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  1. #1
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    The big question in my mind....

    From all of the analysis I have observed today, there seems to be a near consensus that Froome's ride on stage 8 was extraordinary to the point of inevitable suspicion, with a considerable number of intelligent and knowledgeable people concluding that it was simply beyond what can be produced without "help." There has been a cooling in the past few years in performances in the Tour de France, with ascent times returning to pre EPO-era levels, causing many to accept that the peloton is cleaner than it used to be and that any doping that is currently taking place must be if nothing else, greatly diminished and controlled.

    My question is as follows:

    If it is true that the peloton as a whole is cleaner and if the current estimates that place the limit of what is attainable by a clean athlete around 6 W/kg with sub 1700 VAM's are true, how could Sky so blatantly produce a performance with Pantani/Armstrong-like numbers and not expect to get caught? Even more so than the remarkable performance of Sky with Froome in particular, I am struck with how easily they destroyed the other GC favorites that include some extraordinary athletes. Looking at the post-race responses of riders like Contador and Evans, they were not making any excuses about illnesses or such and still seemed to be struggling with the bewilderment of simply not being able to keep up and being humiliated. Evans said that Sky set a severe pace at the beginning of the Pailheres that never eased for the rest of the race. He was feeling a lot of pain at the top of the Pailheres but was not concerned because he did not believe that it would be possible for that pace to be sustained up AX 3 Domaines and for any legitimate damage to be done over such a short climb (the opinion of someone with over 20 years of racing experience, 10 top-ten finishes in Grand Tours, 5 Grand Tour podiums, has worn the leader's jersey and podiumed in all three Grand Tours, a Tour de France victory, and a reputation for tactical expertise). He believes it to be the biggest thrashing he has ever taken while in good health. I liked Alberto Contador's quote: "they ripped our eyeballs out" describing Sky's performance today.

    As much as it appears that Contador had a bad day, his performance was actually quite good. It was not far off of the 24:17 ascent time that was predicted for the winner of the stage today, made assuming a clean winner. Contador planned to win today and his ascent today would have been considered to be a respectable winning time. Also, if Porte and Froome were taken out of the mix and Contador was the winner today, the margin that some of the other riders (like Evans) would have lost to him would not be enough that people would have written him off as a possible podium contender as they have done now. It is also reasonable to think that without the crazy pace that was set by Sky from the beginning of the Pailheres, everyone else's times may have been a bit better and some riders that got thrashed may have been less off of the pace. Contador obviously felt pretty good this morning if he planned on winning the stage but he was destroyed when he crossed the line.

    Let's go back to the supposed 6 W/kg that many people are accepting as the limit of what "unassisted" human beings can accomplish. I was reading an article this morning in which Brailsford addressed this yesterday. He asserted that people shouldn't cling to that idea and that "people have to accept" that eventually technological advances and physiological advances that result from the progress of scientific understanding, training techniques, and experience will result in performances by clean riders that will equal and even surpass the EPO-fueled performances of the 90's. I cannot help but to feel like such a statement was made to preemptively address the fact that he knew that there was about to be a Pantani-esque performance from his team.

    Again, it seems so reckless that Sky would produce such a performance, considering that practically every performance in the 6.5+ W/kg range has been crossed out of the record books due to doping confirmations (with all of the others under heavy doping suspicions) and the fact that such performances have been largely absent in recent years with recent Tour climb VAM's staying pretty safely under the 1700 mark. Is there some sort of new drug that can't be detected right now (like EPO in the 90's)? Is there continued corruption similar to the Armstrong era with "donations" keeping test results favorable? If it is so obvious that Sky's performance is superhuman, how can they flaunt it so comfortably and confidently in this modern era of greater scrutiny (even by the fans).

    We will see how this Tour goes but if Froome is clean and continues to do what he did today, he might be the most naturally talented climber in Tour history....

    I never thought that I would be addressing Tour climbing performances using Contador as a benchmark representing clean riders. Strange times these are.
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  2. #2
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    Unfortunately, what we might be seeing is the next generation of genetic doping (the first theoretical sighting was with the Chinese swim team at the Olympics).

    This would basically be undetectable by doping controls, likely never detected ... and allow riders to talk about how they did it 100% clean since they are not using anything currently banned and technically not using drugs at this point.

    Time "MAY" tell ... but I'm guessing they are moving beyond your typical doping schemes of the past. It's going to happen sooner or later, and when you hear people "In the know" talk about it already being used ... one has to wonder.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by thechriswebb View Post
    Is there some sort of new drug that can't be detected right now (like EPO in the 90's)?
    I would guess yes, but not so much in a "drug", but manipulation of the genetic variety.

    Or so I heard in a lecture during the Bonds/Sosa/Maguire years. There was talk of it THEN, and according to the lecturer, if he was talking about it, then it was already starting to happen. He seemed to really know his stuff too.

  4. #4
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    What all 3 of you said. And remember, with these gaps he only has to do it once, then defend. In 2 weeks, many will have forgotten the one superhuman performance.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slartibartfast View Post
    What all 3 of you said. And remember, with these gaps he only has to do it once, then defend. In 2 weeks, many will have forgotten the one superhuman performance.
    Thats a good strategy to start with. But, throw in a superhuman ascent by Contador and you may have Froome and Porte show their "cards" once again.

  6. #6
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    1999 all over again

    In 99 the tour needed something to bounce back from the Festina Affair and it was a perfect storm for the LA media machine to start the BIG LIE...

    So tomorrow I'm sure we'll hear from Phil, Paul, Bob Roll about what a clean sport it is now or they just don't SAY A THING, just like the past.. I'm sure they haven't learned a thing.

    I wonder what the new drug is?? I guess we'll find out in about 10 years, if we're lucky.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by pedalruns View Post
    I wonder what the new drug is?? I guess we'll find out in about 10 years, if we're lucky.
    Perhasp a protocol has been developed to exploit Froome's schistosomiasis in a way to produce enhanced performance.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    Perhasp a protocol has been developed to exploit Froome's schistosomiasis in a way to produce enhanced performance.
    I actually thought this.
    I like when you get to that point and I donít know if itís the endorphins kicking in or what, but you realize youíre so far from where you started, that youíre finally really somewhere else, a completely different place.

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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    Perhasp a protocol has been developed to exploit Froome's schistosomiasis in a way to produce enhanced performance.
    Doesn't explain Kennaugh and Porte...

  10. #10
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    My instinct is that they are probably bending the rules to an extreme rather than breaking them.

    I have no doubt Team Sky/Team GB would have the capacity to develop 'supplements' that may give a significant advantage without violating existing anti doping rules.

    It would be catastrophically brainless of them to be outright doping after what has happened in the last few years.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slartibartfast View Post
    Doesn't explain Kennaugh and Porte...
    At the end of the stage Porte was 51 seconds behind Froome, which is closer to the best of the rest.

    Kennaugh finished in 53rd at 11:09 back.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonMI6 View Post
    My instinct is that they are probably bending the rules to an extreme rather than breaking them.

    I have no doubt Team Sky/Team GB would have the capacity to develop 'supplements' that may give a significant advantage without violating existing anti doping rules.

    It would be catastrophically brainless of them to be outright doping after what has happened in the last few years.
    I think Great Britain has developed the ultimate, undetectable cycling performance enhancer. It's undesirable side effects are that it renders a rider unable to descend in the rain several months later, gives him an unexplainable sense of lassitude, and an unquenchable desire to be with his family...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    At the end of the stage Porte was 51 seconds behind Froome, which is closer to the best of the rest.

    Kennaugh finished in 53rd at 11:09 back.
    But Kennaugh drug Porte and Froome for the whole first climb and the descent, and still almost beat real race contenders. Pretty amazing for a first year TdF rider and someone who is a second tier domestique this year and nowhere to be seen last year. How many break out performances does it take from Sky riders before we start to seriously question their "program"? Seems to be a bit too often for someone to go to Sky and step up their game 200% the following year.
    Cyclists really need to learn a little Rule #5.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wookiebiker View Post
    Unfortunately, what we might be seeing is the next generation of genetic doping (the first theoretical sighting was with the Chinese swim team at the Olympics).

    This would basically be undetectable by doping controls, likely never detected ... and allow riders to talk about how they did it 100% clean since they are not using anything currently banned and technically not using drugs at this point.

    Time "MAY" tell ... but I'm guessing they are moving beyond your typical doping schemes of the past. It's going to happen sooner or later, and when you hear people "In the know" talk about it already being used ... one has to wonder.
    One would likely be able to track long-term side effects of gene doping. I would expect an increased incidence of aberrant tumors, carcinoma of the liver and kidneys, and a significantly increased risk of stroke and (congestive) heart failure. It's tough to give an exact time frame, but I would venture to make an educated guess that if gene doping is happening at Sky, we'll see one of these things happening to more than one rider in the next 5-10 years.
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  15. #15
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    It has been fairly well publicised that Froome was diagnosed with Bilharzia, a disease caused by parasitic worms that has an impact on the immune system. Froome was first diagnosed with bilharzia in 2011, and was believed to have picked it up in Kenya in November 2010; he also suffered again from the disease in early 2012.

    Undoubtedly bilharzia could result in a drop in performance for a professional cyclist, but this does not seem applicable to Froome. His results were nothing special before 2011, when presumably he was not suffering for bilharzia, so getting rid of the disease can not alone be seen as the reason behind his surge in form.
    Cyclists really need to learn a little Rule #5.

  16. #16
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    The 6 watts/kg is a bad place to start. First, it's not even a physiologically plausible limit. Boardman's hour record (which many sports scientists take to be clean) was about 6.4 watts/kg for the hour.

    Yesterday was the first mountain stage, so that's some context to consider. And, it was a 23 minute climb, not an HC 40+ minute climb.

    Using last year's first mountain stage, which was also a short final climb, here's Tucker:

    "in terms of what that means for Wiggins and co at the front of the stage, it predicts about 6.4 to 6.5 W/kg. Over 16 minutes, that's not at all unreasonable."

    Yesterday, Froome's power was probably about 6.3-6.4 watts/kg. A bit longer, but still in the ballpark. Plus he got an aero benefit from sitting on Porte's wheel.

    It's also sub 1800 VAM- Contador's 2009 Verbier climb was over 1800.

    Porte clearly paid for it today. It may be in retrospect too many matches burned too early but not the anomalous performance that's getting hyped out of proportion by people who dislike Sky.

  17. #17
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    Steve'sbike, as the OP I hope to clarify that I am not a Sky hater by any means. The observations and feelings I experienced yesterday were involuntary and the result of associations made in my mind due to the resemblance of Sky's domination with Froome's blistrring attack with prominant discredited images from the past. Yes, it is relatively early in the Tour but none of the other GC contenders, the best climbers in the world were able to match it. The lone exception was a Sky teammate. I didn't want to be cynnical about it and I am not prepared to cast unquestionable blame at the Sky riders. It did make me uncomfortable though. I am not in the mood for another scandal and the sport really doesn't need it. Cycling suffers from such scandals more so than more mainstream sports like football.

    Edit:

    Concerning Contador's performance on Verbier, I do not trust his pre-ban performances.
    I like when you get to that point and I donít know if itís the endorphins kicking in or what, but you realize youíre so far from where you started, that youíre finally really somewhere else, a completely different place.

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  18. #18
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    well, you start with the bad premises that permeate the anti-Sky sentiment on many forums. First, you use 'physiologically plausible' wattage estimates that were made for HC climbs (efforts lasting 40 minutes or more), and even these thresholds are disputed because 6 watts is a low estimate (as the Boardman case shows). Second, you're jumping to conclusions about the climb yesterday - as A. Coggan and others point out, these estimates are meaningless without some estimate of error, as they require guesstimates of many parameters. Third, even taking those estimates at face value, they are not far off from last year's numbers, as I posted, which are deemed not unrealistic by the very same person who defends the 6 watts threshold (Ross Tucker).

    Fourth, ask Jonathan Vaughters what it's like competing against a team like Sky that has twice his operating budget. Their dominance is due in part to their ability to sign away riders from other teams (as they did with Wiggins from Garmin). $ explains a lot of their dominance - not only in terms of signing and keeping riders but in being able to run basically a permanent training camp that other teams can't afford. Even Vaughters who has no love lost for Sky argues that a salary cap structure is needed because this is what gives Sky their edge.

    Fifth, the jump to a secret drug is extreme. It would not be a secret drug - there would at least be non-human research involving it. Most of these already have a test in place (such as AICAR).

    There is also a naivete about this conspiracy notion of a secret drug - the whole point of the biopassport system it to look at the effects of drugs, not simply their presence. Any 'secret' drug would almost certainly have to work via changing parameters that the biopassport tests. That was the whole point of introducing it - to test for the effects of drugs for which there is not a specific test.


    Quote Originally Posted by thechriswebb View Post
    Steve'sbike, as the OP I hope to clarify that I am not a Sky hater by any means. The observations and feelings I experienced yesterday were involuntary and the result of associations made in my mind due to the resemblance of Sky's domination with Froome's blistrring attack with prominant discredited images from the past. Yes, it is relatively early in the Tour but none of the other GC contenders, the best climbers in the world were able to match it. The lone exception was a Sky teammate. I didn't want to be cynnical about it and I am not prepared to cast unquestionable blame at the Sky riders. It did make me uncomfortable though. I am not in the mood for another scandal and the sport really doesn't need it. Cycling suffers from such scandals more so than more mainstream sports like football.

    Edit:

    Concerning Contador's performance on Verbier, I do not trust his pre-ban performances.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevesbike View Post
    well, you start with the bad premises that permeate the anti-Sky sentiment on many forums. First, you use 'physiologically plausible' wattage estimates that were made for HC climbs (efforts lasting 40 minutes or more), and even these thresholds are disputed because 6 watts is a low estimate (as the Boardman case shows). Second, you're jumping to conclusions about the climb yesterday - as A. Coggan and others point out, these estimates are meaningless without some estimate of error, as they require guesstimates of many parameters. Third, even taking those estimates at face value, they are not far off from last year's numbers, as I posted, which are deemed not unrealistic by the very same person who defends the 6 watts threshold (Ross Tucker).

    Fourth, ask Jonathan Vaughters what it's like competing against a team like Sky that has twice his operating budget. Their dominance is due in part to their ability to sign away riders from other teams (as they did with Wiggins from Garmin). $ explains a lot of their dominance - not only in terms of signing and keeping riders but in being able to run basically a permanent training camp that other teams can't afford. Even Vaughters who has no love lost for Sky argues that a salary cap structure is needed because this is what gives Sky their edge.

    Fifth, the jump to a secret drug is extreme. It would not be a secret drug - there would at least be non-human research involving it. Most of these already have a test in place (such as AICAR).

    There is also a naivete about this conspiracy notion of a secret drug - the whole point of the biopassport system it to look at the effects of drugs, not simply their presence. Any 'secret' drug would almost certainly have to work via changing parameters that the biopassport tests. That was the whole point of introducing it - to test for the effects of drugs for which there is not a specific test.
    I hope to clarify that I am neither accusing anyone of anything nor taking the 6 W/kg estimate to be a hard scientific fact. I had hoped that I phrased my original post in such a manner that it did not read like "it is not possible for a non-doped athlete to produce higher than 6 W/kg, thus Chris Froome is definitely doping" because I am not certain of that premise. If I am not able to convey that properly in a post then my choice would be to not even address these issues in forums for the risk of appearing like I jump to conclusions.

    My suspicion (mere suspicion; not certainty) over Froome's performance is involuntary and if it were possible to push a button in my brain that could liberate me from those concerns and allow me to just accept all of the riders' performances at face value and be entertained by the races with abandon, I might choose to do so. Clean or not, Froome is really standing out and his performance yesterday was a standout performance. Unfortunately, the majority of the standout performances that I have observed in the time that I have been following professional cycling have been discredited. I do experience concern over potential doping situations and am not able to ignore them because I fear that doping scandals are destroying the sport of cycling. Neither the sport as a whole nor the Tour de France right now need another doping scandal.

    My original post was not an accusation but a question that could be summarized as: "if there is an objective limit to unassisted human performance that Sky is exceeding and if Sky is doing so by illegal means, then how could they have the confidence to do so in such a blatant manner and how could they do so with such certainty that they will avoid detection?"

    In your statement about the biological passport, are you asserting that there cannot be a manner of enhancing performance that could not be detected by the biological passport?
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  20. #20
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    Re the biopassport, essentially the only way Froome (or any other endurance athlete) can pedal uphill faster is via increased oxygen delivery to the muscles, whether this is manipulated via some new form of recombinant erythropoietin, gene doping, etc. Any oxygen vector doping is going to have an effect on blood parameters, so the passport looks at variations in these parameters instead of trying to identify a drug causing the variation. So, even if there was an undetectable new drug, its effects could still be evident.

    There's no evidence that Froome exceeded or even was near a physiological limit of human performance on stage 8. He was faster than others, but around the same power outputs as last year. It's also worth noting that the circumstances likely made him dig deeper than normal because Contador was struggling (he was even struggling to keep up with his own teammate). Froome saw that and knew it was a chance to get some advantage.

    Quote Originally Posted by thechriswebb View Post
    I hope to clarify that I am neither accusing anyone of anything nor taking the 6 W/kg estimate to be a hard scientific fact. I had hoped that I phrased my original post in such a manner that it did not read like "it is not possible for a non-doped athlete to produce higher than 6 W/kg, thus Chris Froome is definitely doping" because I am not certain of that premise. If I am not able to convey that properly in a post then my choice would be to not even address these issues in forums for the risk of appearing like I jump to conclusions.

    My suspicion (mere suspicion; not certainty) over Froome's performance is involuntary and if it were possible to push a button in my brain that could liberate me from those concerns and allow me to just accept all of the riders' performances at face value and be entertained by the races with abandon, I might choose to do so. Clean or not, Froome is really standing out and his performance yesterday was a standout performance. Unfortunately, the majority of the standout performances that I have observed in the time that I have been following professional cycling have been discredited. I do experience concern over potential doping situations and am not able to ignore them because I fear that doping scandals are destroying the sport of cycling. Neither the sport as a whole nor the Tour de France right now need another doping scandal.

    My original post was not an accusation but a question that could be summarized as: "if there is an objective limit to unassisted human performance that Sky is exceeding and if Sky is doing so by illegal means, then how could they have the confidence to do so in such a blatant manner and how could they do so with such certainty that they will avoid detection?"

    In your statement about the biological passport, are you asserting that there cannot be a manner of enhancing performance that could not be detected by the biological passport?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by thechriswebb View Post
    I hope to clarify that I am neither accusing anyone of anything nor taking the 6 W/kg estimate to be a hard scientific fact. I had hoped that I phrased my original post in such a manner that it did not read like "it is not possible for a non-doped athlete to produce higher than 6 W/kg, thus Chris Froome is definitely doping" because I am not certain of that premise. If I am not able to convey that properly in a post then my choice would be to not even address these issues in forums for the risk of appearing like I jump to conclusions.

    My suspicion (mere suspicion; not certainty) over Froome's performance is involuntary and if it were possible to push a button in my brain that could liberate me from those concerns and allow me to just accept all of the riders' performances at face value and be entertained by the races with abandon, I might choose to do so. Clean or not, Froome is really standing out and his performance yesterday was a standout performance. Unfortunately, the majority of the standout performances that I have observed in the time that I have been following professional cycling have been discredited. I do experience concern over potential doping situations and am not able to ignore them because I fear that doping scandals are destroying the sport of cycling. Neither the sport as a whole nor the Tour de France right now need another doping scandal.

    My original post was not an accusation but a question that could be summarized as: "if there is an objective limit to unassisted human performance that Sky is exceeding and if Sky is doing so by illegal means, then how could they have the confidence to do so in such a blatant manner and how could they do so with such certainty that they will avoid detection?"

    In your statement about the biological passport, are you asserting that there cannot be a manner of enhancing performance that could not be detected by the biological passport?

    To sum it up ... correct me if I'm wrong:

    You were stating that Froome's performance was so far above and beyond that of the other "Best Climbers" in the world, many of which are known (at least formerly) to have been dopers, his performance is at a minimum questionable.

    Sound about right?
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    No dog in this fight,,,,but,, like a bad movie plot look at what is happening to the accomplices.. Porte pedals like my avatar thus vanishing back to not be worth much more discussion, and Kennaugh took a dive off a cliff... hmmmm

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    The big question in my mind....

    Quote Originally Posted by Old Man View Post
    No dog in this fight,,,,but,, like a bad movie plot look at what is happening to the accomplices.. Porte pedals like my avatar thus vanishing back to not be worth much more discussion, and Kennaugh took a dive off a cliff... hmmmm
    You are forgetting that the guy that put the fastest time (biggest effort) in yesterday didn't miss a beat today and was able to cover all the attacks.

    I agree Porte and Kennaugh took a dive today. Froome doesn't even have to put in another "questionable" effort to win, all he has to do is cover attacks and he will win, besides the time he will gain on the TT.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevesbike View Post
    He was faster than others, but around the same power outputs as last year.
    Are you comparing this years doped up Sky team to last years doped up Sky team?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 88 rex View Post
    Are you comparing this years doped up Sky team to last years doped up Sky team?
    Once we accept that everyone is on dope it's pretty easy to make comparisons that show the same riders are on dope.

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