Leaks themselves will never be eliminated and so long as there is someone to protect the source, they may never be discovered, either, writes Anthony Tan.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

Before we deplore L'Equipe and its "index of suspicion" story in
question as tabloid muck, as the UCI did post-haste in its vain attempt
to flick-pass blame onto others, is this fundamentally much different
from WikiLeaks publishing thousands of confidential cables on
internal discussions between international diplomats and videos that
show innocent civilians gunned down in cold blood?

WikiLeaks
founder and editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, has become something of an
anti-hero for publishing information he considered in the public
interest; information that was handed to him. Meanwhile the US
government has condemned his actions, largely on the basis that national
security has been breached and the welfare of its armed forces has been
compromised, together with an equally apocryphal rape claim.

The bittersweet truth is that leaks will never cease to exist.

There
will always be someone who reaches a tipping point, where their ideals -
that range from morality to voyeurism - clash with those of their
employer and become a burden too heavy to bear alone. And despite what
they've been told and trained to do, they act: in some cases out of the
public's right to know; in others out of pure self-interest with an
ulterior motive in mind, not caring a hoot for the consequences - which
can often be more damaging than the leak.

Over the course of my
career in journalism, I have experienced many instances where a person
is prepared to talk but only on the condition that their name be
withheld. One story that comes to mind is Wire in the blood (article here),
a two-month-long investigation of mine into American rider Tyler
Hamilton's final appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for blood
doping, an appeal he ultimately lost. My source in the story, a
high-ranking medical official at the UCI, showed, on the condition of
anonymity, how anti-doping protocols at the time soon led to Hamilton
being marked as a rider of interest, and inevitably, as someone that
had, beyond reasonable doubt, engaged in a perilous game of blood
manipulation.

Once I had established my source was telling the
truth, and that it was fit for publication, it becomes my duty to
protect the source. I'm quite certain the author of the May 13 article
in L'Equipe, Damien Ressiot, famous for his 2005 exposé on Lance
Armstrong following that year's Tour de France, knows the source of the
leak, but it is now his duty to protect him or her.

Is the actual list of names, teams and nations (the latter two indices created by L'Equipe itself deplorable?

I
can't provide a definitive answer to that question; it depends on the
science used and the methodology. But when you're trying to keep a
watchful eye on those competing in the World Tour – ProTeam riders alone
account for some 500 men – a list of who to monitor more closely makes
sense, whether it be due to naturally-occurring fluctuations in blood
and urine values, or circumstantial evidence of doping. It is only
logical that anti-doping experts devote greater time to those persons
whose values are more volatile than others.

However while I don't condemn the list per se, the leak is not good for how cycling is perceived.

Since
we do not know the methodology or science behind it, it is impossible
to say how robust a tool or measure it is, though Tour de France
director Christian Prudhomme told AFP it was "certainly a bonus
in the fight against doping". It casts aspersions of doubt on clean
riders, clean teams and clean nations, especially since many would
equate riders categorised between '6-10' – where, according to the
annotations in the list procured by L'Equipe, circumstantial evidence of doping is "overwhelming" – as guilty as charged, and those ranked '5' as borderline dopers.

But
if the circumstantial evidence is indeed overwhelming, why has the UCI
not prosecuted these cases? Was the sheer number of cases on the 'to do
list' overwhelming in itself, leading to an exasperated member of the
UCI or WADA (before last Friday's story, the only two organisations with
a copy of the list) to leak the file?

It seems that the UCI's
dual functions of promotion and governance raise ongoing conflicts of
interest, and on an all-too-regular basis. Back in February, the chief
executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, told the New York Times it was like "the fox watching the henhouse".

"At this point, it's frankly difficult to both promote and police your own sport," Tygart told the NYT.
"There's this natural tension when the sport attempts to police itself
of enforcing firmly and fairly the rules versus the other interest,
which is to promote and raise revenue for the sport."

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan