Professional cycling seems to be determined to tear itself apart even before the Tour De France starts next month.
Cycling news – as ever – is first with the scoop on a Pantani TV interview to be screened tommorrow. The interview will no doubt cause even more outrage amongst pro cyclists, governing bodies and the public alike, thanks to it’s casual accusations and Pantani’s unique ‘Swiss Tony’ style phrases. Here’s some key extracts;
“In cycling there is not a culture of doping, but of a profession that is improving itself… When we can guarantee that a donkey will not be superior to a horse, then we can see a beautiful race.”
“The trouble is that the anti-drug controls are not at the forefront, and this does not allow the athletes to be equal, and have doubts about their colleagues. I would not be surprised myself if one day they also determined that the blood levels of Armstrong had changed. Now, anything is possible.”
(At San Remo) “I saw things I will never forget: mechanics who after 40 years of honourable trade have been treated like criminals. Our Federation is guilty for not protecting us, and they never have.”
“To cure ourselves in our jargon does not mean to dope, but you cannot trust anybody, you are afraid to speak with a colleague, you are afraid of everyone…”
“For my own good I would do well to keep quiet. The Giro d’Italia was resumed because…… ……..we were intimidated by a lot heavies from the authorities. They promised things to us after the meeting with CONI, and I know they will not keep them.”
“In the Tour, they will feel the absence of Pantani. Although I know that the French will never admit it.”
Another Italian often closely linked to doping charges is Professor Conconi, who is suspected of systematic dpoing of athletes attending his elite training centre. The Court in Ferrara is accusing Conconi with supplying and administering doping substances, including EPO, to 63 athletes. The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) is also under investigation as it directly supported and financed Conconi’s work.
Meanwhile outspoken anti-doping professional Christophe Bassons has told ‘L’Humanité’ newspaper that he “despairs of the world of professional cycling.”
He continues, “When my book [Positif] came out, it was not well received. I was made to understand that I had exceeded the boundaries. Even in my team, certain riders were not happy…At the end of a training camp, I was attacked by riders who reproached me for not respecting them. I consider that while doping reigns as master in my professional, it is me who is not being respected! I now count six or seven riders who do not speak to me any more, who don’t even say hello..”
He claims “three days of ceaseless taunts and alienation” from Didier Rous, Pascal Chanteur and Christophe Moreau in particular forced him to abandon the Four Days of Dunkirk. He continues “When I am at home, it is hard to set out again…For the last four or five year, I have lived a dream. I could earn a living by riding a bike, it was for me unhoped for. But I don’t have the dream any more.” “They understood my words and it hurts them. But I believe there is a mistake. When I speak, the riders always think that I am saying that I am the only one who doesn’t dope himself, but it is not that. When I speak about doping, I speak about me and the norm, never of a particular individual.”
“I will be content when I leave the milieu,” he concludes, “My team did not select me for the Tour. So much the better.”