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Where is the outrage?
Okay, okay, Pantani was a great rider; one of the best climbers ever. But boy am I tired of reading letters about how unfairly he wastreated on the subject of doping. This is what we know:There are untold number of drugs for which there are no tests. New drugs and masking agents are produced faster than the tests can keep up.Pantani’s famous retest from his 1995 crash in Milan-Turin showed a hematocrit level of 60.1 percent! No one has disputed the result, only that he could not be punished retroactively. To suggest the level got there without the use of illegal drugs is a laughable.He tested above 50 (the limit) in 1999 when he was kicked out at the end of the three-week-long Giro.A syringe laced with insulin was found in his hotel room during another Giro.None of this has anything to do with his well-known social substanceabuse. The suggestion that a rider with this history cannot be accused of takingdrugs because he never tested positive for drugs in his system, or becausehe was never found guilty in a court room (hello OJ) is ridiculous. Towhite wash the issue, even while trying to show respect for the dead, doesa serious disservice to every young athlete who is being tempted by thisdangerous world.Where is the outrage on drug use from the public, riders, sponsors,and the UCI? Instead, you have admitted drug users going beyond an expressionof grief over a fallen colleague and suggesting that it is the fault ofthe press and the courts. What a joke!I would love to believe that our heroes are clean, but the situationas it exists today brings legitimate suspicion to all pro riders, pastand present, whether they have passed drug tests and hematocrit tests ornot. I am sad to say that includes Armstrong, Merckx, Indurain, LeMond,Hinault… all of them.Here is one possible solution. Save all blood/urine so it can be testedin the future when the tests become more sophisticated. When they are foundout, take away their titles and all prize money.Drug use is rampant in all sports. Pantani likely felt persecutedbecause most all of the riders are juicing and therefore did not feel heshould be targeted. To a certain small degree, he is right. But with fameand success comes scrutiny, and sometimes when you cheat, you get caught,even in cycling. It is a terrible shame that he was eventually overcomeby his frailties, but no one is more to blame than Pantani himself, noteven close.
Boulder, ColoradoThe sport needed him
I dusted off my August 17, 1998 issue of VeloNews (“Pantanitakes troubled Tour”). The photo of Pantani, Jan Ullrich and Bobby Julich on the podium was heartbreaking. Marco looks so happy, triumphant, on top of theworld. I could only think of the latest photos of him looking defeated,distraught.When he got kicked out of the Giro I was angry that he had cheated andthought perhaps all those beautiful mountain attacks and victories wereaccomplished through doping.In the end though I realized I loved watching Marco ride and will misshim. We need more personalities like him and Cipo’. We can only hope thesport can be cleaned up and another tragedy like this averted.
Rest in peace Pirate.
Omaha, NebraskaHe rode from the heart
To the Editor:
Let’s keep it simple. Marco Pantani was one of the greats. Pantaniwas of the old school. He rode from the heart. He showed us his soul.I am grateful for all he gave us… at the world’s in Colombia, the’98 Giro, the ‘98 Tour… on l’Alpe and the Galibier. These are all epicmemories from an epic competitor.And let’s not forget the two hard-fought comebacks from injury.
Thank you, Il Pirata.
We owe you.
Southport, ConnecticutHe had more serious issues
I noticed some people are blaming Pantani for being a doper and a druggie.I do not contest the fact now that he was probably addicted to cocainebut this brings to mind a much larger issue, the prevalence of mental illnessesamong athletes.Pantani did have a long struggle with mental illness and people onlypitied him, coddled him or persecuted him when he needed help the most.In the world of sports, people have a tendency to perceive an athlete asbeing perfect and infallible and more often than not, the athletes takepart in that and they often don’t have a choice in the participation. Thisleads people to mask their vulnerabilities and weaknesses when they shouldn’tand this is why sports has a severe issue with mental illnesses becauseit’s ignored or pitied when it should not be ignored nor pitied.
Tucson, ArizonaHe took on giants
I’ve always been a fan of Marco Pantani since the day I happened tobe in Italy to witness him take the fight to Miguel Indurain in the ’94Giro at a time when Indurain was considered unassailable.I think that Pantani’s appeal comes from the surprise of this singularlyunattractive and runty little guy (The Italians called him Dumbo before”il Elephantino” and “Pirata.”) who would not get event third string pickin a pickup schoolyard soccer match, slaying the handsome golden boys ofthe sport. He did it to Indurain, Ullrich and tried hard to take down Armstrong.Pantani appealed to me on a sympathetic level. I can envision him asthat scrawny, ugly kid we always picked on all the way through school.He couldn’t get a date, couldn’t make the team and was probably a lonesomeloser in the eyes of his peers. When he discovered the bike, he probablyfound some solace and then discovered his ability to stand up to, competewith and then dominate his peers. The bike gave him identity. It gave himrecognition. It gave his fans the hope that there is someone out therescoring points for the scrawny, runts of the world.When, in the end, it was all taken away from him through his own doingsor the machinations of others, he lost his identity. The bike gave Pantania life, but because he could not cultivate one outside of the sport, hegave his away to depression and possibly drugs. And THAT is the tragedy.He gave hope to the underdogs of the world, but in the end, he saved nonefor himself.
Huntsville, AlabamaSad but not surprised
Yes, I am another one writing about his death. I am not a guy who usuallywrites to comment about a particular story, but this time is special.I live in a country where 0,0000001 percent of the population knowssomething about road cycling. So his death was only a small article hiddenin Monday’s sport section. But I cared about his death.When I learned of the news, I wasn’t surprised. Sad, definitely, but not surprised.I read the past mailbags about Marco. Some treated him like a drug addict, some like a true hero. I don’t want to repeat everything, but he was only a man playing the game of the sport. His mistake, although not on purpose, was being at the wrong place at the wrong time. After the ’98 Tour scandal, they wanted a scapegoat to blame and show the rest of the world that doping was being controlled. That’s why I think he was the only one caught in a’surprise’ test only two days before winning the Giro. They wanted someone.And, for me, that’s the only reason why other cyclists of that race, whowere caught later on, weren’t caught on that particular day.Was he guilty? Nobody except him would ever know. I think if he wasn’t,he would come with a real good alibi, like ‘I trained too much in the highmountains’. Even if he wasn’t caught in other tests, how many stories dowe know about doped athletes finding ways to not being caught in dopingtests? His problem was that he wasn’t prepared if plans would gowrong. There is a Brazilian female long-jumper who was caught up in a dopingscandal last year. She said the substance appeared in a bikini wax, althoughthe concentration was 50 times higher than the normal application. Evenif she wasn’t guilty, as a professional athlete, wasn’t she aware thatany substance can make a difference?If Pantani had a problem with hematocrit levels, why he didn’t explain that?Nonetheless, people are sad. Why? Because he was a cyclist who could really ignite a race. In those times, when the winner is known because of his “Terminator look”, he was different. I saw the Monte Zoncolan stage last year. He really wanted to win that stage, as so many others during his career. He gave 110 percent during all the Tours he was in (and maybe 120 percent when he won). He wasn’t a Cipo’ and still every time he was racing he drew thousands to see him. It was natural, because he had that will to never give up. And you don’t need to be taking drugs to have that passion. People know about that when they say him climbing. I knew aboutthat, even though I also knew that there was a real chance of him (andso many others) were racing using illegal substances. He was special, andhis determination will be the part of him that I will try to repeat duringmy life.If there is a positive side of all this tragedy, as it happened withJimenez, is the fact that cyclists may have second thoughts when they startthinking about doping. We, the audience, won’t know a lot of thingsabout doping athletes, but they know who is or isn’t taking drugsto enhance performance. May the death of both stars of cycling lead toa bright side for the sport.
Aldo Henrique Treu Ramos
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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