In 1,200 words, Victor Conte shed more light on how athletes can dope with impunity than the Festina soigneur Willy Voet managed in a whole book.

Massacre a la Chaine, published eight years ago, lifted the lid on some eye-catching, and pretty gruesome, techniques to help cyclists evade detection. But that book charted the rise and downfall of the Festina team in an era when EPO was still undetectable. Since then, even more cynical guile has been required to cheat effectively without being caught.

Late last week Conte, the man behind the Balco scandal, wrote to Dwain Chambers, the athlete he doped, explaining the substances he was given, their purpose, and how he evaded detection for so long.

Chambers, the British sprinter, asked Conte to write to him so he could present the letter to UK Sport to assist the bid to catch cheats in the future.

Conte has been to prison. He?s made money from the business of cynically and expertly doping athletes. Some may think it?s a bit rich, after taking the athletes? money, that he?s spilling the beans now, but he has said in interviews since coming out of jail that as far as he?s concerned enough is enough.

So maybe it?s not a voluntary confession, but it?s a welcome one. One that could, perhaps, help the anti-doping authorities close the loopholes that currently exist in the system.

Chambers won medals while on Conte?s programme. Now he?s bidding to overturn the British Olympic Association rule that bars him from running for Great Britain in this summer?s Olympics. Chambers believes that co-operating with UK Sport and the anti-doping authorities will strengthen his bid for Beijing.

The letter details what Chambers was given, how much, when and why and after reading it, it?s tempting to believe Chambers when he said he didn?t know what he was taking, he just did as he was told.

This injection every Wednesday, this tablet once a day, this cream daily.

The letter, published on the BBC?s website last week, explains that effective doping requires a cocktail of drugs. Take substance A to aid training, substance B to increase endurance, substance C to offset the unwelcome side-effects of substance A and substance D to compensate for the body changing its natural processes as a result of taking substance B.

It is not a simple practice. It takes expert guidance, measured dosages and a disciplined programme.

The revelation shatters once and for all the tissue of lies that follows every positive test.

You know the drill. The athlete comes out and says the substance must have been in an over-the-counter medicine he got from the pharmacy and he didn?t know. Or he was dehydrated. Or he ate something funny.

Perhaps the most revelatory part of Conte?s letter was his explanation that testosterone gel ? a dose with a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio of 20 to 1 ? was used to offset the suppression of naturally-produced testosterone caused by using the steroid THG.

One thing is crystal clear. No one takes a little bit of one of these substances once in a while. There would be absolutely no point. The combination of medicines and treatments are designed to work together. In isolation their benefits are limited. A substance has to be taken to enhance the effects of another or counter-balance some unwanted side effect.

This is not news to those who have followed the anti-doping fight closely but, for the first time, we have some hard documentary evidence to shed light on what happens and how.

Further to the deception are the simple ploys to evade the surprise dope testers calling at your house or training venue. It?s so easy it should make the authorities flush red with embarrassment. You call your own mobile phone until the message bank is full. That way the testers can?t leave a message. Then you make sure you?re not where you said you would be.

Okay, so you get a warning for missing an out-of-competition test but there?s still another couple of strikes so you?ll be okay.

Then, when you know you?re clean, you act all friendly and pop the kettle on for the testing guys.

The professionalism and attention to detail a doping athlete needs in order to follow one of these regimes is considerable. He or she must remember what to take and when. You can bet your bottom dollar a dope would not ?forget? to take their ?medicine? in the same way they?d ?forget? to fill in their Whereabouts form.

Conte?s revelations confirm that an athlete who gets caught doping is not just a cheat, he?s a stupid, careless, clumsy cheat.

And, worryingly, despite the cocktail of drugs he was on, Chambers only tested positive for the steroid THG. He did not test positive for EPO, HGH, insulin, modafinil or liothryonine. The pendulum may be inching away from the athletes in the favour of the testers ever so slowly, but evasion is still easier than detection.


No surprises, really, that Astana managed to put three riders in the top nine at the Giro time trial today.

Alberto Contador, complete with a broken bone in his elbow, finished second, taking around two minutes from Riccardo Ricco and Danilo Di Luca.

Perhaps every grand tour pretender will now head to the beach to taper down before starting the race because it?s clear the Spaniard is in absolutely superb form.

Ricco is a pretty obnoxious fellow, it seems to me, but his petulant, cry-baby protest that Contador was ?coming over here, stealing our race? did make me laugh. As if the Italians haven?t had the Giro all to themselves for decades at a time!

Frankly, as it stands, I am in the ?Anyone But Di Luca? camp. Yes, I?d even rather see Andreas Klöden win it. Hard to believe, I know, but it?s true.

Bit of a feet up day for the two British time trial specialists. Millar was 155th, Wiggins 157th.

Cue more wailing on website forums about how useless they all are, no doubt.


When Nicole Cooke won the Grande Boucle Feminine in 2006 and 2007, it was hailed as the women?s equivalent of the Tour de France.

While it is true that the roots of the event can be traced back to the Tour Cycliste Feminin, which was held on part of the same route as the men?s race in the 1980s, it?s not really the biggest, most prestigious or most challenging stage race for women. The Grande Boucle is just five days long.

No, the real challenge is the 10-day Tour de l?Aude, which started last Friday and continues until Sunday, May 25.

At the time of writing, after the prologue and three stages, Cooke lies third, just 40 seconds behind Judith Arndt.

Cooke is leading a Great Britain team that also features Sharon Laws, lying ninth overall this morning, and Emma Pooley. It?s looking likely the trio will be Great Britain?s team for the Olympic road race in Beijing later this summer.

So, while six British men are battling their way round the Giro d?Italia, an equally important stage race is happening in the south of France, with the Great Britain and Swift Racing teams taking part.

For Cooke it would be a huge victory ? the biggest stage race win of her career in a race she has never tackled before. She?ll be supported by Laws and Emma Pooley on the climbs.

It will be a tough week and one should be mindful of the fact that the real goal comes in Beijing in August, but overall victory for Cooke would surely rank up there with Tom Simpson?s Paris-Nice win and Brian Robinson and Robert Millar?s Dauphiné Libéré victories as the greatest stage race win by a British cyclist.

Keep checking all week for the latest from the Tour de l?Aude


Companies that put their cash into cycling are right to expect a little exposure in return, we quite accept that.

So, we understand when certain companies that sponsor cycling teams get annoyed when their name gets cut out of Cycling Weekly.

However, if we thought Rapha-Condor-Recycling was long, the Irish squad AN Post-M Donnelly-Grant Thornton-Sean Kelly team is definitely a bit of a mouthful.

But that is nothing compared to the team name entered on the official start list for the women?s National ?10? time trial championships, which was spotted by my colleague Ian Cleverly.

Emily Ducker and Avril Swann will be riding for the MI Racing-Thule-EAS-Double Dutch Pancake Bar-Shimano-Crowhurst Gale-Vittoria-Lister Timer-Ozone-Elite-Fibrax-Weldtite-ELO-Harris Signs-GripGrab-Rainlegs-Townsend team.

Surely they can?t get all that on the jersey? Don?t mind us if we shorten it to MI Racing.


Is Mark Cavendish 21 or 22? In the wake of his stage win at the Isle of Man, he was listed as a 21-year-old and a 22-year-old in the media.

Well, for a day at least, he?s 22. Tomorrow (Wednesday) he celebrates his 23rd birthday and on Thursday he could mark the occasion, a little late admittedly, with his second Giro stage win. That would be a pretty cool birthday present.


Not strictly cycling related, but I witnessed an incident on Monday morning while cycling in the lanes near St Albans that convinced me that the fall of Western civilization will not come as a result of plague or terrorism, but instead because of the greed, stupidity and laziness of a really quite large number of people.

The lanes I cycle in are getting busier by the month. Although I have no specific evidence for this, I have a suspicion that an increasing number of people are being directed through country lanes

The problem is, they come straight off the A and B-roads into narrow lanes with only infrequent passing places without modifying their driving style.

Anyway, as I approached a convergence of three roads at around 8.30 on Monday morning, I was greeted with a traffic jam and the slightly comical sight of half a dozen cars trying to do a U-turn.

As everyone sat there, waiting for whatever it was they thought was going to happen that would clear the road in front of them, I picked my way past the cars until I got to two vans, nose to nose.

Each driver was refusing to reverse, one because he had a load of carpet sticking out the back of his van and he was worried he?d hit something, the other because he said there was no way he could reverse downhill and round a corner to the nearest passing place because all the traffic had come right up behind him.

So it was stalemate.

The drivers just sat there, not really knowing what to do, all getting steamed up as they fretted about getting to work on time.

I cycled on and found more irate drivers. It was like one of those drama-documentaries the BBC is so fond of ? ?The Day the Traffic Ground To A Halt And Everyone Killed Each Other?.

One woman asked me what was going on and I couldn?t resist the temptation to give them the impression they?d most likely be stuck their all day.

?I bet you?re glad you?re on a bike,? said another woman. ?I blame sat-nav,? said a man.

My smugness was short lived. I got less than quarter of a mile down the road before the angry, late-for-work company car drivers who?d turned round and reprogrammed their sat-navs to find an alternative route were tailed back behind me, revving their engines, beeping their horns and shouting out of the windows for me to ?Get Over? as if it wasn?t enough for them that I was already riding on the verge.

May 13 ? Why Cavendish is a superstar
May 6 ? Astana for the Giro! Yawn
April 29 ? Yeah, well done, Liquigas
April 22 ? I?ve had a brilliant idea!
April 15 – Thanks a bunch, Eurosport
April 8 ? The Tuesday Comment live from Belgium
April 1 ? Why I believe Rob Hayles
March 25 ? Just how good can Emma Pooley be?
March 18 ? Forget sitting in a bath of beans, cycling is the new charity fundraiser
March 11 ? Can Sportive riders defy UCI ban?
March 4 ? Why Het Volk is the real deal
February 26 ? Pendleton Poses Nude and the Demise of the Archer
February 19 ? Let Levi Ride? Leave it out
February 12
February 5
January 29
January 22
January 15