Doping defenses, risks of riding and lawyers

Our readers weigh in on doping cases, the risks on the road and the Trek lawsuit.

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Dear Editors,
Doper. Positive. Cheat.

I look for these words everyday when visiting my favorite cycling websites and hope that they don’t appear. When I do, I ask myself, “Can these riders be so dumb to risk a career and banishment for glory, a win or a few higher placings?” I like to think not, and yet I keep an open mind when I see a B+ because I don’t know enough about doping and detection to trust the system.

I have to admit that even as a rider/racer, I don’t know much about the intimate details of how doping is done and what “positive” effects each method has on the human body with respect to cycling performance. But I want to know. For instance, how does an athlete dope with CERA? Does one get a shot, or is it something that you ingest? Did Rossi get a Mickey from Ricco? How did DHEA get into Zirbel’s bloodstream and what how does it affect performance?

The transparency of Landis case brought to light some of these practices (e.g. Joe Papp’s testimony), and yet cast a bit of doubt that the labs and ADAs are completely neutral and fair in their methods and testing.

I’d like VeloNews to report on these methods so that we, as a cycling community, can understand how it’s done and then be able to critically assess whether a rider intentionally cheated, accidentally ingested something, or that the lab or ADA is fudging the results.

Jim Pappe
Bakersfield, California

Hit ’em where it counts

Dear Velo,
Glad to hear that the UCI has slapped Danilo Di Luca with a fine in addition to his suspension. It’s good news that the UCI is taking an aggressive approach to doping. It’s a big change from the attitude the organization had a decade ago under the “leadership” of Hein Verbruggen, who seemed more concerned about the possibility of law suits than he did fighting doping.

I applaud Pat McQuaid and the new leadership of the UCI. Let’s make sure that when riders dope, the feel more than the little sting from a needle. Hit the SOBs in the wallet and hit them hard.

My only other hope is that Di Luca now just shuts up and goes away. I, for one, don’t look forward to seeing him back in the peloton in two years.

Don Sullivan
Portland, Oregon

A question of balance

Dear Velo,
Why is it riders like Tom Zirbel are banned for substances like DHEA (that has no sound scientific studies that show it improves performance or any other benefits for that matter) while Tom Boonen tested positive for cocaine and is still allowed to ride?

Kazmer Meszaros
Mineo, Sicily, Italy

Dear Kazmer, most simply put, it’s the way it is because that’s what the rule book says. Regarding Boonen, cocaine is classified as a recreational drug, with little long-term performance-enhancing benefit. It is banned, but only if its presence is detected in a race-day doping test. Both of Boonen’s cocaine positives came in out-of-competition tests. According to the World Anti-Doping Code, DHEA is part of a larger class of  “Endogenous Anabolic Androgenic Steroids” that have been been banned both in- and out-of-competition, because they are considered to be testosterone precursors. The banned substances list is reviewed on an annual basis and the latest revisions – whether perfect or not – are published every year and available on-line. – Editor

Risks versus benefits

Dear Velo,
I appreciate that Charles Pelkey revisited the question of the risks of riding a bicycle on American roads in the most recent “Explainer” column.

Like many of us, I’ve been keenly aware of the dangers of riding an 18-pound bike on roads used by bigger and bigger vehicles. I have, at time, even considered giving up riding on the road in favor of mountain-biking, but there is nothing quite as wonderful as riding on open highways. The benefits I get from training, commuting or just cruising around are not something I can always put a number to, but I have long tried to weigh that against the risk.

I find that riding trails can be peaceful and challenging, but I love the road. I did the mental math a long time ago and decided that taking to the road was worth it. That said, I stay vigilant and always listen and watch for cars and trucks. It can be nervous at times, but in my book, it’s worth it. It’s nice to know that recent attention to the risks may have overstated the dangers that we face.

Road riding can – and should – be safer. We should all do our part, but that part should not include surrendering our roads to the SUV-ensconced masses.

Ride and enjoy, my friends.

Jonathan Galvan
Columbus, Ohio

Our cycling heroes belong on bikes

Dear Velo,
I am happy to see that the LeMond/Trek/Armstrong court battle is over. I own a Trek, I am a fan of Greg LeMond and admire Lance Armstrong. Frankly, I’m happy all of this chin music is over. Now let’s get back to the important stuff … bike RACING! Let’s leave all of the allegations, lawsuits and noise to the lawyers.

I prefer my cycling heroes to be on their bikes, wearing racing gear. Let’s just ignore the stuff when people have to “suit up” in pinstripes and carry briefcases and legal pads, instead of a musette and a water bottle.

Enough is enough.

Charlie Morton
Sitka, Alaska

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.