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Cycling News and Opinions
Unfair and Unbalanced
January, 2013

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories

January 30: This will have a big effect on 2013's Tour de France. Frank Schleck will not be able to ride the 2013 Tour de France. He was given a one-year suspension by the Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency. The clock started ticking on his suspension with his July 14 positive for the banned diuretic Xipamide after the 13th stage of the 2012 Tour de France. He can start racing two weeks after the 2013 Tour starts. Mr. Schleck has denied knowingly taking the banned drug.

January 28: The racing season has started with a bang. We've already got a World Tour race (Tour Down Under) as well as the first European race (GP de la Marseillaise) under our belt. From here on the calender is crowded until October. Here's what's coming up:

Jan 30-Feb 3: Etoile de Bessèges
Feb 3-8: Tour of Qatar
Feb 3-6: Challenge Illes Balears
Feb 6-10: Tour Méditerranéen
Feb 11-16: Tour of Oman

Sadly, the traditional opening to the Italian cycling season appears to have been cancelled. The 1.1-ranked GP Costa degli Etruschi was scheduled for February 4 but I don't see it on the UCI Europe Tour calender. It looks like Italian racing fans will have to wait until February 16 for the Trofeo Laigueglia. The first big Belgian race will be the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (the old Het Volk) on February 23.

January 19: Like many of you, I forced myself to watch the concluding hour of the Lance Armstrong interview broadcast Friday night. The selection of segments used Friday were much more "Oprah-fied" with the obligatory moment when the interviewee chokes up under Oprah's firm but caring questioning. Armstrong was close to tears as he recounted telling his son the truth about his doping.

But, there was also that revelatory moment that put the insincerity of the whole exercise on display. Oprah asked Armstrong if he should apologize to David Walsh, the journalist who has pursued Armstrong since the 1999 Tour de France. It was Walsh's dogged reporting that triggered Armstrong's successful lawsuit against the London Times. About Walsh, Armstrong famously said, "I just hate the guy. He's a little troll." Armstrong squirmed in his chair and after hesitating, quietly affirmed that he should apologize. If Armstrong had an ounce of true repentance, then Walsh would have been near the top of the list of people Armstrong would be asking for forgiveness and the answer would have come easily and perhaps enthusiastically.

Armstrong is feeling martyred. He complained that he was singled out for a life-time penalty when the others in the US Postal conspiracy were given shortened suspensions in return for their testimony. But it was Armstrong who won the seven Tours de France and it was Armstrong who used the power he gained winning those races to ruin the lives of those who told the truth.

US Anti Doping Agency boss Travis Tygart has said Armstrong offered to donate $250,000 to the Agency in 2004, which Tygart says was instantly rejected, being a clear conflict of interest. (The hacks at the UCI did accept $100,000 from Armstrong). Armstrong firmly denied making the offer.

When Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis finally came clean Armstrong argued they couldn't be believed because they were confessed liars and dopers. I'll hold Armstrong to his own standard and believe Mr. Tygart.

So what did we learn from the two evenings? The man who enforced the peloton's code of silence with remorseless brutality has told us nothing.

Here's Emma O'Reilly's reaction to hearing from Armstrong:

January 18: Lance Armstrong's confession on Oprah was a big turnip. Beyond confessing that he had doped to win bicycle races and possessed character flaws, which we already knew, he either refused to admit well-documented acts, wouldn't discuss aspects of his misbehavior or continued to call others liars. A poor start, at best.

Over the next couple of days his interview will be carefully parsed by others, but here are the things that jumped out at me while I watched.

He claimed he didn't dope during his 2009-2010 comeback. During the early and mid-1990s, when was probably clean and should have been in his prime, he either couldn't finish the Tour, or lost gobs of time (the pre-doping Armstrong was an indifferent time trialist and climber). Yet in 2009, at close to the age of 40, we're supposed to believe his third place in the Tour was earned riding clean.

He claims he didn't pressure other team members to dope and said it may have only been by the power of his example that they might have felt they had to take drugs. This is at direct variance of what both Christian Vande Velde and Frankie Andreu said.

When asked about the doping culture, Armstrong said he wasn't comfortable talking about other people, but he was willing to do so indirectly. His denial of pressuring others to dope was in fact, calling others liars. Furthermore, he had always been quite happy to say the most cruel things about Tyler Hamilton, Betsy Andreu, Emma O'Reilly and others he thought were in his way.

Perhaps most telling, he refused to confirm or deny Betsy Andreu's testimony that while being treated for cancer he told doctors he had taken doping products.

A man with an acute intellect, he got strangely vague and claimed to have trouble remembering lawsuits he had filed against his accusers.

He clearly hates doing this, I would. When it came to discussing what he had done to others, he'd switch to the third person. So-and-so got bullied, so-and-so got run over.

So far, he hasn't made the sale. If the second part of the interview, to be broadcast tonight, is more of the same, he's wasted everyone's (but Oprah's) time.

The second part of the interview will be broadcast Friday night at 9 PM eastern USA time and can be seen on www.oprah.com.

January 17: Want to watch the Lance Armstrong interview and don't get Oprah Winfrey's channel? Here's the link to watch it on her website.

It's going to be shown in two parts. The special episode of Oprah's Next Chapter will air Thursday, January 17, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern USA Time/Pacific USA Time (as previously announced) and Friday, January 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The interview will be simultaneously streamed LIVE worldwide both nights on Oprah.com. 

The International Olympic Committee has asked Lance Armstrong to return the bronze medal (and the certificate, if that matters) he won in the individual time trial at the 2000 Sidney Olympics. The medal will not be re-awarded to fourth place Abraham Olano. There's more to come. Self-confessed doper Levi Leipheimer was the time-trial bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the IOC is trying to decide if he cheated to win the medal. The IOC has already stripped Tyler Hamilton of the time trial gold medal he won at the 2004 Athens games.

January 16: Lance Armstrong's path to redemption is going to take a bit more than an emotional confession on Oprah. CBS news is reporting that the Justice Department has rejected as inadequate Armstrong's offer to repay $5 million and be a cooperating witness to settle Floyd Landis' whistleblower lawsuit.

So far the World anti-Doping Agency is also unimpressed by Armstrong's moves and says  "only when Mr. Armstrong makes a full confession under oath - and tells the anti-doping authorities all he knows about doping activities - can any legal and proper process for him to seek any reopening or reconsideration of his lifetime ban commence." Armstrong is said so far to be willing to testify against UCI officials but not against other riders. I guess trying to wreck the careers of Christophe Bassons and Filipo Simeoni was enough.

January 15: Of course the gist of Lance Armstrong's Monday interview with Oprah Winfrey, scheduled to be broadcast Thursday, has already been leaked. It is said he confessed to using banned drugs since the mid 1990s, before he was diagnosed with cancer. Just as Frankie and Betsy Andreu, Emma O'Reilly and Steven Swart have been saying for years. Word is Armstrong gave no details about his doping program in the interview, but did give the excuse that it was just the way the game was played at the time, so it was a level playing field.

At this point in the game, with many of the details of his bullying and intimidation known, that dog don't hunt.

According to USA Today, Armstrong has entered discussions with the U.S Anti-Doping Agency and is said to be prepared to give a "full debrief" and "answer every question, give over records, telephone calls and test results, everything".

Other reports say Armstrong is willing to help the feds by testifying against others, but not other riders. The New York Times says Armstrong is planning to testify against UCI officials and their involvement with doping.

Reed Albergotti of the Wall Street Journal, who has done some of the best American reporting about the Armstrong scandal, reported the the Justice Department is recommending that it join Floyd Landis' whistle-blower lawsuit that alleges Armstrong and US Postal team managers defrauded the U.S. Government. The U.S.Postal contract prohibited banned drugs and we now know the team enthusiastically ignored that provision. The WSJ article says Armstrong's legal team is currently trying to negotiate a settlement but the two sides are far apart.

In another article, the WSJ has a fascinating story detailing the timeline of Armstrong's decision to confess. Armstrong has met with the Travis Tygart, head of the US Anti-Doping Agency, to see about reducing his lifetime ban. The New York Times says that Tygart is willing to reduce Armstrong's punishment in return for Armstrong's testifying aginst those who helped hm dope.

January 14: Here's a pleasant break from the stink of doping. Our friends at Vittoria Shoes were visited by the Science Channel. I've embedded the video they made while they were at the factory in the page showing our visit to the factory in 2000. I think you'll enjoy it. Even with the addition of some pretty amazing machines since our visit (13 years is a long time in the cycling world), the shoes are still hand-made in Biella, Italy. I had forgotten how much work it is to make a good pair of cycling shoes.

January 12: Lance Armstrong will admit he doped when he is interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on Thursday according to a USA Today story by reporter Brent Schrotenboer. According to an unnamed source in the story Armstrong will admit to doping but not give details. The interview, which will be taped Monday and broadcast Thursday, will be done at Armstrong's home in Austin, Texas.

The possibility of prosecution for perjury for testifying under oath in the 2005 SCA Promotions arbitration case is remote because his testimony is beyond the statute of limitations. He'll probably still have to cough up a bunch of dough to the people he sued for alleging he doped.

A confession without solid details to help the WADA fight doping as well as profound apologies to those he terrorized for telling the truth will be nothing more than entertainment. He should also offer generous payments to those whose careers he ruined. He can afford it. We don't need his confession, we already know he doped. If he cannot make the world of sport cleaner and more fair he should just go away.

January 9: In his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour de France victories, Lance Armstrong is going to appear on Oprah's Next Chapter on January 17. It is being billed as a "no-holds-barred interview". He "will address the alleged doping scandal, years of accusations of cheating, and charges of lying about the use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout his storied cycling career". 

The special 90-minute Thursday night episode of Oprah's Next Chapter will air Thursday, January 17 (9:00 – 10:30 p.m. ET/PT) on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. In addition-the interview will be simultaneously streamed on Oprah.com

What's Armstrong going to say? Is he going to confess? Stonewall? I have no idea. I do find it interesting that he has chosen a "soft" venue for his interview. No Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes, no hard grilling by a reporter deeply knowledgeable about the sport and doping. Instead, Oprah Winfrey. No matter, it will be interesting.

January 5: Is Lance Armstrong going to confess? Juliet Macur, writing in the New York Times (read the story here), asserts Armstrong is contemplating a public confession that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs and blood doping in return for a reduction of his lifetime ban from participating in sanctioned sports events.

So far Armstrong has denied any use of banned modalities and has vilified and even tried to destroy the careers of those who have asserted he did. Some big donors to the Livestrong foundation want him to confess because his intransigence has harmed the charity.

Confessing will be require a delicate balance because he faces not only serious retaliatory legal action from those he has sued while defending his reputation (the Sunday Times of London for printing extracts of L.A. Confidentiel and SCA Promotions for attempting to withhold payment for his serial Tour de France victories). There is also a possible criminal prosection for perjury, as he has denied doping under oath while testifying in the SCA case. And, there is Floyd Landis' federal whistle blower case. US Postal team management is accused of defrauding the government because the sponsorship contract stated doping by the team would be a default of the agreement.

Wait, there's more. Postal manager Johan Bruyneel's arbitration hearing is coming up. An Armstrong confession would complicate Bruyneel's efforts to clear his name. Bruyneel can't feel too comfortable since in the past Armstrong has not hesitated to throw teammates and employees under the bus when it has suited him.

I wonder if this is really a trial ballon to see if his last good bargaining chip, a confesson, can be used to mitigate some of his legal troubles.

If he does confess, it will be meaningless without heartfelt apologies to those he tried to bully, intimidate and crush: Frankie and Betsy Andreu, Christophe Bassons, Filippo Simeoni, Emma O'Reilly and I don't know how many others. Armstrong left a trail of personal wreckage behind him.

I would be surprised if everyone signed off and let Armstrong walk with a little public theater and mailing checks to the Sunday Times and SCA. But this writer scoffed when he was first shown Look pedals. I have a near perfect record when it comes to predicting the future. I'm almost always wrong.

January 3: A memorial service was held for Fausto Coppi in Castellania, Italy yesterday. January 2 being the 53rd anniversary of the campionissimo's untimely death.

Fausto Coppi photo gallery

Coppi firends at his 2013 memorial

Attending were Andrea Carrea (left), who wept in fear at the possibility of Coppi's wrath when he became the Yellow Jersey in the 1952 Tour de France. Team captain Coppi was pleased that his dedicated gregario had a chance enjoy a reward for his selfless efforts but Carrea felt it was not his place to lead the Tour de France. Also pictured, Fausto's cousin Piero Coppi and seated, Imerio Massignan (1960 and 1961 Tour de France KOM and 2nd, 1962 Giro d'Italia).

Marina Coppi and Pippo Fallarini

Coppi's daughter Marina with 50s pro Pippo Fallarini

Andrea Carrea and Faustino Coppi

Carrea with Fausto's son Faustino Coppi

Coppi grave

Serse and Fausto Coppi grave

Coppi memorial

Fausto Coppi's bust


January 1: The new road season is about to begin and we'll cover it starting January 3. Here are the races we'll follow in January:

January 3 - 6: Jayco Herald Sun Tour

January 20 - 27: Down Under Classic and Tour Down Under

January 27: GP Cycliste la Marseillaise

January 30 - February 3: Etoile de Bessèges

From then on the calender is packed. February 2 will see the start of the Italian road season with the GP Costa degli Etruschi and the Tour of Qatar starts February 3.

I used the last couple of months to beef up the historical race results on the site. In addition to results for every stage of every Tour de France, I now have every stage of every Giro d'Italia with running GC posted and am almost done posting complete final GC for Giri of the 2000s.

Plus, I have complete results up for every edition of Paris-Roubaix with lots of historical photos. I am in the process of posting complete Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) results and should have that done by the end of the month.

I have thousands of photos and have finally buckled down and started organizing them by rider and posting galleries with short bios and lists of major wins.

I've also started a directory of old pro team sponsors, explaining what the various sponsors did made or sold. Like the cycling terms glossary and list of cyclists' nicknames, I'll keep adding to it.

Lastly, I'd like to thank you all. When we started this site in 2008, I had hoped we would have enough readers to make it worthwhile, but did't really know what that would be. Traffic on BikeRaceInfo has been terrific, we will get at least 800,000 visitors this year, from all over the world. Thanks again.

I hope you have a healthy and happy new year.

Bill