News roundup on Di Luca, doping and lying

News & Results

06/3/2013| 0 comments
by Neil Browne
Pat McQuaid is busy with his public relations campaign at this week's Dauphine Libere race leading up to the UCI president elections later this year Fotoreporter Sirotti

News roundup on Di Luca, doping and lying

Doping and sucking up to Armstrong - Just don’t do it!

“Riding in the Giro often means exposure to the uncertainties of the weather. In May, in Italy, and especially in the mountains, it’s easy to run into bad weather - sometimes resulting in pandemonium.”

This is how Marco Pinotti in his book, “The Cycling Professor” described the Giro d’Italia - truer words were never written. Stage 19 was cancelled due to snow and the danger it posed to the riders. Sometimes caution overrides the need for racing, so it was a wise move by the Giro organizers. My editor doesn’t agree. Snow is part of nature; nature is part of road cycling.

However, the other piece of news that dominated the headlines since my last piece was that Danilo Di Luca of Vini Fantini-Selle Italia returned a positive “A” sample for EPO.

I felt like the Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler Saturday Night Live skit, “Really!?!”

Really Danilo? You decided to take EPO now that it can be detected so easily? Hey Danilo - 2009 called and they said it was fine to use human growth hormone patches too. Really?! You know you’ve really screwed up when Lance Armstrong takes to Twitter to call you stupid for doping. Di Luca said he was surprised by the positive result. Really Danilo? A tip-off was that your team kit was glowing as much as you were!

Several years ago I interviewed Di Luca and to my surprise he still has the same cell phone number, which appears in my WhatsApp text messaging contact list. I quickly dropped him a message.

“Can I get an interview with you? Let’s chat.”

The app indicated he’d seen my message – I was briefly hopeful. However, there continues to be no response.

Not a huge surprise, although we did have a lovely interview many years ago. I guess he’s forgotten.

I even sweetened the deal by offering him to stay at my place to wait out the public relations storm. And yes, I do have a guest room - I wouldn’t expect him to couch surf!

Still no reply from the Italian.

The takeaway from this sordid tale is that doping is still around in pro cycling, no matter how many times we say it isn’t. The degree of doping maybe isn’t as deep as it was a few years ago, but it’s still there. Di Luca cooperated with the Italian anti-doping authorities in the past, so the question is, will he roll over on who gave him the “Edger”?

It is being reported that Di Luca’s Giro d’Italia teammate Mauro Santambrogio’s “A” sample also came back positive for EPO. Well Di Luca did say he was there to teach the younger generation of riders…

On a positive note, dopers are slowly being rooted out. That said having two riders positive for the same drug sends off warning signs that there could be a deeper problem on the Vini Fantini-Selle Italia squad. We are no longer at a point in professional cycling where two positives for doping on the same team can be brushed away with the stock answer from management, “We had no idea what was going on with those riders. They were acting independently from the squad. We know nothing.” Heads need to roll on the Italian squad.

What irritates me is that the pros are now publicly tweeting that Di Luca and Santambrogio are “dicks.” Where was this outrage against bigger names like Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador, or Frank Schleck?

Speaking of Armstrong. The now disgraced rider has been reaching out to select people in the media - mostly to those who weren’t so anti Team Armstrong. Those journalists and bloggers Armstrong has spoken to have announced that they have spoken to Lance - about what I have no idea. A couple of people have asked me if I want to talk to him and it was even floated to Armstrong on Twitter that he should contact me. To be honest, unlike those who are willing to listen to him, I want nothing to do with Armstrong.

The reason is that Armstrong has shown he is still not truthful about his past. A conversation with Armstrong is all about furthering his agenda and getting in front of any upcoming public relations disasters. He’s not about setting the record straight. So I have no desire to be a complicit part of his PR strategy to win over the hearts and minds of the public. That’s also why I don’t think he’ll reach out to Paul Kimmage or David Walsh. Armstrong will instead call the low hanging fruit of the media who will be more than happy to transcribe what he says knowing it’s a SEO bonanza.

I realize there are some limitations to what the Texan can do and say. He doesn’t have the legal power to change the sport. As he said on Twitter, he’s a retired rider. It’s up to the UCI and WADA who have the power to start to clean up the mess. I want to believe that, as he said himself on Twitter, he’d be the first through the door at any kind of UCI/WADA meeting to resolve doping. My gut and his prior history have shown he wouldn’t be honest or probably wouldn’t show up. I’d love to be wrong.

While RadioShack is not renewing their sponsorship, Trek Bicycles might take the title spot on the jersey as they try to put the Armstrong era behind them. They have in their ranks Fabian Cancellara who is a threat in the classics as his on-the-road rival Tom Boonen hasn’t had the best of years. If the team can’t win a grand tour (hate to break it to the Schleck fans - that’s not going to happen for a few years) snagging classic wins is one way to move bikes off the bike shop showroom and into customers’ homes.

Also electronic company Belkin is taking over the sponsorship of Team Rabobank...err...Team Blanco. This is an American company, so I’m hoping that they’ll bolster the roster with a few Yanks.

This next news item caught me by surprise - British cycling president Brian Cookson has thrown his hat into the ring for UCI president. Before we all stand up and cheer, let’s take a deep breath. Let’s not just blindly cheer for someone just because they aren’t Pat McQuaid. We need to evaluate what Cookson has done and see if he’s capable of leading the UCI. Meanwhile, current UCI President Pat McQuaid is busy with his public relations campaign at this week's Dauphine Libere race leading up to the UCI president elections later this year.

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