By Tick of
So who was that masked man, claiming that 90 percent of all pro riders use
illegal drugs? And why is everyone so much more interested in who he is, rather
than in what he had to say?
Doping in cycling -- as in other sports -- is a subject most of us fans would
rather not think about. We know it's out there, but it's something that the
"others" do, the "bad boys" -- not our favorite rider, or our favorite team.
Look at how few tests come back positive -- excuse me, non-negative! (And that's
a non-word if I ever heard one!) "Our" team -- whichever it might be -- has
always had a strong anti-doping policy, been a leader in the fight against
doping, has even suspended or dismissed riders who were so foolish as to get
themselves convicted of using drugs, and would never ever ever involve itself in
anything like systematic drug distribution by the team itself.
Is it all a lie?
Are drugs really so common in our sport? Is it really impossible to
accomplish anything without this illegal medical support? Even my husband, who
doesn't particularly follow cycling, has commented, "You know they can't ride
around France for three weeks just by eating spaghetti for breakfast." I have
been accused of being naive -- or stupid -- on the subject of doping within
cycling because I don't automatically say, yes, of course, they all do it.
Are drugs used within the peloton? Without a doubt. To what extent? No doubt
more than we fans are aware of and more than we hope. Ninety percent? We can
only hope that that is an exaggeration. The riders want to win, so they do what
they think they must -- or to put it another way, they want to stay employed as
cyclists, so they do what they thnk they must do to assure themselves of another
contract, to assure themselves of work and income for as long as they can. And
why? Bcause for many of them, cycling is they thing they know how to do to earn
There hasn't been a lot of discussion about the the prevalence of doping in
pro cycling, but there has been a heck of a lot of discussion about who it was
-- or was it just an actor? If it was a cyclist, then undoubtedly he has now
reached the end of his career.
For some reason, it seems like a logical transition from drugs to money.
Kelme now assures us that it not only has the money to finally pay its riders
but also enough to continue next year. Oops, make that, they have everything on
paper, evien if it isn't quite final yet ... and the riders are supposed to be
paid sometime this week ... let's hope all these promises come true. Now, if
only the taxman was so easy to get rid of!
By the way, Kelme team manager Quiles finds it "normal" to be a bit in the
hole at the end of the year. Some of us can relate to that, sometimes there is
more month than there is money. But does that mean we don't pay our bills? Oh,
the mortgage can just wait a month or two.... Is it "normal" to have to wait two
months for your salary? I know people who are suffering because their payday is
being changed from the first of the month to the middle of the month. That's
only two weeks, imagine what it must be look for eight weeks or more! And I'll
bet that very few of those riders make enough money to carry them through such a
long dry spell. It really is time for the UCI to get serious about seeing that
all riders get paid on time.
It wouldn't really be a Tick's column without some German news, so here goes:
Jan Ullrich did not appear at this week's T-Mobile Team press presentation.
Apparently Team Bianchi didn't want him to and since they still owe him a few
months salary and especially since lots of lawyers are involved.... Of course,
Tobias Steinhauser and Andre Korff are still under contract to Bianchi through
the end of the year, but they appeared today without problem under the T-Mobile
banner, but who cares about them? You make headlines suing a former TdF winner,
not two nobodies.
To end on a lighter note: Alberto Elli popped up in the news this week, with
the announcement that he will be the new manager of the South African Team
Barloworld. He first came to my notice when he was with Team Telekom. Yes, I've
always had a soft spot for the Telekom Italians. I was thrilled when he wore the
yellow jersey in TdF 2000 for several days, as one of the oldest riders ever to
do so, thrilled, because I myself am no longer part of the younger generation.
But he will stay forever in my memory because of the famous and unforgettable
1999 TdF breakaway group of "Elli, Belli and Lelli"!