Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cycling Australia juggles political football


Cycling Australia juggles political football

by Ross Stapleton

A series of meetings and delicate negotiations are taking place behind closed doors as Cycling Australia, the sport’s governing body, tries to handle a political football that’s giving some of the sport’s key stakeholders considerable heartburn.
With still more sensitive talks scheduled this week, CA is being asked to sanction moving Australia’s second biggest bike race, Victoria’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour, from its traditional October slot to either early or late February starting from 2011.
By looking to stage the race ideally a week after South Australia’s Tour Down Under or, failing that, later in February, the race promoter Michael Hands, managing director of TL Sports, believes it will further consolidate Australia’s elite summer road season with another signature event able to attract ProTour teams. It would also offer better weather for fans and riders.

But the move planned for 2011 and requiring the approval of Cycling Australia to be then ratified by the world governing body, the UCI, would also mean that with a one-off road cycling log jam in October 2010, with the world championships in Geelong followed by the Commonwealth Games, there would be no Herald Sun Tour next year. But as CA’s chief executive Graeme Fredericks informed Crikey, with talks ongoing he was hopeful of reaching a decision well in advance of a February deadline originally agreed with race owner the Herald and Weekly Times. “We were happy to comply with that, and obviously the sooner we make a decision the better.”

But Fredericks played a straight bat to any suggestion the decision has become a highly sensitive political football, despite Crikey insisting the February move was firmly opposed by the TDU and South Australia Events.

“I haven’t felt that or come across that particular rivalry,” he says. “But what we’ve been conveyed fairly simply is that there is a risk I guess of one event diluting the other in terms of tourism impact. I mean no one’s jumping up and down and saying they’ll do what they can to prevent it, but that’s their position. What we’re trying to find is what will work best for the sport and the two events.”
But when I spoke with influential TDU race director Mike Turtur (who is also Oceania UCI region president and sits on the management committee of the UCI), he was far more forthcoming. He is not remotely convinced there is any benefit to the TDU having both races close together, indeed believes it’s also detrimental to the viability of the Herald Sun Tour, which, he says, should stay put.

Hands argues moving in proximity to the TDU is not about trying to cut Adelaide’s lunch but rather helping to bake a much bigger pie. “As things stand for ourselves and the Tour Down Under, we are only just scratching the surface of potential tourism. So I think we can think bigger than just defending our own little patches. We can grow the overall patch.

“That’s their simple logic and that’s exactly what the problem is — it’s simple logic that’s not going to work and I’ve explained that to them,” Turtur countered to Crikey. “My theory is that they’re going to really stuff their race up by doing something hastily without giving it thought. If they do that they’re going to be in big trouble because they will suddenly realise they’re not going to get the support they think they’re going to get from the teams they want and it’s all going to be a big mess.

“We have created something special here, and that’s why for the life of me I can’t understand for a second why you would consider jeopardising the good that’s been done here for something that’s flawed. It makes no sense to me whatsoever to try to jeopardise both events by having them too close together. I don’t agree a move to February would benefit them. Apart from everything else, knowing that in strictly cycling terms it ain’t gonna happen, because I know the teams will not support it in the way that they think it’s going to be supported.

“If you look at February that’s the start of the European season and there are about 20 events happening, so how the hell they expect to get teams to Australia straight after the Tour Down Under just doesn’t make sense to me? I hate to say it but they’re 100% totally wrong. They will not. The Australian Pro Tour riders won’t be able to ride here in February because they will be with their team. I can tell you that with my 12 years’ experience of the TDU, the number one objective of all the teams immediately at the conclusion of our race is to return to Europe.

“They have all these traditional starts to the season happening and they’re all obligated and they ride them regardless. February is now chock-a-block with races overseas, so to suggest a race on the other side of the world is going to be supported by teams that have to go to three or four different places at the same time in February is crazy — I don’t know what they’re thinking.”

But Hands has a very different take on how responsive pro teams will be to a February switch. “We were actually initially approached by ProTour teams themselves. Now because of the cycling calendar and because we are conscious of different sensitivities, we are trying to do it diplomatically rather than heavy-handedly,” he says of the current negotiations.

How ironic the TDU is now helping drive the Victorian shift when it’s impossible to ignore the historic events rivalry and animosity between two states. This acrimony dates back to then Victorian premier Jeff Kennett stealing away Adelaide’s sole major international sporting event, its F1 Grand Prix from 1996.

Hence the TDU from 1999 was established in the hope it could be a half decent suitable international replacement as the state’s signature sporting marquee. Such has been its massive and more recently exponential success as a heavyweight global cycling event, that it’s ProTour sanctioned status puts it at a ranking level behind only the three Grand Tours (France, Italy and Spain).

Today, any economic impact comparison between the Grand Prix and TDU would show the events’ worm has well and truly turned turtle!

While Melbourne’s costly loss-making F1 extravaganza is in sharp decline as a live event, South Australia basks in the afterglow of 760,000 spectators turning out for the 2009 Lance Armstrong comeback testimonial. The TDU now draw’s Australia’s biggest live crowds for an annual sporting event.

It’s certainly not lost on Michael Hands, himself formerly with Victorian Major Events when he says: “Cycle tourism is now somewhere around 4-5% of the global tourism market and growing fast.”

But whatever the cycling arguments being offered up for the change out of Victoria, Turtur isn’t buying. “I think there is more to it than just the move to February from a cycling point of view. I think it you ask some questions about Victorian Major Events, February is a slow month and they’re looking for something to plug it. Now if it’s the Herald Sun Tour then that’s no reason from a cycling perspective to move the race.”

Hence he’s convinced such a switch is a recipe for disaster that can harm the future of both races.

“People have to realise that although they’re both bike races, that’s not the main reason for the existence of both events, and more so the Tour Down Under,” Turtur reasons. “It’s based on tourism. I can tell you that if the numbers drop off for our race; that is the visitation and economic impact drops off, then the race is in jeopardy. I don’t know in respect of Michael Hands how his race works, but our race since day one has always been about tourism. Thankfully the numbers have increased each year, but if they did happen to drop off, then obviously the government looks at it and says: ‘well maybe this race has run its course and we’ve got to move on’. Obviously I hope that day doesn’t come. But I think a suggestion like this might help it to come — that’s my problem with it.”

Michael Hands admits past history hasn’t helped the process now under way, but remains hopeful CA will come to the right decision. “There’s no doubt the history of the two states colours things a bit but the heart of the matter is that the date we’ve probably had for the last 50 odd years is starting to constrain the event because of the global cycling calendar and we need to review it in that light. So I can certainly understand their concerns but I think we can allay them.”
But given the strength of Turtur’s convictions that appears highly unlikely.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Building the Future Common Wealth of Cycling.

Version Espanol


27, 28 and 29 September 2010

Deakin University, Waterfront Campus,

Geelong, Victoria, Australia.

Presented by the Alfred Deakin Research Institute and the Deakin University School of Law and School of History, Heritage and Society.

In association with the International Network of Humanistic Doping Research (INHDR).

The Conference Objectives.

The conference will coincide with the World Cycling Championships to be held in Geelong which start on Wednesday 29 September 2010 and continue until the Men’s Road Race on Sunday 3 October 2010.

The purpose of the conference is to bring together cyclists, administrators, academics and others interested in the future direction of professional cycling and the problems the sport faces as changes occur within the process of its globalisation.

Presentations and papers.

The conference will be multidisciplinary in its approach and papers and presentations are invited from cyclists, administrators, social scientists, lawyers, philosophers and scientists on any topic affecting the present and future direction of professional cycling.

Such issues might include and be related to the globalisation of pro cycling, health, science and medicine, ethics and the philosophy of cycling, cycling lore and law, the economics of pro cycling, the politics and logistics of race organisation, and technology and rules development.

The conference will also aim to create a space for break out and policy advocacy sessions bringing together interested stakeholders and experts.

Publication of conference papers is currently being negotiated with appropriate publishers. We would also envisage where appropriate publishing papers online.
The conference will also mark the presentation of the Deakin University Law School’s Research Project “Doping and Australian Professional Cycling: Attitudes, Issues and a Pathway to a New Approach.”

Accommodation and logistics.

For the purpose of conference planning if you are interested in attending the conference or giving a paper at the conference please contact Martin Hardie, School of Law, Deakin University as soon as possible as we envisage that accommodation will become increasingly difficult to obtain as a result of the World Championships.



Construyendo la futura comunidad del ciclismo

Conferencia: 27, 28 y 29 Septiembre 2010

Deakin University, Waterfront Campus,

Geelong, Victoria, Australia.

Presentado por el Instituto de Investigación Alfred Deakin, la Facultad de Derecho y la Facultad de Historia, Patrimonio y Sociedad de la Universidad Deakin.

En asociación con la Red Internacional de Investigación Humanística del Dopaje (INHDR).

Objetivos de la conferencia:

La conferencia coincide con el Campeonato Mundial de Ciclismo que tendrá lugar en Geelong y que comienza el miércoles 29 de Septiembre 2010 y finaliza con la carrera masculina el domingo 3 de Octubre 2010.

El objetivo de la conferencia es reunir a ciclistas, administradores, académicos y otros interesados en la futura dirección del ciclismo profesional y en resolver los problemas a los que este deporte se enfrenta en medio de los cambios surgidos dentro del proceso de su globalización.

Presentaciones y ponencias.

La conferencia tendrá un enfoque multidisciplinar y en ella se invita a ciclistas, administradores, sociólogos, abogados, filósofos y científicos a realizar presentaciones y ponencias sobre cualquier tema que afecte tanto a la situación actual como a la futura dirección del ciclismo profesional.

Dichos temas deberán incluir y estar relacionados con aspectos como la globalización del ciclismo profesional, la salud, ciencia y medicina, ética y filosofía del ciclismo, tradición, costumbres y legalidad en el ciclismo, economía, la política y logística en la organización de las carreras, y el desarrollo de la tecnología y de la normativa.

Además, la conferencia intentará crear un espacio de debate y organizar sesiones para mediar por políticas sostenibles donde acercar a los agentes involucrados y a expertos.

Actualmente se está negociando la publicación de las ponencias a través de editoriales pertinentes. Así mismo, está prevista la publicación on-line de las ponencias que así lo requieran.

Finalmente, se aprovechará la ocasión para la presentación del proyecto de investigación de la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Deakin “Dopaje y ciclismo profesional australiano: Aspectos, actitudes y una vía para un nuevo enfoque”.

Alojamiento y logística.

Con el fin de ayudar en la planificación de la conferencia, aquellos interesados en asistir o en presentar alguna ponencia contacten cuanto antes con Martin Hardie, Facultad de Derecho, Universidad Deakin , ya que con motivo del campeonato mundial el alojamiento disponible se prevé escaso.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A note on the social peloton.

The following occurred to me recently when i was chatting with Rock Racing Director Laurenzo Lapage at the Herald Sun Tour.

There is something inherently social, even possibly democratic, about the peloton of road cycling. Social in that it is a place where conversations take place – both in the "heat of the battle" and in the lulls along the road as a race progresses toward the next event, the next point on the road. Conversation occurs at a verbal level between teams and between team members. But it also occurs and takes place across teams in a manner in which no other sport can achieve. At times divisions blend into nothing as riders simply catch up, meet or talk over the hours spent on the road over the expanse of the long racing year. It is a conversation across languages, borders and generations ... All have to cross the same hills, fight the same winds and the same conditions as a multitude, and ever-changing amoeba-like amorphous movement moves onwards.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The peloton and strategic intervention.

From the Theoretical Notes from the Ponds Series

The kind of investigation we have in mind is impossible without the cooperation of the peloton. In fact given that it appears incontestable that the peloton is the most isolated or excluded of all ‘stakeholders’ in the policy process to undertake research without their cooperation appears to be futile.

On one hand, what we are trying to undertake is akin to the traditional "factory” or ‘workplace” investigation". As such we are seeking to inquire into the conditions and relations of the workers of professional cycling. In undertaking our research we seek to maintain a certain academic or sociological detachment from the position of the peloton whilst also seeking to remain independent of the sport’s administrators, sponsors and media. Nevertheless we still wish to canvass the perceptions of these groups.

On the other hand if our assumption that the peloton is isolated from the policy process is correct – and our work to date has done nothing to dissuade us of this position; what we are also interested in doing as part of our research via way of workshops and formal and informal feedback loops is to carry out a kind of co-operative or interactive production of knowledge – a sort of cycling "teach-in" whereby we can take issues raised with us, undertake background research and report back to the peloton in order to produce knowledge and to allow those affected by policy to consider their policy options and to engage if it be their desire - a form of policy brokerage.

Thirdly, and possibly in the end most productive of change, we seek to engage the peloton in the process of producing “ethical bodies” which are able to deactivate the mechanisms of surveillance and control that they feel that they are subjected to. That is if we can engage the cyclists in the production of a community of ethical riders what might be regarded as the excess of anti doping policy would no longer be necessary.

The notion of strategic investigation in this way allows to conceive of the collective production of the knowledge of the peloton with the view of an intervention which can only assist in the production of a sustainable and sensible approach to anti doping policy.

pseudoephedrine is back (on the list)

This month the International Network of Humanistic Doping Research Web site Editorial has an editorial from the esteemed English Sports Sociologist Ivan Waddington on the return of pseudoephedrine to the WADA list.

Here is the full text which once again raises concerns about transparency and rationality in Anti Doping Policy:

October 2009 International Network of Humanistic Doping Research

By Professor Ivan Waddington. Norwegian School of Sport Science, Norway


WADA has recently announced that pseudoephedrine is being placed back on the list of banned drugs which will come into effect in January 2010. This is a curious decision.

Pseudoephedrine was for many years on the IOC list of banned drugs and was then placed on the list drawn up by WADA when it took over the responsibility for maintaining that list in 2004. The presence of pseudoephedrine on the list had always been problematic, for pseudoephedrine haslong been available in over the counter cold remedies which are generally available to the general public, are widely used in daily life and appear to present no major health threat. Because of this, the removal of pseudoephedrine from the WADA banned list a couple of years ago was generally seen as a sensible move which tidied up an anomaly in that list. But now that WADA has reintroduced the ban, elite athletes are surely entitled to ask: What is going on? Why has the ban been reintroduced? And how can its reintroduction to the banned list be justified in terms of WADA’s own criteria for banning drugs?

It may be useful to remind ourselves of WADA’s criteria for including drugs on the list. The 2003 WADA Code says that a substance is considered for inclusion on the banned list if it meets any two of the following three criteria:

 the substance has the potential to enhance sport performance;

 its use represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete; and

 its use violates the ‘spirit of sport’.

Although pseudoephedrine meets the first criterion, so do many other substances, such as electrolyte drinks and high carbohydrate energy foods, which are permitted. But does it meet either of the other two criteria?

As noted earlier, pseudoephedrine has for many years been widely available in over the counter cold remedies which are freely available to the general public and widely used. It is no exaggeration to say that pseudoephedrine has been used not by millions, but by tens of millions, of people, without raising any serious health concerns. In any commonsense definition of the term, pseudoephedrine is a safe drug which does not pose a health threat.

This leaves just the third criterion: that the use of pseudoephedrine ‘violates the spirit of sport’. This argument is a non-starter. No-one, surely, can argue that an athlete who has a respiratory infection and who takes a cold remedy which has been used by tens of millions of people is ‘violating the spirit of sport’.

In 2007 a British House of Commons Select Committee stated:

‘We remain disappointed at the lack of transparency at WADA relating to how decisions regarding inclusion of substances on the Prohibited List are made. We believe that lack of transparency in the Prohibited List sends out a poor signal to athletes and that WADA should justify each decision made within the criteria which it has set itself.’

The Committee went on to say that WADA should be pressed for ‘clear reasoning to be given for each substance and method included on the Prohibited List.’ WADA should indeed do this. But given the way WADA has responded to critics of other aspects of its policy – for example critics of its whereabouts system – it seems, sadly, that WADA is unlikely to respond in an open and transparent fashion.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Coming Soon

Lots to report and lots not reportable .... coming soon ... the Tour, August, Travel all this takes its toll on the blogger's regularity

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Horrilo's open letter to McQuaid 2007

Finally got around to doing a translation of Pedro Horillo's Open Letter to Pat McQuaid originally published in 2007.

Open letter to Mr McQuaid, President of the International Cycling Union



Mr McQuaid, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you personally, although to make things clear from the start, I am not inclined to in the slightest. However, it should not be so, because being the highest representative of our sport, you should be supported and welcomed by all those who are a part of it. But sadly this is not the case.

Maybe at this time you are congratulating yourself on the success of your latest initiative, the famous letter entitled “Rider’s Commitment to a New Cycling” that we have just been compelled to sign by you. And I am not mistaken in using the verb, compel, because many who have signed have done so under duress and threats, the fact is we simply sign, or don’t ride. What seems not to matter is whether the riders are in agreement, or not, whether we have a debate about the issues and whether we work together for a common objective. No, you have simply written the letter without consulting anyone. No, the only thing you care about is that we have signed our names, our ‘agreement’ and that we have jumped through the hoops you have demanded. This is the substance of the issue, although you sell it as otherwise.

Everyone will have their opinion, I've specifically signed the letter, but to me it seems to be the most absurd letter that has lately come from a thinking person. Though if I was to get to the bottom of the matter, I am in favour of tightening up the fight against doping, the scourge that is on track to finish our sport, and I commit myself as a rider to that. But I do not see why as proof of this I should refuse to get paid or give away my wages if I am somehow implicated in a doping scandal. “¿Donde vas? Manzanas traigo” ("Where you going? I bring apples") says the popular Spanish proverb. What is the reason? Where did you get such a brilliant idea from? It seems to me that the reasoning was as simple as ... we will hit you where it hurts most: money. I can assure you are wrong about me, as what it hurt me the most was the fact that I had to swallow my pride to comply with your command, but I know that you do not care about that at all. The fact is that I signed.

And by the way, I signed it knowing that this document is unlawful and undemocratic. That is to say, a useless piece of paper, you have a large collection of useless pieces of paper in a folder, but of course, all signed, as you wanted. Anyway, my most sincere congratulations.

And finally, a wish. I hope that with the departure of the first rider in this Tour de France 2007, your central role is over and from now on the attention will be drawn back to the rightful owners: the riders.


Pedro Horrillo

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

“Mr Adams, whereabouts are we?”

Following Agamben's signposts in cycling's state of exception.

Abstract for talk at Doping and Legal Rights Conference, 20 – 21 August 2009, Department of Sport Science, Aarhus University, Denmark.

This paper seeks to take as its starting point Moller's view that the contemporary religious engagement in anti doping campaigns signals a farewell to the ideas of modernity, that is, it is a symptom of the crisis of modernity.

The paper will not seek to dispute this assessment of anti doping policy. What it seeks to do is to build upon Moller's work by taking his argument and examining it within the context of contemporary legal philosophy.

If we consider anti doping policy to operate in a situation where the old boundaries of the national state have been compromised and where there is a general movement to a supranational form of sovereignty, what is at play here is a symptom of the coming of what Hardt and Negri have described as Empire. It will be contended that in such a context the administration of anti doping law and policy appears to play a much more profound role as part of the contemporary system of governmentality, discipline and control. Following the work of Foucault and Agamben, amongst others, it will be argued that at its core what is at stake is a question of biopower and of the permanent state of exception.

By reference to Operacion Puerto, the events surrounding it and the reactions to it, we are able to discern that, what is at stake, is in fact the end of law in its modernist sense and the coming of a profound movement in respect of how we do law in a global system. Puerto reveals a space of 'critical opalescence', where media, law, politics all converge into 'a zone of indistinction'. It is about functionality and utility within a global system and not about rights and the rule of law.

With this movement, those who have taken it as their task to undertake the administration of doping decide at once a rule and a criterion – what becomes 'natural' is a rule that decides the fact and decides upon its own application without reference to any norm other that of preserving the integrity of the state's and capital's investment in the spectacle. As the coming of the Biological Passport tells us, the law of doping is neither now definable as a rule, nor as a breach, but upon what is said to be 'natural' or 'normal' values - in the world of cycling the formation and the execution of the rule are indistinguishable moments. That is the 'fight' against doping in cycling is nothing but an example of what Agamben describes as the permanent state of exception in which we live. It is not until we come to grips with this situation that we will be able to commence to formulate a meaningful and sustainable anti doping policy.


Agamben, G 1998, Homo Sacer, Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford University Press, Stanford.
Agamben, G 2005, State of Exception, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.
Agamben, G 2002, Remnants of Auschwitz, The Witness and the Archive, Zone Books, New York.
Deleuze, G 1988, Foucault, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
Foucault, M 2008, The Birth of Biopolitics, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire.
Moeller, V 2004, The Anti-Doping Campaign – Farewell to the Ideals of Modernity?, in Hoberman, J & Moeller, V, Doping and Public Policy, University Press of Southern Denmark.
Hardt, M & Negri, A 2001, Empire, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Giro and Dolomites - more on myth and the Atlantic question?

This story was written a year ago, the characters then gods, now possibly fall into the category discussed previously in this blog. The story may address the question, quite possibly, as to why Europe had better things to care about?

Giro and Dolomites


Emanuele Sella comes from Vicenza, like Pozzato, like the Olympic Theatre of Palladio; Riccardo Riccò comes from Modena, like Ferrari, like balsamic vinegar. Beautiful, unique and tragic. Italians, like the feather on the Tyrolian hat of alpine hunters, like the pink pages of the “Gazzetta dello Sport”.

For almost five centuries the “Oedipus King” of Sophocles has been played in the same theatre, on the same stage, with the same decorations – the scene of the four streets of the city of Tebas, built with plaster and stucco; and for five centuries, although its plot and its dialogues have not changed at all, the representation of the tragedy of the killer and incestuous king keeps on moving the same, the catharsis that comes with Yocasta’s suicide, mother and wife of Oedipus, with the blindness of the hero condemned by the Gods, keeps purifying the spectators.

Dante wrote at the door of hell, “those who enter this way shall abandon all hope”; half completed the Marmolada, the cyclists haunting its hills are taken in by another legend painted in the asphalt, “manca poco”, you are almost there. The ignorant will want to read the sentence as a gasp of hope, there is not much suffering left; the well-read, the Italians, will look for its Dantesque sense, hell is close: the final catharsis, the shudder, the sigh, the liberating shout, when crossing the finish, it does not stop from being the sign of the tragedy. The Marmolada, the Dolomite, have been nailed down to the North of Italy, in the border with Austria, for millions of years. For the last century, in this immutable scenario, in the great circus of the Giro of Italy, every month of May the drama of the common man is represented – the cyclist so human that even looks like us when he tries to put his raincoat on when clumsily climbing a hill--, transformed into tragic hero, destined by the gods to fight on his bicycle against their human limits to pursue a fate they are doomed to, from which they cannot escape, to clean their error.

Afore time, before the big war, the Italian cyclists crossing the Alps to participate in the Tour of France were only worried about one thing, to learn to say “push me” in French, “pousse moi”. “Pusmuá”, they would say puffed with great effort when they saw their strength disappear in the middle of the mountain pass, “pusmuá”, they would repeat to the spectators in the gutters, moved by their suffering. In Italy, during the Giro, the spectators do not need the riders to ask to be pushed – they know the poor domestic cannot use all of their strength in one day, because the day after their boss will ask for their effort again.

In Spain some fans, apart from taking out flags, they give cokes to the racers; in France, in the Alpe d’Huez, in Belgium, in the “Kappelmuur”, the course of the cyclists is the perfect excuse to get drunk in the ditch and to organise a party in public. In Italy, the beings that populate the gutters are not passive spectators waiting for the fleeting action that moves them, touches them, but they are part of its representation. They are the choir, they are the council of the ancients called by Sophocles to emphasise the disgrace of the hero, his solitude. Their cries, their pushing, their only presence in a lonely slope, their cameras, despite their ugly posture forced by the digital devices, the cell phones – the arm forward, the look concentrated in a small screen that moves them away from reality, that makes it a television broadcast; give a sense to the penuries of the protagonist and a meaning to all of their gestures.

Shakespeare, to announce the bursting of the drama in his tragedies, would make a thunderstorm start, would make the sky darken, fall off the streets. In Italy, in the Dolomites, the rain, the lightening bolts, the extraordinary cold of the end of May do not belong to the scene, neither remain only in a Shakespearean presage; they mainly create dread in the racer’s soul and force him to go further beyond to transcend, to survive. Riccò stops then being the helpless little boy, so thin, with his little bird legs. And Sella, from Vicenza, understanding better than anybody else the art of the touching representation, flies over his limits. When the play has ended, the curtain has fallen, nobody really will care how they did it. That is a matter of the gods.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

'Whilst the onomania lasted, bickerings and divisions endured.'

A paper to be delivered at FOUCAULT: 25 YEARS ON CONFERENCE - UNI SA , 25 JUNE 2009.

From Barthes to Foucault and beyond – Cycling in the Age of Empire.

Martin Hardie
May 2009

'Whilst the onomania lasted, bickerings and divisions endured.'

Barthes is right in that he tells us that there is an onomastics of the Tour.

But in the time since Barthes, in a manner the semiotician may not have envisaged, that onomastics has descended from the heights of myth and epic having the status of Greek gods. They have descended from being these lofty signs of the valor of the ordeal, of beings signs of old European ways and ethnicity – Brankart le Franc, Bobet le Francien, Robic le Celte, Ruiz l’Ibere, Darrigade le Gascon; to being patronymics of the biopolitical, of homo sacer and the spectacle that sustains Empire.

Although Barthes' idea of an onomastics of the Tour still holds fast, sadly, in the time in which we live, Barthes' classic piece on the Tour de France as Epic no longer depicts the essence of events such as la Grande Boucle.

Cycling, entangled in the process of its own globalisation, is a game in flux. It is no longer the pure myth or epic as Roland Barthes wrote. Mont Ventoux remains a moonscape, bare, barren, rising out of the lavender plains of Provence and on this landscape those playing this game are no longer heroes of epic proportions but bare life, homo sacer.

The precarity of existence better depicts the state of the peloton today: Free as the birds to soar to the greatest heights – Pantani, Rasmussen, Dajka, Valverde, Vinnicombe, Vinokourov … the list is endless; but unlike those Greek gods of the time of Barthes in this age they are free to be shot down at a whim.

The onomastics of the Tour today is an onomastics of criminality.

Cycling has always been an assemblage and a line of flight – from the factory, the farm, from the peloton itself. Cycling finds itself in the eye of the storm as the processes of globalisation seek to reform it in their own image. On the frontline is the very body of the cyclist – this is the object of control.

Can we contextualise the globalisation of professional cycling in the age of Armstrong, the successive doping crises and the responses to them as events which signify the coming of Empire and the permanent state of exception?

A few brief scattered observations might provide some signposts for future work and thinking about sport, doping and control in the society of the spectacle that is Empire. There are a number of ways in which Foucault, and of those that have come since, might provide us with the tools to rethink what is at play.

How is cycling situated in the state of exception? What relation does it have to the management and administration of bodies through discipline and control? What can the position of these cyclists tell us about the condition of homo sacer?

A few events for example:

* Operacion Puerto and its onomastics is not related to heroics, but to bags of frozen blood, and the mystery of their identity and the performances they produced - Names such as Birillo, Amigo de Birillo, USA, Hijo de Rudicio, and Piti, treatments such as Siberia, Vino, Alubias, Pelas, and Polvos de la Madre de Celestina, events such as San Isidrio, San Fermines and Vendimia;

* Puerto and noology, or the distance between the discursive processes of the media and the material process of 'tardy' (i.e. dysfunctional) Spanish justice and the manner in which in the spectacle it has been played out, so that the old ways and law of old Europe and ideas like the rule of law have become expedient and are forgotten so that 'law' simply becomes a servant of the pure functionality of preserving the integrity of the investment of state and capital;

* Of Pantani, Dajka and Rasmussen, all appear deemed to be lives no longer worthy of living. In Rasmussen's case of becoming unnameable. None failed a positive doping test set forth by the rules, but all were banished for, respectively, failing a health test, or for not telling the truth. Cases of the law being tossed aside in the name of pure functionality. Cases of death by media, Pantani and Dajka's horrible, slow, real deaths and in Rasmussen's case a living death; or

* The issue of surveillance, the Whereabouts system, of tracking bodies by Blackberries and Biological Passports and the proposed final solution of a 24 hour a day GPS-based surveillance of athletes.

Beyond Epic, beyond Foucault:

The old notions of law based upon a definable state, its boundaries, its people and its sovereignty seem to have vanished before our eyes. What is at stake in politics is the very control of the body, where the cyclist can be killed but not sacrificed.

The current moral panic surrounding doping in cycling is complete with its own Sonderkommando leading these bodies off to the slaughter [What role does the South Australian of the Year play here?]. Lynch mobs bring to the fore the question as to what actually is at stake in the game? What is the role of sport today and why do we put so much effort into being so vigilant about maintaining the apparitions of fairness and normalcy? Is this moment of normalcy, as Agamben asks, the true horror of our times?

Why the moral panic and crusades to ensure that sport is made to seem to be fair, to the point that in the United States more is spent by the Government on anti doping than is spent on research into blood diseases? What is the link between this focus on the body and a society founded upon immaterial labour where possibly the only use that the body is now put to is that of sport and sex?

These are questions for contemplation as the season of the Tours are upon us, while we try and recall the heroics that were played out in the day of Barthes. It is not a question of trying to return to those days of grandeur. But it is necessary to contemplate those days so that we can try and understand the processes currently occurring, to situate the debates about sports, drugs, of sports people and their behaviours.

Can we learn from the way 'law' is played out in the game of cycling in order to inform our understanding of what law is about within the broader parameters of Empire? All I can hope to point to are problems which this intersection of theory and sport throw into the air.

I do not claim cycling is unique, only that here we find the exception attenuated - is it the vanguard, so to speak, of the times in which we live? If law no longer is that thing that we believed it to be in those more certain times of Barthes. And if my hunch is correct, and cycling and the problematic of doping are symptoms of the state of exception, what must be addressed in the end is the 'age old' Foucauldian problem, as to whether the the door to justice in our times is 'more law' or whether is it an ethics of life? What does it mean if it is correct that life should no longer be lived looking above to the barren peak of Mont Ventoux for an answer, but should be made in the village, situated in the Vaucluse, below?

The starting point in all of this should be an examination of the way the Tour and it's participants are no longer the epic or mythical heroes they were once viewed in pre Foucauldian times. It brings us back to the state and the changes that have been wrought upon its integrity.

A few briefs words about the role of the Tours:

In those times the Grand Tours played a role in marking out and defining the territory, the nation and the people. Unlike any other sporting events the three Tours of the year embody the dramatics of life played out over a full three weeks. To those involved they seem to be a lifetime. These races embody all the aspects of life in such a way that they are so much more than sporting events. They are above all human dramas of an intense, immense stature. Each is part and parcel of the consciousness of societies, and a search for some truth and meaning to the human condition. All are built upon an idea of moulding the individual, the land, and people through a spectacle of involving superhuman figures that seek to mark out their own territories and conquer the boundaries of their precarious existence.

In their marking out of a territory, of a nation and of a people, the Tours were as much a part of creating the Europe of the 20th century as was the documentation and administration of life as Foucault so very well describes in his lectures entitled of 'Society Must be Defended' – the people, customs, fetes, fairs and fiestas, each day complete with the local version of cheese, chorizo and champagne. The Tours were created and maintained by an alliance of the state, industrial capital and the media. [In France, the Tour was started by the newspaper L'Equipe, its impetus to sell more editions of a motoring magazine, putting cycling to work in the pay of an intersection of the car and newspaper industries. With its resumption after the Civil War in 1941 Spain's La Vuelta covered the longest route in its history demarcating the victor's territory across the country and particularly the former Republican strongholds. For some years it was restricted by Franco to only Spanish participants.] In modernity these races all played their role in reinforcing the status of a unified territory, a people, a nation and its capital.

The Tours have also been the place that traditionally have allowed Europe to think of itself as the place where subjectivity could still 'do' rather than the place where subjectivity was simply relegated to 'being'. The Tours were centres of action in lands that might otherwise be petrified into museums of the old world amongst the chaos of the new world and modernity. [Is this the problem with the American?]

But with the coming of the age of Empire, things changed. It was with the coming of those from outside continental Europe that the practices of the peloton and in particular doping first becomes problematised.

It is with Simpson's death – the Englishman who helps start the process of globalising the Tours - that doping first becomes a political matter. Still it remains an internal issue, something for the sport to deal with. [The mid sixties also coincide with the demise of national teams and the introduction of what are known as the Trade Teams.] The late 1990's marks the point at which it becomes a matter for the sovereign – it is here with the 'Festina Tour', with borders being crossed that we see doping becoming criminalised. It is here that we first see cyclists being taken from their bikes to the jail cells. But it is in the age of Empire, an age that arrives with the American, [a Texan no less] that things really start to escape their bounds.

The State of Exception:

Agamben tells us when writing of the camp as nomos [his is a concept not to be forgotten, here in Adelaide where young cyclists enter a camp – the AIS; at an early age, either to emerge 'victorious' or on the scrapheap] that it is at the point when the modern nation-state enters into a lasting crisis that the sovereign decides to assume directly the care of biological life as one of its proper (or quite possibly its principal) tasks. This nation state had been founded upon the functional nexus of a determinate territory, a determinate order, and a determinate people.

It is when the Tours begin to exceed their national boundaries, both by entering into foreign territory and by bringing those from outside Europe into its ranks on a permanent basis that we see the body of the cyclist becoming an issue for the sovereign. And it is at precisely this point, when the body becomes the focus of politics, that the old rules of law and justice no longer seem to apply.

It is at this point – and this is what is at issue since Pantani, with Rasmussen, Valverde and Dajka; that the those who have taken it as their task to undertake the administration of doping, and to ensure the fairness of sport, the normalcy of the game, no longer orientate themselves according to a rule or a situation of fact. The decision maker no longer needs to decide whether a given fact falls within the rule. What is decided at once is a rule and a criterion – what becomes 'natural' is a rule that decides the fact and decides upon its own application without reference to any norm other that of preserving the integrity of the investment in the spectacle. As the coming of the Biological Passport tells us, the law of doping is neither now definable as a rule nor as a breach but upon what is said to be 'natural' or 'normal' values - in the world of cycling the formation and the execution of the rule are indistinguishable moments.

There is one thing (well many in fact) that I have missed here and it relates to the double sided nature, or the two faces of homo sacer itself. Is it a matter again that may relate to the problem of the American? In describing the relation between homo sacer and the sovereign, Agamben introduces the wolf man (a subject also taken up in another vein in A Thousand Plateaus), the one subject to the ban and its special proximity to the sovereign. Does this proximity help us understand in any way the problem of the political interest in the body of the cyclist? - 'this animal has wits and intelligence/ … I will give my peace to the beast/ and for today I will hunt no more'. For today not only is the cyclist subject to the banishment of which I have alluded, at one and the same time, he is also brought in from the cold to live with the sovereign – even it seems to be the sovereign. As we saw in Adelaide this last January, with the third coming of the American, this proximity is such, that it may be, that now it is not the wolf that licks the feet of the sovereign, but that, in some cases, it is the sovereign that comes to lick the feet of the wolf.


Agamben, G 1998, Homo Sacer, Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Agamben, G 2005, State of Exception, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.

Agamben, G 2002, Remnants of Auschwitz, The Witness and the Archive, Zone Books, New York.

Barthes, R 1997, The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London.

Barthes R 2007, What is Sport? Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Brohm J-M 1978, Sport, A Prison of Measured Time, Ink Links, London.

Debord, G 1995 , The Society of the Spectacle, Zone Books, New York.

Deleuze, G & Guattari, F 1987, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Deleuze, G 1988, Foucault, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Foucault, M 2003, Society Must be Defended, Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, London.

Foucault, M 1998, The Will to Knowledge, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1, Penguin Books, London.

Foucault M, 1986, The Care of the Self, The History of Sexuality, Volume 3, Vintage Books, New York.

Hardt, M & Negri, A 2001, Empire, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Waterworth, W 1854, England and Rome, Burns & Lambert, London.

Monday, May 18, 2009

La Via Horrillo

Today we should salute Di Luca and Armstrong.

And of course Horrillo.

Whatever may be said about the old and the new ways of cycling, on thing is certain and that is that cycling has always had an ethic of its own. An ethic were the slaves of the route, and the older and the wiser of the sport have not been afraid to take a stand. It seems that sometimes those of the new way forgets this ethic.

Finally, despite the attempts of Armstrong, who again went to the front to slow down the speed, the agreement for Rabobank to win was ignored by the scabs and it was a sprint. Cavendish won.

Below another gem hurriedly translated from the work of Carlos Arribas of El Pais.

La Via Horrillo

A statue of Father Pio and a small cavern with a saint, both images buried under flowers, surprise walkers in a courtyard of the hospital in Bergamo. A bad omen for relatives of patients who need to pray for them to recover, as if they don't trust doctors, you might think this if you forget that you are in Bergamo, Lombardy, and Lombardy is Italy, the country where all the miracles are possible. And Pedro Horrillo knows this all too well. Yesterday at dawn, he opened his eyes, and spontaneously came out from the induced coma, as if he had been woken by the morning song of the birds in the garden. Moving his limbs, he could speak, breathe better now despite the pneumothorax and the two holes in his lungs. Less than 18 hours earlier had been rescued from the bottom of a ravine 80 metres deep. "I did not expect to find him alive," said Sergio Levi, the doctor who found him. But he did not break his neck, nor his spine. His neurological system is running smoothly.

Yesterday, to Lorena, his wife, who had come with her father, spoke Mohammed Amer, the doctor on duty in the ICU Bergamo, he did not talk of life-threatening, but of the struggle of recovering all his functions, the work to rebuild his left leg, his knee mashed into the femur, with an open fracture of 18 centimeters. "We have to operate, to stabalise the femur" spoke, Angelo Fracassetti the doctor . "There is danger of infection, embolism, the hemorrhage is a continuous and all transfusions don't seem top stop them ...". Only after stabalising the femur, can, within two months Horrillo be operated on again, to insert a screw and repair his lungs. Horrillo may return to Spain in 10 to 15 days. The operation yesterday to insert a titanium bridge went well.

To Lorena, who had left the children, Abai, adopted in Ethiopia, almost four years old, and Hori 13 months old, at home with their Grandma, spoke the Rabobank doctor, Geert Leinders, looking into her eyes. "The most important thing is that his head is fine, he is going to be the same Pedro that we all love still. I know of many cases where people have fallen and it has changed them ... Pedro will ride a bike again, although not as a professional. " Horrillo will be again be the same, promised the good Dutch doctor, that is, he will again be unique.

In the Tour, 1951, Wim van Est, the first Dutch yellow jersey fell from a cliff on the Aubisque He was rescued 70 metres down. He was uninjured. A miracle. In the 1960 Tour, Roger Riviére broke his spine in a ravine on the Perjuret. It was a fall of 10 metres that left him in a wheelchair. He committed suicide not long after, a morphine addict. In the 1995 Tour, Fabio Casartelli never made it off the edge into the ravine descending the Aspet. He hit a pillar. He died on the spot. But Horrillo, with his 80 metres of flight, did not suffer a similar fate, like the great mountaineers of history, he opened his own path, la via Horrillo. He did so on Saturday in his fall, and he has done so throughout his career.

"Horrillo don't think so much, riders only have a head to carry a helmet," said Javier Mínguezhis first director, but he, headstrong, strove to keep using his head and he got away with it. He, a man who loves the adventure of the great outdoors, could not submit to the old unwritten law of the group, which makes the riders into sheep. He almost finished his philosophy degree and continued his career as a professional cyclist to be indispensable to all his teams, always on the side of Oscar Freire, who demanded him as a fellow team room. Like Menchov, who also wanted him always at his side, especially for his conversation, his generosity, his way of being.

But the one with whom he shared the most joy about his trade was with Juan Antonio Flecha, a fellow lover of the Northern Classics. Flecha imitated him and also began to write and he also gave him confidence that perhaps told him lately that it was time to leave. Talking about the fatigue that was caused by being a cyclist, of their children, of every night connected on skype from tacky, anonymous hotel lobbies, of the mountains, of crazy hiking in the Pyrenees, walking with a backpack, of the disenchantment they lived, of the sadness of not being able to say more in public, of the pride that he was a cyclist . "I do not understand," Horrillo confessed a couple of days ago. "Spain is precisely the place where we least love cyclists."

Protest fear

Horrillo had been dropped on the climb and, bound by his responsibility to get back Menchov, accelerated in the descent to reach the group. So it was only because of this that nobody saw him fall, but his fall invisible, his miraculous rescue, his hospitalization, so shocked the peloton, that shortly after leaving the circuit race in Milan, from where the first Giro left in 1909, they decided not to slow down and not take any more risks.

The decision of the peloton was led by the Maglia Rosa Di Luca, and by Lance Armstrong. It was decisively influenced by the 20 falls in the first of the 11 of the scheduled 15 km laps. The riders were open to traffic coming in the opposite direction, with cars parked in the middle of the streets, crossing tram tracks, dangers that were simply marked with cones.

It was the straw that broke the camel's back. Armstrong went back to the car of the commissiares, and it was he who negotiated the neutralisation of the stage in respect of the general classification. Five big names, Basso, Di Luca, Armstrong, Voigt and Rogers went to the front and slowed down the speed to to 30 kilometres per hour. "One of Rabobank was meant to win, that is what we had decided, but someone broke the pact," said Di Luca afterwards.

To explain to the public Di Luca stood at the finish line and took a microphone and said: "The circuit is not secure, so we will go slowly." The slow march didn't last too long. The owner of Lampre called Cunego, he threw a tantrum and forced him to accelerate. All of the team went to the front. Behind them more scabs. The picked up the speed.

Finally, despite the attempts of Armstrong, who again went to the front to slow down the speed, the agreement for Rabobank to win was ignored by the scabs and it was a sprint. Cavendish won. Almost four minutes later, came the group of favorites, no risk. Armstrong was the last. "They have got an own goal," said the organizer, Angelo Zomegnan. "It was more the fear and the memory of Horrillo than a protest," said Basso. "On Sunday, at the end of the Giro I will get home safe and sound, not like Horrillo," said Di Luca.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Me chiamo Pedro" (My name is Pedro)

Not a story about doping, but a story, translated from El Pais, about our good friend Pedro Horrillo.

If we had more people like Pedro in cycling, and the world, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in.

"Me chiamo Pedro" (My name is Pedro)

By Carlos Arribas

Pedro Horrillo, a cyclist of 34 years, married with two young children, jumped on his bike in Morbegno, healthy and strong, a bull, at 12.08, at 14.08, he missed a left hand curve on the swift descent that finishes in di San Pietro and fell down a ravine, a vertical wall of 80 meters, at 1545, he arrived by helicopter, body wrecked, casing, unconscious, immobilized, his head surrounded by a splint, at the hospital in Bergamo, where he was admitted, in a medically induced coma into intensive care with a tube in his lungs.

In his long, infinite fall -80 metres the equivalent to a 30-story building; slowed by tree branches, which continually beat him, he broke his femur and right knee. Horrillo received a strong blow to the head which left him stunned, he broke countless ribs which were nailed to his lungs, causing pneumothorax. At no time did he stop breathing. Nor did his heart stop, his heart is heavy and big. Nor did he lose consciousness. After making three Cat scans -head, thorax and abdomen, the director of the resuscitation unit, Mariano Marchesi reserved prognosis. "Fortunately," he said, "the head injury is not as serious as we would have thought, there is no bruising or swelling, but the chest injury is very serious. He also has small fractures of vertebrae, but his is not much."

"It's a miracle," said Sergio Levi, the doctor who led the rescue. When you wake up and recover, Horrillo, lover of mountain and adventure, you will enjoy the story of Levi, "From the road we didn't see anything, but we knew someone had fallen because a bike was up against the guard rail. I tied a rope around my waist and I dropped 10 meters. We still do not see anything. Shortly afterwards came the five-member rescue team Alpine Val Brembo, with longer harnesses and ropes. we went down 60 meters, to a small sloping platform. Nothing, no trace, 'Come on, it is impossible to have fallen here, "I said to the rescue team, but one insisted on a going further and we descended 20 meters more. And they found him. On a small ridge two meters long and very narrow, lying, supine on the rocks, the cyclist. He was conscious, with neurological reflexes working, but confused and disoriented. 'What is your name? "I asked.' Me chiamo Peter. He responded in Italian ! A miracle! I do not understand how he did not stop falling earlier. He asked us to take him up, to to remove his helmet, it was suffocating him and he could not breathe. I did my resuscitation job and I waited for the arrival of the helicopter to take him out of there. Otherwise it was impossible. A few weeks ago I spoke in a rescue at Bardonecchia of a climber falling by 200 meters. It was much simpler than that. "

The doctors worked 27 minutes with Horrillo. They stabilized him, placed a tube in his lungs and opened up the pathways and induced a coma. They saved him.

On the road, the police found a long straight skid mark in the middle of the curve, the signal of his desperate braking. The director of career Babini Raffaele, who came to the hospital even before the one that won the stage, the Belarusian Siutsu, raised his arms and ordered that the music be stopped on the podium. "It is critical to the team," said his roommate, Colombian Mauricio Ardila as he held back tears. "Not only for his work on the bike but to help Menchov to make sure he is in the right group."

A writer as well as a cyclist, and habitual collaborator of the newspaper El Pais (and to this blog), Horrillo, a philosophy graduate, recently completed an autobiographical story for a book on cycling. In it he tells of a crisis of conscience, a few months in London with his friend Bruno, a start: "But I found that nothing gives me more pleasure in life than riding a bicycle. In that old steel bike that I rented from Bruno's brother I re-found the pleasure of pedaling aimlessly. No limits, no schedules, no one path to follow. That was freedom, and I am convinced that I never would have tasted it without that old bike. That old steel bike brought me back to cycling, it is true, but ironically I have never felt so full as a cyclist and in those days. Being a cyclist has little to do with it what you make of it as a profession. To be a cyclist is to find harmony between you, your bike and all that surrounds them. I found that in London, and in the years since then, only a few times have I tasted it with the same intensity. "

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Doping Dilemma and Game Theory

Article in April 2008 Scientific American Magazine entitled The Doping Dilemma

Shermer argues that Game theory helps to explain the pervasive abuse of drugs in cycling, baseball and other sports

Shermer's key points are that:

* An alarming number of sports—baseball, football, track and field, and especially cycling—have been shaken by doping scandals in recent years.
* Among the many banned drugs in the cycling pharmacopoeia, the most effective is recombinant erythropoietin (r-EPO), an artificial hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells, thereby delivering more oxygen to the muscles.
* Game theory highlights why it is rational for professional cyclists to dope: the drugs are extremely effective as well as difficult or impossible to detect; the payoffs for success are high; and as more riders use them, a “clean” rider may become so noncompetitive that he or she risks being cut from the team.
* The game theory analysis of cycling can readily be extended to other sports. The results show quantitatively how governing bodies and antidoping agencies can most effectively target efforts to clean up their sports.

More to come on this article shortly.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beijing Positives and Fear and Self Loathing in Adelaide

Not sure what to say about this just yet.

The TDU Director excels himself. Self loathing perhaps. You can hear it here.

Beijing drug cheats still being caught

The World Today - Wednesday, 29 April , 2009 12:44:00

Reporter: Simon Santow

PETER CAVE: The boast last year that the Beijing Olympics was one of the cleanest games in decades is looking a little hollow this lunchtime.

New testing on samples taken during the competition last August has uncovered a further six alleged drug cheats.

And it's being reported that amongst the cheats there is a track and field athlete who won gold as well as a silver medallist from the cycling arena.

The International Olympic Committee has hailed the results as proof that it's getting harder to hide from ever improving drug detection technology.

At the same time sports scientists are warning that athletes and their coaches are constantly searching for new ways of gaining an unfair advantage.

Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: In the world of elite sport, the current illegal drug of choice is a blood booster known as CERA.

And it's CERA, that's been found in the samples of six Beijing Olympians. Samples that were retested by the International Olympic Committee in the first few months of this year.

Sports scientist and anti-doping researcher Robin Parisotto.

ROBIN PARISOTTO: Blood boosting is the practice of introducing blood into, or new blood into the body or actually stimulating the body to make new blood on its own.

SIMON SANTOW: And what advantage does that give an athlete?

ROBIN PARISOTTO: Well, essentially, with more blood you can carry more oxygen and with more oxygen you have suddenly a lot more stamina which is great for endurance events.

SIMON SANTOW: And typically, what sort of sports has blood doping been used in?

ROBIN PARISOTTO: Well, primarily it has been associated with cycling. Pretty well everyone knows track and field, any endurance events like marathon running, biathlons, triathlons, those sort of events.

SIMON SANTOW: Robin Parisotto is heartened that even several months after the Beijing Games finished, cheats are still being uncovered.

ROBIN PARISOTTO: I think it is a fantastic development and it certainly shows a new way of thinking and a new way of tackling the doping problem.

SIMON SANTOW: Olympic officials now keep samples for eight years to allow for advances in testing and to warn athletes that cheating will eventually catch up with them.

While the names of those caught this time are yet to be publicly released, media around the world are reporting they include a cyclist who won silver, and a gold medal winning track and field athlete.

All up 5,000 competitors were tested during the games and since the beginning of the year about a fifth of those frozen samples were re-tested for CERA using technology found to be effective in weeding out cycling drug cheats in recent months.

MIKE TURTUR: It sickens me and it angers me that these athletes try to worm their way out of being detected. I am glad to see that these athletes are being found and there are no other compromise that can be made and these idiots that do cheat, really are the criminals of sport.

SIMON SANTOW: Mike Turtur won a gold medal for Australia in the 1984 Los Angeles Games in the 4,000 metres team pursuit cycling.

These days he's the race director for the cycling race Tour Down Under. He's also the regional representative on the board of the world cycling body, UCI.

MIKE TURTUR: There will be more cheats detected. There is no question because this is human nature that we are talking about and fame and fortune does some unique things to people. They lose perspective of reality and they get consumed with their own thing.

SIMON SANTOW: He says he's still shocked that cyclists who cheat haven't got the message about doping and testing.

MIKE TURTUR: I can't find the words to describe these idiots. I mean the fact of life is that they will be caught sooner or later and the storing of samples is a huge advantage in respect to that. But drug cheats, in my view, are people that have a serious problem.

They are the most selfish people that you can be associated with because they don't care about anything except themselves.

SIMON SANTOW: Sports scientists such as Robin Parisotto believe that cheating will go on because the odds are still stacked in favour of the clever cheat.

ROBIN PARISOTTO: Just in the case of blood doping with the detection of six new positive cases with a new version of EPO called CERA doesn't mean that there is no other drugs out there.

SIMON SANTOW: In the race between the drug detectors and the people prepared to use the drugs, who is winning at the moment?

ROBIN PARISOTTO: Look, I would have to say that the testers are really gaining some ground on the cheats, but this needs to be tempered by the fact that just with blood doping agents, there are at least 80 other agents out there which I am not sure there are tests for at the moment. So there is always going to be a battle.

PETER CAVE: Anti doping researcher and sports scientist, Robin Parisotto ending that report from Simon Santow.

Monday, April 27, 2009

One more death

Carlos Arribas the doyen of Spanish cycling journalism has a piece in El Pais today on the sad death of Jobie Dajka.

In the same edition my open letter has been published in Spanish.

The only other brave people to publish the open letter were the guys in new York at Velocity Nation and Doug at the Doug Report - see his April Wednesday 8th Archive.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mr Adams Conference in Denmark - Doping and legal rights 20 - 21 August 2009

The conference theme of “Doping and Legal Rights” addresses the present large‐scale supervision of elite athletes in connection with the fight against doping in elite sport. With the publication of the most recent version of the World Anti-Doping Code in January 2009 high profile athletes have begun to speak out in protest against the regime. Recently 65 athletes in Belgium have decided to challenge the legality of the system. The reason is not – they stress – that they are against doping control but because they find that the whereabouts system violates their right to privacy. In light of the evolving critique from athletes on the whereabouts system, the International Network of Humanistic Doping Research finds it timely to initiate a debate on “Doping and Legal Rights”. Internationally renowned legal experts, sociologists and philosophers will present and discuss sports law and related issues such as whereabouts, right to privacy, and the challenges that could arise from false positive test results.

International Network of Humanistic Doping Research
Department of Sport Science
University of Aarhus

How to adjust to a life more ordinary

A good article by Australian Olympic Rower, Kimberley Crowe, raising concerns that are relevant to cycling generally and not only the recent tragic events.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009



Juan Carlos Castaño, President of the Real Federacion Espanol de Ciclismo, Mr Mike Victor, President of Cycling Australia, Mr Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI, Kate Ellis, Minister for Sport, Australia, His Excellency Mr Jaime Lissavestsky, Minister for Sport, Espana, Mr John Fahey, President, World Anti Doping Agency, and Mr Ettore Torri, Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano.

Isn't it Now Time to Act?

Hasn't the time come for some real action? Enough is enough. When can we start to tackle the problem at its source, rather than reacting by engaging in witch hunts of those who did what you wanted and gave their lives to our beautiful sport of cycling?

This week in Australia we woke up to the dreadful news of the death of yet another cyclist whose life was destroyed because he may have gone one step to far in trying to bring glory to his country.  Jobie Dajka was a good kid, a troubled kid maybe. Jobie was as people say one of those rare gems, an incredible sprinter, full of the qualities we all love to hold in awe.

Today he is dead and the gutter press feed on his carcass. And for some it is business as usual in maintaining the sport’s integrity, indeed just keeping on with the job of covering over a history of neglect.

Don’t you all know that the problem does not lie with the choices made by individual cyclists? Don’t you all know that these kids grow up, institutionalised from a young age and taught that here is only one objective – winning at all costs? And don’t you all know that you and your colleagues are too ready to be at their sides like sycophants when they do as they are told, when they toe the party line and bring home glory for your countries?

But why is it that so few of you are prepared to do more than react in a knee jerk way by shooting the messenger? By crucifying the kids? When you know it is the system that you administer that makes them do what they do?

The judges in Operacion Puerto were probably right. Like the sponsors who claim to have been defrauded, you might just wilfully close your eyes, you simply don’t want to know. Is it because to do so would be to admit this simple fact that: sport is sick because the world is sick.

Jobie joins the list, of the dead, like Marco Pantani and Jose Maria Chaba Jimenez. Those cast aside, after their minds could no longer bears the burdens of the contradictions foisted upon them by a system that demands that they fly to the greatest heights, whilst always being subject to the threat of being shot down at any moment. Free as the birds they are, to soar and bring us glory. Free as the birds they are to be sacrificed in the name of ensuring the integrity and protection of the government’s or big business’s image. Jobie joins the list of others who have had their lives destroyed, or are in the process of having their lives destroyed because of choices not made by them but by others higher up the food chain. In my country of birth, Australia, Martin Vinnicombe comes to mind. Right now in my adopted country, another young man who brings us such delight, Alejandro Valverde, faces the same fate.

Is it all because the lives of these kids are worth so much less than the investment of the sponsors and government?

Spain at least, despite all the undeserved criticism from many of you, has bitten the bullet. At last we have an enquiry, Operacion Puerto, which does not seek to victimise the kids, but deal with the pushers and dealers, the directors, who are so protected by the system you preside over. The Spanish courts should be applauded for this step. For the first time we are actually dealing with the problem. But some of you don’t get it. You still want to chant that Spain does not do enough and you want to hang the kids for doing what the system expects of them. For being free as the birds and creating that bright light in which you all love to bathe, only to have them thrown on the social scrap heap because you cannot find the strength to deal with the problem at its source.

It is a sad and hopeless day when another young rider dies after being made an outcast. But it is even sadder when those in charge seem more concerned with their image than with really getting to the root of the problem and making the systemic changes that are necessary.

How many more kids must die before you open your eyes? When will you help us to love the bike and all it gives us again?

Martin Hardie,
Law Lecturer,
School of Law,
Deakin University, Geelong, Australia

MH is working on a project to rewrite doping policy in cycling based upon the economic and social causes rather than increasing testing. He is also one of the organisers of the planned New Pathways for Professional Cycling Conference to be held to coincide with the 2010 World Championships in Geelong, Australia.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Velocity Nation and The Prospect Before Us

Velocity Nation is fast becoming one of the only sources for critical analysis of what is going on in Cycling. Not afraid to laugh, the velocity-team also have an eye on, and are not afraid to delve into, the subterranean movements occurring as cycling grasps the possibilities of its globalisation.

The two most recent interviews with Jonathan Vaughters and with Paul Kimmage Fighting the Good Fight both contain a wealth of information and analysis of the processes and opportunities (lost and continuing) for pro cycling in its search for a new pathway.

In the context of my doctorate work on globalisation and pro cycling the Kimmage analysis of doping pre EPO and post EPO is too say the least valuable.

Both interviews also remind me of the words of John Dos Passos in his book The Prospect Before Us that "The creation of a world view is the work of a generation rather than an individual, but we each of us, for better or worse, add our brick to the edifice ... Every one of us has to go as far forward as we can. Before a man can plot his course between the red buoys and the black he has to look around him and, having wiped all the deceiving ideologies off the slate, to try accurately to observe in what direction social currents are moving the society he lives in."

Congratulations VN.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A bad hair day for Lance Armstrong

PARIS: Lance Armstrong literally had a bad hair day.

A French anti-doping inspector armed with a pair of scissors this week took six clumps of the former Tour de France champion's hair that now will be tested for signs of drug use. Armstrong says his hair was so "butchered" by the test that he had to get a buzz-cut to hide the mess.


Friday, March 13, 2009

THe Sport Scientists: An interesting read to continue a debate

as always just putting the different views ..... we don't take sides just search for an explanation as to why the red neon sign is more persuasive than truth .... is it because it glows red but because of the pool of colour lying reflected in the wet asphalt?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A chat with Graham Watson

From Bob Gosford's The Northern Myth

TNM: What does cycling need more of now - more law or a better sense of ethics among the riders?

GW: I would think it needs more clarity in the law and the rules - and the ethics - they will come together. They won’t come without each other.

The laws, you know, they are pretty ambiguous and all over the place - they are not yet controlled by Governments - it is more controlled by the UCI [Union Cycliste Internationale] and they don’t have to powers they need.

The laws should be made world-wide and very clear - the ethics will fit into that. You can’t have one without the other.

TNM: Are there any particular issues that stand out?

GW: As a photographer I don’t really study the ins and out of it. I got tired of all the politics since 2005, when the drugs issue really started being highlighted by the media. In a perfect world all the sports would be getting a closer examination, and I think that is starting to happen now.

TNM: Speaking of other sports, in cricket for example, top cricketers can have cortisone injections and all manner of other medical treatments while they are playing a match, and nobody blinks an eye. But in cycling, and in other sports there seems to be a different set of rules that apply.

GW: It’s not just the rules but also a different set of opinions as well. I think that it goes back all the way to the death of Tommy Simpson [an English pro-cyclist who died on the Mont Ventoux stage of the Tour de France in 1967] , and I think that from then on cycling became the most scrutinised sport and (in many people’s minds) will be forever associated with drugs. And it has never lost that image.

And, because where there is money involved, and where there is money there is corruption, and there is a profit to be made. But, cycling will forever be associated with the death of Tommy Simpson, because there were drugs and a bit of alcohol involved. And we’ve never shaken that image off.

I ride a bike for two hours every other day…whenever I ride a bike for four or five hours I’m buggered for two or three days and I’m in my early fifties. But even allowing for half of my age I don’t know how they do it. I can’t say that it is too extreme but if you take the extremity away from cycling…then there is no more sport. But it is the sort of sport where you are always going to have people looking for…not just the edge but just to be able to ride the next day. I don’t know the answers.

There are people in the marketing side of the sport who say that “We should never let it come out in the public”, because other sports hide their indiscretions. They are trying to protect the business side of the sport, which is what cycling is, a business. The only way to go is to clean up the sport as much as we possibly can, and to be the example to other sports to show that we are doing the best possible.

Monday, March 2, 2009

15 Reasons why Valverde should be able to ride in peace

1. Valverde was in Kelme directed by Vicente Belda.

2. Kelme had a team program (Puerto docs, Manzano etc).

3. Belda is on trial for his part in the Fuentes operation.

4. Valverde left Kelme in 2004 and from that point on had no contact with Fuentes.

5. Fuentes conserved a bag of blood (no. 18) which is alleged to be that of Valverde's.

6. There is a note on folio 106 of the Puerto summary made by Fuentes to the effect that bag no. 18 was kept in case the relationship with “Bala”* recommenced *(Valverde’s nick name – why didn’t he use Piti? see point 8 below).

7. There is no evidence that the relationship which existed under the direction of Belda was recommenced after Valverde left Kelme.

8. Valverde has a dog born in May 2005, the year after he left Kelme.

9. When arrested Fuentes went out of his way to implicate Valverde by asking the Guardia if “had they found everything about Valverde”.

10. The decision of Judge Serrano to not allow the use of evidence in the trial against Fuentes, Saiz, Belda et al, is completely consistent with ordinary legal principles governing a fair trial and with the Spanish legislation governing this.

11. The manner in which the RFEC has dealt with the Spanish riders implicated in Puerto is in no way different to the manner in which ASADA dealt with Allan Davis. The question has to be asked as to why Australia is deemed to be a part of the new cycling culture and Spain a part of the old culture and the problem. What forces are really at play here?

12. CONI's best argument against this (as set out in their appeal documents in Spain) is that the law is not clear, but they do not provide any legal support for this proposition.

13. CONI only has power to prosecute foreigners for events that occurred outside of Italy after 2007. Even if this law covered the relevant events (i.e. from 2004) the retrospective extra territorial application of criminal laws is on general principles problematic constitutionally.

14. In Bareclona on or about 27 February 2009 WADA’s John Fahey told Spanish Sport’s Minister Lissavetzky that the ‘Valverde’ issue was not a matter for WADA but for Spain.

15. On the basis of all of this it is very difficult to see how CONI or the UCI can actually win a case conducted on the basis of law (as opposed to a media lynching).

Where are we going with all this. Maybe someone should ask Hein?

New York Times and the Biological passport

'Interesting' article in the New York Times over the weekend about the biological passport.

"... Mr. Ashenden said, the biological passport is not perfect. Riders who transfuse their own blood may not be caught because the swings in their blood values are not as dramatic as they can be with EPO use. He also said that the passport system would be successful for “about a year or so” until riders figure a way around it."

The question has to be asked ... how much has been spent on this passport and is it worthwhile to spend this money when it will only be effective for a year. Surely there are other ways?

The comments are even more interesting when you consider the comments of Giuseppe Lippi, Massimo Franchini and Gian Cesare Guidi in their article Tour de Crisis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine 2007;41:625-626. There the authors note that the US spends as much as it does on anti blood doping as it does curing blood diseases.

They conclude: "Therefore, in practice, healthcare systems and national governments worldwide are expected to devote to the fight against doping the same resources that the US government dedicates to prevention and treatment of diseases that cause great morbidity, mortality and economic burden for individuals, families and the entire population. Is this really necessary and morally acceptable?"

You really have to wonder if there isn't a better way? Or even what is this all about really?

Friday, February 13, 2009


By Pedro Horrillo original published in El Pais in Spanish

Mr. Adams entered my life at the same moment as we started the new year, on January 1st, 2008. To tell the truth, I never approved of him, but he didn't seem to care: he had come to stay and was aware that I knew it. Also, he certainly knew that I could never reject him. Ours has been since then a relationship full of ups and downs – something predictable in any forced relationship- but keeping no secrets at all. I have always told him everything I have done,whom with, where, when, whenever I come and go... Of course it is not the case, but if by any chance it occurred to me, let alone lying to him – that would be really serious – but hiding something from him or telling him just a half-truth – it is the same for me – God help me if he ever finds out ! Then I would be risking the whole family and their bread and butter. Mr. Adam's shadow is very long, extremely long.

So you'd better not take it to heart as living with Adams is not easy at all. That's why we cyclists usually make jokes about the matter and mean to send a message to brother Adams when we think of going to the pictures, for instance. Of course you are free to go out without telling him, although in that case you'd rather pay attention to your mobile phone, select the silence mode and be ready to leave the cinema, may he happen to visit your house. To go to the pictures, for a walk with some friends, play with the kids in the park, have dinner in a restaurant, any situation you like you have to act the same way.

And now a year since our first encounter, in another turn of the screw, Mr. Adams makes me give him daily notice of the exact place and the time that I will be available for him.

If he turns up and I am not there, I will have a big problem, even if my absence is justified.

So that´s how things stand. To begin with, I am of the opinion that random drug testing are one of the most effective ways to fight against fraud. Even though most of them are mere red blood cell extractions for the biological passport program and not doping tests, strictly speaking. But Adams' demands wear me out, they overwhelm and saturate me to the extent that sometimes, out of rebelliousness, I just provide him with the minimum necessary information.

What a rebellion!, you might think. Still I can't nor should complain about it, as we, the cyclists have accepted taking part in that programme and its consequences. And on the other hand, being a sportsperson, I have undertaken the same commitment with my team under contract.

The irony of fate! I started riding the bike because nothing else had ever given me such sense of freedom before. I carried on cycling, free as a bird, and eventually managed to make a living (of it). It is everybody's dream to be able to work in something you love. And all thanks to the bike.

However, I have never felt so inhibited like now when it comes to make decisions. I am not free to improvise in my own life, to hesitate, to make hasty and last minute plans. That is over, freedom is no longer there. Well...not exactly, some people say, you always have the option to get a computer, search for a conexion and voilé! Adams is changed. Or even better, to send an sms. For some people it is basically the same thing, but not for me. If you'll pardon the expression, I call this the being given the third degree.

So that is how it is and far from complaining, I chose to accept it. Given the choice between adapt or die, I prefer the first one, because I want to be a cyclist as long as possible, therefore, I won't pay heed to your attempts to put off my desire to continue, Mr. Adams.

* Adams: Antidoping Administration & Managing System

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lance Armstrong, $3 million and the silence of the Rann

Bob Gosford writes from Yuendumu: (from

Lance Armstrong went to Adelaide for a fortnight in January. While there he spoke to a few cancer charities, visited hospitals, charity fund-raisers and cancer victims, and schmoozed with Kevin Rudd, a fawning South Australian Premier Mike Rann, assorted SA Ministers and half the population of Adelaide.

Oh, and between schmoozes he rode around on his bike for seven days during the Tour Down Under.

For his troubles he trousered a wedge understood to be up to $AU3 million in cash.

As an anonymous tipster told Crikey in mid-January:

The SA Government are paying Lance Armstrong USD $1 million to appear at the Pro Tour. USD $500k has been paid up front, with the balance after the race. Think back a few months when it was announced somewhat prematurely that Lance was on his way.

Neither Rann nor Armstrong have denied the figure of $US1 million ($AU1.52 million). While Crikey was in Adelaide there were strong rumours among the media and others closely connected to the race that the figure was more like $US2 million ($AU3.05 million).

Armstrong and 186 other professional cyclists came to South Australia to ride in the Tour Down Under -- Australia's premier cycling road race event and part of the l'Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Pro-tour.

That Armstrong would be paid at least $1US million large to talk about cancer research, a matter close to his heart, attracted a lot of attention, particularly within the world cycling community. Particularly when the wages of the peloton, the riders that make up the bulk of the pro-cycling community, are reported to have fallen by up to 40% in recent years.

The Boulder Report at the website noted: one's talking. South Australia Premier Mike Rann refused to discuss any negotiations, and other than saying that any money paid "will go to his charity," Rann's spokesman, Lachlan Parker, declined to discuss the matter further with reporters.

...Why's this a big deal? Armstrong is an in demand public speaker, commanding at least $175,000 per engagement.

...It's less the donation than the secrecy surrounding it that seems strange and excessive…But [appearance fees] made with taxpayer dollars, in an ostensibly democratic and open government, fit a different standard of disclosure.


But in South Australia, as is common in too many Australian jurisdictions, answers to questions about what should be publicly available information are deemed "commercial-in-confidence".

The only way you or I will get any closer to the truth is via an expensive, and most likely unsuccessful, Freedom of Information application or if the Opposition asks the right questions during Parliamentary estimates. Neither is satisfactory in the short term or in keeping with the spirit of "ostensibly democratic and open government."

Lachlan Parker's story that the payment to Armstrong was a donation to charity, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, was soon given the lie by Armstrong himself.

As The New York Times reported, Armstrong:

...did not specify the amount of his fee but said Saturday that, contrary to what had been reported here last week, he was not donating the fee to his foundation but treating it as income, the same way he has his other speaking and appearance fees since retirement.

"It's not simply showing up to a bike race and getting paid to race the bike," he said. "I'm not being paid to race. Is there a fee for other things? Yes, but that's not any different than what I've done for the last three years or four years, actually longer than that."

The SA Government -- i.e., the SA taxpayer – is the sole sponsor of the Tour Down Under.

Armstrong has provided an undoubted boost to the public profile of the Tour Down Under and to the worthy cause of cancer research in Australia. Whether his presence made any impact on the SA economy is but one of a number of outstanding questions about the overall cost of the event.

Other questions as yet unanswered include whether the SA economy really got the big 'bang for its buck' that Rann has trumpeted, the total costs involved in staging this year's Tour Down Under and how much Armstrong, and others involved in the Tour, were paid to participate.

That last issue is what Crikey has been trying to confirm for the last week and half.

Crikey sent a brief list of questions to Rann and his media minder Lachlan Parker and to SA Tourism Minister Jane Lomax-Smith. We first sent the questions on 3 February, again on 6 February and again yesterday, advising that this story would be published today.

Up until late yesterday we'd received not a whisper in reply. After we'd advised we were going to run with this story today we finally received the following from Leah Manuel, Jane Lomax-Smith's media minder:

Any payments associated with teams or cyclists taking part in the Tour Down Under are commercial in confidence. This has been the case since the inception of the race 11 years ago.

Another question that Rann and the Australian Taxation Office could be asked is whether the ATO got its slice of Armstrong's income from the SA government.

As the Indian Cricket team found out to its horror in late 2007, the ATO is particularly attentive to earnings in Australia by foreign sportsmen and women.

As the Explanatory Memorandum to the Taxation Administration Amendment Regulations 2004 (No. 1) notes:

Foreign resident entertainers and sportspersons who derive income in Australia are liable to pay income tax in Australia on that income ... [t]hey are required to lodge an income tax return in Australia.

Dependent upon whether the SA government made the payment to Armstrong personally or to some corporate or charitable entity associated with him, it may have been required to:

...retain an amount and pay that amount to the ATO under section 255 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936.

But, regardless of how much, and to whom or what the South Australian government paid the money, Armstrong clearly saw that money as his own.

And, as Armstrong told the gathered press in Adelaide, he'll be back for the Tour Down Under in 2010.

There are more than a few wondering what his fee will be next year.