The era of wretched entitlement

Lee Rodgers Columnist

By Lee Rodgers, Lee Rodgers is a Roar Expert

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    It would be refreshing for once to hear a cheat own up to his dodgy dealings. (Image: Wenn)

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    How refreshing would it be to hear a cyclist who gets busted for cheating hold up their hands and say “you know what? I did it.”

    “That’s right, I did it and I’m not going to turn on the waterworks of go all contrite because I don’t care. So ban me. Throw me out. I’ll be back in two years, or maybe I won’t. See ya suckers!”

    Imagine the vilification this guy would receive in the media and out on the club runs.

    We demand of our fallen heroes a bit of token groveling at least, we want to hear them whine about how they lost their way and how they were tempted by the little chemical devils, driven by insecurity over their abilities and their place on the team.

    We know they cheat and are no longer surprised when a favourite rider gets busted, but may hellfire be brought upon their heads if they don’t mumble an apology and tug the forelock a couple of times on their way out through the revolving door.

    The cheating is so often described as a misplaced step off the righteous path, as an isolated incident in an otherwise clean career, but that’s blatantly untrue. Cheating involves 24/7 dedication.

    It might be once a week that the needle goes in or the pill is popped, but you are cheating every single second of the day when you cross that line.

    There are athletes in sports where doping plays such a prominent role and has become so embedded within the fabric of the culture of the sport that when a guy gets popped the reaction of the player will not be one of shock with embarrassment but shock at how his doctor could possibly have screwed up the timing of doses.

    There are pro cycling teams that have seen more than one doping case per year where, when notification of a positive comes through, the team management and communications managers roll out for action like a well-oiled team of firemen, ready to douse the flames with water and to offer up polished excuses and rebuttals.

    We on this side of the fence hear the denials and the exclamations of surprise and nod to one another to say, “We knew it”, wearily playing our part in this oft-rehearsed play that looks like coming to an end no time soon.

    We’ve been immunised to reports of chemical doping on such a grand and institutionalised scale that we can almost no longer see the size of the problem that faces us. The fans are the abused spouse in this relationship, waking up daily to the blind and frankly forlorn hope that somehow it will all be better soon.

    “Move on, quit talking about doping!” a growing section of fans bleat, as if this is some sage, well-reasoned advice when in fact they have merely become numb to the epidemic that ranges through sports worldwide at both the professional and amateur level.

    When you have kids as young as 13 being tested in Italy and riders not out of their teens getting busted for drugs that have found to directly promote cancer then you know that ‘moving on’ is the last thing we should be doing.

    You only need to look at the recent uproar over the case of mechanised doping that was found to be going on at the Cyclocross World Championships and to hear the likes of Eddy Merckx and others calling for a lifetime ban for Belgian teenager Femke Van den Driessche to see how skewed and frankly screwed up are many people’s tacit acceptance of chemical doping.

    For how is cheating with a motor in your bike any different than taking something to improve your own motor?

    What really irks me is the reaction of people caught doping who throw a strop and bleat their innocence, despite the overwhelming fact that science says they are lying and a string of precedents where we have had to go through the exact same routine of tears and denial.

    Driessche was a perfect example of this, as was that of Alberto Gallego, the newly professional Spaniard who got busted in January before he’d even turned a pedal in a race for his new team.

    Jonathan Tiernan-Locke is the poster boy for not owning up to your doping sins. The former Sky rider blamed a positive drug test on sinking a bucket of booze the night before, got a ban anyway and then complained when he returned to the sport that the British Cycling Federation would only give him a Category 2 license instead of the Elite one he believes he so richly deserves.

    I’d like to see all dopers welcomed back at the very highest level of the sport, as long as they first complete a descent of Alpe d’Huez on a bike with no brakes…

    You know what, how about owning the %$#@ up to your cheating and owning the punishment you get, paltry as it is in any case. Grow some balls and take responsibility for your cheating.

    Perhaps if enough dopers would come forward and give us a real, dressed down account of why they doped and why they feel it is not only necessary but fully acceptable among the majority of their peers then we might be able to move the doping debate on and out into the open.

    If I was to write down all that life owes us and what we deserve just by being alive all I would have to show for it would be a blank piece of paper. And yet there are so many folk in this world who swan about like they are special and should therefore be treated accordingly. The three mentioned above fit this description to a T.

    There is a sense of what I call ‘wretched entitlement’ among these people that leads them to believe that they can behave any way they like at all times.

    They can break the rules of the sport, robbing clean riders of contracts and jobs, putting the jobs of the staff on their team at risk and further destroying the tattered integrity of the sport, and then when they get caught it is all okay for them to throw a tantrum and to scream their innocence aloud.

    The worst thing is that they actually seem to believe they have done nothing wrong. This is the real problem with our sport, which of course takes its cues from wider society.

    Wretched entitlement indeed.

    Lee Rodgers
    Lee Rodgers

    Lee Rodgers is a former professional rider on the UCI Asia circuit. He is now a freelance journalist, cycling coach and runs the website www.crankpunk.com.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • February 9th 2016 @ 10:51am
      Blinky47 said | February 9th 2016 @ 10:51am | ! Report

      It’s the world we live in now, once sport became professional and became a living it was bound to happen. Also communication worldwide makes cheating more easily discoverable and displayed for all to see, the confession, the fake remorse, the brave recovery, the money, it’s all part of the game now, it’s a reality show. Cycling should look to athletics and soccer for guidance, look at the problems they have with drugs and corruption, a week or so of sensation then silence ! We have the olympics coming up in a few months, are we going to have athletics ? is anbody ? any country? going to face the music before the games, I doubt it, the show must go on, money must go round, think of the people who enable this cheating, they have families too. their kids have to go to the best schools and universities, the best parties. Then there’s the media, they have families too………………. and on it goes. What’s the answer, I don’t know, there probably isn’t one, all I know is that when I watched Wouter Poules take of up that mountain the other day I thought ” wonderful ! ” then the little niggles started creeping into my head.

    • February 9th 2016 @ 1:12pm
      D.Large said | February 9th 2016 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

      I agree with this statement…

      “Move on, quit talking about doping”

    • Roar Rookie

      February 9th 2016 @ 1:23pm
      Hoges5 said | February 9th 2016 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

      Great article! Show us a little shame….

      There is a novel option – one that weightlifting/bodybuilding tried.

      Create 2 leagues:
      1. Clean – stringent testing, not the mickey mouse stuff they have now. If you are EVER caught with a positive test you get a lifetime ban from BOTH leagues and stripped of any records ever (right back to junior races), and removed as a winner from any race, ever.
      2.Dirty/Drugged/Juiced/XTREME/Whatever – knock yourself out. Take whatever you want, whenever you want. In can be oxygenated scorpion venom mixed with Sherpa blood plasma in a cocktail of steroids. No limits and if you die on the bike you must have signed a waiver to compete. No Olympics, no world championships just the money, glittery fame and no dignity.

      It would work and derive the two audiences. Cricket will easily follow the example, as will Athletics and most American sports.

      Simple, crass and appropriate sadly.

    • February 9th 2016 @ 1:36pm
      Simoc said | February 9th 2016 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

      Have to laugh though when they have a ready made excuse, (I ate contaminated meat at a restaurant), the day they are sprung.

    • February 9th 2016 @ 2:02pm
      Long Retired Flanker, Still in Pain said | February 9th 2016 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

      Well, it has happened before. When Martin Vinnicombe was busted years ago, didn’t he admit everything, saying it was the only way he could compete at that level?

      As I recall, he was immediately made a pariah by the sport, but became widely respected for providing the first, first-person corroborated evidence of the long-rumoured doping in cycling. The Armstrong-led culture of ‘deny, deny, deny’ has shown what can be gotten away with, if you’re brazen enough (and stay retired the first time).

      And these days, because of the long line of cyclists who have won events with apparent ridiculous ease, later to be either found or strongly suspected of doping, anyone who wins a race or stage by any substantial margin immediately falls under suspicion. It’s what made the TdF wins by Wiggins and Evans in particular so meritorious, while other grand tour winners, whether clean or not, will forever have a metaphorical asterix beside their victories.

      Cycling’s credibility is tarnished, and the smear, sadly, is spread all over the entire peloton. Seems unfair, but that’s the reality.

      • March 14th 2016 @ 1:02pm
        sittingbison said | March 14th 2016 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

        you might want to reconsider Wiggo 😉

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