Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Corruption In Cycling

I was in the middle of writing a blog post on nutrition in 24 hour racing and became totally side tracked by reading about the current farce that is the USADA trial against Lance Armstrong.  Now those that followed my blog from the early days will know that I take a very strong interest into doping in sport but have always remained open minded into its usage and the circumstances.  In a previous blog post (check it out) I was sympathetic to why cyclists are put into the position of doping whilst remaining very much against it. 

I also made claim that I felt that the UCI were and potentially are incapable of regulating doping within the sport.  I find myself coming back to this point.

Now I'm no big fan of Lance Armstrong (sorry to upset his fans!).  He is a great racer, certainly one of the best Tour de France racers to have been seen but I've never been a fan of his attitude, his control of the peleton, his strong no prisoners attitude to those who dope and speak out against the peleton.  I never believe for one moment he knew nothing of doping going on and yet the most influential man in the peleton did nothing but protect those that doped.  Now I'm not brave enough to say on hear that I think he doped, but I have continued to wonder his innocence.  If he did he wasn't on his own and would have only levelled out the field of all the other riders abusing EPO.

I have taken quite an interest in the recent investigation into LA by Americas own doping agency USADA.  I do think that it has become something of a witch hunt and I don't know enough about American law but there does seem some injustice in the way the court has been set up.  Don't get me wrong I would dearly like to know the truth and am really keen to know what all the evidence is that they have gained against him.  Particularly claims of him doping on his tours under Radioshack after his first retirement.  It certainly makes me question his innocence more but then I think 'so what if they find him guilty?'

What would the world think of our sport if they knew that its prime star was in fact a cheat.  It would be ruined all that history a waste.  They couldn't go on and give the yellow jersey to the riders next on the podium as by all accounts they were cheats too.  In fact between 1999 and 2006 of all the 21 podium finishers only one excluding LA have been known dopers.  And yet of these riders only one of these was actually caught by the UCI. The history books would just have to have a blank spot known for ever as the dark age of the sport.

Which brings me back to the UCI who have now wanted evidence from USADA to be given to them and are now trying to block the case as they feel it is not fair.  I'm not sure why they have taken so long to jump on this but I smell a rat.  Why have the UCI become so protective when they have allowed the USADA to prosecute in the past.  Do they have something to hide?  I've got to say loads of scenarios have come into my head regarding why the UCI would want to get hold of this evidence.  I have really started to believe them to be corrupt and I personally think Lance Armstrong could have a hold over them.  They will not want to be associated with being ineffective at catching its own athletes and more to the point of hiding results for the good of the sport.

If LA goes down then I think the UCI will be pulled to pieces for it and that wouldn't be good for cycling.  They will move heaven and hell to protect themselves and that may even include protecting  Armstrong.  Obviously I'm speculating but it should make you think.

I continue to live in hope that our sport is now cleaner but until the structure is clean then and only then will it really improve.  I have often wondered why in a team that is self managed that if a rider is caught that no others are implemented.  Why are the riders doctors, and sports directors not held accountable.  I tell you want if the rules changed that any rider caught was expelled from the sport AND its director the sport would change.  In house testing and monitoring of riders with in the team would be much more strict.  It's just a thought but its about time something big really happened then we can begin truly trust our sport.

oh.....and look who is back to racing.



It has been very interesting to watch the USADA move forward - their recent letter to the UCI pretty much put it out there when they said the UCI was basically "the fox guarding the hen house." The LA cases is just one USADA case that has made the news, the other well publicized cases are from track and baseball, and from my perspective the USADA is not politically motivated, just motivated. Their doggedness has people questioning their motivations (the witch-hunt over very old accusations), but if LA was doping during his most recent comeback...well...something stinks.

I think there is very little chance that the UCI isn't knee deep in corruption, and I also fear what a wide-ranging scandal will do to the sport. However, they have had numerous opportunities to clean house, and they haven't. It appears there are more teams/riders who are committed to cleaning up the sport. To really clean up the sport: make drug testing and prosecution completely independent from those that organize the sport, continue to advance the biological passport, and reformulate races to reduce meaningless stress on the riders (why so many meaningless miles during the grand tours?)...and always keep that optimism that there are clean riders...they do exist!

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