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Vuelta 2011 – The Race Within The Race

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My point is most teams in the late 90s and through to 2008 have a shadow cast over them as every team I can think of during that era suffered positive tests or employed folk with a history of such practices - in those days we didn't seem to have teams like Garmin, HTC, Cervelo, Sky and Leopard Trek that so far appear to have largely or completely failed to produce positive tests.

I'm not sure what team Sastre could have joined during those years that would have meant he wouldn't work alongside anyone controversial. Which DSs and teams should he have worked with? I don't think he speaks English either does he? If not that would further limit his options. As I say, some of you guys will certainly know the answer to that one better than me.
 
May 26, 2010
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Fergoose said:
My point is most teams in the late 90s and through to 2008 have a shadow cast over them as every team I can think of during that era suffered positive tests or employed folk with a history of such practices - in those days we didn't seem to have teams like Garmin, HTC, Cervelo, Sky and Leopard Trek that so far appear to have largely or completely failed to produce positive tests.

I'm not sure what team Sastre could have joined during those years that would have meant he wouldn't work alongside anyone controversial. Which DSs and teams should he have worked with? I don't think he speaks English either does he? If not that would further limit his options. As I say, some of you guys will certainly know the answer to that one better than me.
what teams in 2011 dont have a shadow cast over them?

Sky? Michael Barry ex USPostal, Sean Yates Ex Motorola
Garmin? Dave Millar, Allen Lim

to name the 2 supposedly squeaky teams and some shadows cast over them that immediately spring to mind?
 
Jun 27, 2009
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Fergoose said:
My point is most teams in the late 90s and through to 2008 have a shadow cast over them as every team I can think of during that era suffered positive tests or employed folk with a history of such practices - in those days we didn't seem to have teams like Garmin, HTC, Cervelo, Sky and Leopard Trek that so far appear to have largely or completely failed to produce positive tests.
If Basso had not been identified as involved in Operation Puerto, then his record would be equally untainted in your eyes. Sastre was involved in the same team with the same coach (and previously Saiz as coach) and there are many testimonies by whistle blowers on how it's impossible to ride as Sastre's level juice free..... As the Basso/Schleck/Jaksche/Bartoli/Hamilton connections make obvious, Fuentes was helping several CSC riders. Jaksche explicitly states that Riis was aware of his doping program...so now the story is Sastre is such a great natural talent that he didn''t need a program?

If you want to shout at us for not giving a dude like Sastre the benefit of the doubt then its up to you to present a plausible argument on how Sastre could have possibly avoided doping like everyone else.

As for teams that haven't had a positive test, the best example of a team that went for years and years without a positive test is US Postal/Disco. We now know doping was rampant in this team, and there are strong allegations that bribery and official (UCI) corruption played a role in why there were no positives.
 
Fergoose said:
Hitch. Fair enough if you suspect the GC contenders we are watching just now in the Vuelta, particularly if you think that some of the domestiques could be running unaided. Nothing wrong with some healthy suspicion. I look forward to the rationale behind the suspicions in any forthcoming threads on the likes of Anton & Nibali.
Its obvious we have completely different approaches to the subject of doping so i might find it difficult to explain why i have such a cynical approach to many riders and why i continue to love them despite it.

Regarding both Anton and Nibali its possible that they are clean, and its possible that they are like so many before them doping to reach that level. Theres no way to know.

1 or 2 more points to consider though about Nibs. He has been covered many times before.

First of all there are rumours he was seen with Ferrari though they are just rumours.

His predecessor as Liquigas co leader was Delfino- caught.

More importantly perhaps, he is best friends with Ivan Basso. This brings about the "how should clean riders act" argument that is often seen in this here the clinic.

The idea is, is that if you were a clean rider killing yourself for good results and getting screwed over by cheaters, would you not hate them?

If Nibali is getting screwed over by cheaters he doesnt seem to mind. He claims to phone Basso every day they are such close friends.
 
Massive posts, but it'll die down. I'll refrain from repeating myself and if I accidentally do, just clip me around the ear! A genuine thanks to any who read and respond with new points or counterarguments - even if it turns out we do have totally different perspectives that won't meet in the middle.

Its not my intention to shout at nobody, I’m merely remaining unconvinced by any argument presented so far around Sastre. Yes, the latest teams also have employees with a murky past, but they aren’t getting the positive tests (during a period where teams like Saxobank, Vacansoleil-DCM & Katusha continue to suffer positive tests – but then perhaps you’d suggest that unlike the others they aren’t paying their protection money? I'm not being flippant, I can believe corruption with one team, but 6 or 7?). To take the example of Dave Millar of Garmin (who I will not say a word in favour of) his performances since being rumbled are so painfully ordinary, so completely inferior to what he was managing when he was known to be cheating, that a case could be made that he has learnt his lesson and hasn’t reoffended. Still, the sooner this rule about no-dopers as DS's comes in the better.

Nobody has answered my question about what career options Sastre could possibly have had to avoid mingling with undesirables. The man appears to be in a no-win situation, purely because he was born in the 1970s and is a professional cyclist.

Nibali being pals with Basso is definitely disappointing (as is anti-doping hero Dave Millar’s recent disclosure that he “Loves Basso”, but I digress), but it doesn’t point to Nibali sharing those activities. If you are in any work environment, you’ll know the brown nosing that goes on in any organisation towards bosses. Basso is the senior rider in Liquigas and to give him the cold shoulder would be a poor career move for Nibali. Nibali is a young rider and Basso was suspended in 2007. So maybe Nibali hasn't been exposed to Basso's habits. Plus, Nibali must have serious balls if he is doping while doing anti-doping campaigns in his spare time and presumably for no payment. I’ve never heard him speak, but he’d have to be a very self-confident young man to pull that off and stick his head above the parapet like that. There is no need to draw attention to yourself like that and nothing to gain even if you are cheating; it doesn't make a scientist less likely to detect a positive result and it might make any ban you receive if you are rumbled even more severe.

The best evidence of whether someone is up to no good is often what you see on the road. With USPostal and the benefit of hindsight (and first hand testimony) its completely obvious that they weren’t cycling unaided. Look at the power and consistency of their leadout train stage after stage, year after year – never missing a beat, crushing the opposition mercilessly and their leader being in another league to all his rivals, with 5 minute plus TdF victory margins. Look at the performances of Ricco, Kohl, Schumacher, Landis, Vinokourov that have you disbelieving what you are seeing right before your eyes.

Can you find any current comparison to that? Compare it to Leopard Trek blowing up on themselves in the TdF when they tried to set the pace or BMC being unable to give Evans any decent assistance in tracking down Andy Schleck’s solo attack, or Fuglsang being unable to aid Schleck on the same attack, or Schleck himself losing 2 minutes in as many kilometres as he was a spent force at the end, costing him the tour. It all looks so unprofessional and human by comparison. These lads are not fit to wear the USPostal colours!

I have full sympathy with those who think the authorities have taken the foot off the pedal with testing and think this will be contributing to a decline in positive tests. Frankly I wouldn’t be following the sport if the disappointment of less rigorous testing and investigation coincided with a rise in crazy superhuman performances. But I’m simply not seeing these superhuman performances and I’ve yet to be persuaded that the biological passport is a complete shambles (though I’ve not looked into it enough). Of course, lower level, less severe and more clever doping could be going on. I'm not blind to that, but my default setting won't be instant suspicion.

In terms of what you see with your own eyes, I’d have to confess I would have completely failed to suspect Basso as a cheat, but then I wasn’t looking for doping signs in his prime (though even if I was, I doubt I’d have picked up on it and I’ve not seen his potentially more flamboyish rides in the Giro). So yeah, you've got me there. Like I’ve said before, we are likely detecting only a tiny fraction of the doping. If you catch someone, he’s probably done it dozens of times before and not been caught. That doesn’t mean you should automatically suspect his ex-teammate, or everyone on his new team. Imagine being young professional rider and reading that someone thinks you are just the same as Floyd Landis or that they’d probably cheer on Ricco if Ricco bet you on a climb.

Further in defence of Sastre, if he is currently doping, then mouthing off publicly about how incompetent his boss at Geox is would be an extremely stupid and risky move. Angering the guy that would have evidence of your doping and can ruin Mr Clean's reputation for all time? Mad! But that is precisely what he has done. I’ve also talked about “Sastre’s level” previously in the thread. To me there is nothing sensational about it. If someone comes forward and quotes a particular instance of when Sastre’s performance was unbelievable it can be looked at in more detail and debated – I think its interesting to do that sort of thing. I think I put up a decent case for why his TdF 2008 performance wasn’t beyond belief. This thread has given me reason to revisit and look into Frank Schleck & Menchov, but not Sastre. In terms of Sastre & Puerto, what you omitted is to point me to any testimonies or specific allegations about Sastre’s direct involvement in doping activity. I’d be happy to be pointed to any such articles. Until such a time, he has No Case To Answer (I really don't like that term either, there must be a better one than that - it sounds so poncey).

I can understand doping in the 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s. Hell, it probably felt like a fairly natural thing to do to get you and your teammates through another painful days racing – I don’t judge those guys at all and if I was a pro-cyclist on those days I’d probably have done the same because the culture would be so endemic and there wasn’t a social outcry about it - so what was the harm. But since the Festina debacle its clearly regarded as socially unacceptable (outwith this forum), as shown by Contador’s reception at the TdF introductions. I struggle to think that in such a climate, and with such ordinary recent performances, that “everyone is at it”.

The repeated call of “its up to you to prove someone hasn’t doped” is poppycock and nonsense upon stilts! I couldn’t prove to your satisfaction that my granny hadn’t doped, or that my pet hamster wasn’t on PEDs because proving a negative is an impossible thing to do. Its one step away from burning “witches” because they didn’t drown when you threw them into the water. You’d be well advised to click on the link in The Hitch’s signature to find someone who’d clobber such a line of argument better than I can.

And finally…

Regarding both Anton and Nibali its possible that they are clean, and its possible that they are like so many before them doping to reach that level. Theres no way to know.
So why would anyone think it foolish to differentiate between those riders that we can’t know about, and those that we do know about and to choose to support the former? Particularly if there is some consensus that there are some riders out there currently cycling unaided? On the one hand I can support a rider who is definitely a cheat, on the other I can support the rider who very well may not be a cheat.
 
Jun 27, 2009
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Fergoose said:
Nibali being pals with Basso is definitely disappointing (as is anti-doping hero Dave Millar’s recent disclosure that he “Loves Basso”, but I digress), but it doesn’t point to Nibali sharing those activities. If you are in any work environment, you’ll know the brown nosing that goes on in any organisation towards bosses. Basso is the senior rider in Liquigas and to give him the cold shoulder would be a poor career move for Nibali. Nibali is a young rider and Basso was suspended in 2007. So maybe Nibali hasn't been exposed to Basso's habits. Plus, Nibali must have serious balls if he is doping while doing anti-doping campaigns in his spare time and presumably for no payment......

.....

In terms of what you see with your own eyes, I’d have to confess I would have completely failed to suspect Basso as a cheat, but then I wasn’t looking for doping signs in his prime (though even if I was, I doubt I’d have picked up on it and I’ve not seen his potentially more flamboyish rides in the Giro). So yeah, you've got me there. Like I’ve said before, we are likely detecting only a tiny fraction of the doping. If you catch someone, he’s probably done it dozens of times before and not been caught......

Further in defence of Sastre, if he is currently doping, then mouthing off publicly about how incompetent his boss at Geox is would be an extremely stupid and risky move. Angering the guy that would have evidence of your doping and can ruin Mr Clean's reputation for all time? Mad! But that is precisely what he has done. I’ve also talked about “Sastre’s level” previously in the thread. To me there is nothing sensational about it. If someone comes forward and quotes a particular instance of when Sastre’s performance was unbelievable it can be looked at in more detail and debated – I think its interesting to do that sort of thing.

So why would anyone think it foolish to differentiate between those riders that we can’t know about, and those that we do know about and to choose to support the former? Particularly if there is some consensus that there are some riders out there currently cycling unaided? On the one hand I can support a rider who is definitely a cheat, on the other I can support the rider who very well may not be a cheat.
First off, please do not offer subjective impressions of how a rider appears in a race as evidence or non-evidence of doping. Evidence of doping ought to be based on times, doping tests, evidence written and circumstantial, whistleblower testimony, etc.

Also, if Sastre and Nibali make vague anti-doping comments from time to time, this don't indicate anything about whether they are clean or not. Those of us who have followed cycling for a long time are aware that many cyclists who loudly claim to be clean have turned out to be dopers. The "he wouldn't claim to be innocent if he wasn't innocent" argument has no credibility after Hamilton and Landis, sorry.

More to the point, the fact that characters like Sastre and Nibali speak so little about doping as cheating should tell us something. If it were true that they are clean and their competitors were doping, then it would only be natural to say something about it--to call for better enforcement, clean sponsors, rail against institutional corruption, etc. Instead, they join teams led by prominent doper DSes that are closed affiliated to the likes of Fuentes. I've read that Sastre was angry about the way Jimenez died, but that doesn't mean he rejected the reality of the sport or what it took to win races. It's makes absolutely zero sense that a non-doping rider would join a team led by a Bjarn Riis (Sastre) or an Andy Riis (Evans).


The reason these riders don't speak is because they are loyal to omerta, the code of silence in cycling. The continued allegiance to omerta in the peloton tells us that cyclists are not free to speak their minds about doping, and so we have no idea what they truly think about the subject.

Let's focus on Sastre.. throughout his career, Sastre has been part of doping teams. In every race he's won, he's defeated known dopers. The science of doping indicates that an advanced oxygen-doping program increases performances by 5-10%. So to believe Sastre is clean, you have to believe he has the superhuman power of defeating enhanced athletes, and that he's so talented that competitors who cheat to get that extra 10% still can't beat Sastre.

The first time I remember seeing Sastre he attacked the US Postal train in a super-steep section of a 2001 stage---Lance attacked a few minutes later and won the stage, but Sastre's attack impressed everyone watching. It was especially interesting given that Jalabert was (most likely with the help of PEDs) dominating a bunch of stages already for CSC. Like Jalabert, Sastre was a veteran of Manolo Saiz's ONCE team and had once been a much loved young rider under Saiz.

Then in 2003 Sastre won the stage to the Ax 3 Domaines. I guess he was clean in that too, and just got lucky. Stage results from the day...

1 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 5.16.08 (37.48 km/h)
2 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi 1.01
3 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.03
4 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor 1.08
5 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom 1.18
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 1.20
7 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) iBanesto.com 1.24
8 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.59
9 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 2.32
10 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC 2.34

Then in 2006 (after providing valuable assistance to Basso in the 2006 Giro) leadership fell to Sastre in the Tour. Again, according to your perspective, all the bad dopers must have been ejected from the race, since Sastre finished 4th overall and was considered the strongest climber. He outclimbed his rivals on the Joux-Plane.

And of course, by that time he'd already placed 2nd in the Vuelta. Just for a bit more perspective, let's have a look at those standings.

**1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 82.22.55 (40.74 km/h)
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 4.36
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 4.54
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 5.58
5 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 8.06
6 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 11.36
7 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile Team 13.22
8 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 16.38
9 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon - Lotto 18.15
10 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic 18.31

So in this race, only Heras (Fuentes client who tested positive in this race) and Menchov (Humanplasma) beat him, while Sastre defeated Mancebo, Sevilla, Plaza, and Quesada (all allegedly Fuentes clients). See the list of riders implicated here

http://www.podiumcafe.com/2006/6/30/75424/2504

That's only looking at 2006 and before, yet as we know Sastre's most illustrious performances come later.

Based on the above, let's arrive at some conclusions....

1) If he was clean, then Sastre is clearly way more naturally gifted than the likes of Heras or Mancebo, who need oxygen-vector doping to beat or compete with Sastre.
2) If he was clean, Sastre is also an extraordinarily soft-spoken and philosophical individual, since he has finished 2nd and 3rd in so many Vueltas, and has lost to a number of confirmed cheaters, and has never once complained.
3) Therefore, if Sastre was clean, he is not human but a GOD.

But returning to the land of reality, of course there is no reason whatsoever to believe Sastre is any more clean than his colleagues.

You admit that if Basso hadn't been caught in Opertation Puerto, then you would give him the same credence you give Sastre. So essentially you are saying Sastre could be doping. Indeed, you seem prepared to acknowledge someone in Sastre's position has every reason to dope. You say we shouldn't condemn the dopers we "can't know about" but we should condemn the ones we do know about. This sort of reasoning presupposes a faith in the testing authorities that isn't warranted--keep in mind the UCI is led by the same people that Armstrong allegedly bribed and who have continued to try to distort the truth about doping in cycling at every opportunity. Puerto demonstrated the testing wasn't working and that Verbruggen and McQuaid had been feeding us lies. Yet just like after Festina, no leadership change.

There is no direct evidence to implicate likable Carlos Sastre, but the statistics and circumstantial evidence, combined with the reality that PEDs help improve athletic performances, do not point to a clean rider. The guy has ridden for dirty teams and dirty DSes his entire career and has never given the public a good reason to believe he's some kind of exceptional talent. If Sastre wanted support as a clean rider--all he has to do is ask for it and prove to our satisfaction he is clean. No rider or team in the current peloton is prepared to do this. So given the reality of the peloton (continued omerta on doping) I'm not going to extend the benefit of the doubt without justification, particularly to a rider that would have to be superhuman to have achieved what he has achieved sans doping.

Sastre can continue to ride and win races for as long as he doesn't get caught. He doesn't need my faith, and chances are he doesn't want it either.
 
Thanks for the reply. I’ve commented on the 5% issue before – to summarise, I think a top flight athelete will have the potential to compete with a lower quality athelete who is doping. Its when someone beats top flight athelete, in their prime, who is doping that eyebrows should be raised to the roof. In your 2006 example, don’t see any names that are both “a top class GC contender” AND a proven doper. So, I think its possible for Sastre to beat that field, if he was riding clean.

The 2003 example is more eyebrow raising, but Ulrich was in his cream bun days with Bianchi, reducing his abilities even if he was doping. He was inferior to the younger model of Ulrich. Similarly Zubeldia wasn’t a top class GC contender, Vinokourov not a pure climber, and the fact Armstrong has been dropped by the Bianchi itineration of Ulrich shows Armstrong had a very, very bad day by his Terminatoresque standards. Similarly, Mayo's post positive test performances (TdF wise at least) indicate he isn't a top quality athelete either (arguably).

So yes, Sastre could have “got lucky” on that day to be honest. It is however, an extremely good example you have produced. No getting away from that! Even though it is 10 years old it is still valid and if someone like Sastre was to have doped, I think it was more likely in 2003 than in 2008. If you can produce a couple more examples of that quality (i.e. Sastre beating known cheats who are GT winners in their prime), then my confidence will be shaken! Obviously, everyone has a life to get on with an spoonfeeding some random internet chap like me stats isn’t the most rewarding way to spend your time.

In the absence of detailed breakdown of timings for individual climbs looking at what we see with our eyes is a very credible way of gathering information. In the example I gave, Schleck lost 2mins in 2-3kms, so we know his ascent there was at least 2 minutes slower than the fastest in history. To just dismiss any visual (and therefore time) comparison between the power of the USPostal train & the Leopard Trek train is a bit foolhardy. Admittedly, actual timings are a higher standard of information.

I also think people are not being realistic in terms of riders speaking out. We have established a general theme in here that the entire peloton is probably not doping at this time. However, none of them really speak out boldy about doping. Therefore, therea are clean riders are not speaking out.

Your potential future teammate or DS (as things stand) can be a proven doper, so mouthing off in the peloton is not a way to make friends and influence people - you have to ride with these people day in day out for weeks. It is also probably frowned upon by the “don’t rock the boat brigade” that will include team owners, sponsors and the UCI. Mouthing off about doping will scare away sponsorship and potentially reduce your future pay packet as a rider. People don’t tend to shoot themselves in the foot like that out of principal (sadly). The continued relative silence is a bit disappointing and you are right for this to make you suspicious. However, it alone is not enough for me to conclude that nothing has changed and things are as bad as they ever were.

I acknowledge that any rider, including Sastre, could be doping. I’m saying its perfectly valid to not assume that they are, and to regard those that you are 100% certain have doped in a less favourable light.

I have still not heard what career choices Sastre could make to avoid having dopers as colleagues. So that argument still doesn’t wash with me.

Sadly, I fear after todays stage, that Sastre may become off topic here, as he will no longer be a contender. Funny how despite fitting the perfect profile for a possible cheat (teaming up with dubious characters at Geox, being in the twilight of his career, being, dare I say, Spanish, having not been at the TdF or Giro) nobody, and I mean nobody on this forum has predicted for him to do a Mosquera and take the fight to the field. To me that speaks volumes. If you think he is doping, you MUST conclude that Sastre has a chance to crush the opposition today!

EDIT: Changed 2001 to 2003
 
May 8, 2009
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Sastre was rumoured to have taken CERA in 08

http://sporten-dyn.tv2.dk/cykling/article.php/id-16149060:carlos-sastre-er-dopingmistænkt.html

One of the BMC soigneurs was busted just two weeks before the tour with 195 vials of EPO.

You can link any cyclist to doping if you try hard enough. It's wrong to make Wiggins and Evans heroes but then assume Nibali is a bad guy because he's been linked to Ferrari. The fact is that we can't know who's clean, we can only know some of the dirty ones (when they test +).

Edit: Since you keep banging on about Sastre as well he climbed Alpe d'Huez in 39:31 in 2008, nobody has been that fast since.
 
May 26, 2010
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Fergoose said:
I have still not heard what career choices Sastre could make to avoid having dopers as colleagues. So that argument still doesn’t wash with me.
Not much, but if he did not want to be associated with doping and he obviously was on big doping teams (Saiz and Riis) he could have taken similar roads to someone like Moncoutie or Bassons, where in a dirty sport those who are clean shine out all the more brightly.
 
ludwig said:
First off, please do not offer subjective impressions of how a rider appears in a race as evidence or non-evidence of doping. Evidence of doping ought to be based on times, doping tests, evidence written and circumstantial, whistleblower testimony, etc.

Also, if Sastre and Nibali make vague anti-doping comments from time to time, this don't indicate anything about whether they are clean or not. Those of us who have followed cycling for a long time are aware that many cyclists who loudly claim to be clean have turned out to be dopers. The "he wouldn't claim to be innocent if he wasn't innocent" argument has no credibility after Hamilton and Landis, sorry.

More to the point, the fact that characters like Sastre and Nibali speak so little about doping as cheating should tell us something. If it were true that they are clean and their competitors were doping, then it would only be natural to say something about it--to call for better enforcement, clean sponsors, rail against institutional corruption, etc. Instead, they join teams led by prominent doper DSes that are closed affiliated to the likes of Fuentes. I've read that Sastre was angry about the way Jimenez died, but that doesn't mean he rejected the reality of the sport or what it took to win races. It's makes absolutely zero sense that a non-doping rider would join a team led by a Bjarn Riis (Sastre) or an Andy Riis (Evans).


The reason these riders don't speak is because they are loyal to omerta, the code of silence in cycling. The continued allegiance to omerta in the peloton tells us that cyclists are not free to speak their minds about doping, and so we have no idea what they truly think about the subject.

Let's focus on Sastre.. throughout his career, Sastre has been part of doping teams. In every race he's won, he's defeated known dopers. The science of doping indicates that an advanced oxygen-doping program increases performances by 5-10%. So to believe Sastre is clean, you have to believe he has the superhuman power of defeating enhanced athletes, and that he's so talented that competitors who cheat to get that extra 10% still can't beat Sastre.

The first time I remember seeing Sastre he attacked the US Postal train in a super-steep section of a 2001 stage---Lance attacked a few minutes later and won the stage, but Sastre's attack impressed everyone watching. It was especially interesting given that Jalabert was (most likely with the help of PEDs) dominating a bunch of stages already for CSC. Like Jalabert, Sastre was a veteran of Manolo Saiz's ONCE team and had once been a much loved young rider under Saiz.

Then in 2003 Sastre won the stage to the Ax 3 Domaines. I guess he was clean in that too, and just got lucky. Stage results from the day...

1 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 5.16.08 (37.48 km/h)
2 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi 1.01
3 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.03
4 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor 1.08
5 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom 1.18
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 1.20
7 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) iBanesto.com 1.24
8 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.59
9 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 2.32
10 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC 2.34

Then in 2006 (after providing valuable assistance to Basso in the 2006 Giro) leadership fell to Sastre in the Tour. Again, according to your perspective, all the bad dopers must have been ejected from the race, since Sastre finished 4th overall and was considered the strongest climber. He outclimbed his rivals on the Joux-Plane.

And of course, by that time he'd already placed 2nd in the Vuelta. Just for a bit more perspective, let's have a look at those standings.

**1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 82.22.55 (40.74 km/h)
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 4.36
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 4.54
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 5.58
5 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 8.06
6 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 11.36
7 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile Team 13.22
8 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 16.38
9 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon - Lotto 18.15
10 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic 18.31

So in this race, only Heras (Fuentes client who tested positive in this race) and Menchov (Humanplasma) beat him, while Sastre defeated Mancebo, Sevilla, Plaza, and Quesada (all allegedly Fuentes clients). See the list of riders implicated here

http://www.podiumcafe.com/2006/6/30/75424/2504

That's only looking at 2006 and before, yet as we know Sastre's most illustrious performances come later.

Based on the above, let's arrive at some conclusions....

1) If he was clean, then Sastre is clearly way more naturally gifted than the likes of Heras or Mancebo, who need oxygen-vector doping to beat or compete with Sastre.
2) If he was clean, Sastre is also an extraordinarily soft-spoken and philosophical individual, since he has finished 2nd and 3rd in so many Vueltas, and has lost to a number of confirmed cheaters, and has never once complained.
3) Therefore, if Sastre was clean, he is not human but a GOD.

But returning to the land of reality, of course there is no reason whatsoever to believe Sastre is any more clean than his colleagues.

You admit that if Basso hadn't been caught in Opertation Puerto, then you would give him the same credence you give Sastre. So essentially you are saying Sastre could be doping. Indeed, you seem prepared to acknowledge someone in Sastre's position has every reason to dope. You say we shouldn't condemn the dopers we "can't know about" but we should condemn the ones we do know about. This sort of reasoning presupposes a faith in the testing authorities that isn't warranted--keep in mind the UCI is led by the same people that Armstrong allegedly bribed and who have continued to try to distort the truth about doping in cycling at every opportunity. Puerto demonstrated the testing wasn't working and that Verbruggen and McQuaid had been feeding us lies. Yet just like after Festina, no leadership change.

There is no direct evidence to implicate likable Carlos Sastre, but the statistics and circumstantial evidence, combined with the reality that PEDs help improve athletic performances, do not point to a clean rider. The guy has ridden for dirty teams and dirty DSes his entire career and has never given the public a good reason to believe he's some kind of exceptional talent. If Sastre wanted support as a clean rider--all he has to do is ask for it and prove to our satisfaction he is clean. No rider or team in the current peloton is prepared to do this. So given the reality of the peloton (continued omerta on doping) I'm not going to extend the benefit of the doubt without justification, particularly to a rider that would have to be superhuman to have achieved what he has achieved sans doping.

Sastre can continue to ride and win races for as long as he doesn't get caught. He doesn't need my faith, and chances are he doesn't want it either.
Wow. What a great post that maintains a very high quality of reasoning and english, throughout.

I think my iq jumped about 10 points after reading that.
 
Fergoose said:
Sadly, I fear after todays stage, that Sastre may become off topic here, as he will no longer be a contender. Funny how despite fitting the perfect profile for a possible cheat (teaming up with dubious characters at Geox, being in the twilight of his career, being, dare I say, Spanish, having not been at the TdF or Giro) nobody, and I mean nobody on this forum has predicted for him to do a Mosquera and take the fight to the field. To me that speaks volumes. If you think he is doping, you MUST conclude that Sastre has a chance to crush the opposition today!
Or one MUST conclude that Sastre is not an exceptionally talented rider who could only manage to win by a whisker even if aided by PED's.

Regards
GJ
 
Jul 22, 2009
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Fergoose said:
[...]who ride in a more convincingly “human” manner (e.g. Sastre, Wiggins, Evans) managing to thwart riders who we can historically have less confidence in (e.g. Vino, Contador, Armstrong, Millar)
"Twart"???? Evans "twarts" Contador? :rolleyes:

You shouldn't even be banned from cyclingnews.com, you ought to be banned from the internet period.
 
Apr 28, 2010
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Not read everything, but a few things that need to be noted:
Nibali being pals with Basso is definitely disappointing (as is anti-doping hero Dave Millar’s recent disclosure that he “Loves Basso”, but I digress), but it doesn’t point to Nibali sharing those activities. If you are in any work environment, you’ll know the brown nosing that goes on in any organisation towards bosses. Basso is the senior rider in Liquigas and to give him the cold shoulder would be a poor career move for Nibali. Nibali is a young rider and Basso was suspended in 2007. So maybe Nibali hasn't been exposed to Basso's habits. Plus, Nibali must have serious balls if he is doping while doing anti-doping campaigns in his spare time and presumably for no payment. I’ve never heard him speak, but he’d have to be a very self-confident young man to pull that off and stick his head above the parapet like that. There is no need to draw attention to yourself like that and nothing to gain even if you are cheating; it doesn't make a scientist less likely to detect a positive result and it might make any ban you receive if you are rumbled even more severe.
Nibali was seen training together with Pelizotti under the guidance of a certain person called Ferarri, I believe this person might have been involved in doping somehow, but I don't really know whether this Ferarri guy really ever did any doping administration ;):p


Part of the enjoyment I get from cycling is watching those riders who haven’t tested positive, haven’t been subject to overwhelming circumstantial evidence/testimony and who ride in a more convincingly “human” manner (e.g. Sastre, Wiggins, Evans)
If I recall correctly Wiggins his blood values and performance in 2009 were quite clear indications that he was probably doping
 
Forgive me Carlos for my moment of weakness and ignorance!

I'm kicking myself as of course in 2003 Sastre wasn't a top GC contender. US Postal could have easily let him run up the mountain while they elected to mark Ullrich. I can’t remember, but I strongly suspect that is what happened. I’m slightly more relaxed about that result now too - it wasn't like he was blowing away Ullrich & Armstrong, they let him run as he wasn't a threat. Apologies for my oversight.

Bumeington said:
Edit: Since you keep banging on about Sastre as well he climbed Alpe d'Huez in 39:31 in 2008, nobody has been that fast since.
Er, that would be once; this year. As you’ll recall Contador would have been slower up the climb (eventually won by Rollands) because he’d used up so much energy after launching an attack 3 hours from the end. Its perfectly explainable for Sastre to be faster than that. A rather selective use of statistics! How did Sastre’s time compare to previous winners Frank Schleck, Armstrong, Mayo & Pantani? Lets have a look:

Pantani (cheat): 36m 45s & 37m 15s
Ullrich (cheat): 37m 30s
Armstrong (cheat): 37m 36s
F. Schleck (for me still No Case To Answer until I read more articles and wow, this figure doesn’t hurt my gut feeling): 40m 46s

In conclusion. Sastre was over 2 minutes slower than the confirmed cheats which kind of reaffirms my conviction. For those without calculators, the difference between Armstrong & Ullrich’s times and Sastre’s time is precisely 5%; the figure mooted as the benefit gained by taking PEDs (I know it doesn't work like that, but the coincidence made me chuckle).

For those with an interest, here is the full list

1 37' 35" Marco Pantani 1997 Italy
2* 37' 36" Lance Armstrong 2004 United States
3 38' 00" Marco Pantani 1994 Italy
4 38' 01" Lance Armstrong 2001 United States
5 38' 04" Marco Pantani 1995 Italy
6 38' 23" Jan Ullrich 1997 Germany
7 38' 34" Floyd Landis 2006 United States
8 38' 35" Andreas Klöden 2006 Germany
9* 38' 37" Jan Ullrich 2004 Germany
10 39' 02" Richard Virenque 1997 France
11 39' 06" Iban Mayo 2003 Spain
12* 39' 17" Andreas Klöden 2004 Germany
13* 39' 21" Jose Azevedo 2004 Portugal
14 39' 28" Miguel Induráin 1995 Spain
15 39' 28" Alex Zülle 1995 Switzerland
16 39' 30" Bjarne Riis 1995 Denmark
17 39' 31" Carlos Sastre 2008 Spain
*Individual Time Trials.

That filthy cheating lowlife Sastre could only manage the 17th fastest time in history! This was despite it being the only stage he made an effort on in the entire tour. Nope I can’t even begin to play Devil’s Advocate on that one. Maybe someone else can fair better? A good sign for Rolland too, he clocked in at 41mins 57 seconds this year. To be honest, this thread is beginning to make me more optimistic about the current state of cycling than I was when I started it.

GJB123 said:
Or one MUST conclude that Sastre is not an exceptionally talented rider who could only manage to win by a whisker even if aided by PED's.

Regards
GJ
Well, if he is still cheating I’m sure we’ll see him decimate the modest quality of this year’s Vuelta field (when compared to the 2008 TdF field) in the coming weeks as this is the only GT he is focussing on this year. Funny how nobody is predicting it though.

Se&#241 said:
"Twart"???? Evans "twarts" Contador? :rolleyes:

You shouldn't even be banned from cyclingnews.com, you ought to be banned from the internet period.
You are missing, amongst other things, the letter 'H' and an Oxford English dictionary.

Summary

I think this thread has been up long enough for my purposes (i.e. to provide info on GC contenders in the Vuelta I don’t know so much about) and the race is now well under way. I have a very clear idea in my head of who I’ll be cheering on, who I’ll be disappointed to see drop off the back on climbs and who I hope has bad luck. Thanks again for the contributions and I look forward to seeing you in the rider specific threads elsewhere in The Clinic, where we can have more manageable/focussed discussions on individual incidents & riders.

By all means, if anyone wants to continue the discussion here, crack on. I am happy to discuss the general theme, but I’m no longer actively seeking feedback on individual riders and, as I'm resuming work, I’ll be much more sluggish at responding.
 
Mar 17, 2009
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Fergoose said:
I'm kicking myself as of course in 2003 Sastre wasn't a top GC contender. US Postal could have easily let him run up the mountain while they elected to mark Ullrich. I can’t remember, but I strongly suspect that is what happened. I’m slightly more relaxed about that result now too - it wasn't like he was blowing away Ullrich & Armstrong, they let him run as he wasn't a threat. Apologies for my oversight.



Er, that would be once; this year. As you’ll recall Contador would have been slower up the climb (eventually won by Rollands) because he’d used up so much energy after launching an attack 3 hours from the end. Its perfectly explainable for Sastre to be faster than that. A rather selective use of statistics! How did Sastre’s time compare to previous winners Frank Schleck, Armstrong, Mayo & Pantani? Lets have a look:

Pantani (cheat): 36m 45s & 37m 15s
Ullrich (cheat): 37m 30s
Armstrong (cheat): 37m 36s
F. Schleck (for me still No Case To Answer until I read more articles and wow, this figure doesn’t hurt my gut feeling): 40m 46s

In conclusion. Sastre was over 2 minutes slower than the confirmed cheats which kind of reaffirms my conviction. For those without calculators, the difference between Armstrong & Ullrich’s times and Sastre’s time is precisely 5%; the figure mooted as the benefit gained by taking PEDs (I know it doesn't work like that, but the coincidence made me chuckle).
I think you need to look a little harder at the list. FWIW, I've highlighted the riders who have not been caught, owned up or been embroiled in Festina & Puerto.

The amended list

1 37' 35" Marco Pantani 1997 Italy
2* 37' 36" Lance Armstrong 2004 United States
3 38' 00" Marco Pantani 1994 Italy
4 38' 01" Lance Armstrong 2001 United States
5 38' 04" Marco Pantani 1995 Italy
6 38' 23" Jan Ullrich 1997 Germany
7 38' 34" Floyd Landis 2006 United States
8 38' 35" Andreas Klöden 2006 Germany
9* 38' 37" Jan Ullrich 2004 Germany
10 39' 02" Richard Virenque 1997 France
11 39' 06" Iban Mayo 2003 Spain
12* 39' 17" Andreas Klöden 2004 Germany
13* 39' 21" Jose Azevedo 2004 Portugal
14 39' 28" Miguel Induráin 1995 Spain
15 39' 28" Alex Zülle 1995 Switzerland
16 39' 30" Bjarne Riis 1995 Denmark
17 39' 31" Carlos Sastre 2008 Spain

Your selective use of stats was very misleading indeed. 1" slower than Riis at the peak of "his" powers and a further 2" slower than Zulle while riding for Saiz is a little too close to be held up as a sign of cleanliness isn't it?
 
ultimobici said:
Your selective use of stats was very misleading indeed. 1" slower than Riis at the peak of "his" powers and a further 2" slower than Zulle while riding for Saiz is a little too close to be held up as a sign of cleanliness isn't it?
It depends entirely on the context of the stage.
Did Zulle & Riis also conserve their energy for two weeks by making no other attacking move in the years they posted their respective performances?
Did they also go up the hill at a constant & efficient pace or were there moves and counter moves etc etc?
Did they also launch an attack from the very foot of the climb? (which obviously would create a quicker time than if you held off the attack until near the end).
Were the wind conditions and temperature comparable?
Were the stages of similar length and difficulty?

I'll be damned if I know. If the answer to all those questions is yes, then your point could be valid. Otherwise, I see no sufficient grounds for suspecting Sastre's performance on that stage/tour. You could ask the Power to Weight guys to do a calculation too (I'd imagine Riis & Zulle had to haul considerably heavier carcasses up the mountainside - a quick unverified check showed Sastre was roughly 12kg lighter than Zulle (60kg to 72kg).
 
Barrus said:
Nibali was seen training together with Pelizotti under the guidance of a certain person called Ferarri, I believe this person might have been involved in doping somehow, but I don't really know whether this Ferarri guy really ever did any doping administration ;):p
To be fair though, wasn't it only Ivano Fanini who talked of that? Fanini has a bit of a patchy success rate on these things. But the subsequent case involving Pellizotti does lend some credence to it.

Oh, and Hitch, you forgot two of the most well-known turncoats of recent times, Sella and Sinkewitz. You could argue that they're not GC men or big stars compared to the Landis and Kohl type, but if Frei should be mentioned, then so should Lelle and Sinky.
 
Apr 28, 2010
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Libertine Seguros said:
To be fair though, wasn't it only Ivano Fanini who talked of that? Fanini has a bit of a patchy success rate on these things. But the subsequent case involving Pellizotti does lend some credence to it.

Oh, and Hitch, you forgot two of the most well-known turncoats of recent times, Sella and Sinkewitz. You could argue that they're not GC men or big stars compared to the Landis and Kohl type, but if Frei should be mentioned, then so should Lelle and Sinky.
Yeah, I think it was only Fanini who said it, but to me, this combined with the Pellizotti case does at least show that there is some credible rumour that he might be doping
 
Mar 17, 2009
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Fergoose said:
It depends entirely on the context of the stage.
Did Zulle & Riis also conserve their energy for two weeks by making no other attacking move in the years they posted their respective performances?
Did they also go up the hill at a constant & efficient pace or were there moves and counter moves etc etc?
Did they also launch an attack from the very foot of the climb? (which obviously would create a quicker time than if you held off the attack until near the end).
Were the wind conditions and temperature comparable?
Were the stages of similar length and difficulty?

I'll be damned if I know. If the answer to all those questions is yes, then your point could be valid. Otherwise, I see no sufficient grounds for suspecting Sastre's performance on that stage/tour. You could ask the Power to Weight guys to do a calculation too (I'd imagine Riis & Zulle had to haul considerably heavier carcasses up the mountainside - a quick unverified check showed Sastre was roughly 12kg lighter than Zulle (60kg to 72kg).
The 1995 Tour ran clockwise, so the Alps were first with the Alpe d'Huez stage being 159km long. 2008 saw an anti-clockwise route so Alpe d'Huez was in the last week and was also on a longer stage to boot.

You also conveniently left out the comparison to those below him in the top 30. If Carlos is purer than the driven snow, how come he manages to beat the likes of Herrera, Theunisse & Delgado by 2 minutes plus?
 
May 26, 2010
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Fergoose said:
It depends entirely on the context of the stage.
Did Zulle & Riis also conserve their energy for two weeks by making no other attacking move in the years they posted their respective performances?
Did they also go up the hill at a constant & efficient pace or were there moves and counter moves etc etc?
Did they also launch an attack from the very foot of the climb? (which obviously would create a quicker time than if you held off the attack until near the end).
Were the wind conditions and temperature comparable?
Were the stages of similar length and difficulty?

I'll be damned if I know. If the answer to all those questions is yes, then your point could be valid. Otherwise, I see no sufficient grounds for suspecting Sastre's performance on that stage/tour. You could ask the Power to Weight guys to do a calculation too (I'd imagine Riis & Zulle had to haul considerably heavier carcasses up the mountainside - a quick unverified check showed Sastre was roughly 12kg lighter than Zulle (60kg to 72kg).
a quick note of the dates of Riis's tour and Sastre's tour meant the use of more EPO was available to Riis than Sastre due to testing and the 50% limit. Also those in front of Sastre in the Alpe D'Huez list all recorded their times at the height of EPOs uncontrolled usage.
 
ultimobici said:
You also conveniently left out the comparison to those below him in the top 30. If Carlos is purer than the driven snow, how come he manages to beat the likes of Herrera, Theunisse & Delgado by 2 minutes plus?
I justed copied the list up to Sastre as to copy the whole list would have been a bit messy! Herrera, Theunisse & Delgado all raced in the 1980s and there is another thread here showing the overall speed of racing rose sharply up into the mid-1990s. Regardless of the doping situation, it is unlikely the above named had access to the same expertise in training. Many sports are unrecognisable today compared to the 1980s in terms of professionalism and physical condition of the atheletes. Of course, you could denounce Sastre for beating the mighty Coppi by nearly 6 minutes.

Also those in front of Sastre in the Alpe D'Huez list all recorded their times at the height of EPOs uncontrolled usage.
I don't know if you are agreeing with me here, apologies for the repetition if you are. Note that the list of times doesn't contain Sastre's Alpe' D'Huez performances in 2004 & 2006. If he was a doper and had access to EPO during what I'd agree was likely to be "the height of EPOs uncontrolled usage" then surely to goodness he'd have managed a better time in '04 & '06 than in '08 where it was far more risky to dope? The alternative is that he never doped in 2004 and 2006, but did in 2008. Which would make him possibly the stupidest man to ever ride a bike.

I appreciate folk putting forward arguments, some of which are very valid and well argued, but I'm still utterly comfortable with cheering on Sastre and having confidence in his 2008 TdF performance.
 
Jun 27, 2009
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Fergoose said:
Thanks for the reply. I’ve commented on the 5% issue before – to summarise, I think a top flight athelete will have the potential to compete with a lower quality athelete who is doping. Its when someone beats top flight athelete, in their prime, who is doping that eyebrows should be raised to the roof. In your 2006 example, don’t see any names that are both “a top class GC contender” AND a proven doper. So, I think its possible for Sastre to beat that field, if he was riding clean.
Ok let's go back to the 2005 Vuelta (which is pretty much the most damning example of how Sastre would have to be superhuman to have achieved that result dope-free). We established that there are credible allegations against the Top 7 finishers (outside Sastre), and 5 of these were Fuentes clients, likely on a full oxygen-vector doping program. Keep in mind also Sastre not only had to keep up with Heras, he also had to deal with entire teams on the full program like Liberty Seguros and Communidad Valencia. Even T-Mobile was still a team-based doping program at this time.

So here's your dilemna. If you are saying that Sastre is a "top quality athlete" then you are also saying that Heras, Mancebo, and Sevilla are "lower quality" athletes. Have you heard any cycling expert describe Sastre as more naturally gifted than Heras or any other major GT specialist? If that were the case then believe me Riis would have made a mantra out of it--for a while post-Puerto CSC's sponsorship was in deep water so if Riis had a naturally gifted dope-free athlete at his disposal then surely he would have publicized it.

Essentially, the faith-based reasoning leads you into a corner. You can either claim that Sastre is superhuman ala Pharmstrong or you go down the road of denying the efficacy of doping and arguing blood doping is just a placebo. You have to adopt one or both of these positions if you're going to continue to claim Sastre is dope-free.

The evidence provided by scientists and whistle-blowers consistently indicates how absurd it would be to place 2nd in an event like the 2005 Vuelta without PEDs.

As for the 2003 Tour stage I linked to, don't discount how awesome Sastre's ride was. See the live report
http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/road/2003/tour03/?id=results/livecomp13

First off, one of the most common misconceptions in the Clinic is that only GT contenders dope..... Wrong, doping is just as common among stage specialists and sprinters, and especially time trialists. Classic stage hunters like Virenque, Rasmussen and Piepoli were later shown to be big doperz, and even Cippolini and Zabel were on the program.

It's not like Sastre wasn't a threat and they could just let him ride ahead.
He was out in front of the peloton with Mercado and others and the chase was so fast on the penultimate climb that the yellow jersey group was down to 11 riders. In the end all of Sastre's chase group was caught, including Mercado, but Sastre still took the stage by a minute.
 
May 26, 2010
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Fergoose said:
I don't know if you are agreeing with me here, apologies for the repetition if you are. Note that the list of times doesn't contain Sastre's Alpe' D'Huez performances in 2004 & 2006. If he was a doper and had access to EPO during what I'd agree was likely to be "the height of EPOs uncontrolled usage" then surely to goodness he'd have managed a better time in '04 & '06 than in '08 where it was far more risky to dope? The alternative is that he never doped in 2004 and 2006, but did in 2008. Which would make him possibly the stupidest man to ever ride a bike.
I am not agreeing with you. Sastre was NOT winning the TdF (2008) at the height of unlimited and uncontrolled EPO use. the controls were there with the 50% limit and then tests for EPO so one could not race carte blanche a la Riis, Indurain, Armstrong, Ullrich and Pantani etc....
 
ludwig said:
If you are saying that Sastre is a "top quality athlete" then you are also saying that Heras, Mancebo, and Sevilla are "lower quality" athletes.
I don't know of Sevilla I'm afraid, but Heras and Mancebo, sure. Looking at TdF performances (the ultimate benchmark) Heras and Mancebo give little indication of having been truly top tier atheletes. Sure Mancebo got a few top tens and even a top 5. But we now know how that was acheived. Heras was all over the place in the TdF. In this Vuelta example, if a doping Sastre still couldn't get within 5 mins of Heras, he should have asked for a refund.

Also, in 2005, Sastre didn't finish in the TdF. Did he even start it? Was he perhaps focussing on the Vuelta for that season? If so, there is your explanation for Sastre's debut GT podium.

Finally, lets compare an in his prime 2005 Sastre without a full TdF in his legs against other finishers who have never tested positive. By the end Sastre had 11mins on Tommy Danielson and 15mins on Sammy Sanchez (both of whom were 3 years his junior and therefore possibly had yet to reach their natural GT peak - both certainly seem to have improved since then). Neither of those time gaps give me any cause for concern.

You can certainly put a case together Ludwig, even if you've failed to convince me thus far. I'd be interested in you giving a rebuttle of some of the points I'd made above, but only if it interested you to do so. You'd have more success at reducing my confidence in Sastre that way I think.
 
May 26, 2010
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ludwig said:
Ok let's go back to the 2005 Vuelta (which is pretty much the most damning example of how Sastre would have to be superhuman to have achieved that result dope-free). We established that there are credible allegations against the Top 7 finishers (outside Sastre), and 5 of these were Fuentes clients, likely on a full oxygen-vector doping program.

So here's your dilemna. If you are saying that Sastre is a "top quality athlete" then you are also saying that Heras, Mancebo, and Sevilla are "lower quality" athletes. Are you seriously going to stand by that pipe dream? Have you ever heard any cycling expert describe Sastre as more naturally gifted than Heras or any other major GT specialist? If that were the case then believe me Riis would have made a mantra out of it--for a while post-Puerto CSC's sponsorship was in deep water so if Riis had a naturally gifted dope-free athlete at his disposal then surely he would have publicized it.

Essentially, your reasoning leads you into a corner. You can either claim that Sastre is superhuman ala Pharmstrong or you go down the road of denying the efficacy of doping and arguing blood doping is just a placebo. You have to adopt one or both of these positions if you're going to continue to claim Sastre is dope-free.

The evidence provided by scientists and whistle-blowers consistently indicates how absurd it would be to place 2nd in an event like the 2005 Vuelta without PEDs.
+1 Riis has had problems with sponsors pulling out of his teams due to doping, ie Home and Man Trucks.
 
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