Let the UCI know how you feel !!!!!

Discussion in 'The Bike Cafe' started by limerickman, Feb 17, 2004.

  1. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    This is a request to all cycling fans out there who care about our sport.

    13 professional cyclists have died within our sport in recent times.
    Since 1998, the UCI has preached about trying to clean up our sport after the Festina scandal.

    Something is fatally wrong in our sport and the UCI have abdicated in their duty of care to protect the riders.
    In addition, by allowing self confessed drug cheats to participate
    once again in our sport, it is my belief that this fatally flawed organisation is incapable of administering our sport competently
    and fairly.
    It's 'nod and wink' attitude to one set of cheats, is diametrically
    opposed to the way in which the UCI treated Marco Pantani.
    The UCI loaded the whole blame for drug abuse within the sport,
    on to this one man, while it allowed known drug cheats back in to the fold of the UCI peleton.

    The UCI is responsible for the professional running of our sport.
    13 men are dead under their wayward stewardship.
    The merits of the individual cases may suggest some personal responsibility on the part of those deceased individuals.
    But the UCI played it's part too.

    The UCI create the conditions under which cyclists prepare and compete in our sport.
    It is the UCI which sets the context of how this sport evolves.
    The UCI, I believe, had some part to play in the death of Marco
    Pantani and indeed others who have died.

    It behoves us to register our anger at their neglect.

    If you feel the same way as I do about this subject, i would ask you to please send a mail to Mr.Hein Verbruggen, UCI President
    at [email protected].

    Thank you for reading this message.
     
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  2. pineapple

    pineapple New Member

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    Limerickman,

    Just want you to know that you have the utmost support of this forum member. Without decent knowledge of the UCI's handling of past drug cases or of their regulations and history thereof, I'm afraid I don't feel qualified to lodge any kind of formal complaint or lay specific accusations on the UCI's doorstep.

    I do however feel that in light of the many (apparently) drug-related deaths in recent years, as well as the shadow of suspicion that hangs permanently over the sport and threatens to ridicule the superhuman efforts of the riders, it is only right that responsibility should be taken to ensure fair practice.

    And if the UCI do not shoulder that responsibility, who will?

    Right now, the casual observer practically assumes that a number of riders in any given pro race will be using drugs to enhance performance. This is not an acceptable situation, and in my mind there is only one body that can rectify it.
     
  3. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Pineapple : thank you for expressing your view of support.

    I had intended just to leave this message here and if the fans were moved by my suggestion to register their feelings with the UCI then perhaps, just perhaps, the UCI might do something, anything, to eradicate drugs in our sport - and as importantly -
    to deal with those who have found themselves caught in the drug
    mire, in a sympathetic way.

    But I see no leadership coming from the UCI.
    I see only equivocation, double standards and mixed messages.
    Any other sport who had 13 members die in the short space of time that cycling has had, would have generated some response.

    But there is only platitudes from the UCI.
    The UCI come down heavily on one man - and yet they allow cheaters back in to the biggest race in the world.
    They allow these cheaters back and they treat them as if nothing ever happened.
    This is unfair.
    I think that the UCI play a very big part in all of this.
    And, I for one, am feeling angry.

    The European media is covering Marco's death in depth.
    No disrespect intended to our American and Australian friends but
    the reaction in both regions seems muted in comparison.
    If people could see the anguish on Marco Pantani's mother face
    tonight, as her son lies in state in a church in Italy, cannot but be moved at the events that have led to her sons untimely death.

    It behoves each of us to register our wish not to accept this sitting on the fence by the UCI.
    This cannot be allowed to continue.

    Shame on the UCI.
    Indeed shame on us for letting them get away with it for so long !

    Pineapple, thanks again for your support on this.
     
  4. DiabloScott

    DiabloScott New Member

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    .

    I'm all for making cycling the cleanest sport on the planet. I'm all for the UCI being the strictist sports federation on the planet. I'm all for making cycling dopers suffer the most severe punishment in sports.

    The UCI should absolutely treat all riders equitably and should be a bastion of integrity in the sporting world; but blaming the UCI for these deaths is just wrong. These riders chose to cheat, chose to gamble with their health, chose to risk their lives for a little glory... the UCI didn't twist their arms. The riders have to be accountable to themselves first and foremost. It's their own damned fault - shame on them.
     
  5. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    No one said that the riders were blameless.

    Do you think that the UCI are blameless ?

    13 people - people - are dead.
    No other sporting organisation would sit on their hands and do nothing.
    But this is what the UCI have chosen to do.

    The UCI's double standards - their nod and wink attitude to drug abusers is abhorrent.

    Do you think that Marco Pantani was treated fairly by the UCI ?
    Was he treated as fairly as the Festina riders, all self confessed
    systematic cheaters ?

    Pantani was made a scapegoat.
    The Festina riders were welcomed back with open arms.
    Why wasn't Pantani allowed back ?

    The UCI loaded all of the blame for drug absue in our sport on to this one man - and he is now dead.

    Shame on all of us to allow double standards to apply.
     
  6. labicci

    labicci New Member

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    There isn't any evidence yet that these deaths are due to the use of drugs. The fact that a certain rider who use EPO to fight against cancer, and another rider who is rumoured to have hemaetocrit level in excess of 60%, is still alive, tends to support my view.

    In Marco Pantani's case, I would consider that he die from loneliness, depression and sorrow.

    In any case, the various authorities which have treated Marco Pantani unfairly are the ones to blame for his death.
     
  7. el Ingles

    el Ingles New Member

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    Pantani was sacrificed so that the Italian sporting authorities that had been caught ignoring drug use in football ( and had done so for years ) could be seen to " be doing something " but in a way that would not cost the vested interests money . Seen that they still have a drug problem in Italian football ? most haven´t , it don´t get that much coverage , I wonder why ? Money ???
     
  8. Beastt

    Beastt New Member

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    Thank you for pointing this out, labicci. I read down the whole thread waiting for someone to mention that the most recent deaths, are still being referred to as "natural causes". Whereas I have a problem with the idea that people this young and in top physical condition simply drop to the ground and die, I don't feel it's fair to draw conclusions that they've all died from illegal use of performance enhancing drugs and follow that immediately with a finding of guilty on the part of the UCI.

    I'm not sure how fairly or unfairly Marco was treated as I live in the U.S. where most people wouldn't have any idea who he was. I was somewhat stunned when I found out he had died and I had to find out through this forum as American television isn't interested in you unless your sport involves a ball or a motorized vehicle.

    The UCI certainly has its problems and I don't agree with many of the decisions handed down but I'm not about to hang them from the nearest tree without having all of my facts straight.

    Having read other threads that give me an eye of suspicion, is there a chance that anyone here feels that Lance Armstrong should be banned from racing due to the fact that he used EPO as a part of his cancer treatment?
    :confused:
     
  9. labicci

    labicci New Member

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    The problem most people have, including myself until the recent years, is to assume that young and physically active people should be healthy and should therefore be less susceptible to heart attack. It is true that aerobic sports, cycling in particular, trains the cardio-vascular system and should make the system stronger. But let us not forget that any training will only be good to our body if the training is combined with adequate rest. It is a well-know fact that over-training will not only do nothing good to our body, it will actually weaken it. Physical fitness also donot mean everything. Our immune system actually becomes weaker when we are in our top-fit condition.

    Of course we need not stop our physical exercise altogether. The key factor is whether we do our sports just for fitness and fun, or for winning at all price. The stress is completely different.

    Some people may question that professional cycling has always been demanding from its very first day, so why is this phenomenon of early death only appears recently. Well this phenomenon not only happens to the pro-sports sector, it actually happens to the general public as well. In the city that I live, there have been numerous reported cases of sudden deaths from heart attack to physically active young men (yes mostly male) such as policemen, firemen etc. who are very unlikely to use any performance-enhancing drugs. The stresses from modern city life is believed to be the cause in these cases. Professional cyclists, just like anyone else, are also likely to have mental stresses from their social life. Combined with the physical stresses from their training and racing, and the pressure to have good results in order to have new contracts, it is therefore not surprising they are susceptible to heart attack too.

    Regarding how Marco Pantani was unfairly treated, there is already some posts on this topic, such as those from Limerickman. I donot want to say too much on this topic, because my heart really hurts whenever I think about it. What I want to add is
    (1) how reliable do you think the blood test is (remember Princess Dianna’s case?)
    (2) how much does it means if the hemaetocrit level is 51% instead of 50%
    (3) whether it is normal for the hemaetocrit level to fluctuate due to sudden injury and enormous change of level of activity
    (4) whether it is normal to have all sorts of accusations and legal actions against someone when there is no true evidence at all and everything has been based on assumptions and guesses only
    (5) whether the way he rides is typical of those who take drugs (I remember reading a comment from a cyclist that what EPO do most is to allow them to maintain a consistently high level of competitiveness rather than really big improvement)
    (6) whether it is reasonable to not invite Marco Pantani to the centenary Tour even though he is a past champion, the only double Giro TdF champion in recent years, one of the greatest climbers of all time, and has returned to the Giro and finished 14th (a 14th placing in the Giro is not good enough for the Tour where there are more than 200 racers? ) ?
    Then make the judgement yourself.

    Whether Lance Armstrong should be banned from racing due to the fact that he used EPO as a part of his cancer treatment is outside the scope of this discussion. However I think that the public should at least have the right to know more about his use of drug, i.e. what drugs are allowed and have been used, his level of hemaetocrit and testerone and how does these compared to other racers, etc.
     
  10. Beastt

    Beastt New Member

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    I've commented on the misconceptions regarding heart attacks on another thread already but perhaps it would be helpful if more people understood what a heart attack actually is and perhaps more importantly, what it isn't.

    Stress, gender, age, smoking and a number of other factors certainly can affect one's odds of having a heart attack but a heart attack is caused by a buildup of placques inside the arteries that feed the heart. The heart is basically just a muscle and like any other, it needs to receive nutrients and oxygen in order to perform its job. Deprived of the blood that brings the oxygen and nutrients to the muscle, the muscle dies.

    When placques build up to the point of completely blocking an artery, the muscle tissue fed by that portion of the circulatory system is deprived of blood. If the deprivation lasts long enough, the muscle tissue will die.

    This is why doctors refer to a heart attack as an "M.I." or "myocardial infarction". The "myocardium" is heart muscle and "infarction" basically means death. The important thing to remember is that to qualify as a heart attack, this death must be the result of a coronary occlusion (blockage of a coronary artery). Stress doesn't, in and of itself, provide the components which make up the placque which lend to or creates the occlusion.

    This placque has been examined and analyzed in thousands of cases and it always contains a high degree of fats and cholesterol. The correlation between high cholesterol levels and risk of heart attack isn't quite as linear as one might expect. There are other factors such as homocystene levels, genetics, etc. People who exercise regularly have a tendency to reduce the buildup of placques on the artery walls. People who consume fewer fats and cholesterol also have less tendency to show the build up of these placques. To take the importance of ingestion levels to the extreme; in the U.S. where the average person is eating more fats than ever before in the history of the country, the risk of dying of a heart attack for the average male is over 50%. The risk for someone who has adopted a vegetarian diet is listed, last I saw, at about 4%. Obviously what you eat affects your risk.

    Having said all that, my point is this; a heart attack isn't something that simply happens or is triggered by some short-term event. A heart attack is a long, slow progressive event which starts as a slight build-up, grows to a significant build-up and eventually becomes a complete or nearly complete blockage. The final step might be caused by a blood clot, an embolism or a sudden increased need for nutrients by the heart muscle such as is the case when someone is severely frightened and as a result, suffers a heart attack. In such cases the heart attack was imminent. The condition already existed and all that was needed was the final blocking of the artery or a sudden need for increased circulation leading to a rapid rise in work for the heart.

    As for the treatment of Pantani, it certainly sounds as though the UCI had singled him out to make an example of him or simply treat him differently than many others are treated. For what it's worth, the "official" explanation that I read as to why he wasn't in the Tour de France was that he was the only rider on his team with any recent performances of a degree which would place them in the league of riders found in the Tour. The claim was that they couldn't invite just him and felt that his team was below the level desired for the most prominent of cycling races.

    As for Armstrong and EPO, any affects from the drug that he took to counter the destruction of red blood cells, (erythrocytes), which occurred during his chemotherapy would have subsided a long, long time ago. I threw the question out because it would seem that some people aren't aware of what EPO does, (increases the body's production of red, oxygen carrying, blood cells), or how it improves an athletes performance. I may be wrong but I get the idea that some think that the EPO he took while fighting cancer might still be giving him some kind of unfair edge. Erythrocytes have a lifespan of about 120 days in the circulatory system so any enhanced oxygen carrying qualities would have faded away within months of his final treatments.
     
  11. davek

    davek New Member

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    That's all very interesting (that's not meant to sound sarcastic - you've explained a lot of things I didn't understand before) but I suspect that when they say "heart attack" most people are using the term generically. I mean, there are other causes of heart failure apart from "heart attack", aren't there? From what you've said, it sounds unlikely that any competitive cyclist would suffer a heart attack.

    Can prolonged use of EPO cause heart failure? I know the theory that the increased red blood cell level makes the blood thicker, which means the heart has to work harder, and this is what supposedly causes it to fail, but my medical knowledge doesn't run deep enough to know if this theory is even plausible. Do the scientists know? Maybe they need to do more research.

    In any case, I wonder if the real culprit might not be these so-called "designer steroids" and hormones that seem to be endemic in athletics - there's another sport that's had more than its fair share of untimely deaths in recent years.

    Or is the problem down to modern training techniques that are great if you have the physiology to cope with what they do to your body but maybe there are some people who aren't genetically cut out to support a finely honed athletic physique? It's just an idea. I wonder about all these nutritional supplements too and whether they are having any harmful long-term effects - it's such a fine line between nutritional supplements and performance enhancing narcotics anyway.

    To go back to Limerickman's original comments, I'm not sure what the UCI could do short of throwing out most of the sport's big names, because it seems pretty likely that most of them are dosed up to the eyeballs. Perhaps that is exactly what they should do. But they can't, for various reasons, not least of which is the almost complete lack of proof they have against anyone. I wonder if they would chuck them out anyway, even if they did have proof - it would ruin the sport as a commercial enterprise (and after all money is the driving force behind all major sporting governing bodies), besides which a rival organisation would probably emerge as a refuge for all the cyclists kicked out of the UCI so it wouldn't achieve much anyway.

    I agree that the way Pantani was treated was shoddy in the extreme. He was made a scapegoat just because they managed to get some limited "evidence" against him and it seems clear that the way he was treated by the cycling authorities did indirectly contribute to his death. I don't know if that means you can go so far as blaming the UCI for his death, or indeed any of the other recent cycling deaths.

    I reckon all we can hope for is that the death of such a prominent figure within the sport as Pantani will have a similar impact on the sport's governing body as the death of Ayrton Senna had in Formula 1. The UCI need to make concerted efforts to find out the causes of these deaths, because whether it's down to drugs or anything else the way cyclists are dropping like flies really looks like more than just unhappy coincidence.
     
  12. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    You raise some very interesting point here, Beastt.

    Re EPO and LA : I read somewhere that LA received EPO even after his initial recovery - under strict medical supervision and in the full knowledge of the cycling authorities - in order to maintain
    his remission from cancer.
    These treatments were dispensed to LA even after he returned to competitive cycling.
    I don't think that anyone would suggest that he should be deprived of this treatment because it enpowered him to cycle faster.
    He was getting this treatment in order to make sure his body could fight off a recurrence of his illness (at least this is what I read and I have no reason to doubt these bona fides).
    I hope I am write in correctly recalling what I read.

    As regards the incidence of cardio-failure in our sport - I must disagree with your view.
    If you were to sample the percentage of cyclists dying of cardio-failure, as a percentage of the professional peleton, and measure the equivalent numbers in other professional sports, it is abundantly evident that cycling is disproportionally higher, much higher than other sports.

    Why is the figure so high ?
    Is it over training ?
    Is it drugs ?
    I think that a certain percentage of those deaths are attributable to drug use and to a lesser extent over training.
    I'm sorry to say it but our sport stinks to high heaven with scandal after scandal concerning drugs.
    I had hoped that Festina would have drawn a line in our sport but since Festina, we've had the Giro crisis, we've had the Cofidis
    crisis, we have men dying prematurely.
    Based on this, I really do feel that our sport needs to address some pretty important questions and we need to do this quickly.
    Cyclists dying young - is a problem for everyone in our sport.
    What responsible parent would encourage their child to take up
    cycling as a career given the number of deaths and the humber of drug scandals ?
    What sponsor would risk having his buiness name associated
    with our sport also ?

    No, this is a real crisis - media here in Europe have extensively covered Marco untimely death.
    Already the peleton are asking, can our sport recover ?
     
  13. Beastt

    Beastt New Member

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    I must apologize if my comments were taken to mean that I don't believe that there is a problem in the sport. Perhaps I became so caught up in the details I was trying to explain that I failed to project my overall concerns.

    I absolutely agree that something is going on that demands further investigation. The number of pro-cyclists who have suddenly died at an early age is alarming! It's certainly possible that the deaths are related to some kind of failure involving the heart. I'm not sure exactly what happens when you over-work a muscle to the point where it can no longer contract. In most cases, I would suspect it leads to just exactly that; a loss of the ability to contract which, after some rest would likely return. When that muscle is the heart, rest isn't an option and the result would be obvious.

    As to whether this is what is occurring and whether it is being caused by the use of illegal substances, I can only guess but, you're absolutely correct in stating that there is a problem and it needs to be dealt with.

    I guess what I was trying to establish was that since the type of heart failure suspected in several of these deaths is being referred to as a "heart attack", people may be misusing the known risks for heart attack in searching for a cause.

    Certainly the purpose of EPO is to raise the hematocrit levels, more specifically the erythrocytes which carry the hemoglobin which transports oxygen to the tissues. If raised sufficiently, an extra strain is placed on the heart. It's something like replacing the motor oil in your car with something thicker like grease. The oil pump won't be able to push the grease efficiently and, in the case of the human oil pump, (the heart), the pump itself may fail.

    Since average hematocrit levels for a male are around 50% and since Armstrong's normal levels would have been known from his earlier years of cycling, had they been found to be substantially below normal, I would think it possible that he may have been given EPO treatments to bring his percentage up to a safe level but certainly not beyond his normal level.

    Perhaps part of the balancing act the UCI is performing has to do with what's normal and what isn't. I know that in the case of Santiago Botero, he was found to have such high testosterone levels that he was suspected of doping. Subsequent tests showed that his natural testosterone level was simply well off the scale in terms of what is expected to be normal. The other part of the balancing act is very likely exactly what davek has pointed out; you can't toss out most of the best competitors without destroying the sport completely even if you know they're involved in illegal activity. If the UCI were to do that, they'd be axing themselves in the process. You also have to be careful not to accuse anyone without sufficient proof or you end up with a situation which may well be what Pantani was subjected to. Finally, you end up with standard day-to-day politics which makes any black and white situation a very gray one, despite that fact that it should never be seen as gray.
     
  14. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    I'd like add that i think that the level of expectancy from fans, sponsors, managers, UCI, etc - put every cyclist in a very difficult situation.
    It's quite difficult not to get emotional about this because it is the expectation levels that is driving cyclists to over train or to take drugs.
    If they don't their contracts won't be renewed (at the lower levels) and at the higher level, if they start to lose form, the media, their team, their managers start getting at them.
    The sport is hard enough - without having extra pressure like this.
    It's a fucling compromise and the cyclists are caught in the middle
    "do i dope to stay up at the level of people, who may or may not be doping" and "if the people beating me claim that they're not doping, why is that I can't beat them"

    It is the cyclists who are paying the price for all this pressure.
    And the mob (us, the managers, the sponsors, the media etc)
    can dissect things this way and that, yet it's not us who end up being compromised.
    We sit in judgement not knowing what sort of duress has been
    applied to individual riders.

    I hate this situation - I hate being the doubting Thomas but what
    other conclusion is there ?
     
  15. davek

    davek New Member

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    This is true, but as Diablo Scott pointed out earlier, they have to take responsibility for this themselves - how badly do they want to win? If they are really bent on success they have to cheat in order to keep up with everyone else who is cheating...

    Perhaps this is why David Millar isn't as successful as I'd like him to be - if he is using EPO then he should ask for a refund!
     
  16. JohnO

    JohnO New Member

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    Just another opinion... cycling has become big bucks in certain parts of the world, and Lance has certainly done his best to get people in the US interested. When the money gets that big, and the money is directly related to physical prowess and endurance, people will be encouraged to put their health at risk to get it, indirectly if not directly. There is such a thing as too much temptation. Anyone remember TV shows that offered money to people to engage in humiliating or dangerous activities? We're talking some pretty major bucks here, millions. I have trouble holding cyclists totally accountable for what happens to them, when that sort of money is involved.

    Ultimately, cycling is funded by the spectator. They do so because following the sport makes them feel good - that's pretty much what it boils down to. And the spectators won't feel good if they think the cyclists are killing themselves to win, or that the corporations and organizations that profit from cycling have become so callous that they turn a blind eye to dying cyclists. It's a lesson the music industry never learned - their heavy handed tactics create ill will in an entertainment industry, and have probably cost them more sales than internet swapping.

    Conversely, the UCI and the Italian organizations that hounded Pantani bear a good deal of responsibility in his death. They may not have physically shoved the powder up his nose, but it's a safe bet that he wouldn't have been tooting up if he hadn't been treated arbitrarily and unfairly. Regardless of how one chooses to assign blame, the sport lost one of it's most flambouyant characters, under less than accountable circumstances on the part of several organizations.
     
  17. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    And I agree with Diablo and your view.

    But I think that these guys are under so much pressure (self imposed pressure, perhaps) from all quarters that some of them
    must feel that they've no choice but to dope.

    Doping is wrong - I don't condone cheating but I can understand why riders might give in to the temptation.

    The level of cycling performances have increased - to levels which are pretty hard to quantify as being humanly possible, in some cases.
    And when one assumes that others must be using stuff too, this compels them to use more and more ways to justify why they take stuff in the first place.

    I have to say I have a lot of sympathy with Pantani.
    I can well understand how he felt humiliated and degraded.

    What I am going to say next is contentious.
    If you remember Ventoux in 2000 and all that controversy with LA.
    Try looking at it from Pantani's view (and I am speculating here).
    He's the greatest climber in the world and here is this guy beside
    him - a person who was dying of a disease three years previously - and he's staying beside him (Pantani) in his discipline
    of mountain climbing, on one of the most venerated climbs there is.
    No one (not Jalebert, not Indurain, not Zulle, not Rominger, not Ullrich) had ever been able to stay with him when climbing.
    Indeed LA couldn't climb at all - pre 1998 !
    They get to the top together : LA is not even breathing.
    I can well understand Pantani questioning, how has this guy managed to stay with me ?
    (forget it being LA for one moment, it could be Ullrich or Indurain
    or Rominger, with Pantani).
    I can well understand him thinking - something isn't right here.
    I can well understand this preying on his mind.
    I'm not excusing what he did or said : but I can understand how he would feel resentful.
    Then when the stage is finished, LA refers to him as Elephantino !
    This only heightened the sense of indignation, from Pantani's perspective.

    Add to the fact that he's been booted out of the Giro and he's the subject of several investigations, I can well see where he would begin to think that there were conspiracies all around him.

    This week has made me re-evaluate a lot of the assumptions that
    I have had about this sport of ours.
    Quite frankly, I am sick about it - I find that I can't trust the UCI,
    the cyclists or the teams.
    I don't know whether I'm watching a chemical freak show or am I watching the product of talent and hard work anymore.
    It shouldn't be this way.
    We shouldn't be questioning whether a win is genuine or not.
    Perhaps, I've been too naive all along !
     
  18. Chemicalanarchy

    Chemicalanarchy New Member

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    Don't watch Football or American Football or American Baseball, or Tennis, either.

    No, not as many die, but they are using big time chemicals, too.

    It's prevalent in all pro sports.

    Maybe not in track and field? Hehe.
     
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