Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Doping - Museeuw

It's hard to avoid this topic right now. It might be a bit premature though since nothing concrete's come out. First, Museeuw admitted to possibly doping for the last year of his career. It's strongly suggested but he never came out and said "I did take Aranesp" (one of the things he's accused of taking) or something similar to that. He did resign though, if that means anything.

Museeuw was actually banned for doping after he retired (I don't know if that was a first but it was certainly unusual). He was part of the Mapei team that seemed to roll over everyone at will, the team that also had a slew of various doping-related scandals until the main sponsor pulled the rug out from under the team. Its scandalous riders included Vandenbroucke (problem kid), Zanini (possession in the 2001 Giro), Garzelli (for the same stuff Delgado used in 1988), Bramati (2001 Giro raids), Bugno (the "I didn't order the stuff" excuse), Bartoli (and his soigneur Tizziano Morrasut who mailed the stuff to "Chez Bugno"), and even Abraham Olano (1994 positive for caffeine).

His old director sportif, Patrick Lefevere, has been accused of providing (and he's denied) of providing dope. He was quick to admit to using amphetamines (apparently the standard thing back then) but denied he had anything to do with an organized doping plan for whatever team he was directing. Tom Boonen piped up and basically said the same thing.

I started looking into the various doping stories to remind myself who tested positive when. The amount of information I found on positives is absolutely stunning. The problem is that there is no place to view the data easily and in a digestible way. I'll have to work on this so that you can see how deep the doping roots delve into pro cycling, how racers appear to "cross-pollinate" and start off other racers, and how they become directors to start the process all over. The same soigneurs and doctors show up over and over in connection with the doped up racers - coincidence is fine but it seems a bit suspicious.

For now, though, my pipe dream is as follows:

1. I have a dream that little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

Oh wait, that's MLK's dream.

Here's mine:

1. Museeuw goes to court, admits to using perhaps one or two substances. He is presented with SMS, cell phone, and especially bank records which shows a much more damning story. He breaks down and brings out corresponding notes or diaries or faxes detailing drug and dosage. He also names his suppliers, dope coaches (i.e. doctors who told him how to dope and how much to take without getting caught), co-dopers, etc.

Note - the bank records should be really damning since the money eventually goes from the doper to the doper's suppliers. Perhaps the government can go for these guys like they did Al Capone - for income tax evasion. As a weird bonus, the racers themselves would be entitled to a refund due to extra "business expenses" previously undeclared.

2. Implicated suppliers and dope coaches get called to the stand. Some information on how they acquire the stuff pops up. Their SMS, cell phone, and bank records are brought up. They also decide to turn state's evidence in view of the damning evidence in front of them. They name names, riders, etc.

3. The process snowballs. For a while all we read about each day is another 5 or 10 people indicted on doping charges.

4. A systematic weeding of the system occurs. From what I see, the organizations and teams that make up Division 1 pro cycling is a little boy's club with the same people playing in a very little, very private sandbox. They change their hats and shirts every now and then but it's the same people. The weeding would eliminate many of them - perhaps 1/3, maybe 2/3, maybe even more. Just a guess, I don't have hard numbers in my head. A lot of racers would be banned but the bans would be exchanged for testimony on suppliers and doping techniques. Many racers join lower level Continental teams as they serve out a ban from ProTour (or Division 1 team) bans.

5. A severely shelled out pro cycling world gathers itself up and races again. Average speeds drop 5 kph, there are no more 40 kph mountain climbs, and virtually every racer has bad days in races over a week long. If a racer gets stung by a bee, he can get an appropriate medical injection and race tomorrow. "Light" substances, no longer banned anyway, are all the racers use - pseudoephedrine, Advil, caffeine, etc. They learn how to corner since descending well requires no dope and they can't "buy" their way uphill anymore. They actually have spots on their skin from sun damage.

Pause to digest the dream a bit and tell a little tale.

During the unusually warm 2006 New England fall, I took the opportunity to weed some bushes in my front yard. One bush (I think it's an azalea), about 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide, had a couple vines in it and seemed ripe for weeding.

(Hint- the vines represent doping).

I was weeding vines by tracking them to the root, pulling out the root, and unraveling the vine from its unwilling host. I pulled out one vine, then another, and another. I'd find vines wound around other vines and then tracked the new vines down to the root This went on until I was digging out 1-1.5" thick vine trunks out of the ground.

I was amazed at how many vines I found. I spent about two hours weeding that one bush and ended up with a pile of twisted, ill looking vines on the ground. And a very thinned out bush that was literally 1/3 its original size.

Just like in Prey, the full looking bush had actually grown only due to its illicit guest, the vine. By removing the vine, I was able to allow the real plant to emerge. And though the true azalea is a bit sparse looking now, it's still a lot more pleasant to look at than a really tangled up, mutated looking vine-bush. In the spring it should fill out nicely and it will become a beautiful azalea in a few months.

Like the azalea, cleaning out pro-cycling, if possible, won't be pretty. But I think the end result will be something all us racers, riders, and fans will appreciate that much more.

That is my dream.


Anonymous said...

Nicely stated. Now get started on that "family tree" of doping you mentioned.
You could probably write a whole book about the PDM (the Pills and Doping Machine) team.

Unknown said...


I would really like to speak with you about publishing some articles on pro-cycling.