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…
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.