Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Tea Party movement: deluded and inspired by billionaires

The Tea Party movement is remarkable in two respects. It is one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has seen – and the biggest Astroturf operation in history. These accomplishments are closely related.

An Astroturf campaign is a fake grassroots movement: it purports to be a spontaneous uprising of concerned citizens, but in reality it is founded and funded by elite interests. Some Astroturf campaigns have no grassroots component at all. Others catalyse and direct real mobilisations. The Tea Party belongs in the second category. It is mostly composed of passionate, well-meaning people who think they are fighting elite power, unaware that they have been organised by the very interests they believe they are confronting. We now have powerful evidence that the movement was established and has been guided with the help of money from billionaires and big business.

Much of this money, as well as much of the strategy and staffing, were provided by two brothers who run what they call "the biggest company you've never heard of".


Regarding Wikileaks - I find it curiously-revealing that one side of the debate is focused on denouncing the distasteful actions (or lack thereof, in the case of protecting detainees from torture at the hands of their Iraqi jailers) chronicled in the reports, whereas the "other side" is desperately denouncing the act of releasing the information itself.

I learned from the Armenian Shark that you can't 'unring' the bell - so might it not be more effective in a democratic and free-thinking society to ensure to the best of our abilities that, in the future, either the kind of damaging information revealed by Wikileaks isn't recorded so it can't be leaked in the first place (ignorance is bliss), or, more realistically, that our policy makers institute directives that compel the best possible behavior from our government representatives abroad, and that we actually hold ourselves accountable for following those directives and conducting ourselves according to the highest standards of enlightened liberalism? I mean, it's downright embarrassing to see former State Dept. advisers whining that Julian Assange should be declared an "enemy combatant." Apparently it's lost on them that this kind of extra-judicial, imperial hubris is what got us into this mess in the first place. Just compare:

"The government views the allegations very seriously," - Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen


"Here are some of the things the U.S. could do: Explore opportunities for the president to designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them." - Christian Whiton


The USA does not need an Official Secrets Act. Our government just needs to do the best it can, at home and abroad, to implement policies that are in the long-term national interest, which don't jeopardize our international standing and the legitimacy we supposedly enjoy as a bastion of democracy, unique in the world thanks to our American exceptionalism.

As Stephen M. Walt writes in the respected journal Foreign Affairs: "Realist that I am, I believe that human beings are more likely to misbehave if they think they can shield what they are doing from public view. For that reason, I also believe that democratic societies are more likely to adopt better policies when information is plentiful and when government officials cannot determine which facts are available to the public and which are not. Because its primary function is to make more information available on issues that concern us all, I therefore conclude that what Wikileaks is doing is on balance a good thing."

To Mr. Tomaso Zirbel

Tomaso, I believe you know more or less how I've come to feel about your case, but, after reading your recent commentary, one thing I want to emphasize for our readers - who might not have as sophisticated an understanding as you do of the two cases you cite - it's really CONI that appears to be capable of dubious action (in the case of Di Luca) whereas USADA continues to toe a consistently-hard line (and it sounds like Merritt won't be able to defend his Olympic titles - though I don't agree that the IOC holds any "moral high ground" - they're as corrupt as they come). And I doubt that USADA, had it been party to Di Luca's case, would ever have consented to such a radical reduction in his suspension - when the rider himself goes to great lengths to point out that his cooperation was completely devoid of any significant assistance in identifying other riders using doping products to unfairly earn hundreds of thousands of euros per year.

“I gave no names,” said Di Luca. “I did it for (the good of) cycling, not to point the finger at any cyclists."

No doubt that your cycling career was destroyed at its zenith by a case of inadvertent ingestion of DHEA, and you are paying the price in the form of a full two year ban (how many tens of thousands of dollars would it have cost you to post-up the experts and legal guidance necessary to prove your innocence and obtain a reduction in your ban? $150,000? A quarter of a million dollars? That works out to more per month in legal and scientific expert fees than most guys earn in two years in the US domestic peloton).

But I don't think that USADA is the villain here - they seem to be reasonably consistent in applying what seems more and more to be unfair penalties against those who've accidentally ingested "banned" products like DHEA. (It also bears mentioning that DHEA doesn't work, as you well know, and there IS a radical difference b/w what one can infer about an athlete's motivation when he's been "caught" w/ DHEA vs. EPO - apples and oranges...)

It seems to be the Italian anti-doping system that which is, at least on the surface, unreasonably lenient in allowing an admitted doper like Di Luca to escape the full sanction despite not providing truly significant assistance in the form of fingering his colleagues in the peloton (spitting in the proverbial soup, he'd call it).

Were he holder of a US license, I suspect Di Luca would be sitting out more than two years, whereas if you were Italian, perhaps a case would never have been brought against Tomaso Zirbel.

No one is perfect, and certainly no agency is above reproach in the fight against doping in sport. But for the most part, USADA seems to me to try to apply consistent sanctions to ensure that there is some measure of fairness - even if that fairness takes the form of still-significant sanctions for all athletes (or most athletes) convicted of inadvertent doping violations...

Keep your chin up and keep trying to stay productive during your sanction, invest that $$$ that you saved by declining to arbitrate your case and come back for a few more years once you're cleared. There's no reason to think you'll have lost the class that took you almost as far as a medal in the elite World ITT. I know it en vogue to be jaded and cynical once you've been banned, but it's crazy to think that even two years away from the sport will succeed in erasing a love of cycling from your DNA.

Good luck!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rui Costa Temporarily Rehabilitated

I just saw that Bike Pure "reinstated" Caisse d'Epargne's Rui Costa, so to speak, providing an explanation of their rational for doing so on the same website from which they axed the accused-doper.

Now I fully realize that the doping-centric internet forums like Cyclingnews.com's Clinic are staffed by a jaded and cynical group, but I personally find it refreshing that Bike Pure - a well-intentioned and honorably-led organization - sees value in re-evaluating its initial reaction to erase Costa from its membership rolls.

As Bike Pure works to establish and maintain both legitimacy and relevancy while shaping public opinion related to anti-doping and cycling, this kind of humility and perspicacity is worthy of note.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Another installment in the ongoing series:


In This Episode: VINO Attacks at CAS/His $$accountant's$$ office

CAS finds that UCI's Vinokourov fine is not valid
- Kazakh will not have to pay year's salary for 2007 positive

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) will not have to pay a fine equivalent to his then annual salary of €1.2 million as a result of his positive test for a blood transfusion at the 2007 Tour de France. According to El Pais, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) found against the International Cycling Union (UCI) and in favour of Vinokourov at a hearing in Lausanne on August 31..." MORE

COMMENTS: No Commentary Required, though one can imagine that CAS saw the image of VINO attacking underwater and decided that discretion was the better part of valor.

How it is that VINO is VINO and all others are pretenders, using the case of Danilo "Wannabe Killer" Di Luca as an example:

Di Luca (who gave himself the nickname " The Killer from Spoltore")

"...It is Di Luca's second doping suspension after he was already banned for three months in 2007 for being linked to the Oil for Drugs affair. CONI also announced that his initial fine of 280,000 Euro was being reduced to 106,400 Euro."


VINO (Алексaндр Николаевич Винокуров holds the rank of Colonel in the Kazakh Army - Қазақстанның Қарулы күштері Qazaqstannyñ Qarūly küshteri)

"...El Pais reports that the court found no legal basis for the UCI to fine Vinokourov a year’s salary. Ahead of the 2007 Tour de France, the UCI requested riders to sign a declaration entitled “Riders’ commitment to a new cycling,” which stated that the riders who incurred doping suspensions of two years and upwards would be liable to pay a year’s salary as a contribution to the UCI’s anti-doping programme."

COMMENTS:  In case you don't get it, while Di Luca obviously has some value and celebrity in order to secure a reduction in his fine, to be VINO is to not be fined, and in fact, I expect that shortly the UCI will offer to pay VINO the amount it originally requested of him, in hopes that he won't attack Pat McQuaid in a more literal sense.

Lastly, during the 2007 Tour VINO was tragically misquoted:

"I am happy with my performance, I am finding my legs again. Now I want to attack in the Pyrénées."

should actually have read

"I am happy with my performance, I am finding my legs again. Now I want to attack the Pyrénées."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Alessandro Petacchi

Ale-Jet won't be attending the 2011 Tour de France route presentation. OK. That's understandable given the witch-hunt-like environment that's enveloped professional cycling and is making it impossible for riders even casually suggested to potentially be possibly connected to a situation tangentially related to doping to move about publicly without being subjected to sometimes-humiliating treatment at the hands of the "authorities" AND the fans. It's a shame, nevertheless, and is a discouraging example of how stakeholders in cycling have become experts at cutting off their noses to spite their own faces.

The idea that there can't be a middle ground between the kind of unquestioning support and blind loyalty demanded by an accused-doper like Lance Armstrong, and the savage abuse that is still heaped upon a convicted-doper like Riccardo Ricco is downright silly. When did professional cycling become an environment in which it was believed that corruption could not - would not - exist in a similar proportion to that which is found in business, politics, or even other sports? How is it that seemingly otherwise-rational, university-educated, wealthy, sophisticated fans lose all perspective when it comes to doping in cycling and take such great personal offense when it's revealed that the athlete who they idolized, lionized, dreamt about and even imitated (by shelling-out $200USD for a pair of team-issue bibs, jersey, gloves, socks and cotton cap) is doping in an effort to ride faster, often in the hope of making more money?

Of course it's disappointing, annoying, offensive, even, when our heroes are revealed to be mere mortal men, with the same little foibles as the rest of us. And yes, we're right to react with anger and cynicism when another positive anti-doping control is announced (or two, in the case of the Costa Brothers). And of course doping in sport must be fought aggressively. But who's to tell me that I can't celebrate Alessandro Petacchi as a rider and respect his palmares, even as I lament the possibility that his career may be terminated as a result of his own greed, stupidity, foolishness, etc.?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Question from the Readers

How are you getting through the winter?

As for how I'm getting through the winter in general w/ respect to cycling...

I was just ruminating about this yesterday! I can't believe how crazy we were as juniors, willing to go ride five hours in the snow no problem. Now if it's below 60F I have to play mind games to force myself out there!

I live in Pittsburgh, PA, USA and winters here are quite unpleasant for the cyclist - they're cold, grey, windy, and there's often freezing rain instead of snow. We get almost no sun and the cycling community here is almost non-existent to begin with in comparison to a place like Southern California, where the Montrose Ride attracts hundreds of participants every Saturday. Credit though to the local ACA for organizing an ongoing series of local races for almost four decades.

When I was racing full-time I always went somewhere warm during the winter - two years in a row I lived in Uruguay, which was "the bomb," as they used to say, and then my last two years (05, 06) I lived in Altadena, California.

So to survive from now til late-January, when I'm either going to be reborn or ... I don't want to think what the other option is ... I'd like to get an MTB and try to rediscover my love of the trails. I hope to go back to working out in a gym, snowboarding at least once per week and, like others, staying active online in the virtual cycling world, writing about cycling topics, supporting the anti-doping movement, testifying when necessary, and definitely trying to stay in positive spirits.

I notice more now the importance of community, and that's why websites like cyclingtorrents.nl are great - they foster a shared sense of commonality and inclusion amongst people who enjoy an esoteric sport that's not well-supported in certain parts of the world (especially where I reside!).

I do have a standing invite to travel to the San Diego area that I still hope to take advantage of. I'd like to see Moab and the Slick Rock (I've never been), too. For now I'd settle for just getting over being sick!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Healthcare and Modern Medicine

I think I've had a fever for five or six days now, but it's finally broken and I notice a minor improvement in how I feel. Nevertheless, I'm not up for conceptualizing, planning and writing a forceful, detailed commentary on modern medicine and health care. But I do want to say how amazing I think modern medicine is, and how lucky I feel to live in an age where even something like antibiotics are now taken for granted. Beats the heck out of dying from infection.

I do, however, wish that this country (USA) had a more humane and less barbaric approach to the needs of its citizens though, with respect to health care. I definitely believe we're individually responsible to maintain to the best of our abilities our bodies - so people who drink and smoke and eat to excess and abuse their organism and then expect the state to fix them up at its expense are assholes. But there should be some universal access to both preventative medicine and acute care. That seems to me like a fundamental human right. I'm not talking about the right to have massively-expensive end-of-life surgeries that prolong one's bed-ridden existence by three months at the cost of three-hundred-thousand dollars. Rather, I'm talking about being able to go to the doctor when you have a sore throat and you need antibiotics because you have an infection.

The fact that we have so many millions of Americans who are hard-working and yet uninsured is profoundly disturbing. What incentive, especially in a stagnant, depressed, or contracting economy, does business/capital have to offer health care benefits as an incentive to labor when there's a surplus of workers throttling each other to secure a position? None, of course. And should it even be the business of business to insure the health of its workers? I don't think so. Whatever the best way forward is, it's not what we have right now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

RIP VDB - One Year Later

Exactly one year ago today, Frank Vandenbroucke was found dead in a hotel room in Senegal. He was just 34.

Cyclingnews.com attempts to provide an update on the VDB tragedy, here. Frank's death was a catastrophe and so much more than the loss of just another former rider. Words fail me - I just can't effectively express how raw the feeling still is. That's why I believe in the Belgian VDB tribute site, www.VDB4-ever.be.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sick Leave

Pappillon is on sick leave right now. Any updates during the next several achy painy days will be unscheduled and may result in delirious-sounding posts. Please send get-well cards, chicken soup and warm, soft blondes to the usual address.

Friday, October 08, 2010

In Defence of Kohl and Torri

The bloggeristi seem to have suffered a massive and inexplicable panties-jam after Bernie Kohl’s address at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s symposium earlier this week.

Michael Creed furiously asks how Kohl could assert that it’s impossible to win the Tour without performance enhancing drugs (PEDs.) Well, Kohl placed third a couple years ago and was part of the “program” for many years. Unlike Creed, he was a genuine competitor for a grand tour podium and would probably know something about the requirements to get there.

As for it being “impossible” to win a grand tour without PEDs, I think it might be time to review a couple simple facts:
  1. Nearly every podium position in the last 15+ years at the Tour has attracted at least some suspicion of PED drug use, if not earning a clear violation and indictment.
  2. While they’re part of the pro peloton, you never hear contenders accusing other contenders of cheating. Think about what that implies.
  3. Andy Schleck has repeatedly and vocally offered his sincerest hope that Alberto is cleared of recent allegations. My guess is that’s not only because they’re such good friends.
Kohl’s assertion that most podium finishers are doping, combined with Ettori Torri’s recent (and somewhat hyperbolic) statement that “all cyclists dope” are worth considering for the simple fact that neither man bears anything to gain. Kohl’s assertion that he has no interest in returning to the peloton is sad but understandable. It also frees him to free his conscience without fear of losing all future prospects. Torri has gone beyond anything uttered by the hysterical Dick Pound, the current WADA leadership, or any other control agency (notably the USADA.)

So, good on both of ‘em.

Back to the ranting Creed (after all, is not a screed but a "ranting piece of writing"?)… He seems to claim (it’s tough to parse everything on his blog) that Bernie Kohl gave him a jersey many years ago that had some pills in it, and that they were probably “ephdrea” (sic.) So? Maybe they were Vitamin C. Or estrogen pills. Or heroin. Or chalk.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, I applaud everyone who’s had the courage to publicly shine a light into the darkness. Keep it coming, boys!

Clenbuterol and the Tour de France

When news of Contador's positive for clenbuterol initially broke, I expressed my surprise and dismay, and also incredulity that the Spaniard would dope with clen during the Tour de France. I accepted that there could be validity to his claim of food contamination, but refrained from suggesting a second possible scenario, the introduction of clenbuterol into his body via a contaminated transfusion. I stick by my initial statement that clenbuterol is a horrible drug and one that you would never use during the Tour - but I want to reiterate that I accept it's absolutely plausible that an athlete would dope with clen while not racing in hopes of slimming down to unnatural levels before a major competition - though in that case clen is only one of several substances that would have to be combined in a veritable weight-loss cocktail (thyroid hormone being one, and perhaps a sleep-aid like Stilnox being another).

I still don't believe that Contador doped with clenbuterol during the Tour de France, and I hope that he can answer the five questions we previously identified here, and explain satisfactorily how the drug entered his body. Unfortunately, that seems less-likely now with this allegation coming from an unnamed source close to the Astana team, as reported by VeloNation:

"Belgian magazine Humo has published claims from an individual with the Astana team, who alleges that Alberto Contador used Clenbuterol after the Criterium du Dauphiné as part of a weight-loss treatment. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claims that the Spaniard had blood extracted between that race and the Tour when, crucially, traces of the banned product were still in his system.

“He had a transfusion performance after the Dauphiné Libéré [Criterium du Dauphiné], and the blood still contained a little bit of clenbuterol from a just-finished slimming treatment,” Humo reported the insider as saying.

“In the Dauphiné Libéré, Contador was still a little overweight. Ordinary people do not see that, but there was still a pound or two to shed. Clenbuterol is used to get rid of the last kilos while, at the same time, to ensure that you do not lose muscle mass - or, in the best case, even gain a little extra muscle mass.”

He described how the technique works, saying that the substance is used in combination with another
“You have to use it in combination with T3 [Triiodothyronine]. This is a thyroid hormone that helps in the digestion of fats. Then you have more rapid effect with a smaller dose of Clen. And the smaller the dose, the smaller the chance that you get caught.”

Contador finished second overall in the Dauphiné, but appeared to be below his usual strength there. He was beaten by an impressive Janez Brajkovic (Team RadioShack), who finished 1’41 ahead at the end of the event. Contador was only sixth behind Brajkovic in the time trial and was unable to drop his rival on the crucial stage to Alpe d’Huez, although he won the sprint to the line..."

And as an aside, in the same report the anonymous source claimed that doping via transfusions continues as before, much like Bernhard Kohl alleged, when he said it was not possible to win the Tour de France if doping was still endemic. VeloNation continues:

"The biological passport is being used as a deterrent to prevent riders from doping. While it has made it more difficult to beat the system, the Astana source told the magazine that some riders continue to manipulate things at a lesser level.

“Of course,” he said, when asked if transfusions continue. “But it’s in small doses of 150cc. Previously, riders during the Tour used two, three big bags of blood, from 400 to 500 cc. Now they cannot afford to, because of the biological passport and the sudden fluctuations in blood levels that occur.”

Sigh. I love this sport, I really do, and I'm sorry for my role in perpetuating the doping problem, but darn, if it's proven that Contador doped (and by proven, I mean there's a CAS ruling that closes the door on any appeals), then maybe that will be the nail in the coffin that will get me out of this trance and help me see the world through lenses other than a cyclist's Oakleys.

Reactions to the Ever-Evolving Landis Time-line

A "Great Thinker" from the world outside of cycling contacted Pappillon with a counterpoint to the vitriol surrounding Floyd Landis, and we've chosen to publish it here. Not everyone, it would seem, chooses to see the man in an irrevocably-evil light.

"I don’t understand the ignorance or the vitriol surrounding Floyd. If you think he would care at all what some anonymous schmuck in Nevada City thinks of his public-facing time-line, here’s how my mind worked through it:

1) Interesting background. I love it when strange people from strange circumstances rise to the top.

2) Public tiffs with Lance at Postal. Nice.

3) 2006 Stage 17: One of the most heroic athletic feats of all time. I assume he’s juiced, but I assume everybody else is juiced, too.

4) Denies everything after getting popped. Bummer. My respect went down, but I also knew that was part of the game.

5) Promotes his defense fund and takes heaps of public contributions. I don’t give because I don’t think he’s innocent (not necessarily of the Stage 17 Testosterone, but just in general.) Actually, I don’t give anything to anybody or any organization. I give the government enough taxes as it is.

6) WSJ interview earlier this year and attendant proclamations of guilt: AWESOME. My respect goes back up.

7) Determination last week to reimburse all the poor fools who contributed to his fund. Floyd’s integrity is now completely restored in my book. I probably still won’t send him any money, but he can crash at my pad next time he races in Nevada City, if he wants to."

Toro Ross, HR and a Wet Singapore GP

Though I'm no F1 pundit, I highly doubt that F1 team Scuderia Toro Rosso fired anyone after the Singapore GP, because I highly doubt that there exists an F1 mechanic stupid enough to sniff out a water leak five hours before race time but then not report it to the chief mechanic - instead choosing to sop it up at regular intervals. Even if it was only the car of Jaime Alguersuari, who has collected all of a massive three (3) points in two seasons. Please.

Oh - looks like I was right:

Update: Friday 8 October 2010 - The STR team have denied that anyone was fired following the Singapore race.

F1: Report - Toro Rosso fires Formula 1 mechanic after Singapore race inciden
Source - GMM
Thursday, 30 September 2010 10:41

A mechanic has been dismissed by Toro Rosso following an incident before Sunday's Singapore Formula One Grand Prix.

Jaime Alguersuari qualified a strong eleventh under the street circuit's lights, but then had to start the race from the pit lane due to a coolant leak.

"My hopes of having a good day disappeared," recalled the Spaniard.

According to Spanish reports, including in the AS newspaper and the Motor21 website, an unnamed mechanic apparently discovered the leak with five hours to spare but did nothing but regularly wipe up the water puddle.

The problem therefore only came to the attention of the Faenza based team in general after Alguersuari left the pits to form up on the grid.

There was then not enough time to replace the radiator before the pit lane closed.

Toro Rosso has been contacted for comment.

Blazin' Saddles: The real McCoy? - The LOST Paragraphs

"What was he, a Master of the Universe, doing down here on the floor, reduced to ransacking his brain for white lies to circumvent the sweet logic of his wife?"

Such is the predicament of millionaire bond trader Sherman McCoy, a self-styled Master of the Universe, in the opening chapter of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, a satire on the decaying class, racial and political structure of New York in the 1980s.

In the light of recent developments, you could seemingly replace Alberto Contador for the adulterous McCoy, the doping laboratories and baying media for his wife, while the thing that's decaying is the core of professional cycling and its organisational bodies. As for the white lies, well, they remain white lies - if you believe all the rumours.

Cycling has been riddled with mendacity in recent years. In any walks of life, those in the wrong more often than not don't actually believe they are doing anything bad in the first place. Certainly not in relation to their immediate surroundings. Take Sherman McCoy, for instance. As a Master of the Universe, he is entitled to do as he pleases – especially given the temptations around him.

"Technically, he had been unfaithful to his wife. Well, sure … but who could remain monogamous with this, this, this tidal wave of concupiscence rolling across the world? Christ almighty! A Master of the Universe couldn't be a saint, after all … It was unavoidable. For Christ's sake, you can't dodge snowflakes, and this was a blizzard! He had merely been caught at it, that was all. It meant nothing. It had no moral dimension."

Most would agree that there has been over the years a tidal wave of transgression rolling across a peloton lacking a certain moral dimension. Doping is unavoidable, many say. What's more, it's not a sin as long as you don't get caught.

The minds of many top cyclists snared for their indiscretions appear to mirror that of Wolfe's banker, who sees himself incorrigible, on a different level both ethically (his extra-marital affair) and legally (he mows down and leaves a young boy for dead in the Bronx).

The Contador "situation" means all of the winners of the previous 15 Tours de France – with the exception of Carlos Sastre – have now been associated with (or accused of) doping, have admitted doping or, in one case, have been stripped of their title for doping.

It gets worse. Only this week, convicted doper Bernhard Kohl told an anti-doping symposium in Colorado that it was "impossible to win the Tour de France without doping". The best riders, he inferred, cannot be saints.

It gets even worse: former rider Roy Sentjens, who retired this year after testing positive for EPO, said it was not even possible to reach the Tour top ten without doping (quite how one of his former Lotto team-mates - a staunch anti-doper who finished runner-up on two occasions while the Dutchman was on his squad - feels about this is anyone's guess).

It gets worse still: this week, a 78-year-old Italian anti-doping prosecutor claimed that all professional riders - with no exception - take banned substances.

Such a generalisation is as dangerous as it is patently incorrect (much like the notion that all bankers are b------s) and yet the sad thing is that it may not be as far from the truth as we previously thought.

But let's forget the final outlandish statement and accept, hypothetically, that the first two assertions are true (Saddles isn't going to question the credibility of Kohl and Sentjens in this blog because he'll be here till the Basque cows come home for their daily dose of clenbuterol).

Say they're true, that you can't win or even make the top ten without doping, and you can begin to comprehend why someone like Floyd Landis was so determined to clear his name back in 2006 - or why, for that matter, Contador feels so aggrieved now.

Sure, Landis knew he had doped, but he may have had good reason to believe that those standing either side of him on the podium had done the same. He was clearly adamant (or at least, says he was) that a certain former team-mate had won seven consecutive races using similar preparations.

Landis, like the fictional McCoy and the real-life top bankers who brought the world's financial institutions to a halt with their arrogance and misplaced aura of invincibility, believed himself to be a Master of the Universe. And Masters of the Universe can't be saints.

Sticking to the world of banking, take the example of French rogue trader Jerome Kerviel, who on Tuesday was given a three-year jail term and ordered to pay back the 4.9 billion euros he lost his bank Societe Generale.

Kerviel was no Master of the Universe - he was a mere domestique of the banking world in comparison to Grand Tour contender McCoy; more of a Sentjens than a Landis, if you will.

The trader's lawyer said his client would appeal the "totally unreasonable and unbelievable" judgement. "Kerviel is disgusted," he said, stressing that the court had judged that the bank "was responsible for nothing, not responsible for the creature that it had created."

This is a similar defence made by convicted dopers: they are not to blame, but cycling and its inherent doping culture is. "I have the feeling Jerome Kerviel is paying for an entire system," the lawyer added - something the lawyers of Landis, Ricco, Kohl, any convicted doper could all say.

For once they're caught, dopers are hung out to dry like a piece of beef biltong. And in the cycling food chain, the knives can turn on anyone - even the most cocksure of predators, the Masters of the Universe themselves.

The question we now have to ask is whether Contador is a real McCoy – or if he is a bona fide victim of the freak contamination he claims to be.

Let's look at the evidence. Last week Saddles suggested that Contador's tainted meat excuse was so unfeasible it must have been true; this week, BS would say it seems simply unfeasible.

Many readers gave Saddles beef for overlooking the then latest development in the case - namely that Contador has received a blood transfusion which left plasticizers in his blood as well as clenbuterol - but the blog was written before that angle had been broken in the German press.

At the time, Saddles believed he was in the right in stressing the episode contained more hot air than a cattle farm - but given how things have panned out, BS admits he was perhaps too hasty in coming to Bertie's defence.

While it's natural to presume everyone innocent until proven guilty this whole affair has proved that in cycling the opposite rules must apply: everyone is guilty until proven innocent. And that is a sorry predicament. [What follow are the lost paragraphs.]

The contaminated meat line is now beginning to look almost as much of a chimera as the guff about Tyler Hamilton's unborn twin. The Astana chef's initial line that the beef came from Pau is contradicted by Contador's claim that it was brought for him across the border in Irun by the organiser of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon (a race the Spaniard has won on three of the previous four occasions).

That doesn't even answer the question as to why Contador was eating beef on the rest day in the first place (a practice not usually done in big races). Presumably, the next line will be that the meat was wrapped in cling film made from the same type of plastics found in blood bags. Or that it was accompanied by a plate of boil-in-the-bag rice.

Put simply, today's youth would dismiss the beef excuse is one big epic fail. Saddles wouldn't go so far, but he might suggest that it was a slight red herring.

Contador has known since 24 August that he failed this doping test - and this is the best he can come up with. In the six weeks that passed before the story broke, why had he not traced down where the beef came from, whereby sorting out his defence? And if, as Contador stated, the UCI had assured him it was a case of food contamination - why had the cycling body not further investigated the matter?

The answer, perhaps, is that the story wasn't meant to break. Contador may have been told he should keep quiet about the whole thing - probably to save the flagging reputation of the sport. When the story was reported, both he and the UCI were perhaps caught unawares and with their pants down. Now that would be a decaying structure.

Since being caught in the headlights, Contador has been both contrite (crying into the cameras) and bullish (denying any wrongdoing with all the arrogance of a Master of the Universe).

Pulling the strings, the rider has said he will say no more about the case and has even threatened retirement if a positive resolution is not made within 10 days.

His ex directeur sportif has issued a staunch statement of defence - something he tellingly failed to do when his own rider, Fuyu Li, blamed contaminated meat for a positive test for clenbuterol six months ago.

Contador's principle rival over the French roads in July also came to his sudden defence on Twitter, stressing how he was shocked about the "crazy" news and how he hoped Contador was innocent and would be given the right to defend himself.

Sadly, Blazin' Saddles has it on very good authority - from blood doping specialists with inside information on the biological passports of cycling's top riders who echo the sentiments of Kohl and Sentjens - that the Contador conundrum could well be just the tip of the iceberg.

But given that so much was seemingly done (for whatever reason) to keep the Spaniard's positive under wraps, it's unlikely we'll ever see what is lurking under the surface.

Just pause and think, though. What development would be the worst case scenario for the UCI, the Tour, cycling in general should Alberto Contador be stripped of his title and the yellow jersey awarded to the runner-up who matched his every move but for a slip of a chain?

Towards the end of the Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe's narrator asks: "Who but an arrogant fool would want to be a Master of the Universe - and take the insane chances he had been taking? […] The Master of the Universe was cheap, and he was rotten, and he was a liar."

Let's just hope these similarities with Wolfe's work are all just a coincidence.

Ever since he was bullied by his brothers into watching the Tour de France as an eight-year-old, Blazin' Saddles has been a cycling fanatic. As persistent as Voigt, as fast as Abdoujaparov, as voracious as Ullrich and as accurate as a Festina watch, Blazin' Saddles offers a lighter take on the oft-grave world of professional cycling. The self-styled best cycling-blog pedlar in the business, BS refutes sullied claims of doping levelled by his rivals: these nuggets are powered on Gerolsteiner fizzy water alone. Just ask BS's friend Bernhard Kohl for a reference. An edited version of this post originally appeared at Yahoo! Eurosport.

My Tale from the Peloton - ghost-written excerpts

"I pulled the needle out of my gluteal muscle and said out loud, “Never again.” My cat turned his gaze towards me and stared. “What?” Even the damn cat knew I was lying to myself. I caught myself in the mirror across the room but I no longer felt shame looking into my own eyes. Sometimes I felt dirty and guilty, other times I felt completely justified and righteous. Mostly these days I didn’t feel anything at all; it was just a job and I was a professional. I tested the tip of the needle against my index finger and immediately remembered a syringe I had seen balanced on a hub cap next to the road to Modena. Who would leave their needle out like that? Some drug addict, probably. I caught myself in the mirror again. 'Like you. Fuck.'"

“It was clearly a rental car and it had followed me for exactly four turns. I tried to do a quick calculus; what were the odds that someone visiting this part of town would make those exact four turns? I wished it were daytime so I could get an idea for who was behind the wheel. What they didn’t know was that I had a full clip of equalizing force tucked away in the glove box. I knew something about level playing fields whether it was within the law or not. I’ve never minded losing but only if it was an even fight. In its own way, the honor of thieves is purer than one enforced from an external authority.

I realized I’d gotten lost in another Socratic dialogue with myself (never knowing which speaker was the real me) and had forgotten about my pursuers. I looked in the mirror but didn’t see anyone. My neck started throbbing and I realized how tense I’d been. I turned my head from side to side to get the blood flowing and pulled up to my family’s house. The rental car was parked across the street…”

Thursday, October 07, 2010

True Story

"My son Jesus is in 4th grade and started running Cross Country last month. He’s done four meets so far and has improved his finishing position from 16th to 11th to 7th to 6th. There are ~100 kids in each race, so they’re decent results. His classmate David Garcia has won all four races, by a large margin each time.

After Jesus's 6th place the day before yesterday (which I attended), as I was congratulating him, he pulled my head down to his and whispered in my ear, “Do you think David Garcia's doping?”

I laughed and told him "Of course not!" but it got me thinking later. I just read your interview with the (Pro)wanker and took particular note of your words about doping at the Junior level. On further reflection, it saddens me that one of Jesus’s first logical leaps to explain the heroic athletic performance of David Garcia is that there must be some sort of doping or cheating going on…"

(Note: Names and other personally-identifying details have been altered to protect the identity of the subjects.)

Pro Wanker Interview

The title alone makes it an interesting read.

"In the mind of the public, doping is a dirty thing. We assign blame, claim righteous indignation and experience a visceral rejection to the cheating of our idols. So when our stars start to fall, we find pleasure in accelerating their descent.

Meanwhile, to the developing world―where conditions promote doping and ethical muddles―we show indifference. Viewing cycling, the sporting public sees doping as a test of morals rather than economic necessity.

And every year, another rider from a disadvantaged background emerges and shocks the world with his performance. For weeks, we are stunned by the talent. In the underdog, we have found a new idol..."

Click here for the complete, exclusive interview. 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Where Do We Go From Here?

Going forward, there is a simple solution to the problem of doping in cycling - for the riders to 1) refuse to dope and 2) to denounce those who continue to do so. You'd think that in short order Greg LeMond's clean-winner-of-the-Tour-de-France would emerge (Greg quite correctly points out to those who say you can't win the Tour "clean" that if everyone on the start line of the race is competing cleanly, without doping, then whoever crosses the finish line in Paris with the lowest accumulated time will become the Clean Winner of the Tour de France.)

Wishful thinking, I know, since there is potentially such an up-side to doping for the elite rider who gets away with it and earns millions as a result. It's tough to argue against that economic logic, though it's in no way a morally or ethically-justifiable approach. (Stay tuned to this site for a link to an upcoming interview where we discuss the economic incentive to dope in greater detail.)

Given that doping has been with the sport since its earliest days, and in light of how severely skewed the incentives:disincentives ratio to doping is, what's the answer?

I don't think that legalizing doping is the way forward (sorry Torri). Tacit acceptance of doping isn't going to work anymore, either - that cat's out of the bag and no one is going to be able to put it back in, no matter what we'd like. We just can't go back to pretending that doping isn't a problem. Likewise, the intimidation of still-active athletes who speak-out against doping (ex. Armstrong vs. Simeoni [2] or Armstrong vs. Bassons) has to stop, along with the vilification of those who, either voluntarily, or when confronted with evidence of their guilt, admit their transgressions and indict others, even after the fact. Is increasing the involvement of the State's criminal policing apparatus a potential solution? Aggressively arresting and putting dopers and people who really effed-up like me, people who both doped and helped others to dope, in jail as a deterrent? Then you get the response that government shouldn't be wasting money policing a bunch of careless athletes who want to risk their health to pedal a bike faster. Throw-out the UCI? But then what?

There isn't an easy answer to this. In fact, there isn't even consensus as to what a fiendishly-complicated answer might look like.

Ruminating on what Torri said, just for a second - if you legalize doping, you take away every last bit of hope that youngsters might otherwise have when considering whether or not to start cycling. If you know from the beginning that you have to risk your health in order to reach the highest level in your sport, or perhaps just to be an amateur you'd need to dope, what kind of incentive is that to begin cycling?

Unfortunately, the doping products work. EPO really, really works. I can't deny that, like Allen Lim so disingenuously did, implying that a clean athlete could achieve the same performance level as an equal-but-doped competitor. It's even true that, as a result of taking EPO, by the standard of measure I relied upon at the time, my life was great in 2005-6. But the fall-out has been equally spectacular and my life has been destroyed thanks to my involvement in doping. Perhaps the long-term non-health risks are less for someone who earns millions thanks to doping while racing, and can then fund the rest of their life - and their legal defense - when the inevitable catches up with them. But only a select few reap the massive financial benefits accessible as a result of doping, which wouldn't be so concentrated, perhaps, if the playing field were truly more level.

I would implore any athlete considering whether or not to dope to realize that, no matter how effectively they think they'll manage the risk, there are catastrophic possibilities that they can't account for, which will destroy the value of their ill-gotten gains swiftly, and totally.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Bernhard Kohl is Not the Enemy of Cyclesport

There’s no reason to force yourself to reject, or otherwise adopt a guarded position in response to Bernhard Kohl's appearance at an anti-doping symposium this past weekend in the United States, unless you're on the wrong-side of the doping dilemma. Of course when someone says “everyone is doing X” or “it’s impossible for anyone to do Y,” we know intuitively that there is a degree of hyperbole involved and that there is always an exception (in reasonable circumstances – and I less and less think it reasonable to say with 100% confidence, “You could win the Tour without drugs during the 1999-2010 period.”).

Maybe you could finish the Tour, but it seems unlikely anymore, especially in light of recent revelations and goings-on, that you could win it. Maybe (qualifier) that’s just how it is, and maybe it’s high-time that such statements not be automatically qualified by others who find it offensive to their worldview to consider how corrupt a sport might be. I mean, does Kohl really need to preface what he says with, “I accept the fact that what I’m going to say could be invalidated by a statistical anomaly and that there might always be a physiological freak who is an exception to what I know to be true from first-hand experience and anecdotal evidence, BUT …[you can’t win the Tour w/o doping.]”??

And just to clarify, it was Roy Sentjens who said that you couldn't finish in the top-10 without doping, not Bernhard Kohl. 

Monday, October 04, 2010

Five Questions to Clear-up the Contador Clenbuterol Affair

As suggested by a correspondent:
  1. Where did the meat come from?
  2. Does the farmer regularly supply his stock with CB?
  3. Is it a common practice in Spain to dope your cattle with CB?
  4. Test several of his cows right now. Do they come positive for CB? If so, at what concentration?
  5. Is the level of CB found in AC’s urine consistent with the amount that would be found in a person who ingested N grams of beef from stock that may have had N % of first generation CB in the bloodstream?
By providing answers to these questions, Alberto Contador can do much to support his claims of having been victimized. I, for one, would very much like for him to prove his case and earn his exoneration.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

My First Race in France

Ok, the first rule of racing in France: Never ever, ever, ever believe a Frenchman when he says the course is "almost completely flat". To an Englishman flat is flat, with possibly a bit of a downhill finish. To a Frenchman, flat is at best "rolling" with a "small" climb of maybe 8% and, I swear I am not making this up, a finishing stretch of maybe 500m into the village along cobbles at 22%!!!! It also comes of the corner at the end of the circuit's climb, just to really spice things up.

Le Grand Prix de [small French town]. Thankfully, I rode the circuit first, and thankfully they wouldn't let me race Elite 1,2 and 3! Because I had only just registered with their association they made me ride 4 and 5. Police outriders at a local amateur race, a beautiful course, 10 laps making just fewer than 50k. Cat 4 and 5. Sounded do-able.

How did it go?

How can I put it?

Basically, I got raped. By 40 angry Frenchman. For an hour. Over and over again, whilst a new friend (the French cyclist who invited me to the race after giving me directions to go training earlier that week) laughed at my suffering. He said he hadn't been that entertained all year.

On the rolling section the peloton averaged 50kmph. From kilometer 0. Seriously.

Some wad attacked on the first lap, got about 20 meters on the peloton, and then we groveled for a lap, trying to rein him in. And as soon as we had, someone else goes (actually it was mostly the original wad attacking again and getting others to do the same), we rein them in, then someone else, and so-on and so-forth. By about lap 4 (I really had forgone the ability to count by now) I felt the inevitable happening. I was slipping back through the peloton. Losing wheels each time every fucker and his dog stepped on the gas at the top of the climb. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't the first to get dropped. Surely someone else couldn't take this punishment for much longer too?

So as soon as I see the old boy next to me start to shake his head, I am onto him like a flash. My new best friend. Please Granddad, give it up. I'll keep you company. It'll be our own little grupetto. We can share our horror stories, tell each other about the injuries that have held us back today. Now I did say he was old, maybe mid 50s if I am being generous to myself, but fuck he was stubborn. Every time I saw a gap ahead of him, I thought, "great we can relax now, and I can shake my head disapprovingly, point and blame you for being dropped". But no, he would summon up something from his leathery, ox like thighs and back on we would get. More pain, more racing heart, more burning lungs, more fucking lunacy. Why am I doing this? I am on holiday!

And then finally, it happens. He looks down at his gears (the eternal fail safe excuse for an impending crack), mutters something in French, shakes his head some more, and he's gone. I am not going to come last! Well, not if I can beat him up those cobbles at the end, or knock him off at least. I then have a bit of a second wind, inspired by my "victory" over a retired Frenchman, I manage to find a few more wheels for half a lap, a few more dropped, and then I am done. I wait for a nice stretch of road with no spectators, and I gratefully sit up and wait for the stragglers, and hope they haven't got too much fight left in them.

But of course they do. And actually there are quite a few I hadn't seen. About 12 of us. So I spend the rest of the race trying not to get dropped by some other losers, and suffering the indignity of the final police outrider laughing at my pain, and then finally we hear the bell. Should I go early? Hope to give myself a head start for the monster at the end? I give it a go. I fail. I give it another go. I fail again. Fuck it guys, we are racing for last! I am a tourist. Give me a break! So I sit in, try to save myself. And I needed to. Then end was brilliant. One of the funniest and craziest things I have seen in a bike race. Guys just stopping dead halfway up the finish. Guys walking. Guys running. Guys falling. Shouts of "putain" and "merde" filled the pretty little street on the lord's day, accompanied by the childlike, joyful laughter of the spectators. There were still remnants of the main peloton struggling up it when i got there. I was in the 27", took it easy and I thought to myself, If I don't have to get off, I won't come last.

And I didn't.

As I coughed up what felt like the remnants of a lung, I flopped over the finish line, into the village square, received a kiss on both cheeks from a beautiful French girl as she put my finisher's garland round my neck, and then found a nice corner to throw up in. It was fucking brilliant. Insane but brilliant. I can never return to racing in the UK with any real enthusiasm now. I had forgotten how well the French do all this. Every weekend! I had spent too long away from it. Too long. When i got home, after a two hour "nap", I began persuading my fiancée that we would be spending three months every year back in France so I could race "properly" again. Thankfully she had found the whole experience so funny, she was easily persuaded.

-contributed by a Pappillon reader

Friday, October 01, 2010

Why Amnesty Probably Wouldn't Work

The “amnesty window” concept for truth and reconciliation in cycling has been kicked around for a while but, according to one of the Great Thinkers with which Pappillon is regularly in consultation, it’s total fantasy. He writes:

The only way it could possibly work is if there were a single, worldwide doping authority that total control over national or local organizations. If there were any disagreement to the terms of clemency, it simply wouldn’t work. We know this is obvious, but here’s an example: Let’s say American Pro Bob Beaver wants to come clean. He also doesn’t want to risk his right to work. USADA and WADA both agree to open a “fess up, boy” window at the end of the season. He signs some papers, makes a statement, joins the bio passport program and slips on a blue wristband - or some combination of events that convince everyone else (and himself) that from this point on he’ll be clean. Unfortunately, the Dutch [or Austrian] authorities aren’t exactly on the same page and while they’ll let Bob’s team come race some kermesses, they won’t let Bob race. Or maybe they will, but details of the Dutch amnesty require a 6-month suspension.

Apparently, the devil is in the details and there’s no way all those organizations could ever come to an agreement.