Keeping an open mind on doping is the key to cycling sanity (CC)

When it comes to doping in cycling, Philip Gomes thinks fans need to take a step back and take a fresh look at the evidence and personalities behind it all.

Like many, I don't like doping, but I'm not a black and white person, shades of gray are what the world is usually like and I like to keep an open mind on most things while holding clearly defined opinions that usually conform to current available thinking.

I'm also a big fan of scientific inquiry, understanding that it is evolving and ongoing with no 'end to the story'. It's why I'm also fan of the bio-passport system while understanding it is no panacea for the ills that dog the sport.

Science allows us to update our thinking as new evidence becomes available. The Earth used to be flat and the sun revolved around it. These things are no longer true thanks to brave and inquisitive minds.

That we evolved from apes in Africa is no longer controversial, with evidence supporting that case piling on decades after initial discoveries were made.

Today climate change science dominate the headlines, and again the evidence continues to be compelling, adding new layers of understanding to what is a highly complex field of discovery.

And so it is with the science and narrative of doping in cycling, a quickly evolving field if there ever was one.

Maybe it was tainted meat. The plasticizers did come from our increasingly plastic environment. But that other stuff in the cupboard most definitely was not for Rover or your mother-in-law.

My previous personal view on doping was pretty black and white. Performance enhancing drugs are bad kids, just say no. Riders who dope deserve cycling's version of the death penalty. Yada, yada, yada.

That has changed as I've see a lot of minds close completely on the issue.

I believe that if I do close my mind to views, interpretations and evidence that might lead to a more informed position on the issue I'll do myself a disservice, one that endangers my love for cycling - and all sport, for that matter.

As one of the hordes who didn't believe his initial denials of doping I understand the negative sentiment regarding Floyd Landis.

But I'm also a big fan of empathy and walking a mile in another man's shoes.

Today this and an open mind have me listening to Floyd even more closely because I do think he has a unique and compelling contribution to make.

There were no PayPal contributions from me to the Floyd Fairness Fund but his priors don't now mean I won't listen attentively to what he's saying about the culture of doping in the sport and possible solutions to deal with it.

Landis has been there and done that, an elite bike racer who doped and has so far lived to tell the tale. His experience and journey carry weight whatever the evolving motivations.

And what Landis is suggesting makes sense. Why? Because it acknowledges the shades of gray in life and in the science as he calls for an anti-doping system to mirror that.

"I'm asking that there be a balance of the magnitude of the punishment weighed against what the actual magnitude of the crime was," Landis told Cycling Central in an interview last week.

Dr. Michael Ashenden also sees the gray. This time in acknowledging the bio-passport is not a magic bullet in the fight against doping but another tool in the arsenal - and one that clearly requires careful and expert interpretation.

"That's the scenario we're facing today and that's why I'm pragmatic that, look, the passport is the best thing we've got but it's not going to catch everyone – not by a long stretch."

So what am I attempting to poorly argue here? Well it's a bit of a plea to cycling fans to take a step back from an absolutist view and to engage more fully.

Much of what we see are simple human failings. The UCI is not evil and neither is WADA. The riders certainly aren't. Their world is a unique bubble in which to live.

In a way, acknowledging the gray allows closure, allows us to make peace with the situation and thereby continue to love the sport while understanding doping exists. It's worked for me.

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