Monday, February 6, 2012

Contador & Lance...what an absolute mess, part 1

First and foremost, I am not an expert on performance enhancing drugs, masking agents, UCI or WADA policy, or the International legal system.  I do consider myself to be a person with a certain amount of common sense, and a realist.  That is, I see things how they actually are, and not how I'd like for them to be.  

As far as the Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong legal cases, I'm starting to believe that those are the two main things that have been missing from how both of these cases have been handled.

And above all else, I believe that if you are going to set in place a set of rules for people to follow, then you have to abide by those rules like they are carved in stone.  Not only do the people who are asked to live by these rules have to treat them like they are carved in stone, but the people doing the asking have to treat them like that.  

If you want a sure fire way to make sure things degenerate into chaos, then start down the slippery slope of selective enforcement.

First, the Alberto Contador case.  This one seems ridiculously simple.  The UCI/WADA rules state two things.  First, a rider cannot have any clenbuteral in his system.  The important word in that rule is "any".  And second, the rules state it is the rider's responsibility to make sure that no clenbuteral enters his system.  Either on purpose, or by accident, the burden lies with the cyclist.  That seems pretty cut and dried to me.  It doesn't matter if it was an accident, (by eating contaminated meat as Contador claims).  If you test positive, your guilty.  When the Spanish Cycling Federation cleared Contador or any wrongdoing, they were basically choosing to selectively enforce the rule.  

CAS, (The Court of Arbitration for Sport), decided to ban Contador for 2 years, and strip him not only of his 2010 Tour de France title, but also his 2011 Giro d'Italia title.  Is this a fair decision?  I don't know, but I do know that per the rules, it is the right decision. 

These are the rules that everyone was aware of, or should have been aware of, and that everyone agreed to race by when they signed on to be a pro cyclist.  The time to protest the rule was before you failed a drug test.  To start crying about how unfair the rules is after you've been accused of breaking it, seems a tad hypocritical.

Secondly, the Lance Armstrong case.  Let's begin by allowing me to state that you're not likely to meet anyone with a bigger non-sexual man crush on Lance Armstrong than me. And despite what I'm about to say in the blog, frankly, even I believe that Lance probably engaged in some sort of illegal activity while he was racing.  If Lance wasn't doping, then he was probably the only one in the peloton at that time who wasn't. 

But knowing or believing something is one thing, proving it is another.

For the last 10 years of his cycling career, Lance was, without a doubt, the single most tested athlete on the face of the earth.  And not only has he never failed a drug test, he's never even had a "suspicious" drug test.  There are those who will say "well he just never got caught".  That very well could be true.  But these are the rules set down by WADA & the UCI.  You cannot ruin a person's career, and probably ruin them financially, based on what you believe happened.  You have to have facts if you are going to take those kind of drastic actions.

Soem will say that Alberto didn't deserve what he got, and Lance didn't get what he should have gotten.  That to may very well be true.  But if you are going to operate an organization like the UCI, you've got to have rules, and those rules have to be enforced for everyone.  You cannot get into the business of deciding who "deserves" punishment, based on what kind of person you perceive them to be.  Punishments have to be handed out based on the written rules and the facts in evidence in that case.

This reminds me of a true story here in Texas.  A few years ago, I was listening to the radio and they were talking about the case of a family who had showed up to claim their multi-million dollar Texas lottery prize.  They had the winning ticket, they showed up at the right office.  The trouble was, they showed up 3 days too late.  This was a family that really could have used the money.  One of the host of the radio show  was saying that the lottery commission should have gone ahead and given them the money, even though, per the rules, they were too late.  

The other radio host asked a very astute question.  What if it had been Donald Trump who showed up 3 days late to collect his millions of dollars?  Does he deserve to get it?  

If you are going to run something like the Texas Lottery, or the UCI, you cannot get into the business of determining who deserves a million dollars, or who deserves punishment, based on how nice a person they are.  There have to be rules, and they have to be enforced.

Now, do I think that these decisions are right?  Based on the rules set down by the UCI, absolutely yes.  Do I think that these rules are fair?  Probably not.  Just because these were the right decisions, based on the current rules, does't mean that the current rules don't need to be changed.

Who does the UCI blame for the current mess that is professional cycling?  They need look no farther than the mirror.  More on that in tomorrow's posting.

Peace out...NFF.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Let's try and be adults about this...

Today, I'd like to talk about a subject, that while it's somewhat uncomfortable to speak about in mixed company, but it is something that every avid cyclist has dealt with at least once in their cycling career.  

Of course, I'm referring to chamois cream.  (I'll wait a second for the collective gasp to quiet down.)  OK, now that we've managed to recompose ourselves, we can continue.

Just in case there are non-cyclist reading this, (what are the chances), who have no idea what chamois cream is, allow me to explain.  (Brace yourself.)  A chamois is the the piece of padding that sits in the bottom of a pair of cycling shorts, designed to cushion the riders backside and "naughty bits", from hours of sitting on the saddle whilst riding their bikes.  Chamois cream is a commercial product sold to lubricate and soften this padding.

Yes, I choose to use the phrase "naughty bits", being aware that there is the possibility, however remote, that children might inadvertently stumble upon this site and read this.  Other phrases that I considered, but rejected, were "private parts", "pee-pee", "wedding tackle", and the vulgar "weiner".  There were others that I could have used, but that's a long dark road that we do not want to go down.  Trust me on this.

I don't think I would get a lot of argument from other cyclist that chamois cream benefits most riders who choose to wear it.  Chamois cream is one of those things that, beneficial as it might be, a lot of cyclist avoid just because they are uncomfortable with one, or more aspects of either purchasing it, applying it, and wearing it.  Not to mention, talking about it with other cyclist.  As a guy, I can only speak from the male point-of-view.  I invite you gals out there to offer the female take on this.  But I think the problem is actually 3-fold.

Purchasing chamois cream.  It might just be me, but walking into my local bike shop, grabbing a tube of chamois cream, and walking up to counter and paying for it, is akin to my wife asking me to go to the store and buy her some maxi-pads.  I don't even like going down that aisle at the grocery store.  

And the manufacturers are absolutely no help.  Let's sample some of the names of some of the chamois creams that you're likely to find; 

  • DZ Nuts (pronounced "deez nuts".  Hilarious.)
  • or DZ Nuts Bliss (specifically for women.  Insert your own joke here.)
  • Chamois Butt'r (somtimes marketed as "Butt Butt'r". Again, hilarious.)
  • Belgium Budder (apparently the Belgium's don't know the proper spelling of Butt'r.)
  • Udderly Smooth (really?  What has that got to do with biking and bike shorts?)
  • And my personal favorite, Hoo Ha Ride Glide.  Marketed with the catch phrase "for women, by women".  If I didn't already know what it was for, I would have guessed some sort of women's marital aid.
Applying the chamois cream.  I think this is the part where most people get off the chamois cream bandwagon.  Especially for us guys, the idea of taking a handful of grease and applying it to our behind, "naughty bits", and the nooks & crevices in those areas, presents real problems.  This might be easier for women, as you all are a little more comfortable with lotions and creams and what not.  But I think I can speak with some authority that most guys would rather be whacked across the shins with a 2x4, than to have to grease up the backsides.

Two quick stories to pass along regarding the application of chamois cream.  Both of these stories are absolutely true. Lets's all try and learn something from my misfortune.

Story #1 - While out of town and staying in a hotel overnight for a bike ride, as is my habit the night before the ride, I put everything that I am going to need the next morning out on the table in my room.  This would include my kit, shoes, snacks to carry on the bike the next day, and my chamois cream.  What I failed to notice was that the table that everything was sitting on was right in front of the air conditioner.  With it being Texas and 105 degrees outside, said AC was running at full blast.  As uncomfortable as putting on warm chamois cream might be, it pales in comparison to putting on ice cold chamois cream.  The term "shrinkage" aptly describes the result.    

Story #2 - In preparing for my afternoon bike ride one day at home, I stepped into my closet to apply a generous coating of chamois cream.  Unfortunately for all involved, I failed to close the closet door.  As I'm in the middle of the application, my 12 year-old son walks into the room and has an excellent view of me "greasing up".  As he stared at his father, naked except for the bike short around his knees, slightly bent over at the waist, with his rear-end covered in a shiny coating of cream, he got a look of absolute horror on his face, and blurted out/scream, "What are you doing?!?!".  My completely plausible explanation failed to make him feel any better.  I'm fairly certain that we'll both be telling that story to a therapist one day.  

Wearing the chamois cream.  If you've managed to get over the hurdles of purchasing and then applying the chamois cream, then the actual wearing of the cream usually doesn't present too many issues.  There are a couple of pitfalls to be aware of.

First, I don't like to apply the cream before I arrive at the bike ride.  Sitting on the cloth seats in my car with shorts full of chamois cream, tends to lead to stains on the seat that no amount of explanation will make seem plausible.  So inevitably, you wind up standing in the door of your car, with your hand awkwardly shoved down the back of your shorts, trying to carefully "apply the grease".  This inevitably leads to some very strange looks from the people in the cars around you.

Secondly, you have to be careful not to apply too much chamois cream.  If you get carried away, the cream has been known to seep through the bike short.  It basically looks like you "snowed" in your pants.  This too has been known to lead to some odd looks and uncomfortable pointing.

As the title of the column indicates, it is my hope that we can all be adults about this.  For those of you who know me well, your screams of "fat chance of that" are deafening.  Quite frankly, I giggled the whole time I was writing this.  But as a committed wear'er of chamois cream, (Belgium Budder is the current flavor of the month), I refuse to let my Jr High sense of humor deter me from an obviously beneficial product.  I encourage you to do the same.

Just please remember to lock the door.

Peace out....NFF.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Waaay off the deep end...

If you are a regular reader of this blog, and frankly, how could you not be, you will have noticed a few "eccentricities" associated with my writing.  Among these are:

  • My odd,  over-use of commas.
  • My over-use of the words "frankly" & "apparently". 
  • Numerous typos, which may or may not get corrected.
  • My apparent inability to spell "eccentricities".  (You know it's bad when spell-check can't figure out what the he!! you were trying to spell.)
But of all the odd things you might have noticed about my writing, the oddest is probably the fact that I will post to this blog for several weeks on end, and then not post for weeks, or even months.  Then I'll start posting again.  And then stop.  And start again.  And then stop.  Etc. When I first started writing this blog, I literally posted every night.  Then it was 3 or 4 times a week.  Then a couple of times a week. And then finally, 2 or 3 times a month.

In trying to figure out why I do this, I've made a very disturbing and depressing discovery:

To be honest, I really don't have that much to say.  That is, I don't have much to say that anyone else might even remotely find interesting.

In addition to disturbing and depressing, I also found this discovery to be somewhat confusing.  It's confusing because while I don't really have anything interesting to say, I seem to always be saying something.  I seem to be constantly voicing my opinion about whatever  boring subject that randomly pops into my head.

And what's even odder, (odder?, more odd?), is that the knowledge that what I'm saying isn't particularly interesting, hasn't seemed to stop me, or even slow me down, from talking about it.  ("It" being what ever I'm talking about.)  I seem to just keep rambling on.

I bring all of this up now because even though I have had a hard time consistently writing to this blog, not only have I decided to once again resume posting to it, I've taken this experiment to it's extreme, illogical conclusion.  In addition to this blog, I will also be writing and maintaining an enter website.  

Where a lesser man might let his inability to consistently write to one website stop him from adding even more web responsibilities, I've decided that the best defense is a good offense.  Instead of giving up on a web presence all together, I've decided to expand my web empire by adding

That's not to be confused with this blog, (You should probably go ahead and create separate bookmarks in your browser for both of these two sites, just to be safe.)  For simplicity sake, I'll refer to the website as "my website", and this blog as "my blog".  (It's a pretty simple system, but if you have trouble with it, post a comment and I'll explain it in more detail.)

While "my blog" is where I will be writing about my own cycling life and expressing my cycling opinions, "my website" will be more of a collection of cycling news and links.  Kind of a one-stop information site for all things cycling.

My hope here is that in researching and finding interesting cycling articles and cycling news items for "my website", this will stimulate my creative juices for ideas to write about in "my blog".  (See how well that system works.).  At least I hope it does.

More to come.  Peace out...NFF