Doping is wrong. Cheating is wrong, period. Let’s start with that, and all agree with that.
Here’s a totally made-up and theoretical conversation I did not just have recently:
Me: ‘Dopers suck. It’s so depressing all these icons coming out now… I’m going to have to buy all new ‘hero’ posters for my training cave.’
My Pal: (not a cyclist) ‘Yeah, I read about Lance. Have there been more?’
Me: ‘Oh yeah. There have been a bunch. And maybe more to come, yet – it’s a joke. Makes me feel like the whole pro level is a joke. I just don’t understand how all these guys work their whole lives to get to the top, and then risk it all and dope.’
My Pal: ‘That’s too bad.’
My Pal: ‘People speed, don’t they?’
Me: ‘What do you mean?’
My Pal: ‘They speed, in their cars – when they’re driving. Right?’
Me: ‘Well, yeah.’
My Pal: ‘Why? We all know it’s wrong.’
My Pal: ‘People speed, even though we know it’s against the law. We also know its dangerous, right?’
Me: ‘I guess so.’
My Pal: ‘So, that makes it not just against the law and we know we could get caught, but worse, its recklessly unethical because we’re not just putting ourselves at risk. We’re putting others at risk as well. I mean, you could possibly hit a cyclist.’
Me: I nod.
My Pal: ‘So why do people speed? Why don’t they always just drive the speed limit?’
Me: ‘Well, it’s not like most people rip around like idiots. They just go with the flow of traffic.’
My Pal: ‘Sure, so, maybe it’s 50km but traffic is doing like 60-65km?’
Me: ‘Sure, maybe.’
My Pal: ‘And that’s okay?”
Me: ‘Well, no. It’s speeding. But in that situation everyone else is speeding as well, and you don’t want to hold traffic up…’
My Pal: ‘And you don’t understand how your cycling heros ended up doping?’
There is no question, the sport of pro cycling needs to change and from the ground up – blank slate – it needs a ‘clean’ start. Otherwise, I can’t see pro cycling truly changing any more than I’d expect everyone to just suddenly start driving the speed limit. Great article here by Michael Barry that I think it does a worthy job of telling it like it is/was, from the pro-team pressures to dope, to strategies for getting the sport on the right track, to getting clean like we all want it to be.
In the meantime, even though I know the pro cycling world lives somewhere in the grey right now, I’ll still keep watching but I’ll be spending more time cheering for MTB racers like Geoff Kabush and Catharine Pendral, racers that champion initiatives like ‘Race Clean‘ and prove that you can win at the highest level, clean! And you may pass by me in the slow lane tomorrow on my way to work – after all, if you’ve seen me race my bike, you’d know I should be used to getting passed.