Digger and the Twitter Doperati.

Following any sport closely can be an emotional business for its fans. There can be highs but at times feelings of disappointment and anger will rise out of nowhere as you watch your football team lose a penalty shootout or you see an umpire makes a bad call against your favourite table tennis player. For fans of professional cycling things are slightly different. We get the same emotions but they often come a good time after the action has finished. There’s the disappointment that our favourite riders and their feats we’ve enjoyed have been aided by banned (and legal) substances and anger at the UCI, cycling’s governing body, for their inability to introduce the reforms that could help ensure fairer and safer competition. Although we encounter these feelings time and again we continue to follow the sport because it’s so entertaining. Because of this murky and frustrating history and the regular promises that things will change for the better three groups of cycling fan have emerged.

The largest of these combines are the ‘Optimistic Pessimists’. They still love the sport but watch things with a heavy dose of scepticism. They have been fooled in the past by cheating and don’t want it to happen again. Instead of celebrating an incredible performance the reaction is now “Mmm, not sure about that”. The UCI are still infuriating but in terms of racing things do seem to be changing ever so slightly. A few riders are now willing to speak out against doping instead of being part of the omerta which protects dopers and their feelings are that much of what they see during races seems to be credible. They watch racing in a different way now. As well getting immersed in the tactics and team dynamics, at the back of their minds they are analysing things to work out if what’s happening is believable and clean. It is obvious that doping still goes on at some level but they’re thankful that the eyebrow doesn’t get raised as often as before.

The eyebrows of are the two other sets of fans don’t move at all and they are very much at opposing sides of the “Who is doping and how much of it is going on” debate.

The first lot, the ‘Deniers’, are either gentle souls, who perhaps only follow a few races a year and are just not interested in whether doping happens, or diehards who will always defend their favourite rider or team against allegations of cheating no matter what actual evidence of malpractice is shown to them.

The last bunch of cycling fans are the Deniers sworn adversaries, though they actually make themselves enemies of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. This restless gang of ‘Truthers’ believe that everyone is on the juice and are very vocal about it. Instead of saying “Mmm’ not sure about that” their mantra is “Yep that’s dirty”. They spend plenty of time proselytising and will end up frustrated then angry if you’re not brought round to their way of thinking. Their arguments to back up their beliefs range from sarcastic coughs to elaborately formed concepts which contain ‘secret inside information’. Some say they resemble conspiracy theorists and I’ve even heard people call them a cult. If you use Twitter and follow cycling you will have seen them pop up on your feed from time to time. They are the Doperati and their illustrious leader is @Digger_forum.

Who is Digger?

My introduction to Digger came in 2011. It was the time of the federal investigation into Lance Armstrong which proved to be the prologue for the big mans fall from grace. Floyd Landis was the main witness in the case but was at that time still coming to terms with his own downfall as well being in the process of being investigated for computer hacking. There was also the question of the nearly $1 million raised for the ‘Floyd Fairness Fund’, money that I believed was donated by people being sold a lie. I decided to hit twitter to see what my 20 or so followers made of my opinion by suggesting that Landis perhaps wasn’t the most reliable of witnesses. Not long after I got a reply from someone who, if I remember right, was calling himself Big Tex Is Going To Jail or @Digger_forum for short. I was quite excited because he wasn’t one of my followers. “Wow” I thought, someone must really value my opinion. They’ve taken time to ‘engage’ with me. Dreams of commenting on pro cycling for a living flashed through my mind. Then I actually read the tweet:

“Charming” I thought. I tried to clarify my point but after becoming aware that my new acquaintance was arguing against a point which was different to the one I was trying to make I decided to finish things as it was becoming a waste of time.

As I became more familiar with twitter and started using it to follow professional cycling I set up a new cycling specific account (@JamesRannoch), mainly so my friends wouldn’t get annoyed by me adding pictures of men in Lycra to their timelines. I saw Digger get mentioned now and again and I occasionally dropped in on his profile and followed some of his ‘conversations’. He seemed to have some pretty extreme theories but to me it looked like were built out of suspicions which he was taking as fact. I didn’t disagree with everything he said, he raised and highlighted some important issues, but I held back from engaging with him when I did. It was obvious that there was no point in arguing with him because his mind wouldn’t be swayed by anyone else’s opinion. But the older I got, the grumpier I became and the less I was able to suffer him gladly. His infuriating debating style should have been scarring me away but it was drawing me into his world of accusations and innuendo. I started to become a little obsessed with disproving some of his more ridiculous theories. I felt that it was morally wrong throwing out proclamations about peoples integrity with flimsy evidence and cowardly to do so from behind an anonymous twitter handle. This would be fine if he was just prattling away in the corner of a pub somewhere because we could just nod or tut at the right moments but he was stating, as fact, things which could effect innocent people on public forums. There is also a fair amount of anger and venom whipped up among his followers and that anger and venom has been joined by spit and whatever else and is now getting directed at the condemned riders from the roadsides of the world. I’d had enough and ended up doing something I am not very proud of. I became a twitter troll. I was going to satirise this so called Digger and my shield of anonymity would be @Borer_forum.

First I tried to find out who this faceless keyboard warrior was, to see exactly what I was up against. There are many theories about his identity and background but after extensive research I could only find one reliable description of him and a photo which surfaced online a few years back.

Next I would employ my arguing skills to take apart all his theories. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for him to block me. There would be no late night debates about hidden motors as we smoked cigars. I wouldn’t receive scented jiffy bags containing long agonising letters about the differences between intramuscular and intravenous. I tried wooing him back with poetry…

….but alas, to no avail.

So I was reduced to taking incessant screen-grabs, much like the great man himself, of his more ridiculous tweets and posting them to the Borer account. Very quickly I found that following him so closely wasn’t good for my blood pressure and general happiness so I decided I would write a blog about Digger, put Borer into retirement and enjoy my life again. This has taken a lot longer than I’d hoped for thanks to the Fancy Bears but here’s what I found:

(Some of the screen grabs are straight off his time line so read from the bottom to the top.)

Diggers Doctrine

Digger purpose in life seems to be making accusations of doping within the pro peleton. He depicts himself as the investigator of all nefarious practices in cycling and when he has collected the relevant information he becomes judge and jury to deliver the verdict and pass sentence on his accused. As well his narcos gig he does work on the side calling out the media for having nationalistic biases and an unwillingness to report wrongdoings. If he ever has time spare after all this you will find that his twitter feed will also contain suggestions of corruption within governing bodies from those running sports like the UCI to the agencies charged with ensuring clean competition such as WADA. (He also has a keen interest in 9-11 and false flag conspiracies but there’s no way I’m going there).

His disdain for the media is quite UK-centric. He sees the British media as a bunch of flag waving nationalistic loonies unwilling to criticise anyone British or ask difficult questions about doping. He extends this viewpoint to cover the behaviour of British cycling fans too.

Being a tin foil hats not tin foil caps kind of guy he loves the UK global sports conspiracy theory. With so many Brits at the top of major sporting organisations there is the suggestion amongst the Doperati that this enables British athletes some protection against getting sanctioned for misdemeanours or helps them get lenient sentences. There also seems to be the belief that during races British riders have had the rules bent for them to give them an advantage over the rest.

I believe that he is right about the general standard of the press in UK. During recent elections and close referendums across the country more people have become wise to the way various media organisations report the news. They do it to try and bring you round to their way of thinking instead of simply telling the story in an unbiased and balanced way. The funny thing is though, judging by their tweets, the people who tend to disagree with Digger, including some who comment on cycling for a living, are the ones who are most aware of the standards and bias of the press. The fact they clash with Digger is perhaps because his views are also biased and one sided. He particularly has a thing about the BBC and had a go at their coverage of the Olympics by pointing out the cosy relationship between the presenters and athletes and bemoaned the fact that the thorny issue of drug taking wasn’t discussed. The coverage was certainly overly jingoistic and pretty cringe worthy. I had to channel hop and press the mute button plenty of times to retain my sanity. I wasn’t overly perturbed though because I was aware that it was a magazine show not a hard hitting documentary. He was also on Mo Farah’s case during the Olympics. And his source of information which allowed him to call Farah’s integrity into question? BBC’s Panorama documentary about Mo and his coach Alberto Salazar.

The British commentator who gets the most amount of flak though is Eurosport’s Carlton Kirby.

Well, I’ve already said he makes some good points.

On cycling journalists, his accusation of them not asking the important questions really means that they don’t believe the allegations that he makes. He also conveniently forgets about the times questions are asked. After the CIRC report plenty was said about potential abuses of the TUE system as well as the morality of using cortisone and Tramadol. Moreover, he makes out that he invented the idea that Team Sky have major problems with keeping their promises to be transparent when their transparency has been called into question plenty of times. By cycling journalists.

The main problem I have with Digger calling into question the integrity of journalists is that they would be under the threat of libel if they raised the points that he wants them to. In the meantime he is protected by his anonymity and feels he can throw out statements of guilt willy-nilly safe in the knowledge that he has the option to press the ‘delete tweet’ button. He posted this tweet in August stating that Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre have doped. I confronted him about it and now can’t find the tweet. It seems to have disappeared.

His twitter bio even contains a flimsy defence against libel by saying the account is satire.

Apart from BBC’s Panorama his other favourite media outlet of the British press which he slates is the Daily Mail. The only good thing about this is that he screenshots most of their columns so there’s not many clicks onto their site from his followers. His other source of news and views? Who can forget the time he retweeted Piers Morgan three times in a few hours.

When you consider his allegations of corruption it’s no secret that there’s wide scale corruption within many sports governing bodies but in terms of the UCI and Brian Cookson I believe they’re far too incompetent to run the kind of UK sporting conspiracy being suggested without getting found out.

Digger on Doping

Mr Forum comes into his own when it comes to the debate around doping. He uses a range of tactics to put his views across in ways he hopes makes them fool proof. Throwing mountains of mud to increase the chance of some of it sticking is his favourite.

It is the marginal gain of debating and even if he his right 1% of the time he claims victory for his overall dogma. His views rise out of confirmation bias and he uses straw man tactics when taking part in arguments. The best description I found which explains where he’s coming from though is Digger’s Razor.

It’s fair to say that he is firmly of the belief that almost everyone is on the sauce and this makes it impossible to win without some kind of rule breaking assistance. Whether that’s pharmaceutical or mechanical depends on his narrative at the time.

His evidence to back things up is based mainly on historical comparisons of times up climbs and the company which riders keep. If you go up a climb faster than a known doper did in the past, it’s simple. You’ve cheated. If you have ever been on a team which had known dopers on it at the same time, it’s obvious that you would be on a doping programme too. Other flags which, to him, are clear indications of doping are an increase in the number of medals a country wins at various competitions, riders going to certain countries where drug testers don’t usually visit and of course anyone with asthma is seen as only pretending to be suffering from the condition to get medication which will improve performance. Most of his accusations are aimed firmly at Team Sky and in particular Chris Froome. Skys over referenced idea of marginal gains is firmly put down as BS and is seen as a smokescreen for something more sinister.

In a way Digger seems similar to most cycling fans and to give him some credit at times he raises some good points. He, along with the rest of us, understands that some top riders must be doping. We are uncomfortable with some journalists cosy relationships with certain teams and riders and know that organisations need massive reform. But where he is different is when we see a certain performance as evidence that someone may be doping he sees it as evidence that someone is doping. And when we would further analyse the performance and sometimes spot something which would call into question the suspicion of doping, he wouldn’t do that. He has found the evidence to support his theory and that’s the end of that. He would stand by his opinion and any other evidence would be denied.

The Doperati often tries to prove doping by deciding whether the watts per kilograms a rider produces up climbs during races are credible or out of the range of human possibility. Most of the figures you see for different riders W/kg aren’t from the individuals power files but are produced by people watching races, most notably @ammattipyoraily. I have to admit that I was surprised when I found out how accurate these W/kg calculations are when you consider how many things you have to factor in when making them. The riders W/kg produced and the time it was sustained can give you an indication of how far a rider is progressing towards the line which can only be crossed if you are are on PED’s. The problem is no body knows exactly where the line is. The doperati’s top scientist Antoine Vayer claims he knows where the line is and his figures are regularly used to justify accusations of cheating. Unfortunately his calculations seem to have been plucked out of the air and it is important to remember that the South African scientist Ross Tucker rightly states that we won’t know for sure where the line is until data from many riders over a number of years is collected and analysed. I think this would be a great thing to happen and the flimsy science from the doperati only gets in the way of making this occur.

Digger tends not to bother with watts per kilogram but uses the more simple times up climbs charts to prove doping. The problem is, any sort of context is ignored. When Chris Froome beat Chris Horners time up Pena Cabarga during this years Vuelta an eyebrow was seriously raised. How can you compare the times though? He asks what’s changed. Well quite alot has. If you look at the stage profiles and where they are in the race there’s no justification for making a comparison. Why even comment let alone make an accusation?

Even setting aside profiles every stage is raced differently. Tactics come into play. One day there might be attacks and slowing down of the main group of riders and another might see no attacks. And GC riders with strong mountain domestiques will perform better than riders on their own on a different day. Of course Digger knows this though. When it suits him he uses tactics to explain slow ascents (with a ridiculous caveat).

He’s right, you can compare times but they don’t prove what he says they do. His arguments are often too simplistic.

Mr Forum and the rest of the Doperati mention Marginal Gains more often than David Brailsford and every cycling journalist put together. Having to read about marginal bleeding gains all the time was probably the worst parts of following Digger. The Doperati have the belief that Sky transmit the idea that M.G’s explain their improvements in performance and use it as a smokescreen as the improvements are actually achieved through using PED’s or mechanical fraud. The argument against ‘the gains’ goes “How can it be a gain if all the other teams are doing the same thing?”. This holds some water and the Doperati are constantly demanding proof of where Sky’s supposed marginal gains over the other teams comes from. In truth it’s pretty difficult to know what each team does differently without actually being in the team itself. But just as it’s almost impossible to prove that Sky gain an advantage over say Movistar when considering the way the teams are run it’s just as difficult for the Doperati to show that they don’t. Without knowing the nutritionists, time-trial training methods and pillow manufacturers (joke) (sort of) of the two teams the argument is pointless and any conclusions which say that there are or aren’t gains can only come from confirmation bias. What we do know is that Sky are a much better team than the 2010 effort so have gained in that regard. Digger would say that’s because of doping but they look like a well oiled machine when compared to the tactical shambles that was standing about not knowing what to do when Wiggins crashed out of the 2011 Tour.

Judging by these tweets there does seem to be a misunderstanding of what Marginal Gains actually are. He seems to think it’s all about equipment. Wouldn’t getting a better understanding of and how to use analysis be somewhere you can get a marginal flippin gain? (Read from bottom to top) (In the second tweet he seems to contradict himself).

Again he gets confused when marginal gains aren’t put down to equipment. A gain could come through sports psychology and positive thinking but the very thought of this is difficult to stomach for some.

Just before the Vuelta this year Digger shared this tweet by Antoine Vayer where the Frenchman trots out the smokescreen theory and includes a table of numbers which must be his evidence. He gets a good old pat on the back from Diggsy who must be the only person who understands how a table with Chris Boardman’s numbers for his successful 1996 World Hour Record attempt and some other hypothetical numbers are proof of cheating for kids.

This is Diggers final nail in the coffin for the idea of marginal gains giving any advantage to Sky. His ultimate proof.

Sure, these Director Sportifs could take training and race tactics to other teams. But they’re not expert nutritionists or mattresses. It’s just another narrow viewpoint that happens to fit nicely with his doctrine.

A classic conspiracy theory amongst the Doperati is the idea of an inner sanctum in Team Sky where only a special group of riders are on a doping programme and no one else on the team knows about it.

This cloak and dagger nonsense ties in nicely with the question the Truthers are always asking of Chris Froome. How did he supposedly turn from a donkey into three time Tour de France champion? It’s true, his results were utter rubbish before his breakthrough in the 2011 Vuelta. His problem is that he’ll never be able to adequately explain the transformation. He has the results of a physiological test from 2007 which showed he had great potential and a more detailed lab test from 2015 which shows he has good numbers now. But without similar tests from the intervening years he won’t be able to convince everyone that he is clean. And what of the sudden improvement in results? He puts it down to suffering from the parasitic infection bilharzia from late 2010 and through most of 2011 when he seemed to get rid of the problem. Clearly the Doperati think Froome is talking schistosomiasis and they know he will never be able to prove himself right without any analysis of the infected blood and how the parasite effected him physically. The Truthers final piece of evidence which they say shows Froome started doping at the 2011 Vuelta and continues to do so is the belief that he was so bad before it that Sky were going to get rid of him and this is what spurned him on to begin a regime.

This suggests that if Brailsford was wanting rid of Froome then Froome must have gone it alone if his transformation was fulfilled through illegal means. How does this tie in with the inner sanctum? You can’t have both surely. There is evidence and counter evidence on both sides of the debate on Froome but nothing certain is yet known.

A funny thing is that even when Team Sky have an off day their use of drugs is given as a reason. When they were caught badly positioned a the start of stage 15 of this years Vuelta leaving Froome isolated most put this down to a rare instance of bad tactics for the team. Digger and the Doperati however:

Digger seemed to think he was onto a winner during the Fancy Bears TUE leaks. He felt he had been vindicated for all the innuendo, allegation making and assertions he has made during his twitter career.

Bradley Wiggins’ dodgy TUE’s certainly came as a shock and many people found them quite upsetting. His Tour win will be seen as a tainted one by plenty of cycling fans. But all through the Fancy Bears leaks Digger was still up to his old trick of throwing out allegations without knowing the full facts. Many of the people he was accusing were innocent of any wrongdoing.

Callum Skinner was one of the first to receive a suggestion of dishonestly gaining a TUE. The Scottish track rider subsequently released all his medical information pertaining to the asthma which he has suffered from for most of his life to show that he had a genuine medical need for the TUE. I don’t remember seeing an apology from Digger but there was this high and mighty tweet almost a month later.

Fabian Cancellara didn’t get that courtesy though. After his files were leaked his team explained that the TUE’s were needed to treat a bad reaction to a bee sting. They even shared two photos of Cancellara with a swollen looking face. They were the same pictures that were released at the time of the actual incident. But this clearly wasn’t enough for a suspicious Digger who seems to think that Spartacus may have been trying to get a TUE to give him an advantage in his main objective of the year, the Vuelta.

The best one though was the Alistair Brownlee TUE. He made an accusation, got it wrong, knew he got it wrong but then it was “nothing to see here, move along”. Digger never admits he’s wrong and never apologises.

My final example of the instant eyebrow raiser and accusation before all the facts were known. Then being put right by folk including Ross Tucker, perhaps upset that he couldn’t call shenanigans on it.

Diggers Own Hypocrisy and Contradictions

Diggers usual twitter name is Fuck the hypocrisy. This suggests he hates it when people don’t practice what they preach. You would also expect that he is honest and fair when he tweets something. Unfortunately for him there is evidence of his own hypocrisy on his time line, which is pretty hypocritical wouldn’t you say? There are also many, many contradictions in his doctrine.

One of his biggest gripes is that journalists don’t print stories of mass doping in sport, though it could be that he is just annoyed they don’t publish his beliefs. He believes they use the fact that they can be sued for libel if they make any accusations as an excuse for not writing that difficult article. He says why don’t they asks questions? That’s not libellous. Does he even realise what he’s asking for? Article after article titled ‘Does Chris Froome Dope?’ where the pros and cons are weighed up and in the end the is no definitive answer either way. It would drive him bananas. It’s a great idea. He seems to use David Walsh’s very close relationship with Team Sky as a catch-all for the behaviour of every cycling journalist out there. He thinks they are all wimping out.

While he comes out with accusations of not being brave enough and hiding behind libel, he regularly deletes weeks worth of tweets when he says anything libellous. The missing week on the bottom of this screenshot was at the end of the Olympics when he was at his accusatory best.

And he has the cheek to say this about Lizzie Deignen. Double standards or what?

David Walsh is the journalist that gets it most from Digger. I’m not going to defend Walsh here, I’ve thought he was a nob ever since Emma O’Reiley revealed how she was treated by him when he was writing his book on Lance Armstrong. But Digger used an interview he gave (quite a while) after the Bradley Wiggins’ TUE scandal broke to twist the knife into his countryman. The way Digger misquoted from it showed again how dishonest and how easily he changes context to suit his narrative. But he gets his likes and people think what he’s said is true so it’s all ok. He asks for transparency and honesty but this is what he gives in return. Hypocrisy. Walsh was talking about Chris Froome being potentially upset about Wiggins getting a very strong, perhaps unnecessary, injected TUE right before the main objective of the year. Digger says Froome “literally” got the same TUE so how would he be upset? Sure they both got TUE’s for cortisone but they were both very different.

Diggerooney regularly says more should be done to encourage ex-dopers and those with knowledge of the doping culture to talk about the issue of drugs in cycling. He will praise riders who come with information (usually in lucrative biographies) and come down hard on those who stay silent. At the same time though he has quite a friendly and jovial relationship with Johan Bruyneel who could say so much on the subject but has chosen to keep the omerta going, even through his various hearings.

He speaks against omerta both within the peleton and the media but at the same time claims he “knows stuff” he won’t share. So either he is part of the omerta, i.e a hypocrite, or he doesn’t know stuff, i.e full of shit.

At times Digger will take the moral high ground on issues. He has rightly condemned Shane Sutton who has had allegations against him of sexism upheld. Is he practicing what he’s preaching though? Has he done it because he believes in gender equality or was it just a chance for more Sky bashing?

This was a tweet explaining why there has never been anyone with inside knowledge of the team speaking out against Sky. I’m pretty sure whistleblowing legislation would protect anyone wanting to come forward.

And how does it tie in with this marginal gains put down? Contradiction alert!

This contradiction was within the space of a few hours.

My suspicion that Digger was a liar was confirmed quite early on during my @Borer_forum phase. I knew 100% he was lying too. I must have been getting under his skin and he may have been worried that folk would start following my account so he sent a few tweets saying I was someone called Euan and had previously shared photos of him and his children saying they looked disabled. This just shows his dishonesty. He doesn’t care whether what he’s putting out on public forums is true or not. If it suits him then great.

Diggers feelings on Betsy Andreu is his most impressive of contradictions. He says she constantly goes on about Lance Armstrong at the same time as constantly going on about Betsy constantly going on about Lance. There’s more tweets about Betsy from Digger than ones with rubbish jokes about Paypal accounts from me.

Diggers Debatable Debating

Getting into an argument with the man is infuriating. There is no doubt that he is very knowledgeable about the history of doping in cycling and he can easily recall lots of information to advance his argument during debates. He will often change the parameters of the debate though and if you’re not careful you’ll not realise you’re arguing against something resembling a human but quite straw-like in nature. These are the occasions he will enter debates but in truth he doesn’t get into many tete-a-tetes about cycling these days. I tried engaging him a few times but he rarely responded.

This was one time I invited him to expand on a tweet:

It was one of his many moot points so he never replied. One of his disciples came to his aid but the best he could come up with were Tom Danielson and the Iglinsky brothers.

Having said all this I think I’m giving the guy far to much credit. Here he is in reply to me after I questioned his accusations of doping against Sastre and Evans. To back up his point he give me a list of some top riders, many who we know for a fact (because of documented evidence) have doped.

And when he isn’t coming out with these winning arguments he is either losing the plot, contradicting himself, grossly exaggerating or coming out with statements usually reserved for the playground. This is Digger.

Eh but,

“In no time” was actually a fair whack of the climb.

Eh, no it wasn’t. Digger seriously has to re-watch Bert and Chicken.


Is Digger Anti-British?

Digger is often accused of being anti-British. This might be down to the fact that he seemed to have a problem of me potentially being a Rangers fan, and all that entails to some folk. (I’m more of the Brian Smith persuasion when it comes to football) or maybe it was the nature of the only political tweet or retweet during the first month or so of trolling him.

Maybe it was because of the tone of this tweet or retweets.

But he can’t be anti-British. Some of his best friends are British.

Diggers Ego.

Diggers ego is what make him the leader of the Doperati. All cults need a brash self confident person calling the shots and Digger fits the bill perfectly.

Digger loves a compliment but when there’s none coming he’ll do it for himself. He will even will do it while speaking of himself in the 3rd person.

He also seems to think journalists hang on his every word, waiting eagerly for him to impart his next tenet of knowledge. If they have the same opinion as him on a matter he takes that as an indication that they’ve acquired the opinion from listening to him. It’s incredible.

So Digger sure has a high opinion of himself though it does seem worrying that he potentially has payed for some of his large twitter following. If you look at his twitter bio passport from a few years ago it shows that 39% of his followers are probably fake.

Diggers Crew.

Even discounting the fake ones Digger has a fair old following. But what is life like in Diggerville? There is a mixture of anger and happiness as well as a togetherness which I find quite sweet. There is a certain sense of camaraderie amongst the Doperati which is along the same lines as a bunch of lads away for a stag weekend. In jokes are passed about and sniggers are heard after sarcastic mentions of Nutella, pillows and round wheels. There is plenty of fawning around the big man as the minions plead for his attention hoping for a heart or even a retweet. This means if someone goes against the party line there will be plenty of people to take him down.

Many of his followers though are actually nice people and you can have a pleasant conversation with them while disagreeing at the same time. These people afterall are cyclists and cycling fans and even after having to put up with years of crap they can still enjoy watching the sport. His close disciples though are a different kettle of fish. They certainly know cycling but they don’t enjoy it. Like Digger they spend tremendous amounts of time trying to find ways to show how dirty it is. These are his henchmen :

Antoine Vayer

The man who is meant to give some scientific legitimacy to the operation. He once reminded me of a jovial and slightly senile uncle with his zany views and google translated tweets but I’ve come to realise he has a nasty side.

His scientific work is regularly debunked by experts in physiology as it often seems to get plucked out of thin air. Also, I hope he never drives through Milton Keynes.


Antoine’s protégé and someone else who likes calling me Euan. Naming a twitter account aimed at exposing doping @Vayerism is like starting one to encourage progressive and inclusive politics @Trumpism. He understands how numbers are produced but doesn’t know how to analyse them properly. He is also prone to being a little gung ho with some of his tweets.

Ross Tucker

Definitely the brains of the operation. He has the wherewithal to help devise a way to combat doping but unfortunately he has taken to emotional opinions rather than science recently.


Definitely my favourite. He is often Diggers go to guy for sensationalism. Part time Brazilian cycling fan, part time Australian secret agent, full time Walter Mitty. Either that or he has stolen somebodies profile picture. He’s the man with many ‘sources’.

There was this during the tour:

Then these nuggets of knowledge:

But this is the best tweet (still pinned to his profile) of them all.

The thread that follows it exemplifies what the Doperati are all about. Here’s a snippet:

And that I’m glad to say is that. It wasn’t fun following Digger and the Doperati. It was infuriating and depressing. I became aware that I was starting to lose perspective. It would have been easy to start disagreeing with something just because Digger agreed with it. I could have become one of them. I’m also glad that I can stop retweeting myself.

So I just have one last thing:

18 thoughts on “Digger and the Twitter Doperati.

  1. Well documented. I’m not being frivolous when I say I believe there is genuine mental illness at play here.

    You’ve found how difficult it is to function at their level and demonstrated how many of them never switch off.

    The lack of applied logic would hint at either a low level of education and critical functioning or a lack of self esteem, happy to pay the cost of being wrong in return for the short term attention gained.

    Finally there appears to be level of racism, bigotry or xenophobia and other general anti-social traits suggestion again that there are mental and esteem issues present.

    In many respects people tend to despise seeing their own worth traits in others. Some do this consciously but this seems sub-conscious. Many of the people you’ve met seem to be in the sub-conscious category.

    1. You’ve nailed it on the head there. The the way they seem to be functioning subconsciously or basically lying to themselves is the thing that worries me most about their mental health.

  2. imagine writing a 5 million word blog post about a single person on twitter and then infer that THEY are the ones a mental illness? pot, kettle, black.

  3. “Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair, or fucking beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man… and give some back. ”

    I think you’re bothered by the digger posts because you are British. I’m afraid this will keep going until the Brits have their Puerto or Padova or Lance A. or Festina affair.

    1. The reasons I’m bothered by Digger are covered in the aricle, such as his lies and cowardice. And as someone who is half Scottish and half Boer I don’t consider myself to be particularly British.

  4. It appears like you are writing about yourself to be honest. You are a proven liar, troll and a hypocrite… pretty much everything that you have accused him of. Its difficult being a spurned lover no?

    Is digger full of shit? Sure he is, the same as most people are. However your diatribe attempts to use him being a bit of a dick in his approach to justify your naivety (or blind love) with regards to doping in top level cyclists and athletes. It is fairly obvious that Chris Froome and Paula Radcliffe are dopers for example. One of them is the greatest transformation in the history of endurance sport if you somehow believe them to be ‘clean’ and the other has beaten the top 50 doping times easily while at the same time showing incredibly suspect blood scores to which Michael Ashenden (look him up if you don’t know who he is) strongly suspected her of doping. One of them is celebrated by the majority of what ‘clean’ sport can achieve and the other is somehow given a leading role in the ‘ethics’ committee by a corrupt chairman. It is easy to understand the position that people more sceptical than you take.

    An intelligent adult would be able to use a filter when dealing with instant opinions but it seems to be something you have difficulty with. Creating troll accounts and slagging off the messenger instead of actually taking time to research your writing properly. In between a few pertinent points (though personality driven) you have also used a number of strawmen and selective quoting just the same as he would.

    Bye bye internet troll.

    1. Wow! Thanks for your feedback. Just a few points and questions though.
      1. Could you please explain how I am a proven liar?
      2. Why do you bring up Paula Radcliffe, I never mentioned her.
      3. I wouldn’t be surprised if Froome were ever caught doping but at the moment, personally, I think there is enough doubt to not hang him out for public condemnation.
      4. I know who Michael Ashenden is.
      5. I created one ‘troll account’ as a response to what Digger does, which I find morally wrong.
      6. Believe me, the piece look plenty of research.
      7. I agree I should maybe have just bit my tongue.
      8. Can I see examples of strawman and selective quoting.

  5. Hi James,

    Happy to clarify and discuss. I’ll leave no1 to the end if that’s ok.

    2. I perhaps should have expanded my reasoning, unfortunately I was a little pushed for time. I brought Paula Radcliffe up as an example of how the very top of an organisation can appear to be complicit in covering up doping rather than actually attempting to clean up elite sport to this day. I didn’t wish to be completely Sky centric in my examples though I don’t really see the relationship between Brian Cookson and Dave Brailsford to be any different than that of Coe and Radcliffe. Add Craig Reedie into the mix and it becomes more than plausible that there is high level corruption in cycling.

    I’m not as vociferous as Digger by any means on this point (or any other for that matter) but from being a former, I guess elite, athlete in a different sport I saw first hand how little desire organisations have to combat doping. It is really bad for business to expose dopers, really bad. Even exposing 10% of actual doping in any sport would see its reputation sullied for decades and that sort of reputation does not endear itself to big money sponsorship. At the same time several of my fellow competitors were doping and we all knew about it, organisers included. This was in one of those sports where people assume doping wouldn’t give a large advantage, except it does, as it does in all sports.

    3. Regarding Froome. I think it is the fact that much like many people enjoy watching a punch and Judy show, they don’t wish to see the puppeteers operating in front booth, hence the screen. I think with Froome, for me personally and many others, there isn’t even the veil of honesty there, it is that obvious. Although it cannot be proven in terms of the standard of proof required for criminal action, I would feel very confident on the balance of probabilities, as it would be for a civil action, that he would be considered a doper.

    I do not see it as unreasonable for the media or any others to mention that his achievements are solely due to this transformation all the time. It is certainly preferable to the attempt to create, what appears to me, to be a ludicrous story which keeps changing depending on what year you ask.

    I think the interview Paul Kimmage did with him really highlighted the obviousness and is a really good example of the sort of questions that should be asked of him. I also think that rather than skirt around the issue, if Chris Froome was in any way clean he would release all of his blood and training data for 2011, anything else is a smokescreen.

    Nobody cares whether he now has the physiology of a tour winner, the fact he is a tour winner already shows that (highlighting what a joke and pr exercise the testing by Swart actually was). By the same token nobody credible cares what his physiology was supposedly like in 2007 because he was shit (in elite terms of course) had been shit for most of his cycling career and continued to be shit for years after (all pre bilharzia), his results also show that. Brailsford himself admitted that Froome was being released in 2011 then bang, he is the greatest ‘clean’ endurance athlete the world has seen. Forget occam’s razor, I’m just not that naive to believe in miracles.

    Let me ask you a question: Suppose Froome was Russian (or Spanish, Italian), would you still think the same with regards to how obvious a doper he is?

    Again I’m nowhere near as vociferous as Digger is and as I mentioned already that I do think the persona behaves like somewhat of a bellend, but that is the nature of twitter to some extent. However I think that without those people things would be far worse in regards to how much widescale doping is hidden than it already is.

    Which brings me to no8.

    I suspect from reading your post that our views are not too wide apart along the ‘sceptical scale’ and normally I would never respond, much like I do not write on forums but it was such a venomous character assassination, especially bringing Ross Tucker into it, that I fell for the same ‘fuck you I’m going to sling shit as well’ that you have fallen prey to. With hindsight I should have written ‘lying to yourself’ without the proven and for that I apologise. However you carried out an action that you yourself admit was morally wrong to yourself and yet the ‘lie’ of some sort of moral superiority is just that. I phrased it poorly though so again I was wrong there and apologise.

    The selective quoting refers to the fact you slam him for slating all media, yet conveniently forget that he often praises the media al Kimmage, Lawton, off the ball and others. Perhaps it wasn’t intentional but you appeared to do exactly what you accused him of.

    The strawman refers to the fact that he does not claim to be correct all the time, does not claim to be perfect and once you get past the noise, simply wishes that people would consider that elite level sport is not all roses and sportsmen are no more likely to be honest than anyone else, yet this is the myth that is portrayed. Despite basically agreeing with this message, you attack him for what he has not claimed to be, which to me is a strawman. Digger has never advanced an argument that he is likable (which he clearly isn’t) he never said he wasn’t hypocritical but that he is sick of the hypocrisy in sport. So am I for that matter.

    I hope that clarifies my post a little more. My post is not personal to you per se rather to the ‘troll’ and the post subject.

    All the best.

    1. Thanks for your reply.
      I would just like to explain why I wrote the blog as this might help understand the tone I was trying to put into it.
      The main reason was that I enjoy writing. Cycling is also my favourite sport and form of transport so that’s what I end up writing about. I thought Digger would be a good subject as he divides opinion though I freely admit I needed to also let off steam after a few run ins with him. I also thought he was fair game as he puts his views across on a public platform.
      The part at the end of the blog about Ross Tucker was really meant as a plea, though I realise he will probably not have read it. He is obviously a talented scientist who I think would be an asset to anti-doping and has in the past raised some good points and come up with good ideas.

    2. Recently Tucker has been getting quite spiteful with people who don’t agree with him though. I prefer the Ross Tucker from the cycling podcast episodes where he was talking about the importance of trying to colate longitudinal data.

      You mentioned Froome releasing his 2011 data. This is another problem I have with Digger and why I wanted to write about him. The likes of him have their minds made up about Froome and other riders so will only analyse physical or medical data releases in a way that will back up their theories. This is actually hindering anti-doping as riders will think “what’s the point of being transparent when people are going to think what they want anyway”.
      On the media, that is the exact point I was trying to make. I should have written it better. He criticised “the cycling media” while getting his information from them.

      On Diggers character I reckon he does think he’s right all the time, I have never seen him apologise for being wrong. He also doesn’t seem to think there are any roses at all!

      On your points of debate, I thought the UCI and Cookson are too incompetent to be involved in large scale corruption and cover ups and I now think the same of Brailsford too.
      On Froome, for me, I think his early promise (the 2007 tests) is important and if you take this into account with the teams, roles in the teams, training and races he competed in before his time at Sky this COULD explain why he wasn’t so prolific. I admit the scales of suspicion are tipped far towards the eyebrow raising side though. I’d also like to think I would treat him the same as those from other countries. I am always aware of how my leanings affect my interpretation of what I read in newspapers and I try to do the same when forming any opinion. I was especially aware during my ‘borer days’ aware that I was at risk of not believing something simply because Digger did.

      Finally, thank god, who knows what to do about anti-doping? None of the sporting organisations have the stomach for it, as you say. There needs to be wide spread reform but as this has been said for a few years now I wonder if it will ever happen. We need a strong, reformed WADA who have more money and powers to do things more effectively. With Digger at the helm.

  6. Ok James that clarifies things a little better for me and I think I can understand why he would infuriate you. His style is incredibly abrasive but I see the ‘noise’ from the ‘truthers’ as you name them, is as important as UKAD or WADA. The noise creates the debate (such as the on we are having right now) which brings more informed people out of the woodwork and that is what helps pertitent information to be released.

    I think in regards to Tucker, he is probably fed up with being far better informed than the vast majority of people who attempt to criticise him without solid reasoning, including a number of journalists (who ended up looking rather silly). I think he doesn’t mind debate at all and is a very fair, even minded person. However the ‘he can’t be doping because I believe it and that is enough’ doesn’t hold any evidential meaning. That’s my guess anyway.

    I don’t personally buy the ‘I may as well dope because someone thinks I do’ argument as I think it misunderstands the desire and motivations of elite athletes (generalising here). The problem with that argument is that somebody like Froome has already doped by this point, hence the attention. A clean athlete who has somehow managed to get to the elite level is most likely to dope simply for the paycheck, or more likely just to beat others. It is generally that simple.

    Ask any cyclist you know if they thought in July 2011 that .Chris Froome had ever doped. I doubt you will get a single person who says yes. What they will say is ‘who is Chris Froome?’

    Here is the big thing I personally have learnt from a couple of decades in eliteish level sport; real talent is obvious, including adaptability to training and potential. People like Valverde and Contador had won more at 16 than Froome had as a mature athlete. Keep that in mind when you understand that they then doped, with the huge advantages that it permanently brings, especially in the ability to constantly train. Understand that the actual differences between elite and say pro continental are far less than the advantages PEDs bring to a decent responder. A single sketchy fax which suggests a decent engine is nothing compared to the many many many better cyclists than he was until those fateful couple of months. Every single cyclist (or endurance athlete) in history who has shown anything like the miracle that Froome showed, was a doper, and nobody has transformed like he has. Every single one… its that obvious. I don’t believe in some inner circle, I think its just him and his wife organising their schedule and it is so easy to do without getting caught.

    If by some miracle he was actually clean I’m sure he would wish to follow the example of Thibaut Pinot by actually doing something for anti doping like releasing the required data. It would go a long way to somehow explaining what the hell went on in those months preceding.

    I also think the corruption is more of the casual call or putting anti doping resources towards a certain area or event, when its obvious where and when the testers should be targeting. I’m not sure they would even think of it as corruption, but it most certainly is.

    Here is the thing, a governing body or anti doping organisation never does anything to combat doping, it is in every single case, whistleblowers and police being involved. Those whistleblowers are generally attacked and treated like shit in every case as well. And as a final point, Incompetence is very much a form of corruption.

    All the best

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