Sunday, July 29, 2007


This is post 739 since TBV started on this day in 2006. We never would have imagined it running so long or being so voluminous. Part of this is due to the length and complexity of the case, and there's nothing to feel good about with that, no matter what side of the question you may find yourself.

On the other hand, the experience has introduced us to a host of wonderful people. Some have joined us on "staff", others have made occasional contributions, and a great many have conducted a long running conversation in our comment sections. We've gone to a lot of meetings and events, found very nice people in places we would never have imagined, and generally been pleasantly surprised by the good will that remains. It would be unfair to list some but not all names, but I'd like to particularly thank Sandra, my kids, Paula and Mark, Marc, Bill, and Dan, who have made many sacrifices and contributions.

When we started, we knew something of the antidoping enforcement process, having followed and read the Hamilton case and the Vrijman report, which we knew to have come with their own baggage and set of biases. What little we knew of Landis made the charge seem odd, but not impossible, as it's a known problem in the sport.

A year later, we still don't know if Landis doped or not, but we're certainly not convinced that he did by our interpretation of the evidence presented at the hearing. We don't know what result will be made by the arbiters, or how convincing their logic of decision will be when it is made.

Little we've seen of the anti-doping process has given us good feelings about the integrity and ethics of those in charge of executing the laudable goal of policing the cheating in sport through prohibited substances and methods. The unease is triggered by the attitude, which is clearly, "they all dope" which leads to, "whatever we charge them with is good enough."

When the goal is laudable, it strikes us as more than a little inconsistent that dubious methods are willingly applied in the name of "Fair Play." At least in our mind, the ends do not justify the means, either for the athletic participants, or the rule-making and enforcing bodies.

We see from all involved parties an inflexibility to reach mutually beneficial agreements that all are willing to live with. We see self-interest run amok, and politics being played ostensibly for ideals, but really for power and financial control.

It's a sad state of affairs, and one we, as fans, wish would get resolved in a way that felt fair and effective to all parties. That won't happen until those parties realize scorching the earth and blaming each other will leave nothing for anyone.

None of this would have come about at TBV, for better or worse, without Floyd Landis' audacious attack on Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. That stage has become a personal litmus for all that some love and some hate about the sport of cycling. It was either a transcendent moment of athletic glory, or a dismal symbol of much that's wrong with competition.

Since competition, and cheating to win are as old as games themselves, it is ludicrous to say we have new problems. What we have is a side effect of the pressure of competing at all. And competimg is just another way of saying, "living."

All we can really hope to do are manage and control the worst excesses, in hopes the what is left is "fair enough." Those that do win should, by and large, be deserving.



Unknown said...

well I think that whatever the denouement, the verdict on Floyd won't really matter- his career as a pro cyclist is finished; he'll be viewed as a sideshow attraction, the man who won then lost the tour. he really serves to warn current and future pros that there is more to winning a bike race than just winning the race, and because money is invovled so is crime. it is a crime when someone is dealt with unjustly; as it is a crime when someone tries to manipulate the results and then there is the betting houses that have serious self-interest on the line with little interest in the fate of one man or the consequence of actions. The bottom line is that we rely on people being honest; from the sportsman to the lab tech to the cook or the cops- and therein there will always be liars and cheats. But really at the heart of it, what does it matter who wins or who has lost ? perhaps they should have a race without a finish line and we can just watch and spectate and enjoy the moment as they race, then turn and go back to our own momentary lives.

wschart said...

Congratulations, TBV, on your one year anniversary. Your blog has become, to me, the one spot where reasoned comment and discussion on the Landis case in particular and the whole cycling/doping issue in general can be found. Forums tend too much to devolve into flaming; we have had little of that here, outside of the brief time after the hearing when you were forced to require commentors to register. I visit here daily, often several times a day, to read your comments, those of others and at least some of the links you post.

I wonder what plans you have for when the Landis case finally comes to a complete close, as at some time it must.

strbuk said...

It has been and will continue to be my pleasure to be as much help as I can to you TBV. I came on board on October 30,2006 and never dreamed that this would still be the way I start and end my day each day. I have met such great people, and have learned so many things that for me the experience has been invaluable. Thanks for trusing me with your baby.

str (Paula)

Unknown said...

The nature of the problem makes it a difficult one to solve. As Lance Armstrong said yesterday, it is a "global sport" problem. Andreas Kloeden, in Velonews yesterday, said he is considering retiring because simply being accused is now enough to put a cyclist on the sidelines. What if the accusation is criminalized and someone spikes his food? Not only would his liveihood be endangered but he would be subject to criminal penalty.

What a shame this brave warrior, potential Tour de France winner, should consider retirement. Something is very very wrong here.

The global sport problem arises from the nature of international governing bodies. There really is no "international law" or "global law" but instead only agreements between organizations and governments all which can change at the drop of a hat. Clearly the International Olympic Committee needs to lead the anti-doping enforcement effort, which should apply equally to athletes in all sports.

If cyclists want to save their careers they are going to have to come together and lobby for a change. The testing needs to be subject to a process that is incontrovertible, but the testing enforcement agencies need to be professional in their communications with the public and the athletes.

The greatest tragedy that I feel anyone can experience is to almost succeed. The issues this blog have brought to life have created an awareness that I feel could allow cyclists to succeed in this effort, but only if they will work together. The warriors of the sport, all these tremendous cyclists that we have seen year after year working for their teams and for the sport need to come together. I sincerely hope Greg LeMond can put aside any personal conflicts he may have had with some of them and and try to work with them to change the sport for the better. Greg LeMond has the ear of the doping agencies. Whatever Mr. LeMond feels Lance Armstrong may have done in the past is now irrelevant. Can you please put behind you your personal feelings of animosity and try to do something good for the sport you love, please Mr. LeMond?

Instead of doping, I feel the sport warriors and GC contenders train their hearts out, use hyperbaric chambers, use watt meters and heart rate monitors and other technology to win. Greg LeMond has also experienced the performance enhancing effect of new technology. Remember the aerobar?

But, in a war lasting three weeks where endurance is tested to the limit, the temptation to get any edge must be tremendous. This temptation must be subject to control. But the athletes' rights have to be respected and they have to be innocent until proven guilty. The solution has to be arrived between the cyclists and the IOC. WADA, I believe, was created by the IOC. A lot of blame is being placed on the UCI, an organization older in recent history than the Olympics. I guess UCI is to blame for allowing Rasmussen to compete in the Tour, but WADA has breached its own rules on numerous occasions. No one person or agency is without fault.

I call on the warriors of the sport, you know who you are, those of you who start the tour and bring water forward for the GC contenders, even when you may have had a chance for victory on your own. Those of you who work your heart out day after day to help a teammate achieve victory and continue on. Those of you who wreck, damage skin and organs, break bones and continue on. It is time to take a stand and join Lance Armstrong's earlier plea for the IOC to respect your rights. You have to do this now, because your livelihood is in danger. This is not a fight between cyclists and doping control. It is a fight for the survival of the sport.

blackmingo said...

I agree with the sentiment, except I hope that floyd will continue to attempt to leave an impression upon the sport other than the rise-conquer-fall story we have now...he seems to me a good person that has a longer life to live out and engage in.

mdhills said...

How descriptive should we expect the panel's findings to be? Do these reviews typically include some discussion of what factors they considered most significant, and how they dealt with contradictory assertions?

Mike Solberg said...

mdhills, yes, generally they include some evaluation of the quality of the arguments presented on both sides, at least the ones the panel finds compelling either way. That is espcially the case if it is a split decision and you get something from both sides - they sort of try to make their case against the other side. I think that will be especially be the case here, because this panel has shown no hesitancy to blaze new trails. I think they will give good descriptions of their reasoning to show the way for future decisions. After reading a few of the USADA panel decisions of the past, that seems to me like they way they will go.


bostonlondontokyo said...

TBV is a fantastically well-managed blog that never fails to find many of the smaller bits of news and blog musings that would otherwise go unnoticed to the casual observer. I've also found that the focus has been varied enough to allow many different points of view to be represented. I've enjoyed the coverage of Landis' case, the analysis, the editorials and the fascinating views into the chemistry of the body and the sport as the blog has blossomed.

I think it is far too early to tell what will come from the arbitration panel's final decision in Landis' case - just as the event themselves have often times been surprising, so will this likely be. I'm using the kinder side of my brain to imagine that a fair ruling will be handed down, one that is substantiated with solid reasoning based on facts. I don't agree that Landis is relegated to a sideshow attraction - I think (whether one believes the accusations or not) that he has made a commitment to cycling and will keep to it. Even if the panel decides that he did not fairly win the TdF, I imagine he will ride again. We have to think that good can come from bad.

A cyclist's years of racing are limited, and this is no different than many sports and arts that depend on youth and strength - with that in mind, I'm sure Landis has other plans as he moves forward.