Usada nail a 90-year-old cyclist but aren't there bigger fish to fry?

Enterprising anti-doping agent stealing a march in the age 90-94 track cycling scene

Usada,  still chasing a follow-up to their 2012  effort with Lance Armstrong, have snapped on the rubber gloves for real this time and set about cleaning up the cesspool of nonagenarian doping in sport. Photograph:  Phil Walter/Getty Images

Usada, still chasing a follow-up to their 2012 effort with Lance Armstrong, have snapped on the rubber gloves for real this time and set about cleaning up the cesspool of nonagenarian doping in sport. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

 

“January 4th 2019: Usada announced today that Carl Grove, of Bristol, Indiana, an athlete in the sport of cycling, has accepted a public warning for his anti-doping rule violations.

“Grove, 90, tested positive for epitrenbolone, which is a metabolite of the prohibited substance trenbolone, as the result of an in-competition urine sample he provided on July 11th, 2018 after setting a world record at the Masters Track National Championships. While investigating the source of his positive test, it was also determined that a supplement Grove was using prior to July 11th, 2018 was contaminated with clomiphene.

“During Usada’s investigation into the circumstances of his case, Grove provided the agency with information which established that the source of his positive test was more likely than not caused by contaminated meat consumed the evening before competing on July 11th, 2018. Prior to consuming the meat, Grove had tested negative for prohibited substances during an in-competition test on July 10th, 2018.”

(Official statement from the United States Anti-Doping Agency, released last Friday)

 New Year, old story. What a joy to begin 2019 with the news that Usada, the one-hit wonders still chasing a follow-up to their 2012 chart-topping effort with Lance Armstrong, have snapped on the rubber gloves for real this time and set about cleaning up the cesspool of nonagenarian doping in sport. Not a minute too soon, either.

After all, if lovers of sport suspect one thing above all others about 90-year-olds, it’s that they’re a bunch of cheating bastards who are out to ruin sport for the younger generation. And if that means there are some 88-year-old track cyclists out there who pick up the paper this Monday morning and find their innocence thieved forever at the news that Grove has been popped, well so be it. It’s never to early to learn the ugly truth about sport.

Let the word go out. All you chancers in your 90s, all you rotten cheats, Usada wants you to hear this as loud and as clear as your devices will permit. A hard rain is gonna fall your way, kids. This is your Ben Johnson moment.

Of course, you were already grandparents when the original Ben Johnson moment happened. Maybe something stirred in you then, back at the end of the 1980s. You were close to retirement, your kids were out of college and married off, you felt a void. You saw some of your friends play golf, you saw others have affairs. Not you. You wanted the good stuff. You took up the juice.

Smoked out

Or maybe, like all dopers who are eventually smoked out by Usada (corporate motto: Cracking Heads, Cracking Hips), you’re adamant you’ve only done it once. Hey, you’re 90, you’re on 16 different pills a day. What do they want – a TUE for every last one of them? Well, frankly, yes. That’s exactly what they want. Otherwise, how are we to keep sport clean for people born in the 1920s?

Big props to Usada, by the by. You really have to hand it to them. For seven full years, they’ve bided their time and not done anything rash or, God forbid, newsworthy. Lance was a biggie, no doubt about it. And when it happened, we all presumed that if they could take down the most famous doper in sport, then surely nobody was safe. So we waited to see who would be next.

NFL players fail tests all the time – they miss a few games and then they’re welcomed back like heroes

Some big noise in the NFL? Nah, too obvious. Maybe one of those thick-armed sluggers in Major League baseball? Nah, been done already back in the early 2000s. What about tennis? Hey, don’t even go there – Serena Williams hid in her panic room and the cops were called one time when the testers arrived.

No, Usada are no fools. They know the story with sport. The real story. Sure, all those quote-unquote major stars would make for juicy headlines if they got popped, but what difference would it make? NFL players fail tests all the time – they miss a few games and then they’re welcomed back like heroes. The big sports are all but impervious to anti-doping now.

But the 90-94 age group in track cycling? Now, that’s where an enterprising anti-doping agent can really get ahead. On the fateful day they took Carl Grove down last summer, he was competing in a field of one. There was nobody else in his category. So in effect, Usada were able to eliminate 100 per cent of the problem in one fell swoop. Not a bad day’s work, fellas.

It’s tough on Grove, of course. He’s got to be asking himself just why he was the only one who turned up for the 90-94 men’s individual pursuit that day. Something doesn’t taste right about that, let’s be honest. Where was the opposition? Had word got out that the feds were in town?

Whacked

Maybe it was like when Joe Pesci’s character Tommy gets whacked in Goodfellas. He turns up to the meeting place thinking he’s about to become a made guy and as soon as he walks in and finds the room empty, he knows it’s over. Was it like that for Grove the day Usada brought the heat and he turned out to be the only one in the kitchen? We may never know. Although certainly it’s one for Oprah to ask him when the time comes.

For now, Grove has taken his warning on the chin and, judging by Usada’s statement, has been lucky to avoid a ban. Seasoned doper-watchers will have noted that he went with the Alberto Contador gambit of blaming contaminated meat for the failed test. Sadly, he didn’t plump for the Dennis Mitchell explanation – he tested positive for testosterone in 1998 and blamed it on having sex with his wife four times in one day. “Hey, it was her birthday, the lady deserved a treat,” was Mitchell’s offering. Ah, the good old days.

For Grove, the future is unclear. He is free to keep competing, but you have to wonder what sort of reception he’ll get upon his return. So far, he has kept his nose clean and his mouth shut, so if history is any sort of judge, cycling will welcome him back with open arms.

But what if he talks? Presumably, Usada will try to flip him now. Go after the big fish. Hey Carl, we know you’re just a patsy for the real cheats. C’mon, Carl, tell us everything. Tell us all about those 95-99 category scumbags.

Carl Grove could blow the whole rotten thing to smithereens.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.