We no longer expect athletes to refrain from doping because of a crisis of conscience, because it is cheating, because it is fraudulent, because ultimately it is wrong. We expect them to refrain because they may get caught, sanctioned, fined, humiliated, banned.
By the time Procycling
magazine founder Jeremy Whittle published Bad Blood in 2009, he was
jaded as a Kings Cross druggie living on a diet of smack. Worn out by
the surfeit of denials of those who he once idolised and claimed to be
riding clean but were not; many were instead gluttons for EPO, growth
hormone, testosterone, blood doping... whatever would give them the
"In the end that is the greatest loss of innocence: that we
now expect them to at least try to dope," continued Whittle in his
"So because we cannot trust them, we have to police
them, to monitor their movements. We DNA test them; we take hair, blood
and urine samples to store for the future; we rouse them at dawn for yet
more testing. We don't believe in them, or in their word, any more."
I accept cycling is in a bad way, and may be for some time, I do not
accept they are all bad eggs. To say "we now expect them to at least try
to dope" is akin to throwing the entire peloton under the bus and for
good measure, running them over again.
You see, Whittle, like
many of you, was once in awe of and idolised Lance Armstrong. On more
than a few covers, he would put the face of cycling's All American Boy
on his magazine. Those issues always sold well. He also idolised David
Millar. And again, the charming though idiosyncratic British rider would
appear often and prominently.
While the ongoing FDA
investigation into alleged malpractice at the United States Postal
Service cycling team is some way from reaching its dÃ©nouement, Whittle,
who no longer works at Procycling (in fact, he has little to do with professional cycling nowadays), made his mind up a few years ago.
So has another prominent cycling editor, Bill Strickland, Bicycling's
editor-at-large, who, after spending years of glorifying Armstrong and
his achievements to the point of sycophancy Ã¢â¬â "He's one of us," Johan
Bruyneel replied, when Mark Higgins, Armstrong's personal assistant,
asked why a journalist was sitting in the front passenger seat of their
car at the 2009 Tour de France Ã¢â¬â and selling millions of copies of the
sport's largest-selling journal Ã¢â¬â decided after information received
from an anonymous source, the Texan doped to win more than one of his
seven Tours de France.
"Off-the-record information finally convinced me that in some form he doped to win some of his Tours," Strickland told The Oregonian this March, shortly before publication of Bicycling's May issue, where he penned the ominously titled Armstrong story, 'End Game'.
"I don't know how many. What I wanted to say to [readers) is, 'I believe this now.'"
too, may have your minds made up about Armstrong and others. But before
you throw them all under the proverbial bus, ask yourself how fair
you're being, and if it was someone in your family or a friend of yours,
would you treat them the same way?
For the archetypal cycling
fan, I absolutely concede, it must be hard to take: a hero turns
anti-hero, villain, rogue, criminal, serial liar, taker of dreams,
persona non grata Ã¢â¬â call them what you will.
But just because some do, does not mean all do.
respect of those who ride clean Ã¢â¬â whether they be in the minority or
majority Ã¢â¬â I'm asking you to throw a dog a bone. Because the point where
you decide all eggs are bad before having cracked one open and tasted
it, it's probably time to walk away, just as Whittle did.
Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan
In the interests of sanity and those who ride clean, Anthony Tan asks you to throw pro cycling a bone.