Thursday Short Takes

by Rant on January 14, 2010 · 18 comments

in Alejandro Valverde,Floyd Landis,Tom Zirbel

Piti Poor Alejandro?

Perhaps CyclingNews.com has some sources inside the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Or perhaps they were reading more into the workings of the panel hearing the case involving Alejandro Valverde vs. CONI (and potentially the UCI and WADA). Regular reader Jeff provided an interesting link yesterday, to a story about the hearings in the Valverde case, which have just concluded in the last day or so.

In a press release that hit my email this morning, the CAS had this to say about the case:

During the hearing, the Panel informed the parties of a preliminary decision: the Panel considered that the requests filed by the UCI and WADA to suspend Alejandro Valverde world-wide for a period of two years could not be entertained by the CAS given that they were outside the scope of the present arbitration procedure (validity or not of the suspension of Valverde on Italian soil).

A final decision in the matter is not expected before March 2010.

This is quite a far cry from what CyclingNews.com has to say on the subject. Their article says:

Less good for Valverde is the news that the CAS has also indicated that the CONI is competent to rule on a sanction for alleged doping. Valverde’s legal team were hoping to show that the CONI stepped outside legal parameters in the way it obtained a blood bag seized during the Puerto affair. CONI then used DNA testing to compare a sample from this blood bag with a separate sample given by Valverde during a race on Italian soil. CONI subsequently announced the DNA tests had shown both came from Valverde and imposed its ban.

Perhaps it’s just me, but the wording of the press release seems to indicate that they haven’t made any such determination. The issue is whether or not CONI has the right to bring charges against Valverde and to sanction him. Judging by the press release, none of that has been decided (officially, at any rate) at this point in time. And whatever decision is made won’t likely come before sometime in March.

But like I said at the top, perhaps CyclingNews.com’s reporter has some information that hasn’t been publicly released yet. Whatever the case, one person’s mind is already made up. Ettore Torri (CONI’s prosecutor) had this to say about Valverde yesterday:

Valverde is a doper. Even the intention to use the contents of the blood bag is against the code laid down by WADA… The law must be equal towards everyone. [Spanish] Judge [Antonio] Serrano sent us all the documentation in order to take action against [Ivan] Basso and [Michele] Scarponi, but then refused to do it in Valverde’s case.

In a couple of months, we’ll see if the CAS panel agrees with Torri, or whether they find in favor of Valverde. Or both. They could, after all, say that clearly Valverde is a doper, but that CONI doesn’t have the standing to prosecute him. And then they might lift the ban in Italy. But I wouldn’t bet on that.

Tom Zirbel Turn In The Hotseat

Yeah, I know, it’s been a fortnight or so since news came out that Tom Zirbel’s A sample taken at an event way back in August came up positive for DHEA. Zirbel, who would have been on the Garmin squad this year, got canned by the team even before his contract would have begun. And he’s hoping to prove his innocence. With all that’s going on around him, at least Zirbel can find a bit of humor in the whole situation. As he recounts on his blog:

On a lighter note, I also have a t-shirt that says “cycling is dope” which I still think is a great shirt. So great, in fact, that I wore it to the opening and testing of the ‘B’ sample in Utah. Bad form? I thought it was funny, and I’m in need of laughs these days.

Sort of reminds me of the person who, knowing he was going to be laid off as part of a cost-cutting move, walked into his boss’ office with a Nike t-shirt that said “Just Do It” for the fateful meeting. (True story. And I still have the t-shirt.) Over at Podium Insight, Lyne posted a good interview with Zirbel. Will he eventually figure out what happened? Will the B sample confirm the initial findings? Hard to say at this point. But as the cyclist noted on his own blog:

I love the sport of cycling and more specifically I love racing my bike. But if that is taken away from me, I’m not going to give up on life or play the victim. Life is too full of OTHER cool and exciting things that I can dive into head first. It’s also far too short to dwell in the past and be miserable. Typing these words is much easier than putting their message into practice but I’m confident that if it comes to that, I can do it…with the continued support of my kick ass network of friends and family.

Good luck to Tom Zirbel. But I have this strange, nagging feeling I’ve heard his story before.

The Mysterious Case of Mr. Landis

Ever since the press release announcing that Floyd Landis and the OUCH-Maxxis team had parted ways, I’ve been wondering what team he would be riding for in 2010. One rumor had it that Landis would be riding for Rock Racing, assuming they were granted a Pro Continental license by the UCI. But so far, the Pirates of the Peloton (hmm … there’s a name for a team … maybe I’ll set one up for those of us who still have delusions of racing grandeur … ) have not been able to convince the honchos in Lausanne that they are worthy. And so far, Landis hasn’t signed with a team. It’s a shame, really, to see him sidelined. Over on the Bicycling.com web site, Joe Lindsey pens a thoughtful piece about Floyd’s comeback year (hat-tip to strbuk for the link).

I hope that Landis will find a team to ride with this year, and that he will have a better year, results-wise, than last. Then again, as “TheRealFloydL” said on his Twitter feed, maybe he’ll go for the hour record. (Just remember, Floyd, those track bikes are fixies. No coasting allowed — even if you want to.) Whatever Floyd Landis does, and whoever he rides for, I hope we get to see him back in action sometime soon.

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{ 18 comments }

strbuk January 15, 2010 at 5:52 am

Hey Rant, I really liked Joe’s piece on Floyd, and there have been plenty of times in the seemingly distant past (was it really THREE years ago?) when I couldn’t say that about things he’s said on the “Landis issue” :-) I really hope Floyd lands somewhere too, but at this point I can’t imagine where that might be.

Jeff January 15, 2010 at 8:59 am

The cite I provided from CyclingNews does not seem to be confirmed by other reports. We’ll see what happens. I’d expect a retraction/correction if it doesn’t pan out.

Valverde is offering DNA sample analysis at an independent lab, outside Italy. UCI & WADA are reported to agree. CoNI does not agree: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/valverde-offers-to-submit-dna-sample

Rasmussen is reported to have signed a one year deal with a pro continental team: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/rasmussen-signs-with-miche-silver-cross

Jeff January 15, 2010 at 10:56 am

Here is a clear as mud clarification, regarding Valverde & CAS, from CyclingNews:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/no-valverde-decision-until-march

R Wharton January 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Rant – just so you know… There already IS a team called the “Pirates of the Peloton”, and one of their officers is… me! :)

Let me know your size and I’ll send you a jersey. Meanwhile, check us out on Facebook! :)

Jim January 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm

If you genuinely believe that the only information that has come out about what went on in the CAS hearing is that short official statement then you haven’t bothered to do much research. Representatives from both sides have been briefing members of their home press off the record, and even taking into account the spin put on by both sides and discarding points where the two sides can’t be reconciled, we know rather more than you disingenuously suggest. Try looking at http://www.as.com/ciclismo/ for the Spanish take or http://www.gazzetta.it/Ciclismo/ for the Italian one.

eightzero January 15, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Vino wants (another?) TdF stage win:

http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/01/news/vinokourov-content-with-tour-stage-win_102429

Place your bets: will the ASO toss Astana (and last year’s winner) out to keep Vino out? My money is that a call is made, and that threat made if Astana doesn’t keep Vino off the TdF squad.

Don’t care what my face will look like – that nose must go.

R Wharton January 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I think we should read what WADAWATCH has to say in the next few days. Should be interesting.

Rant January 16, 2010 at 9:47 am

Jim,

Thanks for those links. Over time, we’ll learn at least what both sides want us to know about what went on in the hearings. Once the CAS rules, we’ll see who the panel really agrees with. No doubt both sides are letting information favorable to their position seep out, even if only anonymously. But I’ve always taken a bit of a jaundiced view of anonymous sources. They sometimes leave out important bits of the story, which may be unfavorable to their point of view. So then it becomes a game of which source or which side do you believe.

If the panel really did make it known during the hearing that CONI has the standing to bring a case against Valverde, that would break some new ground (sort of, AFLD brought a separate case against Floyd Landis in France a couple of years back). And it would be a major setback for Valverde. But I haven’t seen an on-the-record source saying the panel made such an announcement — yet.

Assuming it were true, then Valverde’s only defense would be to show that the DNA from the Puerto sample doesn’t match his DNA. (Interestingly, the CyclingNews.com story Jeff points to suggests that part of their defense is that the results are wrong.) With CONI having tested a known sample from Valverde, and with them matching it up, he’s going to have a tough nut to crack on that point. Of course, the fact that CONI knew a particular sample was from Valverde potentially violates some of the confidentiality involved in the testing process.

To me, the biggest question of this case is who has the right to prosecute accused dopers. The way the UCI’s and WADA’s current rules are written, it appears that it’s the responsibility of the athlete’s home country. And, of course, what if the home country doesn’t? Or what if their result isn’t the one that someone else believes is correct? What then? CONI’s case is built on matching DNA they collected with evidence from the Spanish Puerto investigation, so it’s a very good test case for who can prosecute people suspected of doping.

If it’s only the athlete’s home country, then it’s possible that dopers could go free when their compatriots refuse to prosecute, or fail to convict an obvious cheat. And that would be truly frustrating. But if it’s something that anti-doping officials in any country can do, what’s to stop those officials from using well-timed doping charges in an attempt to knock out competitors who might stand in the way of their athletes? Either way, there are potential pitfalls.

I have a hunch how this story will end. And my guess is that it won’t be all that favorable to Valverde. I expect that there will be a separate case brought by WADA and the UCI to extend Valverde’s ban worldwide if the CAS finds in CONI’s favor.

eightzero,

Methinks you’re right. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Astana at the Tour, minus Vino.

RW,

Large. And I’ll cover the cost to become one of the pirates. I agree that WADAWatch will have an interesting take on this, when he gets around to writing about the Valverde affair.

strbuk,

I certainly hope Floyd lands somewhere this season. It’s not too late to sign with a team, but it’s hard to say which team it will be at this point. Rock seems to be out of the picture, as far as I can tell.

Debby January 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Thank you for updating us on Floyd Landis. I am really hoping to see him on TV at the spring classics; hopefully it isn’t too late for him to find another team. Any guesses as to one that would welcome him?

William Schart January 19, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Landis faces two potential problems in landing a berth: one, he is somewhat, rightly or wrongly, “damaged goods” with a tarnished reputation. Given the attitude that ASO, and possibly others, have regarding such riders in general, and Landis in particular, some teams may avoid him; two, his less than stellar season in 2009. Granted, there may be good reasons for lack of results that may not affect him, at least as much, in 2010, but still, had he obtained some good results in 2009, he would be in a stronger position.

Still, he may land a position somewhere. His name is well-known and pro cycling teams exist for the purpose of bringing publicity for the sponsors. Some do thing that there is no such thing a bad publicity.

Rant January 21, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Debby,

No idea at this point. Rock Racing seems to be out at the moment, what with their difficulties securing a Pro Continental license and all. There are a couple of teams that I think Floyd would be a natural fit for, but it’s hard to say whether those teams have the wherewithal to hire him. Times are pretty tight right now, and Floyd isn’t the only pro out there without a contract. I’m hoping he finds a place, even if it’s only on a domestic squad. But more to the point, I’m hoping that wherever he lands, he has fun racing and that he does well.

William,

I think you’re pretty close to the mark there. It’s possible he may land a position on some team, somewhere. There are certainly those who think that any publicity is good publicity, and an owner or team manager with that point of view might hire Floyd — assuming that they have the budget to do so. Time will tell, I guess.

Jeff January 23, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Bye bye AFLD @ the 2010 TdF.
http://in.reuters.com/article/worldOfSport/idINIndia-45632320100123
(~ 4 years too late)
(don’t let the door hit you in the backside on your way out)

William Schart January 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm

There’s an article in the current issue of Outside magazine, available here:

http://outside.away.com/outside/culture/201001/zach-lund-wada-1.html

on WADA. As the link suggests, it’s largely based on Zach Lund and his case, but does mention some aspects on the Landis case too. Much of what it discusses has cropped up here and elsewhere in out discussions, but it is interesting to see these ideas crop up elsewhere.

The general gist is questioning whether or not the WADA and subsidiaries are overly zealous and arrogant in pursuing doping, and whether it adversely impacts athletes’ rights. Although the article made no specific conclusion on these, I thought that I read in between the lines the author was inclined to believe that WADA was in fact overly zealous, etc.

Jeff January 26, 2010 at 8:46 am

After my Cycling News/CAS cite, I worry about accuracy & Cycling News and have grown a bit gun shy as a result, but here is a partial answer wrt Floyd:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/landis-wins-bahamas-time-trial
and
http://neilbrowne.com/2010/01/floyd-landis-nails-time-trial-at-the-tour-of-bahamas/

Thank you William Schart for the link to the Outside Magazine article. It seemed well balanced. The quotes from Travesty Tygart, especially as they relate to Zach Lund are a dead ringer for Officer Barr Brady. Love the WADA cover-up of finasteride never being a “masking agent” (for anything but baldness) and denying Zach Lund any redress. (Another Barr Brady moment: “Move along people, nothing to see here”)

I think “Bob Stewart, a sports-and-doping expert at Australia’s Victoria University”, has it right. WADA, and its affiliates, work in a East German-esque Stasi like manner. It disturbs me that governments reported to be non-totalitarian, like the USA and Australia, have so easily been convinced to give near totalitarian control/power over their athletes to an international bully organization, originally created to cover the IoC’s filthy backside so that the money will continue to flow in.

Boycott anything to do with the olympics. All it does is screw up the scheduling of an otherwise excellent Alpine World Cup season and give some sort of false hope to athletes like Lund, who get the stage for a few moments every four years. I admire how Lindsey Vonn skis, but the olympic commercials of her, Ohno, and Belbin singing the praises of the olympic (bowel) movement are nauseating. YMMV.

Rant January 27, 2010 at 10:37 pm

William,

Thanks for the link to that article. Nice to see a story like that in a mainstream publication. Very balanced, from how I read it. Good to see someone else raising the question of whether or not WADA and its minions have gone too far in their pursuit of cheaters.

Jeff,

No need to be gun shy. Every news organization, freelancer, and even some of us bloggers make mistakes sometimes. I just hope CyclingNews learned something in the process.

William Schart January 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm

OK, I am probably woefully out of touch with modern culture, but the references to Officer Brady Barr go completely over my head.

If the Olympics were ever at one time about world peace and brotherly love in a spirit of friendly competition, as they would like us to think, that time is long past. There is really only one thing the Olympics are about any more and that is money. I wish that cycling, for one sport, would tell the IOC to go take a hike and leave the Olympics behind. After all, cycling has its annual world championships. At one time, when cycling was a very minor niche sport here in the US, there was perhaps some value, as cycling could point to its status as an “Olympic Sport” when looking for some sort of support, like getting the cops to close off a few blocks for the local crit or whatever. But I think even here cycling has progressed to the point where it can stand on its own, in part thanks to the exploits of people like the 84 Olympic team, Lance, and yes, even Greg. I see where the Olympics is doing away with the pursuit, one of my favorite track events and one with a long history. My guess is that it is not considered to be a big draw, especially for TV. $$ rules again. Why should cycling modify to please the IOC?

Jeff January 28, 2010 at 7:11 pm

“OK, I am probably woefully out of touch with modern culture, but the references to Officer Brady Barr go completely over my head.” A: South Park on Comedy Central and a movie. (adult cartoon: I find it funny. It’s often sophomoric, sometimes reverts to potty humor (or worse), but frequently provides cutting edge social commentary for those able to filter)

I seldom do this, but I agree with the total of the rest of your post.

Here is a link to my favorite new olympic t-shirt:
http://www.bustedtees.com/winterolympics

William Schart January 29, 2010 at 8:46 pm

I figured it was probably something like that. I never got into that, I figure I am too old. Many things younger people dig today do nothing for me. But then 40 or 50 years ago . . . The more things change, the more they’re the same.

Pretty cool t-shirt.

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