RAGE: Is Cycling Losing Its Focus? (Part 2)
More Legal rage
Just as disturbing as the actions toward the French lab is the support of the lab by the UCI and WADA. McQuaid has stated publicly that the lab has a history of leaking test results to L'Equipe. If this is true, why is the lab used when it is a known fact that the labs leaks are in violation of the UCI's Anti-Doping Rules and the WADA's Laboratory Code of Ethics?
The central issue here is that because the sports controlling bodies are flagrantly bending their own rules to suit the situation, the legal teams defending the athletes have a great way to protect their clients. Consequently in those cases where test results are considered virtually unquestionable, legal manipulation can distort the final outcome to the benefit of the athlete. If the UCI and WADA would simply follow their own rules, the athletes would be given the chance for a fair and just ‘due process'. Innocent athletes would be able to prove their case and cheats would have less chance to worm their way out of a situation that provides evidence ‘beyond a reasonable doubt'.
The cycling world needs to take a collective deep breath and return to a positive state of mind. We have the greatest sport in the world and instead of falling under the spell of media sensationalism, bureaucratic misuse of power and powerful legal council exploiting the gaping holes in the current processes; we should be looking at ways to refine the current structures.
On the positive side, the sport of cycling can claim to be leading the fight against drugs. The system may be imperfect but at least the effort is there. The downside to this is cycling has become the central media focus for sensationalist stories and therefore places the sport center stage in the public domain for all the wrong reasons. Currently the Landis story dominates the media while the 100 meter runner Justin Gatlin is treated with considerably less severity. In fact a big question with this example revolves around the fact that Landis was ‘revealed' just two days after his (‘A') test whereas Gatlin's positive test result for testosterone use was kept under wraps for four months.
In a misguided attempt to clean up the sport the UCI is looking to reduce the extreme athletic challenges of some of our greatest races. They say Grand Tours should have shorter stages, fewer mountains and fewer days. The theory is that by watering down the challenges of our historic races the riders would be in less need to use drugs to perform. This is absolute rubbish! In the 2006 Tour Landis rode about 3,600 kilometers over 20 stages and close to 90 hours of intense world class racing. Justin Gatlin's effort lasted 9.76 seconds over 100 meters. Both athletes are accused of using testosterone. There are endless examples like this that can prove that the magnitude of the athletic challenge has nothing to do with an athlete's decision to use or not use drugs. Winning big at anything motivates unscrupulous people to cheat and find ways around the system. 100 meters or 3,600 kilometers, it's all the same.
So in this respect the UCI should desist from creating a smoke screen to mask weaknesses in testing technology or their own application of their own rules. Dismantling the beauty of cycling's great events is nothing more than a victory for the cheats. Perhaps Armstrong had it right. For seven years he focused exclusively on the Tour. So rather than creating ‘watered down' versions of our great races perhaps riders should not be allowed to race more than a predetermined number of days per year.
Most people agree that the 2006 Tour was the best for very many years. ‘ Operacion Puerto' shocked the world just days before the Tour started. As a result a string of leading riders were eliminated on the eve of the Tour. It can be assumed that because of this the peloton was ‘running scared'. Consequently every day we were treated to genuine (hopefully unaided) athletic performance that was both unpredictable and spectacular.
Our collective rage should be channeled into constructive actions to support and build our sport. The UCI and WADA should be held to the highest professional standards. Athletes should be considered innocent until proven guilty and be allowed a fair chance at ‘due process' to defend themselves.
For our part at CyclingRevealed we continue to believe in cycling at all levels and will maintain our focus as before to report the great stories of cycling both historical and contemporary. We deplore the use of drugs by cheating cyclists, but we also deplore the heinous crime of destroying riders and teams without conclusive evidence. We all need to help restore a positive focus on our sport and responding to facts rather than media hype would be a good start.
RAGE Part 1