They think the war on dopers and cheaters is over – it is now

The IOC has thrown in the towel, and now the bad guys are calling the shots

All this talk of Covid and the Olympics, but did you see the white flag go up? Do you realise the dopers have won? Do you know the war on drugs is over? It has been lost. The good guys have been beaten. The bad guys are calling the shots.

It was heading that way for a long time but a few things have happened. Actually, the Giro this week was one, a big cycling classic with all the bells and whistles. It wasn't so much the race itself as that long ribbon of colour snaking across Italy, a reminder of the big surrender that has taken place. And nobody seems to mind that much.

If you didn’t catch the Dr Richard Freeman judgment in March, then... well, there were bigger things going on in the world. The former Sky cycling team doctor ordered some nectar of the sporting gods, testosterone, seemingly not knowing or believing it was to be given to a rider for the purposes of going faster.

Under oath, Dr Freeman MChB, MRCGP, MSc and Fellow of the Faculty of Sports Exercise Medicine said he wasn't aware testosterone was a performance-enhancing drug

He admitted 18 of 22 charges against him relating to the ordering of a package of Testogel to British Cycling headquarters. The British Medical Council, which took the case, said the evidence of Dr Freeman was "dishonest", "incapable of innocent explanation" and "implausible".

The last charge earned him a licence into the BBC Comedy Association, although it was no joke. Under oath, Dr Freeman MChB, MRCGP, MSc and Fellow of the Faculty of Sports Exercise Medicine said that he wasn’t aware testosterone was a performance-enhancing drug.

When asked by the tribunal chair, Neil Dalton, about the drug culture within cycling in 2011 and whether the medic would have known testosterone could be used to boost performance, a straight-faced Freeman replied: "No, I wouldn't have, really. I'm not a cycling fan, I'm a doctor in sports medicine."

Boom-boom. This is what we’re dealing with.

That unfunny episode cost Freeman his licence to practice as a doctor. But what was funny in that sadly repetitive shaggy dog story of an enquiry was that although there was a smoking gun there was no corpse.

Lingering hangover

As in the way all doping stories end, the lack of satisfaction at the outcome is another lingering hangover. None of the cyclists on the team were named as the person for whom the drug was purchased.

Ban the doctor and move on. And you know what, people are moving on. They are believing, or rather suspending their disbelief, because all the lies and subterfuge, all the mendacity, has worn them down. The dopers have won. They have gone the distance better than anyone else.

More motivated and with greater resources at their disposal, they have beaten down people in the places that count most, their hearts and their minds. The dopers have won. They have run the testers to a standstill.

Or, in Russia’s case, they have the testers and dopers working for them. Clever things. Someone should do something about that.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) already has, although the moral high ground is indeed a dizzy space. The IOC, which partially pays for the operations of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has magnificently undermined its own work.

The IOC has said to Russia: fill in all those holes in the walls and floors where you swapped dirty urine samples for clean samples, and cleanse yourself of all the corrupt scientists and officials, and then come join us for this summer's garden party in Tokyo.

In that exasperation we all live. We tell our track and field athletes hard training and talent will win when it won't, it can't

Forget the four-year, reduced to two-year, ban, said the IOC. We want your athletes. But mind, you can't play the state anthem of the Russian Federation or do anything "teamy". As if any Russian athlete could give a flying five nmol/L of testosterone if Tchaikovsky plays while they are standing on the podium.


These days you can listen to the sadness seeping from John Treacy's voice. He tries to but cannot explain to anyone who knows or cares about the fiercely anti-doping stance Sport Ireland has taken over the years, why the IOC has so profoundly caved to the industrial cheaters.

In that exasperation we all live. We line our Irish athletes up, 65 and counting, and say to them to do your best. We tell our boxers that it is not dangerous to climb into a ring against a possible lab bunny. We tell our track and field athletes hard training and talent will win when it won’t, it can’t.

Then, in weeks like this in the Giro, we watch the spectacle of another epic marathon and we do it without beginning to wonder which are the cyclists who have gained from doctors like Freeman or come from systems like Russia.

We are losing our cynicism. We have all been beaten down. The Big Lie. Trump won the election and Russians are in “neutral athlete” vests. The energy to care dissipates.

It’s all so exhausting. But that’s grief for you. It’s a taker not a giver. So everyone suffers. Because at a macro level Russian athletes must be involved and at micro level, in-demand duplicitous doctors scuttle around.

The battles will continue but the war on drugs is over. It has been lost. The good guys have been beaten. The bad guys are calling the shots.

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