during the 2013 Tour de France i was contributing to two websites, PEZ Cycling News and The Roar, and amongst my observations was included the fact that Chris Froome was riding very strongly and that, as a result of the previous 20 years of the history of doping in the sport, it would be prudent to wonder just how he was riding so incredibly well.
it wasn’t an accusation. it wasn’t finger pointing. it was a wondering. i feel that anyone that has a genuine interest in this great sport has, now more than ever, a right and even a duty to ask questions when we see something that seems larger than life.
as a result of these comments, i received generally supportive feedback from around the web but, as ever, there were those who wrote comments not just supporting Froome and Sky but more or less telling me to shut up. that all this doping talk was “boring”, or “there is something called innocent until proven guilty!”
yup, indeed there is, but when the crime is largely undetectable – and when the authorities have helped it to remain so – then what’s left of the logic behind ‘innocent until proven guilty’?
we’ve been fibbed to, fobbed off, dumped on and generally treated like spoon-fed idiots for several years now. after every scandal the UCI does nothing and waits for our little voices to pipe down once again – need I name them? Festina, Puerto and on and on – then it’s back to business as usual until slaaaap – another pile of crap falls out the arse of pro cycling onto everyone but those responsible.
people come back after the dust settles, to places like this and the forums, and say ‘hey can we give these guys a break please?’ or ‘surely, SURELY it’s cleaner now!’ or ‘it must be clean, or what’s the point?’ and then bang, another dollop drops.
Gw1516. Aicar. S107. S108. It’s all just waiting in the wings. Another wave will come soon, and we’ll see the same pattern again. To believe that just 1 year after the biggest scandal that hit the sport came about that now it is clean is naive. Frank Schleck got busted, di Gregorio, Contador on ‘beef’, Mustafa Sayer, 3 RusVelo riders on ‘asthma drugs’, Santambrogio, Di Luca…
I do not understand how the committed fan can’t grasp this brief window in time that we have to question all that they see. forget clean or not, the fact that we still, in 2013, cannot be absolutely sure that the guys winning these races are indeed clean is a shame on our sport, on its officials and its standard bearers.
and yes, on its participants too. on its journalists, and even its fans, in some respects. all we ever do, collectively, is bury our heads back in the sand after each scandal.
those of us who question the legitimacy of performances do so because we have seen it all before, and we have heard it all before too. ‘Give him a break!’ – Well sure, we would, if the sport could police itself. If you didn’t learn from the Lance garbage that these tests mean almost NOTHING to anyone with the cash and the inclination to cheat then you really are a True Believer.
micro dosing. Blood doping. new stuff that may be undetectable.
the Bio Passport has been shown to actually aid the dopers – and ex-dopers have said as much. the samples taken at the Tour 2013 will be eligible for retroactive testing in years to come once tests have been developed and perfected for the new generation of drugs, and it is only then that we may see who has been on what. do those calling for people to stop ‘going on’ forget that Lance’s old tests, once retroactively tested, showed use of EPO?
and hematocrit. it is supposed to go down after the body is put through repeated stress, yet the Tour riders of recent years were found with H levels that either remained constant or went UP. is that natural too?
seriously, get over the sense of ‘us’ bashing individuals and see that is it not about that – whoever performed head and shoulders above the rest this year would have and has incurred suspicion. it is not their fault, nor ours, it is just plain as day that there is an existing pattern there that we have been gullible to swallow silently so many times.
and now we are here, in an environment in which we can for the first time ever actually say ‘hey, show us how you do it. we dearly would love to believe again.’
this isn’t ‘us’ against ‘you’, or ‘them’. because WE are the sport.
we have to take this chance. if Pat wins and if there are no changes, and all those ex-dopers come back as usual into management and the peloton shuts shop again, we are right back in the Dark Ages.
parts of this article originally appeared as a comment on The Roar
Team Sky and messrs. Porte & Froome get the once over.
funny, in a way, that the name ‘UCI’ means so much still to so many. like ‘FIFA’ or ‘NBA’, those three little letters meant, for many of us who grew up with a passion for the sport, a stamp of authority, a measure of goodness and a sign of quality. attaching ‘UCI’ to ‘World Championships’ meant that the thing really mattered. it was real. it was glorious.
sure, the UCI was a bureaucracy, it connoted the shuffling of documents and filing cabinets and sausage-like, pink-skinned fat white men on the wrong side of the middle of their years in bi-focals with receding hairlines and ill-fitting cheap suits and sensible shoes and probably a few too many slaps on the backsides of young female secretaries, but it still felt good. it used the rainbow colors right there in its badge, linking itself very firmly to the kind of honest (or so we thought) endeavor and good ol’ hard work that defined our world champions.
sound a little naive? probably was, but through great swathes of the 80s and even the 90s the sport seemed like most others, there were crooks and cheats here and there but on the whole it was a healthy pursuit, governed by an association that might have been getting fat along the way but that essentially was taking care of this sport beloved by so many.
the truth was that Hein and his cohorts were building an shark-toothed behemoth on the squalid practises of the past, one that overlooked the culture of rampant doping at a time when the new dope on the block was killing otherwise supremely healthy and starry-eyed youngsters in their sleep. the UCI wanted the megabucks and they needed a star system and by golly they got it by both hook and by crook, fueled by EPO in a way that Hollywood has always been fueled by coke, staffed by Supermen and Terminators that were doing stuff up pretty high hills that now seem more akin to acts committed by criminals than sporting achievements.
yet still… it’s the UCI!
yes, there may be some bad apples but the thing surely, inherently, is good?
no. not now anyways. and yet still, when Vaudevillian Vaughters trotted out in his Little Boy Blue oh-so-finery and his feathered locks and began very strongly suggesting a breakaway league, my blood just got up. it bubbled. i could hear it a-cracklin’ behind my ears.
why? well, because:
first off, i don’t think he should be in the sport.
second, if that preppy-boy-my-momma-dressed-me style of his is really style, i’m starting a dirty protest.
third, he and the rest of his dirty generation milked that system for so long and did fine by it, without a doubt, so complaining now seems all a bit suspect. he gets control? no thanks.
fourth, we all love these races, we love the history, keep the Monuments, keep the Grand Tours, keep it all and stuff the rest.
fifth…. it’s the UCI! surely we can rescue it? surely the bad apples (all of them) will go? they can’t hang on anymore!
the more indignation i felt with every mention of ‘breakaway’, the more flustered and blustery i got, the more i dragged the feathers from my mouth, the more i realised it was pointless. there is NOTHING to be gained from the UCI any longer. it’s a derelict building teetering on a cliff edge. there’s mold in the walls and termites the size of Jack Russels rampaging through the timbers. there are individuals still inside refusing to budge, but like those mad sad folk who refuse to leave their houses as the volcano behind them roars into fiery life, they are nothing but depressing examples of the unfathomable potential for pointlessness that humans from time to time offer up to the sighing universe.
so today when i read that David Brailsford was saying that cycling has reached its ‘tipping point‘, i realised that for the first time since i’ve read anything about a breakaway from the UCI, i agreed – this is indeed absolutely necessary.
keep the Classics. keep the Grand Tours (though the Vuelta is increasingly looking like the injured wildebeest at the edge of the pack). keep the mini-classics, the Strade Bianche, Omloop, the Worlds. maybe, sure, create one or two more classics in Asia such as the Japan Cup, on great roads, tough arse routes with lots of spectators.
but yeah. rip it up.