I was talking about the Lance thing with a very good, young driver last weekend. He was saying how stupid of him to dope when there was such a chance of getting caught. I put it to him like this. Let’s say you have a pill that you can take which will give you a ½-second of laptime. You know that all of your major competitors are taking it, but it’s illegal. Now you have to make a decision. Are you going to take the pill or are you going to go out into the real world and find an 8-5 job. That’s really your only two options. A ½-second a lap isn’t enough to make a wanker the next world champ, but it’s enough to make a good driver a race winner and a top echelon driver unbeatable. He agreed that he would be taking the pill.
Lance is not the disease, he’s a symptom of the disease. Riders have been taking PED’s since they started racing bicycles. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking Coppi, Anquetil, Merkx, Hinault (who gives the common “I never failed a test” refrain), Indurain, Armstrong or Contador. It has long been part of the culture of this particular form of racing. The UCI, which is the sanctioning body, has gone from completely ignoring the issue to wrist slapping and now to actually enforcing the WADA (and USADA) decisions. I believe there is a genuine movement to stop the drug cheats, but it’s been a long time coming. If you believe the USADA was out of place, you need to read the report. They weren’t. Their entire reason for being is to catch drug cheats. They were faced with a guy that everyone suspected of cheating who retired. That guy then came back in 2009 & 2010 still cheating. It’s not that the USADA wouldn’t let the sleeping dog lie, it was Lance that actually gave the mutt a kick. If he would not have had his last comeback, I highly doubt if would have ever been made an issue.
I can’t really blame Lance. I’m no angel. I’ve done things with cars that I’d prefer not to talk about. Not a lot. Certainly not on the endemic scale that doping was found on the US Postal cycling team. It’s one thing to be an amateur sportsman, but it’s an entirely different kettle of fish when your livelihood rests on your next performance. I get why the NASCAR guys cheat their cars up. I get why road builders short-sack a concrete highway. I get why salesmen lie to their customers. I get why politicians take bribes. I don’t like it, but I get it.
The UCI is leaving those 7 Tours titles vacated. That’s really the only route to take. In many of those years, I would venture to guess that there was not a single completely innocent rider in The Tour. Those guys simply never got the opportunity to ride on the world’s biggest stage. I don’t know if purging Lance is a step in the right direction or not. It doesn’t do a lot of for the present crop of guys, many of whom I believe are completely clean. The steps forward have to be with the sanctioning body. Governmental involvement is not the answer, in my book. The government has plenty of stuff to screw up without getting in the middle of sports management.
Ultimately, the culture of the racing has to change. I think we’re seeing that in NASCAR. It’s certainly not the same as when Smokey Yunick or even Dale Earnhardt was racing. In those times, cheating was not only an accepted part of the culture, but a ‘good’ cheat was looked highly upon. Like I said earlier, how many of AJ Foyt’s wins would we have to remove if we were to discount his ‘cheater’ races? Probably damned near all of them! Would that make him any less of a figure in racing history? There is no political will to do this and there is upside to doing this if there was. I don’t know if removing Lance from the sport of cycling will help the sport, I suspect not. What I do know is that there are people who are genuinely trying to make the sport better and if they can continue with their work, then we’ll get a better situation in the long run.
Edited by Fat Boy, 23 October 2012 - 17:05.