Cycling: winning the fight against drugs?

This is an interesting article by William Fotheringham, Guardian sports writer, cycling specialist and author of the Tom Simpson biog ‘Put Me Back on My Bike’, amongst other books.

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It’s a timely reminder of how far cycling has come in just over a decade; and even in the three short years since the Puerto/Basso/Ulrich/Landis debacle. Okay, so hopes of a Tour without scandal were dashed (if Astarloza’s B sample returns a positive), and news of Di Luca’s failed Giro test broke during the Tour. But there does appear to be a growing confidence in cycling, that cheats are being caught (no matter what their profile and stature) and that the majority of riders are – dare I say it – clean. Bradley Wiggins in particular is leading the way with his immediate post-4th place online posting of blood test results.

But then there is the dark cloud hanging over the likes of Vinokourov: should he be welcomed back in the pro peleton? Is it bad for cycling to have cheats return? He’s done his time, like Brits David Millar and Dwaine Chambers (both accepted back and – hopefully – competing clean in their respective sports). Vino may not be liked anymore, but society must surely permit those who’ve served their sentence to return to life and try again. The problem is – though – remorse; or, all too often in cycling, the lack of it. Until cyclists cease blaming everything from clinical depression to an identical twin that died at birth, from other riders to the sport itself, and start admitting to themselves and the world that they’ve done wrong, then their participation always harms the sport.

The UCI, WADA and co are getting a lot right now. But there remains question marks over people like Basso and Valverde too. The former never failed a test but was banned through implication in Puerto; in essence this breaches Article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998: the right to a fair trial for all EU citizens. The latter is banned but only in Italy; that a rider can be banned by one national body, yet ride and win prestigious events like the Dauphine is ludicrous. Cycling needs greater continuity across national borders and to resolve unclear issues like the Valverde case in order to continue winning the fight against drugs. But it needs reciprocal support from riders: let’s hope more people step it up from the bio passport agreement and follow Wiggins’ lead on openness and transparency.

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I love Wiggo’s twitter re Di Luca! http://twitter.com/bradwiggins. His comment on the Cav:Thor bust up is intriguing as well.

I’ve been following Lance and Wiggins through the Tour, and have added Chris McCormack (pro triathlete) and Jenson (in case I can pick up any tri tips before next Sunday!) recently too. It’s great to get such insights into the lives of elite athletes.

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