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Monday’s mailbag: Dopers (and various solutions); OLN (and you kids today); and unskilled newbies

The Mail Bag is a regular feature on VeloNews.com. If you have a comment, an opinion or observation regarding anything you have seen in cycling, in VeloNews magazine or on VeloNews.com, write to WebLetters@InsideInc.com. Please include your full name and home town. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.Link racers’ pay to drug-free performanceEditor:It seems as though every single cyclist who has been caught doping or trafficking has recited the same excuse: "I had to succeed because my livelihood depended on it.” And it's hard to argue against their course of action. Mr. Millar

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The Mail Bag is a regular feature on VeloNews.com. If you have a comment, an opinion or observation regarding anything you have seen in cycling, in VeloNews magazine or on VeloNews.com, write to WebLetters@InsideInc.com. Please include your full name and home town. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.


Link racers’ pay to drug-free performance
Editor:
It seems as though every single cyclist who has been caught doping or trafficking has recited the same excuse: “I had to succeed because my livelihood depended on it.” And it’s hard to argue against their course of action.

Mr. Millar received a two-year ban and a 1300-euro fine; I would imagine he has suits that cost more than that. He has made enough that he should be comfortable for two years, until his ban is lifted, and then it is very likely that a desperate team will pick him up, willing to take the risk for exposure, points and financial needs of their own.

The sad truth of the matter is that doping pays and the only way to put an end to it is to make it very costly for riders. Therefore, I propose that any rider who is paid more than 150,000 euros a year have the difference placed in escrow for three years. After three years the first year’s difference is dispersed and the same for every year thereafter until they retire and can collect the balance. If at any time they are caught doping, the amount in escrow is forfeited and put aside by the UCI for some good use – financial assistance for squads that can’t afford the Pro Tour, sponsoring development programs, etc.

Odds are good that dopers would be caught during the three-year period and any incentive to dope by riders below the 150,000-euro threshold would be mitigated by the fact that they stood a very good chance of losing any gains to be had and ending up with nothing.

It is not a perfect idea, but it is much better than continuing to watch the sport wallow in distrust and suspicion.

Mike Traffanstead
Alexandria, Virginia

Dopers and their supporters: Quit cycling now
Editor:
To all of you who promote or are in acceptance of blood doping within the world of competitive cycling – what is wrong with you?

Cycling, like other sports, is a test of your physical strength, mental strength, cardiovascular strength and resiliance, among other things. It is not a test of how much you can spend on dope or how well you can get it past the tests.

Every one of you who accept doping might as well quit the sport now – you obviously do not have what it takes. If you think you do, you’re living a joke. Anyone who accepts or partakes in any kind of cheating (cutting course, taking a tow, etc.) is a fake, weak-minded person of low moral standards and is in need of a serious reality check.

I wish that every doper would just find his way off the side of a mountain and do all of us legit riders a favor.

Alex Franks
College Station, Texas

Let the dopers rip in Extreme Cycling
Editor:
I agree with Matt Carter of Las Vegas (See “Friday’s mailbag: Time for a new top-fuel category?”). I also have been saying for years that we should have a “no-holds-barred” category of cycling in which any street-legal substance is UCI-legal also.

Obviously we can’t make drugs legal in normal amateur or pro racing, since that would virtually exclude anyone from doing well who doesn’t want to dope and who truly values their health, but I see nothing wrong with a few wild men (and women) caring more about going fast than about their health.

Let them go fast! Let them dope! Make it Extreme Cycling! Just don’t let them race with anyone else. Include the standard “Don’t try this at home” disclaimer on all TV and Internet coverage, and let ’em rip!

Meghan Ryan
Columbia, Maryland

Capitulate to cheaters? Never
Editor:
Capitulating to cheaters who use pharmaceutical products to enhance their athletic performances is tantamount to saying cheating is okay, and anything goes. It is not, and it does not.

The spirit of athletic competition must be defended, regardless of the ability of the cheaters to refine their methods to overcome the defense. Defense of the principles upon which sport is founded is more important than the success of antidoping measures, and certainly more important than the tainted achievements of those low-lifes who cheat, or those sycophants who would shamefully advise us to accept the cheating. What a weak-ass, pathetic suggestion.

Kevin Milam
Charleston, West Virginia

Once a doping winner’s caught, celebrate the runner-up
Editor:
Just another take on what we and you (VeloNews, the great rag that you are) might do to stem the influence of drugs on racing. How about belatedly covering Michael Rogers’ win in the world championship time trial last year? That’s what it was, after all, a straight-up win, since he came in second behind David Millar the cheater.

Humiliation is a powerful thing (remember Hester Prynne, anybody?). Millar should be stripped of his medal, and Rogers should get the royal treatment from the press. The UCI would do itself good as well to make a big show about the delayed delivery of gold to the deserving winner, but something tells me their pride and confidence in the status quo will get in the way.

Let the world see Rogers accepting his gold medal for his effort last year, and let the journalists laud his performance as if it were yesterday. Put the Aussie on the cover, VN! Make a negative a positive!

Millar cheated himself and his competitors, sure, but he cheated the rest of us too. We deserve better.

Scott Broaddus
Richmond, Virginia

We’re in favor of requiring the disgraced athlete to deliver his ill-gotten gains (medals, rainbow jerseys, paychecks, sponsors’ endorsements, home theater systems, fast cars, attractive significant others, household pets and so on) to the injured party in person, like a defeated general tendering his sword to the victor. – Editor

OLN’s biased, all right – but it’s still pretty good
Editor:
Bernd Krause wrote (see “Friday’s mailbag: Time for an unbiased network to cover cycling”) that after OLN’s coverage of what he called the Tour de Lance, “they shouldn’t be allowed to show any races in the future. Let an unbiased network cover them from now on.”

I couldn’t agree with him more about the biased coverage. The on-screen icon of Armstrong’s jersey and position prove that point. But I also remember a time, not very long ago, when the kind of TV coverage OLN gives cycling now was a dream.

I, too, want in-depth live coverage of Paris-Roubaix and daily updates on the cobbles year-round. But this is business. They want ratings. Surely you can see how their arm is twisted to promote Lance. How many of your friends know Lance’s name? Okay, now how about Johan Museeuw? Forget Museeuw – how about Levi Leipheimer?

We all can criticize, but I for one will take OLN over what came before. No offense, John Tesh….

Rob Kristoff
Beverly, Massachusetts

You kids today! When I was your age . . .
Editor:
I’m sick of all the spoiled brats complaining about the coverage of the tour by OLN. I have been a cycling fan since the days of Eddy Merckx. I was in France to see him win his last Tour. Back then, American cycling fans lived in a wasteland of cycling information. There were no TV, magazines or Internet. We had to get magazines from Italy and France to find out what was going on. Eventually, we could wait four to five months for races to come out on video (it was heaven on earth).

Velo-News looked like a real-estate flier when it first came out of Brattleboro, Vermont. It was the only source of English-language cycling news. I remember watching a lousy half of the Tour hour on ESPN2 at 1 a.m. I won’t even mention the coverage on ABC, if you want to call that “coverage.”

Now we have the Tour, the Giro, the classics and other bike races all year on OLN. We watched the Tour all day and at night. For me it’s like a dream come true.

So for all those complainers out there, shut up. Don’t like hearing about Lance? Turn off the TV. Don’t like Bob Roll? Turn off the sound. You have no idea how good you have it now. If you have been where I’ve been you would not be so quick to complain. Who knows? Maybe OLN will listen to you and replace the Tour with more bass fishing and hunting. Now wouldn’t that be great?

Harvey S. Coco
Pawlet, Vermont

And we lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down at the mill for 14 hours a day, week in and week out. When we got home, our dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt! – Editor (channeling Monty Python’s Flying Circus)

Newcomers to cycling often strong, but unskilled
Editor:
How about comparing athletes from other aerobic sports jumping into cycling/bicycle racing?

I have been racing my bike for more than 18 years, and this year I’ve had more race-related problems from tri-guys, former runners and converted soccer players than anytime before. I’ve seen crashes that would highlight any crash video, lost more teammates and friends to broken bones, and seen races canceled because there just aren’t enough ambulances to carry the load. I’ve been in a number of crashes mainly because their bike-handling skills are so poor.

While these first-time racers have great aerobic capacity, they can’t handle a bike for the levels they want to race in, especially in the 30-plus-and-up categories. You can’t drop them easily, and if you have a bunch sprint, forget it. Are we selling the notion that being in top shape will replace good bike-handling skills?

I’m all for growing the sport and getting all these new riders to really love what we’ve known for a while, but please, something’s got to give. Unfortunately, what’s given so far has mostly been skin.

I understand that programs like Joe Friel’s and Chris Carmichael’s help get these guys in shape, but being in shape, or peaking for that matter, does not substitute for skills learned on the bike. Maybe these coaches can add a few bike-handling classes, too.

Ivan Solero
Wilmington, Delaware

When we were a Fred, many, many years ago, we were encouraged to develop our bike-handling skills by many a rough tongue, sharp elbow and debris-strewn gutter. Now we are only slightly more skilled, but at least we know our place in the vast scheme of things – which is on the couch, massaging vitamin E into our scars and attaching these ridiculous editor’s notes to the letters. – Editor


The Mail Bag is a regular feature on VeloNews.com. If you have a comment, an opinion or observation regarding anything you have seen in cycling, in VeloNews magazine or on VeloNews.com, write to WebLetters@InsideInc.com. Please include your full name and home town. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.