While we wait the next twelve months for the failure to establish a Truth & Reconciliation commission, the Truth & Exposé work continues. Pro cycling is the toughest sport in the world — and that’s just the doping regime.
Today Italian Anti-Doping Expert Sandro Donati announced that Tour champion Miguel Indurain and his Banesto squad paid “high amounts” of money to Dr. Francesco Conconi. A pioneering sports physiologist, Conconi was the man who taught a young Michele Ferrari everything he knew about illegal substances. If Ferrari is called The Legend, then Conconi was The Making Of.
Italy being Italy, Conconi was never actually convicted of anything although there was a trial and lots of yelling and shouting and outrage and opera. The judge couldn’t do a thing to stop Conconi but delivered a good soundbite for Gazzetto Della Sport stating that the doctor was “morally guilty.” That gets you a cynical wink and another glass of Barolo.
Donati’s claim that Indurain and the entire Banesto squad used the services of Conconi was backed up by two sources. First, a Dutch rider on the team, Erwin Nijboer, confirmed the contact with the doctor, but said that it “was only to do the Conconi test.” That reminds us of Ivan Basso’s Operacion Puerto testimony — he was only thinking about doping — it was a theoretical offense.
Then Dutch journalist Ludo van Klooster said he saw the Banesto bus as the University of Ferrara, where Conconi carried out his work. “I saw the entire team. Also Indurain. And Erwin Nijboer.”
The inference in all this is that Banesto — and Miguel Indurain — had a doping program during the time of his five consecutive Tour de France wins. He lost number six to Mr. Sixty Percent, EPO pro Bjarne Riis. Indurain must had been languishing at 55%. No way to win a Tour. As Donati says, “I don’t think that Banesto paid that much to have the riders tested.”
No wonder Greg Lemond got so vocal and bitter about doping in Le Grand Shingdig. All of a sudden, a three time Tour winner still in his prime just couldn’t keep up anymore. Miguel takes over in ’91, Lemond loses seven minutes on Tourmalet and retires two years later.
Who can forget that stage seven in the 1995 Tour when Indurain simply pulls away from the rest of the peloton with Johan Bruyneel in tow. Bruyneel must have been thinking, “wow, he’s got some really good drugs.” Later Johan would run Lance Armstrong’s “sophisticated and professional” doping program. Nobody ever said Indurain wasn’t an inspirational figure.
Big Mig has no comment so far and we’re expecting little comment going forward. The man was never a talker. He will always be a hero in Spain where even today the pros revere Lance Armstrong as a champion and are shocked that anyone would dare take away his Tour titles just for a few syringes and blood bags. Is there no respect, no dignity, no understanding that a man does what a man must do? (That’s why Juan Pelota has begged Lance to move to Spain where is popularity is still high.)
Indurain is always portrayed as a gentleman, a classy guy, down to earth, who never acted like an egotistical superstar. People feel bad about taking down a person like that. He kept his mouth shut, brought glory to Spain and what’s the point, right? Why do muckrakers like muck so much?
Ahh, but until there is a Truth & Reconciliation commission, the mad manhunt will continue. Pro cycling is a strange world where Armstrong hides out at home in Austin, UCI President Pat McQuaid hides from critics in Aigle, Switzerland and Floyd Landis — the Man Who Shot Lance Armstrong — lectures at Yale University.