Sunday 20 February 2011

Doping Directeurs

At a time when our beloved sport seems to have some sort of self destruct mechanism inbuilt, those of us who want to see the back of the dopers, and the never ending stories about the dopers, are growing more and more frustrated by the inconsistencies we see everywhere we look.

We read every day of teams that seem to go out of their way to hire the worst of the worst (step forward Astana, Vacansoleil, Androni Giocattoli and Christina Watches). Do they really believe that no publicity is bad publicity? We see federations that profess to be doing everything they can to clean up the sport and yet they can't bring themselves to apply the rules to the biggest names/earners. And we see teams falling over themselves to proclaim their zero tolerance strategies, while at the same time their management teams are packed with ex dopers.

I hadn't though much about the last issue until I read recently that the erstwhile Saxo Bank, and now Team Leopard, DS, Kim Andersen, was handed a life ban for repeated doping in 1987. On reading up more about his case I then discovered that, having wriggled out of the life ban on a technicality, he was subsequently caught again, in 1992. On that occassion he suffered no more than being fired from his team!

I have mulled over this article for a while, trying to decide what angle to take and how I can express my absolute frustration that a man with a history like that can not only still be working in the sport but is in fact leading the biggest team on the planet and is poised to bask in all of the reflected glory that will bring.

I can't find the words so I've decided to let the facts speak for themselves. With a bit of googling I've put together a list that I think stands as an indictment of the UCI strategy of hammering (some) riders while those who pull the strings escape the scrutiny they might deserve.

So, for the sake of transparency, here is a list of current WorldTour team staff who have been tested positive or admitted doping during their riding careers.

Euskaltel - Euskadi:

Igor GONZALEZ DE GALDEANO ARANZABAL (General Manager), six-month ban for Salbutamol in the 2002 Tour de France and 2002 Midi Libre. This was a ban in France only. The UCI reckoned he had a medical cert so didn't ban him, even though reports at the time suggested he exceeded the allowed dose. Also implicated in Puerto affair.
Alvaro GONZALEZ DE GALDEANO ARANZABAL (Team Manager), served a 7 month suspension for Nandrolone in 2000.


Rolf ALDAG (General Manager), admitted using EPO from 1995 to 1999
Brian HOLM (Team Manager), admitted using EPO twice in 1996 at Team Telekom

Pro Team Astana:

Laurenzo LAPAGE (Ass. Team Manager), disqualified and fined for a positive test for Ephedrine at the 2002 Ghent Six. Claimed it was contained in a food supplement.

Quickstep Cycling Team:

Marco VELO (Team Manager), disqualified from the 2001 Italian National Time Trial Championships for a Lidocaine positive

Saxo Bank Sungard:

Bjarne RIIS (Team Manager), admitted using EPO, growth hormone and cortisone for five years, from 1993 to 1998, including when he "won" the 1996 Tour
Fabrizio GUIDI (Ass. Team Manager), tested positive for EPO at the 2005 HEWCyclassics but his B sample was negative so he was cleared.

Sky Procycling:

Sean YATES (Team Manager) reportedly tested positive in 1989 at the Torhout-Werchter stage race. I can't find out the substance or what his sanction was, if any.

Team Leopard-Trek:

Kim ANDERSEN (Team Manager), as above given a lifetime ban after the 1987 Tour de Limousin later reduced. Positive again in 1992.

I have found references to several others. As these are only allegations or reports of investigations underway it's not appropriate to mention them here.

Sources: The Internet Anti-Doping Database, BBC, Cycling News, Le Soir


One of the best parts about being a cyclist is the unspoken solidarity that has always existed among riders. From the friendly wave as you pass in the opposite direction to grouping up if heading the same way, there's an understanding that we all suffer the same pain and the same dangers and, equally, we all enjoy the same freedom and fitness benefits.

That's why what happened to me yesterday is both annoying and disappointing.

I was coming home via Malahide and came up behind a Swords CC rider at a set of lights. I acknowledged him and made the usual friendly remark on what a nice morning it was. His stilted reply made it clear he wasn't interested in chatting. Fair enough.

He went ahead of me but at pretty much my pace so I was able to get in behind him. I'd had a hard enough spin so was very grateful for a bit of a tow around the coast. He was aware I was there but obviously wasn't interested in any interaction, or sharing the pace. It also became quite clear he wasn't going to make any concession to my being there which meant several times I had to take action to prevent touching wheels when he changed pace, got out of the saddle or swerved a bit.

Coming through Portmarnock we stopped at lights. Again, not so much as a nod when I came alongside him. Then, approaching the roundabout for Baldoyle, he gave a sudden swerve and I just got a bief glimpse of the pothole as I hit it full on.

I knew straight away, from the sound of both wheels hittig, that this wasn't good and, sure enough, quickly felt rim on tarmac. Not just one, but both tyres were flattened!

That was annoying enough. Two punctures, 6km from home, is not what you need. But what really got my goat was the behaviour of my "companion". No shouted warning of the pothole, no hand down to his side to indicate which side it was on and not even a look back to see what had happened. I might be being unfair on that last one but I can't imagine he didn't hear the unmistakable sound of the impacts and he couldn't have missed my shouted, expletive-laden reaction.

Maybe my standards are too high but, to my mind, the unwritten code of the road dictates you look out for your fellow rider, whether you know them or not. We've all heard that crunching sound and felt the air rush from under us. We've all had to change a tube/tyre on the roadside with wet, cold and filthy hands. And, I thought, we all know that it's just the right thing to do to help each other out.

So my blood was boiling at the sight of Mr Swords riding off into the sun without a thought or a care for a fellow rider left marooned.

To make matters worse, I quickly discovered that one of the two tubes I had with me was also punctured! (Note to self: swap punctured tubes as soon as possible when you get home, no matter how tired you are, so as not to forget before the next ride). As I stood waiting for my lift to come and rescue me, it was a salutory experience to find that my friend wasn't alone in not caring. At least twenty riders, singly and in groups, passed me and only one, yes ONE!, stopped to see if I needed help.

So this is an appeal to all who ride the roads. If someone is riding behind you, whether you want them there or not, the least you can do is warn them of upcoming hazards, the same as you would if you were in a group. Plus, if you see a rider stopped with a problem, please check they are OK. It might cost you a few minutes, or a donation of a tube, but remember, it could be you someday.