Bike Pure aiming to spread anti-doping message in cycling
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bike Pure aiming to spread anti-doping message in cycling

by Conal Andrews at 9:36 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 

Born out of the frustration caused by the positive tests and scandals of recent years, the Bike Pure organisation was set up approximately a year ago in order to enable riders and fans to promote the anti-doping message.

The Irish-based organisation has shown impressive growth and has the support of a wide number of riders including professionals Marco Pinotti (Columbia-Highroad), Dan Martin, Cameron Meyer, Peter Stetina (Garmin-Slipstream), Jack Bobridge (SouthAustralia.com – AIS), Daryl Impey, Robbie Hunter (Barloworld), Russell Downing (Candi TV – Marshall’s Pasta), Philip Deignan, Dan Fleeman (Cervélo Test Team), Nicolas Roche (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Alexander Kristoff (Joker Bianchi). It also has a large number of female and off-road competitors.

Showing that it is answering a need within the community for a positive message to be sent out, membership has soared to over 20,000 people from 82 countries. These include the US, Britain, South Africa, Poland, Sweden, Australia and Ireland.

It’s free to sign up, and for a small donation members can receive a wristband and branded headset spacer to wear and thus show their dedication to clean cycling. The organisation is not-for-profit and all money generated is used to develop the campaign and to cover the various costs such as postage.

Bike Pure is also working on a document entitled Cyclesport 2.0 which, according to founder Myles McCorry, will be used to “compile workable solutions for cycling’s future.” It has received 1100 recommendations from the public. In 2010 it will launch a ‘future champions program’, laying out protocols to protect young athletes, as well as a Bike Pure leaders’ program which will “award and assist the volunteers within cycling.”

VeloNation spoke to McCorry’s fellow co-ordinator Andy Layhe recently in order to learn more about this exciting project.

VeloNation: How and when did Bike Pure start?

Andy Layhe: It started after last year’s Tour de France, with the positive tests of guys like Riccardo Ricco. The year before that we had the Rasmussen and Vinokourov scandals. Everyone went into the 2008 Tour thinking that the sport was cleaning up after all the major problems. People were watching Ricco win. They thought this was a young guy, someone from the new generation, then all of a sudden he was pulled for CERA.

The whole sport was plunged into disarray again. The trust was betrayed and a lot of fans turned their back on the sport then as they felt that they couldn’t trust them anymore. Obviously he denied it. He had a great ride in the Giro that year, too. Everyone thought that the young guys coming through were the new hope, and it turned out not to be true.

VN: So what happened next?

AL: Well, Myles (McCorry) had the idea and he came to me. In October of that year we put the website together and we haven’t looked back since. There was no platform there, it was all bad news in the sport and there was nowhere for people to voice their anger and their concerns as fans. There was no major organisation there that people could latch on to.

I think that fans feel that they need to do something. They are basically really annoyed about being lied to. They wanted to have an organisation that they could be part of and trust. We felt that if we could get riders on board, people could relate to them more. There is a fine line…we don’t say that everyone who isn’t part of Bike Pure is a doper, because it is entirely up to the individual.

VN: What is your background?

AL: I was a cyclist and still am. I rode cyclo cross in the late 80’s and 90’s, going to the world championships and the World Cups across Spain, in Rome and others. I had a few top five rides and was third overall in the European Cup. That was with the GB team – I have a twin brother Chris, and we were both on the team. We started when we were sixteen and within three months we were into the GB team. I was thirteenth in the world championships. I was third with a lap to go and then crashed.

I also rode for the Dawes mountainbike team for a couple of years. I won the national trophy, that was the big thing.

Anyway, we used to race with Jermoe Chiotti [who later confessed to using EPO – ed.]. He was about the same age as me. There were a few races where I, Roger Hammond and Chiotti would have been top three. Jerome would have been eighteen or nineteen then – I don’t know if he was doping then, but he was brilliant at that age. He was a fantastic rider.

VN: Did you see any signs of it when you were racing?

AL: No, I never saw anything at all when I was a teenager. I think in those days you wouldn’t have had drugs like EPO, anyway. But it is only now when you hear about youngsters doping, juniors being caught. If you are in the sport at that age, you don’t want to hear that…for guys to be cheating at that age is just unbelievable. Obviously, somebody has to be doping them, somebody is obviously behind them. That is the worrying part, that men would go to those lengths to poison the youth. I’m horrified to think that.

VN: What about Myles’ background?

AL: He also raced…I think he has done the Ras six times. He is a good time triallist, and has raced every year in Ireland for fifteen years or so.

VN: Who were the first riders to sign up?

AL: It was Dan Lloyd and Dan Fleeman, from Cervélo. That would have been about October of last year. It was mostly Irish guys who joined up first. Oliver Kaisen of Silence Lotto did too, a rider who won a stage in the Tour of Turkey this year. A lot of the An Post team signed up – a lot of the Irish guys, which you can understand as we are Ireland-based.

Nicolas Roche, Daniel Martin and Philip Deignan all signed up after that, and more and more international riders came on board. I think we have over 65 riders, including some guys from Team Sky. Russell Downing is one of those, he is really behind us.

VN: How do you recruit riders – do you go to races?

AL: We have been doing it over Facebook, emailing…a lot of them come now from the pros, they maybe speak to their training partners, team-members etcetera. It is okay at the races but you are almost cold-calling. It is good to meet the guys who are with us, but a lot of riders are a bit tense before a race.

Because we have raced we know what it is like, so you don’t want to be hounding people before a race. But it is good to meet them anyway.

VN: You have said before that you have had a mixed reaction, with some teams being quite welcoming and some being the opposite….

AL: You could perhaps put that down to the fact that it is just before a big race, and the mechanics, managers whatever are busy with their riders. That said, it is worrying that we don’t have a lot of riders or even core membership from Italy, France or Belgium. Maybe that is a language barrier, we are not sure.

Most of our web traffic is from America, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia. The English-speaking countries, which I suppose is understandable. But we really want to get into the likes of Belgium, Italy and France, the three big nations. As I said, maybe that is the language barrier.

VN: You recently went to the London Cycle Show. How did that go for you?

AL: It was good, we mainly went for the trade day. We try to get companies on board with us – we want people to trust us. If companies want to affiliate with us, it is a sign that their product or whatever they have can be associated with us in a positive manner. Positive association is important [for the companies]. Currently, 3T is doing the stem caps and Blackbottoms are making the jerseys. Sock Guy is producing socks. They are on board and it is just getting the message out there.

We get a small percentage of each item sold. Some of the riders are going to wear the socks too – the British champion Helen Wyman will, and I think Katie Compton is going to wear them in the cyclo-cross World Cups.

VN: So riders or fans can wear the socks, the jersey, the headset spacer or the wristbands…

AL: Yes. It is the blue symbol, the blue droplet. We are hoping that the symbol will become synonymous with anti-doping and a trustworthy organisation that people can look up to.

VN: Are some already displaying that?

AL: Yes, the Konica Minolta team in South Africa have that on their jersey. Katie has the wristband on her sleeve, and Stefan Wyman is setting up a UK women’s team next year. He said he will carry the logo. Various others have either the spacer or the wristband.

We are trying to focus on the teams too. We have a good few Specialized riders – Christophe Sauser, Burry Stander, Todd Wells, Lene Byberg…we have virtually the whole Specialized team.

VN: So presumably you would encourage ProTour teams to sign up?

AL: Yes, but that has been a bit of a disappointment – the lack of the big teams, the big name riders being involved. The top ten GC riders are the sort of guys that we want knocking on our door. Whether or not they haven’t heard of us….we just don’t know. But we are happy with how it is going, it is building. We are not disappointed in that respect, as regards the ProTour. Obviously Philip Deignan did a great ride in the Vuelta [stage win and ninth overall]…that is a good sign, it is a sign that things are getting better.

VN: What about former dopers that might want to join up – what is Bike Pure’s position on that?

AL: Well, we have these honour codes which the riders sign to say that they are against doping in sport and that their performances will be clean and real. We do have a former dopers’ one, but we are going to refine that. The reason is that there is a difference between a guy taking EPO and a guy perhaps taking the wrong cold remedy. There has to be a line there, the punishment has to fit the crime.

It is a difficult point for us, and I think we are going to have to refine that aspect of Bike Pure. The way the honour code is worded is that they should support life bans for any doping. But obviously you can’t class somebody who takes a cold remedy and somebody who was blood doping in the same way – there is a huge difference there.

VN: So do you think a life ban for a first offence is to be encouraged or not?

AL: No, we are going to refine that. I think we are going to say a minimum of four years for a [serious] first offence, as opposed to the current two-year ban, and then obviously any second offence has to be a life ban.

VN: Do you think that there is perhaps a dilemma for riders who used to dope in the past but who have stopped…do they have a dilemma in signing up?

AL: I am sure they do. I am sure they have a dilemma even when they turn up to a race. If a guy who has been doping, I think they are cornered as such…I think they are being pushed into a corner now. Maybe they are still microdosing. But I think they are at the point…if you have been winning races left, right and centre during the late nineties and the 2000’s, during what I would term as the EPO era, and you are still winning… It is going to be difficult for those guys to remain at the top level without being caught.

And this is obviously where the bio passport comes into effect over time. It must be difficult for those riders, having won races. A lot of riders have gone completely off the scale. When you have guys who have come back and they are just not as good as they were…it is difficult to say, it could be a few things, but it certainly points the fingers in some ways.

VN: In sport, what would you like to see happen next in the fight against doping?

AL: I think the passport is going to come to fruition. The more time passes, the more data they will obviously have. You have to look at the financial cost of the doping…sponsors have been pulling out of the sport. If the money is going out of the sport then that is obviously a huge problem, because that is what is keeping the sport afloat.

Going back to the passport, I just think that over time more guys will get caught. They could be a step ahead anyway, there is already talk of gene doping, etc, but I think that these guys are going to be more and more alienated as time goes on. When someone does a great ride, people are going to question them and say, “look, you won this by an amazing amount of time. You won this time trial by four minutes,” or whatever. As the sport moves on, people will begin to question some performances. These guys will be pushed into a corner and then they will just have all these avenues blocked.

VN: What can be done to increase confidence?

AL: I think that more riders need to be open about their values. Lance Armstrong did that, but then removed his data from his site, which doesn’t send out a good message. Riders put these figures up for people to scrutinise them – it is inevitable that people will look at them. That is why they publish these results, so that people can look through them and study them. So then removing your results isn’t necessarily a good thing.

We would like to see more riders publishing their results. It is all about transparency. This word is banded about a lot, but everyone needs to be more open.

Look, cycling has paid a heavy price. It is at the forefront of anti-doping, there is no doubt about that. It is at the top of any sport in terms of anti-doping measures, but it is also the victim of its own success in a way, with regards to the number of riders being caught.

VN: But presumably you would call on other sports to do the same, rather than for cycling to look less hard?

AL: Yes, sure. Recently an Italian footballer [Fabio Cannavaro] had taken cortisone injections. I don’t know the full details behind it, but if that was a cyclist, people would have pointed the finger. But with other sports, fans tend to go the opposite way.

That is down to the mistrust that has been built up in cycling. That is because of the guys who have doped – they have misled everybody and taken away the trust.

You need more riders to come back and apologise for what they have done and maybe put some measures together to perhaps do something for the sport. Look at Vinokourov – nobody has ever heard him apologise. And any win that he has, any good result, people aren’t going to trust him.

VN: What about those who apologised and admitted it?

AL: Sure, that’s something else. For example, I think that David Millar is different – he held his hand up and explained what he had done. I am not standing up for Millar, it was still his decision to dope, it is still any other rider’s decision and they have to pay the consequences. The same applies to team doctors and the managers, etc. But at least with Millar he held his hand up, he explains what he did and why he did it. He is now working with WADA – that all sends out a better message.

I think there will always be some fans who have some mistrust in him, because he did dope. But it goes a long way with the fans for guys to hold their hands up and explain why they did it. As for those who ridicule guys who stand up, that is part of the problem.

I am not sticking up for Bernhard Kohl, he doped, but again there is this unwritten word that you don’t speak about it. I think that is what needs to change in the sport…people need to accept those admissions. When a guy holds his hands up and apologise, they should be embraced, they should be taken on board and asked about the reasons for doping.

I do think that things are improving. For example, we have some young guys coming through with us. [Two are] Jack Bobridge and Leigh Howard, the Australian guys. We have met a lot of them and they just seem decent, genuine guys. If they are picking up rainbow jerseys, then it is a good sign for the future.

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Check out Bike Pure on the Internet at www.bikepure.org.  You can also follow their progress on Twitter at twitter.com/bikepure.

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