Canadian Cyclist


August 15/98 9:38 am - IMBA Trail Crew, An Editorial

Posted by Editor on 08/15/98

IMBA Trail Care Crew Comes to Canada

On August 6th to 9th, the Canadian Mountain Bicycling Alliance (CMBA) hosted the International Mountain Bicycling Association‚s (IMBA) Trail Care Crew #2. Ric Balfour and Holly Hill (Trail Care Crew #2) have worked side by side with thousands of mountain bikers and hundreds of land managers since their Cactus Cup kick-off on March 15, 1998. In just five months on the road, two Subaru / IMBA Trail Care Crews have helped lead 115 projects in 25 states across the USA. Well, now one of the Crews have come to visit us in Canada, eh. And not a pair of skiis between them - not that they could have fit anything else in their Subaru.

The IMBA Trail Care Crew‚s visit to Southern Ontario began Thursday, August 6th in Toronto. Although the scheduled ride was rained out, the „Crew‰ was able to do a trail survey with members of the Don Valley Mountain Bike Club, followed by an evening get together at a local watering hole. The trail survey included the analysis of problem trail maintenance sites such as clogged up waterbars and eroding off-cambered slopes, with solutions to be implemented in future trail maintenance projects.

On Friday the Crew headed out to Bloomfield, Ontario for a „Cheque Presentation‰, and to ride the local trails with the Bloomfield Bicycle Club. A cheque in the amount of $500.00 was presented to Katie Willing of the Bloomfield Bicycle Club by Patricia McNamee of the Canadian Mountain Bicycling Alliance. This is one of a number of bursaries given to local bike clubs across Canada by CMBA, to assist in the development of mountain bicycling advocacy, access and education.

The Collingwood area was the next destination on the Crew‚s grueling schedule, where they participated in a ride and trail survey with members of the Beaver Valley Mountain Bike Club and the Ontario Cycling Association.

After a long day on the trails in Collingwood, on Saturday it was time to head south to the Dundas Valley, and an early morning Sunday ride with the staff and customers of Freewheel Cycle. The afternoon was spent walking the trails with Ed Zackarewski of the Hamilton-Wentworth Mountain Bike Association and Vince Hoffman of Freewheel Cycle. This little excursion will not be forgotten soon, since the guys took along a video camera. I‚m sure that footage will be the highlight at the next Freewheel team bash (or the reason for it). If that wasn‚t enough, Holly and Ric were taken on a night ride by the Freewheel group that same evening. Oh, by the way Vince - it was a full moon...

It was a busy trip to Canada for the crew and we‚ll definitely miss them. Their expertise, and friendship is, without out a doubt, „just what the doctor ordered‰. CMBA promotes mountain bicycling ADVOCACY through education, co-operation with other trail users, volunteerism, and by giving support to local cycling groups. CMBA is supported by the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada.

Patricia McNamee
Executive Director, Bicycle Trade Association of Canada (BTAC)

How to Clean Up Cycling

The U.S. cycling publication Velonews recently published a very blunt editorial calling for some drastic changes in the governing body for cycling - the Union Cycliste Internationale. We felt that it was important enough to reprint here (with Velonews‚ permission).

Canadians have a unique perspective on doping in high-level sport - there are very few Canadian sports fans who were not affected in some way by the Ben Johnson controversy, and the revelations of the subsequent Krever Inquiry. While you may not agree with the suggestions made by Velonews, few can deny that changes do need to take place in the sports world. At the same time that the Tour de France scandal was taking place, there were similar events occurring in both swimming and track and field.

We read some thought-provoking ideas and commentary on the Forums page during the Tour, hopefully, this editorial will generate more.

An Editorial (by Velonews staff)

To say that the sport of bicycle racing is in crisis is a weak understatement at best. The events of the past month in Europe represent something far more than that, and the revelations about widespread drug use call for radical action.

As police searched the vehicles and hotel rooms and luggage of professional teams and riders at the Tour de France; as French, Belgian, Dutch and Swiss courts stepped up their investigations into drug-related activities in cycling; and as more and more of those involved admitted their culpability in the various scandals, our sport called for strong leadership. And sadly, it was just when unpleasant facts were being uncovered every other day by the police, that the lack of strong leadership in our sport became most glaringly apparent.

The July 8 customs stop of Festina team soigneur Willy Voet, on the Belgian-French border near Lille, triggered a chain of events that uncovered a problem much broader in scope than just a "Tour de France doping scandal" - while the "unfortunate" timing meant that the world was watching and the incident wouldn't be ignored, or marginalized, like the police bust of the MG-Technogym team at last year's Giro d'Italia. Professional cycling has been soiled by the events of the past month, even though our sport has more anti-doping controls and medical tests than almost any other sport. Those who have admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs are, of course, not the only ones involved. The problem is much wider - in cycling, and probably every other major sport.

The ramifications of the current scandals are potentially fatal to cycling as we know it. Sponsors - even those who have publicly professed their support for cycling in recent weeks - could eventually be scared away. Fans - including those who stand for hours on the sides of narrow Belgian lanes, cobbled French roads or the fog-enshrouded mountain passes of the Alps and Pyrenees, just to catch a glimpse of their favorite riders - could eventually find other interests. And young riders, already dwindling in number in the United States, could easily be discouraged from participating in a sport tainted by drugs. The sport itself is at risk.

It can be understood that Hein Verbruggen and the management committee of the Union Cycliste Internationale were elsewhere when the first scandal broke. Their management meeting in Havana, Cuba, had been long scheduled, even though it coincided with the start of the world's biggest bicycle race. The UCI panel moved quickly to impose a provisional revocation of Festina directeur sportif Bruno Roussel's sports license, when the evidence began to mount against his squad. Verbruggen even made an appearance at the Tour after the Festina team had been expelled from the event. But as a scandalized and pared-down peloton made its way to Paris, Verbruggen was nowhere to be found. The president of international cycling was taking a long-scheduled vacation to India. India, at a time when the very survival of the sport was in jeopardy. His absence at such a pivotal moment in the sport's history underscores the fact that when it comes to the issue of doping, Verbruggen has been on vacation for much longer than that.

A review of the UCI president's record shows a history of denial and aggressive defensiveness. Over the years, when allegations of doping have surfaced, Verbruggen has often dismissed the stories as the fabrication of an unethical press, or the ravings of a sore loser. The inadequacy of cycling's - indeed every sport's - program to control doping became glaringly apparent when customs officials first looked in the back of Willy Voet's car on July 8.

The absence of leadership is a widespread problem. It is not the responsibility of a single individual. Yet, we see it necessary to call for the removal of one individual in particular. Hein Verbruggen is the symbolic head of our sport. To change cycling, we respectfully suggest that we first need to remove that symbol. But were this to end just with the Dutch official's resignation, nothing would change. He would be replaced by another bureaucrat. Even so, a new name in the hot seat would be a catalyst for a new start to the eradication of banned drugs in cycling.

Then, to give the fight against doping a better chance of success, we call for the establishment of an independent commission, empowered to review the entire sport from top to bottom. Such a commission needs the respect, not just of the cycling world, but of the public at large: fans, sponsors and even those who give cycling just a passing thought. An effective panel needs input from all elements of the cycling world: riders, race promoters, team and event sponsors, manufacturers, team directors and doctors, federation officials - even the media. And to maintain credibility, such a commission needs guidance from outside, as well as funding.

Toward that end, we suggest that the commission be headed by someone far removed from cycling, removed even from the world of sport. Someone of unimpeachable integrity such as former British prime minister John Major, or perhaps a recently retired senior justice from the World Court in The Hague. The commission - which could and should be extended to examine other sports - might obtain funding from a body like the European Commission, particularly since professional cycling has a huge impact on the economic and personal lives of Europeans. A commission as we've outlined would be worthless if it did not have the power to obtain access to all of the evidence from the ongoing judicial doping inquiries. Such a panel should be empowered to hold hearings, call witnesses and impose sanctions. The sanctions would be against incriminated teams, team directors and - for their action and inaction on doping problems over the past several years - the extensive network of event promoters, and members of national and international federations.

Exempt from immediate sanction should be the riders, some of whom are doping's biggest victims. It is their bodies that suffer the consequences; their life expectancies perhaps shortened; and their lives that are potentially ruined. On their behalf, we call for an immediate amnesty, lasting until the beginning of 1999. From that point on, a rider must, in order to race, subject him or herself to regular and complete medical controls by an independent doctor not associated with any team. We agree with the assertion of uci medical commission chairman Dr. Leon Schattenberg that regular controls will make it increasingly difficult for riders to use undetectable performance-enhancing substances like epo, steroids and human growth hormone. Even slight variations in a rider's test results will need to be examined closely. Finally, if and when the promising research does produce a test for such substances, the penalties should be swift and severe for those caught using them, and those administering them. Perhaps the sanctions should be as severe as a one-year suspension for a proven first offense, and a complete lifetime ban from the sport for any subsequent transgression. Only stiff penalties, the threat of prison sentences and personal disgrace will discourage the drug pushers and users.

It can be said that the U.S. government's war on drugs has not been successful, despite billions of dollars and countless federal agencies being thrown at the problem. Sports have a better chance of success. In cycling, at least, we are not talking about millions of addicts being hooked on narcotics. Cycling has to remove the rewards and fame that riders and teams currently obtain by cheating. By exposing the cheaters, and making it all but impossible to practice their illegal activities, cycling can again be a leader.

Marco Pantani won this Tour de France. Pantani is a humble, simple human being, who is not in this sport to satisfy his ego or become a millionaire. After winning the Giro in June, Pantani said he thought the fans were more excited about his victory than he was. He is popular because he is an underdog who has overcome incredible personal pain and setbacks to reach the pinnacle in his sport. Cycling needs stories like this.

Ultimately, all sports need to be cleaned out. For this to happen in cycling, we need an outside, very credible and untainted figure to lead the sport out of its darkest hour. It won't be Hein Verbruggen or the UCI that will do it.

We don't have answers to all the problems; no one does. But if radical steps are not taken immediately, cycling could wither and die. It could become a secondary sport, even in those places where millions still call it their favorite. It is time for action, a time for change, and a time for powerful leadership.


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