Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Posts Tagged ‘EPO

Ricco’s girlfriend busted for EPO. A dose of irony.

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Uhh, what's the t-shirt say again?

We thought this photo deserved its own posting because of the rich layers of irony. It was some kind of civic program in Rimini, Italy and there, seated third from the right is Riccardo Ricco’s girlfriend and cycle-cross star Vania Rossi. Now facing a two year ban for doping, the t-shirt says plenty.

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Written by walshworld

January 29, 2010 at 9:21 am

Posted in doping, Humor

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Joe Papp, doping, culture, EPO sludge.

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Papp comes clean.

Joe Papp fell off his bike, a casualty of the doping culture in cycling.

His interview with Myles McCorrym for Pezcycling is probably the best story I’ve read about how and why a rider crosses the line. You get all the angles, the rationales, naiveté, remorse and the painful aftermath wisdom that comes from first hand suffering.

We first discovered Joe Papp a few years ago when he wrote an engaging racing diary for cyclingnews. He wasn’t a famous rider competing in the big monuments of the sport but he was passionate about bike racing. He wrote well and had a skill for taking us inside the races, the personalities, the life of a pro racing gypsy, turning up in Cuba or Turkey or a smaller stage race in Italy or Spain.

So it was a mild shock to read he’s been doping for five years before he was caught and came clean. By the time of his failed drug test, he was doing his best to support the entire pharmacological industry — EPO, human growth hormone, testosterone, insulin, steroid and amphetamines. No doubt he popped a few aspirin, too.

The drug deal reached over 100 products, a  program carefully managed by his Italian team — which would later deny any role or knowledge of Papp’s athletic enhancement. It feels like a very old story that never changes — from the Festina Affair to Operacion Puerto.

One of the ironies about Papp is that reading his diary entries, he seemed like such a straightforward, honest guy. The opposite of Alejandro Valverde or Alexandre Vinokourov, the Spaniard loaded down with doping allegations, the Kazak defiant and unrepentant after his two year suspension. But when you hear Papp describe the rocket boost in performance, you understand the intensity of the temptation.

“At first it brought me back up to my previous level of competitiveness, but the more I took that’s when I moved up a level- it felt amazing. 12 or 13% — enough of a difference to block out any ethical or health issues. Enough to win.” When a rider as thoughtful and articulate as Papp decides to dope, you realize how easily a younger athlete is lead to the needle.

It also nearly killed him. While awaiting his B sample test results, Papp crashed hard in the Tour of Turkey. At the hospital they removed “a mass of EPO-damaged sludge” from his left buttock. Doctors back in the states told Papp the blender mix of blood thinners and EPO could have easily killed him. That was certainly the terminal effect on his cycling career.

Once caught, Papp hoped lawyers would somehow locate the Hail Mary loophole but the endgame was not different than Floyd Landis or Tyler Hamilton: destroyed reputation, broken marriage, financial hardship and depression. A UCI ban was the least of his problems. It’s like the old Neil Young song — “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done. A little part of it in everyone. But every junkie’s like a setting sun.”

UCI anti-doping queen Annie Gripper says they’re winning the war on doping. Articulate and  visionary team directors like Garmin’s  Jonathan Vaughters think the biological passport is a huge step toward clean cycling. It’s a long hard climb, maybe tougher than Alpe d’Huez. “You can change behavior quickly but the deep culture will take a few more years yet,” said Gripper.

In an article about Lance Armstrong in this week’s New York Times, there was a reminder of that pervasive culture. “Five of the eight riders who shared the Tour podium with Armstrong in his winning years served doping bans at some point in their careers. Another two were allegedly tied to doping rings.” Those are not percentages you build a cleaner sport on.

We wish Joe Papp well. Like the NFL players who sell their ligaments, bones and risk life long damage from multiple concussions to make a living, Papp found himself caught in the grinder. He seems like a good guy that loved cycling too much. He wanted to be at the front of the climb and decided there was only one way to do that.

Written by walshworld

December 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Portuguese Podium girls sue Spanish rider. They want their kisses back.

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"We want our kisses back."

Another kiss gone bad. The romance of cycling sullied again.

The UCI announced Monday that it had provisionally suspended Eladio Jimenez Sanchez for doping. EPO was discovered in his urine sample at the Volta a Portugal on August 12, 2009. Sanchez won that race’s stage 6 from Barcelos to Santo Tirso. What’s oops in Portuguese?

In a separate action, podium girls Beatriz Munoz and Daniela Viegas are suing Sanchez for defamation of character. “We don’t want to be known as stupid sexy girls who kiss dope fiends,” said Munoz. “He told me his bladder was full. Yes, with drugs. Disgusting.”

Viegas was as upset as her podium babe partner. “I gave him a real smooch, not a fake one. I even pushed my breasts into his sweaty jersey. And now, it’s like my kisses are worthless. We are sexy party girls and we deserve better,” she added.

Spaniard Eladio Sanchez rides for the tongue-twisting Portuguese Continental Centro Cilismo De Loule – Louletano team. He declined comment on the legal action by the podium girls.

A recent trend in pro cycling, podium girls are now bringing their own lawsuits against doping violators who undermine the credibility of sexy girls who kiss winners.

Written by walshworld

December 7, 2009 at 11:59 am

Dekker apologizes for using EPO blood booster. Yes, actually apologizes.

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"I take responsability."

"I take responsibility."

An apology from a cyclist suspended for doping? How unexpected. Like a sausage manufacturer actually, finally admitting there are pig eyes ground into the hot-dogs. You know, unexpected, bizarre, not the cycling norm. What a breathe of fresh air.

Dutch cyclist Thomas Dekker admitted to using the blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO). And then, wait for it … he apologized. Yup, he fessed up, dumped the needles in the trashcan and sold his centrifuge on ebay.

He “acknowledges that he has made a mistake, he takes full responsibility,” his lawyer Hans Van Oijen said in a press statement. “Thomas Dekker regrets his mistake; he will apologize and be held accountable, where possible.”

Here’s what Dekker had to say in his own words: “I don’t look for excuses. I was wrong. I will accept the punishment and then start again,” said the Dutch rider. What a non-Vino thing to say.

Good things Dekker instantly accomplished by coming clean and not denying the test results: He saved himself a hundred grand in legal fees that wouldn’t have over-turned the suspension. Just ask Floyd Landis how much of his life savings he dumped down the hole.

He doesn’t have to spend each week working with a sleazy lawyer who makes a living defending riders with positive drug tests. He also won’t be shuttling back and forth to various court dates. This is handy because sometimes there are no bike racks out front.

He avoids the stress, personal embarrassment, and crushing hypocrisy of lying for the next few years. Nor does he have to invent wild conspiracy theories to explain the positive A and B sample results. Pro riders are amazing athletes but conspiracy stories are best left to Hollywood.

He doesn’t find himself lumped in with the other violators like Di Luca, Astarloza, Schumacher, Rebellin and Vinokourov who continue to deny everything. Nobody, especially the UCI and WADA, likes those guys and they hate wasting their operating budgets convicting them. Dekker earned himself some leniency points.

As a corollary, Dekker keeps himself out of the doping news. Journalists love an on-going investigation, the drama, the twists and turns, the claims and counter claims. Nothing irritates a writer more than a liar — doesn’t matter whether it’s a politician or an athlete. Dekker gave himself a vacation from the press hounds. He’ll serve his suspension in relative quiet and come back with some money still in the bank account and his ethics on the mend.

Thomas Dekker, you’re a slease-ball, and yes, we salute you.

Written by walshworld

September 30, 2009 at 7:27 pm

The doping hat-trick. Liberty Seguros’ triple doping suspensions.

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A team with one rider nailed for a doping violation is not news. That’s expectation, a given, a team without a suspended rider on the roster is like a team without a mechanic. Now if two riders are caught, then you have a story. That gets us into the area of a possible team sanctioned doping program. Exciting stuff with hotel raids, bus searches and midnight interrogations. But three riders hit with positive dope tests — on the same team — now you’re going BIG. Liberty Seguros, our hats off for raising the bar.

The winner of the Tour of Portugal, Nuno Ribeiro — we’re going to call him Nono Ribeiro — was caught along with two team-mates. Ribeiro, Isidro Nozal and Hector Guerra all tested positive for EPO-CERA. Which is that blood booster that allows you to go up steep mountains like a race car — thus gaining an unfair advantage on honest, hard-pedaling racers who take nothing but water and stale granola bars.

Another Sponsor bites the dust.

Another Sponsor bites the dust.

Team sponsor Liberty Seguros, an insurance company, did a quick risk analysis and pulled the plug. “It is with great sadness that we learned of this situation,” said Jose Antonion de Sousa, CEO of Liberty Seguros. “However, Liberty Seguros is guided by honesty, accuracy and ethical behavior – we can never allow such a situation.” We applaud this decision and have cancelled our State Farm policy in favor of signing up with de Sousa.

We suspect the UCI will be talking with team manager Vito Paulo Branco about his possible involvement in the doping cases. But do not expect the Spanish Federation to hand out too much punishment. They’re too busy protecting favorite son Alejandro Valverde and fighting his two-year doping ban from the Italian Olympic Committee.

Three doping positives in one team. Wow, the doping hat-trick.

Written by walshworld

September 18, 2009 at 5:09 pm

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

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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

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

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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