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Wednesday’s mailbag: More on dopers, funny headlines and unskilled racers

Doping is cheating, periodEditor:I've been reading the exchanges on doping in your mailbags. Some interesting points are being raised on both sides, but it seems to me we're making this issue more complicated than is necessary. Doping is cheating, period. There are plenty of good reasons for a person to cheat on final exams (better grades), aptitude tests (better college), performance reports (bigger profits), the Friday poker game (bigger winnings), or the weekend bike race (better results). But the plain truth is, it's still cheating. Period. One who cheats to get something does not

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Doping is cheating, period
Editor:
I’ve been reading the exchanges on doping in your mailbags. Some interesting points are being raised on both sides, but it seems to me we’re making this issue more complicated than is necessary.

Doping is cheating, period.

There are plenty of good reasons for a person to cheat on final exams (better grades), aptitude tests (better college), performance reports (bigger profits), the Friday poker game (bigger winnings), or the weekend bike race (better results). But the plain truth is, it’s still cheating. Period. One who cheats to get something does not deserve that thing and often keeps those who do deserve it from getting it. That’s wrong. How much simpler could it be? For all the moaning about the Euros do this and the young guys do that and we should accept it and not be naïve or whatever other BS passes for rationalization in this forum, there’s an absurdly simple bottom line to it all: Doping is cheating, period.

I’m as glad to see Filip Meirhaeghe and David Millar and their kind get theirs as I will be to see Ken Lay and his dirtbag cronies get theirs. (Oh, please, God, let them get theirs!) They’re all cheaters, and they all deserve what’s coming to them. (Granted, Lay screwed people out of their retirement funds, not just bike race results, but still….)

Nobody has to race a bicycle. If you have to cheat to race competitively, it’s time to face the facts and admit you can’t be competitive. Do something else. Don’t f–k it up for everyone who’s actually trying to do it right.

It’s that simple.

Chris Hess
Boise, Idaho

More busts good, light punishments bad
Editor:
Is it just me, or has the testing of EPO suddenly gotten better recently? We’ve had a string of positive tests while before we’ve had very few (witness David Millar). Maybe the guys who are caught are spilling the beans as to how they avoid positive tests? Either way, it’s good that we’re catching people, but not so good that we’re handing out punishments that barely stop anyone from doing it.

Lawrence Zhang
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Maybe it’s time to punish sponsors
Editor:
So if every racer that’s been caught doping blames it on a need to succeed and get paid by his team and/or sponsors, then maybe it’s the sponsors who should be getting hit with massive fines and penalties.

Eric Sterner
San Francisco, California

As if sponsors aren’t already tough enough to find … – Editor

Doping’s only physical; racing’s tough mentally, too
Editor:
I have a slightly different take on the whole doping mess in cycling. I raced professionally for 15 years and know a lot of the characters involved in the “has he or hasn’t he doped?” controversy. I never took any illegal substances and didn’t have the talent to beat the best riders that were doping. That is a big reason why I came over from Switzerland to race in the U.S. instead of trying to make a living racing in Europe.

It would be easy for me to say that the only reason I didn’t become a big star is the fact that everybody else took dope. However I strongly believe that there are riders that can do just that. Racing is mentally really tough, and doping only helps you physically. Now take a guy like Lance. I’ve known him, raced against him and even coached him once during a winter training camp at the OTC in Colorado Springs. He is mentally the toughest competitor I’ve ever met. He went to Europe and didn’t show any respect for the established riders, because he believed that he was the best and he was going to show everyone just how good he was.

For a rider like that to take dope would be like admitting to himself that he isn’t as good as the others, which would actually make him weaker and not stronger, because he would lose his mental edge. For a lot of competitors it is easier to say that everyone is doped and use that as an excuse to dope themselves. I think that in Lance’s case, other riders doping just motivates him to go out and beat them.

I’m all in favor of stricter and better doping controls, but I refuse to diminish riders’ accomplishments by speculating that they used dope, unless they fail a dope test. Just consider this. A rider who is out there competing against dopers and beating them clean, only to be accused of doping himself, is victimized twice – first by the cheaters that rob them of victories, and then by the public that doesn’t believe they’re clean.

Martin Graf
Encinitas, California

How about that Craig dude?
Editor:
Adam Craig, a phenomenally gifted rider, almost pimps the field on a single speed, is only 16 seconds adrift, and that’s what you lead with? (See “Kabush crushes at Snowmass NORBA short-track.”) It’s no wonder that Adam is the best athlete in any sport that most households, including cyclists’, have never heard of.

Brian Frost
Falmouth, Maine

Hey, what can we tell you, Adam? Kabush won (we suspect having a few extra gears to fiddle with may have helped somewhat). But if it’s any consolation, when Craig wins, the headline will be, “Craig pimps field on single speed.” – Editor

Camenzind headline was a howler
Editor:
Your headline reads “Camenzind retires.” (See “Tuesday’s EuroFile”) That’s funny. Isn’t that kind of like saying “Kenneth Lay retires” or “Connecticut Gov. John Rowland retires”? Isn’t there a better word?

Thanks for the humor.

Cullen Wojcik
San Francisco, California

Hey, you try stuffing six headlines into 128 characters and see how many sexy verbs you can come up with. It’s enough to drive an editor to performance-enhancing drugs. Whoops, there’s a knock at the door. Be back in a minute. . . .– Editor (retired)

NorCal programs help new racers learn
Editor:
This is in reply to Ivan Solero and his letter (See “Monday’s mailbag: Newcomers to cycling often strong but unskilled”).

Ivan, it sounds like your area needs some programs like the ones we have in Northern California. Each year our season starts off with the Early Bird training series. This series is geared towards the new racer and runs for five weeks. Each week there is a brief lecture followed by some on-the-bike training. These coaching session focus on different skills that help make the new racer safer in the pack.

After the coaching sessions there are races for the riders with less than five races of experience. We have Cat 1/2/3 racers ride along in these races to act as mentors and keep an eye on things. If the mentors see unsafe riding they talk to the rider who is causing the problem and point out the mistake. After the race there is a question-and-answer period where the experienced riders address any questions the new racers might have.

In addition to these Early Bird races we also have a number of coaches who offer basic skills clinics during the year. Riders who attend these three-to-four-day clinics can get credit towards their upgrade from Category 5 to 4. The clinics cover all the basic skills and information a new rider needs to be a safe member of the pack. We have a couple of coaches who also offer an advanced skills clinic for riders who want to work on more advanced pack skills and tactics.

Most of our events offer 35-plus 4/5 races along with a 35-plus 1/2/3 race. Our 35-plus 4/5 races normally have the largest fields of the day. In Northern California, 61 percent of our Cat 4/5 riders are 35 or older, so it makes sense to offer a masters 4/5 race. The Cat 1/2/3 masters like having their own race and have fewer worries about crashing. The Cat 4/5 masters like having their own race and not competing against the Cat 1/2 masters. We have seen a reduction in the number of accidents since the programs described above have started.

Casey Kerrigan
Oakland, California