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You are here > Five Live message boards > Deleted > My Landis article - a defence


My Landis article - a defence

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Message 1 - posted by Matt Slater (U1647490) , Jul 31, 2006

First up, an apology. I should have posted this yesterday. Sadly, I was too busy with fall-out from the Justin Gatlin affair (and no, the irony is not wasted on me). But I did correspond with a few of you who emailed me directly, and so far the reaction to my reaction to their reaction has been positive. So I'll try to placate some of you too. You'll have to forgive me too for the bullet points, but there's a lot to get through. So (in no particular order)...

- I like golf and cycling (and football and cricket and rugby and so on and so on). That's kind of the point of the article. I was writing from the stance of the general sports fan (what some people here call 'main eventers') on what is, after all, a general sports site.

- sorry you don't think I have the credentials to write about cycling but you've probably read my stuff on the cycling site before without knowing it. we don't byline our news stories because they are factual and objective...totally free from any personal bias or spin. bylined features or comment pieces, are however, subjective and opinionated. big difference. you may disagree with my opinion in this instance by all means. but i've been writing about cycling for many years (i set up our first special index for the TdF four or five years ago).

- on the subject of my right to comment on cycling and the larger issue of our coverage of cycling, i cannot stress enough that we are a GENERAL sports site...we cannot be all things to all people. there are not enough hours in the day or licence fee pounds in the building to satisfy everybody. trust me, we get the same complaints about lack of coverage from Man Utd fans too. as for me, i fell in love with the TdF in the early 80s thanks to Channel 4 and the likes of Robert Millar and, my favourite, Stephen Roche. since then pro road racing has done its best to alienate fans like me (ie lovers of sport as opposed to lover of a sport). delgado got off cos his drug of choice wasn't on cycling's list, virenque and festina, pantani (another fave who went to his grave professing his innocence despite the incontrovertible evidence) and so on and so on...this year just took the biscuit...

- which brings me on to the whole premise of the article...a premise which i think some of you who have actually taken a few deep breaths and read again have actually got. you're right, it is not an in-depth piece of reportage on drugs in sport (give us a chance, we're working on it, might take a while), it was also not just a round-up of all the latest reports and comment on the was and still is my initial gut reaction to what all this is doing to cycling's reputation with the greater sporting public. maybe some of you are too close to the sport you love...people just aren't shocked by drugs in cycling stories anymore. doesn't that upset you???? it should. and there is no point blaming the media. we (certainly here) call it as we see it. the specialist cycling media should try that too...a little bit of tough love wouldn't go amiss right now.

- on the subject of my style, i'm tempted to say sticks and stones but that's too easy. just as throwing accusations like tabloidese, gutter journalism, biased etc etc around is. if you mean by tabloidese that it is readable, thanks. that's kind of the point of journalism...particularly on the web. i can write it in iambic pentameter if you like but my boss won't like it and neither would the vast majority of our readers. whether it is gutter journalism or not, well, i guess that's just a matter of taste...and opinion. bias? i hope i've dealt with this above. if not, you'll just have to take my word that i like cycling a lot and really really want Landis to be exonerated....his sport badly needs that to happen. as for the claims of factual inaccuracies, mixed metaphors and whatever else i've been accused of, by all means point them out. nobody has so far. you may disagree with my interpretation of the facts by all means, but there are no inaccuracies in that story. or mixed metaphors!!! show me one. there are lots of metaphors in there, you're right, i was just trying to make it interesting for the GENERAL sports fan...perhaps you didn't get all of them. sorry.

- cycling is a minority sport in this country. it's a fact and i take no pride in pointing that out. so are lots of other sports that i like and there is little i can do about it. there are many both inside and outside this building that think we devote far too much time and space to cycling as it is. of course, cycling's fight for media coverage is not helped by its inability to police itself properly

- which brings me on to my final point for now...yes, you're right cycling is not the only sport with a drugs problem. and yes, i do look after our golf coverage here (so what?). are you really serious that golf's "problem" (and lawrence donegan has taken some strange angles before but that was the strangest) is in any way comparable to cycling's????? please. given the events of this weekend i'd say athletics is giving you a pretty good run (that's another metaphor...unmixed) for the number one spot in the sports with doping issues table....but isn't that really a moot point. cycling has a problem and has done for years. it must get its house in order or it will never be taken seriously by the larger sporting public.

that's more than enough for now. i'm more than happy to debate this with whoever wants to continue this for the rest of the day.

by the way, i like belgium too, i don't mind lycra and i know about the angel (call it poetic licence).


Message 2 - posted by TheInvigilator (U4743667) , Jul 31, 2006

Hi Matt - Many thanks for you reply - very decent of you. As you realise, you stirred up a real hornet's nest this weekend. You seem to have covered most of the points in your reply - even correcting the Devil and Angel inaccuracy!
Any chance of you actually pulling the article?I'm perfectly serious about this - it still offends, and it is still way off the mark in suggesting that Cycling fans don't care about doping. That is an unfair slur on the Cycling community.
PS - You really must get in the habit of using capital letters - makes things so much more readable.

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Message 3 - posted by rogaboga (U2366216) , Jul 31, 2006

I've never been on this mesageboard before today, I'm not a huge cycling fan. I came on because I read the article you wrote, which made me extremely angry and wanted to see what other cycling fans thought of it. Not suprisingly, many others shared my view. It is a disgrace of an article, and your response that I'm replying to is as predictable as it is pathetic.

My main problem with the article is how you compare it to other sports. FOOTBALL IS CORRUPT - Serie A, one of the top 3 leagues in the world has just been shown to have been a complete sham. The world cup, football's 'tour de france' was riddled with cheating. Cheating that actually ruined the spectacle.

As some other guy has said on this forum, there is an article about doping in cycling worth writing but yours certainly wasn't it. How the BBC can let you put that on their website is a disgrace.

Matt L

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Message 4 - posted by fantasticmontydog (U5102533) , Jul 31, 2006

Whilst I applaude your honesty in replying, I think you've made a very general assumption about cycling's failure to address dug abuse. The fact is that cycling takes a completely different line to many sports in that it openly admits to it's problems rather than trying to hide from them. Witness USATF's inability to publicise Gatlin's positive test result after 3 months, or FIFA's admission that it won't test for EPO due to the expense - effectively giving the green light to abuse. Whilst certain people in the media and public find cycling's stance distasteful, they aren't facing the reality that a high proportion of professional sportspeople are on drugs, because of the failure of sports' governing bodies and the media to face the truth - where there's a lot of money involved, an ineffective detection process and intransigence at all levels to deal with it then it will happen. Sportsmen and not just cyclists are human beings after all and will have a similar response to temptation, regardless of how you moralise about it. Throwing rocks serves no purpose as does sticking your head in the sand.

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Message 5 - posted by Matt Slater (U1647490) , Jul 31, 2006

You're welcome. And as I said, I should have posted sooner.

As for pulling the article, no. It is a perfectly valid opinion piece. It is also an opinion that is fairly widely held, I'm sorry to say. Did you see Paul Hayward in the Daily Mail? Ouch.

My point about cycling fans not caring about doping was actually "some take a remarkably laissez-faire attitude to their heroes' refuelling habits." Take a look at the other Landis feature (to the right of mine) to see what I mean.

But you're absolutely right about my not using capitals. I was rushing but it's a bad habit and very lazy.


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Message 6 - posted by directeursportifread (U1753534) , Jul 31, 2006

Hi Matt,

Thanks for taking the time to respond to some of the points that have been raised in response to your article - it is much appreciated.

I'd just like to respond to a couple of points in your post, if I may.

I, as an undeniably diehard cycling fan, am indeed upset by the frequency of drug stories about the sport. I'm sure there is no fan out there who isn't upset by it. That said, I think what many of us also get upset by is what we perceive to be a double standard in the reporting of the sport - namely, that cycling gets attention when there is a drug story and at no other time. I understand the way the media works, and I understand that a story about those crazy drugged up nutter cyclists and those crazy diehard fans will gain more interest than a story about the sport itself, but you can't blame fans for being upset by that fact. This is why we're angry with the media - we feel some facts are reported, but not others.

I suspect you would argue that we should be angry at the cyclists who are bringing our sport into disrepute and, don't worry, we are. But I would once again point out a fact that you touch on in your response - there is no evidence that cycling isn't the only sport with dopers. There is evidence, however, that cycling is doing more than any other sport to combat cheats. I confess to knowing next to nothing about golf, but I'm fairly certain that golfers don't undergo out of competition drugs tests, nor are required to inform their sports governing body of where they are located on each of the 365 days of the year.

(Correct me if I'm wrong).

I am not necessarily convinced that cycling has a bigger drug problem than other sports - I'm just convinced that other sports aren't doing as much testing as cycling is. Can you, hand on heart, be certain that this isn't the case?

I agree with you that the specialist cycling media should show some tough love to the sport. I think some naming and shaming would be good. I also know, however, that this would be an incredibly risky move for such publications - risking alienating fans and cyclists alike; both of whom such publications depend on for their continued existence. If you want to argue that the media will report cycling drug stories because that's what people want to read, then you have to acknowledge that cycling magazines will not publish what their readers do not want to see - and that may be stories about drugs. I also wonder how easy you would find it to "out" a sportsman as a drugs cheat, with the knowledge that this could adversely affect your career. It's easy to say, less easy to do.

As I say, just a few thoughts. Thanks again for responding to the concerns voiced on this board.

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Message 7 - posted by saynotocheats (U5144170) , Jul 31, 2006

i agree Matt, that is the freedom of speech!!! unfortunately 99.9% of the ignorant posters here believe that if somebody posts a view contrary to theirs, then the 'questionable' poster should be victimised and scared away from having / and publishing his/her opinion....

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Message 8 - posted by spenser (U1647494) , Jul 31, 2006

Thanks for coming on here to talk about this. Your article has caused a lot of upset amongst fans, as you're aware, I would like to explain a little of that upset.
Cycling fans are by and large aware of the sports problems, a quick look on this board will tell you that. Our views may differ (I for one am never surprised by a drug story, I believe that people will cheat at anything by any means, that goes for sportsmen, politicians, businessmen etc.)but we're all aware of the problem. So when we are charicatured as "lycra clad belgians" with a "laise faire attitude to their heroes refeulling habits" we take it a little personally. Hence the personal attacks on your article, your writing style, and your knowledge of the sport. It may have got out of hand, but remember, you set the tone.
Many fans here have pointed out the problems in other sports. We're not trying to say "it's all ok cause it happens in football too". All we are saying is that we don't understand why cycling has to be the scapegoat. Bear in mind that in the aftermath of the Landis test this board has been "visited" by fans of other sports who have stated that "pro cycling should be banned". This is hard to stomach coming from fans of sports which don't test their athletes, or sports in which match/race fixing is endemic. "People in glass houses" etc.
In this context your piece was simply a case of kicking a man while he's down. Operation puerto was a huge blow for the sport, but they did the right thing, published the names and kicked them out the race. The Landis test is an even bigger blow, but rather that keep it quiet for a few months (a la Gatlin) the authorities published the result within a days of the race finishing. Surely a sport deserves some credit for being prepared to air it's dirty laundry in public?
As you said, you were writing a piece for the general sports fan, but surely you accept that articles like yours shape the view of the casual fan? So we are left with a chicken and egg situation, does catching a cheat make people lose faith in a sport? Or is it a constant stream of articles which tell them to lose faith?

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Message 9 - posted by naspa (U1648370) , Jul 31, 2006

I shall also respond using bullet points.

- Your argument and article have to be set against previous and comparable articles. Compare and contrast the tone of this with your article.

- You complained in one of your reports of the Open of 'poison' being written by US journalists of the tournament. It seems hypocritical to complain of poison being written about the Golf and then to turn around and essentially write a poisonous piece on cycling.

- You might well have written on cycling - but the number of mistakes and howlers on the site are well documented. Even Chris Russell has acknowledged the short comings of it.

- You cite the number of scandals that have tainted the sport over the last 10 years. But one can look at scandals in any sport and present that is being the dominant factor.

- It might well have been a 'gut reaction' to Landis's failed test but to be honest it was not very constructive. It did not advance the debate about the future of cycling anywhere.

- Tabloidese does not mean easy to read. It means simplistic, poorly constructed and ill-thought out. That was what your article was.

- You keep on repeating this idea about it being for the 'General Sports' fan. It is perfectly possible to write a piece on the subject which is easy to read, informative and advances the argument. I suggest that you ask Andrew Benson for lessons.

I have a little quote for you.

He who prides himself on giving what he thinks the public wants is often creating a fictitious demand for low standards which he will then satisfy.

Quoted from this message

I'll let you look up who said that.

- Just because cycling is a minority sport does not excuse poor coverage.

- All sports have issues with policing themselves - over a whole range of issues. Whilst you cite Op Puerto as being indicative of the large number of cyclists involved I notice that you have not bothered to report on the large number of riders who are being subsquently cleared of involvement.

- Your defence of golf seems some what incompatible with your attacks on cycling. There are many angles that could be picked up with golf that could be used to portray in certain lights: racism, sexism, drugs etc. What is good for the goose is quite clearly not good for the gander.

- Your article merely pandered to the prejudices of those who consider cycling to be dirty. It was not aimed at informing the general public.

I am certainly not within the 'cycling right or wrong' school. I acknowledge that cycling has many problems. Those are problems I wish to see resolved and dealt with. Your article did not do that - it did not advance the debate. It did not ask the tough question you claim need to be asked of cycling and the cycling authorities. It was instead a litany of cheap pot shots.

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Message 10 - posted by Besonders - restricted ten alt ids. (U3969514) , Jul 31, 2006

- there is no evidence that cycling isn't the only sport with dopers

Quoted from this message

Are you really claiming there's no evidence of doping in other sports?
I bet that was supposed to be "is" rather than "isn't", wasn't it?

If you want to argue that the media will report cycling drug stories because that's what people want to read, then you have to acknowledge that cycling magazines will not publish what their readers do not want to see - and that may be stories about drugs.

Quoted from this message

You're off with the fairies, directeursportifread. All the bike racing comics regularly publish stories about doping and dopers. If nothing else, look at the state of these message boards. Doping is the only thing cycling fans talk about.

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Message 11 - posted by Uncle_Oswald (U3752026) , Jul 31, 2006

Ever heard the saying: "Don't shoot the messenger????".

Your responses to a simple news atricle, only serve to show how pathetic you all really are...if you didn't like it you didn't have to read it, and what's more, you could have just as easily have chosen to read some propaganda that suited your shallow tastes...

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Message 12 - posted by spenser (U1647494) , Jul 31, 2006

Uncle Oswald, I don't normally reply to the hard of thinking, but is there somewhere where you can go and get lost? I'm thinking somewhere quite big, from which you won't return?

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Message 13 - posted by ventoux (U4677503) , Jul 31, 2006

In the face of some well-reasoned arguments (on both sides) in jumps Uncle Oswald with this tiresome rubbish.. did you actually read any of the above, uncle...?

There's a debate going on, and the common thread is a desire for cycling to overcome what we all agree is a major problem - we have a right to discuss (& disagree with) the way views are expressed, and that doesn't mean we're "shallow" - I think shallow is defined by your writing uncle....

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Message 14 - posted by Uncle_Oswald (U3752026) , Jul 31, 2006

cetrainly, your cranium might be good it is only occupied by one diseased brain cell...

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Message 15 - posted by directeursportifread (U1753534) , Jul 31, 2006

Hi Besonders,

Yes, you're quite right - I of course meant "is" rather than "isn't". Apologies!

In terms of your point on the cycling magazines publishing stories about doping: yes, I absolutely agree that they will report on such events. What I was suggesting is that I suspect many journalists have a pretty understanding of who is and who isn't clean - and yet, in Britain at least, we don't seem to see journalists using this information to whistle blow. I was raising the point that this is perhaps because of the fear cycling magazines have that this could alienate their readers, and/or the cyclists whose exploits they report. I note that, in a recent Cycling Weekly, the editor noted that David Millar is refusing to give interviews to that magazine because he disliked their reaction to his admission of taking EPO. When there are those kind of risks, perhaps the cycling media is unwilling to report all they know (or, arguably, unable due to legal constraints) - and I was suggesting this is perhaps why the specialist media is unable to give the tough love Matt argued for.

I don't think I'm away with the fairies (haven't seen any recently), and nor do I completely agree that all cycling fans talk about is doping - sadly, recent events have meant that it is a topic for conversation but I'm sure we'd all rather be talking about other aspects of the sport (I certainly would).

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Message 16 - posted by ventoux (U4677503) , Jul 31, 2006

on second thoughts, I'm with Spenser... go take a jump uncle....

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Message 17 - posted by spenser (U1647494) , Jul 31, 2006

Uncle Oswald, your insult was unfortunately undermined by your spelling. If you have anything to say, say it, if not, please stop wasting everyones time.

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Message 18 - posted by TheInvigilator (U4743667) , Jul 31, 2006

Careful Matt, I let you off lightly! The Landis article "to the right" of yours was a piece of very ripe BBC spin. Predictably the dear old BBC has cherry picked our posts to suit it's own agenda. There's no point in defending it - any casual read of the Cycling boards reveals a very different perspective as you well know.
As for the Cycling press being soft on the issue - do you read Cycling Weekly? They are just as condemnatory as they can be - and far better informed. They are so anti-drugs that they have had a non-speaking stand-off with David Millar for the last 2 years.
With the greatest respect Matt, you suffer from the same problem as many folks at the BBC and our dreadful newspapers - middle class, know-it-all, London-centric(new word!), ahem.... arrogance.
How many people have to make the same point, that your article was offensive and inaccurate - why not just withdraw it? Yes, I recognise that you have half apologised - but don't try to argue the toss that the article is valid, it isn't. There's no shame in losing you know - perhaps you and Landis both need to learn that.

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Message 19 - posted by Uncle_Oswald (U3752026) , Jul 31, 2006

oooo, so your best defense on your lack of computing power is to comment on spelling...i'm mortified...

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Message 20 - posted by naspa (U1648370) , Jul 31, 2006

directeursportifread - you are quite correct. Let us take Armstrong as an example. Armstrong is big money - no one is willing to challenge him in the way that L'Equipe has. There are tough questions that need to be asked of him.

We only have to see how the Man Utd withdraw co-operation with the BBC after they criticised him to see how power can be used to emasculate the media.

It is ironic that Matt transfers the blame onto the specialist media for not asking tough questions.

Matt - who wrote the fawning (and now pulled) 'Outlandish Landis' article? Who wrote all those pieces about him and his background? Who wrote all those puff pieces about Armstrong? Stop passing the buck onto the specialist media. You need to start doing your job properly.

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