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David Millar: Say It Ain't So, Vino (Alexandre Vinokourov); plus Michael Rasmussen, Floyd, Lance

roadskater's picture

As timv has noted, David Millar can spin a yarn nicely in his TdF Diaries. As a doper who had done his time, he's uniquely qualified to share several perspectives. And he was there for his own "Say it ain't so, Joe" moment when Vino's non-negative was first announced. I'll leave most of the piece for you to read on the Bicycling site, but here's a brief sample of that moment:

[A newspaper writer] asked me if I was okay, and it was then I suddenly realized I wasn't and I actually broke down for a moment. It was the first time I didn't think I could do this anymore, and Jez was the only person present who has seen where I've come from and what I became and how I've changed. I think he was the only one there who recognized there was still a young boy who loved cycling underneath it all who had just lost one of his heroes. So I'm very sorry to whomever I hurt when you found out I doped, I now know what it must have felt like.

All of last year I was disappointed in the Tour de France, the teams, the riders, the sponsors, everyone. As more people associated with Lance are shown to be dopers, it looks worse for all our grand beliefs in the perfect number 7.

But for every top guy they catch and release, it looks better, because the riders must know they had better give up what they perceive to be their rights to privacy or freedom of movement if they want to hold on to the right to make a nice living participating in wonderfully exhausting child's play well into adulthood, with fame, luxury and money paving their way around the world. When the riders understand that there is no other way, and the tours understand there is no other way, perhaps all will be tested all year and there will still be cheating, but less. Tour comments seemed to indicate to me that riders were gambling on being tested and gambling on getting caught if tested. Imagine. Vino knew he'd be tested. He must have dodged the bullets before. Maybe it was the first time, his last time, he thought...is this sounding similar to Floyd Landis?

So I wonder about Alberto Contador Velasco, with his amazing sprintfests when no one but Michael Rasmussen could do it that way. I wonder about Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer, though they looked on a different, more humanly impressive, level, almost catching up with the steady chase instead of the furied sprint.

To me, this is not the low point. This is the first getting real point I can see in some time, perhaps forever. As a kid I hated when the team had to run laps because of one idiot. I thought it was unfair and made no sense. Unfortunately, it worked to put the peer pressure on the idiot, because it made sure the enforcer on the team (the real one, the kids' private no adults allowed enforcer) had just finished running laps for the idiot. Getting rid of entire teams when one rider is caught could be unfair, but I bet that more often, it's not, and even then, it's likely to be pretty effective at generating some peer pressure.

As for me, I don't want to see anything amazing any more. Give me lots of guys who are the best in the world and the best is pretty much alike most of the time. If it's too good to be true, I don't even want to see it or hear about it! I want to see the best debilitated and crushed by the last mountain stage, not rising like the phoenix from the ashes of defeat in their last chance before almost certain retirement (that's supposed to take 500 years, right? Not one night and a bottle of tequila and a syringe of lifejuice or bag of "fresh blood"). Give me zapped, fried, cooked, paperboying, weavers struggling to the line unable to focus their vision on anything closer than infinity.

The Millar Diaries, Rest Day 2: A Fallen Hero - Bicycling -

The Millar Diaries, Rest Day 2: A Fallen Hero
Bicycling - 3 hours ago
A man who has one of the greatest palmares in today's peloton, a man who has won the Dauphine Libere, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Vuelta Espana, Paris-Nice, ...

[Vuelta Ciclista a España & More]


roadskater's picture

Uneasy Wait for Test Results in Tour de France

I went searching for how long it might take before we would know about the drug tests for all stages of the Tour de France. This article, Contador shines but doping casts cloud over Paris, reminds us:

Landis's test result came through on the Thursday following the race - which is one reason why, yesterday, nobody was getting too carried away, or taking anything for granted. With the laboratories taking the weekend off, the last of the drugs tests results from this year's race are not likely until Friday, or even into the following week.

I remembered Contador was on the Liberty Seguros team that was banned in 2005, so I took up a search including that team name. I found this spooky article, which makes me very uneasy in my celebrations of the young man's feat. The team was implicated in the Operation Puerto mess, and personal notes in Dr. Fuentes' hand mention a person, AC, in vague terms but it is still pretty spooky and unsettling to me. Here's part of the article, Now the man they hoped would save the Tour faces a new inquiry into doping allegations:

...It describes what is alleged to be individual doping plans for Liberty Seguros riders in 2005,when Contador was a member of the team. For example, under the initials RH, understood to refer to the disgraced Spanish cyclist, Roberto Heras, numbers appear under the headings I-2, I-3 and TGN. The latter is claimed to be a reference to a banned growth hormone, while it is believed that I-2 and I-3 refer to banned insulin growth factor.

The initials of what appear to be all members of the Liberty Seguros team are listed, including one identified as 'AC'. The programme for AC is listed,in Spanish, as 'nothing or the same as JJ'. And JJ's plans for 2005 were to 'always have I-2'....

So I will wait until Friday to feel too good about any of these performances, and always wonder if they got under the radar somehow. But if they pass the TdF's tests, I'll be OK with that for now, and look to the future. It was a grand tour and very exciting to watch, even more where riders were reaching their limits than when they expanded them.

timv's picture

Results Aren't Final Until the Drug Tests Come Back

Interesting stuff, Blake. I didn't see it mentioned in that article, but it seems relevant to point out that Vinokourov was also a member of the Liberty Seguros team, and that his Astana team was actually assembled from the remnants of Liberty Seguros in the wake of Operation Puerto. That was the reason why Vino couldn't race in the Tour in 2006: Too many of his teammates were banned because of their possible association with Dr. Fuentes while riding for Liberty Seguros.

roadskater's picture

David Millar to Slipstream; Iban Mayo Fails Rest Day EPO Test

David Millar has indicated he'll switch to the Slipstream team next year and that this team is likely to be in the TdF. If I recall correctly, this team made a splash in the Tour of California by announcing an extensive program of testing. The article includes some information on this, and it's a good intro to this team's ideals. Being a slow guy myself, I liked this...

Slipstream, says Millar, "differs from other teams in that the baseline is purely ethical. Doug Ellis wants a cycling team but he wants one that doesn't win at all costs. He feels he can only be proud of it if he has no doubts about it. He needs guarantees, even for a rider like me. He needs hard copy to prove I am clean." 

Meanwhile, the same team, Saunier Duval, found out that Iban Mayo's A sample failed for EPO on a Rest Day 2 test, so he is off the team for now and for good if the B test confirms.

Spanish rider Mayo tests positive - CNN -

Spanish rider Mayo tests positive
CNN - 18 minutes ago
It is not the first time Mayo has been implicated in a doping story as last month he was suspected of having failed a test in the Giro d'Italia. ...
[Giro d'Italia & More]

Saunier Duval Suspend Mayo After Positive Test in Tour de France - The Epoch Times Ireland -

Metro Toronto
Saunier Duval Suspend Mayo After Positive Test in Tour de France
The Epoch Times Ireland, Ireland - 26 minutes ago
Spain's Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval/Spa) rides towards the finish line of the 19th stage of the 94th Tour de France cycling race. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images) ...
Tour de France - Mayo positive for EPO Yahoo! Eurosport
Contador arrives home a hero Melbourne Herald Sun
Spanish rider Mayo tests positive CNN International
ABC News - RTE.ie
all 64 news articles
[Tour de France & More]

Millar changes gear to sign for anti-doping team Slipstream - Guardian Unlimited -

Millar changes gear to sign for anti-doping team Slipstream
Guardian Unlimited, UK - 59 minutes ago
"We picked each others' brains and it became clear that we wanted to do the same thing, which is to create the first of the next generation of cycling teams ...
Contador the winner of an unsightly Tour Boston Globe
Doping scandals dim Contador's win Miami Herald
The Herald - BBC Sport
all 31 news articles

eebee's picture

Vino's B Sample also 'Non-Negative'

And Astana fired him of course. After all those hearts he won with his gruesome, stitched-up knees...


How did it come to this? Is it a case of 'Everybody else is doing it, so why can't I'? Are these guys terrified of what will happen to them in their homeland if they don't win the Tour de France? Has their particular homeland's government threatened their families if they fail? Are there so many politically powerful coaches, managers and event organizers, that these cyclists' heads are spinning in confusion at what or whom to believe? Aaarrgghh. Anyway, bon courage to the Tour de France, for continuing to leave no rider unturned. I am looking forward to a bonk-ridden and sluggish TdF next year.



timv's picture

Vino Offers the Martha Stewart Defense

I think there was something along the lines of what you suggest going on, although perhaps less being scared of what would happen to them and their families, and more just knowing how much the government of Kazakhstan and many of the nation's largest businesses had invested in building that team as a vehicle for Vinokourov, along with a few other Kazakh cyclists including Andrey Kashechkin and Maxim Iglinsky.


Odd as it might sound, it's been seriously reported that the negative publicity for Kazakhstan coming from Borat and his movie had more than a little to do with the decision by the nation's Interior Ministry to sponsor the team. And also, sadly, they often talked about the epidemic levels of alcoholism and drug abuse among the nation's youth and how they wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle and success through fitness and hard work. Oopsies. Good intentions and the road to hell and all that...


I see in the latest ESPN report on the story that Vino had this to say:

"Given all the attention paid to doping offenses, you would have to be crazy to do what I have been accused of, and I am not crazy," Vinokourov said.

This sounds more or less like the argument that Martha Stewart and her co-defendants offered in their insider-trading trial: that they were too smart to have done something so stupid.


It didn't fly then either.


profjb2000's picture

Testing Process is Flawed & Suspect

     Am I the only one that questions the ingrity of the testing process and particularly the French lab. The cycling federation is a mess too, but let's disregard it for the moment.


     Consider that the samples are barcoded and supposedly anonymous, yet the leaked test results are coming from the lab according to the reporting French paper. The lab supposedly does not know the sample donor other than by a barcode. How is it possible for the lab to leak that rider X tested positive when the rider identity is supposedly retained elsewhere? Protocol was definitely violated (IMO). In US labs where I have worked under both EU and US regulations, results under these conditions are not accepted. With so many French upset that their countrymen are not winning and the breakdown of protocol, the possibility of tampering and/or results skewed by personal bias is a possibility.


     I would love to see the entire set of samples sent to an independent lab for the same battery of tests for confirmation of the lab result. I am sure plenty of cheaters remain regardless, but I am very unhappy with the current guilty until proven innocent approach when the entire testing process is suspect. Hell, the leader was booted on suspicion of doping w/ no positive test, the say-so of one person who might have seen him in the wrong place, and when he missed an allowable number of tests per federation rules. What if the team was wrong? It may have been his only chance to win...ever (and I don't even like the guy).


roadskater's picture

I Agree: Send Tour de France Rider Samples to Independent Labs

Some good thoughts. Thanks for the eloquent reply. It sounds like the idea of using a different lab, or several, is a great one. In one report, a lab in Lausanne had "taught" the French lab to do the blood test that caught Vino. A source said that this was a new test that the riders did not know the French lab could do. Here's the article and a quote mentioning Lausanne's lab:

"Up to this year, only the Lausanne laboratory was conducting tests for homologous blood-doping," McQuaid said, referring to a test center in Switzerland. "But the Lausanne lab taught the French one how to detect,[sic] it and therefore they were able to test Vinokourov's sample."

My thought was that perhaps the Lausanne should do the testing!

Having said this, I suspect the riders a lot more than the lab, and the more connections there are between Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, Floyd Landis, Alexandre Vinokourov, Roberto Heras Hernández, Alberto Contador Velasco, Discovery Channel Cycling, Liberty Seguros, and many others, the creepier it gets for me. When Ivan Basso is on the podium, then out of the tour, then on Discovery, then out again, it's not so good. When that podium is shared by Jan Ullrich (Swiss court rejects Ullrich appeal, Ullrich: I'll talk when people listen) that doesn't really seem better. Lance's former "lieutenants" have often turned up non-negative it seems, and it is starting to look like a pattern. Yes it could be a pattern of lies, but I think the athletes have more to gain from cheating than the labs or certainly the TdF.

Lots of what I'm saying is from conversations with timv, who can help draw more lines between the dots I am sure, but as for me, I have to say I saw the whole jealous French labs theory as difficult to believe from the start. The TdF is a huge financial and publicity engine, all the more so if people from other countries do well. The tour does not even stay in France, showcasing other countries and cities by starting and holding important stages outside of France.

Certainly the lab in question could make mistakes, and I don't think the leaking of information is at all good. But the testing has brought admissions, and clearly, most riders thought the odds were good they would not be caught. Now those odds seem to be changing.

As for Rasmussen, the team joins the TdF, not the rider, or Vino would have continued without Liberty Seguros last year. If Rabobank wanted to fire him for any reason and give up the huge, long-lasting, positive publicity the yellow jersey and perhaps a win would have garnered, that's their choice. Let Rasmussen bring suit for damages if he likes, but I've always worked where the boss could stop paying any time they wanted and workers were expected not to show up after that, no matter what project they were in the middle of completing. I believe Rabobank knows more than they have said, and I agree that basing it all on one person's identification of Rasmussen's whereabouts would be thin. But so is cycling under the auspices of Mexico then Monaco and admitting to having never been tested by them in over two years.

I thought Floyd's comeback was credible. I had said the day before that it was not beyond impossible, if he got major time in the mountains and at the time trial. On the day of the ride, he probably could have been stopped. I was amazed that no team stuck to him as he took off, and they acted indifferently toward him. At the finish, I was disturbed a bit by how aggressive and angry Floyd seemed, but it didn't click for me that it might have been related in any way to doping. But I did notice. I still don't know if taking some synthetic testosterone could influence aggressiveness in that way, but it seems believable to me. And I don't know if he was acting more aggressive than usual, but it seemed that way to me. Regardless, I was ready to hear his claims and looking forward to reading about the details, then his manager made a mess of it during the hearings and I doubt that Floyd would not know what a trusted aide was doing, but he'd maintain plausible deniability.

Could it be that we are starting to know when there's been some doping of one kind or another? Maybe so; maybe no. But for my money, Alberto was right there with Rasmussen, and his initials were in the Operación Puerto doctor's handwriting. He was on Liberty Seguros then Discovery. How many of these guys have been on those two teams and have ended up failing "botched" tests and were "unfairly" implicated in Operación Puerto? Why would Discovery, with it's previously pristine reputation, ever hire a Liberty Seguros rider, or any rider formerly implicated in Operación Puerto or associated with visiting Eufemiano Fuentes? There are other teams who could give them their chance to make a comeback. I believe timv told me of some more connections, and there's a Discovery/Liberty Seguros link it seems to me.

I know Lance surely loved Basso and believed he was the future winner of the tour. I seem to recall his statement to that effect, perhaps on the podium with Ullrich there? I don't know. Maybe that's a movie I made up in my head. But I have to say Discovery Channel picking up Basso was a shocker.

So I wouldn't be surprised if Alberto fails a test, and as timv and I were discussing, I think he mentioned it, Levi destroyed the rest of the field in the last time trial, just like Vino had in the second one. Before this, we had (or at least I had) thought that Levi Leipheimer and Cadel Evans looked clean. They looked credibly human, not incredibly godlike, without the spank at will power of Rasmussen, Alberto, Lance, Floyd. So as sad as it makes me, I won't be surprised if Levi fails a test. And I don't know him, except of course I'm sure he remembers meeting me at the Tour de Georgia when he was there with Gerolsteiner (just kidding; I mean, I was there; I did meet him, insignificantly for him I am certain).

If they pass the tests, I'll vaguely wonder, but I'll be glad. As with other sports, the game's over when the rules say so, even if the ref makes a bad call, even if you can look back and wonder what if, or claim if only, or say so and so cheated, meaning the refs, the judges, the lab, or anyone else.

Yes. Let's find a way to get quick results that remain anonymous (could this be exactly what happened with Rabobank? I have thought so, because their lawyers were with Rasmussen in the press conferences one day, and he was out the next, as I recall). Let's also call all results provisional until the testing is in, so official results don't include the cheaters, or those robbed by a "bad call," or whatever you want to call it.

Yes knowing the official winner or record holder will be more complicated, and we won't have Pop-Tart instant results if we want them to be closer to real, but that's OK with me. I'd still gladly take a spot in the Tour de France if offered, no matter how many tests or workouts they required. I'd even tell them where I was going every day in my spiffy Lycra suit and clickety-click shoes.

roadskater's picture

More Tour de France Doping Connections, Podiums, Announcers, Wow

I just read another fine article, on ESPN's site by Bonnie DeSimone, and it mentioned several interesting things, reminding me of some. How strange it is that people who are outcasts at one moment look a little more sane, later. Or vice versa! Anyway, part of the article says:


Compelled to give a deposition in a multimillion-dollar case Armstrong brought against a Dallas-based insurance company, Andreu testified to hearing a then-cancer-riddled Armstrong admit to past use of performance-enhancing drugs. (Armstrong continues to deny the allegations.)

Then, Andreu made his own admission, telling New York Times reporter Juliet Macur that he had used the blood booster EPO while training for the 1999 Tour, Armstrong's first victory.


Would he do it again? Well Andreu says he knows it was wrong, but seems like he can still understand the lure:


"I regret that I had to take EPO to be able to get to that point, but I enjoyed being there."


Another great line from DeSimone in the article, referring to Riis being asteriskized (yes i meant it) in the records:


But when you paper over Riis' name, you default to the other two men on the podium, Ullrich and Virenque.


Rather than keep you from reading this great article by overquoting, let me say, take a look. It's a nice piece of writing that sees the connections but tries to balance and encourages us to keep the good rather than throw everything out altogether.


Meanwhile, spooky connections on podiums and at the tops of mountains.

roadskater's picture

2012 London Olympic Gold Winner Doping in 2007

Here's another old thread where we talked about doping in cycling. I have to say how sad I was when Vino pulled off the win of the gold medal in road cycling at the 2012 London Olympics. But experience was a huge factor in how that event played out. We'll see later about doping tests. Note that in 2007 we had our suspicions about the perfect 7 of Lance Armstrong. 

roadskater's picture

How Websites and Social Media Kept the Armstrong Doubts Alive

Here's an article mentioning some of the non-journalists (non-paid journalists) who kept the questioning alive when mainstream media got bored or scared and moved on. If we were doubtful by 2006 and publishing it in 2007, the web record must be full of people less careful or more knowledgeable or both? In any case, worth a quick read perhaps....


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