Call me naive, but I think that it’s better. I believe that team orchestrated doping has gone. I believe that there’s been a ‘sea change’ in attitudes of riders and staff.
I believe that there’s a generation of young riders coming up who think differently to previous generations; ‘kitting up’ isn’t part of the job and a fact of life.
It’s wrong, it’s cheating and it can waste you physically and mentally. And let’s hope that the lessons from ‘LanceGate’ are used to underline this and don’t just provide tasty copy for the media.
But how do we make sure?
Bike riders are human beings, they have failings – they lie, cheat and can justify most things to themselves, no matter how wrong or devious those things may be.
I hope I’m wrong, but whilst I’m aware that professional cycling is an enormously popular and resilient game, ‘LanceGate’ has rocked the sport to the foundations. Borderline potential sponsors will have tied their track shoe laces tight and bolted to a ‘safer’ sport where there aren’t drugs scandals every five minutes.
We have to do our best to make sure that the Armstrong scandal is the line in the sand that should have been drawn after the Festina nightmare.
Here are ten proposals which, if implemented could only be for the good.
1. There has to be change within the UCI; if the current management structure is to stay in place then there must be a Mea culpa. Standing up and saying you were wrong and explaining to the world why you made the mistakes and what you’re going to do to rectify them is not a sign of weakness. The current ‘deny, deny, deny’ mantra lies in tatters after the events of the last few days.
2. The UCI must fight in our corner and push for uniformity across all Olympic sports. The testing procedures and penalties for doping infringements in soccer are laughable. And why were only cyclists nailed to the wall in Operation Puerto?
Currently, cycling is the ‘whipping boy’ of sports – it’s inconceivable that in sports where pay days are much higher that the athletes are not using their wealth to ‘push the envelope.’
3. The UCI has to become pro-active in the event of a (+) test. Press releases should go out to sites like ours and the major news agencies explaining exactly what has happened. If you don’t inform some elements of the media, they’ll guess or invent it. And there should be a media savvy press officer as the first line of contact – not Mr. McQuaid, that’s not his function.
4. The UCI constitution should be changed, (+) tests should be dealt with by a specialist panel, not the national federations. At the moment this just costs precious time; the UCI ‘leave it up to the federation,’ but if they don’t like the federation’s decision then belatedly get involved – ie: Contador and Alex Rasmussen.
Furthermore, suspensions should apply (if positive) from the moment the ‘B’ sample test result is confirmed. The Contador case was a complete mess with race results retrospectively amended once he was finally banned – farcical.
5. In the event of a rider testing (+) he should not be written off as mentally ill or a liar, he should be spoken to by trained legal staff to hear what he has to say and any relevant information acted upon. A reduced penalty could be considered if he cooperates fully.
6. The riders involved in the Armstrong Affair should go through a rehabilitation process before they are allowed to coach/train/manage in the sport.
7. The Italian model should be adopted, ie: failed test = no national selection.
8. The French model whereby criminality enters the equation and a rider guilty of drugs offences may face penalties from the criminal court – not just sporting sanction – should be examined by the UCI as a Europe-wide possibility.
The national federations would have to laise with their national anti-doping colleagues on this one; and I say ‘European’ because of the consistency which exists in law across the European Union.
9. There must be consistent penalties and methodologies applied across nations and riders. I have yet to have it explained to me how Gregory Bauge can miss three ‘whereabouts’ tests, be given a back dated suspension – albeit one which robs of him of a world title – but never misses a beat of his race programme and races the London Olympics when he should be suspended.
10. An education programme should be launched where all neo pros have it explained to them clearly the dangers – mental, physical and financial – of taking proscribed substances. This has been mooted in the past but never actually happened.
# And as the ‘eleventh commandment’ – what about that amnesty we talk about?
Could we make it work?
If you think we could make an amnesty work or have better ideas, then let us know; but remember that if nothing changes as a result of the Armstrong debacle, then it’s been an awful lot of pain for no gain.