Wednesday’s mailbag: Lance, Walsh, O’Grady, Bukowski, Horner and Cipo

The Mail Bag is a regular feature on, appearing each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If you have a comment, an opinion or observation regarding anything you have seen in cycling, in VeloNews magazine or on, write to Please include your full name and home town. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.Do Americans never cheat?Editor:Is it my almost-European persecution mania or am I right in the impression that some of your correspondents believe that European cyclists are all dirty drug users and all American riders are clean,

The late Charles Bukowski and friend

The late Charles Bukowski and friend


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

Do Americans never cheat?
Is it my almost-European persecution mania or am I right in the impression that some of your correspondents believe that European cyclists are all dirty drug users and all American riders are clean, hard-training and talented?

I hope that Armstrong is clean and that history will show it, but it seems exceptionally naive (maybe arrogant?) to suggest that Euros cheat and Americans don’t. Anyone heard of BALCO?

Mike Perry
London, England

Speech is free, and Lance only human
In regards to the “L.A. Confidentiel” controversy, here are my two cents’ Canadian:

Freedom of speech is something Americans keep very close to their hearts. Why is it that so many wish to impede this right by being xenophobic cheerleaders no matter what?

Lance is a great stage racer and in order to be that type of rider one must be born with natural abilities, while living a monk-like existence and developing the discipline of a spartan warrior. These athletes are also human and prone to making some mistakes, either through economic greed or poor judgment.

In the quest for a TdF win, not to mention a sixth consecutive one, some men and women would knock decades off of their lives to feel the glow of the adulation.

Lance is human, and if he is guilty of taking banned substances he will remain so; he will have harmed no one else but himself, and will have to live with that burden for the rest of his life.

I sure hope it isn’t true as so many people would be crushed and there would be a rush of young American cyclists beelining to Victor Conte’s dark little world. By the way, I have some concerns about our own little Ms. Jeanson so as not to be labeled a xenophobe in my own right.

Grant Lamont
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

English-language edition, please
I don’t know if I’m the only person out there, but I’m truly interested in hearing the views of someone inside the USPS program who says the team is not exempt from the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and learning how athletes may be getting away with using drugs, despite testing.

I am not saying that I believe or do not believe that Armstrong has used or does use performance-enhancement drugs, but I am interested in uncovering how someone can get away with lying and yet never be proven guilty through drug testing.

This is a touchy subject. I’m sorry that it had to come out right before the Tour. However, I’m sure most people deep down understand the reason it did. Walsh said it himself – this is when cycling is most popular in the world. Ethics-wise, maybe not the best time; business-wise, the only smart choice.

If Walsh and Ballester are taking the time out of their days to read the hate emails that have been posted on your site, please post mine as well. Mr. Walsh and Mr. Ballester, please get your book translated into English. I want to have the chance to decide whether I believe there is truth behind the words you have written.

Ian Stuart
Williston, Vermont

Let’s keep our minds open
Another of those delightful and right-on rants that redeems everything else we tolerate from Mr. O’Grady! Open minds are an increasingly rare commodity in this day and age, and from the early samplings of mail cyclists are no better in this regard than the general populace. To assert Lance’s innocence so vehemently without knowing him, reading the book, talking to Emma O’Reilly (is she Baba’s sister?), etc. serves only to advertise one’s aversion to confronting unpleasant or untidy reality.

The past six months have opened up a lot of nasty closets in the cycling world, and I can’t help but notice the quiet ring of truth in quotes from Jesus Manzano and Emma O’Reilly, compared to the Clintonesque shadings of those rebutting them. Sort of like whenever we hear a politician or corporate mouthpiece say, “I can categorically deny that.…” we prepare ourselves for the lie that will soon follow.

Lance might do well to avoid answers framed in the present tense about alleged past abuses (i.e. We don’t use any of those products on this team). And to claim innocence by virtue of never having failed a drug test has a bit of a hollow ring to it. I personally hope all cycling enthusiasts are following this stuff closely, and that all the skeletons come tumbling out into the light of day.

It might be that Pantani and other victims of the sport are the canaries in the mine, and the rest of us better be taking notice (instead of making fun of them; right, Patrick?)

Kerry Hardy
Rockland, Maine

Ignore the trash and support the sport
Let’s stop this kind of stuff. It’s sickening! If we don’t support these kinds of things, whether by buying a copy of the trash, or allowing our cycling web sites to publish this kind of garbage, they’ll go away.

Train seven hours a day and you, too, can win some races. It’s the answer, the only answer, to why Lance wins. You don’t have to like him, support him. Come on, people, we’re going to ruin the greatest sport of all time! We’re here to support the sport of cycling, not to allow people to trash it!

If some people are willing to quit the sport but want to trash it, don’t give them a sounding board. They’ve quit, given up, it was too hard for them. Let them go on with their lives. And leave this sport to positive, well-supporting people who have raced, enjoyed and continue to enjoy the sport.

Tim Woolford
Lexington, South Carolina

Sass that hoopy O’Grady
O’Grady can’t be all bad. I can see now that he is a “hoopy frude.” I would like him even more if he knows how to spell “hoopy frude.” I have forgotten.

Jonathan Garrett
Grapevine, Texas

Jonathan, we believe the slang words used by hitchhikers galaxywide are spelled “hoopy” and “frood,” — “hoopy” meaning “really together guy,” and “frood” meaning “really amazingly together guy.” Unfortunately, neither superlative can be applied to O’Grady; he has enjoyed far too many Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters over the course of a long and checkered career and has long since misplaced his towel. — Editor

Bukowski a boozer? Smear by hearsay!
These are hard times for cycling, as doping allegations seem to be going right to the top, infecting even Lance Armstrong. Be that as it may, I am deeply troubled and offended by the editor’s implication that Charles Bukowski had a weakness for alcohol. Upon what evidence is he basing this claim? Did he personally ever see the great poet take a drink? If not, he is smearing the great man on hearsay.

That is the problem with the press today — allegations based on nothing but hearsay. I doubt the editor ever saw Charles Bukowski drunk, or even tipsy. Allegations that he wrote his poetry with the aid of whiskey should be left to the tabloids. Stick to cycling, and leave poetry to the poets.

Gary Berger

Hey, we saw “Barfly,” all right? It was the special-edition DVD with the “making of” featurette, too. Plus we have a half-dozen of Ski’s books. We suspect he was both a better tippler and a better poet than we are.— Editor

Reader wants Lance to be clean and win No. 6
He said, she said, he did, no he didn’t. Learn all you can, decide what you think the “real” facts are and then form your opinion. Happens every day of our lives.

This newest round about LA is nothing “new.” Was he always clean? I don’t know. Is he clean now? Betcha a dollar he is. I want him to be clean. I wear a yellow LiveStrong bracelet because I believe in what he is doing about cancer. If he is not clean, that will change how I feel about him as an athlete, but not as a person.

Allez, Lance!, keep raising awareness and money for the battle against cancer. And while you’re at it, bring home No. 6.Kevin Smith
Salado, Texas

That was a funny letter, you idiots
Thank you so much for posting the letter by Paul McGinness (see “Monday’s mailbag: No, he’s an idiot”). I had a hard day at work, and I really needed a laugh by the end of it. Glad to see you are unbiased in which letters you publish. By the way, I, in fact, don’t think that you guys are necessarily idiots.

Jeffrey Begg
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Remember the First Amendment
Paul McGinness in Norcross, Georgia, likened publishing an editorial in a free press to fighting on behalf of Al Qaeda. He and Attorney General John Ashcroft must be soulmates. The beauty of his rationale – using the word “idiots” five time in two paragraphs – and following the same, brainless reasoning that simply because Lance is American, everyone must be for him, simply shows how scary everything has become.

Wake up and smell the truth. Americans are still free thinkers for the most part and will decide on their own about the “L.A. Confidentiel” controversy. And we are still allowed to have opinions, even if McGinness disagrees.

Frankly, I read VeloNews for its coverage of European cycling, and I have been doing so since before Lance became “Lance.” For McGinness to imply that Lance has made VN what it is once again reveals the small-mindedness that currently plagues our country.

Of course, there is nothing totalitarian regimes and their followers fear more than a free press – so keep up the good work, write more scathing editorials and follow that sacred tenet of the First Amendment.

I bet McGinness won’t watch the Tour de France until it changes its name to Tour de Freedom – sponsored by Bud Lite.

Burton Hathaway
Atlanta, Georgia (for one more year – then goodbye!)

That was one scary letter
While I enjoy a bit of lively discussion about the merits of allegations, Mr. McGinness’s note really scared the hell out of me. I would prefer a bit more proof (from either side) before calling someone an idiot, or suggesting that you “join Al Qaeda in fighting what is good in the world.”

Mr. McGinness seems to be color-blind, and therefore the world to him is black or white, with no room for even attempting to find the truth. Instead, he blindly believes what someone tells him.

Many of us have posters of the U.S. Postal team in our workout rooms; many of us watch every move Lance and the boys make on their journey toward a sixth TdF victory; most of us admire the single-mindedness that it has taken for them to achieve what they have.

However, am I 100 percent sure that this was done without chemical help? No. I hope that he and the boys have achieved this level of prowess on their own. And for the millions of people in the world who have hope because of what he stands for, I hope it is true that he has never taken any performance-enhancing drugs – because if he has, those same millions of people will have a little less hope – and that is what would be a shame.

As for Mr. McGinness – perhaps some glasses or anger-management classes would help.

Alicia Denkowitz

There’s more to racing than Lance and the Tour
Quicker than a Bush-administration denial of human-rights violations in Iraq, Paul McGinness paints anyone who has chosen to reserve judgment about the allegations against Lance Armstrong as idiots who should be exiled to India. Heck, they’re probably French anyway, so good riddance.

Although I’m not a particularly big fan of Lance Armstrong (maybe I’m French too?), I am not planning to read the book and I hope the allegations are unfounded. However, given the prevalence of doping in cycling, nordic skiing, and other intensely aerobic sports, I would not dismiss the possibility out of hand. I would, however, give Mr. Armstrong the benefit of the doubt.

As for the rest of the bile excreted by Mr. McGinness, it only speaks to his narrow interest in cycling and microscopic perspective. Many of us have followed cycling before Lance and will follow it after Lance. Cycling is much more than the Tour de France. It is the spring classics, the Giro, the Vuelta, cyclo-cross in the fall, and the Tour of Qatar when nothing else is happening.

As for 99.99 percent of all Americans being for Lance, it is a well-known fact that 73.84 percent of statistics are made up on the spot. I think your statistic is in the majority. If you have to be an American rooting for Americans, dig a little deeper. George H., Tyler, Levi, and Bobby J. are all phenomenal cyclists, even if they haven’t reached the pinnacle that Lance has achieved. Better yet, take a look at the whole cycling world and pick several great riders to follow regardless of their nationality.

If you have to make a choice between good American readers like Paul McGinness and French writers like O’Grady, keep O’Grady. Better yet, send O’Grady down to the People’s Republic of La Veta for a beer and a ride. Cyclists like Mr. McGinness make me embarrassed to shave my legs and ride a bike.

Scott Effner
La Veta, Colorado

Let’s not jump to conclusions
Regarding missing drug tests: How about, we try to do our best but sometimes people make mistakes? So Geneviéve Jeanson misses a drug test, never having been found to have tested positive for illegal drugs. Whoa! Must be guilty now. Throw her out.

I’m an average Joe. My hematocrit fluctuated from just over 49 to as low as 40 and I was taking nothing in the way of drugs. Had my test been just a little higher, I’d be banned from the world’s too, if you overlook the fact that I’ve never even won a Cat 3 race. And by the way, my test results tell me that the “normal” range for hematocrit ranges from 42 to 52. Maybe someone should update the racing medical community. Most of us haven’t a clue as to what’s really going on, yet we seem to have a population of experts.

Maybe, just maybe, Lance, Geneviéve, and a host of others are completely innocent. But I guess human nature wants to find a culprit, so we accuse.

We’re ruining this sport. And the governing bodies are only making it worse. I guess if I were pack filler in the women’s division, I’d want to DQ Geneviéve too. I mean, how fair is it to ride against someone whose talent and determination is eons beyond mine? Let’s get them thrown out! I want a chance to win.

We cyclists spend so much time condemning each other we trivialize ourselves and our sport. If someone makes a mistake like missing the post-race drug test, let’s not jump to shout “guilty!” Are we bitter or what?

Dino Lucarelli
Villa Hills, Kentucky

UCI won’t take drug use seriously
One letter you received said shame on you for believing that book of lies about Lance. Do they have proof it is all lies? No. This book is news, right or wrong, and your job is to report on that news, right or wrong as it may be.

Many complain there are no facts to back up what is printed. They don’t know that. Maybe there are. Maybe there are facts pointing the other way. Lately, though, it seems Lance is spending an awful lot of time repeating that he has never tested positive for any illegal drugs. this is not the same as saying he never took illegal drugs. Just because one hasn’t been found guilty doesn’t mean one isn’t. And just because “99.99 percent” of Americans root for Lance (disputable), this does not mean he didn’t use illegal drugs.

What all this really means is that the UCI doesn’t take illegal use of drugs seriously. As long as people keep lining the routes and sponsors keep spending millions, they will keep denying there is a major problem. This new book, and all of the articles and discussions it has created, will hopefully keep the topic in the news until something is done — if not for the current crop of riders, at least for all the kids out there who may someday be the new Eddys, Miguels, Jans, and even Lances.

Bernd Krause
Johnson City, New York

Anyone else sick of Horner’s act?
Does anyone else out there get tired of Chris Horner’s arrogance and endless list of excuses?

Jeff Montague
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Yes and no, Jeff . . . read on. — Editor

Horner can’t lose gracefully
Apparently Chris Horner has forgotten how to be a good loser. Instead of congratulating his competition like a gentleman at the end of the elite nationals Horner looked for every excuse he could find to explain his loss.

I’m sure everybody else was against you, Chris, and I’m sure that played a part in you losing. Isn’t it funny that you were riding on “the biggest, strongest team here” (according to your team director) and you know you were “the best guy out there today” (according to you), but you lost? Gee whiz, that Jason McCartney must be the luckiest guy in the world, he went away solo and still was able to beat the “strongest team” and the “best guy.” Maybe good karma comes from humility and Jason rode that good karma all the way across the line.

Next time you get beat, Chris, perhaps you should try saying something like, “He rode a great race and deserved to win.” It sounds a lot less like whining and much more like a sportsman.

Cabel Gray
Iowa City, Iowa

Horner understands racing
It sounds silly and I suppose it’s self-evident, but I’ll say it anyway: Horner understands bike racing. The elite national race went pretty much exactly as he speculated it might during your interview with him some days earlier. And his open, confident but respectful attitude towards the other racers and his own teammates is great.

Andrew McAllister
Berkeley, California

Olympic-team selection process is ludicrous
The best medal hope for the U.S. at the Athens Olympics is Fred Rodriguez, and due to the ludicrous nature of the American tryout procedure, he won’t even toe the start line. This is just another of the many debacles the U.S. has had to suffer through every four years in nearly every Olympic sport. Meanwhile, Italy has the opportunities to truly field its best team year after year due to their completely different tryout procedures for Olympics and world championships.

Here in the U.S., the politics of it all lead to a very sterile, politically correct tryout criteria that leaves coaches’ discretion largely at the roadside. However, in Italy, Franco Ballerini is entirely responsible for the success of the Italian squadra. He has done a fine job the past few years, most notably, with Mario Cipollini at the Zolder world championships.

The major problem with the U.S. system is that there is still no accountability for poor results, while in Italy, if Ballerini does a poor job or is blatantly playing favorites, he is replaced; accountability is at the highest level. I believe the U.S. should have the guts to follow the Italian system and give the decision solely to a universally accepted expert such as Greg LeMond or Davis Phinney. Then we may begin to see world’s and Olympic teams that have a real chance at victory.

Mike Trecker
Aspen, Colorado

Das boot?
Hey, is that a capsized boat on Jan’s head? Living in South Florida, we’re accustomed to seeing boats upside down and Jan’s helmet looks just like one. Folks actually picnic at the boat ramps hoping to seeing some clueless boater sink trailer, car and sometimes even their boat. Though Jan’s waterline is a little high on the bow.

Matthew Ridgely
Miami, Florida

Let’s get seriously Eighties, Mario
Mario Cipollini’s “Tron”-themed skinsuit could be intriguing. If a TT were at night, and they got the “glowing” parts to, um, glow, it would be a neat effect. Now they just have to work with Disney (the original production company of the movie) as a sponsor.

Of course, that’s not what I think of when I think Eighties. If I look at Cipo, I usually think “shades and a five o’clock shadow. I’m thinking “Miami Vice:” a nice, pastel skinsuit, with the sleeves pushed up. Socks are, of course, optional.

The other possibility is a red leather skinsuit, complete with one sequined glove. A matching bike, geared to allow him to ride in reverse, could complete the “moon walker” set.

Finally, oversized T-shirts with san-serif text is a treat. “Choose Life” and “Frankie Says Relax” come to mind.

Charles Barilleaux
Cincinnati, Ohio

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