Monday, December 22, 2008

My Bests of 2008

The time is right to look back at 2008 and state what I thought was the best and worst in Malaysian sport this year.
Here are my choices


Nicol David (squash)
- Surely you can't beat ranking number 1 in the world, being crowned world champion and going through a whole season unbeaten. There may be thoughts of her dropping a notch after reaching these heights, but so long as she delivered this year, she's my number 1.


Azizulhasni Awang (cycling)- He's done so much. So much in such a short time that people forget that the Pocket Rocket is just 20-years old. Double Asian champion in keirin and 200m sprint, after repeating the keirin gold he won last year. Qualified for the Olympics four years ahead of schedule and gave Chris Hoy one hell of a fight in the sprint quarters. Already ranked world number 1 in the keirin.


Le Tua Cycling Team (cycling)
- You may think that I'm biased towards cycling, but think again. Look at how much this team had in terms of budget. Less than RM80,000 to run the whole year's campaign. But they delivered far better results than the big bidget national team and MCF Cycling team. They won the points classification through Anuar Manan and overall title through Tonton Susanto in the Jelajah Malaysia. Anuar repeated that in the Tour de East Java. Almost won a stage in Le Tour de Langkawi and regained for us the self respect, the admiration of European teams and riders. They inspired the whole cycling fraternity in the country. Who says we suck at team sports!!


FA of Malaysia
- Or rather flop of the century. The FAM is Malaysian football, but they're an embarassment. Despite countless revamps, restructuring, a whole lot of money, everything, the national body fails to realise the importance of full focus on development of PLAYERS. They keep tinkering, are too bogged down by petty issues, the design of the league, they're unable to even really control their affiliates, they allow the politics of every issue reign above reason and advancement, the FAM is stuck in the 1970s. Worst of all, the FAM can't even produce a half decent national team that can garner some pride for us all. That is because they are incapable of producing the decent players we require. All they do is meet and talk, when work should be done on the ground, grinding into every district, every small club, everybody with interest in football, that we can do this. Instead they remain in the mighty Wisma FAM and battle plot after plot of stories and issues that bore us to the bone, while Thailand and Singapore are beginning to look good to launch serious attacks on World Cup qualification.. I can go on and on, but for what.

Stay tuned. Coming next: The best of Malaysian cycling, the best of Malaysian motorsport, the World's Best of 2008.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nous sommes champion du monde!!

That says it all. 10 men against South American champs Liga de Quito. Rooney scores a beauty. Achieved what the Liverpoodles failed to do in 2005. More coming by May, I suppose.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Little bro won something...again

Well you can say sport runs in the family. Mummy and Daddy played hockey. I tried to be serious in whatever I played, but ended up trying to beat everybody at everything, then gave up. The little kid who came last in the family turned out to be a reasonably good rugby player.
And on Sunday, my little brother Anis Mirza had another winner's medal to boast, this time from the Alumni Cup which his team Warriors II won. Congrats to Adik. Love you and proud of you.

Here's a special pic for Rizal Hashim. How he wishes the brothers were together.

Enter the Malaysian GC attack...

So many arguments ago, so many disappointments ago, we wondered. But we still struggle to figure out when a serious GC attack by any Malaysian will be mounted in Le Tour de Langkawi.
Thus, at this moment when Le Tour de Langkawi fever starts gripping the cycling fraternity, those questions come back to haunt us.
We know the road sprinters are building up well, with Anuar Manan, Ahmad Haidar Anuawar, Nor Rizuan Zainal, even Akmal Amrun looking good to stick it in at the front of bunch sprints again, leaving only that elusive victory to chase. But when does a Malaysian begin to dream of landing the Asian riders' classification, let alone the yellow jersey for general classification (GC).
The groundwork has been laid. At least as far as Le Tua Cycling Team is concerned. And it is up to that guy on the right in the picture above to make it work.
Personally, I've seen Ng Yong Li and buddy on the left Loh Sea Keong, slowly build themselves into riders on the verge of being able to mount a serious threat to the overall contenders.
I say on the verge, because neither of them have done it themselves, both domestiques with foreign teams since they started their serious careers. Both are just 22, will be 23 next year.
Yong Li, more than Ah Keong, is a pure climber. He's proved that he is the best Malaysian for that job by a mile in the past two editions of LTdL. But the best Malaysian thus far, had to work the Vitoria-ASC team up Genting in 2007, then this year had to lead the charge for Shinichi Fukushima in the Meitan Hompo-GDR team up Fraser's Hill as they finished off whatever was left of the Seoul City team that battles Meitan Hompo for the Asian riders' classification.
Enter Jeremy Yates, the Kiwi who's just come to an agreement, a month after Yong Li, to ride for Le Tua next year. He finished fourth, riding for the New Zealand national team in this year's LTdL, but it seems he has agreed to do everything for Yong Li this time around. So now add Jelajah Malaysia 2008 winner Tonton Susanto to that, and you probably will have the three best non-European, non-Colombian climbers in the race on Feb 9-16.
Le Tua's sprint train will work for Sayuti Zahit, with Razif Salleh and another Indonesian Samai Amari pulling him to the front for sprints. But this is Yong Li's story to write.
I'm not saying it is time to expect Yong Li to deliver. But he knows it is up to him to pull his socks up and now assume a leadership role in a team that has brought so much glory to Malaysian cycling in the past two years.
And I can't say he's not learned enough. He's been with the Wurth-Liberty Seguros team in Spain for two years (2005-2006), then created history by becoming Malaysia's first pro when he signed with Portuguese team Vitoria-ASC in 2007, then rode in France with Jap outfit Meitan Hompo-GDR this year.
If there's reason to suspect anything lacking in the skinny young bugger's repertoire, it is the experience of having a team work for him to go for victory instead of him being part of the 'workforce'.
But having done so much without much results, Yong Li should be hungry. He should be the one wanting to go and be the reason why the team gets a fat paycheck at the end of the race. That, Yong Li should understand himself.
In a world of lesser icons, Yong Li is Malaysia's biggest name in the mountain stages. He's no Indurain, no Armstrong, nothing like his former teammate Alberto Contador. But 2009 must be the year when Ng Yong Li begins the process of getting there.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

World Number 1!!!!!

A buddy Isma, sent me a short email alerting me of the new UCI world rankings released on Monday. It showed that little kid you see in the picture as world number one in the keirin.
Azizulhasni Awang swiftly recieved a phone call from me over there in Melbourne, but I was more concerned about his blog posting HERE.
He'd stated he was disappointed about something, some people or how things are going back home in Malaysia. "Saja je bang. Tengah boring, takde ape nak buat, try tulis sajak bahasa Inggeris la," he said. Guess he must have been disturbed by something. He'll get over it.
More importantly, the UCI rankings as produced HERE on Monday, showed just where the soon-to-be 21-year old stands in world cycling at this moment.
I wrote THIS that appeared in the NST today. True, he's world number one, but if you'd expected this Malaysian to slump into the attitude so many of our athletes past and present have, you'd be so wrong.
Azizul has his eye on becoming world champion, he wants that UCI World Cup leader's jersey off the back of Frenchman Francois Pervis. He wants to stay at the top.
You don't have to believe what I write. I know this kid well enough. Just watch. It will happen.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Leah Lynn Fortune's perfect 10

Women usually need to make a statement. They have to. And you better listen or watch, just pay attention. They usually succeed where men least expect them to. They cause a stir, excitement, a whole lot of everything when they decide to.
I guess Leah Lynn Fortune of Brazil's Under-20 World Cup team, has done more than that. She's brought a dimension to football that exceeds what Pele, Cruijff, Maradona, Platini, Eusebio, Beckham, Giggs, Raul, even the human launchpad Rory Delap, ever managed. Just look at her!!!
Now girls, realise that football offers you a shot at life after your rhythmic gymnastics career ends at 18, 19 or 20... Keep your options open. That's what Leah did. Just stick to the ball routine!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Rest in peace Datuk Ho Koh Chye...

Pic from

I'd been off duty Wednesday, then spent all of daylight yesterday working on my NPC projects and spent a good chunk of the day at the National Motorsport Forum. I'd not had time to look at any news.

I walked into the office to deliver my takes on the forum unknowingly. Nobody had informed me of this. My boss Vijesh then told me I need not do too many stories because a page of our paper would be dedicated to Datuk Ho Koh Chye. "What?!" I asked.

"Ho Koh Chye died yesterday," Vijesh told me. "Don't tell me you didn't know."

I honestly didn't. But I could feel my heart slowly crumbling to pieces inside me as I swiftly got down to work. This was unthinkable. One of the greatest men, greatest sportsmen I'd ever known had died. And he was a good friend of mine. A good friend of everybody he knew.

He was, in my earlier years as a sportswriter, a New Straits Times columnist and I even remember that I had the honour of 'cleaning up' one of his final Horoscope pieces, but I must say his English was immaculate, unlike mine, so it was an easy job of just correcting house style and so on.

I have the utmost respect for the man.

Unlike those current instant Datuks, we all rushed to congratulate him upon finding out he'd finally received the honour on Oct 24, 2003. The former national hockey team captain truly deserved every letter in his Datukship. In fact, for his untiring service to Malaysian sport, he deserves more.

My recent encounters with the great man were mostly at the Olympic Council of Malaysia or at the connecting Olympic coffee house during his tenure as chef-de-mission for the Olympic contingent.

"Arnaz, come let's sit over there. You've got to get me up to date with cycling," I remember that day about a month prior to the Beijing Olympics very clearly. It was four teh tariks later that the chat ended. But talking sport to the Datuk was always a pleasure. I believe all those chats I'd had with him along the years, had contributed to making me even a little bit wiser about what I do.

He did share a lot of worries about where our hockey was heading. But Datuk was always the gentleman. Unlike me, he had a more polished and subtle, but effective way of criticising, and not a tad less passionate.

"You mustn't stop thinking critically. If you see something wrong, write. Otherwise nobody will know. Just do your job," were some of the Datuk's words that stick in my mind. He sounded like a boss, but meant it in friendship. I regret that I sometimes do forget those words.

Of course, we sort of shared an alliance with NST, and the Datuk always liked to see me come up with highly critical stories, especially in those early years after I was first introduced to him by former boss Lazarus Rokk. He'd always let me know what he thought of issues I raised through my writing whenever we met in the field.

I can't write enough to tell you about this great life that has left us after just 66 years in this world. Datuk passed away in the midst of recovery from a prostate operation on Wednesday.

I'll be there to say my goodbyes to him at the St. Iganatius Church in Kelana Jaya in the morning. Tears flow down my cheek as I end this piece. We've all lost a great man. A really great man.

Below, one of Datuk Ho Koh Chye's final columns that appeared in the NST. Taken from NSTP archives.

Publication :
Edition :
Date :
Page Number :
Headline :
Players now have Lissek, let's see if they can perform
Byline :
By Ho Koh Chye
Column Name :

OBSERVERS are having a difficult time trying to make sense of
contradicting signals emerging from the Paul Lissek saga.
Ask any member of the hockey fraternity about what is going on and the
response is a shrug of the shoulders.
There is public uncertainty too."How can lah? One moment Lissek is out
and next moment he's in again. A typical knee-jerk reaction. Chinese say
it's like children playing with sand," commented a stranger who walked up
to me while I was having a `chapati' at Tiger Jit's.
In the last couple of weeks, the rumour mill had churned out many
interesting stories. One was that some quarters in the MHF felt Lissek was
not the magician he was made out to be and told him so during a discussion
halfway through the Asia Cup. Apparently it was the spark that set off the
chain reaction.
Another was that MHF was hard-pressed to find a replacement for Lissek
when he was re-assigned to do development work. They were unwilling, it
seems, to make a decision on a number of available contenders, so they
appointed Yahya Atan as the interim coach pending a decision of an
interview Board. But many wondered how serious the MHF was in addressing
such an urgent issue when the selection of Lissek's successor was not even
The most disturbing rumour had to do with the possible pull-out of
players if Lissek was not reinstated.
Some critics believe that it is not impossible but difficult for local
coaches to step into Lissek's shoes at this stage of the team's
preparation. Lack of experience, time and the fear of failing to help the
team qualify, have been listed as constraints by the local coaches.
Yahya turned down the offer because he was afraid of being rejected by
the interview Board one month into the job. Who can blame him? How can he
do a good job with the Sword of Damocles hanging over him? The point is,
how can you build confidence in local coaches when they are treated in
this manner?
The players pleaded for a hearing. They want to make it to the Athens
Olympics and believe that the man who can help them get there is Lissek.
What's wrong with that?
Players like to work with coaches who can make winners out of them.
The Manchester United players stick it out with Alex Ferguson not
because he is a racehorse owner or a nice guy.
MHF rejected their plea and they went to the NSC. The act was
misconstrued as defiance.
Speaking up should never be mistaken as defiance or disloyalty. It is
having the courage to stand up and be counted. Give them a hearing and
then decide what is best for the game, like the England FA did in the Rio
Ferdinand case. We should stop treating athletes like kids.
Lissek's critics are not entirely wrong either. The statistics have not
been too convincing. In a nutshell, they portray him as being too
cautious, negative and unimaginative in his approach to the game.
It is a well accepted fact that coaches are sacked when results do not
go their way.
Lissek is no exception. I am sure he took on the job fully realising
that criticism, condemnation and removal would be his constant companions.
Many reasons are attributed to the failure of a coach. Among them are a
lack of tactical sense, insufficient on-the-job experience, poor
management and motivational skills, and a lack of quality players.
Lissek's players say that he is a top-class coach who is able to
formulate effective game plans and is good at getting the best out of them
individually and collectively. So the most important people in the
equation think he can take them to the Promised Land. And so be it.
What about the players? It is no use having the best coach and support
in the world when the players can't perform or deliver. Have we over-
exaggerated the quality of our players?
The players wanted Lissek. They've got him. Now let's see whether they
can together rise to the challenge in six months' time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Azizul and something we've never tasted

Just got off the phone with Azizulhasni Awang in Melbourne tonight.
I missed the 20-year old's keirin gold medal in the UCI World Cup in Melbourne a night earlier. It wasn't just the country's first World Cup gold medal ever, the kid from Dungun might even be the smallest gold medallist in the history of the World Cup.
I only got the message while seated at 1am in NPC, just as the notorious Laych said her goodbyes for the night.

Nobody did understand my joy as I read the sms that told me Azizul had won a gold medal. Guess nobody cares too much for a gold medal in cycling at the world stage. He's no Nicol David.

"Slow, slow la bang," Azizul exclaimed as I suggested it could be time for him to think about becoming world champion. To do that, he'd have to bring up his form up and stay out of trouble all the way to the World Championships in Pruskow, Poland at the end of March next year. There he'd have to beat Chris Hoy, the tank of a Brit who was just too powerful for the pint-sized Azizul when they faced off in the 200m sprint quarterfinals at the Olympics.

This pic above coloured most dailies around the country during the Olympics. Hoy clenched his fists in celebration after ousting the surprise package of the Games, Azizul.

Hoy was just about the only real big name not present at the Melbourne World Cup. He's busy preparing to race against a car. He's obviously faster than any tank around.

But Hoy's 30 already. His time at the top is trickling away. That Malaysian behind him in the picture, you must note, has added accolade upon accolade to his profile, the World Cup gold being the latest.

Imagine, just two years ago, he'd won the sprint treble of keirin, 200m sprint and 1km time trial at the Asian Junior Championships. In 2007, he moved up to senior ranks and won the Asian Championships keirin gold medal. This year, he became 200m sprint and keirin Asian champion, while qualifying for his first Olympics and now has gone a step further and won a gold at the World Cup. He just can't stop. That excites me.

By now, if you still don't know who Hoy's replacement as prince of the velodrome is gonna be, ask Azizul.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Fairuz Fauzy was running out of options at the end of last season. His family had already paid a bill almost "enough to build a sports complex" to develop his career for the past 10 years. Now more was needed if he was to go further and no help was coming.
Offers came from Formula One teams, but none were going to put him right into a race seat without him having to invest to prove his worth.
Millions more were needed if he wanted to prove himself in either GP2 or the Formula Renault 3.5 World Series, even GP2 Asia.
His only other option, A1 Team Malaysia.
This is not Formula One, neither is it a feeder series. This is the business of bringing glory to your country.
Look where Fairuz has put us now. After Round Two in Chengdu today, Malaysia sits atop the championship standings, five points clear of the best of the rest in Ireland and France.
Can't wait for the next round at Sepang!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

R.I.P. Kasim Cha Tong @ "Mr. Kap"

Pic stolen from Shanghai Fish.

"You remember my friend Kasim Cha Tong? The white haired guy from Golok?" Dino Pasqual Herrera asked when we met at the NPC last night.
Yes, of course, the guy who'd suddenly go virtually silent in the midst of a heated conversation when his phone rings. All we'd see and hear then would be nods and a soft,"Kap...kap...kap," plus some strained whispering in Thai. Hence I coined a little nick for him, Mr. Kap. He didn't seem to mind. Lately he sure didn't look anything like the guy in that mugshot (above) that appeared in most dailies today.
"He was shot in Golok this evening. Some bugger just shot him in the back and ran away. Pity the bugger," Dino went on... A few minutes later a duo from the Malay Mail arrived and their photographer snapped Dino's mugshot. Off they went to complete what came out SO in the paper this afternoon.
Though I didn't really get to know to the late Kasim intimately, we did chat on various occasions as he'd regularly visit the NPC in Jalan Tangsi each time he came down to KL. Sometimes he'd stay till late and he even joined Dino and myself for supper once, or twice, probably even three times.
The NST did the best take on the murder of this anti-piracy legend HERE, amidst conflicting stories in various papers today. I'll remember this guy not for his anti-piracy endeavours, but as the guy from Sungai Golok, who painted a different, more humane, more loving picture of the town revered for everything wrong North of the East Coast border. Of course, he was born in Sungai Golok. And there he died.
May his soul rest in peace.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Pic taken from NSTOnline
THE NPC-GAB Inter-Media Futsal Championships 2008 at the Sports Barn in PJ yesterday ended on a high for all of us at the New Straits Times. Get the story HERE.

We walk into the office today knowing that Balai Berita is home to not only the men's but also the women's inter-media champions from the biggest inter-media tourney in the country this year - there were 16 men's teams and five women's teams contesting the tourney, which yours truly was in charge of organising as NPC exco member.

The girls, coached by Ridzwan Abdullah @ Nelson Fernandez and Leslie Andres were surprising. This was the first time most of them even played futsal. Hell, they'd started playing just a little more than a week prior to the tournament. But if you needed an example of discipline, you should have showed up at Sports Barn yesterday and watched them. Each and every one of them stuck to the strategy, kept their positions throughout and played their hearts out. They deserve every bit of the success.

In the men's section, we fielded two teams, NST 'A' and NST 'B'.. NST 'A' was a team comprising editorial staff and we were lucky just to make the quarterfinals, although we played badly to get knocked out by Bernama there. NST 'B' comprised our photographers, office boys, finance and HR staff. NST 'B' was the team we'd hoped would go far in the tournament and they proved us right.

They are the ones who fully utilise the sporting facilities available at Balai Berita, like our gym, futsal court and so on. They've been taking it very seriously, like the guy Mohd Shahir Othman, who was named player of the tournament. He's even had a strength and endurance training programme for the past year. These guys deserve it for all the hard work they put in. They beat a Malaysia Nanban team that had raised numerous doubts from most participating teams, as some had stated that their players were not staff of the paper. Our eyes and ears on the ground too (well, most of us are journalists and this is our bread and butter) got closer to them and sure enough some of their players leaked out information that just two of their 10 players registered were staff of Malaysia Nanban. So, they should feel really disappointed at losing 3-2 to a TRUE BLUE newspaper team in the final. I surely hope they look into reviving the spirit of sportsmanship at their newspaper.

Sure there were lots of complaints. I had a tough time trying to appease friends, while maintaining a strict adherence to the rules. None were as serious as the Malaysia Nanban issue. We'd relaxed the rule and opened up the tournament to non-NPC members, so long as players were employed by media organisations this time around, but still some people saw it as a chance to cheat. What use is there having a tournament to strengthen the bonds and friendships within our media fraternity, when you bring in people who have nothing to do with us, just prizemoney on their minds. It is like inviting the taxi driver to your family dinner. He just wants you to settle the fare, but he'll take the food too.

It was my first time doing such a thing. Hope it all turned out well for everybody and that I didn't lose any friendships.

Special thanks to Datuk Dina Rizal of SportsUnite, Ng Ping Loong of Nestle, Tang Kok Wai of Figos, Datuk Kamal of F&N, Herman Shah of Sports Barn, our National Press Club president Mokhtar Hussain, vice president Joe Fernando, club manager Stephen Francis, clubhouse caterer SB Loy, our Herbalife agent, good friend and complimentary emcee services provider Tony Gayondato and all the friends who helped us make this happen.

Monday, October 27, 2008


A little off topic. I guess more so because over Deepavali wishes, I kinda read on as a certain Kelong Jimmy traded some arguments over at
The reason was, the blogger had stated his confusion over whether it is Deepavali, Diwali, Deepawali, Dewali or Divali at the end of his festive wishes... Kelong Jimmy posted a comment stating that in Malaysia we grew up wishing our Hindu compatriots Happy Deepavali and nothing else. Always has been, always will be. It is HAPPY DEEPAVALI in MALAYSIA. I guess the same as it is Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, as opposed to Eid Mubarak in most of the rest of the world. We Malaysians like to be different.
But look at THIS STORY on Express Buzz from India, which goes under the heading DEEPAVALI IS NOT DIWALI ... It seems there's more to it than just different spelling!
In India, Deepavali in Tamil Nadu is not accepted as the same celebration in other states, although it is part of the same religion. The Express Buzz article states in Tamil Nadu it is purely the celebration of triumph of good over evil, while in Northern India, it also means a new calendar date, where businesses open a new account book. In the North, it is celebrated on Tuesday, a day after Tamil Nadu.
Unlike over here in Malaysia, where all Hindus celebrate the same thing. Even us, the non-Hindus accept that and share in the festivities.
Kinda makes me think. Maybe we've been quite a united brand of people. Just recently more and more disunited by people with other thoughts.

Sunday, October 26, 2008



Friday, October 24, 2008

Italians talking: Now we're getting somewhere

The Italian pro cyclists' umbrella body have sent a letter to UCI president Pat McQuaid, calling for life bans on drug cheats to be imposed.
For me personally, I find this interesting since I'd always thought the Italians took a more leanient approach to doping. Two years ago it was reported that Italian fans viewed the banned substances list too extensive and some even wished for the idea of doping to be legalised, to be explored.
McQuaid, earlier this month, had sought to extend the current maximum ban for doping from two to four years. This too could be interesting, since cyclists risk taking out a larger chunk of their careers should they be busted.
Reuters has the Italian brief HERE. A version is more detailed HERE, and it includes a piece on McQuaid's view of re-testing samples.
These are progressing into some interesting times for the war against dope in sport, not just cycling. Remember, more athletes from other sports like athletics and weightlifting tested positive compared to just one woman cyclist at the Beijing Olympics.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A job in F1 is that serious

A Renault F1 technician based at their Enstone, England factory, shot himself in the head under stress and fear for the loss of his job.
The OXFORD MAIL, which shares a similar logo to the Malay Mail, has the story HERE.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


(Click for larger image)

I don't usually read the diaries section of, so I'd missed Loh Sea Keong's piece on the Tour of Thailand in his first diary.
You can have a look HERE .. Must say Ah Keong did a good job.

On that note too, I feel sorry that I have to lambast this person by the name of James, who hides behind the pseudonym nstman, and goes on blabbering all over the place (in other blogs, since I chose not to publish any of his comments) about my writing on cycling. I guess he can go suck on a duck's toe for all I care.
You see, we all have interests, hobbies, ways of life and so on. We have things to do in life. that's normal. James is abnormal.
Most of us do and enjoy things life has to offer, blog about it, talk about it, write and keep on writing, because we love it all. We love life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rest in peace Sara Aziz

"My hero wears a tight and he dopes." Sara Aziz joked on her BLOG, before wishing everyone Selamat Hari Raya. She was well aware of the ailments the sport suffered, but was still in love with it.
Sara passed away a few hours ago at 9.15pm, aged 20, having lost a long, painful fight against lung cancer.
This was a girl who'd shared undivided love for the sport of cycling, together with the rest of us. Her step father Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz is the organiser of Jelajah Malaysia.
But she was no official, she didn't race, she was just a true blue cycling fan, who I bumped into at every other race in the country, where often she took photos just for the love of it.
The pint-sized shutterbug was always with a camera and her pictures were as good as any of the veteran photographers covering cycling, sometimes even better.
Sara seemed to always think I'd know what the result would be way before a race ended and I really enjoyed arguing why I thought my predictions would be true. She was Anuar Manan's number one fan and I guess her favourite team too was Le Tua.
That picture above was taken when I joined a few guys from the Le Tua Cycling Team to pay a visit to Sara shortly before she began treatment for the cancer in August. I never wanted it to be the last picture we had with her.
On that visit, when we all enjoyed the Olympics road race won by Samuel Sanchez together, we'd also given her the book "It's not about the bike" by Sally Jenkins, which tells the entire story of Lance Armstrong's battle and survival of testicular cancer. The Le Tua boys and myself hoped it would inspire her. I did a posting on that visit HERE , and Sara did leave a message, her last on this blog too.

UPDATE. 2.0am.
I just got back from Sara's home in Damansara Heights, where there were throngs of people, including national cyclists Rizal Tisin, Harnizam Basri and Zamri Salleh. Their coach Fairoz Izni Abdul Ghani was there too, along with Anuar Manan.
Shared a few moments with Sara's step brother Ariff, when we reflected on the super girl that she was. Sara's dream of spectating the Tour de France though, will remain unfulfilled. She will be buried at the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery at 11am today.
I am really going to miss the presence of this true Malaysian cycling fan. There's nothing I can do... Ya Allah, please take good care of her.

Al Fatihah..

The slow death begins in Germany

Here we go. It is now a freefall.

ARD have announced they will not cover the Tour de France again. Now, the Tour of Germany 2009 has been cancelled. If nobody sounded the alarm bells before, cycling should think that they are ringing aloud right now. AFP has the story HERE .
Could we also start to think now that we should call for more stringent dope tests to be introduced in Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL)? Shouldn't Malaysia also start playing a role?
And now, what next? Do the extra smart doctors work on a new generation of ultra-untracable dope, or do we all collectively just put a stop to it?
Time to really start thinking.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lasting effect of an accusation

Pic taken from

Been covering the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit this week. Read the NST for that.

As usual, there are plenty of cigarette breaks where us colleagues gather for between quick and lengthy puffs outside our workplace, given that since last year, the Sepang Circuit media centre has been a no smoking area.

On one of those breaks today, a couple of colleagues and I chatted, of course, about the ongoing RPK saga, and then about how we were gonna quit smoking. Somehow, I drifted back to when I actually started smoking and tried to gather how this habit actually came about.

"It was a false accusation!" I remembered.

I didn't need much reminding, more so it was one of the worst experiences I shared with a friend who isn't with us anymore. Yes, that's how I started smoking in 1987, when I was 13 and going to Form One at a school in Subang Jaya.

I remember that day quite well.
My friend the late Fuzian, who passed away in a road accident in 1991, and myself had entered the school through a hole in the fence across the football field, where there was a tree that provided some shade. School hadn't started yet and we were eating our aiskrim potong and just chatting under that tree. Of course, we did also climb up and sat on the branches just for some added excitement.

Suddenly, a prefect came screaming across the field. "Mr. Singham wants to see you in the teachers' room!" he cried.

"Damn, we should have just came in through the front gate," I told Fuzian, as we were escorted to the teachers' room by the prefect. Nevermind, maybe we'd get a warning, that would be all, I thought. But no.

"Empty your pockets. Then let's see what you have in your bags," Singham, the discipline master said as soon as we arrived. Now, I got worried. Did something get stolen? Have we been accused by somebody?

"I saw very clearly that the two of you were smoking."
My dear God. At that point in my life, I had never really touched a cigarette, never lit it, never even thought of doing it. We ate our ice creams and climbed up the tree and yes, we didn't use the front entrance to get into school. But smoking??!!

"No, we were not smoking sir. We don't smoke," those words came from both of us. "No, I could see very clearly, your hands were at your mouths, puffing away like big businessmen. Why then would you want to hide under that tree. You think I can't see?" Singham the madman went on.

"I'm going to give you both three lashes and then I'm going to call your parents. They have to know about this." My whole world fell to pieces. Honest to God, I did not smoke.

That tree we were under was not only across the football field, the window from which Singham claimed he was watching us from was at least another 100 metres from the opposite side of the football field from where we were at. He was at least 300 metres away, and yet he said he saw clearly that we were smoking. Plus, he didn't find any cigarettes on us, no matches, no lighter, he even sniffed our fingers. We didn't smell of smoke, but he was 100% convinced that he saw us smoking with his own two eyes! How could two 13-year olds argue with that?!!

No answer would be accepted as this lunatic was on an all-out campaign to catch students who were smoking in school. Of course there were those students, but we weren't part of it. Well, not until then at least.
So, we took our caning like little boys should and my parents, later that day arrived in school. My mother was horrified. Her 13-year old kid was supposedly caught for smoking. My dad began his transformation into King Kong, which I would find just so when I got home that evening.

Worse still, Singham announced his "prized catches" over the school PA system that day and the two of us were branded as smokers forever. At home, my siblings gave me the funny look. My mother was shouting on top of her voice all day, all week I think. My little sister Amy (she's always been a pain in the ass) went on,"Mummy's very angry. You! You! You!" Over and over again. Of course, my dad added a few more doses of pain when I got home that fine day, just to top it all off.

The following days I went to school, a different crowd began accepting me - the real smokers. "Don't worry, we always get that. Next time, do it where we do it. It's safer there. Come, I'll show you," the kid who was probably responsible for arranging my welcoming party said.

So, I was soon led to the "smokers' corner" , where those who "shared the same interest" gathered each day before school, during recess and after school. That was where I learned the art of inhaling cigarette smoke. Of course, a couple more cases followed and more canings came my way that year. But hell, I was already branded a smoker for nothing.

My smoking career took off from there and I've never looked back since. Sometimes we pitched in 20 or 30 sen each between three or four to get a pack of sevens, which costed 70 sen back then. In school, when I had the extra money and wanted it, a pack of Dunhill sevens would last a day, sometimes two.
Most of the time I did smoke, it was with friends and we did that mostly by buying lose sticks from coffee shops. I believe we did it not out of addiction, but out of rebellion. At least I did it for those reasons. Back then, I didn't really need to smoke. I probably, on average, smoked between three and 14 cigarettes a week, sometimes none at all.
Having finished school, getting those packs of sevens became important, so my first job at PJ Hilton not only satisfied that need, I graduated to 14s and later 20s. Now, I smoke a pack of 20s or two a day, but for the past 10 years it has been Mild Seven Lights.
Today, it is very much an addiction. Thank you very much Singham, for introducing me to this habit.
And may Fuzian's soul rest in peace. Al-fatihah for him.

You'll probably need a "moral of the story" bit right?
Be careful when making accusations. Also, for you school kids, be careful when hanging around under trees. For the Education Ministry, please make good eyesight compulsory in the hiring of new teachers and please, please, please also do make sure they register absolute negatives in tests for LSD.

P.S.: For definition of cigarette, look HERE .

Friday, October 17, 2008

My dear politicians

My hockey writer colleague Jugjet Singh's comment in the New Straits Times today just had me saying: "Enough." Access the interesting comment HERE.
Jugjet raised a somewhat similar flow in the turbulent UMNO political scene to that in Malaysian hockey. My own thoughts were about how so much time is spent, not just in hockey but most sports, in fine-tuning the "Cabinet" line-up.
It seems to be all Malaysian sports is about. Players or athletes seem to be used merely as.... well, merely used is sufficient enough a word.
When did you ever find, apart from a handful, local athlete who dare speak their minds? And in speaking their minds, offering constructive criticism better than those of us who look at it from the outside?
But no, athletes in Malaysia are given the iron fist treatment. Speak out and they face early retirement. Which always is an irritation for us sportswriters. We want to know exactly what an athlete thinks, and in doing so we directly allow you, the public to know as well. But sometimes it is the athletes who are the first to notify us of their fear that anything not in line with what the association, the NSC or any controlling body wants.
Which brings me back to Jugjet's comment. And my worst fears for hockey, the sport in which I so passionately contested with full support of my father in school, have been confounded. All they, the new and old "Cabinets" are thinking about is themselves.
The players aren't allowed and, history would show, should not have their say. No way of anyone finding out how it is for players, what their views are on the top brass of MHF, the ones that should be going and the ones that are coming in. The athletes, the most important components in the set-up of organised sport, do not have a say in what their governing bodies should be like, what changes should be brought about.
It is the same in cycling, football, athletics, swimming, you name it. Politicians rule all, not just in UMNO, but in sport as well. My guess is, every Malaysian is a born politician. Those who don't make the cut at national politics level, move into sport and turn it into Division Two of Malaysian politics. More often than not, there isn't a "promotion" into Division One, neither is there a "relegation" to Division Three.


We have politicians in abundance. Even on the sidelines of Malaysian sport and politics. Even us, the by-standers are not spared.
As in my case, where somebody with some interest somewhere in the immenent political changes and those that might happen in the New Straits Times, has started a rumour that our friend Rizal Hashim will be brought into the New Straits Times. Apparently in a high-ranking post on our sportsdesk, should a respected former Group Editor make a return.
It is alright for anyone to make their own assumptions, but don't drag others into this. I did not start this rumour, as I've learned from Rizal. People, please. I am just a rank-and-file journalist with the paper. The only politicians I know are those who hold positions in sports bodies and I do not wish to turn myself into an ambitious, screw-all person that has no regard for other people and their livelihoods.

Also, I find it funny that many who read this blog seem to be more interested in the changes in NST. I must admit, my writing needs improvement and my postings aren't too interesting to the masses. But somehow, more comments have come in asking about the changes in NST, than on the topics of my postings. I have chosen not to publish all of them. If anybody needs to know, well some of those people involved have their own blogs, ask them yourselves. If you need to know about anybody who you think is leaving NST, please contact our general line 03-2282 3322 and ask the operator to connect you to the person and ask them yourself. I will not answer any questions on here, on my phone or in person about anything to do with political changes in NST. I remind you again, I am just rank-and-file staff, and you would be stupid to ask me!


I just received a call from Rizal, telling me that even if it is true, he is not interested.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beware. We're on a roll!

There's a certain buzz around our office at this moment. The confidence is there and most players are excited. We're ready for the NPC-GAB Inter-Media Futsal Championships. More than ready.
On Aug 30, we'd given ourselves a surprise Merdeka present. I tell you, if you don;t know the meaning of surprise, you just have to look at the history of the New Straits Times football team.

Perennial whipping boys, some had branded us. For me personally, I knew I didn't have to take days off to go and play in inter-media futsal tournaments, which usually start in the mornings. Well, we'd never make it past the first round, thus we do not have to hang around to play in the knock-out stages which are usually scheduled from the afternoon onwards. Sometimes, I'd even have enough time to rush home for a proper shower and get back to the office in time for work.

Not anymore. I think from now, my colleagues and I probably got to ask our bosses to switch our offdays. Our fortunes are changing.

We went in like men possessed and made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Malay Mail Boleh Blah Cup, held in conjunction with the tabloid's departure from the NSTP Group earlier in August.

Then on Aug 30, the tournament in which we'd always been thrashed came up - the NSTP Inter-Department 9-a-side Football Championship.

This happened:

We'd been drawn with Branding, BB2 A and favourites Finance in the same group, where we were expected to bid our usual early goodbyes in the 16-team tournament. But no.

That rainy Saturday was when our big goalkeeper Les(Sea)lie Andres produced the inspiration that would forever be etched in our memories. He saved thre (3) penalties. He rushed out to block a one-on-one attempt from an ESS (defending champions) striker in the quarterfinals that was touted as the save of the tournament. Our new find, Jeevan of NIE proved he was a star in the making by scoring all our goals. For once, T.N. Alagesh's drive all the way from Kuantan to be with the team was not in vain. For once, it felt good to send my boss an sms notifying him we were gonna be late for work!

Of course, the thunderstorm later in the evening spoiled everything just when we were on a high after knocking out favourites and defending champions the Editorial Support Services (ESS) in the quarterfinals. It was then deemed by the organisers that due to the weather, it was not suitable to play and from the semis onwards all matches were decided on penalties. We will forever wonder what would have been, had there been sunshine instead of rain. Can you believe, we also won the Datuk Manja Ismail Fairplay Trophy. When I checked, we'd not even conceded a single freekick, not commited a single foul and unlike rivals Berita Harian and Harian Metro, we didn't register a single yellow card.

Now, Nov 2 is the date set for the NPC-GAB Inter-Media Futsal Championships. I'm sure many of our foes have prepared well. But we're fired up. We're training twice a week instead of once as usual from this week onwards. We finished third in this meet last year and on recent form, I think it would only be just for us to aim a step higher. Perseverance does pay. We kept trying for years and now we're set on reaping the benefits.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Now a race succumbs

Riders have paid the price for doping, now cycling fans and the sport's supporting industries will suffer as well.
Organisers of the Tour of Stuttgart in Germany have cancelled their race, citing continuous doping scandals as their main reason. This is not the first strong stance a German body has taken over the doping issue. Last year German TV staged a boycott of the Tour de France citing similar reasons, a backlash of the T-Mobile doping discovery and Jan Ullrich's Fuentes scandal involvement.
Deutsche Welle has the Tour of Stuttgart piece on their website HERE .
What else is coming? Interesting times this.....


Now, Tuan Haji Abu Samah Wahab, please pay attention to this. The 2007 women's World Road Race Champion Marta Bastianelli has been banned for a year. Doping is the cause and she (as she is a woman), never rode the Tour de France. ANSA has the report HERE . So, it isn't only the Tour de France as the race in which riders dope and it isn't only the men. Hope to enlighten you further in days to come. If you need to be refreshed on Tuan Haji Abu Samah's beliefs, go back to THIS posting of mine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bjarne's (hehehe) other "admission"

Found this gem above on Bjarne Riis in the wonderful collection at today. Hillarious!!

Just as a disclaimer, following is the real deal, the real admission of the former Tour de France-winning CSC boss, who won it as DS with Carlos Sastre this year.

Honestly, at the rate the sport is going, I'd rather just look at this next one all day. No matter if I understand not one drop of it. It is what you understand that sometimes hurts the more.....

CERA files IV

Pic courtesy of Gerolsteiner website

The Independent has it HERE.

After the former Suanier Duval's Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli, the Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher recently, now Berhard Kohl, the king of the mountains in this year's Tour de France, who went on the podium twice for also finishing third in the Tour, has been busted for Cera.

French anti-doping agency say they were from secondary tests of samples taken prior to and during the Tour.

I must say, the fight is catching up on Cera. And I must say, there's something to be learned from these French efforts. Cera was earlier said to have probably been in use as early as the start of this season. So, tests getting up to pace and able to trace the substance now, should seem like a good thing.

UPDATE! reports HERE the confirmation of Kohl's positive as it's lead story today, while his Gerolsteiner team has skipped the Giro di Lombardia, bringing a premature end to it's already sealed fate. Gerolsteiner was initially due to pull the plug at the end of this season. Manager and owner Hans-Michael Holczer has also quit cycling.

Of my interest in this affair is the fate of our friend and compatriot, former national cyclist M. Rajan (often refered to as M. Kumaresan's brother) who has served as mechanic for the Gerolsteiner team the past decade. It is just unfortunate that Rajan suffers the adverse effects and consequences of doping, as he has lost his livelihood with the folding of Gerolsteiner.
Given his experience and knowledge in the field at the highest level, I think Rajan would be very much suited to becoming national team manager or serving the national programme at some level. Funny, but knowing certain people in MNCF, I find it hard to believe that this would be a possibility.


Bernhard Kohl has now also lost his contract with Belgian team Silence-Lotto, for whom he recently signed to ride from next season through 2011. AP has the report HERE.

Monday, October 13, 2008


IT was a confusing assignment, as I'd not known what would surface in the National Sports Institute's launch of their journal at the Lake Club in KL sometime in May, prior to leaving for the Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Terengganu.
What struck me most there was the tone and body language of most of the NSI top brass. It was like NSI was trying to get a few points across for some reason.
Having said that, personally, I'd always wondered why the NSI had been taking a backseat to the more prominent National Sports Council (NSC) in most areas of sport, when actually they should be playing a far more front-line role.
Now, by saying that, and quoting Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz in this posting, I hope I am not branded a pro-ISN or anti-MSN writer, as everybody knows there's more than a little friction between the two. Leave me out of it.
Anyway, my story at the Lake Club that day was what NSI was going to do in the development sector, particularly with the Sukma level athletes and it also concerned doping controls to be established at the Sukma. That story appeared in the NST the next day. Sorry I'm too lazy to go looking for it and checking for exact dates. This is a light-hearted piece on something else, I think, so I wanna just relax and let fly.
What I remember most from that assignment was the chit-chat with NSI director general Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz, which was off topic, as the function neared its end. We spoke about, of all topics, football over a cup of tea.
"So, I take it we're reading from the same page," he said midway through the conversation. Yes, I guess Dr. Ramlan did take notice that I had even a very mild understanding of what sports science could do for our football.
"Football requires a different kind of fitness, so what you use for other athletes, you can't use for football," someone else I know told me before, which I never believed.
The NSI were in the midst of conducting several studies on athletes in selected sports, which are to be used as basis for identification of procedures and training methods in the development of junior and senior athletes. This had been reported and is common knowledge.
"We generally base these studies on the sports that cover basic human movements," Dr Ramlan explained. This, I thought would mean athletics, swimming, cycling and gymnastics, but due to some matters beyond the NSI's control, they've also included bowling and hockey.
Anyway, back to football, and I did agree with Dr Ramlan on his suggestions on the way forward for football.
I'd explained that a lot has been overlooked and the people, the administrators of football in the country, seem to think they're doing the right thing, don't need help other than money and will generally just be happy to wait for fortunes to change. They aren't going to change.
From my limited knowledge and research on football, I'd identified the need to work on athleticism of players with more scientific input as one of the areas we need to work on seriously. That, above all and before we spend too much money on foreign help, foreign exposure trips and so on, which we've been doing for far too long without results.
Look at the South Koreans, even the North Koreans, the Chinese, Japanese, Iranians, and now slowly the Thais. What our administrators have been talking about when dealing with our failures all along is the mindset, our players' mentality, our lifestyle, hell they even blame it on our lovely food.
Look at why our players fail whenever they go for attachments with European teams. Sure, it is easy to blame the lack or abundance of nasi lemak. But it is mental. It is a mental breakdown that occurs when the athlete feels overwhelmed in every area of his game by superior athletes.
In truth, all our athletes are equipped with in their European pursuits are varying amounts of skill, a big heart and fighting spirit. That is all lost when they find they're not only smaller in body mass and low on power, they've also got to adapt to an entirely different training regime, they've got a lot of catching up to do (too much catching up to do), they've even got to eat different foods and find they have to change too much on such short notice.
They then cower into their cocoon and crumble. But all we have to say is, they're the so called "nasi lemak boys" because they miss nasi lemak.
So what's the problem? Everything is.
Look at the best development regimes and compare them to ours. Physiologically, we do not practice anything at an early enough stage of development. All we do is increase the number of tournaments at schools level, come up with new competitions every now and again and we seem to think that all our ailments are from the existence of foreign players and the structure of our league, which needs to be reshuffled over and over again. All using the same old archaic training and development methods.
Nutritional aspects are neglected and it seems only when athletes get to the senior level and are lucky enough to come under the programmes that include the NSI, do they gain the benefits of sports science, which is rather too late.
"It isn't about the skill anymore. We're no longer in that era where superior skill surpasses everything. I'm not saying you don't need skill. Of course you do, but in order to perform at the current level, the physiological criteria has to be met," Dr Ramlan explained. I must stress again, this was just regular chit-chat, nothing serious. But then again, chats with Dr Ramlan are always like this.
"To perform at the highest level, you need to be a superior athlete first, before you can make your skills count. We shouldn't be looking at players who can only dribble past 10 defenders, and juggle the ball for hours. Those are skills that can only take you so far," added Dr Ramlan.
This is exactly what I'd imagined, and Doc Ramlan confirmed it. That brought to mind my wonders about the Japanese and Korean youth squads and how their players were performing in age group tournaments I'd covered earlier and went bonkers over why some of our players looked better on the ball, more nimble, faster at some points but we still ended up well beaten, sometimes thrashed.
Our teams comprised footballers, enthusiastic footballers at that. But Japan and South Korea used footballers who were superior athletes, who were technically sound, with enough brains and were able to carry out tactics that overpowered even a hard-running Malaysian squad.
Look at it this way. If you do an 11-second 100m run, it is good. But if you can do a 14-second 100m run over and over again, plus lots of other things over the course of 90 minutes, that would be far better. If you could dribble around two defenders, it would be good to impress Malaysian scouts (if there ever were any); but if you could dribble past two defenders, cross the ball and in case there's a rebound and counter attack, able to recover fast enough from the first burst of power to get back to your defensive position and provide cover, maintain your composure throughout, that would impress scouts of a far higher level.
You should be able to make the same pass, with the same accuracy in the first minute of play, as well as at the 90th minute of play or in extra-time, after having taken a whole battery of knocks and bruises throughout.
Now I don't wonder why Park Ji Sung can perform so well and consistently at EPL level when he's no bigger than most of our footballers? He's built tough, the right way, from head to toe.
It is about bringing the human body up to a level where it is able to perform what is required of a football player over 90 minutes and more. Talents are identified, not just on the regular ratings, but on potential in these areas as well. Maybe even more importantly through potential in these areas, rather than just skill, sharpness, etc, areas that can be developed through training.
That is how I believe sports science could help improve physiological competency in our football. I'm sorry, I'm not a doctor, so I hope I used the right words.
I guess, this is the area of football where we're being left behind. You do it not just on the field, but in the labs, in the gyms, in the ice baths, you rate power, VO2 Max readings, wattage...etc, just like a cyclist or swimmer, only your targets are different. And this should involve every player right from the lowest age-group level to the MSL. And should be a continuous process.
Players too have to be properly educated about what they're supposed to be doing, not just told or directed to do their training or tests. We're already way into the era of interactive training, not just hard-line regimented training, where players are robots and just do as they're told without feedback.
That is, at least, a bit of what Dr Ramlan believes the NSI too would like to do for Malaysian football.
But, Dr Ramlan agreed, it is a monumental task. One that would mean scaling the length and breadth of the country, transforming the way the entire nation, right from schools up to the MSL level, looks at training and development of players. Which would also incur cost.
The cost factor is something that maintains other areas, ones that we're more used to, the priority over these improvements. And this part that we've never gone into seriously, has been left rather untouched, when South Korea, Japan, China have all restrategised long ago.
Training methods too keep on evolving, so we cannot remain stagnant, doing what we have been doing and training our players the same way their coaches were trained in 1986.
Go to Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya, park your car outside the gates one evening when any of the national squads are training, and have a look at what they've doing. They practice their passing, their physical drills, all that, the same way they've been doing for decades. Frankly, has that improved our fortunes in front of goal?
So do we look at it seriously enough to think that the time has come to do something more, something different? Even if you do, I'm not sure we can change because the FAM themselves are too busy selecting their officials and office bearers, while those in position have to spend a lot of time trying to avoid getting bumped out of position.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Well into work again today and my pit stop at the SS14 BHP station to check on the competition prior to heading to the office turned out ot be an eye opener.
I don't usually pick up Sinar Harian, but a glimpse into their page N31 today got me smiling. Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) president Tuan Haji Abu Samah, has finally taken the time to pen some stuff and earned himself the recognition of being a columnist in a newspaper.
Before I get to your tutorial, Tuan Haji, let me wish you a belated Selamat Hari Raya and pohon maaf zahir dan batin banyak-banyak atas segala kesilapan.
Now, Tuan Haji, as you have accused the NST of being misleading and merely a newspaper that likes to carry controversial stories, negative ones on cycling, I wish to give you my piece of advice since I have been writing for a newspaper longer than you. Hope you take it in good spirits.

Congratulations on your column entitled "Tour de France paling primadona". It is just unfortunate that the column isn't available off Sinar Harian online. So, I will have to type in excerpts of your column.
Firstly, we do not try to mislead the public by giving them false information. Whatever we write, 9.9 times out of 10, happened. The 0.01 point out of that, is to save for the occasional mistake.
Now I do accept your advice as stated in your column on puasa enam, although for me personally, the Raya goodies were too good to pass up.
It is also good that you have finally taken note of the threat of doping in cycling.
But Tuan Haji, I did think that you were also the organising chairman for Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) in 2007 and you will resume that duty for next year's edition.

Now Tuan Haji, you stated in your column, very impressively, about doping being a problem in the Tour de France, "sebuah kejohanan berprestij, setanding perlumbaan Le Tour de Langkawi dalam kategori 2.HC (hors classe)... Telah merosakkan kredibiliti acara lebuhraya lelaki. (Translation: Tour de France, a prestigious competition of the same standard as Le Tour de Langkawi... Which has spoiled the credibility of men's road events.)

Tuan Haji, I believe I have done the right research and have been informed correctly through information available everywhere in the cycling annals, that there are three monuments of cycling. The Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana. These are related to as GRAND TOURS or GT in short form. They are not 2.HC race "setanding dengan LTdL".

It is the same in tennis, where we have the Grand Slams of Wimbledon and the Opens of Australia, the US and France. There are four monuments in tennis, the biggest of all, even more important to Rafael Nadal (he said so) than the Olympics. In short, you can organise a Malaysian Open with all the big stars and the biggest prizemoney on earth, but it will never be a Grand Slam. What Le Tour de Langkawi, as much as we love it, is, a 2.HC (hors categorie) race on the UCI Asia Tour calendar. It is part of a continental circuit. It is still an important race, the biggest race in Asia. You can move it a notch higher, by gaining entry into the Pro Tour circuit, but that is as far as it will go. It will never be a Grand Tour as that is what cycling is about - three monuments, not four.

Allow me to also reproduce the parts of your column which I feel compelled to question, as so:

"Apakah kerana 'seekor kerbau membawa lumpur, semua orang harus terpalit?" (English: Just because a buffalo is muddied, do everyone else have to be muddied as well?)

"Sukan berbasikal tidak harus dihukum hanya kerana beberapa pelumba menggunakan dadah di Tour de France." (English: Cycling should not be punished just because a few riders use drugs in the Tour de France.)

It is very honourable of you to stand in defence of road cycling, against sudden proposals to exclude the sport from the Olympic programme. But Tuan Haji, you have to do it with proper facts, otherwise you will just look not too clever and nobody will take note of what you say. At least not as much as I am doing here.

Tuan Haji, doping in cycling is not only a problem in the Tour de France. I can make available for you a report I wrote to present to our president of the International Association of Cycling Journalists (AIJC) Mr. Gilles Le Roch in December last year, which might enlighten you on the reasons why I fear Asia is a lame duck when it come to the fight against doping in cycling. I am sure with your intelligence and the indespensible help of your string of advisors, you will be able to understand. More riders have tested positive in competitions other than the Tour de France for the past five years at least.

Doping is a big problem in cycling, not ONLY in the Tour de France, as you have professed.

If I read your column entitled "Tour de France paling primadona" correctly Tuan Haji, you seem to have taken a huge liking for UCI president Mr. Pat McQuaid. I do have a certain amount of respect for the good Irishman as well, or rather I did have, until I found that he was trying to hold my country to ransom over debts incurred by his friend Simon Patrick Donnellan. The kid who totally destroyed Le Tour de Langkawi in 2005 and 2006. But then again, they are your friends as you have publicised in your column, so we leave it at that.
That story is in the past, but if you wish to have a look at the file and evidence I have on that, you are welcome to invite me to the comfort of your air-conditioned office in Melaka Raya. Anyway, I also do like the kampung food served in the restaurant downstairs.

Back to status and levels of races.
Those of us who really follow cycling Tuan Haji, do still remember that it was Pat, who is behind the introduction of the global reform in cycling. That was his first task upon succeeding Hein Verbruggen as UCI president after that eventful UCI congress that preceeded the 2005 Road World Championships in Madrid, attended by you and the then UCI president hopeful Tan Sri Darshan Singh Gill.

It was then effectively established that the old tiered trade team format would be replaced by the Pro Tour and Continental Tour format as we have now, while the GTs were forced to confusing consequences, to be part of the Pro Tour circuit. But not so this year.

So, I find it funny that after three years of Verbruggen and Pat's somewhat controversial global reform being introduced, plus we're already moving into Season Four of the Pro Tour-Continental Tour era, that you are yet to have properly been briefed about the status of our biggest, most important race, LTdL. I wonder if you too, have taken a page off the guidelines written by certain outgoing leaders. Which is okay, as long as it suits you and your advisors.

I do not question your views and opinions Tuan Haji, as they are your right, only point out the misleading facts that you chose to build the foundations of your column on. They were the main facts, which if translated into English and spread around the world, would be embarassing for Malaysia.

Tuan Haji, I wish to inform you that the reason why many riders get busted for dope in the Tour de France is because the doping controls utilised in the Tour de France are the most stringent and up-to-date, while the organisers of most other races usually can't afford to have that level of testing. Which is why they do not get busted in Le Tour de Langkawi or other races, but suddenly evidence of third generation EPO or CERA can be traced in the Tour de France, sealing the fate of the most exciting rider of the year Ricardo Ricco. If they had the same resources as the ASO does, the organisers of earlier races would have busted them.

If you check properly Tuan Haji, you will see that in the Volta o Portugal, Tour de Romandie, even prior to the Olympics, in the Giro and everywhere else, but Le Tour de Langkawi, there have been riders testing positive for dope. Hell, they even test positive in out-of-competition testing, which is the norm these days. And tests conducted by national federations, as well as national Olympic committees (NOCs). Drug testing is part and parcel of the daily lives of each athlete on the world stage. I guess not in Malaysia.

As for doping controls, would you as the organising chairman of LTdL 2009, Tuan Haji, be able to raise about RM3 million just to establish doping controls of the same level as the Tour de France? Or would you not want to because then, LTdL will become a tainted race as more riders will be busted here?

I do not think so, as I do believe MNCF is facing a struggle just to get the race up and running. So, doping controls will comprise just bottles of piss, as was the case the previous 13 editions. No pre-event medicals, no blood tests. Even those are still only basics.

This is our problem here in Asia. Race organisers already struggle to fund the running of the race proper, thus having the extras to run proper doping controls become secondary as most organisers only can afford the bare necessities in meeting with regulations.

So, Tuan Haji, it is good that you as the president of the MNCF have taken note of the threat of drugs in our sport. But I do hope it wasn't merely part of your publicity campaign run by my friend, former Berita Harian sportwriter Halmi Samad, to get your column up in Sinar Harian, but that you sincerely mean to take up the battle.

The battle is a hard one Tuan Haji. A lot of research, a better understanding of the situation and history behind doping in sport, plus strategic action is needed. I have found some rather intriguing information and studies being done by National Sports Institute (NSI) director Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz, which was startling since it showed just how far behind and how much catching up we have to do.

Tuan Haji, I do hope that you gather the right information, as it is readily available on websites and many a printed matter, in order for you to present arguments based on credible facts in the future. I believe that you, more than anybody else, should have a copy of every updated UCI regulations at your disposal too, so you can readily look into it.
If that isn't enough, you are welcome to visit the library at my home at No. 2, Jalan SS 14/6D, Subang Jaya, and share what I have learned from my substantial collection of books on cycling, even on sports medicine and cheating. I guess you will not touch Salman Rushdie, but nevermind, nothing to do with this matter. If you have to know, I get an adrenaline rush, like I'm keeping a gun in there or something, just by having Shalamar the Clown by the shamed writer.

I always believe, Tuan Haji, if you can catch the cheats, please do. It also makes for good writing and lots of stories for us in the media as well. But if you can't, then you either rethink your priorities and strategies or wait for others to catch them. Otherwise, lets just have a race. If not, you are just continuing on what everybody else is saying - that cycling is a tainted sport, but doing nothing about it.

I remind you again Tuan Haji, that you are the president of the MNCF and I find it rather embarassing that the president of the cycling federation of my country, believes that the Tour de France is of the same level as Le Tour de Langkawi and that cyclists only use dope to race in the Tour de France. I will not translate that column for the world. And hopefully nobody else does.

It is quite intriguing to see that you have given Pat McQuaid advice to "pantau" or monitor the movements of Lance Armstrong. You seem to be a very concerned cycling administrator Tuan Haji, which is good.

But Tuan Haji, you shouldn't make blind accusations about Indonesian rider Tonton Susanto using drugs to win the 1999 Sea Games time trial gold medal. He was alleged to have tested positive for ephedrine at the Tour of Qinghai Lake in 2005. And he was cleared to ride after being given a one-month suspension by Ikatan Sport Sepeda Indonesia (ISSI). In fact, he rode for the Wismilak Team in the 2006 LTdL. These sort of statements, Tuan Haji, can land you law suits. I am sure Tonton, who regularly visits Malaysia, would not like to find a copy of today's Sinar Harian, as I believe he has the resources to take legal action. (Tepuk dada, tanya selera, lepas tu tepuk balik, tanya lagi sekali Tuan Haji..)

Lastly Tuan Haji, how come you are so concerned about road cycling at the Olympics, when our own national road team was left without a coach to care for their programme for nine months? And how come Tuan Haji, you did not step forward to help the team go for the Under-23 World Championships last month? The first step towards the Olympics for road riders Tuan Haji, is via World Championships as well as Pro Tour and Continental Tour rankings.

Thus Tuan Haji, I also hope that your sudden grave concerns for cycling are truly sincere and from the bottom of your heart, not just because the MNCF AGM where elections will be held, are closing in.

Thank you for your time.

P.S.: I do find many parts of the column, which concern the IOC warning to road cycling and Pat McQuaid's lines, a direct translation of this AP article which you too can compare by clicking HERE. Now, now, now Tuan Haji, you're not going down the road with plagiarism are you now? Kalau nak tiru pun, jangan la sampai translate ikut ayat bulat-bulat. Tukar-tukar la sikit.. Like me, see? I just take the style from my friend Rizal Hashim's famous Open Letters in the Malay Mail, but I write it myself. If I can do it, you can too!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blast in Hua Mak

Latest news. Will be updating soon..
Just got sms from Fairoz Izni, national back-up squad coach, who's with his boys in Bangkok for the Asia Cup.
Harnizam Basri and Hafiz Sufian have qualified for the keirin final, which starts at 8.30pm.
I must reiterate, this is only our back-up squad! Go boys!!!


Uracca Leow took the bronze in the women's individual pursuit. Go Ah Moi!!


Hafiz Sufian took the silver in the keirin. Team sprint finished third.

For more details, go check out Fairoz's blog here , or read tomorrow's NST.

A sport in handcuffs

Pic: Alberto Contador in the Liberty Seguros-Wurth kit. Is he being punished till today for having once been decked in those colours?

The World Road Championships ended two weekends ago, Giro di Lombardia comes up soon to finish off the 2007-2008 season, while in Asia the new 2008-2009 season already began with the Tour Milad de Nour in Iran during Hari Raya.

I guess we could take a little look back on the season and the most prfound mystery that gripped the cycling world this year.

On the world stage, I can't help but wonder how politics ruled cycling over sensibility and fairplay.

How else could the best team in the world, have not raced in the world's biggest race? Astana and Alberto Contador were not present in the Tour de France for reasons known only to the ASO, seriously.

That, to me, obliterated all sporting sense, even if I personally have a rather strong feeling towards the effect of doping problems towards the sport.

Tour de France director Christian Preudhomme announced two months prior to the start of the Tour: "We have on our list, the 20 best teams in the world that will race in this year's Tour." Yea, right!

The winner of the last Tour (Contador), who was also the best among the line of Spaniards, was not there, as he's with Astana, who weren't welcome. So, was last year's third placed man Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden, who'd been on the podium several times and fifth last year (haven't re-checked that, but I think I remember correctly. Will update soon.)

Why were Astana punished when you have clear, well-written rules about the procedures and penalties for doping offences. None of the current Astana team, unless I'm very much mistaken, have tested positive for anything.

All that happened was, Alexandre Vinokourov and shortly later Andrey Kashechkin, the leaders of the previous Astana team, testing positive for EPO during last year's Tour. But it isn't the same team anymore, just the same sponsors, Astana. Is Preudhomme trying to drive Astana out of cycling sponsorship? There are no regulations to punish sponsors for previously backing tainted riders.

In any case, Vino and Kash are serving their doping bans. So is their teammate Matthias Kessler who got busted for testosterone prior to the 07 Tour. They are paying the price for their mistakes. What else do you want to do? Shoot them?

Astana pumped their money into a Vino-led squad of powerful riders after the fall of Liberty Seguros. That was an evolution from the super teams of that started of in the era of Manolo Saiz's ONCE squads, which probably turned out not to be so super.

Roberto Heras got the ball rolling when he got busted for EPO after winning the 2005 Vuelta a Espana, then riding for Manolo's Liberty Seguros-Wurth. that evolved into the Operacion Puerto that gave a certain Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes global recognition and fame as a blood doping expert. American insurance giants Liberty pulled out their sponsorship from Manolo's Active Bay management and in came Astana to save fellow countryman Vino, who was gonna take the Kazakh flag to the top of the world. Then it changed to Astana-Wurth (I still have a team sweater from them, thanks to Ng Yong Li). Tony Rominger came in at some point, to take over from Pablo Anton, who also got busted (if I remember correctly). Then came the big bust while Vino was doing some heroics in taking the maillot jaune with a collection of bandages keeping his body together. The 2007 Tour was won by the rider who was supposed to go for the maillot blanc (young riders' jersey) Contador (then riding for Discovery Channel, under Bruyneel), after Astana were booted out of the Tour. that was a dirty Astana team, but still all Astana the Kazakh conglomerate did, was put their money into the team.

Astana took their money out of anything to do with the Manolo regime or Fuentes-related crap, the whole team was changed and Johan Bruyneel was later brought in to take charge. Discovery Channel folded, so Contador was without a team. Not for long because Bruyneel was always ready to take his best rider.

This team, most of us believe, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Astana-Wurth squad that succeeded Liberty Seguros. Neither has any on its roster tested positive. They've even invested in a more elaborate independent anti-doping programme run by Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard, which sees their riders going through more off-competition tests than probably any athlete on earth!

Can you imagine a bunch of Manchester United or Liverpool players getting busted for dope and the managers for administering it, then the whole two teams not being allowed to play in the EPL anymore despite a wholesale change in management? This is worse. This is like AIG or Carlsberg not being allowed to put their logos on any football jersey anymore. That is all Astana is doing!!

This can only happen in cycling because of a weak UCI and more powerful Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), who not only organise their own race, but make their own rules for cycling as well. They are able to replace not only the UCI, but Wada and the IOC as well!

Look at what the 25-year old Contador has done. Taken off from last year's Tour win, and when finding out he was not gonna go for a successive Tour win, took the Giro d'Italia win and the Vuelta as well. First rider since Eddy Merckx to do all three within a year and the first since Marco Pantani to take two Grand Tours in the same year.

All I'm saying is, if the ASO are so powerful, they should be able to catch the cheats. They should be able to have enough intelligence to make recommendations on improvements to the anti-doping code and also help everyone in cycling, not just themselves, to carry out implementation of what they feel are sufficient anti-doping efforts.

Right now, they know they've got the biggest, most important race in the world under their ownership, so they're holding everybody by the balls, while making tons of money for themselves. All that, while also trying to project themselves as anti-doping warlords.

I'm also saying I'm against doping in any sport. But all you can do is catch the cheats and punish them. If you can't catch them, don't just take action based on your own assumptions.

If you can't catch them please allow the billions of cycling fans around the world, who are more important to the sport than the ASO, to enjoy a good race with the best riders in the world. Otherwise, it would seriously seem like you're saying:"Excuse me, you're not under arrest, but can we please handcuff you."