Back when Michael Rasmussen was implicated in the USADA investigation and confessed his doping use, Danish sport and anti-doping authorities decided to make a full investigation as there were too many heavy revelations and accusations in the river of admissions that flowed from the almost-TdF-winning Chicken. The objective was to fully look into exactly how widespread doping had been among danish pros and what conditions had made it possible to get so bad. A commission was created and they said the investigation would have a year to come up with its findings. Now, two and a half years later, conveniently just before the Tour de France, we finally get the report. So what did new information did they actually find?
Well if you've read accounts of Tyler Hamilton's book, read about what Jörg Jaksche and Michael Rasmussen have had to say in media and in Rasmussen's book then the answer is "pretty much nothing". Add in the kind of general conclusions that are drawn in the CIRC report and in the USADA reasoned decision and it was pretty well covered already before. The report writers stressed that they had focused their attention not on riders but at managers and support personnel as they were the ones in positions of responsibility. They also concluded that had they focused on riders the doping infractions would be too many to count. Naturally their focus laid on Bjarne Riis and his Team CSC (later SaxoBank/Tinkoff), since this has been the major force in Danish cycling for the last 15 years, and that was certainly the case. Most of the report centers on the early days of the team and a few isolated incidents back in the early 2000s and it's all fairly well covered territory at this point. Anyway this are roughly the big points that came out:
- Bjarne Riis was aware that Tyler Hamilton was blood doping with the help of Eufemiano Fuentes and did nothing to stop it. Just like all other findings in the report there will be no case against Riis because everything is outside the eight years statute of limitations. Whether Tyler was actively referred to Fuentes by Riis (as TH tells it) or if Riis found out along the way and was SHOCKED, shocked I tell'ya (but did nothing to stop it), as Riis tells it, depends on who you believe.
- Bjarne was a naughty fibber when he confessed to his own doping. He listed practically every known drug on the planet when he told what he had taken but he neglected to tell that he had also used bloodtransfusions. Once again depending on who you believe he either did it in 1996 when winning the TdF (says Hamilton) or he tried it once without much success in the 1997 TdF (says Riis). When asked about the cases where Bjarne's account differed from the others the investigators gave more credibility to the others. For those keeping score at home that means he is less credible than the Chicken. Quite the accomplishment.
- Riis may or may not have suggested to Carlos Sastre the possibility of blood doping with small bags in the preparation for the 2008 TdF. This was supposed to have angered Sastre that Riis would suggest something like that according to an anonymous source. Riis denies and says he may have been mentioning what other teams could possibly be getting away with, Sastre doesn't recall any such conversation. Why this tidbit was included in the report I do not know. It's titillating but ultimately impossible to corroborate. Mainly they were probably just painting the broader image of Riis as an enabler.
- Besides Riis, both Alex Pedersen and Johnny Weltz who were DSs in the teams beginnings knew about and facilitated doping on the team early on. Weltz transported drugs to an apartment in Luxenbourg where riders were supposed to administer the stuff among themselves something that ended in internal rows.
Both of those two seem to have given full cooperation to the investigators, providing admissions as well as detailed accounts that they will put their names to. In this they are a rare breed since the report mentions most of those questioned as either having remarkably poor memories or being very unwilling to contribute much of substance. This really reveals the weakness of this investigation as it totally relied on voluntary witnesses. In the end that meant that most of it falls back on the word of Rasmussen, Jörg Jaksche, Hamilton and Bo Hamburger. The investigators note that they have a high degree of trustworthiness most their accounts have been possible to confirm from other sources but it also gives a onesided perspective and one we've heard before.
The end of the report is another run-down of current anti-doping measures and what general recommendations they can give for improving these. In short it's basically the same stuff as CIRC and UCI have mentioned already. More unpredictable OOC testing, night testing, adoption of the MPCC protocols for cortisol-level testing, more retro-testing of samples yada yada. It's all very good and sound but nothing we haven't heard recommended from a dozen sources already.
So how many more of these reports on what happened 10-20 years ago do we need or can we use? The answer has to be zero at this point. As long as there are no tangible consequences there is little point in these exercises. We know what happened. We may not know all the sordid details and we may not know all the exact names but we know the overall picture and the slow seeping leaks of names and details may be satisfying as hypocrites are exposed but it doesn't do much to improve things for the future. Had we been able to remove some obvious bad eggs it might leave the sport in a better place but as with this case, with both Riis and the old CSC docs fingered as doping enablers totally free to continue working within the sport, the outcome of the report is in some ways less than zero.
In short, if anyone has some insight into what doping looks like in the peloton today and has practical ideas on how to do something about that then I'm all ears but as for the "EPO era" this merry-go-round isn't taking us anywhere, it's just spinning in circles and making everyone nauseous .