New Pathways To Pro Cycling Conference Recap

My World Champs hangover has now set in and I still have so much to talk about. One of the highlights from my week in Geelong week was the New Pathways to Pro Cycling conference held last Monday and Tuesday.

There was obviously a lot of controversy surrounding the conference, particularly because of the attendance of Floyd Landis. I can understand why many people including the Organising Committee withdrew their support for this conference because of Landis' appearance, however the dark cloud that everyone predicted didn't eventuate. I think everybody can agree that there's never a convenient time to talk about doping and holding a conference during the World Championships with Floyd Landis was never going to be a popular decision.

This conference was one of the most informative and fascinating things I’ve ever attended with regards to cycling. It was not one of those shallow forum debates that oversimplifies why doping exists and what can be done about it. Experts from various fields gave their opinions and empirical research on a wide array of topics. It went far deeper than any discussion I’ve ever heard about doping and the problems in cycling. Topics discussed ranged from the economic foundations of cycling (or lack thereof), the sociology of the peloton, the reporting structure of the UCI, WADA and the IOC (and conflicting interests) and the Biological Passport. Cycling has some very complex problems and it’s a wonder that it’s commercially viable as a sport.

I think it’s great that some academic research is going into the topic of doping in cycling. In a sport with so many sponsorship and political self-interests that it’s difficult for free thought to take place anywhere else. A report that was released in conjunction with the conference was I Wish I Was Twenty One Now. The title is in reference to a comment a pro cyclist made in one of the interviews in the report:

Attitudes to doping might be shifting from an accepted, if unsavoury, necessity, to something more actively frowned upon. But many of the old patterns of behaviour that sustained doping still remain within the system as a whole. But in saying this, there is a change occurring. As one participant has already noted, he wished it had occurred earlier in his career:

Q: And when do you think it started to change?

A: I think it started to change about three years ago. I think they were still doing it three years ago. Systematic. Every team … I think some still may be a little bit but now they’ve been … But I think now I wish I was twenty-one now. If I was twenty- one now I guarantee you I would have been twice as successful as I have been in my last fifteen years

The report is 173 pages long but you can skim sections and jump through anonymous rider interviews. If you’re interested in reading about the harsh realities of what most of the athletes have to deal with, have a read: Download I Wish I Was Twenty One Now here

The conference was video recorded and I’ll post some of the snippets that interested me. A few of the sessions are not up yet and I’ll add to this post as they’re uploaded. I’ve also made a few notes about each presentation below. If you can find the time I highly recommend you watch these so the next time you see a positive drug test turn up in the press you’ll have a better understanding of the forces at play and the decision making process that determined that result.

Biological Passport

presented by Klaas Faber

presented by Dr. Michael Ashenden

Professor Verner Moeller on the Rasmussen Case

See the rest of Moeller’s presentations on this topic here. Very interesting info in here.

Floyd Landis

Contrary to what many people assumed, Floyd didn’t come here to go off on a tirade of allegations. There was no talk of specific cases and no names named. The focus was on the problem of doping. Day 1 of the conference was excellent because there was hardly anyone in attendance. I was able to have a few candid chats with Floyd. After he got past this premeditated statements on his position with the doping problem, it was clear that he was a regular guy who made some bad choices. He was very aware of the unpopularity of his attendance and wanted to get out of Geelong asap so that he didn’t disturb the World Championship festivities.

My impression of Floyd during this conference is that he is a little lost and his thoughts are clouded. Of course anything he says has the potential of becoming a headline the following day so he was probably cautious with his words, but his points were confused and he’d often go off on a tangent and completely forget the question being asked. Other times he’d raise some very good points and significantly add to the forum. He was quite humble and very cognizant of what people thought of him and what his role and responsibilities are. He definitely did not take any moral highroad with regards to the topic being discussed.

I applaud Landis’ courage in attending this conference and wanting to be a part of the solution. Dr. Michael Ashenden stated a few examples of the information and insight that Floyd has given him that help shed some light on how cheats get away with the tests and the practices they employ. Sure Landis’ credibility is being attacked, but in my view the information and stories he’s coming out with are far too complex and random for him to be lying. If Floyd is contributing to the solution without completely destroying the sport of cycling, then I’m in support of what he’s doing.

Michael Drapac on Corporate Social Responsibility

The UCI, WADA and IOC

This was one of my favorite presentations at the conference. Paul J. Hayes talks about the history, lines of control and relationships between the UCI, WADA and IOC, how large corporations ultimately shape and influence their mindset, and the conflicts at play. Hayes also brings up the debate on whether WADA has gone too far. Should WADA be able to carry out sanctions in the interest of protecting sport at all cost above and beyond what the law does? Has it strayed beyond what it professes to be? Many interesting topics in this presentation and I highly suggest you make time to view it.

I’ll post the video when it’s ready, but for now you can download the presentation here.

Others

  • Another video that I’ll post here that was very interesting was a presentation by Michael Drapac and his philosophies of the sport. He’s one of the true philanthropists of cycling and we can see the success of his Drapac/Porsche development program here on the roads of Melbourne and Sydney. I’m looking forward to sharing his presentation with you.
  • Aldo Sassi was at the conference as an observer, not a presenter. However, he was not shy to voice his opinions on the problem of doping in cycling. Everything Dr Sassi had to say was quite profound and I quickly learned to video record him every time he spoke. You can see the videos and interview of him here.

  • I didn’t post everything recorded at the conference but you can see all the videos here.

What I came away with in the end is that the problem of doping is a lot more complex than I once thought and there are a lot of factors at work. As you watch Alberto Contador defend the recent allegations against him and crucified by the media you should perhaps reserve judgement until you watch some of these presentations. I wish this post didn’t need to be so long because I’m sure many of you won’t get past the first video, but will give you a better understanding what is going on behind the scenes, the politics involved, the leading rationals for doping, and the decision making process.


SIMILAR ENTRIES

Showing 5 entries
  • Hushovd

    first!

  • Alexroseinnes

    I’m rather bored with the argument that cyclists dope because it is/was systematic, that they were pressured by mentors and management, that they were powerless to resist etc. It is a moral choice and many have failed to take the correct path. Until we face the fact that – for whatever reason – there are a lot of very weak characters in the sport, then cycling will always remain a sport of dopers in the minds of the public.

  • http://www.fyxomatosis.com fyxomatosis_one

    I agree. It’s dead boring. Boring as it is, it’s realistic. Truck drivers were taking speed to stay awake and ‘perform’ to keep their jobs, I think we are all guilty of that to some degree – wasn’t so long ago you could go ‘pos’ from caffeine! I think until you’ve ridden in a pro’s shoes it’s unfair to make assumptions about people’s character.*TC

  • Weak Character

    take that and cross it over to your own work place. if your boss said ‘do this or i’ll find someone who will’, would we see Alexroseinnes take the high ground in line at Centerlink, or do what had to be done to keep his livelihood?

    I don’t agree with doping but i found your statement to be ‘weak’.

  • Troy van Trienen

    I think CT covered this type of curb-side comentary in his text when saying ..”It was not one of those shallow forum debates that oversimplifies why doping exists and what can be done about it” ??
    I think there would be more grey areas than decisive one’s on this topic and this confrence seems like a good step forward to understanding and hopefull irradicating/minimizing this issue of doping in our sport and others.

  • JC

    Thanks for compiling this material and posting it. All very interesting stuff. Having skim read some of the report I note there is a perception among pro cyclists that the “high buy in” demanded of them means that they forgo opportunities to put in place career options for their post cycling lives – the point being that fear of post cycling financial insecurity provides incentive to dope in order to prolong cycling and defer the inevitable transition back into the real world. Fair enough. If a cyclist needs to train and race 6 hours a day and travel all over during his late teens and throughout his 20s he will have little time for outside personal and career development and immediately post cycling he may need to further his education or gain other skills in order to find his post cycling career. I fail to see the problem in that. What’s wrong with re-educating or re-training at the ripe old age of say 28-32? It’s a long life guys and not everyone needs to be a fully qualified doctor or lawyer by the time they are in their late twenties. Most of the rest of us “waste” the best part of our twenties backpacking around Europe anyway while you guys get paid to race bikes there!! Common HTFU

  • JC

    Thanks for compiling this material and posting it. All very interesting stuff. Having skim read some of the report I note there is a perception among pro cyclists that the “high buy in” demanded of them means that they forgo opportunities to put in place career options for their post cycling lives – the point being that fear of post cycling financial insecurity provides incentive to dope in order to prolong cycling and defer the inevitable transition back into the real world. Fair enough. If a cyclist needs to train and race 6 hours a day and travel all over during his late teens and throughout his 20s he will have little time for outside personal and career development and immediately post cycling he may need to further his education or gain other skills in order to find his post cycling career. I fail to see the problem in that. What’s wrong with re-educating or re-training at the ripe old age of say 28-32? It’s a long life guys and not everyone needs to be a fully qualified doctor or lawyer by the time they are in their late twenties. Most of the rest of us “waste” the best part of our twenties backpacking around Europe anyway while you guys get paid to race bikes there!! Common HTFU

  • Anonymous

    Maybe there is a place for a genuine cyclists’ union, representing the riders and being able to protect them more?

    A black and white argument it aint, because the true giants of the road all did what it took, by taking something. Even the God Merckx tested positive. When I list most of my heroes, I can’t find a clean one amongst them – Pantani, Ullrich, etc.

    Simply blaming a Pro for the situation itself is weak, because there are any number of factors why drugs are still fairly prevalent in cycling, beyond the physical. Starting with the fact that all the major races are owned/run by the Amaury family (ASO) and RCS. ASO own and run the TDF, Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, LBL, La Vuelta. RCS the Giro. While the winner of the Tour gets 50,000 Euros after splitting with his team, ASO paid out 136 million Euros in 2004-2008 from the same event. All they really care about is managing their race to maximum financial return (not the same as having a clean race). Every Tour has to be bigger and faster, for ratings.

    Then you have the fact that teams last only a few years at max because sponsors won’t commit beyond two usually. This forces the DS into a ‘get rich quick’ mentality because they need results now. Riders are used to doing what they’re told on the road by the DS, so it follows they do off as well. Remember these DS’ also are invariably dopers (ie. Riis, Bruyneel).

    The UCI is a mess, with no real power but a long history of fighting with but not beating ASO. Pro Tour licences make the awarding of the Olympics look above board, and who can name one of the two local teams given spots at La Vuelta instead of Lance’s Radio Shack team?

    Whilst I agree with the sentiment @Weak Character, I don’t quite agree with your comparison. Unions, OH&S Legislation, Whistleblower legislation, etc. all mean the workplace for most is actually pretty safe and fair. Not for riders though, I agree, even the AIS scholarship type rider has done the hard yards for years, so it’s not like they can say “No” and walk away and just get another job. I reckon most people actually would do so if faced with the same dilemna. They’d at least raise it.

    Knowing a bit about Michael Drapac’s ethos to his team riders, that is something that will help the sport in the long run (basically, every rider on the team must have a life beyond cycling). With that philosophy, a rider is less inclined to risk drugs just to keep up. If it all gets too hard, he has a life to fall back on.

    The one thing I am certain about though, is that drug taking kills the sport and my enthusiasm for it.

  • http://twitter.com/bethanykeats Bethany Keats

    I also found it to be a very interesting conference and I think that in its own way it raised more questions than what it answered, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it just shows how much it’s a topic that’s not talked about but should stop being brushed under the carpet because it IS a problem and we can’t keep sticking out heads in the sand as to how to deal with it.

  • Anonymous

    How does a cyclist “re-educate or re-train” at age 28-32 with a wife and kid to support? Only a select few make decent money, so what happens with the hundreds of ex-Pro’s along the way as well? And who does it? Not the team who has just dropped him I bet.

  • http://twitter.com/Tinea_Pedis TP

    JC, have a bit more of a read instead of just a ‘skim’. You’ll find that none of them are complaining about being a cyclist. In fact, they’re honored and thrilled to be so lucky. But this does not preclude them from being unhappy with the career options post-cycling on top of what they are paid. Which, having read the report, really is shockingly low given the sacrifices and time required to put in to the sport.
    One ex-rider was about to earn his FIRST year of super at the age of 37!

    So maybe ‘smarten the hell up’ might be a better way to put it. Because as it stands there’s a massive lack of investment in supporting the riders as human beings.

  • http://twitter.com/Tinea_Pedis TP

    JC, have a bit more of a read instead of just a ‘skim’. You’ll find that none of them are complaining about being a cyclist. In fact, they’re honored and thrilled to be so lucky. But this does not preclude them from being unhappy with the career options post-cycling on top of what they are paid. Which, having read the report, really is shockingly low given the sacrifices and time required to put in to the sport.
    One ex-rider was about to earn his FIRST year of super at the age of 37!

    So maybe ‘smarten the hell up’ might be a better way to put it. Because as it stands there’s a massive lack of investment in supporting the riders as human beings.

  • JC

    Same way a factory worker does at age 55 after being retrenched I spose. Life’s a bit of a moveable feast like that. My point is you gotta make hay while the sun shines but try not to get too upset when it rains ;-)

  • Anonymous

    How many retrenched 55 year old factory workers get another job do you reckon..? Anyway, retrenchments by nature include some payout (in Oz obviously we have years service being a multiplying factor). A rider might be with a team maybe 2-3 years max, then gets donut when he gets dumped. It’s not even near as ‘good’ for them as a 55 year old.

    For every George Hincapie who’s made plenty of money and a sideline clothing business, there are 100 young pro’s forced to quit after 4-5 years with nothing and no prospects. HTFU is not much of an answer for them.

    One thing needed is a proper funding system that supports them. The desire to dope is a lot less then I reckon. A ‘super’ amount from every race organiser (ie. the ASO) into riders’ funds for their retirement is one idea. The UCI could manage, profit from, and then release the $ when the rider retires/is de-registered.

  • JC

    How many retrenched 55 year old factory workers get another job do you reckon..? Not many, thats my point. Pro cycling is not compulsory. Take your shot. If you make it, great. If not, too bad you gotta try something else. Same as everyone else in the so called “real world”. How many pro-cyclists you reckon worry about your retirement plan??

  • JC

    How many retrenched 55 year old factory workers get another job do you reckon..? Not many, thats my point. Pro cycling is not compulsory. Take your shot. If you make it, great. If not, too bad you gotta try something else. Same as everyone else in the so called “real world”. How many pro-cyclists you reckon worry about your retirement plan??

  • Xponti

    SS, Just a correction. GEORGE Hincapie is not the Hincapie clothing. It’s his brother I believe. I am not sure if he has any stake in it.

    “Rich [George's Brother] launches Hincapie Sportswear, Inc. He and partner former Italian cyclist Roby DiGiovine….” From the Hincapie website.

    I think you have to look to the Women for how they do it. Plenty of Doctors and Lawyers in the Pro Peleton within the Womens ranks.

  • http://twitter.com/Clubrider Andrew Gannon

    Thanks for posting this and attending and supporting this event fantastic!

  • Cams_draft
  • http://twitter.com/gregfahy Greg Fahy

    CT, you’ve seriously raised the bar with this post. All the big “commercial” cycling websites made plenty of noise about Landis attending and about how bad that was going to be for the worlds (we showed everyone on Sunday that nothing was going to spoil our party!), but none of them reported the content of this conference at all. Did they even attend?I think all of us would be happier if doping wasn’t a part of cycling (and other sports), but you’re right, there are a lot of complexities that the armchair fan has little ability to appreciate.Well done for doing things differently from the other cycling sites. This sort of stuff is why cyclingtips is the first visit of the day.

  • http://www.cyclingTipsBlog.com cyclingTips

    Thanks Greg!

  • http://www.cyclingTipsBlog.com cyclingTips

    Thanks Greg!

  • http://www.cyclingTipsBlog.com cyclingTips

    Thanks Greg!

  • yogibeare

    CT – You absolutely right in your record and comments on this event! I too attended the full 2 days and also spoke with Floyd, my reaction was the same as yours, from an opinion on Floyd to Michael Drapacs sentiments that echoed the work I am involved in Corporate values and responsibility.

    Its hard to do justice to this event without spending a great deal of time editing an essay, congrats to Martin and the researchers. I came away fascinated, concerned and a changed attitude to the subject, its complex and the riders more victims than culprits, they at least deserve the same rights that they would have under our criminal law.

    Getting a university to conduct a debate lead by lawyers turned out to be a very clever, productive and enlightening event. Letting the UCI or media conduct the debate would be all too predictable, we saw the half hour media interest swarm in get their grab and disappear, its a pity they didnt to sit through it all.

    I commend the report all, dont judge on the headlines alone!

    CT email me if you want to have a chat!

  • The Potato Man

    Another point here is that for anyone considering retraining for a different career after devoting years to cycling is their perspective of that retraining process beforehand. How do you think an alomost pro, 30 year old cyclist would feel contemplating 4 years of uni or similar from which the last 10-15 years work means absolutely nothing. They would consider all of those years as being “wasted” and they haven’t achieved their goal of becoming a pro. Now, the actual process of retraining may not be as daunting as they think, and they may look back on those “wasted” year as the best of their lives, but it is their perspective on it at the time that counts.

  • The Potato Man

    Another point here is that for anyone considering retraining for a different career after devoting years to cycling is their perspective of that retraining process beforehand. How do you think an alomost pro, 30 year old cyclist would feel contemplating 4 years of uni or similar from which the last 10-15 years work means absolutely nothing. They would consider all of those years as being “wasted” and they haven’t achieved their goal of becoming a pro. Now, the actual process of retraining may not be as daunting as they think, and they may look back on those “wasted” year as the best of their lives, but it is their perspective on it at the time that counts.

  • The Potato Man

    Another point here is that for anyone considering retraining for a different career after devoting years to cycling is their perspective of that retraining process beforehand. How do you think an alomost pro, 30 year old cyclist would feel contemplating 4 years of uni or similar from which the last 10-15 years work means absolutely nothing. They would consider all of those years as being “wasted” and they haven’t achieved their goal of becoming a pro. Now, the actual process of retraining may not be as daunting as they think, and they may look back on those “wasted” year as the best of their lives, but it is their perspective on it at the time that counts.

  • Hutchoman

    This paper is really ahead of its time … being presented on 27/28 September 2020 as it was! :)

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