I for one, would love to have a clean sport, but simply don’t think it’s possible to get there. That said, it can certainly be cleaner than it is, and I welcome any progress we make in that direction. All the same, I also can’t bear the thought of the racing being any less exciting or the notion that the Grand Tours be shortened. In terms of increasing viewing enjoyment, I would suggest they pave the mountains with rough cobblestones, turn on the rain, and double the length of the stages.
That means I am part of the problem; as long as I delight in seeing the kind of racing we’re watching today, I have to admit that I am culpable for placing the kinds of demands on the sponsors, teams, and athletes that make doping seem like a good – if not the only – way to give me what I want.
All that aside, our sport does more to fight doping than any other sport, and I’m proud of that. I am sickened, however, by the lines fed to us by every cyclist who fails a control: “I am innocent. I didn’t even know what EPO was until I got my positive test and I looked the substance up on the internet.”
Sure. My grandmother knows what EPO is, but a professional cyclist does not?
The usual team management response of “Drugs? In our team? No!” is not any more palatable. We all know that doping is is the rule, not the exception, so if you’re caught, please show us the respect to admit to it and move on.
To further the complexity of the problem, cyclists who have admitted to doping and have cooperated with investigations have been given very little leniency - both by the authorities and the public. You only have to look at the matter of Roid’s admissions and accusations and the breadth of the reactions it has caused to see there is a no-win scenario for the riders. Roid is considered a liar; the accused are assumed guilty. And, given the state of affairs, none of the cyclists face very attractive choices when it comes to speaking out or admitting to any wrongdoing.
So, I applaud Slipstream Sports for their statements in regards to the ensuing investigations that are being initiated as consequence of Roids accusations:
We created Slipstream Sports because we wanted to create a team where cyclists could compete 100% clean.
It is an organization built on the core values of honesty, fairness and optimism. It is built on the belief in our ability to contribute to changing the sport’s future through a persistent commitment to the present.
Today, we continue to follow these core principles. We are very encouraged to see the incredible strides cycling has taken to clean itself up. Though it is important to acknowledge pride in the fact that cycling has never been cleaner, we find ourselves at a critical moment in cycling’s evolution: confronting its past.
The founding concepts of Slipstream Sports were put in place for riders committed to competing clean during their time at Slipstream Sports. We have total confidence not only in our anti-doping culture but also in our riders and staff. Everyone who works for us came here knowing in advance what we stand for as well as the standards to which they will be held.
We cannot change what happened in the past. But we believe it is time for transparency.
We expect anyone in our organization who is contacted by any cycling, anti-doping, or government authority will be open and honest with that authority. In that context, we expect nothing short of 100% truthfulness – whatever that truth is – to the questions they are asked. As long as they express the truth about the past to the appropriate parties, they will continue to have a place in our organization and we will support them for living up to the promise we gave the world when we founded Slipstream Sports.
I’ve never felt that ultimatums are the way to gain cooperation from people, and have always thought the approach by the UCI, National Federations, and teams to be counter-productive to the fight against drugs.
Slipsream’s statement is the first that I’m aware of that reflects an organization conducting itself rationally with respect to that goal; they are saying that any rider in their employ who cooperates and responds to the investigation transparently and truthfully will have a place in their organization. That means that admitting to doping prior to joining Slipstream Sports is not grounds for dismissal. After all, since the organization’s goal is to provide an environment where cyclists can compete 100% clean, they are necessarily admitting that the sport is in it’s majority dirty, and therefor that their riders may have a doping past.
I’m very encouraged by this, but we’ll have to see what happens. Of course, Slipstream stating they won’t fire the riders doesn’t mean the Federations won’t sanction them, but it’s a first step in the right direction, and I hope that spirit gains momentum.