Doping must be criminal offence to finally eradicate it
Marion Jones lost it all due to doping, as Lance Armstrong battles damning allegations and evidence from USADA (Image: AFP)
The Lance Armstrong doping scandal continues to rock the world of cycling. Like many others, I have no time for doping in sport of any kind.
The ramifications and the impacts from doping are far wider than the rider that is stripped of his title or stage win for taking performance enhancing drugs.
Let’s look at the Armstrong case. He has lost his titles and may be forced to pay back his winnings.
But to whom? The UCI has stated that the titles will not be re-allocated.
Cycling, like all sports, could not exist if not for its fans. Without the fans lined 10 deep on Monte Zoncolan or Alpe d’Huez, the sport would be a shadow of itself.
Yet is the fans who are deceived by this immoral behaviour of doping. But at the end of the stage, we take our paint rollers, our campervan and we head back home to our everyday jobs.
The same cannot be said for professional riders. The next win can mean the difference between a new contract, riding for a pro-continental team instead of a World Tour team or retiring from a sport that they have dedicated their whole life to.
To be frank, the livelihood of the riders in the peloton is affected by doping.
Winning a stage in a grand tour, and particularly the Tour de France, can lead to rich rewards. But there are now seven riders that have suffered significant financial damage due to the mass doping program of US Postal.
Armstrong won 22 stages in the Tour de France. How many clean riders could have won a stage at the Tour de France if it was not for the doping program at US Postal? Aside from the limelight and career recognition, how many riders have suffered financially because of US Postal’s dubious practices?
Former professional cyclist Brad McGee’s article in The Age emphasises the other side of the doping story – how clean riders are affected by doping.
If you defraud the Commonwealth Government or commit commercial fraud, you are likely to receive a criminal record and be fined at the very least. Depending on the extent of the crime, there is the strong possibility that it will also lead to a custodial sentence.
Therefore, why should sports administrators and fans tolerate athletes that take performance enhancing drugs to get an unfair advantage? Surely, this behaviour is akin to defrauding your fellow riders from an income, a livelihood and long-term financial security.
Isn’t this the same as someone who obtains a financial advantage through fraudulent means?
So why do not we make doping a criminal offence?
McGee said that doping will never be eradicated.
If we continue to treat our athletes with a slap on the wrist and then welcome them back into the peloton with open arms after a doping sanction, McGee will be proved right and we will never rid the world of this doping.
ASO was happy to have Alberto Contador at the presentation of the route for the 2013 Tour de France when it celebrates its 100th anniversary. Did the organisers forget that Contador did not participate at the 2012 Tour de France because of a doping sanction?
A lot is at stake in professional sport and the decisions made by individuals aren’t always morally watertight. If the financial rewards are greater than the penalty, the temptation to break the rules becomes a real threat.
The authorities need to re-assess the incentives to break the rules.
The greatest disincentive to doping is to remove the ability to be financially rewarded.
To be taken from their loved ones and society.
This can only be achieved by making doping a criminal offence, with a provision for incarceration if found guilty.
Rethinking the punishment is the only way to truly eradicate doping. One that removes the strong incentive to get an unfair advantage.