While We Wait

by Rant on June 29, 2008 · 2 comments

in Discovery Team, Floyd Landis, Tour de France

By this time tomorrow, the news will be out. Either the CAS will exonerate Floyd, or they will uphold the original decision, or perhaps they will carve a middle ground. Whatever it is, it will be all over, except for the discussions, the analysis and any legal action that might follow. I’m hoping for a well-reasoned, clear decision that takes hold of the facts presented in the case, offers a clear analysis of those facts, and then explains, without resorting to the contorted logic of the original panel’s majority, why they decided things in the manner they did.

At this point, I assume that the decision is done, except for any finishing touches and translations into other languages. I suspect that the press release is ready, and that the only thing left, really, is for the official presser of the button to click send.

We’ll see what the morrow brings. In the meantime, I’ve finally finished transcribing Johan Bruyneel’s appearance at Harry Schwartz Books on Downer Street in Milwaukee. Bruyneel’s book certainly appeals to cycling fans, and that was evident the night he appeared at Schwartz’s. From what I could see, somewhere between 80 and 100 people filled the area the bookstore had cordoned off for the event. And most of the folks who attended — perhaps all of those in attendance — had some knowledge of cycling.

Bruyneel’s book, however, is not a tell-all. If you’re looking for the complete Postal/Discovery/Astana formula to winning, you may find a good chunk of it in the book, but don’t expect everything to be there. Bruyneel is still involved in the game, as the general manager of Astana, and there are probably a few things he wouldn’t want to tip off his competitors about.

Beyond that, the overall message, from the part I’ve read so far is one of how to succeed — not just in cycling, but in life. There are lessons to be learned from his book even if one isn’t a cyclist, or even if one doesn’t particularly know much or care about the sport. As Bruyneel said at the beginning of his talk, “People are not born winners and people are never born losers. We — Lance and I — we are no different than anybody else. I think that everybody has the potential to be a winner. But the difficult part is that we need to be willing to learn something — and this is what my book is about. “

I’m not so sure how far beyond the cycling market his book will go in this country. I hope it goes far, because my early impression of the book is that it shares some valuable life lessons that go beyond sports. How well the book does will depend, in large part, on the publisher’s marketing campaign and other factors.

In tonight’s post, I’m just going to give a few of the questions and comments Bruyneel made. One of the questions seems prescient right now, given tomorrow’s anticipated news. What follows is that question, plus a couple of others. Read the whole transcript if you want to see all of Bruyneel’s talk and all the questions asked and answered.

One notation on the transcript: I don’t transcribe tapes for a living, and I don’t have voice-recognition software on this computer. There were points within the tape where some things were muffled and I couldn’t quite figure out what was being said — both on the part of Bruyneel and on the part of some who asked questions. The transcript is my best shot at what was said. There may, however, be some imperfections in the transcribing.

Q: Can we hear your thoughts on [Floyd Landis]? What is the decision going to be? Is it going to be a fair decision?

Bruyneel: You know, I don’t know. … I’m pretty sure that if it would be a clear-cut case there would already be a decision. And the fact that it’s not clear … there must be something there. I don’t have enough information to know what happened. But all I know is that I don’t know if Floyd is guilty or not. But one thing I know is if, when he was in the situation to win the Tour and he knew he won that stage and he definitely knew before the stage that he was going to do something to take that jersey back, he also knew he was going to be tested. And, to me, it just doesn’t make sense to do something stupid like that if you know you’re going to be trying to win the race, and in a way like that. That’s all I can say about it. So I don’t know afterwards what happened with the testing or with the procedure, I don’t know. But it’s certainly something that doesn’t make sense.

Q: Two part question. Since you guys weren’t the most popular team on the block in the Disco/Postal days, there was a lot of jealousy on the part of other teams and there were a lot of rumors about how your team managed to win – implying that it was not just the training you guys did. How would you respond to those kinds of rumors?

Bruyneel: Very good question. Well, I have a very, very good answer. And the answer is, you can never prove your innocence if there’s no proof of your guilt. But this year, for example, we have a very clear proof, not only for this year’s team for Astana, but I still see this team as a continuation of Discovery. Because they’re basically the same staff and the same key riders. So we were very dominant as Postal, and dominant as Discovery, and it’s also because we had the best riders. And I think we have again the best riders and team around their leader, also performs very well … And this year, because we were forced first of all because of what happened at Astana last year, this year we have subscribed to an internal anti-doping system, which is in my opinion the strictest there is, because I’ve studied them all. There are about three or four systems in place that [you] can subscribe to and we pay a lot of money to test our own riders, and I can tell you that our internal system plus the system of the UCI which is called the biological passport … it’s really hard on the riders. I can tell you that some of our riders have been tested this year already a total of 20 times. And those tests are really as good it can get. And I see that our team is still the most dominant team. So, if there would be something, I think our team would perform a lot less. Then, the people would have a reason to say, “You know what, there’s something there, you know we don’t like the way they were doing.” But all I can see is that we’re still winning.

For all the testing, more than any other team we are tested. And we’re still the best team around. And even with this year’s Giro, when we were called the one week before, and we had no time to prepare, … and nobody was at 100 percent, and it was more difficult for us, because we had to be a little bit inventive the first week and a little bit conservative, but ultimately we won that race. Not only because we had a strong leader, but because we had a strong team. So that’s my answer to all the rumors. Look at this year.

Q: Second part of the question. Do you think the Astana team is paying the price this year, not for what the Astana team did in previous years, but because of the jealousy of your winning ways.

Bruyneel: Umm … are there any journalists in the room?

Q: That would be me…

Bruyneel: I see your recorder. I asked that question to the ASO … and they said “No, it’s not about Contador, it’s not about me, it’s not about Lance.” … But … I’m not convinced. I think there’s something there. If I was them, and you know, I looked at … the seven times with Lance, I thought it was nice, but for them it was boring. And then in 2006, we had an off year and I’ve never been more popular in the peloton. And in 2007, you know, we won again, and then I retired and I think the Tour were happy, because, you know … So now we’re back, and we have the same riders on our team, so I can see their thinking. “Oh, there he is again, and he’s gonna win again, and he’s just winning the race.” So clearly, this [banning Astana] is not necessarily a bad thing for them. But this year is going to be an odd year, and next year … this year they don’t have to compete against our team … So we are past that stage already and we are not angry anymore and not disappointed anymore. We have been through that stage and we have focused on other things.

When I took on the job as the general manager of Astana, I had two big challenges. And it had nothing to do with getting results. It was not my driving motivation, winning eight Tours or nine or ten or eleven – it’s not going to change anything. But my biggest challenge was to restructure the team, which was struggling, and make it a healthy team, and then a good team, and a good organization, and I think that’s worked out and more importantly work on the image. Because the image no doubt was very, very bad. And I see that now, all of a sudden we are … six months ago everybody hated us, and everybody said, “Astana, it is bad.” And now everybody loves us. And I think that the ASO may have helped us tremendously improve our image. And for some reason, even in France, I just got back from the Dauphine, and I could see what at this time, [there’s] another approach to our team and towards myself, from the French press than in other years. And this is because, you know, people like a little bit the victim, and we are the victim now. The decision of the ASO, they helped me with my job.


Bruyneel’s talk was lively and entertaining. He comes across as a guy you could sit next to in a pub and share stories with. For the rest of the story, read the transcript. I think you’ll find it very interesting, and it will definitely help pass the time while you’re waiting for word on what the CAS has to say about Floyd’s case.

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bitch slap me back! June 30, 2008 at 9:08 am

Cycling – Landis v/USADA

Appeal by Floyd Landis dismissed by the Court of Arbitration For Sport (CAS)

Lausanne, 30 June 2008 — The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed the appeal filed by the American cyclist Floyd Landis and has confirmed the initial decision issued by a Panel of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) on 20 September 2007. Consequently, Floyd Landis is disqualified from the Tour de France 2006 and is suspended for a period of two years starting from 30 January 2007. Floyd Landis has been ordered to pay the sum of USD 100’000 to the United States Anti-doping Agency (USADA) as a contribution towards its costs in the CAS arbitration.

Well I was wrong. Again. Makes no sense. I give up on the system.

Rant June 30, 2008 at 9:16 am

Agreed. It’s certainly hard to have faith in a system that can be so blind.

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