Nicole Cooke’s evidence to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Combatting Doping in Sport

I’m sure there will be 101 articles about this, in the mainstream as well as the cycling press, but Nicole Cooke gave evidence to the UK Parliamentary Inquiry into Combatting Doping in Sport.  Cooke is one of the cycling superstars, who defined an era of women’s racing, becoming the first ever rider to become the Olympic and World Champion in the same year, and winning pretty much everything of importance.

If you’ve even vaguely followed Cooke, you won’t find much new here – she’s been talking about doping for years, and has always raised issues with and about British Cycling.  But I really recommend listening to her, because she handled herself excellently, and there’s so much to think about.

If you’re not familiar with what a Parliamentary Inquiry is, or the Committees that investigate them, there’s lots of information on this page – but basically, it’s where members of Parliament take an in-depth look at an issue, and make recommendations to Parliament.  They take submissions in writing, and then call witnesses, and they can question them about basically anything.

Some of the MPs/Lords may have a special interest in the exact issue, or may know about an issue in general, but not this aspect, and others can be new to a topic.  They research it, and they read the written statements, and like in this case, it often can lead to questions around things we take for granted, but are totally new to the members.  I loved that here. There’s so much that I realise I am resigned to, these days – prize money, sexism built into the sport, equal pay, etc.  It’s all things I want to change, but it’s things I’ve become used to, so it’s always refreshing for me to see people come at things for the first time, especially like this, when they’ve been researching a subject, so they’re genuinely surprised/shocked.  I can completely see how an MP with a general interest in sport, who’s used to athletics, swimming, tennis, etc, could be completely taken aback by cycling.

Of course the focus was on doping, but the Committee was also asking questions about women’s cycling, sexism, British Cycling etc – so things like (I paraphrase), if Simon Cope was the BC women’s team coach, why was he couriering for Team Sky, etc – and given that British Cycling is funded by public money, it felt very apt.

Anyway, if you missed it, there are various ways you can catch up:

If you’ve come to it from quotes, or tweets, one thing to bear in mind is that Cooke was always very careful to put things in context, and to be very clear where she didn’t know something for sure.  On twitter the 140 character limit naturally condenses things down, and takes a lot of nuance out, and I’m sure the same thing will happen in quotes, because there were a lot of things that were very strongly worded.  But I really appreciated Cooke’s thoughtfulness, and her making sure her parameters were clear.  She was always very careful to say where things were her opinion, not fact etc.  And I did laugh out loud at some of the leading questions, which she side-stepped very nicely – anyone who knows anything about Nicole Cooke knows she’s not easily lead!

If you’re new to women’s cycling, or to Nicole Cooke, here are some great places to start learning more:

Naturally, a lot of the questions were around British Cycling, and if you’re interested in their history with women riders, I collected a set of mainstream articles from the last 10 years of issues women riders have had with BC.

UPDATE – there’s more added to the Committee’s page – including the written and video version of the evidence from the former British Cycling women’s team manager, Simon Cope, which of course talks about his delivery of that package to Bradley Wiggins, but also about his role at British Cycling, including a cross-over with Cooke’s evidence.

I’ll edit in articles about her evidence as I see them, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find them everywhere!  As always, if you have any you’d like to share, please do let me know, in the comments, or on twitter.

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Podcast 2016 Episode 5 – Omloops!

Podcast logoG’day team! There’s not one, but two Omloops this week, so of course we talk all about them! There’s also heaps of media and interviews to discuss. The track world championships are coming up. Evelyn Stevens is about to attempt the Hour World Record. Basically there’s a lot to talk about and we discuss it all with great joy. Spring is upon us and about to bloom in full, cobbled, torturous glory! (58:40 MIN / 53.7 MB)

You can also sign up for free downloads from the iTunes store here or via our RSS feed here.

Things we talked about this week

The Aviva Women’s Tour great, melodramatic 2016 promo video

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Marianne Vos‘ interview on Ella Cycling Tips about returning to racing.

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On teenaged bike cheats

Obviously, one of the biggest stories from the 2016 Cyclocross World Championships was Femke van den Driessche being caught with a motorised bike.  Of course she’s denying it (along the lines of “I sold the bike to a friend, who motorised it, and it weirdly got added to my bikes in the pits but it was nothing to do with me” – click the link, or if you understand Dutch, this video, or this video in English), and there’s a great couple of summaries about the case so far on Ella Cycling Tips and inrng, who sets out the rules and possible next steps.  I am gutted for all the u23 riders who rode their hearts out in a wonderful, historic race, the first time there’s been more than one category for the women riders.  But I’m also gutted, because when teenagers are done for doping or cheating, it always makes me really worry about them.

I should stress, I’m not saying teenagers aren’t culpable for their own actions, but I think about when I was 19, and passionate about achieving things, and made some of those mistakes that are part of growing up.  And I’m glad I was brought up to think for myself, and have an education in critical thinking – but I know that’s luck, too.  I can totally understand how kids fall under the sway of a charismatic coach or an overbearing parent – and I also can’t help remembering the stories of Genèvieve Jeanson and other riders, whose coaches doping them was just the tip of an awful iceberg.   I’m not saying that’s happening here at all, but that’s an extreme example of how sometimes riders who dope can also be victims.

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Podcast 2015 Episode 34 – Solstice-Mas

The-Unofficial,-Unsanctioned-Women's-UCI-Cycling-Show

Merry Solstice/Crossmas/Stuff team! Our now traditional Christmas Eve episode (or Solstice of whatever)! We catch up on the world of cyclocross, talk about the ASO vs UCI nonsense and a couple of other dumb things that are annoying before getting back to being full of joy and good cheer as we look ahead to 2016 and all that it entails. (56:15 MIN / 51.5 MB)

Enjoy a safe and merry Christmas, have a happy New Year and we’ll speak with you again soon in January. Don’t forget to support Sarah’s Patreon!

And of course you can manually download this episode from our Soundcloud here, OR get automated updates via our RSS here (PLEASE NOTE: Our RSS feed location has changed and if you’ve subscribed using our previous link you will possibly/probably need to update with the new link) OR from the iTunes store here.

 

Things we talked about this week

Huge thanks to everyone who has supported us this year, especially anyone who’s supported Sarah through her Patreon, enabling her to do all her weird and wonderful women’s cycling work.  Join them, for as little as $2/month, over here.

So important – Cyclingnews’ Genèvieve Jeanson story & podcast

This week Cyclingnews published a really important piece of journalism, that all cycling fans need to read or listen to.  It’s not an easy story to engage with, because it’s the last thing people want to think happens in a sport they love, but it’s so important we pay attention, so we can all help recognise it and work to prevent it, as fans, media, and people involved in all cycling at all levels.

Genèvieve Jeanson, in case you don’t know, was the 1999 Canadian World Junior Road Race and Time Trial Champion whose elite career came to a halt in 2005, after EPO was found in a blood test.  Jeanson later said that she’d been taking EPO since she was 16 years old, but the worst part of her story was the allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse she made against her coach, André Aubut, who, along with Maurice Duquette, the doctor who gave her the drugs, was banned from being involved in sports for life by the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport.  It’s a really harrowing story, and Jeanson isn’t the only cyclist whose story includes nasty abuse – USA rider Tammy Thomas is another rider who says her doping was entwined with being abused, and ex-Cycling Australia official Warwick Phillips was stabbed by a rider he was convicted of sexually abusing when he was coaching her as a teenager.  And of course, earlier this year the CIRC report into doping in road cycling very briefly referred to women being exploited sexually and financially in the sport, while Ukrainian rider Hanna Solovey, who was caught doping at age 19, has talked about the continual verbal abuse that kept her scared of him (original Russian, and translation on Velorooms).

Jeanson’s story has been told in a French-language book by Alain Gravel, L’affaire Jeanson : l’engrenage, and a film, La Petite Reine  inspired by her life, but there hasn’t been an English-language interview with her since the original doping story broke, until now, when journalist Kirsten Frattini met Jeanson at the 2015 Road World Championships, and interviewed her for the Cyclingnews podcast.  You can listen to that interview here, and for people who don’t do podcasts, there’s an article below it, that not only goes into detail about Jeanson’s story, but also talks to other people involved in the sport who talk about what they saw of the public aspects.  They’ve also published some of the follow-up questions Frattini had after the podcast interview, and that is great journalism.  I genuinely think this is the most important cycling story that’s been published this year.

The thing that I think upset me most about this story was all the people who were corroborating the physical and emotional abuse.  I can make guesses that maybe some of the young riders just didn’t know what to do about it – especially as some of this abuse seems so public, race officials and other responsible adults involved in cycling must have seen it too, and didn’t stop it – so I just have to take my hat off to Frattani for including a list of resources at the end of her article, where people can get help on issues of violence, abuse and doping.  They’re Canadian-based, as Jeanson and Frattani are, so I’ve added a list of UK resources at the bottom of this article too.

What we can all do to prevent this kind of awful story happening in the future is to be aware of the issues (and recognise that while these public stories are about girls and women, abuse also happens to boys and men) and if we’re worried about anyone in our lives, take action.  There are some excellent organisations providing help, and there’s never any harm done in asking “Is this ok?” and “Is this something I should act on?”.   We should see what our Cycling Federations have to say about child protection, and if we’re not satisfied, ask them to do more – and the big Federations and anti-doping agencies need to be mindful that sometimes doping and abuse are entwined, so that they can recognise that doping might be part of a bigger problem, and provide support, especially to young and vulnerable athletes.  Abuse, including blackmail and threats about doping, is never ok, and doesn’t belong in our sport.

Resources

  • What to do if you’re worried a child or young adult is at risk of, sexual abuse – resources for children and young people (Childline) and for adults (NSPCC)
  • This is Abuse website – aimed at young people, but useful for everyone to help identify abuse, and find support
  • Childline – 24 hour counselling and support for children and young people
  • The NSPCC’s Child Protection In Sport site, which includes ways to raise sports-specific concerns, as well as support for organisations and clubs around prevention
  • British Cycling’s Safeguarding policies, including a link for reporting concerns, and their Equality Policy, which includes harassment.

These are all UK resources, but Olympic.org, the official website of the Olympic movement, has a portal on sexual harassment in sport that includes how to spot it, international resources, and what people can expect sports federations to do about harassment and abuse.

 

What did the CIRC report say about women’s cycling – and why is no one reporting on it?

I don’t have the time to write in-depth about this, but I wanted to mention it.  Actually, I don’t want to mention it, because it’s really depressing, and I’d rather focus on the positive side of this sport I love, but it’s important that we note it, in the context of shining a light into the dark corners, and committing to rooting this out of cycling.

Some background to the CIRC report (full text available here)

The Cycling Independent Reform Commission (“Commission” or “CIRC”) was established by the Union Cycliste Internationale (“UCI”) “to conduct a wide ranging independent investigation into the causes of the pattern of doping that developed within cycling and allegations which implicate the UCI and other governing bodies and officials over ineffective investigation of such doping practices.” (page 6)

It’s been all over the news in the UK at least because of the issues about doping, and the links to Lance Armstrong etc.  But I want to look at what it says about the women’s side of the sport, and specifically the bits I haven’t seen reported, including allegations of sexual and financial exploitation.  Hat tip to Mariska Tjoelker, who brought this to my attention.  From page 70, the specific section devoted to women’s cycling (bold sections my emphasis)

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Women’s cycling survey part 6 – what do people like best about women’s cycling? The mega-table

Yesterday I looked at the top 10 things people like best about professional women’s cycling – this was taken from the women’s cycling audience survey Dan and I ran in September, and was analysis of the question: “What do you like best about women’s cycling”.  This question was asked as an open text box, and we had 1,118 answers to this.  It’s taken me a long time to anslyse this, and you’ll see this from the mega table of all the answers that more than one person gave (I’ve included the single answers where it related to people’s favourite disciplines) (and again, this has my subjective grouping into categories, but I took advice when I wasn’t sure).  But this is the kind of fabulous answer we got to this question:

BEST

The elite women’s peloton’s uptake & use of social media and direct, personal blogging and (generally unmediated, PR-free) sharing of their actual thoughts and criticisms (e.g. of UCI / race mismanagement, joy of winning, anger at losing…)

I don’t think I could get that from other sports that mildly interest me (football, rugby)

2nd BEST

I also like the variety of the races / racing and the complexity of it being both an individual and a team sport. And the dynamism (/chaos) of all that can happen during a race that influences escapes, breaks and chases!

ALSO

Their passion for the sport (they’re CLEARLY not in it for the money). I don’t know if I think differently of pro-men or how/whether I would view the women’s peloton differently if they were all making millions.

So, onwards to the table….

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