Thursday, 30 July 2009

What WADA needs isn't... Greg LeMond

Oh that Gregario...

... did Papa LeMond ever read the fable of Peter and the Wolf to his knee—riding son
, during his early formative years, long before the future American cycling star-to-be became one?

Greg LeMond was a teen hero for many in the USA, and for some of us in Colorado, it was a privilege to see his rise to elite racing, with appearances (and then victories) in the Coors International Cycling Classic each summer. Greg's win in his first Tour de France, arranged by the team La Vie Claire (to whom he was contracted, along with Bernard Hinault), was a marketing tour—de—force, bringing greater exposure in the USA for the Eurocentric cycling world.

The victory (victories) in France brought LeMond instant American glory, and sales of racing bicycles shot up in as a result. It also brought a quid—pro—quo for LeMond; the La Vie Claire team was brought to Colorado, re—baptised the Red Zinger Team, and Bernard Hinault was 'selected' by team management to lead it to victory. A 'Dream Team' of its era, with Greg, Bernard, Jean—François 'Jeff' Bernard, Steve Bauer, and others.

(Photo (C) 1986/2009: from
the personal collection of
author of WADAwatch)

Bicycle racing in Colorado is rigorous, due to the extreme altitudes.

In the pre—EPO era, long—distance runners and cyclists flocked to the high valleys of Colorado, in and above Boulder, Aspen and elsewhere, to reap the benefits of 'high—altitude training'; physiological modification of the racer's blood and oxygen intake manifested in the altitudes of Western Colorado, with its greatly thinned air. Blood cell—growth was accelerated as the body compensated for lower oxygen intake. Remember, while the Tour de France often 'peaks out' at altitudes ranging a bit high or lower than 2,400m, that is the valley—floor altitude in Vail, Colorado. And the highways can rise up to 1,000m above those valleys... or more!

In Vail, one decisive Coors Classic stage was won in spectacular fashion, that momentous year of 1986; the Vail Pass Hill Climb Time Trial was a course of 10 miles distance (16 kilometers), with a vertical climb of 457 meters in the last three miles (4.8km). As an employee of the hotel that hosted the La Vie Claire/Red Zinger Team for two nights, a privileged view of their training and comportment 'off—bike' was and remains a sacred memory. Their choice of dinner menu came at my suggestion, on the evening before the Vail Pass stage, in our hotel restaurant, the Café Colorado.

(Photo (C) 2009 ZENmud productions:
this cap was given to me by the
manager of Greg and Bernard's team)

SIDEBAR (non—legal): Their energizing 'menu'? A creamy angel—hair pasta with shrimp and chicken breast (same plate for all the riders), lightly spiced with hot chili peppers (and a request for four kilos of buttered pasta on the side, for the table of 16 riders and staff). White wine, and water, salad 'à go—go' and probably 16 baguettes...

On that following race day, members of La Vie Claire / Red Zinger came in 1 (Hinault: 26m56.40s), 2 (LeMond: 27m46.88s), and then an amazing sequence (which I don't remember, but could have been fourth, seventh and ninth (guessing)): the RZ Team was obviously in prime shape from the previous month's Tour. A lot of water has passed under the bridges, since the year 1986 for Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault and this author, since our chance 'meeting'.

Greg and Bernard both left the world of competitive cycling, to join the competitive world of bicycle—manufacturing companies. Both have achieved mixed success with their companies; Hinault cycles appear to be no longer on the market (dead link): a 1998 Bernard Hinault Lord Mega enjoys semi—retirement, now parked high on the wall of this author's apartment. Bernard's company seems to have lost impact on the market, while Greg's company has been mired down by a barrage of cross—litigation with his manufacturer: the TREK Corporation ® of Wisconsin, USA.

One reason for the decline of during these last few years, is a result of Greg LeMond's becoming a 'freelance spokesman' for anti—doping in cycling.

An admirable concept, say many: a 'necessary voice', perhaps in the movement to clean up only one of many sports which require this. But Greg has lost customers, some who'd purchased a new LeMond cycle each year, due to his repeated statements (never proven) against Lance Armstrong, and 'today's professional cyclists'. He has made global headlines in these last years, discussing the generation of riders that have replaced him. Greg, whose claims to have raced clean, did so between Laurent Fignon, the last Frenchman to win the Tour, having recently confessed using amphetamines and cortisone (anyone who was watching FR2 TV after the last stage of this year's Tour, and saw Fignon break down in tears... knows that his fight against cancer is 'arduous' to say the least, and we think about his fight daily...), and Miguel Indurain (whose reign on the Tour de France paralleled the rising influence of EPO and the concurrent withdrawal from Colorado's high—altitude training ground, of those many athletes who let their leases expire).

Greg has never explained how only he could win the Tour 'clean', in a hundred—year history of doping in this massively exhausting sport, but can accuse almost every other winner of not being clean...

Now, one week after the final stage of the Tour de France 2009, we examine Greg LeMond's latest verbal assault against cycling, questioning publicly the sensational victory of Alberto Contador into Verbier, Switzerland.

As reported in the French TV media this week, LeMond is viewed as questioning the 'impossibility' of Contador's pace up to Verbier, in the 15th stage on Sunday, 19 July 2009. Paraphrasing LeMond's words: “... watching Contador set a new all—time record for climbing to Verbier... was like a show—room Mercedes going onto, and winning, a Formula One race.”

Damning words from a self—proclaimed 'anti—doping' expert... or Judge and Jury?

One may wonder at whether LeMond's article in Le Monde, (Ww won't offer readers a link to their pay-for-archive page) published in French, was either 'ghost—written' (by a French journalist?) or translated from LeMond's native English: his multiple appearances on FR2 TV revealed the current state of his French linguistic abilities.

What point did LeMond force upon a global audience, itself perhaps 'disappointed' by the dearth of doping(!!!) stories in this year's Tour? That Alberto Contador 'must have been on something' to achieve his victory in Verbier... The new record Alberto achieved: 8.5km (on an average grade of 7.5pc) in 20m55s (or 2.47 minutes/km
± 24.3 kmh). According to former Tour champion LeMond, that cannot happen without 'help'; he'd have to be one of a million, “one of fifty million”, to be able to accomplish that. LeMond 'cited evidence' of Alberto's VO2 max of “99.5 ml/mn/kg”, as stated by former FESTINA team staffer Antoin Vayer.

WADAwatch has now mulled this over for some time... wondering what LeMond's point is.

One could think that LeMond does not believe that Tour champions are very unique human beings; we tend to think that someone like Contador, as was Armstrong 'in his day', is actually a one—in—seven—billion human being.

Greg's repetitive strikes against the sport that made him a millionaire may be virtuously motivated. Or do they come otherwise, from some latent psychological cycling guilt complex? Coming on the heels of Laurent Fignon's recent confessions and revelations regarding his fight against cancer, one wonders at whatever 'motivation' stimulates LeMond to lash out.

Or, perhaps it's a career move?

His bicycle company is not growing, as the long—running lawsuits between he and TREK Corp. are still moving forward: one can hardly predict, but the 'marriage' between LeMond Cycles and TREK Corp. now seems inexorably bound for a divorce... How will LeMond continue without TREK? Perhaps LeMond sees himself in a more—friendly environment, engaged by someone like WADA or USADA (the US Anti—Doping Agency) as a show—boating spokesperson?

In reply to questions and comments at the post—Time Trial press conference regarding his victory in a 'tainted sport', Alberto Contador replied with a 'No comment'. And, following the race Monday, Contador reminded the world's press that such insinuations carry so little weight, with his 365—day per year availability for testing, the multiple controls performed on him during competition, etc..

One wonders why LeMond didn't mention that the 'record' for climbing Mt Ventoux was nowhere near broken, in the 20th Stage of the 2009 Tour on Saturday, in his newest diatribe against the sport that has provided him 'his daily bread' for some 25 years or so. At some 64 minutes, this hot ascent (with a headwind) represented a time even slower than Charlie Gaul's achievement in an early Sixties Time Trial, and certainly slower than the Time Trial record set five years ago (Iban Mayo, in the 2004 Criterium Dauphinée: 55m51s). Time Trials are typically faster than those stages whose finish includes this historic, mythic climb, because the legs are fresher and the intensity is better focused.

Now many factors can influence the time taken to climb the 21km and some 1600m (from Bedoin, at an altitude 291m above sea level). Temperature, wind speed and direction, race conditions, bicycle technology and 'motivation' make cycling records much different, say, than track—and—field or swimming.

LeMond, in casting forth his world—media—wide insinuations, didn't address the hardest factor facing Alberto Contador: having 'his team' include seven—time Tour champion Lance Armstrong amongst its ranks. Alberto raced as if he was 'alone' (psychologically, if not physically) on a nine—member squad (eight after the broken wrist of Levi Leipheimer), and perhaps felt over—dosed with adrenaline in watching his 'team' promote Lance's performances over his own.

With 'final' anti—doping results unknown for the Tour's hundreds of laboratory analyses (by AFLD, under UCI/WADA regulations), for several more weeks (or months) will have passed, one finds it interesting to note, as Laurent Jalabert pointed out on FR2 TV, late Sunday afternoon, that this race seemed more 'human' than in prior years. More riders seemed to have 'bonked' on the steeper hills, or had slower—than—anticipated Time Trial times.

As for 'witnessing' Contador's victory, only Andy Schleck was able to maintain a pace that rivalled Alberto's. Lance could not; whether age or 'cleanliness' was the major component, Armstrong stood to the side on the final podium, with a less than hearty handshake to compliment his teammate's impressive, open victory, witnessing Alberto's moments of glory from the unknown zone of the third—place podium step.

Between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, their spontaneous, enthusiastic handshake was so much more enjoyable to watch, as these two sporting rivals had shared the supreme moments of this year's Tour. That gesture should have dominated after—Tour press conferences... Alberto called Andy 'a great rival and competitor', and looked forward to coming competitions between them. Andy, who'd enjoyed the superb accomplishments of the entire SaxoBank team and his elder brother Frank, brought new meaning to 'brotherly love'.

What does Greg think of the Schlecks?

Or of Bradley Wiggins (fourth at 6m01s behind Alberto), whose winter training included the loss of some six or seven kilograms (
± 13 – 16 pounds): was his performance 'impossible' as was Alberto's? How about the newly—reborn French cyclists, who won three stages in this year's Tour? Naturally Greg did not mention Lance Armstrong by name: his tenuous relationship with TREK Corp. and their lawsuits have perhaps muzzled any direct comments; this could be why the rest of the cycling world has become the target of LeMond's arrows.

Are they all the dopers that LeMond imagines? Moving into fifth-gen programs of new-to-market products? Are the monumental testing programs, the 365 day availability, the ever—stronger laboratory analysis by WADA—accredited labs, the UCI biometric passport... the expense and infamy of being declared 'positive'.... are all these internationally constituted components a laughing—stock in the eyes of a professional cycling peloton , forever-married to the Devil of doping?

That is apparently the mind—set of Mr. Greg LeMond. And he is not alone; we recall with chagrin the breezy attitude displayed by former WADA president Dick Pound, who seemingly never met a reporter to whom he wouldn't voluntarily slander any Athlete.(off the radar screen, also, is the 2008 lawsuit filed in Swiss Courts by UCI and its former VP Hein Verbruggen, against Pound).

Wanting to find doping wherever it may exist, is a damn fine and admirable goal. Living up to the Fundamental Rationale displayed in the WADA Code, requires important reflection and commitment.

But in keeping with those worst traditions of former WADA president Dick Pound, of the gueule (mouth) of AFLD Directeur Pierre Bordry, or the très discriminatoire Ministre Rosalyne Bachelot, Greg LeMond stands amongst the feared and fearful list of those who seem to speak continuously before knowing, or who 'know' without offering proof.

Having an opinion is certainly allowed; but one has to remember the adage attributed to Mark Twain, famous 19th
Century American author:

Tis better to keep one's mouth shut and appear to be stupid,

Than to open it and remove all doubt...

This year's apparent 'lack' of doping revelations reveal a new—found, miraculous harmony that WADAwatch supports.

It has been many months since an 'A Sample' result was leaked, prematurely and unlawfully, to the press, in France or elsewhere. Congratulations goes to those who have finally (apparently) understood that one cannot denounce any 'doping case' before same was actually proven: WADAwatch has been trying to communicate that regulatory concept, as found within the very Code to which WADA's Signatories agreed, in its first (2003) and second (2009) versions. Proving an AAF (Adverse Analytical Finding) occurred, as many readers know, requires a Confirmation via B Sample re—analysis, after an A Sample's results have been communicated confidentially to the IF, NF, NADO and Athlete concerned.

WADA must now become as vitally concerned with restraining the voices of its allies, as it has with the known laboratory 'leaks' that apparently have been halted successfully. Greg can say anything he wants, but 'shooting from the hip' as we've described, is neither conducive to greater credibility, nor increased bike sales.

"Dad, Dad! There's a WOLF!"

one hundred percent pure

copyright 2009 Ww

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