Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Posts Tagged ‘Cera

Riccardo Ricco and the “spin class” penalty. The new doping deterrents.

with 2 comments

We're ready Riccardo!

Maybe the UCI needs new punishments.

In the latest issue of Procycling Magazine, Italian Riccardo Ricco said he’s still haunted by flashbacks of being thrown out of the 2008 Tour de France after testing positive for CERA.

“At first you can barely look people in the eye.” said Ricco. “You gradually inch back towards normal life, but it’s horrible at first.”

But being kicked out the Tour and tossed in a French jail was nothing compared to the horrible punishment he was later forced to endure. A punishment that brought him to the brink, rock bottom. Ricco was forced to teach spinning classes at a local gym.

Picture that if you will: the bold and brash Ricco, the self-styled “Cobra,” leading a spin class. Could there be any more demeaning punishment? The man who destroyed the best climbers in the world on the Col d’Aspin reduced to helping chubby Italian housewives lose weight pedaling stationary bikes. Now that’s punishment.

Shouldn’t president Pat McQuaid of the UCI be looking into that kind of punishment and other creative deterrents? Ricco admitted the spin class experience taught him a lesson. “It really shocks you. And humiliates you,” said the Cobra. You bet it does. Especially when 25 ladies yell at you to slow down and question your musical selections for the class.

Twisted Spoke thinks this opens up a whole new level of punishments. You want to send a no doping message to riders with huge egos? Make them do menial tasks. Spin class is just the beginning. What about forcing them to teach needlepoint to seniors? Scrap-booking seminars for the blind?

The two year ban and a meaty fine is all well and good but the fear of teaching spin class again is what will keep Riccardo clean.


Written by walshworld

December 14, 2009 at 9:28 am

The Astarloza story. Bye-bye Tour de France 2010 invite.

leave a comment »

I injected this arm but I'm innocent.

I injected this arm but I'm innocent.

Hum along with us, will ya? “Euskaltel-Euskadi, out of the tour, so carelessly.”

News that Mikel Astarloza’s B sample  tested positive for EPO was expected. What  wasn’t expected was the reaction from the beleaguered Basque squad.  Instead of a statement condemning  the rider’s illegal doping, the team reiterated its full support and belief in Astarloza’s innocence. Not a wise idea.

They announced on their web site that they have “trust in the riders innocence. We have placed this affair in the hands of our lawyers to prove he is innocent.” That was the sound of next year’s Tour de France invite being torn up.

The Tour de France is famously protective of its image and prestige. Even Alberto Contador was not allowed to defend his first title, a victim of Alexander Vinokourov’s blood doping the previous tour. If the French think you’re dirty, they don’t require a note from the UCI or WADA. And they certainly don’t need to wait six months for the Court of Arbitration in Sport to render a decision. As far as tour officials are concerned, Astarloza, the supposed winner of stage 16 in Bourg Saint-Maurice, has insulted the honor of the tour.

Euskatel’s only hope of keeping their invite was to condemn Astar-Losers’ doping offense. Their statement should have read “we have ripped his heart out and chopped off his head, which we’re delivering to you in a diamond crusted box. We hope that’s enough, we’re really really sorry.” Harsh but a start in the right direction.

Instead, we have Director Sportif Gorka Gerrikagoitia standing firmly behind his rider’s syringe. (Now why did I write syringe when I meant story?) You have to appreciate the loyalty but question the intelligence. Hard medical science, a positive A & B sample versus “gosh, he said he’s innocent so we believe him.” An extra tough sell considering that in July one of their other riders, Inago Landaluze, admitted to using CERA EPO.

So how exactly does Euskatel plan on proving Asatrloza’s innocence since they won’t be using any facts? The rider himself admitted it won’t be easy: “Unfortunately, I can’t prove it, and I can’t explain what happened,” said the Basque rider. In other words, don’t look for those bright orange jerseys in the Tour de France next year. Euskaltel-Euskadi blew that opportunity big time.

Written by walshworld

September 10, 2009 at 8:23 pm

The conspiracy farce. Danilo Di Luca joins the implausibility parade.

with 2 comments

I'll sign this autograph if you come up with a good conspiracy theory.

I'll sign this autograph if you come up with a good conspiracy theory.

Lies, denials and attempts to discredit labs and testing methodologies are one thing. But far too often accused riders who’ve failed drug tests stretch the limits of credibility by blaming their positive tests on a conspiracy.

Names are never named, theories are never explained, facts uncovered or witnesses produced. There is never any legal or logical plausibility to these conspiracies. They just exist in an ether that is almost supernatural or science fiction.

Today, Danilo di Luca, he of the failed A and B sample taken on two Giro stages, turned desperate with the “conspiracy” theory. Said Di Luca, “I just can’t explain the two positive tests at the Giro. I’m not ruling out a conspiracy but before I can confirm it I have to be sure.” Good luck with that.

There is a long line of such laughable behavior. Alexandre Vinokourov blamed a vague conspiracy to “tarnish our image” and derail his tour de France preparations.

Floyd Landis insisted there was a “conspiracy” at the Chatenay-Malabry lab to discredit him and strip him of his fairly earned Tour de France victory. He spent two million dollars on his defense but very few people believe that yarn.

Following his suspension for doping, Iban Mayo, the Basque super climber, ranted that there was a conspiracy at the UCI. The Saunier Duval rider believed they were out to discredit him for reasons he never made clear, supported or proved.

Marco Pantani, a man filled with delusions of grandeur and the habit of referring to himself in the third person, felt he too was persecuted. The rider once referred to as Mr. 60% for his sky high hematocrit level, alleged he was, you guessed it,  “a victim of a conspiracy.”

Lithuania rider Raimondas Rumsas, third in the 2003 Tour de France, reacted to his doping suspension with an extra twist: the conspiracy was perpetrated by his own team. He followed that outlandish claim with this gem: “It could be that (Lampre) wants to get rid of me…” He had no explanation for the large quantity of doping products the French police found in his wife’s car.

Richard Virenque, the rider at the center of the infamous Festina doping scandal, denied his guilt for years even when three of his team-mates admitted to a whole host of illegal drugs. Before eventually confessing, the winner of seven Polka Dot jerseys went on tv in tears to proclaim his innocence and that yes, he was a victim of a conspiracy.

One thing seems clear: the bigger the ego, the more likely the conspiracy excuse. This far-fetched explanation requires the kind of out-of-control ego that’s lost all concept of truth. The kind of person who believes they operate in a separate universe where all rules and regulations are theirs to twist with no regard for meaning.

Conspiracy theories work well for presidential assassinations, Wall Street financial scandals and Hollywood back stabbing. But it strains credibility in the world of professional cycling. Danilo di Luca is like the kid who claims Nazi frogmen stole his homework.

Next up, Alejandro Valverde. After being banned for two years in Italy, the Spanish rider will most likely have that extended to the rest of the cycling world. Expect a conspiracy explanation from Alejandro very soon. But don’t expect any facts to go with it.

Written by walshworld

August 27, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Danilo di Luca still racing despite suspension. It’s just not bike racing.

leave a comment »

Danilo Di Luca rides to his lawyers offices.

Danilo Di Luca rides to his lawyers offices.

Danilo di Luca, the man they call “the killer,” is racing, folks. No, not on his $5000 LPR Brakes bike — he’s racing from lawyer to lawyer. These are busy days for the soon-to-be-banned star.

We’ve sketched an imaginary day for the now disgraced and terminated rider, nailed with an A & B sample positive for CERA-EPO.

9am. 5 cups of espresso. He’s depressed, down on his heels and needs a pick-me-up for the long legal days ahead.

10am to 12noon. Meetings with lawyers in desperate attempt to come up with a legal strategy that people won’t laugh at.

12noon. Conference call with accountants. Talking on the UCI, WADA and CONI costs money. Jeez, first the Ferrari breaks down, now this! Contemplate bankruptcy.

Quick call to wife to remind her no expensive vacations for the foreseeable future. Tense moment: explaining that manicures and pedicures are also off her spend list.

12:30 to 1pm. Lunch at the house. Save money, avoid the press and those people just staring and pointing fingers at him.

1 to 2pm. Nap-time. Crawl into bed and pull the blankets up. Sweating, restless, keep putting my thumb in my mouth. Why?

2-3. Put the LPR team race bikes up for sale on ebay before they’re confiscated by sponsor. Fire off rambling cell phone rant about innocence and honor to Italian sporting press.

2-5. Meetings with 2nd group of lawyers in desperate attempt to come up with another legal strategy that people won’t laugh at.

5-6. Bernard Kohl, Stephan Schumacher, Mikel Astarolza, Riccaro Ricco, Michael Rasmussen, Roberto Heras, Ivan Basso, Davide Rebellin, Emanuele Sella, Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis call to offer condolences. What nice guys! They know I’m innocent!

6 to 6:30. Attempt to start autobiography How “The Killer” Was Killed. Too depressed to write — where’s the happy ending? Drink bottle of wine — what? It’s almost dinnertime anyway.

6:30 to 7. Wander aimlessly in backyard. What is the meaning of life? What is fate and destiny? Why has no one pulled these weeds?

Dinner. No appetite except for chocolate. I’m getting fat already. Could take an appetite suppressent but those UCI pigs would be all over me.

9 to 11pm. Watch American Idol in Italian. So angry Paula Abdul is leaving the show. She’s still hot at 47. Loved that Opposites Attract CD.

Midnight. Am I sleepwalking? Why am I standing naked in front of the fridge holding this celery stalk. I’ve won the Giro, for crissakes. What’s happening to me?

1am. Call to lawyer with another outlandish legal strategy. Bedtime.

Written by walshworld

August 12, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Danilo di Luca and doping denials: the A to Z story.

with one comment

I am innocent. Test results mean nothing!

I am innocent. Test results mean nothing!

What does a positive A sample really mean? Nothing. All riders immediately proclaim innocence. It’s a knee jerk thing.

When the positive B sample comes back, most athletes continue to deny the evidence. The explanation is always that the lab is at fault, bumbling some obscure protocol.

Other riders simply snarl and foam at the mouth and invent bizarre conspiracy theories. Our question is, how many positive drug test results would it take before a rider tells the truth.

Let’s take the sad case of Danilo di Luca (LPR Brakes) and his positive A & B samples. We can easily imagine the following scenario:

Positive C result. “I’m not guilty, look how they persecute me by doing three tests. Three is a crowd, I say.”

Positive D result. “My lawyers will show no mercy. They defend pathetic criminals all the time. Not that I am one.”

Positive E result. “I dispute these results. That lab couldn’t test for sugar in a candy bar.”

Positive F result. “This is an insult to my Italian manhood. That is why the test results are inaccurate. You cannot measure a man such as I.”

Positive G result. “They will never break me like they did Pantani. I am innocent, just as he was.”

Positive H result. “I did not take CERA. I might have taken SARAH Lee, but that is a cake.”

Positive I result. “My lawyers are suing the UCI, WADA, CONI and every other acronym they can find.

Positive J result. “I am the victim of a conspiracy. Someone must have dumped that CERA in my Bolognese sauce when I wasn’t looking.”

Positive K result. “L stands for Lies. My fans know the truth even though they’re deaf and blind and immune to scientific fact. The Tifose stand behind me.”

Positive L result. “One of the lab technicians was wearing an off-white lab coat instead of a white one.  A clear violation of testing protocol.”

Positive M result. “This is a CIA plot to defame me. Or it’s the Russians. Maybe the Chinese. I cannot explain why.”

Positive N result. “My conscience is clear. An overwhelming body of factual evidence means nothing compared to my word.”

Positive O result. “My samples were tested in France. They hate Italians — ever since the wars of 1551 with Henry the Second. Don’t ask me how I know this stuff.

Positive P result. “I am like Ghandi. The people love me. They understand that I must suffer because I am a saint.”

Positive Q result. “I will spend every last lira to defend my reputation. Actually, I did just spend my last lira. Perhaps Floyd Landis will loan me money.”

Positive R result. “Ha, they think they can wear me down with their relentless alphabetical attacks. I will win this battle.”

Positive S result. “I will never stop repeating the truth in the face of their lies. I plug my ears, I close my eyes, I am an angry 6 year old.”

Positive T result. “I have suffered under this stress. Look, I have a gray hair. But I still have my integrity.

Positive U result. “They call me “the Killer.” I will kill them all. I would rather go to prison for murder than listen to these unfounded lies.”

Positive V result. “They cannot touch me. I have moved to Iceland. I hate cycling. I am taking up dog sledding.”

Positive W result. “I am innocent. I will repeat this a million times until people forget puny things like evidence.”

Positive X result. “A conscience? A moral code? Ethics? I do not need these things. That is why I am so light on my bike.”

Positive Y result. “Y? This is what I ask myself? Why, why, why? What is a test? Is this life? Is this meaning? Is it love? I have become a philosopher.”

Positive Z result. “You see? I have won. They are out of letters and I am still here, innocent and honest. I will see you after my two year suspension. I hate you all.”

Written by walshworld

August 8, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Di Luca denies use of performance enhancing cake. “I did not take SARAH.”.”

with 3 comments

DI Luca: "I am not a cake cheat."

Di Luca: "I am not a cake cheat."

The UCI has provisionally suspended Italian Danilo Di Luca for two positive tests for SARAH Lee, the popular cake and baked good. The LPR-Brakes rider’s doping control samples showed evidence of the “cake” on two occasions during the 2009 Giro d’Italia.

Di Luca finished second overall in the Giro to Russian Denis Menchov of Rabobank.

“These adverse findings were a result of a targeted test programme using information from Di Luca’s biological passport, ” the UCI press release stated. “The system works, we are eradicating cake in the peloton,” said UCI president Pat McQuaid.

Could this mean a possible lifetime ban for the rider they call “the Killer?”

Often confused with CERA, the EPO derivative, SARAH –especially the Double Chocolate Layer Cake — is often used as a intense sugar boost right before a mountain stage. While not illegal for the average person with a sweet tooth, SARAH is on the UCI list of banned substances.

It’s an open secret that cake usage is rife in the peloton, with the coconut, coffee and classic Sarah Lee pound cake the most popular choices.

On Friday, the Carabinieri anti-drug unit raided Di Luca’s house near Pescara and the nearby residence of Dr Paulo Baruccione, the grocer accused of supplying the cake. They turned up nothing except a fork crusted with icing. The fork was taken away for further analysis.

While awaiting his B-sample, Di Luca maintained his innocence: “why would I eat cake? It’s fattening.”

Written by walshworld

July 24, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Posted in Giro d'Italia

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Cera Rebellin. Another doper nailed by Olympic EPO test.

leave a comment »

No, there was no EPO on my pasta, just tomato sauce and capers.

No, there was no EPO on my pasta, just tomato sauce and capers.

Rebellin, Schumacher, Kohl – why have three high powered lawyers and the needless legal expenses? I think these guys should get a group rate: one lawyer, one cost, maybe even make them one person to simpify the process. “Your honor, my disgraced cycling client Davide Stefan Bernard.” Sounds smart to me.

And while we’re making new combinations, let’s agree to never refer to the old team Gerolsteiner team name again. From now on, it’s Cera-steiner, in honor of their EPO of choice. When you reach the critical mass of three riders on the same team, you have to figure there’s more rats under the carpet.

There’s a certain Three Stooges quality to all this. Kohl admits, Schumacher denies and Rebellin prays his Olympic B sample somehow comes back clean. Until then, Rebellin will maintain the usual shocked, amazed, there-must-be-some-mistake stance all dopers use. There’s probably an Idoits Guide to Denying Doping book somewhere for riders that gives them all the keys phases.

Next up, Mr Valverde. I can just feel it coming. And nobody does denial better than Valverde.

Written by walshworld

April 30, 2009 at 4:09 pm