With the Phonak team to be disbanded, and yesterday’s interview with UCI President Pat McQuaid, I will make a final comment on this year’s Tour. (I’m pretty much the biggest cycling fan I know – so people ask: what happened?)
The media, particularly North American media, seem to relish in portraying cycling as dirty. The construction of this opinion can be valid. However, the same argument must then be used to show no other heavily commercialized sport is clean. The perception in North America that every Pro-Tour cyclist has a needle stuck in his arm comes from the intense scrutiny and exposure prevalent in cycling. In no other professional sport are athletes exposed to the same testing, scrutiny, acquisitions, and hounding. The abuse of drugs is prevalent in many other sports, including ones that are even dearer to my heart than cycling. Yet, for decades owners, coaches, trainers and even fans have turned their heads. Drug abuse in cycling has been revealed, and at the same time misreported since the late 1800’s. Cycling appears to be dirtier than other sports because cycling is doing more than other sports to expose doping. I do not know of any other sport that has an Ethics Code similar to that of cycling’s. By this code it was the team managers that decided amongst themselves to ban their own riders that were suspected of doping from the start of the Tour.
It will not be an easy process, nor is the end in sight. However, I believe in the sport, and I believe there are cyclists who want to ride clean – who are able to ride clean and perform feats similar to Landis’ stage 17. Cycling may not have the perfect system to deal with those that cheat, but it is doing more than other sports who release findings months after athletes are caught, or teams that continue to allow athletes to play when they are shrouded in deceit. At another time (perhaps in another place) there will be value in discussing drug abuse as a moral and personal problem rather than an athletic vice.
There is a part of me who wants to turn my back on cycling, it is the part that once believed in Hamilton, the part that is anxious about Vinokourov. Perhaps one can create an argument that by supporting cycling and encouraging near miraculous feats to match LeMond, Armstrong and Merckx I am in turn supporting doping. To counter that argument I will say that cycling deserves the support because of the goals it has set to root out doping. It is possible for unbelievable athletic feats on a bike to take place without drugs. I can be patient – I can wait. In fact, I look forward to the start of the Vuelta on the 26th. Because some people choose to cheat, does not mean it is not a beautiful sport. There are cyclists who realize that through dedication they can perform unbelievable feats without drugs. I do not want to miss it when they do.
“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” – H.G. Wells