14 February 2008

Open Letter to la famille Amaury...

Bonjour mes chers amis du cyclisme,

Forgive this article being written in English, all the ZEN'ers are sort of used to this. And forgive the title, M. Philippe Amaury, as it is really your former wife, Madame Marie-Odile Amaury, who controls the privately-held company since your death in May of 2006 (at age 66 or so). And to note for certain readers, that the ASO group, is a branch of EPA (Editions Philippe Amaury)

Some of we, the fans of your cycling events, are certainly curious about the recent announcement of your company's decision to exclude the Kazakhi team ASTANA from any and all ASO - produced events this year.

That news comes as a shock to those fans, who don't (or maybe haven't) chosen to associate the 'name' of a team with the past, as vociferously as your employees have.

When the Liberty Seguros-Würth team was in the torment, in the late spring of 2006, your spectacle was ensured, as far as the riders who were not implicated in the Manolo Saiz/Operacion Puerto, when the Kazakhi Government stepped in late as a sponsor. Until it was revealed that this newly-reformed team was unable to start the minimum required six riders, your ASO management appeared happy that one of the few stars of the sport could be present - in spite of the team's former turbulent era.

There's no question (other than the typical incredulous variety that come from ANY doping controls effected by your concitoyens at LNDD/département des analyses) that Astana shot themselves in the feet in 2007...

But it strikes some of us cycling-lovers as a bit disingenuous, when you deny Astana of a right to participate, by cumulating their 'offenses' of 2007 to their 'rescue' of the team that WAS in the hotseat: Liberty Seguros-Würth, for 2006.

As a long-time Tour de France (TdF) fan, ZENmud can state without any qualms, how much he thought that the Rabobank team was one of those very few (since we now know that even 'rabid' anti-doping French teams such as Cofidis are not 'perfect'...) which seemed to uphold the cleanest ethics. Yet Rabobank gave us, gave you, the Michael Rasmussen 'affair'; the implications of that extensive cover-up by team management, have not apparently bothered your staff at ASO.

It sometimes appears that your Organisation has two sets of rules:
  • HARSH, for those 'who sleep with my wife', and
  • TOLERANT: for those 'who slept with my neighbour's wife'...

But here at trusting ZEN Central, the appearances are not in line with the 'high moral road' your staff claims it seeks to follow.

As ASTANA ponders its future, it would do well to remember that back-room decisions become tomorrow's global headlines. Not only in their proper effect, but as they spawn the legal battles that are generated by what appear to be ill-conceived, and arbitrarily discriminatory decisions.

Whether or not Alberto Contador is in your 2008 Tour, or not, your actions do not bode well for ANY NEW SPONSORS to rush into the sport we love.

In learning about Amaury Sport Group, whose President Patrice Leclerc, and Director of Cycling Christian Prudhomme have emulated Dick Pound in terms of outrageously premature pronouncements to the press, one finds out much about the privately-held company which owns ASO.

Tidbits and factoids abound... in the Amaury 'family history' (personal or EPA-related

  • 1903: Not all TdF fans realize that this flagship race came from an idea floated by Henri Desgranges, who managed the journal L'AUTO; was it first conceived to highlight where and how automobiles could circulate throughout the early dirt roads that adorned the Alpes?

  • 1944: L'AUTO is suppressed, amidst charges of collaborations with the Nazi French occupational government; at the same time that Emilien Amaury was helping the Résistance to publish false ID papers and other documents. In that same year, M. Amaury began Parisien Libéré (now Le Parisien).

  • 1944: Jacques Goddet creates the L'Equipe sporting journal, which Amaury purchased in 1965.

  • 1983: Some six years after the death of Emilien, a struggle between siblings forced the family business to divide: Philippe bought out his sister, and that was accomplished through the investment by the Lagardére group (whose 25% take effected Philippe's payments to his sister). (factoid: Lagardére is a tight, close friend and major backer of French President Sarkozy)

  • 1988: Long before WADA, and EPO, the Tour de France had an interesting rule for doping cases... if a cyclist were to be caught via testing, they incurred a TEN-minute penalty! At least that's what could have happened to Pedro Delgado, who was found 'positive' for a substance, probenecid, which was used to mask the use of steroids: he wasn't 'busted' because that substance, while on the IOC list for prohibited substances, was not to be placed on the UCI list, for another month!

  • 1998: Festina - EPO. Enough said?

  • 1999 / 2000: Amaury, or EPA, being in the publications and sporting events business, branched into a field that it may eternally regret: it acquired the FUTUROSCOPE theme-park business; little public knowledge, when Futuroscope was placed into the Tours 1999 and 2000, of its close association with your family.

  • 2003: After only three to four years of ownership, EPA sells Futuroscope (or reduces its exposure), after the 2002 year saw many employee layoffs. Losses to Amaury appeared to be around 55 million Euros.

  • 2005: The journal L'Equipe shows slowing sales, amidst a year in which that paper was the vehicle through which seven-time TdF champion Lance Armstrong faced serious accusations via mis-applied 'research' data, uniquely generated by the pursuit of your reporter Marc Ressiot: "Monsieur A-TEST".

  • 2006: Landis

  • 2007 - Vinokourov, Rasmussen, Moreni

  • 2008: The future of cycling is in your hands, Madame Amaury.

A far cry from the 'ten-minute rule' days... is the Tour such a money-maker that it can overcome objective criticisms for its stances vis-à-vis doping, teams, and the UCI ProTOUR?

Posting these tidbits and factoids is perhaps a groundwork for the future, as the world watches the fall-out of ProTOUR teams remaining outside of the Giro in May, or your Tour in July...

Bonne chance, Madame A!

___çç*******/ ZENmud \*******çç___
© 2008

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