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Talk to Frank - Clive Forth Investigates Doping in Enduro Part 1 of 2

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Talk to Frank 

A Bike Magic exclusive.

Words: Clive Forth

The world of cycling is steeped in myth and legend, with corruption and scandals rife in the world of road racing to me it came as no surprise when the news broke through the winter that a rider had been given a six-month ban having tested positive for a banned substance, banned substances are all around us.

Obviously this news created outrage amongst the saintly clean living mountain biking community, harsh “burn him” type comments on social networking sites ensued and cries for “name and shame him” reminded me that sometimes we are not just quick on two wheels but also too quick to judge.

Perhaps it’s just evidence that we have only just left the dark ages? I wonder if certain members of the mountain bike community would feel justice had been served hot if we clamped the banned rider in stocks and threw broken bike bits at them till they cried for forgiveness from all who are holier than thou.

The inevitable playground finger pointing soon followed and a little Lance Armstrong affair got into full swing on the usual forums and (anti)-social network sites, two names popped up and the torches were lit as the mountain bike village rode out on its high horse in search of justice.

I have to say it’s very easy to sit back and point the finger, I also want to point out that this is not the purpose of this article, the interviews that follow will hopefully shed some light on the situation. I hasten to add that if you read word for word any piece relating to the subject prior to this then you will see there was no proof or evidence of doping (which can take shape in many different forms), the un-named rider was given the ban having tested positive for a “masking agent”.

Let’s look at the UCI’s take on drugs

Something that became clear (and is quite obvious if you have ever read the UCI’s banned list and rules) is that there is a lot of confusion around what an individual can and can’t do, take or not take. Read the UCI’s anti doping documents “Warning” statement below and you get the idea the subject makes as much sense to a laymen as a bum full of Smarties.

From the UCI web site.

Chapter SCOPE

  1. These Anti-Doping Rules shall apply to all License-Holders

Comment: a license is required to participate in the sport of cycling governed by the rules of the UCI and the National Federations (article 1.1.010 of UCI’s Cycling Regulations).

However if a Person participates in the sport of cycling governed by the UCI without being holder of a license as required, he will not escape application of the regulations, including these Anti-Doping Rules. Application of these Anti-Doping Rules to Persons other than License-Holder is dealt with in article 18.

On the UCI web site there is also this statement relating to anti doping:

“The International Cycling Union considers riders’ health and the promotion of sporting ethics as high priorities.”

I have to say the situation is plain crazy, if rules like the anti doping act are to stand up on the proclamation that they have a consideration for “riders’ health” then surely there are other fundamental “basics” that need addressing. If the UCI along with its affiliated governing bodies (and their representatives) are to adhere to the subject “duty of care” to their customers then in my opinion anti doping would be way down the list of priorities, remember folks you’re a paying customer to a service provider, they are not the long arm of the law! I see legal holes all over the place where heads would roll in a worst-case scenario.

The irony in the situation is that enduro, mass start DH, 24 hour, Trans events etc. are not recognized by the UCI or sanctioned, the test was done on the basis of a license being held with the French federation. So could you be smacked up to the eyeballs gorging on the cocaine buffet in the start gate of Mega and, so long as you don’t have a license, get away with it?

Consider this for a moment when entering an event sanctioned by a national governing body who affiliates with the UCI: do you know every single item on the banned list and do you know the chemical contents of everything you eat and drink? I know my London lawyer would advise me never to enter a competition or take a doping test had he read the document this extract below comes from, the wording leaves any individual wide-open.

Anti-doping rule violations

21. The following constitute anti-doping rule violations:

1. The presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers in a rider’s bodily specimen.

1.1 It is each Rider’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his body. Riders are responsible for any Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers found to be present in their bodily Specimens. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing Use on the Rider’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti doping violation under article 21.1.

Warning:

1) Riders must refrain from using any substance, foodstuff, food supplement or drink of which they do not know the composition. It must be emphasized that the composition indicated on a product is not always complete. The product may contain Prohibited Substances not listed in the composition.

2) Medical treatment is no excuse for using Prohibited Substances or Prohibited Methods, except where the rules governing Therapeutic Use Exemptions are complied with.

(Please note folks in line 1.1 it does not state “his or her body”, so can a woman’s lawyer interpret this to mean that its ok for a woman to use banned substances? See how messy this gets?)

The working rules on the continent state that if you take just one day off work for illness you need a doctor’s note, this in itself opens up the potential for an individual to violate the rules. “Feel like a pig has shat in your head?” Just crack open the medicine cabinet at home and take something from an old prescription to ease the pain, phone the boss and attempt to go into work tomorrow. Now you have no doctor’s note to cover the medication you just took, the last thing any ill person wants to do is march down to the surgery to get a note to tell them that they’re ill!

Conclusion?

Like it or loathe it people will always try to bend the rules and gain advantage over one another in all walks of life, it’s within all of us to a lesser or greater degree, it’s all part of human nature. When it comes to competition and racing the basic principle is to beat the opposition, there is no such thing as cheating yourself, if you have set a standard and marker and are happy to subscribe to them and compete or live by those terms then its an impossibility, you live within your own rules and boundaries.

Just look at the Lance Armstrong case, the guy was so far down the road believing his own hype yet happy to continue in the background doing his thing which so contradicted the statements he made in interviews, he must have known his actions contradicted his words?

Talking to the pros

So without further ado let me introduce you to veteran of mountain bike racing Franck Parolin. As a regular at the Mega events (where the alleged drugs incident took place), I thought Franck might be a good person to speak to on the subject as he’s seen all the riders and attended many events across different disciplines, federations and organisers.

I caught up with Franck having just stepped off the chairlift at last weekend’s MegaR2X race shortly before race one to see what he had to say.

Franck Parolin out of the start gate at last weekend's MegaR2X race, which coincided with the Val d'Allos Enduro World Series event.

Franck Parolin out of the start gate at last weekend’s MegaR2X race, which coincided with the Val d’Allos Enduro World Series event.
Photo by UCC/ Cyril Charpin

Clive Forth: So how you keeping Franck and how was the seeding race yesterday?

Franck Parolin:  Not bad, with this great weather I’m looking forward to the race, seeding was good, the track is really, really fast.

CF: How does the track suit you?

FP:  It’s really hard, the track is long with hard pedaling sections and a very technical finish, if I have a good first half of the race it will be down to the technical, overtaking is very hard.

CF: So tell me a little about the bike here, you’re on the Giant with 26’ wheels?

FP: Yes its the Reign X with 170mm of travel and the 26’ wheel, full BOS suspension and tubeless tyres, I’ve tried the Trans X with 29 wheel but on this track I prefer the 26‘, it’s easier to move around.

CF: So you’re 32 years old now, how many years is it you’ve been racing?

FP: I started racing BMX when I was 6, then downhill when I turned 14 and now I’ve been racing downhill marathon for the last 8 years.

I let Franck get on with his warm up and caught up with him again in the start grid, having first asked Karim Amour the following question I turned to Franck and asked him for his thoughts on the subject. 

CF: So over the winter there was a press release regarding a French rider who was banned for the use of a masking agent, this sparked a lot of debate and allegations on the forums and social media sites, is there anything you would like to say on the subject?

FP: I think it’s really difficult to speak about that, there is not really some control, it’s not really pro, you know the guys are not professionals and they don’t know if they can take something if they are sick.

CF: Yes the banned list is quite comprehensive and controls quite tight.

FP: Yes, we have one friend who was first in a Mega Avalanche, he had a problem at a Mega race, he walked and was the last one of the race, he had a control and a lot of problems followed. If everything is organised and everything is clear it’s ok, but when you see all that goes on in sport it’s difficult to put the problem into context. This behaviour is not normal for sure but I think if it’s all really well organised with professional controls and professional controllers it could be better.

CF: So you’d agree that the knowledge on the subject needs to be shared?

FP: Yes of course, everything needs to be clear and well organised.

CF: I agree, one of the awkward things we face with these disciplines is it’s not UCI sanctioned.

FP: Yes indeed.

Yes, we have one friend who was first in a Mega Avalanche, he had a problem at a Mega race, he walked and was the last one of the race, he had a control and a lot of problems followed.

CF: They set the rules in the bigger picture but there are many things in these competitions that fall outside their rule book.

FP: Yes, I mean if you take all the guys here maybe only like 10 guys know what is the control. I was a professional in downhill and I know the rules, this needs attention. I mean the guys are here to have fun, if they take something for being sick they do not know if they are in the rules or not.

CF: So sharing the knowledge is a key thing?

FP: Yes for sure.

CF: Coming back to your days in downhill as a professional what was your most memorable result?

FP:  Oh my silver medal in the Junior Worlds at Mount-Sainte Anne was great, a good season, good memories, a great year.

CF: Well thanks for your time Franck, have a great race.

This process was not easy for me, I wanted to ask the blunt questions but having been around these guys both at dinner with the event team and on the start grid for last several years it was not easy, I had to use tact and the softly softly approach was my only option. Frank spoke clearly and confidently, his English is good but not great and my French is less than terrible.

I then pulled Karim Amour away from his warm up preparations and he kindly gave me his time.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 with Karim Amour.

  1. paulhaysom

    I hope this gets shared around

  2. serge the seal of death

    Interesting article, and subject, as people say its a very complex issue, the sport is only just getting a professional element to it, and so financial gain from performance will increase, and so the pressure / rewards of winning will start to tempt people to use all sorts of “training aids” and just drugs, Good luck drawing a conclusion from it, as you say UCI rules are as clear as chiltern mud, personally i would use the following rule.
    if you finish in the top 10 of an event, expect to be checked, if you have anything in your system you need to be able to explain it, then stop, we will not haul you over the coals for the first offense if you are finishing outside of the top 10 we do not care.
    Personally i think in MTB social stigma attached to doping may be enough to stop most, we have seen from armstrong the sponsors going after there money, bit bonkers but the money here is no where near as high, if say Steve Peat was caught and named then his career and sponsorship would end in a heart beat, (using steve as he would not) and he would destroy his reputation,plus as he has shown, its not always finish results that brings in the sponsors, its photo ops, riding style, movies, so maybe not being on teh podium is not such a hindrance to making a living.

  3. Toddy

    As someone who has been involved in ALL branches of the sport (except BMX) for over 50 years both as a competitor and an official, I find some of “Serge”‘s comments very disturbing. He infers that MTB occupies some kind of moral high ground, which is absurd, if not a little arrogant. We are all racers and we all want to win regardless of the branch of the sport. Inevitably, some individuals will be prepared to go beyond moral and ethical limits to achieve this.
    One of Serge’s other comments-”if you are finishing outside the top 10 we do not care” really beggars belief! People have died or done life changing damage to their health by using performance enhancing drugs.What sort of impression is a comment like that going to have on youngsters thinking of taking up the sport?
    Cycling has possibly done more than any other sport to stamp out drug abuse. We have had a lot of bad press because we have done it very publicly. Many other sports hush it up.
    The UCI publishes a list of banned substances which is available to all. It is the responsibility of the competitor to see that nothing on the list appears in his/her system. If in doubt consult a coach, trainer or sports doctor.

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