midst the post-Tour criteriums, Vuelta speculation and transfer announcements, there's been a familiar subject rearing its head over the last few days in the cycling world.
Yep, it's the dreaded D-word. From Tom Danielson's positive test and the subsequent implications for clean team Cannondale-Garmin to the US government requesting Lance Armstrong's medical records from 1996, the questions about doping are only getting louder. Those who thought the chatter would quieten in the wake of speculation over the source of Chris Froome's power figures have been sorely mistaken.
However, it's a doping scandal encompassing another sport that has brought cycling's ongoing battle with PEDs into sharp relief. Britain's Sunday Times revealed that athletics is likely to have been scourged by 'rampant doping' in recent years, with more than 146 medal-winning performances in doubt due to abnormal blood values. Anti-doping experts Robin Parisotto and Michael Ashenden - the latter a familiar name to many cycling fans - commented that distance running was in the same state as cycling when Lance Armstrong was dominant.
"The use of EPO is known to have been rife in cycling in the early 2000s. However the database shows that in some of those years the proportion of abnormal blood tests recorded in athletics was significantly higher than in cycling," the report said.
Cycling fans may be excused for enjoying a little bit of schadenfraude at the revelations that another sport may be dirty, after years of the peloton being viewed as drugged-up pariahs by the general populace. While the athletics scandal shows how far cycling may have come in the last few years, cases like Danielson's (whether he is innocent or guilty) also highlight how far we have still to go in the quest for clean sport.
Comments by veteran US sports writer James Ferstle hit the nail on the head when it comes to tackling doping across all sports, telling Reuters that the key to deterring the spread of drug use is changing culture.
"Don Catlin, one of the pioneers in sports drug testing, told me back in the late '80s that for each positive drug test, the athlete who was busted was not a triumph for the anti-doping movement, but rather a failure of the system," Ferstle said. "The system had not convinced those who give in to the temptation that doping was not an attractive option."
Instead, he said, the athlete had decided the rewards were greater than the risks.
"The culture needs to favour the clean athletes rather than the win-at-all costs mentality that has the upper hand today," Ferstle said. "Unless we do change the culture, there will continue to be scandals."
There will always be those who look for shortcuts. There will always be substances that provide a performance boost, legal or otherwise. But, as anyone who has operated in the finance sector over the last decade will tell you, the key to whether you take advantage of those shortcuts is whether the culture and structures around you encourage you to take those shortcuts or frowns upon them.
In many financial institutions, those shortcuts were held up as best practice: the result was the global financial crisis. The organisations that survived are still struggling to regain the trust they once had and change their cultures for the better.
For decades, cycling has been plagued by a culture that tolerates cheating, if not outright promotes it. I believe that is changing, and that cycling is further down the anti-doping road than many other sports.
However, like any process of culture change, it is a long and drawn-out process. it requires the deployment of all of the tools available to sports administrators and participants - both carrots and very large sticks.
There will be trips and falls; there will be ugly revelations; there will be times when the short cuts look very attractive.
However, the potential benefits - to athletes, to teams, to sponsors and to the fans who feel like they've been sold a lie every time a scandal breaks - are enormous. The only question is whether those with the power and the responsibility to create a clean sporting culture have the mettle to see the task through.