Sunday, October 28, 2012

27 October 2012: Yates

Sean Yates tells Bradley Wiggins how to correctly bowl an off-break during this year's Tour De France
The Sunday Telegraph reports that Sean Yates has left Team Sky due to unspecified past doping stuff. Sky have had a zero-tolerance policy introduced and it appears that Yates and a few others are the victims of the cull. (Use of the word 'victim' only in the sense of the image of a cull, those who have left have left because of links to drugs, which is entirely their own fault).

Two things.

Firstly, the Telegraph reports that "the exact nature of the doping has not been revealed" before going on to detail the fact that Yates rode with Lance Armstrong for several years in the early part of Armstrong's career. Sounds like a red herring to me, all you have to do is look at Yates' wikipedia page and there's a link to his little-publicised-but-I-certainly-remember-it doping failure in 1989 - have a look at the bottom of this page. And then translate it into English:

"Sean Yates, the British, winner runner of the Belgium Tower and the GP Eddy Merckx, suffered a doping control was positive at the end of half first step of Torhout - Werchter Classic held August 9 between Geel and Verviers. Yates had won the stage before re-offending, the afternoon in Charleroi, endorsing at the time of the race leader's Jersey."

Not fantastic translating, but you get the idea. I remember seeing it reported in The Times when it happened, and I remember the feeling of deflation as I realized that one of the very very few British world-class cyclists at the time had doped.

Second thing is the one that doesn't need translation. The headline for the version of this (2012) story in L'Equipe, the French publication, reads as follows:

"Cyclisme - Dopage : Yates quitte Sky"

Glorious how similar all our languages really are, isn't it? All together now, "fetchez la vache!"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

10 October 2012: Appendix K

So while the world shakes its head about Mr Armstrong (and, it looks, quite rightly too), those of us with interest in actually reading the huge tome released by the USADA covering their "Reasoned Decision" to strip Lance of his seven Tour titles have been getting into the PDF.

It seems thorough but some items seem far more important in their implications that others. Of particular interest is the section beginning on page 129, which is entitled: "How Lance Armstrong and the USPS Team Avoided Positive Drug Tests". It covers the almost comedic attempts to run away and hide when the testers came, which seems far too ameteur an approach given the forensic nature of the doping programs described, but also hints at (but does not investigate or provide further evidence for) the much more damning idea that the management of the USPS team knew in advance -sometimes days in advance - when the testers were coming. And that is where deeper questions lie, regarding the complicity or otherwise of the UCI in the whole process, moles in the system and perhaps - not wishing to be taken to court by Pat McQuaid myself - just perhaps hints that things went right to the top. But the report stops short of investigating those leads, presumably because it's out of scope for the Armstrong-specific case under discussion.

Of most interest to me though, as a saddened yet ever hopeful fan of cycling and the Tour in particular, is Appendix K. As I mentioned earlier in the year, it has been becoming apparent for some time as the net closed around Mr Lance that every Tour winner from 1996 to 2010 (except for the 'weak field, what do you expect?' 2008 winner Carlos Sastre) was involved, to some extent or another, in some drug/doping stuff. Appendix K not only covers that (although it's slightly out-of-date - it doesn't cover the final verdict in Contador's case) but also covers the second and third placed finishers in the Tours for those years. And guess what? Quoting from the main report:

"Twenty of the twenty-one podium finishers in the Tour de France from 1999 through 2005 have been directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations or exceeding the UCI hematocrit threshold. Of the forty-five (45) podium finishes during the time period between 1996 and 2010, thirty-six (36) were by riders similarly tainted by doping."

Appendix K covers all these cases and just shows how widespread it was during this period. As the report states again and again (probably why it's 201 pages long), it wasn't individuals doping for success, it was whole teams doping at the team level.

Final note: David Millar, whom I respect more than almost any other commentator on the subject as he was one of the first to actually confess to doping and has done so much since to stand against it, is reading the report as I write this and is tweeting his responses as he comes up with them, and aside from a few of his usual expletives the most profound is this:

"It's all so sad."