Friday’s mail bag: Deconstructing the banana; more on Jeanson; and where was Lance’s lid?

The law is an assVeloNews:When I read the "Legally Speaking" column lumping banana peels and used oil filters together, I had to step back and remind myself the column is "legally" correct and therefore has no connection to common sense. Let's take this slowly: Banana peels thrown in the grass are fertilizer; one-gallon jugs filled with urine are litter; banana peels biodegrade in a week; a used diaper is going to take a lot longer. Of course my mental picture is of riding down a country road, polishing off nature's perfect food and trying to clear the barbed-wire fence with the slinky

The law is an ass
VeloNews:
When I read the “Legally Speaking” column lumping banana peels and used oil filters together, I had to step back and remind myself the column is “legally” correct and therefore has no connection to common sense. Let’s take this slowly: Banana peels thrown in the grass are fertilizer; one-gallon jugs filled with urine are litter; banana peels biodegrade in a week; a used diaper is going to take a lot longer.

Of course my mental picture is of riding down a country road, polishing off nature’s perfect food and trying to clear the barbed-wire fence with the slinky yellow skin. Riding in a suburban neighborhood, common sense would dictate different behavior. A banana peel thrown on the hood of a car would be litter (although if you throw it on the hood of an SUV, Bob might argue it also qualifies as freedom of speech).

We all hate pollution, so why not attack the real offenders – the cyclists? Think of all the extra carbon-dioxide waste we’re producing while huffing and puffing. The contribution to greenhouse gases must be staggering. We’ve got to do something to help the grass and trees – quick ,throw them a banana peel.

Gregg Whitenton
Fort Worth, Texas

Littering, schmlittering: The peel will quickly vanish
VeloNews:
Please! Equating a banana peel to aluminum foil and plastic is absurd. Banana peels are biodegradable. They will dry up and disintegrate or be eaten by ants. They will be gone in a few days. A gel container will be there forever! That is littering. It is not the same – I don’t care what the law says, it is not the same.

Take a trip to the Central Valley of California. Take a look at how many fruits and vegetables are all over the ground in the orchards.

Mike Elmer
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Your litter may be something else’s dinner
VeloNews:
OK, I admit it! I litter (according to the article). At the risk of sounding like some kind of idiot I wanted to say that I do throw my biodegradable waste when I am riding.

Here is why (and I have no idea if this would hold up in court):

Most of the time I ride in a semi-rural to rural area where there are cornfields and pastures on many of the roadsides. I do not see throwing apple cores or partially eaten bananas in the fields as litter. Actually, to my way of thinking, they serve one of two purposes. They can be food for the raccoons and other wildlife that are starving to death due to housing expansion in nearby areas (they are being crowded out in my area. And if they are not eaten, they will decompose and add nutrients to the soil.

Obviously, I do not drop them on the roadside where they would just be litter.

Bill Levey
Reisterstown, Maryland

Meanwhile, back at the Jeanson flap . . .
VeloNews:
It seems to me that the issue involving Geneviève Jeanson’s license is yet another reiteration of a (sadly) long running discussion about doping within the not only the sport of cycling but sports in general. There are many problems with the way it is being handled, and though I know that I am opening myself up to a flurry of ridicule and condemnation I feel that perhaps I ought to weigh in on the subject, if for no other reason than get my own opinion off of my chest.

When speaking of hematocrit levels, we all know that there are a number of things that can contribute to a high hematocrit level, with dehydration and the effects of altitude or altitude simulation being the most obvious. Though it is generally accepted that these are weak arguments, they are still valid. Without more watertight proof of doping than a hematocrit level exceeding the limits, then all the finger-pointing in the world is really just tantamount to accusing someone of doping because they have turned in the performance of their life, without having set the precedent for doing so previously. Indeed, in some circles, this is proof enough and will certainly get the rumor mill churning.

I for one will acknowledge that it rightfully raises a few eyebrows in certain instances. Remember Raimondas Rumsas’ TdF performance prior to his wife’s run-in with the authorities? I recall more than a few murmurs. What it comes down to is whether there is proof. If not, get over it. There is nothing you can do about it, it won’t stop until there is, and the constant badgering will only scare off fans, sponsors, and promoters.

Furthermore, perhaps it is time to discern between professional and amateur athletics. I strongly believe that amateur athletes should be strictly monitored early in their careers for doping and even overtraining. You only have one body, and young minds can sometimes forget this when the desire to excel overpowers their narrow perspective.

However, professional athletics is another story. Do I believe that doping is an example of good sportsmanship, or for that matter a wise decision? No. But I know that it happens and that it will continue. I also feel that it would be safer if it were being undertaken carefully, in a supervised manner, and with certain controls in place. Sure, we’ve all heard stories of the organized doping programs undertaken by everyone from the ’98 Festina team to the Finnish XC team in Lahti, but for every one of those, there are a dozen neo-pros engaging in dangerous, unsupervised doping, often encouraged by unscrupulous peers, sporting directors and others.

In addition, there is the valid argument surrounding the use of oxygen tents. Where do we draw the line? Which performance-enhancing supplements go too far? Why are certain substances okay in one sport but not another, or permissible out of competition but not in? With the amount of money involved in the sport of cycling, anyone who thinks it isn’t a cold, hard, unforgiving business needs to think again. And anyone who longs for the “clean” days of yester-year needs to read about Tom Simpson.

For you and me, cycling is a sport. For many of these folks it is their only shot at making something out of themselves. “Judge not lest ye be judged” may be a fitting cliché here. I am certainly not in their shoes, and though I’d like to think that I’d behave differently if given the chance, if my job, and the safety and comfort of my family were on the line, I may just be inclined to do whatever I had to do to take care of those around me.

I do feel for the clean athletes out there. It is not fair for them. But people will continue to make the choices they have to in order to achieve what they feel they must. These people aren’t heroes, they are simply athletes. In some instances they are entertainers. It is one thing to be in awe of what they can do on their bicycles. It is another entirely to allow the harsh realities of how this is attained tarnish the true sport of cycling.

Professional athletes are not, nor should they be, role models for you or your children. That is your job. For the time being keep dreaming of a clean sport, keep watching your favorite athlete perform at the top of their game, stop second-guessing everything you see, and most importantly, go ride your bike.

Shane Blay
Fort Collins, Colorado

Paging Jerome Chiotti . . .
VeloNews:
To David Gilbert: Well said in Thursday’s mail bag. I think I understand Brad McGee’s frustration, but I think you laid out the facts plain as day. It is a shame most of the members of the pro peloton are willing to let the drug use perpetuate.

I wonder what Jerome Chiotti is up to these days? It would be great to see how his life has been affected by the burden he carried, then reveled to his peers and the fans.

Chance Cooke
Whitefish, Montana

No proof, no harm and no foul
VeloNews:Dave Tingley’s response to Geneviève Jeanson’s licensure with USAC (see “An insult to the sport” in Wednesday’s mail bag) is reckless and needs to be rebuked.

According to Mr. Tingley, the issuance of racing licenses by USAC should be declined under the following nebulous criteria that could never be codified into fair rules: (1) If the allegations against a cyclist are a “slap in the face” to the sport, whatever that means; (2) If the rider is surrounded by “controversy,” whatever that means; and (3) Only if the rider “can prove” why certain unproven allegations aren’t true (as opposed to testing positive for a banned substance).

Mr. Tingley – you are much closer to Cuba than your Panama City, Florida, address indicates.

Except for Mr. Tingley, most people know that Jeanson never had a “positive test” at any time in her career. Mr. Tingley inappropriately links an elevated hematocrit with a “positive test” for “doping.” At best, that’s a tabloid understanding of the issue.

Jeanson has openly stated the reason for her elevated hematocrit at world’s was due to the use of an altitude-simulation system. That explanation is both definitive and credible. Consequently, there are no unresolved issues, no positive tests, no nothin.’

You and the director of the Quebec federation, Louis Barbeau, need to stop watching Richard Simmons videos and start paying attention to reality.

Phil Marques
Medford, New Jersey

Why didn’t Lance use a TT helmet?
VeloNews:
In the Murcia time trial, why would Lance Armstrong not use a special time trial helmet as Gutierrez did? I noticed he did the same in his previous time trial last month. His position on the bike also seems more hunched and compact, a la Indurain. Is that a change, or just something I never noticed? In the current article Armstrong talks about stretching out his arms, which seems contrary to the pictures.

Steve Rempel
Mountain View, California


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