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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Drugs and Cycling - a relationship that needs to be broken

World class cycling is quickly becoming akin to Major League Baseball. I’m not speaking of television ratings, which would be a boon to the sport, but the use of enhancement drugs.

There is no doubt that every American was aware that Lance Armstrong was nearly stripped of his record making 7 in a row wins at the Tour De France. But how many across the world are familiar with the real history of the Tour De France? How many can recall the abuses back in the 1900’s?

The fact is that before there were steroids world class cycling was plagued by riders using alcohol, drugs and even ether in their attempts to win. While alcohol and ether have long been abandoned, performance enhancing drugs of all types have crept into their place. Perhaps most famous was the effect of amphetamines in the 1967 race. It lead to the death of cyclist Tom Simpson.

But more recent memories will turn to 1998 and the scandal surrounding Willy Voet and the TVM team. The fact police raided the rooms of riders and their tactics lead to a sit-down and quitting of a majority of the teams in the 17th stage. In 2004 three cyclists - Philippe Gaumont, David Millar, and Jesus Manzano – all opened up about the rampant use of banned enhancing drugs. And of course there was the 2006 scandal that implicated over 17 cyclists, including Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, ultimately leading to Floyd Landis being stripped of his winning title. In 2007 add Alexander Vinokourov, Cristian Moreni, Michael Rasmussen, Manuel Beltrán, Erik Zabel, Bjarne Riis and Moisés Dueñas in 2008.

Today we can add Riccardo Ricco to this seemingly growing and unyielding list of actual and suspected drug users.

Something must be done. The fact that riders from everywhere in the sport allege requirements by teams to use drugs, that multiple riders are being caught year after year, and that only specific types of enhancement drugs are precluded spell disaster for the future of this sport.

Either all enhancing drugs will have to be allowed, which no sponsor nor responsible organization would accept, or all of them must be disallowed – including any drugs produced in the future that do not show up in tests today. And penalties must be made far more severe. It is a beyond obvious fact that suspensions from racing are not nearly enough of a deterrent for any team or rider. And while some former winner are now coming forward to admit their drug use, and unknown number have not – not that there is any recourse they might fear.

Actually I am wrong in the premise I started this with. World class cycling is not like the MLB, it’s worse. And like any addict this sport is going to fall apart, wither and die. Will it take another death of a rider, or God forbid a dozen, to change things?

Fans need to make their outrage vocal. Teams need to value the health of their riders and the sport above sponsorships. And sponsors need to require their money be tied to clean teams, or they get their money back with interest. Oh and the international world cycling body, needs to work with authorities to ensure that those that break the rules don’t just get suspended, they need to be arrested.

Did I miss anything? Let me know.

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Blogger M. Vass said...

Here is a small bit stated by trust but verify on my post.

I thank them for noticing my blog and including my post on their far more knowledgable blog on this subject.

"Black Entertainment Blog thinks Cycling is becoming akin to Major League Baseball in PED scandal. "Something must be done. " He evolves to, "World class cycling is not like the MLB, it’s worse." Thanks for the advice.

We're not happy with "something" being done -- we'd rather it be the right thing, which is building a trustworthy and transparent anti-doping environment."

6:39 PM  

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