Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pounding A Few With Pound

It has been widely reported that as of 2008, Dick Pound has stepped down from his position as Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Many interviews were published prior to his departure, but I was fortunate to spend some time with the Canadian recently as we waited for our flights at Denver International Airport. I now proudly offer the following vague recollection of one of Pound’s first post-WADA interviews, conducted over a few $7 Coors Lights at the Cowboy Bar in Concourse A.

Note: I’m not sure if it was the multiple beers or what but I found it somewhat odd that all of the responses to my questions came in the form of Homer Simpson quotes. I would not have envisioned Pound as a Simpson’s fan but you can see for yourself below:

Jeru: “I know this may be a sore subject but what are your thoughts on the defense strategy and evidence employed by Floyd Landis and his legal team? Do you have any thoughts about the fact that the French Lab mishandled the samples?”

Pound: “Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true.”

Jeru: “Hmmm…okay then. But I recall there being some pretty serious issues regarding the chain of custody and labeling of the samples. Do you remember the specifics of this evidence and how it negatively portrays the labs responsible for the testing?”

Pound: “Oh, everything looks bad if you remember it.”

Jeru: “It seems pretty obvious that you don’t really care too much about the performance of the testing labs. Are you aware of how complicated the testing procedures are and how high the error margin is for much of the equipment being used?”

Pound: “Just because I don't care doesn't mean I don't understand.”

Jeru: “Okay, that wasn’t really an answer but…fair enough. No surprise there. So anyway, it seems that there would be some kind of opportunity for WADA to develop a closer relationship with the riders and cycling’s governing bodies such as the UCI and various national federations. Do you think more open communication between all interested parties would assist in the effort to establish clear standards and foster a sense of teamwork in the fight against doping?”

Pound: “The problem with the world today is communication. Too much communication.”

Jeru: “Interesting point there. So if communication is not the answer, then what are your thoughts on the potential benefit of creating a system to educate the riders and Anti-Doping Agency representatives about the testing procedures and analysis methods in an effort to help them understand the science behind the WADA Code?”

Pound: “How is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?”

Jeru: “Ummm…no, I actually don’t remember that. Well, if better communication and education are not the answer, then what do you recommend to help bridge the gap in the relationship between the riders, the UCI and WADA?”

Pound: “Doughnuts. Is there anything they can't do?”

Jeru: “Okay, now that didn’t make any sense at all. How many of those beers have you had, Dick? I thought Canadians were supposed to be big beer drinkers. We may need to cut you off.”

Pound: “Son, when you participate in sporting events, it's not whether you win or lose: it's how drunk you get.”

Jeru: “Now, that is something I would expect from a country famous for ice-related sports. I’m not sure how that plays in the cycling world though. Maybe cyclocross I guess. Speaking of which, what would you say to all of the Americans that just recently competed in the Cyclocross World Championships?”

Pound: “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”

Jeru: “Wow, that was kind of harsh. Are you sure that’s the best encouragement you can give? What happened to being an advocate for athletes and supporting healthy, fair competition?”

Pound: “If something's hard to do, then it's not worth doing.”

Jeru: “So, how hard was it being Chairman of WADA? With all of the turmoil and public arguments over the last few years, it had to have been challenging to say the least. If it was so hard and you were not dedicated to the position, why didn’t you just quit a long time ago and save cycling fans the pain of listening to your hostility?”

Pound: “You don't like your job, you don't quit. You go in every day and do it really half-assed. That's the American way.”

The Canadian then went on a profanity-laden tirade about how “Americans” were largely responsible for the current dilemma of performance enhancing drug use in sports and should potentially be banned from the Olympics and other international events. The rant devolved into a number of slanderous comments about many prominent U.S. citizens including Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis and even Oprah Winfrey for some reason. Dick Pound apparently has serious issues with Oprah.

Anyway, I considered attempting to explain that Canada is technically “America” too, but decided that I was better off ending the conversation there. After lying about my boarding time to San Jose to get away from him, the realization hit me that Dick Pound, whether you agreed with him or not, was a truly entertaining character during his time at WADA. Often inflammatory and insulting, but entertaining nonetheless. I think I will miss his clownishness.

Not to mention the fact that John Fahey (the new WADA chief) is nothing compared to Dick Pound in the comical name department. We will not likely see another Perfect Storm of name, demeanor and professional circumstances like Dick Pound’s reign at WADA in our lifetime. I guess you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Just watch out for him at your local airport bar. He can get a little rowdy.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Down For A Cause - Pro Night At The WRC

Colorado’s Wheat Ridge Cyclery, proudly owned and operated by the Kiefel clan since 1973, played host to a very interesting collection of personalities this past Saturday night in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the Tom Danielson Junior Racing Series and Project Rwanda.

Led by the dynamic duo of Michael Aisner and Bob Roll with help from the ever-cool Ron Kiefel, the event dubbed “Pro Night” boasted a packed lineup consisting of Danielson, Alison Dunlap, Ned Overend, Nelson Vails, Dr. Andy Pruitt, Danny Summerhill, Jock Boyer and the one and only Tom Ritchey.

Aisner and Roll got things started with a little banter about the programming choices made by the Versus network and the truly impressive beard that Bob has been cultivating in the off-season. Granted, Wheat Ridge is pretty close to Boulder but the general consensus was that the Killing Shows have got to go. Unfortunately it seems that Bob does not have a lot of clout when it comes to programming at VS. Anyway, Aisner has always been a great showman and Roll is always far more entertaining in person (not to mention...huge. Bobke must have been lifting over the winter 'cause the Guns were blazing) so it was pretty cool to have both men behind the microphone for the evening.

The surprise guest of the night was Steve Johnson, the CEO of USA Cycling who made the short drive up from Colorado Springs with his wife and gave a somewhat critical presentation of the Beijing Olympic preparations. Aside from determining that Johnson is a pretty typical CEO (take that however you want) and thinking it was somewhat ironic that the Floyd Landis Fairness Folks had their event at WRC just a few months ago, I was left with the understanding that the road events will be exceedingly difficult due to both the terrain and pollution, the velodrome is nice and the BMX venue is freaking awesome.

It was also fairly obvious that Mr. Johnson was significantly less than enthused about the way the Chinese delegation was interacting with the participating countries. I can see where he was coming from but I did find it odd that he chose to be quite so open about his dissatisfaction with them. I don’t think that Johnson portrayed the situation too poorly but I hope the US riders don’t get short-changed because of politics. “Oh, sorry we forgot the air conditioner for your warm-up tent in this 95 degree, 98 percent humidity weather…but your leader has been saying bad things about us.”

After Johnson was done showing slides of the Beijing smog and the garbage dump/mountain bike venue, Alison Dunlap took the stage as the lone female personality of the evening. Staying busy in her post-career life, I imagine Dunlap is quite pleased that she will not have to compete in the Cross Dump (not Country) event at the Olympics this year. Although she did remind everyone that the riders make the race, not the course. True…but that XC venue is heinous right now. You can’t sugarcoat some things.

Next up was the truly cool Nelson Vails, the only attendee rocking a full suit. As part of the intro, they showed the 1984 Olympic Sprint Finals between Vails and Mark Gorski which I hadn’t seen before. I am not exaggerating when I say that each of Nelson’s thighs was thicker than my waist. It was actually kind of frightening watching him on the bike because it seemed like the frame was going to snap underneath him. Then they showed some sweet old commercials that he had done which I would like to see on YouTube in the near future. Excellent stuff if you can locate it. The Ray Ban ad in particular was classic.

After Nelson, they introduced Danny Summerhill and Ned Overend to highlight the past/present and future/present of the sport of bike racing. I include “present” for both guys because, despite their ages, these two can hang with just about anyone out there today. Summerhill seems like a good kid despite having gone to Cherry Creek High School (the hated, hated CCHS) and Overend just simply rules.

One of the funnier moments came when Aisner followed up Overend’s comment about believing you can win with his own story of Alexi Grewal intimidating some poor Dutch racer in the Coors Classic and “Beating them before the race even started.” Those familiar with the two Colorado racing legends couldn’t help but laugh when the unfailingly polite and reserved Overend replied, “Yeah, Alexi and I kind of had a different approach.”

Tom Danielson was next up to the plate and was his consistent, well-spoken self. While he may not be the most dynamic personality in the world, it’s tough to argue with the efforts he has made to give something back to the sport off the bike. I don’t know of many other pros giving out scholarships and backing an entire state-wide Junior Racing series. Good job TD. Now forget the Lance-Nike-PR training, let your hair down and get to the Tour already.

At this point, the vibe shifted a little bit as the uber-mellow Tom Ritchey took the stand to talk about Project Rwanda. Although you will not get the full effect of Ritchey’s world-class handlebar mustache and serene thoughtfulness in person, please take the time to visit the Project Rwanda website for more information about this very worthy cause. The mission of “Using the Bicycle as a Tool and Symbol of Hope” should be enough to get anyone passionate about the benefits of The Bike to find out more about how a project like this can truly make a difference in the lives of those who see the bicycle as a functional vehicle instead of a recreational toy. I cannot do the effort justice in this format so please take the time to learn more about it from the source. In case you missed the link earlier, here is the exact address:

At some point in the near future I will write more about Ritchey and a few of the other MTB Fathers from the Bay Area that I have been fortunate enough to get to know and work with over the years. Granted, I am a little biased toward these guys but I am also continually impressed with their contributions and advocacy outside the ropes of the racing scene.

But getting back to the racing element, Ritchey and Aisner then introduced Jock Boyer, who has taken on the role of director and coach for a group of Rwandan racers. Now, Boyer occupies an interesting place in cycling history but it could be argued that few individuals would be better suited to bring a nation of inexperienced racers up to speed in the sport than the first American to race in the Tour de France. And most importantly, even fewer would be willing to make such an effort. In this respect, the fact that Boyer has gone as far as spending over half the year in Rwanda is a testament to his belief in the cause and dedication to helping his riders develop and see the world.
The evening concluded with the auction of a bike designed by Tom Ritchey to help with the transportation of up to hundreds of pounds of goods. Built for durability with a long rack in the rear, the machine isn’t going to be breaking any land speed records but is apparently critical to the timely delivery and transportation of coffee, which has become a major source of economic development in Rwanda. A number of people bid on the bike but it ended up staying in the Wheat Ridge Cyclery after being bought by the Kiefels. That seemed like the right thing.

Actually, there was a raffle that followed the auction and despite the fact that they gave away about a thousand different things, somehow C-Mac and I did not get anything. Oh well, we were certainly rewarded with an entertaining and educational evening that helped support some very worthy causes. Nothing wrong with that and yet another confirmation of why we are so fortunate to live in the CO.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rock Racing Announces Canseco, Vick and Bin Laden Signings

January 10, 2008 - Los Angeles, CA

At a press conference held on a fashion show runway in Los Angeles, controversial professional cycling team Rock Racing announced the signing of Jose Canseco, Michael Vick and Osama Bin Laden to its roster for the 2008 season.

Team owner Michael Ball (aka John Kreese or “The Guy”) began the event by grabbing the microphone amid rock music and flashing strobe lights and yelling “Are you ready to f***ing rock?!?! We got some baaad motherf***ers in the house today!!”

The stunned and usually reserved group of cycling journalists remained silent and just looked around at each other as Ball continued to yell obscenities at them in an effort to “make this sport f***ing cool, man.”

“Okay, I’m here to announce that Rock Racing has added some serious badasses to the team. In addition to the recent signings of Sevilla, Botero and Hamilton – I got some hardcore dudes to back them up now and take some of the heat off” explained Ball to the confused crowd.

“You see, I’m all about giving people a chance, man” he continued. “And these cats have gotten a bad rap lately, you know? So I just want to prove that Rock Racing is all about giving people opportunities. Admitted steroid user? That’s cool. Convicted felon who murdered dogs? Hell yeah man, we got room for you. Terrorist mastermind and global threat? Sh**, you know that dude will bring some crazy publicity. Sign ‘em up!”

Ball then began to field questions by asking “Any of you motherf***ers got a problem with any of this s**t?"

Clearly nervous, a visibly uncool reporter stepped up to the microphone and asked why the team was hiring so many controversial figures.

“Like I said, these guys all just got a bad rap along the way somehow. Hiring the troubled racers was a no-brainer but I knew people would give me hard time about the non-cyclists like Canseco, Vick and Bin Laden. Especially Vick…people really like dogs. The other guys aren’t that bad though” said the founder of the Rock & Republic denim company.

“The team and I have been catching a lot of heat lately for some of the moves we’ve been making so I wanted to bring in some guys that really know something about cultivating an awful reputation. As with everything I do, it’s all about being extreme so I had to find the absolute best of the worst. And I think I hit it out of the park with Canseco, Vick and OBL, as I like to call him. You cannot find three guys with more combined ill will than these dudes. Trust me, I looked.”

At this point, Ball allowed recently signed Jose Canseco to make a brief statement. It should be noted that only Canseco was present at the announcement as Vick is currently behind bars and Bin Laden is often somewhat reclusive.

“I am really happy to be a part of the Rock Racing team. Michael Ball has been a friend of mine since back in the days when I could afford $400 jeans and it’s nice to be involved with a guy that I have so much in common with. It has been said that I am somewhat polarizing as well and I hope that my terrible reputation will soften some of the scrutiny being directed at some of the other members of our team” explained the former baseball player and steroid user.

“Plus, I can carry Oscar Sevilla and Tyler Hamilton with one arm and Santiago Botero with the other if the press gets a little rowdy or they need some security. I dated Madonna for a while so I know a thing or two about how to handle the paparazzi.”

Sensing that his new hire was on the verge of seeming somewhat helpful and sympathetic, Ball quickly took the microphone and began to address some other issues with Vick and Bin Laden, whom he admitted had far worse reputations than Canseco.

“I’m not sure how much racing Vick and OBL are going to be able to do this year but they will be integral parts of our team. If anything, these guys make me and the Operacion Puerto guys look like Mother Theresa. It may be a little hard for OBL to provide his whereabouts to the drug testers all the time but that’s cool. I dare those WADA vampires to find my boy out there for a random test” explained the heavily gelled and tanned fashion designer.

“Anyway, I have so much money that I can pay off any fines or whatever. I’ll just buy the Doping Agencies if I have to and make them cooler. That’s what it’s all about, man. Making things that rock and are f***ing cool!!”

Ball then wrapped up the event by having Canseco model the new Rock Racing team kit for 2008 which consisted of a bedazzled denim vest with snaps and cut-off jean shorts.