Cycling: A sport in crisis or on the mend?

Adrian Musolino Columnist

12 Have your say

    Lance Armstrong probably isn't worth checking out in terms of a Tour anymore. (AP Photo/Franck Prevel, File)

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    The cycling fraternity will be looking on doping and match-fixing scandals in other sports with a sense of relief.

    Not only has it taken the spotlight away from the fallout of Lance Armstrong’s doping confessions, it proves cycling isn’t alone in having a darker side that corrupts the sporting contest.

    Doping may have tarnished a whole era of professional cycling, but recent events in the AFL, European football and tennis prove the wider sporting world isn’t so innocent.

    At the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, the cycling fraternity was eager to move on from Armstrong and use his Oprah admission to close the book on the doping era and insist the cycling on show was, in the most part, clean.

    “Please don’t mention Lance Armstrong,” one insider asked me. Said insider then spent a fair amount of time discussing Armstrong: why we should have been aware of the doping and why the sport has moved.

    The reasons? Teams are applying more of a non-doping scientific approach to training and racing; the effectiveness of the biological passport and other anti-doping tests; and the fact there are a new generation of riders coming through, scared off doping by the ‘popping’ of former riders.

    But, there’s always a but… No one could promise the current peloton was entirely clean. Sure, the majority were said to have embraced a doping-free mantra. But there were a few who still practiced the same methods as the shamed riders of the recent past.

    As cycling attempts to move on and convince the sceptical public the sport has changed, it would do well to avoid the temptation of using Armstrong as the fall guy for its bad image.

    But what hope is there when the governing body, the UCI, dismantles an independent commission into the recent scandals, increasingly wages war with anti-doping agencies such as WADA and USADA and fights off growing threats from reform groups, such as the Change Cycling Now organisation. In any in-fighting there is an inevitable blood spillage.

    Even in Australia, the governing body Cycling Australia risks having its federal government-funding cut if it fails to meet the recommendations of an anti-doping review.

    In the meantime, current sponsorships will come under the microscope and new sponsors may be dissuaded from getting involved in a tainted sport.

    Given the Darwinian nature of pro-cycling, in this climate teams will be forced to fight hard for their survival. After all, money is tight in Europe in particular, the heartland of the sport and its economic epicentre. And this is an environment where old temptations to gain an unfair advantage could resurface…

    Nevertheless, the mood seems buoyant among the cycling fraternity. The Tour Down Under, for example, attracted a round 757,000 people over race-week with over 100,000 people attending the final city stage.

    The Australian event and the currently underway Tour Qatar are vital international destinations for a sport bidding to move away from Europe and having seemingly squandered mainstream American support thanks to Lance.

    Where to from here? Cycling faces a long road to redemption. Lance can’t just be forgotten.

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • February 6th 2013 @ 8:34am
      mwm said | February 6th 2013 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      The drug issue in other sports in no way comprehends to the mess of professional cycling. Lance has become the fall guy due to the fact for many people he came to represent the sport to the entire world, so his fall was bound to cast a long shadow over cycling.

      What most people seem to forget is that the people who came 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc during the LA era have all been found to have doped as well. It seems close to 20 years of systematic doping by virtually every top rider has infected cycling. This situation does not exist in any other sport (at least it hasn’t been found out).

      It would be the equivalent of every team in a league (NRL, AFL, A League and O/S – take your pick) taking bribes to fix matches. There isn’t a comparison that even come close to the drug issue in cycling, period. Many riders are still under a drug cloud and those that have been found out are still involved in the sport, plus there is the issue of how much the UCI knew about all of this.

      Cycling will just have to wear this for several years until it is sorted out

      • Roar Guru

        February 6th 2013 @ 2:26pm
        delbeato said | February 6th 2013 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

        I disagree. Cheating happens in *all* sports. The differences are centred on people’s perception of what cheating is. Drugs are seen as an especially egregious form of cheating, whereas in truth, they are just another means of enhancing performance. Their prohibition is arbitrary – if based on logic (health grounds, essentially).

        All rules in sport are arbitrary. Take the salary cap in most football codes. People say cycling is rife with cheating (drugs), but football is just as bad. It’s common knowledge virtually all clubs evade the salary cap. The Melbourne Storm were infamously caught out, but it is far more widespread than that – such as through giving players plum ‘jobs’ with sponsors.

        This is cheating – make no mistake – but in a form which doesn’t detract from the spectacle of a team of healthy, “clean” (you’d assume) athletes taking to the field in equal numbers to the opposition. It goes back to the notion of sport as theatre – people want a convincing performance. Drugs detract from that spectacle, while fans find other forms of cheating easier to overlook.

    • February 6th 2013 @ 10:26am
      Bunny Colvin said | February 6th 2013 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      Cycling won’t die, it has just become like the wrestling. We all know it is dodgy but enjoy the pretty landscapes.

    • February 6th 2013 @ 11:56am
      george said | February 6th 2013 @ 11:56am | ! Report

      i think cycling competition needs to freezed for 12moths.all road racing suspended from the next olmpics.the whole industry is tarnished lets teach them a lesson

      • February 6th 2013 @ 1:13pm
        Kasey said | February 6th 2013 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        freezed?? with your comprehension of the English language I am hardly surprised that you would advocate such a draconian and stupid measure.

        Cycling should only be suspended from Olympic competition if it emerges that the UCI had anything to do with covering up Armstrong’s doping. The current crop of cyclists, we have to believe are the cleanest the peloton has ever been in modern times. I understand times for col climbs in the most recentedition of le tour would have seen the winners finish nowhere near the podium were they to have competed in the mid 90s.

        Says Tyler Hamilton, who was 100% right about LA: cycling still had “a lot of bad apples”, but Hamilton insisted Evans’ historic 2011 Tour de France victory was beyond question. “I think you have to question some of the results of the past. I don’t think you have to question Cadel Evans’ result from last year’s Tour de France,” Hamilton said.
        Cycling is bigger than one bad egg. It moved beyond(but didn’t appear to learn much) from the Festina and Op Puerto affaires, this reckoning is something that has been coming for a while now and I think it will be the catalyst to rectify past wrongs and ensure the way forward for Professional Cycling is in the true spirit of sport.

      • Roar Guru

        February 6th 2013 @ 1:34pm
        Bones506 said | February 6th 2013 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

        This is an extremely narrow minded view when coller heads MUST PREVAIL.

        Is the legacy Lance and Pat McQuaid to have the sport suspended? Further to that how do you suspend a sport that has its own governing body?

        Your comment is ill conceived. Period.

        • February 6th 2013 @ 1:36pm
          Bunny Colvin said | February 6th 2013 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

          Everyone who rides a bike, parks it in the shed for 12 months and uses alternatives like the train, car, foot, dog sled whatever.

          • February 6th 2013 @ 1:50pm
            Kasey said | February 6th 2013 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

            I would love it if every cyclist that currently commutes to work on the Malvern Star/Giant just for one co-ordinated day drove a car to and from work! It would remind some of the more militant anti-cyclist idiots in cars that it is better to have more bikes on the road than less. 🙂 We’ll call it “Appreciate a cyclist day”, aka drive to work day/carmageddon day.

    • Columnist

      February 6th 2013 @ 5:28pm
      Lee Rodgers said | February 6th 2013 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

      Banning cycling from the Olympics would only harm the cyclists and cycling fans, I can imagine the UCI then repositioning itself as the martyr in all this. It’s the hierarchy that allowed the doping to become so institutionalized that has to be banned!

    • February 6th 2013 @ 6:30pm
      ant said | February 6th 2013 @ 6:30pm | ! Report

      Well somethingg drastic needs to be done .the sports is rotten and needs to be taught a lesson

    • Roar Guru

      February 6th 2013 @ 10:42pm
      Bazzio said | February 6th 2013 @ 10:42pm | ! Report

      Tyler Hamilton (Author), Daniel Coyle (Author)

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