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  • A very interesting read, thanks Shane.

    On a side note, I spent two months cycling around Iran last year and I must say, what a phenomenal country! The mountains behind Tehran are absolutely stunning to ride and hike (5000m+!!!) and Iranian’s LOVE the outdoors. The Persian people are overwhelmingly kind and generous too. I can highly recommend Iran as a cycling destination! To get a better sense of what it’s like, here’s a link to a film I made about Iran and it’s people: http://vimeo.com/69940114

  • jules

    opportunity for salaries at levels exceeding or substituting for other vocations + no effective dope testing = cheating, anywhere.

    • Facts

      But clearly here. Difference is other places test, these guys don’t.
      Admit it.

  • echidna_sg

    Surely if the riders are that good and riding for a well funded cycling federation that is as well organized as the article attempts to explain, the best team or an amalgamated team from the ‘clubs’ there should go down the route of (for example) Astana and request invites to take a step up the chain into the odd world tour event… and yet… or is it perhaps a visa availability issue due to the sanctions?

    I’d also be interested to know if the likes of tabriz turn down invites to (for example) the tour of Beijing where scrutiny would be (I believe) higher. The rumours have been going on for years now, especially in the Indo/MY UCI events – fairly or not.

    • Dave

      To get invited to a WorldTour event requires the team already hold a Professional Continental license – which no Asian teams have. A WorldTour event promoter can invite up to five ProConti teams to compete (this is a power the TDU organisers have invoked twice, once for BMC in 2010 and then this year for Drapac) alongside the 18 ProTeams, and WorldTour events outside continental Europe also get a national team (Australia competes under the UniSA name at the TDU).

      If events like Langkawi are getting mentioned, some of the Iranian teams are obviously getting the opportunity to race alongside the big teams at other .1 events in Asia. Whether that actually makes their performance vs ProTeam rider performances at those races worth talking about depends on how seriously the ProTeams are racing.

      • echidna_sg

        in a way, that’s my point, if the cycling federation is that good and that well funded, surely they can find 10-15 guys from the 4 iranian registered Asia tour teams to form one pro conti team… given the lack of Asian pro conti teams, the UCI should be crying out for at least one!

  • BarkingOwl

    Hmmmm…..well if they are really that good then surely World Tour teams would be clambering to recruit Iranian riders. The fact that they aren’t says something. Why would Sky go for a guy like Earle instead of the dudes that are riding away from him up mountains?

    • jules

      i would say that there would be administrative headaches of trying to employ an iranian rider – e.g. difficulties getting visas, possibly contravening UN sanctions on iran?

      • Dave

        This would surely be a major roadblock – although all the economic (i.e. not related to nuclear technology) sanctions on Iran are an effort of the USA and associated lackeys like Australia, not the UN Security Council.

        It will be interesting to see if the Iranian team makes it to the start line for the Road World Championships next year – they are being held in the USA.

        • Cynic

          Associated lackeys?
          Sanctions on Iran are for years and years of little things like human rights abuse and support of terrorism.
          Human Rights Watch are not a puppet organisation. Look them up sometime.

        • Cynic

          PS. The reason why the UN Security Council won’t sanction them is because of China and Russia, who supply their weapons programme and wouldn’t want to stop trading arms etc just for a few human rights abuses.
          Incidentally, Iran is the second highest in the world for capital punishment deaths. Behind China.

      • Cynic

        Yep, that’s it.
        These guys are great natural riders, just missing a world tour spot because of a little visa hassle.
        Iran is also a lovely place with really friendly generous people.
        Must remember to tell Human Rights Watch they’ve got it all wrong.

        • jules

          i didn’t say that. but don’t confuse the vicious theocracy with the general populace, who by all accounts are quite friendly.

    • daveonfire

      Because Earley is mates with sky’s Richie Porte. The good old get ya end in get ya friend in…. His not really world tour level just making up numbers.

      • daveonfire

        Earle sorry.

  • Luke

    As the say – No matter how good your are, there is always someone better.
    Perhaps there is no ambition to go to World Tour level… with the lucrative prizemoney available on the UCI Asia Tour, not to mention the lifestyle – training requirements, race organization, crowds, luxurious hotels, amazing locations, family time etc. i wouldnt disagree with there decision to earn a living in those conditions vs in Europe as a World Tour rider

  • Jake

    in 2011 i rode Juniors in Belgium and lived with one of the Iranians who was riding for Lotto Belisol at the time, great bloke but couldnt stand the living, He would train maximum 2hrs a day and occasionally was selected to race. He would always tell me how much better everything was in Iran training/food etc, I guess they thrive in their home environment. He hardly got selected to race. The world championships that year were less than 1hrs drive from our house and we sat and watched the race on TV, I asked why he wasnt racing, he told me the federation didnt send him a jersey in time.

    • hughman

      Surely they would have carried out spot tests in Belgium if you’ve got a 2.0+ license? There’s a reason they cost $10k, right? Someone who is eligible to race a WC would have to get tested in the season at least once?

  • Ty

    Fascinating article.

    However, the question has to be asked: if these guys are good enough to be destroying riders who went on to ride in Pro Tour teams why aren’t they more prominent in the Pro Tour? Top Iranian cyclists get up US$200,000 per year, second place at TdF could earn then more than that! As does a position as a Super-Domestique. So why don’t they compete?

    So then let’s say the Pro Teams just (somehow) haven’t noticed Iranian cycling for whatever reason, the article says “They have an incredible Olympic committee”, so why aren’t they prominent in the Olympics when they’re clearly phenomenal athletes? All Iranians DNF’d in 2012 Olympics and the highest ranked Iranian in 2008 came 78th, 16 minutes behind the winning group (none of which were sprinters) and the best result i could was 56th in 1988 (which was as far back as i bothered to look.

    If something seems too good to be true…

    • Dave

      It could just be that they are the only teams taking it seriously in certain races.

      Remember back when the TDU first started, Australia was more dominant in the TDU than in cricket at the time – and that was back when Steve Waugh mentally disintegrating opponents on a weekly basis.

      • Cynic

        Yeh, exactly Dave. Maybe they all just had a bad day.
        Couldn’t be the blindly obvious situation they’re doping their heads off without being tested, could it?

  • hughman

    Great article… just a point – I haven’t seen any Iranians at the pointy end of the World Champs before… last year’s course would have been perfect for one of those mountain goats.

    • CB

      Maybe it’s time the World’s went to Iran?

      • Ferris

        Good luck with that. Maybe they can ride around the public execution sites?

        Did you know Iran treats asylum seekers worse than Australia?

        The Iran Penal Code was brought in in 1991 (by 12 unelected clerics), based on Sharia law but expanded to include political dissention.

        Children (under 18 yrs) can and do get the death penalty. In 2011, 143 children (under 18) were on death row for offences including drug related offences. Sodomy is also a capital offence.

        The legal age of consent is 9 years old for a female in Iran under law.

        Common punishment for crime includes flogging, stoning and amputation. Stoning is a very common penalty for adultery in particular.

        Currently 28 Kurds are on death row under article 287 of the penal code, which defines the crime of efsad-e fel arz, or “sowing corruption on earth.” This is used against political dissent.
        What is it you people don’t get about Iran? These facts are there, even the most anti-Western Leftist must surely see supporting this regime is wrong.

  • Monsieur Pi Pi

    Time for Cyclingtips Roadtripping in Iran I think.

  • Luke Pegrum

    Great read

  • Excellent article Shane. Thanks for this reporting.

  • Fitri Majid

    As a journalist, I spoke to them Iranian riders at least twice a year for the past 5 years when they come to Malaysia for racing, and from what I could see, I have to agree with Price. I even spoke to Price last year at Borneo and I share the same sentiment.
    While their performance highly warrants racing in WT teams, many of them are stuck with visa problems…or at least that was what they said. Mehdi Sohrabi, rode for Lotto a while back (after he won the Asia Tour ranking), is proof. Amir Zargari too (Ag2R). They didn’t get anywhere.

    The thing is, there is a cloud of suspicion around them. They are out of the testing circle (out of competition tests). Out of competition testing for riders from the registered testing pool is up to the nat federation to do it. Riders like Matt Brammeier, once told me, although he is no longer in WT team, is still in the database (registered testing pool) and subject to the whereabouts etc testing regime. With no blood testing in competition, and the amount of money they are reported to earn (also note the federation is affluent, said Hall) anything is possible. I think I heard Lance spoke about half life of EPO in the documentary….ding dong. No, I’m not accusing them of anything. Just saying.
    I know this is frustrating, but what can we do.

    • Bones

      I’m just a fan so I have no experience with athletes from Iran. If they can’t get visas to compete in Europe/ USA, why as athletes or their national federation, would they subject themselves to the riggers/hassles and expense of the Whereabouts Program?

      Regarding the ‘cloud of suspicion that surrounds them’, in my mind, I’m still suspicious of a lot of the WorldTour results. Just as Armstrong took doping to the next level, it would not surprise me to hear that the current grand tour contenders/winners have taken it to the ‘next’ level.

  • Shane Stokes

    Thanks for the feedback, folks..it’s definitely an interesting topic and there’s plenty of room for debate. Without a bio passport requirement for the riders or their teams, it’s very hard to get a clear picture of what the situation is.

  • Scott

    Thank you Shane and cyclingtips for having this type of level headed analysis and discussion, something out sport is often lacking these days.

  • Steve

    I will have to agree that racing against them in Asia a couple years ago they seemed on another level in a race with plenty of world talent. It was bizarre that they never left Asia however to even try one race in Europe. It’s not exactly like the payout at the Asian tours was so great either that there was any real excuse to stay there.

  • Baz

    I do love it when I hear Aussies talk about their riders being Saints and that when they get a smashing it’s because the others are doping. It’s not to say they are not doping but until there is clear evidence, not assumption, it’s all hearsay.

    • Buddy love

      Rubbish. Armstrong is clean too, by your argument.

      The Aussie riders weren’t the only ones stating the blindingly obvious. Radoslav Rogina was the yellow jersey holder at Tour of Borneo who was ripped off by these cheats. “I cannot believe what’s happened,” he said. “It’s unbelievable how they rode in front.”
      The fact is the Aussies are tested, as are the Europeans and others in the West. The Iranians only compete (hide) in these Asian races for a reason.

      Some research on Iranian cycling shows close links during the bad old days (2000’s) to several ex Telekom DDR/East Germans like Mizorov and other assorted dopers. Mainolo Sainz was very keen to sign Mizbani for his Liberty Seguros team according to one old report from 2006.

      It gets tedious to read the hipster latte socialists trying to pretend these guys are just misunderstood and it’s all a part of a conspiracy by the neo cons and right wingers.
      Be honest. They’re cheats, and you’re just making excuses for them.

      • Baz

        Haha I throw out the line and reel them in.

        Gear is always going to be present when money is involved, it was clearly a tongue in cheek comment. Relax matey, I’ve raced for years in Oz and lived and raced in Europe. Seen things that made me think why I still want to be involved in the sport I love.

        And lets get it straight lattes are for pussies

  • Steve

    latest results from stage 5 in Iran.
    Maybe they are just incredibly good. Maybe all the other teams didnt take it seriously?

  • Paul

    Budget Forklifts didn’t do too badly against TPT in Singkarak last year. Just sayin…

  • Whata joke

    3 tests a year, in total, and only in competition?
    That means too that they don’t partake in a whereabouts program.
    In a country that has cheap & easily accessible pharmaceuticals.
    Sure they’re clean….


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