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July 01, 2006


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Hey Jodi,

You run, you're vegan, you watch cycling--we must be twins separated at birth or something, as I do all of the same things!

I also used to be an elite cyclist back in the day (before I ditched cycling to get my PhD). And I should warn you, don't be shocked at any of this. The amount of doping in the pro cycling peloton is ridiculous. If any of them are able to compete at the level they do for as long as they do *without* doping, that would be the real shocker. I rode with many of these guys when I was younger, and I know how good they are and I have the utmost respect for them. But most clean cyclists leave the pro peloton fairly early in their careers, and everybody in cycling knows it. There is simply no way to compete head to head in long stage races with guys who do EPO.

But doper or not, Jan rules and I'm sad as hell he isn't racing. Basso too. It would have been a fun race to watch. Who you gonna cheer for now?

As for the coporatism in the sport, don't even get me started . . .

Andrew Greene

The ex-T-mobile rider who wasn't very cooperative with Ulrich last year was Alexander Vinokourov. He is not racing the 06 Tour.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say that the sport is about corporations battling against each other. The teams are owned/run by a few people who seek out corporate sponsorship. The corporations neither run nor own the team.

I would also say that cycling is one of the most international sports. The only "American" team in the Tour (Discovery Channel) has only one American on it. I don't know what European cycling fans actually think, but I would guess they identity with the superstars who may or may not be the same nationality. I think people may connect with a rider based on their riding style or personality.

Andrew Greene

PS: Doping is rampant even at the Cat 1 (Elite Amateur) level. Let's just say that there are many young cyclists (American, South American, European) who are desperate and cannot make money any other way. It's sort of like African American youth and basketball, except that they cannot dope effectively to improve their shooting. EPO and blood doping help immediately and incredibly in cycling.

@Matt: Where did you race?


Hey Andrew,

I agree--doping is rampant even on the US domestic scene (for those who can afford it, at least). I made it to Cat 1 (I raced in southern CA, mostly SD and LA but throughout the US as well) and decided that I didn't have the talent to take it much further than that (I didn't want to be pack filler in the domestic pro peloton for the rest of my life), so I decided to make academics my career. Plus, I was totally burned out on the sport. I raced competitively from ages 12-20 and just couldn't take it anymore. Now I do long-distance triathlons for fun.

How about you? Did you race?


Isn't it better to down-play the doping aspect, because if funding dries up the sport disappears?

Or do you differ with Lance Armstrong about this (I mean, tactically speaking).

Oh, and I'm a pro cyclist too.


just kidding of course.


Matt-I have to confess that I am highly unworthy of being included in the twins separated at birth category. My running is pathetic these days, either a shuffle or a fast walk. And, I am only 'becoming vegan'--by that, I mean that I don't eat eggs or dairy, but I do eat fish; and, if necessary so as not to offend a host, I compromise. I want to improve the running and wean myself off fish. But, it's just potential at this point.

Now, to the real topic: I have to say that I am shocked about what you say about doping. Would this apply to Lance, George Hincappie, and Floyd Landes as well? I mean, is it really the case that the top athletes all have to rely on it? Is is possible that the doping is actually not that big deal, not as harmful as, say, steroids? (I don't know much about EPO works; I thought it had something to do with oxygenated red blood cells or something.)

Corporate sponsorship: Andrew, I take your point that it's not about running the team; is that really the case with owning, though? I am confused about the difference, then, between sponsoring and owning. At any rate, my point was about identification and the way that sponsorship means that fans in a way identify with a corporation. I'm sure you are right that there is more to it than that, but when supporting a player means, say, wearing a jersey or hat linked to that player, then it will be linked to the player's team and thus a corporation. And, this is an observation rather than a critique. The critique would come in when one considers whether this identification is a problem and why.


Oh yes, Andrew, thanks for the correction on Vinokurov.

And, on whom to support now: I have no idea. My partner, Paul, is behind Hincapie. I don't want to just pick someone for the hell of it. I find it hard to get really invested in any single rider for the GC at this point. Any suggestions anyone?

Scott Eric Kaufman

Doping is, and has been, the norm in professional sports for years. The idea that steroids are necessarily harmful is, well, without basis in reality. (As a former sorta jock, I could tell you stories.) But yes, steroid abuse is harmful, as is any abuse.

If you want an honest picture of the benefits of both doping and steroid abuse, I'd recommend Game of Shadows. Not for its indictment of Barry Bonds, mind you, but for the methodical way in which it demonstrates the beneficial effects of steroids and HGH. Taken in appropriate doses and monitored by a trained professional, these medicines can improve the quality of life for Joe Q. Public dramatically. If only they weren't demonized by those who want to keep professional sports clean, we could be stronger, physiologically younger, and have all our scars, no matter how old, heal. If only, if only, if only.

(And, for the record, stopping doping in professional sports is a damn fine idea. I only wish we could keep the "improved quality of life" advocates separate from the "sling dope from the trunk of my muscle car" crowd.)


I try not to watch the Tour de France. What with the World Cup, Wimbledon and golf, I have enough sports-oriented distraction from my reading and writing as it is! :-)

(un)Fortunately, with Armstrong, Ullrich, Basso and Vinokourov out, I have less reason to watch.


Andrew Greene


I'm a cat 2 in NJ. I'm just about done with racing at age 23. I'd rather go back to grad school and become a professor than attempt a pro cycling "career." Racing is fun and all, but I am still astonished that there are so many fast people. The stakes are so low (what, maybe you could make 20,000 a year in the US if you were very good) yet people are so desperate for wins and will do anything (doping or racing overly agressive) for a win. I think I will return when I can do masters racing.

Andrew Greene


Here is a news story from cyclingnews.com that might illuminate the structure of cycling teams.

Alexandre Vinokourov, who some describe as 'collateral damage' of the Operación Puerto affair at the Tour de France, is not giving up. Speaking to L'Equipe, the 32 year-old said that he had plans to "take over the team [of Manolo Saiz] completely on the long run. This is going to be our team," Vinokourov said, meaning that he wanted to make it a Kazakh outfit altogether.

The sponsors of his home country want to buy the team of its current Spanish managers. "Two years from now, I will probably be directeur sportif of the team," said 'Vino'. "We made a mistake in the beginning of June, when Astana became the new sponsor for Liberty Seguros. We should have bought the company shares from Saiz then - that would have been the only thing to save the team at the start in Strasbourg. But I couldn't think straight at the time; I had to prepare myself for the Tour!"

On Saiz, Vinokourov said, "I don't want to judge before having all the information, but I understand better now that there was a kind of war between him and the Tour organisers. He has to retire from the sport now; he has to disappear, we shouldn't see him anymore altogether. Maybe he can find happiness working in a small cycling shop."

The Kazakhstani hasn't given up in his own future though - he wants to have another go at the Tour de France next year. "It was perhaps my last chance to win the Tour, and they stole it from me," added Vinokourov. "It was hard; we hoped for a salvation gesture from the Tour until the very last minute. Now I'm very tired." He will take a two-weeks break, before preparing to for the World Championships in Salzburg. "But I still think that I might have a chance on a Tour win next year. I'll be back, that's for sure."

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