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The VV View: Are you still a Believer?

"Cynicism has crept into my thinking about pro cycling."


I’m a Believer,’ a great song, the Monkees had the hit back in 1968.

I used to be a ‘Believer’ and can remember the sense of relief when we discovered that Lance’s Tour ‘positive’ back in 1999 was all a big mistake; those tricky corticosteroids had been in a cream he used to treat a saddle sore and he had a TUE to cover it.

What a relief.

Of course, we’d learn later that the TUE was post-dated and that he’d actually tested positive four times during that Tour.

a Believer
Emma O’Reilly was Armstrong’s soigneur for a while, and wrote in her book of the fabricated TUE.

And going further back to 1998, Festina, TVM, the Spanish teams going home and me sitting in my living room on the brink of tears as I watched Bjarne Riis and Luc Leblanc slag each other live on Eurosport as the peloton sat in the road.

What we’re they doing to MY Tour de France?

I remember agreeing with Bobby Jullich when he protested that those nasty French police were being heavy handed in their treatment of ‘suspected’ – later translated to ‘CONFIRMED’ – dopers and if it was the USA then law suits would be flying.

Damn right, Bobby.

The Bobster was of course one of the dopers.

a Believer
Julich confessed to using EPO “a couple of times” across a few seasons.

Then there was Floyd – he even wrote a book about how he’d been ‘stitched up,’ it was called ‘Positively False’ and is the only cycling book I ever bought then gave away. 

It was patently piffle.

Tyler Hamilton, Santiago Botero, David Miller, Danilo Di Luca, Davie Zee, Tom Danielson all followed and when Lance appeared on Oprah many a ‘Believer’ had their bubble well and truly popped.

The trickle of circumstantial evidence oozing out of the Lance myth already had the likes of me in no doubt that he had been hard ‘at it.’

But if he could nail the Sunday Times in court none of us were going to say what we really thought, in print, at least.

I provide this background to justify the fact that cynicism has crept into my thinking about pro cycling.

Here’s a question for you;

Name one instance where the rumour-mill on doping has been proved wrong and Federations and/or the Media have had to issue a grovelling apology about the claims made to the rider concerned?’

I can’t think of one either.

a Believer
Are Froome and Sky ‘playing for time’ so he can ride the Tour? Photo©Getty

The Frome situation was for me summed up most eloquently in a recent piece Philippa York penned recently for another, ‘well known website.

I had the temerity to share her words on social media and was immediately subject to a barrage of criticism from ‘Believers.’

And that’s what this piece is about, my comment on the ‘Believers’ arguments in a rational fashion rather than ‘the forum for personal insult’ which much of social media has become. 

Why shouldn’t Chris Froome be riding the Giro?

The feeling of many, Bernard Hinault (and me) included, is that he should not have been there; not with the salbutamol sword of Damocles suspended by a single thread above his head.

And if Team Sky – that epitome of a clean team – were members of the MPCC then he wouldn’t be.

Lampre ‘pulled’ Ulissi when his test results were revealed and we now have the spectre of a ‘Contador’ retrospective loss of results looming – remember what a farce that was?

And if the UCi let the result stand after the Ulissi, Petacchi and Pliuschin cases, what does that say about the credibility of cycling’s world governing body?

And another question to ponder;

‘If Froome was from Italy, Spain or an East European country, would the ‘Believers’ be so supportive?’

We all know the answer to that one, he’d be ‘another dodgy Latino/ex-commie doper.’

a Believer
Alejandro Valverde isn’t the most favourite rider with many English-speaking cycling followers, unlike David Millar. Photo©Martin Williamson

Most of the other riders are very supportive of Chris’s participation.

If you were a pro, would you want to fall out with Team Sky?

Me neither – and I’d say what I thought Chris and the boys would like me to say.

It’s those who leaked the story who should be brought to account, this would have been settled between Froome and UCI without the likes of us knowing about it!

Damn right!

But how come Christopher only began to assemble a legal team after the story was leaked?

This one was BURIED if the media hadn’t done their job.

On the subject of ‘Bert’ – the situation with him and his ban was NOTHING like Christopher’s plight.

Believers resort to semantics – that’s ‘the study of meanings in a language.’

The bottom lines is that both men had quantities of a substance in their system which was contrary to the rules and should not have been there in that quantity.

In Contador’s case a tiny amount of clenbuterol and in Froome’s case, DOUBLE the amount of salbutamol permitted under the current regulations.

To argue the situations are hugely different is to split hairs.

a Believer
Michael Rasmussen leads Alberto Contador on the Col d’Aubisque on the evening Rasmussen exited the race, whilst in yellow. Photo©Martin Williamson

Nice guys don’t dope!

Tyler Hamilton, lovely man; Ryder Hesjedal, cool guy; Michael Rasmussen, eloquent, friendly, likeable… I could go on…

Philippa York’s opinion doesn’t count; she didn’t ride THIS Giro.


Second twice in the Vuelta, second in the Giro, fourth in the Tour and winner of the Dauphine – what the hell would she know about stage racing?

80 kilometres out front solo on a mountain stage is nothing unusual for a man like Froome and analysis of his watts endorses this. 

Okay, but the last ‘exploits’ like this I remember were from guys like Claudio and Marco.

I’m a Believer
Chris Froome talks to Ed at the Tour. He gave us time when pushed to get to the départ. Photo©Martin Williamson

Yours truly ‘never had a good word about Froome.’

Back in his Barloworld days I interviewed the man and spoke to him at several Tour stage finishes; I found him to be a polite and interesting interview subject (but see the earlier paragraph.)

As for ‘good word’ he was my ‘man of the match’ in the British Road Race Champs way back in 2009 where he rode an aggressive race.

I have the utmost respect for all professional cyclists and that includes those of Team Sky – the management and modus operandi of the team, well that’s another story, a team of which a Government committee enquiry commented; ‘Every scintilla of credibility is gone.

There’s not much else to I want to say but Philippa sums up the thoughts of many, me included when she states;

‘We’ve either witnessed a script straight out of Hollywood or we are being taken for mugs again.

And very last word? Whatever did become of the guy with the ‘Floyd is innocent’ T-shirt at those Tour of Britain stage finishes?