Deterring doping requires game plan from elite sports people
TIPPING POINT:Self-regulation has got a bad press. And when it comes to cops, quacks and all kinds of hacks, its pedigree is obviously flawed. But when it comes to elite sports people policing the doping curse, surely an incentive is there, even in terms of pure self-interest, to mind their own backyard a lot more vigorously than they are.
Cycling of course, as has become depressingly obvious to everyone, is different. Any rider who opined over the decades that injecting erythropoetin (EPO) might not be exactly fair was conspicuous by his rarity, evidence it seems that the peloton was mostly happy with the status quo.
But anyone possessed of the backbone to take it further than his peers was left with scarcely encouraging options – from a press corps largely content to trade credibility for access, to a sponsorship train riding its own commercial rails, and an official establishment that kissed its credibility “day-day” a long time before.
Not great choices, and illustrative of how a fraud like Lance Armstrong could thrive for so long. And always with the ultimate retort that quenched most kinds of indignant or investigative zeal: he never failed a test.
How cycling recovers from such a sordid period – if indeed it ever can – will be a painfully slow process, one that can only work if honestly addressing the sort of realities likely to be unveiled in Madrid today when six people are tried for being members of a blood-doping ring.
Ducking and diving
They include Dr Eufemiano Fuentes who has in the past boasted of his work with sporting figures outside of cycling, including football. But the “Operacion Puerto” trial’s focus is on cycling only. So any headlines will focus on a sport with an already shredded reputation.
Over the years some track and field stars didn’t even have Armstrong’s fig-leaf credibility of having never failed a test.
Yet they proceeded on their merry way, ducking and diving, vehemently protesting it was all a mistake, a result of weird toothpaste or too much birthday sex with the missus, or contaminated meat that still had the marks of where the jockey had hit it. And mostly accompanied by a deafening sound of silence from their contemporaries, the ones theoretically most blackguarded.
An obvious conclusion to be drawn in such circumstances is that the offender is offside to the competition only in terms of having got caught.
But even giving them the benefit of that doubt, there seems to be a dreadful obsequiousness among athletes of all disciplines towards not rocking the boat. You would think they would be the ones with most to gain from cementing their own, and their sport’s, credibility. You would also think they would have most to gain from whistleblowing and naming names. Yet there remains a depressing culture of remaining “shtum”.