Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wednesday Roundup

AP/ESPN has the first we've seen that Astana, and defending champ Contador are not invited to the Tour.
Also at CyclingNews and VeloNews. Astana is unique in the snub, as the other teams turned down by the Giro are invited to the ASO events. We might conclude that the ASO (a) does not like Bruyneel; (b) can carry a grudge; (c) the healing has not begun.

The VeloNews also posts Alberto Contador's reaction to the news that the ASO has snubbed Astana along with expanded commentary on the subject:

Should the ASO decision stand up, and should Bruyneel’s Astana team not start this year’s Tour, then not only will defending champ Contador and potential winners Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden be deprived of their chances at further Tour glory, but the Tour itself will lose even more of its credibility.

That point was echoed by (Johan) Bruyneel, who said in a prepared statement: “Unfortunately, the Tour de France will lose now much of its credibility by not letting participate some of the world’s best riders, who were never implicated in doping scandals.”

The Santa Rose Press Democrat outlines the extensive anti-doping program being instituted by this year's organizers of the Tour of California. Some, including Dr. Don Catlin formerly of the USADA lab at UCLA, have expressed concerns about the implementation of this program:

"AEG will pass the riders' names on to USA Cycling, who then passes the information to USADA (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency)," Catlin said. "Where's the independence? You want the collectors to be independent ... They should report to someone outside the racing system."

The VeloNews tells of the anxiety felt by many teams as today's Paris-Nice invitation announcement is anticipated:

ASO officials so far have remained mum, but there’s speculation that if teams are left out of next month’s Paris-Nice, they won’t be invited for the Tour. Participation in Paris-Nice, however, is no guarantee of a berth in the Tour as ASO still holds the cards when final invitations are issued in the coming weeks.

One sport director told VeloNews this week that the situation is “intolerable for the teams. Riders cannot plan their seasons. Sponsors cannot expect return on their investment. It’s bad for the image of cycling.”

The NY Times insinuates that today's hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform concerning the Mitchell Report, in which Roger Clemens and Brian MacNamee will testify, will not be pretty.

Rant rambles about the US bringing more than just its athletes to the "Games" this summer in China. Rant also notes some new revelations that muscle fatigue may be caused by a different mechanism than previously thought.

Racejunkie reviews the crazy mixed up pot pouri that is the selection process for cycling's races this year as many pro teams anxiously wait out the announcements for Paris-Nice. RJ also "reviews" the new book about Marco Pantani.

SDA says cross country skiers can bonk just like Floyd Landis did on Stage 16 of the 2006 TdF.

WADA Watch
has a bunch of recent postings, a correction on a technical point, some calendar items regarding a lad director meeting in Paris, and a media workshop a little later.

Sara Best thinks that cycling fans need to "be there" for baseball fans as they start out on the journey that we have been on for what seems like forever.

Chris as Podium Cafe
writes about "Astana Armageddon" and clearly thinks that ASO's reasons for excluding the team may be a combination of retribution and deterrence.

Montee la Haut feels that ever since Lance Armstrong retired cycling seems to be broken.


Jeff said...

Astana - and Contador are out.

Mike Solberg said...

What a screwed up sport.


ddt240 said...

Looks like Astana is out for ALL ASO events now.

Larry said...

VeloNews is reporting that Astana is the only Pro Tour team not invited to Paris-Nice. This means, of course, that the other 3 teams snubbed by the Giro ARE invited to Paris-Nice. Slipstream is also invited to Paris-Nice.

I've seen nothing official about Tour de France invitations, except that Astana will not be invited (as reported earlier).

The Astana snub is not a surprise. I was much more surprised that UCI gave Astana a Pro Tour license. IMHO, Contador, Leipheimer and Bruyneel all ended up at Astana because no other team would take the risk of hiring them and losing a Tour invitation. Astana knew that 2008 would be a lost year.

I'm not saying it's right. But it was in the cards.

bill hue said...

Bill Hue Believes




strbuk said...

Bill Hue is correct...


Bill Mc said...

My 20+ years of experience in negotiating with labor unions has left me with a belief that unions are a useful, maybe even necessary, way of addressing power disparities in employment relationships such as exist in professional cycling today. The individual cyclists have virtually no power vis-a-vis the team owners, race organizers, or the anti-drug establishment. I concur with Judge Hue that they need a strong and cohesive union and they need it now.

jrdbutcher said...

Reports indicate ASO seems to believe they have their own perfectly functioning crystal ball, but maybe they are just striving to win the dysfunctional organizer prize? Rumors flew shortly after the 2006 tour that TdF Champion, Floyd Landis, registered an AAF. That wasn’t supposed to be made public until (1) confirmation of a “b test”, (2) the athlete might decide to accept the original finding, or (3) the athlete might announce the original AAF himself – not be coerced into announcing himself as a result of less than veiled hints about his AAF. In contravention or all published rules, WADA (Pound), UCI (McQuaid), and ASO (Prudhomme) all drop hints that it is true and later just outright say it. Wait and hold the presses, they all soon go further and pronounce him guilty before the b samples have even been requested/scheduled to be tested.

What does all of this have to do with Astana in 2008 you might ask? It’s a pattern caused by the alphabet soups’ infighting to gain/retain/establish (you pick) control of the sport, or what is left of it when things finally settle down. As far as ASO goes, I venture to equate it with the bad old days of golf and county clubs when it was common/accepted for country clubs to exclude women and people of color, even in “open competitions” held on their grounds, for no other reason than the luck of the draw with regard to the circumstances of a person’s birth. ASO’s qualifications to get an invitation to the TdF are not published. Ask about them and Prudhomme will give you the run around as if it were a trade secret in the perfume business.

Contador is not currently the subject of any known doping charge or investigation. If the alphabet soup is pissed about OP, they don’t have the b#%ls to take it out on the parties responsible. It is/was an investigation undertaken by authorities empowered by the Spanish government. The Spanish courts have decided OP is over, done, and its results may not be used against riders rumored to have been involved in whatever it is that they are rumored to have been involved in?!?!?!?!….. How long will WADA/ASO/UCI flog riders rumored to have been involved??? Talk about beating a dead/decomposing horse. (Ah, but for native ASOer’s that might be a delicacy, non?)

I digress. It’s not the fault of the French, just certain idiots.

It doesn’t seem to be the fault of Leipheimer or Bruyneel. They were both in the TdF last year. One rode honorably and finished the race 3rd on GC. The other managed honorably with his team containing the winner and 3rd place on GC. Neither has been officially accused of any cheating by anyone that has any legitimate standing to do so.

So what is left? Is Astana’s money too dirty for ASO? It’s just a sponsor, after all, and pro cycling is just swimming in sponsors these days.

I don’t know. The team has only about half of the riders that were on the roster in ’07, many others were picked up from teams whose sponsors decided not to continue with the sport. Is that a bad thing??? The riders that were disagreeable to ASO in ’07 are largely absent in ’08. Is that a bad thing??? The management is completely different from ’07 to ’08. Is that a bad thing??? The new management has publicly guaranteed to cover any unpaid portions of Astana Team members’ salaries from ’07. Is that a bad thing or does the UCI prefer to have riders that find themselves out of work due to their team folding (Landis-Mercury ring a bell?) just not get paid while the UCI simply pockets the bank guarantees that were meant, in large part, to protect the riders in such an event????????

Other than infighting for control, I’m at a loss for motivation. It helps further kill the sport on the professional level.

I can’t even believe I’m writing this. I’m not a fan of Astana or most of their riders. It’s more that I’m a bigger non-fan of the kind of behavior being exhibited by ASO/UCI/WADA. Just publish your rules (qualifying and otherwise) in advance and live with/enforce them. Don’t make it up as you go. Don’t hold kangaroo courts (unless you bring real kangaroos). Don’t have zero standards or ambiguous standards for teams seeking to qualify for the big race. ASO should not be, euphemistically or otherwise, employing the use of a casting couch (Slipstream). Astana & Bruyneel are not 50’s era platinum blonds looking to hook up for a good part. Sorry for that image. It disgusts me too, almost as much as it disgusts me that pro cycling has come to this.

podiumcafe said...

Chris (Podium Cafe) here -- Just to clarify I'd say it's a combination of retribution and deterrence.

strbuk said...

Thanks for clarifying Chris, it's been edited.


("Eightzero") said...

Sponsors and potential sponsors of cycling should heed ASO's actions. They is at least an implication that ASO doesn't want a team sporting the "Astana" logo in their race.

I can imagine a sponsor inserting a condition subsequent into their agreements "if we don't get invited to le tour, we don't have to pay." Won't *that* really make the grand tours grand?

The Kazakh government might consider sponsoring a 3 week grand bike race in early July. Find a spectacular route, offer some prize money...and assure proper drug testing. Le ASO needs some competition. Anyone know how to say "what if we threw a big bike race and no one came?" in French?

jrdbutcher said...


When you write “retribution”, you seem to be indicating payback/revenge/reprisal is in play. Who is the object of ASO’s retribution? Astana is the conglomerate that writes the checks. The team is quite different in ’08 vs ’07. Management, lots of new/different riders, equipment, and a large investment in drug testing via Damsgaard are all different in’08. Guess ASO has a thing for the check writers?

When you write “deterrence”, prevention or avoidance spring to mind. So….ASO is preventing Astana from racing in their race(s). They are avoiding having them in their race(s). I’m guess I’m missing something. Maybe I need to read your blog?

daniel m (a/k/a Rant) said...


I think the phrase for that would be "Merde!"


podiumcafe said...

JRDButcher, I guess just read the full post. I'm not defending their decision, just trying to figure it out. said...

PC, I wouldn't rule out the 'example' argument as easily as you do. Of course, deterrence is best illustrated with an example, and what may be deterred is "getting on our wrong side".

I also wouldn't rule out "because we can, and watcha gonna do about it?"


jrdbutcher said...

I stand corrected. OP is back on.
how do you spell "farce" in spanish?

jrdbutcher said...

In Spain, the re-opening of OP is limited to the issue of how the bags of blood were handled with the presumption being that they were handled in violation of Spanish law.

It's not clear to me what angle CONI is attempting to persue?

bill hue said...

Once the OP investigation is re-opened in Spain, the bloodbags are available, again, as is all documentation and WADA/UCI/CONI and the Spanish ADA have convinced the Judge to allow them access to the blood.

It doesn't matter HOW the case was re-opened, it is extremely important that it WAS re-opened. While the Spanish criminal system will not be pursuing cyclists, they have NOT gotten a pass.

Pound says the identity codes have all been broken. Linking identity to bloodbags through the broken codes and making the bloodbags available again to CONI/WADA/UCI/National Federations will enable those entities to pursue the riders through the blood.

I don't know what kind of shallow reporting is being done but any notion that cyclists are off the hook is probably far from accurate.