This week, the 105th Giro d'Italia begins when the starting gun fires in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. After COVID-related issues forced race organisers…
I wouldn’t wish it on anyone really but, if pushed, I could think of several other candidates from the world of cycling better qualified to get a cup of piss thrown over them at the Tour de France than Sky’s Chris Froome.
I won’t name (m)any of them though, as it could lead to a lawsuit or three, but several team managers, a couple of former UCI presidents and Laurent Jalabert all get the nod.
What kind of person though would actually do that? Who would have the nerve and the lack of respect not only for others but also for themselves to be able to do such a thing? I’m not talking about weeing in a cup and chucking it at someone, but doping yourself during your career and then having the gall to accuse someone else of doing it?
What’s that old saying? ‘People in glass houses with half the windows smashed in who got busted for doping use should keep their traps shut?’
Well, something like that. However, thinking about it, who better to pose the questions than a former drug taker? Should the UCI start employing a gaggle of former dopers to sit in judgment of the current crop of pros?
While just about everyone is united in thinking Jalabert should have kept schtum, at what point should we be annoyed with former dopers turning up to make money by working at the race?
Lance Armstrong is riding ahead of the Tour to raise money for charity and getting slated for it. Richard Virenque (EPO, apmhetamines, etc) get heaps of criticism from certain (specifically Anglo) quarters for having the temerity to turn up at the race as a commentator for French TV, and yet Sean Kelly (amphetamine and codeine) gets a free pass.
Bit of cultural bias there? No, not at all, this is not ‘a bit’, it’s a bucket full.
What if Kelly was to question Froome’s dominance? Would he get a microphone shoved in his face and questioned about his two doping positives? Is it all OK for former dopers to work as commentators as long as they don’t question the riders’ performances?
Yes, you doped, and if you were caught once or even twice then you probably doped for years, we know that ’cause we are not that stupid, and yes you can come back and work for national and international media outlets for what must be good money, but please, whatever you do, do not suggest or accuse someone of doping or we will have to skin you.
Right now it seems that you can even get a job at the race if you were a major doper, brought great shame on the sport, and still do not regret it. Michael Rasmussen is back at the Tour and said today in an interview that he regretted nothing, that he cheated even on his comeback from suspension but that he had to do it to be competitive.
Where’s his cup of piss? I mean, seriously.
This is all very messed up, but then we shouldn’t be too surprised as the entire sport is messed up. The fact is that these guys should not be involved in cycling at all. No former doper or tainted rider should ever be allowed back into the sport in any way.
This zero-tolerance policy is the only way forward and the lack of it is the real reason (even if the guy who threw the cup does not realise it) that Froome got covered in urine at all.
How so? Well, if former pros who doped or were tainted (trust me, people know who is dodgy and who is more than likely clean) were not allowed into management we would by now by and large have a selection of skilled and experienced team staff and directeur sportifs who were serious about running clean teams.
They would not tolerate riders they suspected of being dirty, would not employ masseurs and doctors and even drivers from teams known for doping in the past, and would most likely have formed an organisation that was far more credible than the Jonathan Vaughters-driven Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC).
They’d probably also have pushed long ago for the UCI to more effectively tackle doping, have accepted late evening testing and been open to have WADA-certified doctors embedded with their squads and been open to a power-passport to accompany the biological passport.
A zero-tolerance policy for riders caught doping would also sort out the problem of current riders cheating pretty quickly, as would criminalising it and forcing significant monetary fines on riders, teams and sponsors.
This is going to sound draconian to some but look where we are. This Tour de France is going to be remembered for being the race that never was. It is like the Norwegian blue parrot from the Python sketch, bereft of life, moribund, meaningless.
And not meaningless because anyone might be doping. It is meaningless because of everything that has gone before. This is the crux of it all. We are not sick of these guys per se, more sick of the fact that it has been allowed to get to this point, which is, basically, a situation where nothing can be believed.
Race organisers should embrace the notion of shorter stages that leave the racers tired but not utterly fatigued and ban teams that have dopers in them. The UCI should sort its act out right now and enact any of those great ideas Cookson spouted when he was ushered into office. Bans should become lifelong and doping should be criminalised as it is very obviously fraud. All former dopers should be banned from management.
It is not that there is no hope. It is just that to start to make this mess better, to rescue the sport, will be an immensely difficult process. What other choice do we have? As Rasmussen’s words show, there is no real remorse among these cheaters.
We can also look to Greg LeMond’s confusion, a hater of Armstrong yet an avowed admirer of Marco Pantani and Eddy Merckx. LeMond has been there, done that and got the knife marks in his back, yet still he wanders around like many a fan looking like he’s just been hit by the Astana team bus, still insure who to admire and who to abhor.
Either the sport will continue to be a farce and utterly unbelievable, continue to operate like an Old Boy’s club, or, maybe, with a lot of blood, tears and sweat spent, we might just bring some dignity back to it and make it something we can encourage our kids to get into.
Just like the dopers who want to win, it’s all or nothing. There is no other choice.