• jules

    good column. everyone is so taken with Sagan’s charm that we feel like party poopers questioning his integrity. someone like Di Luca, Ricco though – bring it on.

    • krashdavage

      Didn’t you know? Only arses cheat!

  • Pete

    Ah the old exercise induced asthma. I get it all the time. I think I’m overdue for some TUE’s.

    • jules

      hate the game, not the player. it’s ridiculous that an athlete can juice up on corticosteroids on the premise of suffering asthma. sure, they may suffer from asthma, but that doesn’t make it fair that they’re competing with the advantage of corticos. as TSP points out here. it’s obvious – if you need to be on corticos, then you shouldn’t be permitted to compete. don’t blame Wiggo for that.

      • weiwentg

        Better to be more specific when you say “corticosteroids”.

        For allergy/asthma, one starts on short-acting inhaled corticosteroids first, then one moves to long-acting inhaled corticosteroids. Then, you get inhaled beta agonists added. Then you start titrating the dose up.

        I am at low dose long-acting corticosteroids during allergy seasons (spring and fall in the US). Wiggins sounds like he was at least on low dose inhaled corticosteroids plus beta agonists, so at least one step ahead of me (i.e. his symptoms were worse). These days, as SP observed, most levels of inhaled corticosteroids and beta agonists don’t need a TUE. However, you can get a TUE for higher doses of inhaled corticosteroids and beta agonists. That sort of stuff appears to be allowed by the TUE guidelines. It would take massive overdoses to enhance performance – inhalers go straight to your lungs, and if you want to abuse the stuff, you really want oral or injected stuff.

        But, I am really struck that Wiggins did not a TUE for high doses of the legal stuff. His 2010 TUE is for what looks like standard doses of the meds I mentioned, but you can’t tell for sure. A number of UK clinical guidelines (for civilians) that I’ve read really emphasize step therapy, and if symptoms are still not controlled at high dose inhaled stuff, then you can think about moving to oral corticosteroids.

        We don’t know if Wiggins had his inhaled medication doses titrated up to control his symptoms. Because we don’t, it really looks like a stretch to jump right to Kenacort, particularly because it has performance-enhancing effects. Now, it does raise an interesting philosophical question: what if Wiggins demonstrated objectively reduced lung function despite maximum inhaled meds? Do we allow him a short course of oral corticosteroids or low dose Kenacort, then a week recovery before the Tour? I would actually lean towards yes, at least for oral stuff. But it’s an academic question. We have no evidence that his doctor made any attempt to step his therapy up. Maybe he did, but we don’t know. And because we don’t know, but we do know that he went on Kenacort, the resulting suspicion is inevitable and well-justified.

        • Tom

          There seems to be a bit of mis-understanding around as to why Wiggins was given Kenacort (an intramuscular corticosteroid). As a respiratory doctor I can tell you that this would not have been for his asthma, which is managed in a step-wise manner as outlined above. Only rarely are systemic corticosteroids required for asthma treatment. Anyone requiring such steroids (usually given orally, an intra-muscular injection would never be given for asthma) would certainly have a severity of asthma that would physically prevent them from being able to compete.

          The kenacort would have been given for severe allergic rhinitis (hay-fever). I have seen patients benefit greatly from this if their condtion is not controlled by anti-histamines and nasal steroid spray (which Wiggins suggested in a recent interview that he was on at the time).

          Not being an expert on sports medicine I cannot comment on whether kenacort would make you ‘bionic’. Many patients I have seen on long-term corticosteroid therapy experience fat-gain and weakening of proximal muscles (proximal myopathy), not ideal for cycling at an elite level! I don’t mean this as a defense of Wiggins or the TUE system and I don’t claim knowledge of what beneficial effects corticosteroids might have in sport (clearly they are not permitted for a reason)

          • weiwentg

            Thanks for the reply! I have some questions, though.

            Don’t asthma and allergic rhinitis often co-occur? I know I have been diagnosed with both. Wiggins mentioned “asthma” in an interview, and his 2008 to 2009 TUE mentions inhalers salbutamol, formoterol, and budesonide. These are, respectively, a short-acting beta agonist (rescue medication), a long-acting beta agonist (control med, you take those daily), and a (short-acting?) inhaled corticosteroid. This sort of regimen appears to be consistent with something you’d give a patient with asthma. WADA regs changed, and these meds (except for formoterol) don’t require a TUE for most therapeutic doses.

            His 2013 TUE implied that he was on a flixotide inhaler at the time, which is fluticasone priprionate, an inhaled corticosteroid, and a ventolin inhaler, which is albuterol (short acting beta agonist). Again, those medications work in asthma.

            So, based on this, doesn’t it appear he also has asthma, likely exacerbated or caused by his seasonal allergies? If he had allergic rhinitis and was having trouble breathing due to that, wouldn’t some or all of the meds he was on have controlled those symptoms, thereby enabling him to race at his normal strength?

            Caution on the link: this goes right to Fancy Bears’ site, not sure if there’s malware.


            Back to allergic rhinitis. You implied that patients whose allergic rhinitis wasn’t controlled by anti-histamines and nasal corticosteroid spray, which his TUEs say he was on, could benefit from Kenacort. The manufacturer indications for Kenacort say:

            “Where oral therapy is not feasible, injectable corticosteroid therapy, including
            Kenalog-40 Injection (triamcinolone acetonide injectable suspension, USP) is indicated
            for intramuscular use as follows:

            Allergic states: Control of severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable
            to adequate trials of conventional treatment in asthma, …, perennial or seasonal allergic rhinitis …”


            What does severe allergic rhinitis without asthma look like in an elite athlete? Do the symptoms include restricted breathing? Say his existing nasal sprays and oral antihistamines didn’t control his symptoms enough to restore his performance. (He was on fluticasone nasal spray and claritin, which is an OTC oral antihistamine in the US.) Doesn’t he have more potent options in those drug classes before he needs to resort to Kenacort? Couldn’t he have considered immunotherapy (they inject you with allergen extracts, I’m getting this therapy, no know ergogenic benefits per se)? And if he had to take a systemic corticosteroid for that, wouldn’t oral corticosteroids be less potent, have a better risk/benefit ratio, and possibly also raise less suspicion?

            All the clinical guidelines I’ve found for either asthma or allergic rhinitis don’t recommend intramuscular corticosteroids. Some do mention oral corticosteroids as a last resort for symptoms that are intractable to conventional therapy. I keep harping on this point in Wiggins’ case because we can’t find any evidence that he had gone to the maximum with conventional therapy. Certainly not if he had asthma – we should have seen TUEs for high-dose inhaled corticosteroids and beta agonists. If he had allergic rhinitis but not asthma, then it still doesn’t look like it. Below is a link to the American Academy of Family Practitioners guidelines for rhinitis. I could swear I read through the National Institutes for Clinical Excellence (a UK organization) guidelines, but they seem to be restricted to UK residents to access, and I can’t find the link.


            In terms of performance enhancement, the picture is actually less less clear. The guys who took Kenacort said it helped them burn fat, and that it had an ergogenic effect. Latter could well be placebo. Moreover, they may have been taking testosterone, which could mask any catabolic effects of the Kenacort. Regardless, it seems like it has a high risk/benefit ratio, so potentially dangerous to athletes’ health, and it was arguably being used against the spirit of the sport.

            • Tom

              Allergic rhinitis and asthma can obviously occur independently of each other but do frequently co-exist. Often patients with both will refer to their ‘asthma’ when they mean both asthma and allergic rhinitis. Which is understandable because they are linked conditions. Patients also often aren’t 100% clear on what treatments work for which aspect either (for instance antihistamines are used more for rhinitis than asthma). I think Wiggins is making this mistake when talking about his ‘asthma’ and I think it actually makes the picture somewhat more believable. I think he had/has both and was on fairly maximal conventional treatment for both. The symptoms he describes accurately reflect that.

              Allergic rhinitis would certainly impair performance; it makes it difficult to breath through the nose obviously but also makes asthma worse due to something called post-nasal drip (about as desirable a thing as it sounds!).

              Intramuscular corticosteroids are no longer on most guidelines for allergic rhinitis (not sure about 2011 etc). They are still used off -guideline however (not an uncommon occurrence in many conditions), particularly by older doctors as I believe use was previously more widespread. Immunotherapy is by all accounts a very good treatment, well established in mainland Europe but not in the UK funnily enough. It also requires a much longer duration of use to achieve effect.

              Hopefully that answers most of your questions without turning this into an asthma discussion forum!

  • Neuron1

    It seems you are giving Froome a bit of a pass here. He’s shows up at the TDF without an ounce of spare fat or muscle on his body. His arms look like toothpicks and his legs like coiled pythons, Contador, Nibali, Quintana, Chaves, Uran, Hesjdhal, etc, none of the other GC guys look like that. He has had long running prescriptions for corticosteroids for his urticaria/asthma and seems to get sick and weaker, frequently in the third week of the GTs, just when the pre-race corticoid effect would be wearing off. (All perfectly legal of course since it is out of competition.) It’s not doping but is certainly getting right up to the bright blue line. And SP, did you notice that none of the Italian, Spanish or French riders that were in the Olympics had ever received a TUE, based on the Fancy Bears data dump. Hmmm.

    • jules

      did Fancy Bears release data for Italian, Spanish or French riders? I understood they targeted certain nations they perceived as being unfriendly towards Russia.

      some of those European riders also ride or rode for Sky…

      • Luis Lopez

        Jules just go to they are up part 6, I noticed Alistair brownlee(GB), the brother who helped his brother to cross the triathlon finish line.

        • Matthew Nugent

          Alistair Brownlee’s TUE was for an altitude sickness medication from when he climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in 2013.

          • ebbe

            We’re all focussing far too much on athlete’s rights to use heavy (coincidentally performance enhancing) drugs in certain specific exceptional cases. While fully understandable, that’s a dead end street. Altitude sickness could just be another fabricated excuse. I’m certainly not saying it was in this case, but it could be used as such by somebody with les pure intentions.

            We have to find a way to get around all of this: Not look at every possible case of abuse on a case by case basis, but just make it impossible to abuse TUEs with some excuse. The solution is simple, and already exists in some other sports: If you require very heavy (performance enhancing) drugs, that’s fine. Go ahead (supervised by a doctor, as with anybody from the general public). But those drugs come with an automatic medical suspension, aka a forced rest period: You’re simply not allowed to compete (on elite level) for some time* after you’ve taken the drugs. You were obviously very ill, so you should rest. This is, buy the way, very similar to what MPCC advocates.

            *The length of the medical ban depends on the specific drug taken.

      • Neuron1

        Yes they did, and they targeted all nations. No cyclists from any of those nations I noted. Fancy Bears released the data in tabular form with Nation, number of athletes, and sport, but no names. Australia, GB, Canada all had at least one cyclist. They are releasing the specific data with individual athletes more gradually.

        • John

          Nope, not all nations or athletes. Fancy Bears are being very selective. For example, I know for a fact that at a recent Olympics, the entire Australian swimming team had TUE’s for asthma medication (I have a friend who was involved in the testing process there). They could have had fun with that. Most athletes registered with WADA have had some sort of TUE. Many of those will look suspicious in the current climate, although they are probably justified. However, this farce reminds me of Colin Chapman’s observation that the race start at the moment that you open the rule book.
          There are more TUE’s to be released by this group, and who ends up looking uncomfortable in future press conferences depends largely on geopolitics and what Fancy Bears had for breakfast that morning. Meanwhile, we’ve known for a while that the system needs to change, and maybe we should actually thank Putin of all people for speeding up the reform?

    • J Evans

      At the very least, Froome is not beyond suspicion.

      • Sir Wiggo

        That you man with authority.

    • André Costa Silva

      As per usual. I was surprised he was so hard on Sky, actually.

      • Neuron1

        Appearances are deceiving. His attack on Sky is perfunctory and ring hollow. Had that been Nibali or Aru,both of whom rode the Olympics neither of which has ever requested a TUE, he would be foaming at the mouth with his attacks. It seems that some cheating is okay as long as you ride for a team with a bunch of good mates.

    • skippy Todd

      “He has had long running prescriptions for corticosteroids for his urticaria/asthma and seems to get sick and weaker, frequently in the third week of the GTs, just when the pre-race corticoid effect would be wearing off. (All perfectly legal of course since it is out of competition.) ” Wouldn’t this show up as a TUE or have we hit another grey area ” Long running prescriptions” These should be documented somewhere ?

  • Kev Hawes

    I think I have been reading this website religiously for over four years now and I have never commented before but i just want to say thanks to all the crew at CYCLINGTIPS that put this stuff together. Article’s like this are so damm interesting. Thanks guys for all your hard work, keep it up!
    Kev Hawes

    • Thanks Kev! Appreciate you taking the time to comment. :)

  • Alex

    Nacer Bouhanni at 45kg?! If this is how “pros” (or hidden journalists) think about numbers I’m not going to listen to any numbers they quote going forward. That includes whether mg of a certain substance is over the limit of what should be used for a TUE. If they can’t estimate within reason the weight of someone standing next to them I don’t think they should be allowed to talk about something where the difference of using it for medical reasons vs. boosting performance may be on the order of 0.005mg.

    • James

      You don’t think it was maybe a tongue in cheek comment??

      • Neal Rogers

        It was absolutely tongue in cheek

    • jules

      yeah I read it as he weighed precisely 45kg too

    • Bex

      it’s the same for the two riders who saw demar holding onto the team car. They said 80kmh up the poggio (or was it the hill before that) but it’s a figure of speech, who can accurately tell a riders weight by looking at them or a car’s speed by watching it. If your mate tells you they were flying down the hill you don’t take them literally do you?

    • Rodrigo Diaz

      Pfff… you just want TSP to uncover himself by showing up with a scale to the race sign up.

      Post like this is why we can’t have nice things :)

    • Adam Sims

      He actually weighs 66kg. Which is pretty darn light. Which was the point he was making

  • Tim David

    Well, it sure sounds like a bitter sport from the inside, makes me wonder why anyone would bother to follow it anymore..

    • Dodger

      Yeah, when you love cycling it is hard to let go. I remember Floyd Landis saying that professional cycling was like organised crime. I’m beginning to think that was no exagerration now.

  • velocite

    TSP says that Greipel can sprint after 270 kms but Kittel can’t. I wonder upon what he bases that? I would have thought on any course with no climbs Kittel would be there at the end. No?

    • jules

      Greipel is known to have pretty good endurance for a sprinter, Kittel less so. the WC road race is pretty long, so endurance is more likely to be a factor at the end than a shorter race. although it sounds like its pretty flat – could wind be a factor? a heavy sprinter will handle wind better than climbs, but again endurance is more likely to be a factor in the finale.

      • velocite

        Greipel often surprises with his attacks on hills, which Kittel does not, but endurance? He tends to finish the Tour and does well in the Green Jersey comp to boot. But then, it’s often said that after 250 kms you’re in different territory.

        • noob_sauce

          He did mention specifically Greipel being better in the wind, which is true and could play a factor at Worlds. Also, based on more recent form I’d pick Greipel too.

    • Andy B

      Watch the classics and see which one of these guys has a go.

    • GVA

      There is a reason why Kittle doesn’t do the big classics…the longer distance and more aggressive fight for position doesn’t suit him! He is the best at sprinting from the front, simple finishes with a well organised lead-out.

      • velocite

        If that’s really the case he won’t be much use to Greipel as a domestique at the Worlds.

    • Kittel’s former coach at Giant-Alpecin (he also coached Degenkolb) showed some really good data at a seminar of his once. He showed the power output for a sprint for Kittel, Dege, and Mezgec after 150 km, 200 km, and 250 km (or something similar), and there was a clear difference, with Kittel’s power declining a lot after the longer distances, whereas Dege and Mezgec were more constant. So yes, distance will decide how well a sprinter does – look at MSR; different sprinters there than on a short, flat TdF stage.

  • Ido Sudo

    What a thoughtful and well written article. I commend some literacy teacher in your past. As to Krash Kruijswijk, here’s to the thought that he has now payed back some Kosmic Karma debt, and 2017 will be his year. I look forward to seeing you both.

  • Webbovich

    Zorzoli signed off on the TUEs for Wiggins? That really doesn’t help my desire to believe the TUEs were appropriate. Shane Stokes wrote about Zorzoli on CT not that long ago….

    • David Simons

      Shane Stokes, some of THE most informative cycling articles anywhere.

  • Anto, NZ

    Please, please, please god don’t let Bouhani become world champ.
    Sagan, question him if you want, has did the colours proud, but Bouhani… Cycling’s version of Trump!

    • Dave

      Like TSP’s opinion of Kittel, I don’t think Bouhanni is good enough to sprint for a podium place at the end of a hard 257km race.

      It won’t be like a sprint stage where everyone is keeping something in the tank for the rest of the race and the sprinters have assistance from the GC teams helping to control the race.

    • Hamish Moffatt

      He might win then get DQed.. that would be kind of typical.

  • Enache

    sci-fi under the name “secret pro”
    there is no secret pro , anyone who followes cycling via tv and press can write this

    • jules

      correction – ‘can write stuff like this’. but it’s just from the outside looking in when it comes from ‘anyone’.

    • Yes, possibly. But the fact is that this is a view from inside the peloton and not from some armchair critic who watches bike racing from the couch.

    • Sir Wiggo

      Why is it science fiction, and not just plain, old, everyday fiction?

      I’m interested in getting your thoughts on this.

  • Eden Walker

    and would you think people call me opinionated? :)

    • Laurens

      Stop plugging your blog already.

      • Eden Walker

        hey Lauren, i write on one topic a week and no doubt as with you i comment on other sites too. It’s not really good time management if i end up typing the same opinion on different sites. I don’t mind if you don’t click the link that i post, in fact i hope you don’t as you seem so distressed by it

        • Sir Wiggo

          You can alway use ctrl-c and ctrl-v. That will save you some time.

        • My_Oath

          Its not about distress. I won’t support spam.

  • Crompensation

    Great article. I liked the world’s preview. Kristoff should be up there after a quiet season

  • Nik Martin

    That final splatter of innuendo targeted at Sagan was totally unnecessary

    • Andy B

      haven’t you asked yourself the same question ?

      • Nik Martin

        No – I question where there’s evidence of something untoward. What’s the point of following a sport if you’re always suspicious of great performances?

        • Andy B

          sometimes I turn on the light whilst walking around at home as I’ve kicked my toe in the dark

          • Nik Martin

            I won’t be offended by the suggestion that I’m “in the dark”. I’m not saying it’s impossible that he’s on TUEs or full on doping – but as a fan (which I assume you are) it gets a little tiresome to question every performance even though there is zero evidence of wrongdoing.

            • Steve

              Nik, i’m with you on this one! i dont watch the sport or any sport to question the performance, if someone has a great race, stage, or tour. My first thought isnt 2oh he’s doping” How can anyone enjoy a sport if thats their initial thought?

      • velocite

        I haven’t, but it was interesting that TSP suggests we should ask the question. But if the only reason for asking the question is that the guy is so good, that’s not enough. Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, I can’t help noticing big differences in strength between me and chaps I ride with, and I’m quite sure no drugs are involved. Any more than we can all sing like Pavarotti, do mental arithmetic in numbers to base 31 like Alan Turing or even transpose musical scores at sight.

        • Andy B

          It’s a bit different when you’ve got the 200 best riders in the world together and one stands out..

          I’m not suggesting he is doping, I’m a huge Sagan fan

          But i have asked myself how he is so good so often
          At this stage I’m a believer buts it’s so easy to be sceptical with this sport

          • Steve

            but there’s thousands of football players, how can messi and ronaldo be so good, so often? or tiger woods back in the day? People can be exceptional. natural talents.

            • ebbe

              Honestly, it’s perfectly fine to wonder how Messi and Ronaldo can be so good. Both are obviously hugely naturally talented, but also not without doping suspicion. It’s known that Messi has been receiving growth hormone injections (steroids IIRC) since he moved to Barcelona at 15 (ish?). That’s not even a secret. Ronaldo… one look at him shirtless and most people in the know immediately think “HGH” (untraceable in standard anti-doping tests). Tiger Woods also comes with his own doping stories/speculation.

              The advantage of “natural talent” does not mean they’re not also looking for “additional enhancements”.

              • Steve

                but nobody does wonder, they just focus on how good the goal was or how amazing the performance was, Messi DID have growth hormones as he was small for his age (my parents were offered these for myself, and nobody would suggest he’s still getting them or they in anyway were the reason he is so good! The talent was there, his family were offered the treatment before barcelona got involved but couldnt afford, barcelona took him to Spain and paid for the treatment) I’ve never once heard anyone say Ronaldo is on HRH. ex pro’s, team mates, opponents, immediately mention the work he does in the gym. Again its really only cycling as a sport that questions EVERY good performance or talent, Its not a conversation in sports other than cycling. which is unjust to the riders,

                enjoy the sport as it is, if someone gets found out later on, so be it! but to question EVERY rider, every performance, every TUE, every innovation is mind boggling to me.

                • ebbe

                  That was exactly my point: The three gentlemen that you mention do not get scrutinised to the level that athletes in cycling and athletics are being scrutinised. But there actually is sufficient reason to do so. Just because somebody is naturally talented, or spends a lot of time in the gym or on the field does not prove they aren’t also doing other things as well. And it’s not wrong to question that. Body builders can talk for hours about how much time they spent in the gym, their special training routines, their superior genes, their custom made diet plans and special over the counter protein supplements… And (big shock) it’s all true! But next to all of that, a large majority of them is on the juice.

                  By the way, it’s also not wrong to not question it and just enjoy the races ;-)

                • Nomad

                  It’s not just cycling that questions every good performance or talent. I follow track & field and distance running pretty closely, and I can tell you that over the last several years so many performances by both veteran runners and new talent has been questioned.

                  In Rio, for example, three (3) World records were set in two distance events & one sprint, and many people were suspicious of those performances. And when you factor in that the Kenyans, arguably the world’s best distance runners, have had over 40 doping positives in the last several years, and the fact that they’re not part of the ABP (no WADA-accredited labs are in the area), virtually every impressive performance by them is questioned nowadays (also at Rio a Kenyon coach was sent home for attempting to pass a sample for one of his top runners at a drug control…Lol).

                  Another example was when American Clayton Murphy, an up & coming young talent, took Bronze in the 800m (the first American to medal in the Olympics since 1992), a popular running site (letsrun) was inundated with posts questioning and doubting his achievement. And sadly, running just had it’s “Festina affair” last June when world-renowned coach Jama Aden (coach of several world class runners & one world record holder) was found with a large cache of EPO & steriods at a training camp in Spain.

                  IMO, there is probably a certain amount of doping going on within the peloton. The CIRC report from last year tells us a culture of doping still exists but that it’s been primarily pushed underground. It also mentions that doping doctors are still used as a resource. So, yes, there is some concern with cycling, but in no way does it compare to the egregious situation occuring with athletics. And the good news is cycling hasn’t had the doping positives and scandals we’re seeing in athletics lately.

            • Andy B

              I can see a sport involving more skill/talent to be favoring someone with natural ability but cycling is also more about physical endurance.. no doubt Sagan is talented

              you don’t see marathon runners winning all season

              6+ hours of full gas day after day isn’t like a round of golf or even football

              I hope you are right and still believe in Sagan perhaps he is just extremely special

              • Steve

                i dont watch marathons to comment, but look at Triathlon, it is the same guys winning, the spanish guy won 5 rounds in a row or something like that. the fact is people are different, and they react different in a situation, always have and always will until we start cloning

      • David Simons

        I know I have, it is pro cycling after all

    • I’m with you, I think Sagan is clean, he’s just not that kind of guy. But is anyone above suspicion? Unfortunately no.

    • Dodger

      O.K. How about Joerg Jaksche saying that every big team he rode for doped. Joerg used to ride for Tinkoff before he got busted as a result of Operation Puerto ….

      • Nik Martin

        So when Sagan came on the scene (not riding for Tinkoff) and he was exceptional, then joined Tinkoff and had that lacklustre year it was doping what did it for him? Again, just innuendo.

        • Dodger

          Just busy trying to figure out whether I wear my National Champs jersey, World Champs jersey or my Tinkoff jersey at my next race. Shit, I don’t have the National Champs one cos I let my brother win that.. Sorry, you were saying again about what my riding has been like at Tinkoff….

          • Nik Martin

            So your point is that he’s world champion and therefore doing something untoward? His first season at the Tinkoff “dope factory” was redeemed by winning that race – don’t you remember the classics when he was blowing up all the time? And all those tweets by Oleg about how he needs to shape up? Or had they not perfected his medication at that point?

            • Dodger

              Not my point at all. Who would suggest that a team involving Sorensen, De Jongh, Yates, teflon Mick etc etc would be involved in doping? Not me. All I repeat is facts that I know. Pleased to see you draw your own conclusions though, as we all do

              • Dodger

                I also don’t believe that if athletes were clients of Conchoni, Cecchini, Ferrari or Fuentes that that is proof of doping either. I absolutely do not believe in guilt by association, and neither should you Nik. If I believed that sort of stuff my hero worship of Indurain, Pantani, Armstrong, Contador, Schleck, Sastre, Evans etc etc would surely end

                • BenW

                  Contador? He of the plastic residue in his blood samples?

                  • Dodger

                    Yes, and Floyd Landis’ description of Pepe Marti, who was at US Postal then went on to be Contador’s coach – “nothing more than a known drug trafficker”. But, like I say, you can’t do guilt by association ….

        • Andy B

          Lacklustre?? Really?
          Even if he didn’t win as much it was far from lacklustre

          Green Jersey by a mile

          Incredible win in the tour of California among others

          Most pros would take that year and palmares as their career.

    • Vinnie Bennett

      I think its totally necessary. I’ve been amazed at his classy bike skills like everyone else but his performances are trully “out of this world” since TDF 2015. His powers of recovery at this years and last years TDF are extraodinary. Guys like GVA and Matthews can match him for a day or two and then have quiet days, he has no such issue, up there every day. Not normal. Now after the Eneco tour you wouldn’t even go against him in a flat out sprint against the best sprinters in the world whereas before you would say maybe top 5.

      • Nik Martin

        He’s good, therefore he must be on something. Not really evidence is it? My point is in the word “innuendo” – it does absolutely nothing to further the cause. What gets people caught is real evidence, and I hope the relevant bodies are doing all they can on that.

        • Andy B

          I agree speculating doesn’t help but the article didn’t say he was on something.. that’s how you perceived it

          He just said we are all the best at our game, training our arses off and he’s beating us
          I hope he is just special

          Anyway, no more from me
          I still believe

        • Vinnie Bennett

          Lets be fair, he’s better than “good”, he’s extrodinary. For me the standout performance of the last two tours weren’t Froome’s, they were Segan’s. When someone is not just better but head and shoulders above his rivals it will always raise eyebrows. He gets off the bike after super hard races and looks like he went for milk at the shops! But no, its not evidence. And I certanly hope he is within the rules because its great for the fans and truly good for cycling.

        • ebbe

          “Real evidence” is never uncovered unless somebody starts questioning/speculating first.

          “I hope the relevant bodies are doing all they can on that”. The relevant bodies have every incentive to keep the myth alive, as they have done with many “faces” in the past. Only outside pressure gets them moving. Outside pressure which inly comes after people start questioning/speculating first.

  • David Simons

    Oh my but there’s some great points made here, and from someone in the peleton, no less…. Yep, Sky and Wiggins himself knew what he was taking and the effect it would have, so: Doper, whether legal or illegal it’s doping. And then the Vuelta, that grupetto missing the time cut and not caring was bad, shouldn’t have raced after that, teach them a lesson; I thought it was a race, not a ride? That little Boo-Hoo-anni guy, unlikable, aggressive and not worth his place in the peleton. And Sagan, could be a little suspicious, I suppose, though you want to believe in him, but after all this is pro cycling we’re talking about the, well, the history…

  • Ramppion

    Very easy to see the angle the Secret Pro would have gone were this about Nibali taking corticosteroids before his grand tour wins, i.e. a hell of alot harder than he’s been on Wiggins here not that he gave him a free ride. He wanted the entire peloton ganging up on Nibali becuase of Kruiswijk crashing trying to follow him in the Giro. Strangely had nothing bad to say about Chaves who was closer to Kruiswijk.

  • Frank Kistah

    It’s good to see that something put severe shadows over SKY’s domain last 4-5 years, are just disapointing, but an isolate in La Vuelta incident, about the bolard in Bilbao (with the shameful end of race to Kruijswijk), means that maybe in Spain don’t deserve a GT.

    n-esimal prove of the hypocresy in the anglosaxon cycling.

    Nothing new, on the other hand.

    • H.E. Pennypacker

      This comment is a truly fascinating non sequitur. I’m impressed.

  • Don Salamon

    Sagan has been crushing people since he started riding his bike. I think he is beyond suspicion for the most part. Seems more credible than someone almost getting cut from Team Sky in 2011 to becoming the most dominating GC rider in the last 4 years…..

  • Il_falcone

    Why do you remove comments that deal with the double standards the TSP is obviously applying?

    • What comments have been removed?

      • Il_falcone

        maybe 10 minutes before I posted above question I was replying to one of two comments (from different persons) which were the newest at that time. Both were rather critical (but in a civilzed manner) about the way that the TSP fomulates considerately when it comes to Team Sky’s TUEs when compared to former episodes of the TSP where he dished out against Astana and others. And the other commenter noticed that the TSP obviously has not turned to being more considerate in general by now since he criticizes Nibali for joining the Bahrein Team. Unfortunately I did not note the names of those two commenters nor did I create a screen-shot. But just as I was hitting the “Post” button a message came up “the comment you are replying to has been removed by a moderator.” And really both messages were no longer visible and have not reappeared since then.

  • J Evans

    Even someone as biased as TSP can see how dodgy the Wiggins thing is.

    Just one question for the people still defending Wiggins:

    Wiggins had his medical examination on May 15 2012, then won the Dauphine, then had a TUE based on that May 15 medical examination, which said that his breathing was so bad that he needed a PED, which he then took in late June 2012.

    Please explain how a rider can win a 7-day race up mountains against the best riders in the world whilst having severe breathing difficulties.

    I agree on the barriers, but I’ve watched a lot of races and haven’t seen Contador getting many pushes in Spanish races. Seems like the usual TSP bias.

    He’s right about the time-cut too. And Bouhanni and the Bahrain team. Rarely has TSP been so reasonable – although he still got a dig in at Sagan.

    • ebbe

      Yeah but, but, but… the injections were to “just to make sure he wasn’t going to have symptoms” :-S

      Which makes then preventative. Which makes them illegal.

      • J Evans

        Too true. And there are so many flaws in his ‘innocence’ – I only chose one for simplicity’s sake.
        The drug is only supposed to be used in the case of severe attacks – i.e. ones that usually require hospitalisation; it goes against the rules because those say that the drug shouldn’t have a PE effect beyond the treatment of the illness, and because there are alternative drugs he could use; the timings are blatantly shady; the 2011 TUE being granted before he had the medical examination; all three TUE’s being granted only by Marco Zorzoli; he hasn’t used it before or since his GT attempts at Sky, etc. and so on. The delusioned fanboys who continue to stick up for him never argue against those points, oddly enough.

        • ebbe

          +1 on all of that.

          I continuously wonder why the following is so difficult for some fansboys to understand: Sure you can take heavy (performance enhancing) drugs if you really desperately need to (eg, to save your life and limbs). Nobody is saying you’re not allowed to save your own life. But by using these powerful performance enhancing drugs, you should automatically be putting yourself out of competition for a while. And that should be perfectly fine, since you are, after all, suffering from life threatening conditions/symptoms.

          • J Evans

            I think the only ones left believing Wiggins are the ones who desperately want to believe.

    • Sir Wiggo

      Just one question …

      Then proceeds to babble on without actually putting forth a question.


  • ebbe

    “I mean, why would Nibali go to this team? […] Why not sign with an Italian team?”

    Which Italian team exactly? At the time when Nibali signed the contract with Bahrein, there were to be no Italian WT teams for the 2017 season. We’ve since heard the surprise of Chinese TJ Sports buying Lampre (Ok, that’s a bit Italian if we stretch it… in name only), but let’s not get started on the track record the Chinese have on human rights.

    Any “voice from inside the peloton” should surely be aware of this fact, no?

    In fact, looking at their signings, out of all teams Bahrein look to be closest to “an Italian team” for 2017.

    • BenW

      Sagan signed for Bora, who weren’t WT when he went. Cavendish signed for Qhubeka, which became Dimension Data of course – they also weren’t WT when he joined them. Nibali could feasibly have dragged sponsors, backers and his supporting riders to whomever he chose, but he picked Bahrain…

      • ebbe

        1) That’s pure speculation. Or can you name a couple of rich Italian companies who have a few hundred million euros to burn over the next couple of years?
        2) It’s quite possible there was no Italian team was ready willing and/or able to do what it takes to move to WT. Or do you have an Italian team owner saying otherwise?
        3) Any Pro Continental team taking in Nibali would have to fire at least half their current riders (since they’re never good enough to support Nibali in a Grand Tour) and hire 10 to 20 new riders (who are good enough). Taking on a GT contender is very different from taking on a sprinter (especially one as Cavendish or Sagan, who are both capable of winning without a lead out train) or classics rider.
        4) The WT roster for 2017 is already filled with 18 teams vying for 17 spots. Another (Pro) Continental team wanting to move up would have a very slim change of succeeding. No chance, basically
        5) Finding new sponsors… with the Italian economy being as it is? I’d (currently) give German or South-African teams a much bigger change of finding new sponsors than Italian teams
        6) Cavendish was on his way out already, so signing with Qhubeka was a last straw for him anyway
        7) Qhubeka only achieved WT status by the shear luck of there being not enough teams to fill the WT roster. If there would have been 18 WT teams applying, Cavendish would have been riding Pro Continental
        8) Sagan’s salary at Bora is being paid by Specialized. There is no way on earth Bora could afford him otherwise
        9) It is quite possible Dimension Data will not be awarded WT status for 2017, which means Cavendish is out of WT
        10) You fail to see that WT status isn’t only about sponsor money. It’s about WT points (and sometimes plain luck) as well. Only extremely rich teams can simply buy enough points to propel themselves into WT

        Bora got lucky that Specialized wants more footing in the German market and therefore pays the salary of Sagan. Sagan, also happens to come with a boat load of points. Otherwise, Bora would have never been able to go to WT
        Qhubeka got lucky that there were not enough teams looking for a WT status at the time, and UCI wanted 18 WT teams at the time. Qhubeka was actually not even eligible to move to WT, but they got an exemption. Otherwise, Qhubeka would have never been able to go to WT

        TSP writes “Why not sign with an Italian team?” I’m explaining why: There simply are no Italian WT teams for 2017, and TSP clearly should have known this. You’ve not brought forth any argument proving otherwise. All you have is speculation: He “could have” *maybe* lifted a (Pro) Continental team to WT status. But you obviously haven’t considered the many difficult aspects mentioned above that underpin that scenario.

        “[…] but he picked Bahrain…”. Exactly. And I’m explaining why he did: He didn’t have many other realistic options, considering his (desired) status as a GT contender, the salary and the other demands that comes with that status. Maybe the new Chinese team would have been an option, but that deal was only closed after Nibali had already signed with Bahrein… and the Chinese aren’t exactly spotless when it comes to human rights either, so that would attract similar critique from parts of the public. Staying at Astana is also clearly not an option, and attracts similar critique from parts of the public.

        It’s fine to not agree with his choice, and to believe you would have made a different choice yourself. I may not even agree with his choice either. But you can’t realistically say he could stay on his desired level (salary, support, etc) if he had made any other available choice. He could have gambled and taken a step down (hoping to step back up by some financial and WT-points miracle), but he chose not to do take that gamble. Just like all of us Western goody two shoes can choose to stop buying oil, thus stopping our enabling of shady regimes in the Middle East. But we’d rather choose to keep enabling.

        • mattNYC

          I guess BenW is going to think twice about ever commenting again

          • ebbe

            I’d be very interested in what he/she has to say. Just because I can come up with a dozen reasons that he/she obviously did not consider, does not mean that’s the end of the dialogue. If he/she thinks I’m wrong, convince me ;-)

      • GVA

        1) Yes, Sagan and his crew is largely funded by Specialized (that’s why he is doing MTB as well). Bora are ambitious and brought Hans Grohe on as sponsor for rest of the riders they are taking on next year
        2) Nibali had offers to stay at Astana or go to Trek Segafredo…but he didn’t like sharing the limelight/leadership with Aru and Trek’s broad focus…plus he had a friendship with the Prince of Bahrain
        3) Cav to Qhubeka is just baffling…and perhaps one of the reasons why Brian Smith left…Qhubeka is a great cause but I have a feeling they sold out, lost Meintjes and now struggling to be WorldTour
        4) Italian companies are amongst the most prevalent sponsors of cycling, yes less influential than before but that is as much to do with growing budgets and internationalisation of cycling as it is the economy. Next year Segafredo and Lampre will be co-sponsoring world tour teams…and I hope rumours of Mapei coming back after staying away for years due to the doping culture are true! How many British companies are name sponsor in WT? One I believe!

  • Anon N + 1

    “Hey, we’ve got a TUE, that’s just the remnants from an injection a few weeks ago.” I mean, how closely are they checking the levels, when you have a TUE?
    Doesn’t make a lot of sense in a multi week grand tour. When Contador was sanctioned for clenbuterol, the amount detected was 50 picograms, roughly 1/1,000,000 of the therapeutic dose (where legal in humans). Since leaders in grand tours are frequently tested any uptick in level for a drug for which there is a TUE would be suspicious I would think. But this strategy might work for a one day race.

    • Dave

      I always thought that the clenbuterol suspension for Contador was really just a proxy for the suspicions held about his involvement with Fuentes but couldn’t prove, and that a random rider getting that result would probably have been let off.

    • Rodrigo Diaz

      Not the same because clenbuterol is a no-threshold drug – anything over zero trips the dope-o-meter (even a legitimately tainted burger). The TUE provides cover for that.

      You could argue that if you could get a TUE for clenbuterol then you could be dosing it during racing season, matching timing to when it is advantageous. I know that particular substance doesn’t work that way, but the TUE definitely provides plausibility. Which means that you then would need to do longitudinal testing of TUE athletes to demonstrate natural metabolization of these drugs as opposed to performance-timed doses… and that is unlikely to happen.

  • Frank

    The Secret Pro navigates a thin line between being a racy insider’s view and pure gossip, bias and speculation. While I often find TSP very interesting, it also increasingly causes me to cringe. Just two examples from this post: (1) given that TSP likes to claim the moral high ground, it would have been nice to credit the ‘TUEsday’ ringer to The Inner Ring who, I believe, came up with it first; and (2) the way it moved from a very justified denunciation of the Vuelta ‘polegate’ into a racist stereotyping of all Spaniards is simply not acceptable in this day and age.

    • dsd74

      “The Secret Pro navigates a thin line between being a racy insider’s view and pure gossip, bias and speculation”: so essentially he’s doing what every other human does. At least with the TSP, we know that it’s an opinion piece rather than “real journalism”, unlike a lot of article nowadays that are “pure gossip, bias and speculation” masquerading as facts

  • William Raney

    “My heart rate was 180bpm and I was barely putting out 270 watts. I couldn’t breathe…” sounds like a typical ride for me.

    • Neal Rogers

      I had the same thought, only more like 250 watts for me

  • NEcyclist88

    I think it’s likely that TSP wanted to say a lot more about Sagan but he has to be intentionally vague so as to protect his identity. There are probably a lot of whispers in the peloton, but diving into more specific details of what he knows and/or conversations he’s had with other riders would make it easier for those in the pro cycling world to figure out who he is. For these reasons I now have more doubt about the legitimacy of Sagan’s performances. I don’t think TSP would have taken shots at the world champ unless he had good reason to do so. As the mod’s have made clear several times in regard to TSP, you have to read between the lines. I for one continue to be appreciative of these insights even if they’re a little opaque at times. Already looking forward to the next post!

    • mittNYC

      Don’t get me wrong – I really enjoy TSP as well. But you have to take big chunks of it with a pinch of salt. As with any person, TSP is going to have his own agenda and own set of biases. I mean from my experience (NYC amateur scene), bike racers are prone to gossiping, back stabbing and intrigue – I can’t imagine it’s any different at a professional level. Almost certainly worse if anything – this is their livelihood after all. And on the topic of livelihood- forget bikes for a minute – I imagine you have a job of some sort. Imagine someone at your company was given free reign to post their thoughts about the company and it’s employees anonymously, in an industry forum – I can think of many individuals I’ve worked with over the years who would be downright frightening given that opportunity.

      And to be clear – I’m not naive. PS is a phenomenal talent. And it’s always worth questioning phenomenal talents, particularly in a sport with a history such as cycling has. But for this column to single handedly change your opinion on PS – don’t be so easily swayed.

      • NEcyclist88

        All I was saying is that I now have more doubt, not that I 100% think Sagan is a cheater based on this article. And for the record, I am a HUGE Sagan fan. I’ve read all TSP posts and he seems like a pretty reasonable, level-headed dude. Doesn’t seem like the kind of person that would call out the world champ just for the hell of it or out of jealousy. I think his comments were very intriguing. Just my opinion.

        • mittNYC

          You infer a lot of admirable qualities from an anonymous column – I applaud your optimism sir! I hope you’re right, but personally I’m a little more skeptical regarding motive – not that that makes him a bad guy, just a normal human.

          I do find the column incredibly interesting/intriguing as well – but while his opinions/anecdotes on certain topics hold weight for me, there are others where they don’t. Inferring that PS may be doping falls into the latter group. As does the physiological effects of Kenacort – he’s not used it apparently, and he’s not a doctor.

          Plus the column is ghostwritten (I noticed another commenter congratulating them on their literacy – I should hope so given they’re a professional writer), so their tone, vocab, style, etc, are probably more a function of the ghostwriter than the rider(s) themself. Something I imagine that’s intentionally done to help mask their identity.

  • Steve Gannon

    You, and others, state that unmarked poles/bollards that cause injuries again and AGAIN are unacceptable. Yet you and every other rider continue to accept them, day in and day out!? The riders are the only ones who suffer any consequence when the roads are not safe, so why in the world would anyone else involved in racing make any effort to do anything differently (like drive/ride the course and double check)? No one ever gets in trouble. The next race happens and all of the riders show up and race, so… you inplicitly accept it. There is supposedly a riders union… what good is it?

    Unless the riders get together and actually do something, like walk away from races together as a united group, nothing will ever change. No one has any reason to make any changes. The riders are the only ones getting hurt in any way. If you don’t like it…. do something! Or stop saying it’s unacceptable, because you all continue to accept every time you show up to a start line and race.

  • Michael K

    > Gone are the days when Cipollini used to sit up, stretch his arms wide, and say, “Piano” on an uphill start. Those days are long gone.

    I don’t understand this, only started being interested in cycling a few years ago. Can someone explain this reference please?

    • Frank

      Cipo in his heyday was the ‘patron’ of the peloton and could stare down friskier riders who wanted to race hard when the general mood was to take it easy.

  • David9482

    This line is very interesting:
    TSP discussing Team Sky’s initial principals – “I can remember when Team Sky first launched, and Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton said, “We won’t cheat. We’ll push it to the blue line, we’ll take it to the edge, but we won’t cheat.”

    Effectively is TSP saying that Team Sky does anything that isn’t illegal per the rule book. Therefore, they use Kenacort (or something similar) out of competition to get skinny? Every single one of their riders are ridiculously skinny, skinnier than riders of any past generation. Does this make sense? It would logically make sense because Froome et al. spend weeks in Tiede between build-up races so they could have extensive rounds of this drug to get strong and shed weight.

  • Shocktart

    I just finished Wiggins book “My Time”. The thing that struck me as he recounts his life story was that there was no mention of Asthma affecting his racing. I thought maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it, but he talks in detail about a blister on his toe, stomach aches, the time he had diarrhea, colds. But there is no mention of Asthma affecting a race at all.

    • Sir Wiggo

      You know the book had a ghost writer don’t you. Most of what’s contained in My Time is just hyperbole with a dash of poetic license by good buddy William Fotheringham.

      Bill was just handed a shoe-box full of mementos, and a stack of Cycling News race reports and told to go his hardest. Several months later a 5-figure advance gets transferred into the Savings Account.

      You’d be a fool to treat any Sports Bio as gospel. Treat it for what it is: a way to cash in.

    • GVA

      What struck me about Wiggo is his condemnation of Armstrong and his righteousness…made me suspect him after he won the Tour. He acted so shocked and betrayed by Lance…it was rather strange as if you were “in” cycling it was pretty common knowledge that Armstrong was doping and if you were like me who refused to believe it…the accusations were hard to ignore.

  • Wish I was on the bike…

    I’m interested in the comments re Martin. I had missed any reports earlier of his contract for 2017. My main recollection of Martin this year is of his breakaway with Alaphilippe in the TdF when he dragged his team mate away from the peloton for a number of hours, only to be caught in the last few kms. Impressive. Can anyone fill in the blanks here? He’s a great talent. It would be a shame not to see him with a strong team in 2017.

  • Sir Wiggo

    No offence, but TSP is becoming rather boring and predictable.

    Here’s one thing I do know …

    If Kenacort is rocket-fuel, which I don’t doubt it is, and TSP knows, and other dopers like JJ and Millar knows, then the entire peloton knows.

    I’m pretty happy to make an educated guess and suggest the drug is being abused in pro-ranks. They just can’t help themselves.

    • jules

      if as an elite rider you can ‘legally’ get access to a drug that is ‘rocket fuel’, why would you not?

      • Sir Wiggo


        Is it legal? 100%. Should it be legal? Completely different question. No.

        Is it moral? No.

        • jules

          I agree with you. But if we are relying on riders to make moral judgments, then the regulations have failed. They can fix them. For all the belly-aching over doping in sports and cycling, the governing bodies just don’t have the basic will to fix the loopholes.

          • Sir Wiggo

            Might seem a little perverse / strange ; but I don’t see much difference between F1 and Pro Cycling. Or F1 with any other Sport.

            In F1, teams will spend their resources and energies finding loopholes in the rules and regulations. It’s always borderline. Red Bull / Adrian Newey were masters at this. F1 regulators would come in, mid-season, and review it all. There’s always threats of drivers losing points, teams being fined. But usually all that happens is the powers that be say, you’ve broken the spirit of the law, or you’ve circumnavigated the law for your advantage. Don’t break this law again. They proceed to go and break another one instead.

            SKY [and all other teams that haven’t been put in the spotlight] are doing the exact same thing. Their subject matter just happens to be humans and not cars.

            • jules

              bingo! yes. this has been my argument about doping. I don’t like doping, it’s cheating, but it’s largely subjective that we judge cheating in cycling as being more morally culpable than cheating in motorsport. cheating in motorsport against technical regulations is virtually a sport in itself, always has been. it’s almost celebrated. objectively, there’s no difference between that and doping in cycling. but that’s not the reality of how people perceive it.

            • mittNYC

              I guess I agree. But it’s a bit overly simplistic. Even if the F1 team artificially reflecting the correct tyre pressure, and the pro-rider having corticosterioid injections (via TUE) are both cases of “legal cheating”, how the average sports viewer personally relates is obviously not going to be the same. The idea of running the tyres on their Honda Civic 2psi lower vs the idea of being injected with a strong (and potentially harmful drug), are going to elicit two very different responses.

              So yes, on paper perhaps the same. As far as what will and will not cause public outrage/debate/discussion – very different.

              Back on topic – I totally agree that those in charge of regulations definitely need to be thinking big picture here. That’s obvious. But it’s also not surprising that Wiggins/Sky are under additional scrutiny, given their much publicized stance on doping. Do you think that’s unfair?


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