with, but ...

    Ultimately, the ProTour licensing commission has the latitude to approve or deny a team's registration. That's the hurdle Saiz will have to overcome, beyond which he'll then have to run an ostensibly "clean" team. If his riders are caught doping, I would expect the response to be nuclear. But his efforts shouldn't be nuked before they've even had the chance to produce something.

  6. Hey, I'm not going to pretend that I don't realize that there are people who detest Manolo Saiz, who consider him guilty of a crime, not just implicated in systematic doping, and who think he should be banned from sport for life.

    I don't agree with that viewpoint, though I acknowledge it. I think the economic concerns must take primacy, and if Saiz can put together a team that employs and pays riders and staff, that should be his ticket to get back into cycling. The privilege to stay in cycling would come from ensuring his team meets the current anti-doping regulations.

  7. I agree with you and that is where my confusion comes from. I "think" that most of his problems stem from the fact that he always came across as kind of slimy. Not the best of reasons but people think whatever they want.

  8. That's it in a nutshell, Jim - people will think what they want to think, independent of the facts. Saiz has a tough mtn ahead to get over, but if he obtains backing, he'll take flack in the press, but the riders will be desperate to get onto his team.

  9. IDK. On one hand, bringing a sponsor into the sport and building something for cycling is to be admired.

    On the other hand, many of his riders have been caught doping and this has gone on through many of his teams.

    I blame the UCI for a lot of this nonsense. In 2006, Andre Agassi stopped his tennis match to get a cortisone shot in the locker room. This was within weeks of Operation Puerto. Agassi wasn't using a PED because his sport acknowledges the physical stress their sport places upon the body. In cycling, if you get pig sh!t in your eye, you'd better not use eyedrops because you'll be a doper. I think one reason cycling, considering it's relative poverty among sports, sees so much spent on doping products is for one simple reason: If I load up on CERA, HGH, HES, and maybe clen I'm going to serve the same suspension for a positive as I would if I inadvertently ingested some DHEA.

    Having said all this, Saiz looks like a mastermind of systematic doping, a la whoever was in charge of the Fassa Bortolo team.


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