Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Archive for the ‘doping’ Category

The Floyd Landis – Roman Polanski trade. Is it possible?

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A Roman for a Floyd?

News that a French judge in Nanterre had slapped an international arrest warrant on Floyd Landis hit like a twitter bombshell.

He’s charged along with friend, coach and co-conspirator Arnie Baker of hacking an anti-doping lab computer at Chatenay-Malabry. Who knew the angry Mennonite was such a techno geek?

Back in November 2006, the lab reported that its computer systems had been hacked, with data being removed or changed. The IP address of the hacker was traced back to Landis’ coach Arnie Baker, according to the French guys with the decoder laptops.

Last spring, the French subpoenaed Landis and Baker but obviously they weren’t in the mood for a trip to La Belle France — even for croissants and cafe au lait. In fact, if Landis even sets foot (or bike) in France again he could be nabbed, thrown in jail and forced to listen to Edith Piaf torch songs for the rest of his days. Looks like Floyd will be riding domestically for the foreseeable future — but then again, perhaps not.

The story took a turn for the bizarre when an undisclosed source said US legal authorities are prepared to trade Landis for sex offender and brilliant director Roman Polanski, who is still wanted here in the United States of sleeping with an underage girl. Savvy readers will immediately see the ironic link between the two superficially unrelated cases: male testosterone, synthetic our otherwise, was the downfall of these two men!

Now the almost-winner of the 2006 Tour de France and the winner of an Academy Award for best director (The Pianist) are caught in a strange legal tug of war. This plot just thickens and thickens and we haven’t heard the last of it.

One thing is for sure, FakeFloyd is not going to he happy about this.


Written by walshworld

February 15, 2010 at 11:32 am

Vinokourov taking non-apology lessons in TDF preparation.

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Sorry? No, not really.

Alexander Vinokourov said he might, capitalize the MIGHT, apologize to the Tour de France officials for his blood doping in 2007 if it helps ensure that he gains entry to the race this year.

This reminds Twisted Spoke of parenting small children. When the bratty son whacks his sister, you tell the son to apologize. He does because he has to; he doesn’t mean it, he’s not sorry, doesn’t feel the slightest remorse. In fact, when dad leaves, the son is gonna whack his sister again.

Vino is that bully kid from Kazakhstan. He’s done nothing wrong, there’s nothing to repent, but if you insist, he’ll apologize. No sincerity there, nothing genuine. But if he has to say those words in a toneless, couldn’t-care-less way, he will.

It will be interesting to see Vinokourov deliver his fake apology later in the year. And even more revealing to see what Tour de France daddy Christian Prudhomme has to say in response. Personally, we wouldn’t mind having Vino is the race for the simple reason that we like hotheads, bad guys and junk yard dogs. Keeps the story-lines sizzling and every journalist needs a punching bag.

The fake apology is sometimes called the non- apology apology — here’s the wonderful wiki definition: A form of apology that is nothing of the sort, a common gambit in politics and public relations. It most commonly entails the speaker saying that he or she is sorry not for a behavior, statement or misdeed, but rather is sorry only because a person who has been aggrieved is requesting the apology or threatening some form of retribution.” Like no start in Rotterdam, for example.

The non-apology is closely related to the equally clever non-denial denial popularized during the Watergate scandal. You can only imagine how apologetic Vino could get after he puts his own Kafka-meets-Kazakhstan spin on things.

But the French do not take kindly to someone besmirching their national sports monument. Zay do not like zee stinky brown crap on zee yellow jersey.

We’re thinking that Vino will be totalement invisible in France come July. Because even if he does offer some form of fake apology or denial (in his best fake French accent) everyone will still know it doesn’t mean a thing.

Written by walshworld

February 12, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Bernhard Kohl, bike shop owner, philospher.

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It's not about the bike. It's about the bike shop.

Bike shop therapy.

First, we’re happy for Bernhard Kohl in his post EPO life stage as a bike shop owner. He’s moved on, made amends, spoke honestly of his mistakes and most importantly, relocated his soul. Which makes the whole face-in-mirror routine a lot more fun.

“I have a new life now. It was a great time, but now I have other goals. Fortunately, I am able to fully concentrate on my new business, and that makes me very happy,” said Kohl. “If that wasn’t the case, maybe I would be crying today, sitting there and longing to ride races again. But this way, I am satisfied.”

What’s even more impressive is his level of philosophical insight. He went through hell and by his own admission came out a stronger man. His ability to look deep inside himself says a lot about Kohl and even more about riders like Riccardo Ricco who seem born with blinders.

“Looking back at it, what I did and what I lived through was crazy. But when you’re a professional athlete, you don’t look beyond the tip of your nose. You’re locked in that world, in which you do everything for success. To make it public, to speak about it, was my personal way of therapy. That is how I realized the extent of what I’d actually done. If not, I would have blocked it out like 99 percent of the other athletes.”

Twisted Spoke is thinking that perhaps this is the new therapeutic path for wayward suspended riders. Open a bike shop. Vino, Hamilton, Valverde, Di Luca, Rebellin, are you listening? Who doesn’t want to buy their daughter’s first bike from the Vino4Ever bike store in Astana? Who wouldn’t like shopping for an Italian race bike at Danny di Bike or CERA Cycles and chatting up proprietor Danilo di Luca — free style and blow-dry with every bike over 1000 euros.

Who could resist Hamilton’s House of Hot Wheels? A terrific selection of bikes and pharmaceuticals for all your cycling needs. Personally, we look forward to the grand opening of Loco Puerto Bikes, Valverde’s new shop in Madrid. We can’t wait to see all his famous winners’ jerseys and used blood bags displayed up on the shop walls. Alejandro’s dog Piti is lying in the corner and waiting for a friendly pat.

Kohl isn’t the king of the mountains any more but he might be king of the revelations” “I think I have taken the right path. Not always in the right direction, though, as I also made mistakes. But I ended up steering my boat the right way with the idea of the bike shop.”

We like the words Bernhard Kohl used to sum up his wild ride — “Life plays its little games that are destined to be.”

Written by walshworld

February 12, 2010 at 10:07 am

Hoohak pipe at Tour of Qatar. No, this is not doping.

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WADA? Hookah?

No, this is not confiscated equipment from one of the teams in the Tour of Qatar.

Nobody is under arrest, thrown in some squalid jail or incurring the wrath of anti-drug priestess Anne Gripper.

No worries here in the land of Q. Yes, at first glance  it could be some sort of weird arabian centrifuge or illegal doping contraption.

The uninformed and overly suspicious may wrongly assume the worst if they found this gadget in a rider’s room.

However, we can all rest easy and the Tour of Qatar is still doping free. This is simply the classic hookah pipe or shisha and no cause for UCI-quality alarm.

The sharing of the hookah pipe in cycling-mad Qatar, the Italy of the Middle East, is just a custom among cycling fans here. No need to panic or jump to conclusions.

Written by walshworld

February 9, 2010 at 12:46 am

The Twisted Spoke plan for Zirbel. The t-shirt that saves Tom.

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The beginning of a Movement!

A quick back-pedal.

We wrote two or three posts about American rider Tom Zirbel testing positive for the steroid DHEA.

He may be an innocent victim of supplement contamination — those secret ingredients will kill you! It’s also possible the geeks in the white labs coats made mistakes. Guilty, not guilty, whatever. I’m now pulling for Zirbel for the simple reason that he’s not a witless, egotistical bozo like CERA fiends Di Luca and Ricco.

But that’s not the story. This is about a rabid Zirbel supporter who immediately began haranguing me for what she considered my flip, cynical assumption of Zirbel’s guilt. She was fighting mad and had to get the last word, in comment after comment on my blog. Wow, Twisted Spoke had its first stalker.

After exchanging a number of emails back and forth I thought we’d reached a agreement: I softened my stance on the unlikelyhood of Zirbel’s innocence and she downgraded me from despise to intensely dislike. A fair deal, I thought.

However, when Zibel’s B sample came back with the same bad news and I did a follow-up post, she lashed me again. This is when I reminded her of the gift I’d given her. If she was so totally, 100%, beyond a shadow of a dope test, possibly-even-in-Zirbel’s-family-tree sure that he was innocent, I had a plan for her.

I suggested, using my 20 plus years as a slick advertising professional, that she form a fund raising group for Zirbel inspired by her own relentless support: Zealots For Zirbel. Ah, the power of simple alliteration.

Now anyone in marketing knows that a good name is half the battle. I’d just handed her the kind of galvanizing war cry I used to charge corporate clients $10,000 for. She failed to see the brilliance and instead she kept on sniping. Where was her grass-roots activism, I asked myself?

So I’m throwing this snazzy slogan out into the blogosphere. Assemble the Zirbel army and get their sizes. I roughed out a bare bones t-shirt design with a web template just to get their creative juices flowing. Tom’s a groovy guy and at 6′ 4, he’s the same height as me. We tall men stick together so, hey, a freebie Z-Man — and send me an XL when you’re done printing.

Organize the troops, set up a bank account and don’t make the same mistakes Fairness For Floyd made. In other words, do not threaten to bring up the Greg Lemond child molestation story. Landis still hasn’t recovered from that astronomical lapse in judgement.

Okay, professional consulting done. Time for you to get to work Delilah.

Written by walshworld

February 3, 2010 at 9:07 am

The UCI “Italian” clause. Out with Di Luca, back in with Ricco.

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Riccardo Danilo di Ricco Luca.

Oh, it’s there alright.

Buried in the UCI regulations is a clause only a few cycling historians know exists. It’s doubtful that even president Patrick McQuaid has heard of it. It’s not necessarily a secret, simply an obscure three line item that’s never brought to light.  It goes by the innocuous Article: 378.7B-11 and states there must always be “one flashy egotistical Italian in the peloton at all times.”

Monday allowed us to see the inner wisdom of the UCI and the adherence to the spirit of 378.7B-11. Italian Danilo di Luca suspended just as Italian Riccardo Ricco returns from suspension. Life in balance, wheels turning without effort. The flashy self-absorbed climber finishes his 20 months of banishment just as the flashy egotistical blowhard Di Luca goes into forced hibernation. In and out, whimper and bang.

There’s an inherent poetry and the chronological symmetry almost makes Ricco and Di Luca brothers. The Cobra and the Killer. The obscure UCI article is a fundamentalist throwback to the wink-wink days of doping and was written as a gift to the loyal Italian tifosi. Somewhere in Heaven the Pirate smiles.

There must always be a hero to cheer, a reckless, dashing and hot-blooded Italian that attacks at a moments notice. A rider who speaks of honor and character and writes his own legends. In the modern era, that means riders like Pantani, Cipollini, Bartoli and our two current CERA injectors, Ricco and Danilo di Doping.

There is much smart thinking behind this UCI article. Despite our distaste for Di Luca’s colossal hypocrisy and the mundane quality of his lies, we’ll miss the feisty rider. There’s no denying his talent and his passion for racing and he impressed us with his never-say-die efforts to beat Denis Menchov in the 2009 Giro. The man rode himself inside out and left; he left his blood on the road to Rome. And by golly, he looked stylish doing it, like he had a blow dryer and gel in his jersey pocket.

The same can be said for Ricco the rocket. Cycling fans appreciate men who don’t ride like accountants, endless re-calculating the odds but never acting. No Hamlets in the peloton! Ricco’s insane attacks in the mountains of the 208 Tour de France thrilled everyone. Even if you questioned the legality of his power output, you had to give the Cobra his due on pure, exhilarating spirit.

Every Italian knows that spectacle is part of biking racing — it’s Roman gladiators, tigers, blood and a Fellini-esque orgy of podium girls and circus show freaks in lycra. Kinda sorta. Cycling requires an out-sized personality with Latin panache.

Having a  flashy egotistical bike racer to cheer on is an Italian  birthright along, along with superior Tuscan red wine, good leather shoes, hand rolled pasta and women is tight dresses. Take away all those things and what do you have? Belgium, that’s what. Another cycle-mad country but with nowhere near the same sex appeal.

We here at Twisted Spoke support the vision behind UCI Article 378.7B-11. See you in a few years Danilo, three cheers for Ricco. Italy welcomes you back to the races.

Written by walshworld

February 2, 2010 at 8:28 am

Cobra bites girlfriend. Riccardo Ricco, a true snake.

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Separated at birth.

The Cobra really is a snake.

If anyone should have sympathy for someone nailed for doping, you’d think it would be Riccardo Ricco — especially when that person is your girlfriend and the mother of your baby boy. You’d assume he’d be the first person to defend, comfort and protect her.

Sadly, that’s not the case. While the headlines swirl all over Italy, the disgraced climber  is not at her side, helping her deal with the emotional trauma — to say nothing about a hand with the child care for a few day. This sounds like a new self-help book for women: Female cyclecross riders who love too much. I feel for the beautiful Vania with the long Italian nose.

Instead, Ricco is at his Flaminia-Bianchi training camp in Tuscany. His idea of support is to distance himself as much as possible. “What’s happened? I know as much as anyone else. I’ve been away from home for three months but now everyone will put two and two together and ask ‘Who gave it to her? I’ll be guilty again,” Ricco said.

What seems to concern him the most is not her pain but his image. “The thing that bothers me is what people will think. I didn’t need this but I can’t go and kill myself. I’m going to carry on training. It’s a strange situation but it’s nothing to do with me.

We’ll do the counter-analysis but in the meantime I’ve been splashed all over the newspapers,” said the rider coming off a 20 month suspension for the same drug.”

Top athletes tend to be self centered by nature, part of their competitive drive and focus. Still, it’s always a surprise when a star speaks with such cluelessness.

Ricco seems to have no capacity to look beyond himself or identify with anyone else’s suffering — even those he is closest to. He can pump out plenty of wattage on a climb but his empathy is zero. It’s unfortunate the UCI can’t add a six month suspension just for being a colossal jerk.

“People know I don’t like her racing, you can imagines what I think about her taking anything. Cycling isn’t for women, it hurts too much,” said the Cobra. Guilty or not, Vania Rossi deserves more from the man in her life.

Maybe that’s just a side effect of the drug. Loss of perspective and sympathy. Women often fall in love with men they think they can change. That’s their charmingly optimistic nature. Vania, pack your bags and leave the Cobra in the wicker basket of shame and delusion.

Written by walshworld

January 31, 2010 at 12:12 pm