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German cycling ... where will it go from here?

Added: monday 20 October 2008 at 23:00:00
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    German cycling ... where will it go from here?After the 7 positive doping tests in the Tour de France 2008, a number of decisions have been taken which can have big impacts on German cycling. These decisions are the cancellation of two cycling events which should have taken place in Germany in 2009 (like each year) and stopping broadcasting the Tour de France on the German public TV channel ARD.

    What happened before

    In 2007 the German broadcasters (ARD and ZDF) had already decided to stop broadcasting the Tour de France 2007 right in the middle of it, after the positive doping test for the German rider Patrik Sinkewitz (see also my article about the end of the sponsoring of the T-Mobile team). And that was done despite the fact that it were those two broadcasters who had asked the organiser of the Tour de France, A.S.O., to do everything it could to fight doping. At that time a commercial channel had taken over the broadcasts and despite the lower market shares the German could thus continue watching the Tour de France.

    In 2008 the German broadcasters had resumed their broadcasting of the Tour like they did before 2007, indicating that they didn't want to see any new doping cases ... at that time we could already have wondered what exactly these public channels want: on one hand they ask to do everything to fight doping and on the other hand they're not happy with any positive cases when very precise doping checks are being organised ... what exactly do they want?!

    On 29 July 2008, at the end of the Tour de France, ARD and ZDF announced on their site dedicated to the Tour de France 2008 a very positive balance, especially indicating that the fact that the Tour wasn't dominated by one rider and that several riders were taken for doping were positive points since this showed according to the German channels that the fight against doping was going the right way.

    In the same article the German broadcasters presented the Tour de France as an interesting sports event which deserved another chance since the Tour de France had a positive effect on ARD and ZDF's market share. The press release also indicated that there was still a long way to go in the fight against doping in cycling but that this was also true for other sports!

    Lance Armstrong during the Tour de France 2004 ; click to enlargeHalf September there was this famous announcement by Lance Armstrong of his come back in the Tour de France in 2009. At that time, ARD had indicated that the German channel would not accept Lance's come back and that it would not broadcast the Tour de France as A.S.O. would let him make his come-back in the Tour while Christian Prudhomme had already indicated that he didn't see any blocking points which would allow A.S.O. to refuse the seven times Tour winner to come back to professional cycling and the Tour de France.

    Stefan Schumacher during the Tour de France 2008 ; click to enlargeBernhard Kohl at the finish of the Tour de France 2008 ; click to enlargeDuring the World Championships in Varese the AFLD (Agence Française de la Lutte contre le Dopage, the organisation which was responsible for doping tests during the Tour de France 2008) announced that it would start doing new tests on blood samples taken during the Tour de France since it now had a new way to detect the use of CERA (third generation EPO). After these new tests the three positive cases of Leonardo Piepoli, Stefan Schumacher and Bernhard Kohl were announced.

    Bernhard Kohl than recognised he used doping, saying that he couldn't resist the pressure and thus took CERA.

    And that was the drop which made the cup run over for cycling in Germany

    These two last doping cases in the Gerolsteiner team, which would have ceased its activities at the end of the season anyway since the sponsor decided to no longer sponsor the team, were the drop which made the cup run over for cycling in Germany.

    After these announcements the manager of the Gerolsteiner team, Hans-Michael Holczer, decided to immediately stop the activities of the team, thus not participating in the Tour of Lombardy. But that's not all ...

    The cancellation of the Six days of Stuttgart
    Six days of StuttgartOn Tuesday 14 October the organisers of the Six days of Stuttgart, which was originally planned from 15 till 20 January 2009, announced that they decided not to organise this 26th edition in 2009. Andreas Kroll, organiser of the Six days, simply said that the organisation had long discussions and that due to the current situation in cycling their conclusion was to not organise the Six days.

    The decision of the Germand public channel ARD to no longer broadcast the Tour de France live
    ARDFrom that moment on quick decisions were made and last Thursday the ARD director - Fritz Raff - announced via a press release that the sports value of the Tour de France had decreased since the announcement of different doping cases and that the interest in broadcasting the Tour thus also decreased.
    According to Peter Meyer, spokesman for ARD, the ARD direction was furious since Bernhard Kohl was part of the new and clean generation of riders. That was the most important reasons why they decided to no longer broadcast the Tour live and to limit the Tour on ARD to announcements of results and news in regular news and sports shows.

    In the same press release ZDF announced they would not broadcast the Tour de France without ARD and that they would start discussions with ARD and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to see what impacts this decision has.

    The cancellation of the Deutschland Tour 2009
    Deutschland TourThe same day the organisers of the Tour of Germany, the biggest cycling race in Germany, announced that they had decided together with the German cycling federation (BDR) not to organise the 2009 edition of their race. The organiser, Kai Rapp, said: We regret that we have to take this decision. Due to recent events in professional cycling we can no longer commercialise this race in a good way and finance it.

    A.S.O.'s reaction

    At less than one week of the official announcement of the Tour de France 2009 track, which will be on Wednesday, this really is bad news for Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), the organiser of the Tour de France (and of many other cycling races and other sports events). In a press release the company says to be surprised by the decision of the German channel knowing that they were the ones who requested the Tour de France organiser several times to do everything what's possible to fight doping.

    And that's exactly what A.S.O. has done in the past few years and the positive doping checks in this year's and last year's Tour de France prove it works. The ARD now gives the impression they think that every new doping case means that all riders use doping and A.S.O. thus repeats in its press release what Pierre Bordry, the AFLD manager, told AFP on 14 October after the announcement of the 7th doping case in the Tour de France 2008: a large majority of the riders hasn't used any form of doping!

    A.S.O.'s press release continues by saying that the ARD asks us to fight against doping but than gets annoyed when riders are caught. We should thus search but not find anything and that ARD's decision sadly might mean that those who are fighting against doping will give up the find in order to be sure their race will be broadcasted and that could indeed be the case if other organisers see that the German TV doesn't want to broadcast cycling races despite the doping checks.

    The reaction from the association of professional riders, Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA)

    Today the association of professional riders, Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA) announced in a press release that this is a very unfair and at least a not well thought decision. The CPA also says that yet again, the victims of these individual and unresponsible acts are the clean riders and that they don't understand why some media and organisaters want to boycott a sport which has the guts to fight against doping and which punishes its athletes who don't respect the ethic code more and more

    What now?

    These three decisions (not organising the Six days of Stuttgart 2009 and the Tour of Germany 2009 and the decision not to broadcast the Tour de France 2009 on ARD) are a heavy blow for German cycling at the time one of the only two remaining German teams stops its activities (Gerolsteiner).

    The biggest German cycling race will not be organised and the biggest world wide cycling race will not be on TV in Germany ... of course the sponsor of the other German team, Milram, is currently wondering whether its sponsoring is still interesting! One thing is sure: this definitely isn't the best way for cycling to progress ...

    A.S.O. however found at least one positive point and that is that Tour de France will be on German TV screens anyway on Eurosport and that ZDF officially hasn't taken any decision yet.

    For me there's only one question which remains: when will ARD stop broadcasting tennis games, athletics and swimming? Maybe on the day they'll ask the federations and organisers in these sports to seriously start working on the fight against doping ...

    by Thomas Vergouwen
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Comments

Currently 3 comments!
  1. C'est vraiment ennuyeux pour tout le cyclisme. Des amoureux du vélo aux téléspectateurs lambda, en passant par les coureurs, les salariés et les bénévoles...tout le monde y perd.

    On peut se demander: qui y gagne?...pas grand monde, pour ne pas dire personne.

    La lueur d'espoir réside dans le fait qu'avec le temps tout s'en va comme dirait l'autre. Pour réparer les séquelles de cette période du cyclisme, il va falloir du temps, beaucoup de temps. Quand reverra-t-on le Tour d'Allemagne? D'autres grandes disparitions sont-elles possibles? J'avoue être inquiet.

    La suspicion (due aux cas de dopage) est le plus grand danger pour le vélo...et pour le sport en général. Le gagnant est-il forcément dopé? Les gens répondent plus souvent oui à cette question lorsque l'on parle de vélo. Je ne suis pas d'accord avec ceux qui répondent oui quelque soit le sport.

    Je pars donc du principe, par exemple, que "Nadal c'est très naturel".

    | Mister Kof | tuesday 21 October 2008 at 16:53:36

  2. Moi sur Nadal je suis certain qu\'il en va de même que pour les cyclistes... D\'ailleurs on oublie trop souvent que l\'affaire Puerto concerne des sportifs et non pas les seuls cyclistes (joueurs du Réal? Tennismen européens?...)et que c\'est certainement aussi pourquoi les noms ne sont pas tous sortis..
    Sinon concernant les diffuseurs allemands, je pense que \'est une grosse erreur de ne pas diffuser le Tour. Cela va inciter d\'autres à faire la politique de l\'autruche face au dopage de peur que les diffuseurs ne diffusent plus...

    | Nico | tuesday 21 October 2008 at 17:10:06

  3. Les Allemands sont raides sur les questions de dopage. C\'est l\'illustration d\'un certain malaise. Mais je déplore une certaine naïveté. Parceque quand l\'Allemagne s\'enflamme lorsque un Schumacher gagne des étapes, elle pourrait grincer des dents comme le peloton.
    L\'Allemagne reste une vrai terre de cyclisme, et c\'est un partenaire important pour ASO dans le marché des retransmissions télévisées. L\'annulation de grosses épreuves cyclistes ne font qu\'entretenir la suspicion de \"tous dopés\", et ghettoïser ce qui restera du cyclisme d\'outre-rhin.

    | Pierrick | tuesday 21 October 2008 at 17:22:18

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