by cp. this article originally appeared in The Roar
Reason to hope? Or back to being dopes?
2013 may still be with us but like a wheezing great-uncle on his last legs, bedded down in the far-corner of the infirmary, its life, inevitably, is fading faster almost than Lance Armstrong’s fan-base did.
It was, however, a proper little rager in its youth, 2013, ringing in the full fury unleashed at the dog-end of 2012 by Travis Tygart’s Reasoned Decision in which the head of USADA named 11 cyclists who gave evidence against their one-time team leader, the aforementioned LA.
Amongst them were such good ol’ American boys, such clean and chippy next-door types as Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie and Tom Danielson.
Get the heck outta here!
Well yes, apparently they do, and loads of them, too. And the English. And the Aussies. And the Canadians. Funny that, because for so very long there was an ingrained belief – a snobbery, you could call it, a chauvinism, or even, dare it be said, a racism – that basically said that ‘those foreigners’ doped (the Italians, the Spanish and all ‘that lot’), but not the English-speaking brigade.
Well, that’s one very large duck now firmly dead in the water.
On top of that, 2013 saw ‘admissions’ of guilt by several others, such as Australia’s very own Stuey O’Grady, and also Michael Rasmussen of Denmark and 2012 Giro winner, Ryder Hesjedal of Canada.
Danilo di Luca proved that baseball is very similar indeed to cycling in that a) loads of the old boys are juiced to their eyelids, b)it’s way better to watch both sports when you’re flat-out drunk and c) both sports very sportingly embrace the concept of three strikes and you’re out.
Thankfully in baseball that takes between 30 seconds and say 3 minutes, whereas in cycling it’s a little more prolonged – we had to watch the Italian junkie Di Luca polluting the sport for several years before he proved even more stupid than he looks by actually getting caught three times.
Oh! The indignation!!! It’s not that these guys are so unhappy cos they fell into doping, it’s the realization that to get caught you have to be pretty damn dumb, or to have had a massive lapse of concentration…
“Oh, Doc! I thought you said take the micro-does 36 hours before and it’d still be ok! Not 46!”
There were also no (ie ZERO) positives at the Tour this year. Hmm. If you believe that no one at the Tour was actually doped, then, well…
But with unbanned drugs like Telemesartan doing the rounds they don’t even have to ‘cheat’ now, cos even if it does do exactly the same thing as other very bad and very terrible banned drugs, if it’s not on the list, it ain’t cheating!
UCI Hotline? Yeah there might be guys on this Telemesartan stuff.
UCI: Right, hang on love, just let me check the list… Barbara. BARBARA! Where’s the list? It’s where? What’s it doing in the cat litter? Right hang on petal, let me see… Ooof, Barbara, I’ve told you, stop feeding Tiddles sardines, bloody hell. Two sniffs o’ that and you’re greedy… Right, hang on, Telemesartan… Nope, not on the list, they can take it til, well, till they get weird illnesses. All perfectly legal.
Then we had the PresidentGate, or whatever we should call Pat MacQuaid’s ungraceful attempts to hang onto power in the UCI by any means necessary. Talk about going out in style. Old Pat managed somehow to drag the sport and its image through even more mud as he hawked himself out to Malaysia, Morocco and Switzerland in search of support for his re-election bid.
Thankfully though, Brian Cookson prised power from Pat’s grubby little mitts, and I do mean thankfully.
Of course, it is far too early yet to sat whether Cookson will be the remedy that cycling needs, but the early signs are encouraging. He brought in Tracy Gaudy to handle the women’s side of the sport (though as VP her remit is of course far wider than simply that), has spoken of his support of increasing bans for doping to 4 years, and is trying to heel the gouge that MacQuaid put in the relationship between the UCI and WADA.
On the actual road, it was encouraging to see that several dodgy riders of a certain age were unable to secure contracts for 2014, forcing them into retirement.
There does seem to be a sense of renewal in the peloton and more riders are starting to say they don’t want dopers in there with them. The Omerta lingers on, the code that means many hold their tongues when it comes to doping, but the fact that journalists and indeed fans can now talk openly about doping without being labeled as haters is a very good thing.
It’s been a funny old year though, really, with many spectators being unable to suspend their disbelief when watching a lot of the racing. But again, that we can now see remarkable and ‘unbelievable’ performances and ask ‘how did he do that?’ – and mean it – means that riders will, we should hope, more aware that, if they are taking stuff, crazy rides will be scrutinized.
Cookson is in though, Pat is out, LA is in his own personal wasteland, people like David Walsh and Betsy Andreu have been thoroughly vindicated, and I can write something like this and get it published.
There are new faces emerging in the pack and race directors appear to be keen to work with WADA to get the riders properly tested. Scandal is bad, clean is good. Several brands seem to see the advantages of supporting teams and riders that are known to be anti-dope, so this too is good.
So, back to the dark old days? You could say, if you’re a bit of a realist like myself, that the sun has still not fully dawned – and a huge chunk of that feeling comes from the fact that there are so many people still saying things like ‘let’s move on‘ and ‘what’s done is done‘.
And yet, are there reasons to hope?
Yes, I believe there are.
Roll on 2014!