Lowdown: When is doping not doping? Easy, when it has a TUE. In today’s Lowdown, Lee Rodgers is in a comparative mood: Bradley Wiggins, Femke Van den Driessche, Thomas Dekker and Michael Rasmussen, do they have something in common? It’s not black and white, but then it never is. Then there are the dopers of the past: Aitor Gonzalez, David Millar and Jan Ullrich, some fairing better than others after the end of their careers.
There are two kind of people in the world, those who say there are two kind of people in the world and those who don’t. Flippant that may seem, but generally it’s spot on. Trying to divide into two the entire human race is never going to be possible, for there are far too many nuances, contradictions and paradoxes in the thoughts and behavior of human beings to ever be able to slice them perfectly down the middle so that they fit into two basic, comprehensible segments.
And yet, when it comes to the issue of cheating, I am inclined to think that it’s more black and white than not. By ‘cheating’ of course I mean ‘doping’, that other word we use in relation to cycling that somehow makes doping seem slightly less terrible than cheating. If you don’t believe me, then cast your mind back to the case of the female cyclo-cross rider who was caught with a motorized bike. Remember the outrage that palaver unleashed amongst many pro cyclists, managers and cycling commentators?
“Ban her for EVER!” they bellowed and whooped, which is all well and good apart from the fact that many of those demanding her head were also in their day associated or indeed busted for PEDs. “Ah, but she cheated, you see”, I hear you say. Right, and doping by chemicals means is doping, not cheating. Gotcha!
An excellent post by the blogger ‘Cycling In The South Bay’ recently penned an article entitled ‘Wiggins broke no doping rules when he doped’, which, well, kinda sums it all up really. Because he did dope, cheat, whatever, because the medicine he took with his TUE did in fact allow him to gain an advantage over his peers.
Legally, maybe, but ethically? Morally?
Wiggins is currently enjoying a nice break in the sovereign nation of Omertà, a haven for pros the world over, basking in the sun of silence. He’s done two interviews since the Fancy Bears revealed his use of TUEs before major races, and is now refusing to speak to the press. At the rider presentation at the Gent Six Day recently, he hotfooted it out of the press conference without answering a word from the attendant journalists who he feared would dare to bring up this sticky issue.
How should we rate this one? Dodgy, that’s how. Wiggins, as a major star in cycling, has a responsibility to speak to the press, whether they are there to ask him about his penchant for velvet suits or to press him on the issue of ethical cheating.
In other news, Dutch former professional Thomas Dekker, the man who stayed silent during his career over his and others’ use of PEDs, has, grounbreakingly (not) decided to bear all in a new book about his career.
Talking about (close your ears now Brad) he and his Rabobank then-teammates abuse of TUEs, he details their use of cortisone.
“Every day we use cortisone. The product name is Diprofos. We have a medical certificate”, Dekker said. “I wouldn’t even know what it’s for, it is a sham. With cortisone we can go deeper during the race. And besides, I am nice and thin: I am 68 kilos at 1 meter 88 – I have never been so thin before.”
Dekker was part of the Rabobank team that included Michael Rasmussen, who at that fateful 2007 Tour de France was thrown out of the Tour whilst in Yellow for his unavailability for doping controls earlier in the year. Dekker’s comments show just how pervasive the attitude was that doping was all fine and dandy by a peloton that was just one year distanced from the scandal of Operation Puerto.
“We ask Rasmussen nothing. Actually, we do have respect for him. He did it smart, like Boogerd, I think. He has devised a system for himself and apparently it works, because he is riding in the yellow jersey. Simple enough. Doping is everywhere. In our team, other teams. Dynepo, cortisone, blood bags, IV drips and sleeping pills – if you are surrounded by absurdity, you eventually think it is normal.”
A shy and silent Dekker has, for some reason, found his voice. Great. Just nine or ten years too late. Wonder why? Could it be a juicy advance from the publishers? Perish the thought!
But hey, folk will buy the book, and he’ll no doubt find forgiveness and acceptance by many a fan, much as he did when he signed for Jonathan Vaughters’ Home For Repentant Dopers, aka Garmin, in 2011.
Another interesting chap in the news this week is 2002 Vuelta a España winner Aitor Gonzalez, who has been arrested for a break-in at a mobile phone shop in Alicante, Spain. Fair to say he probably took it all in his stride though, as it is the fourth time he’s been arrested, so he’s probably not crying in his prison cell a la David Millar.
Gonzalez’s career was halted, shall we say, in 2006 when he was busted for cheating/doping twice in 2005, and was also linked to Operation Puerto and Dr Fuentes. Seems you just cannot keep a good cheat down.
But have no fear, there is a place where former dopers can go and be celebrated. It’s at the Rouleur Classic Theatre where, like old donkeys sent to a lush paddock to be, er, applauded by their fans, folk like Jan Ulrich, Millar and others get paid to talk to the starry eyed and, frankly, idiotic.
Or I could be wrong. I mean, perhaps you really do have to love the sport more than I do to forget that these folk were a part of – along with managers, journalists and bureaucrats – the fabric of the sport that brought it to its knees.
But then again, it’s just doping right? Phew. And here’s me thinking it’s cheating.
Still, there’s always Cycling In The South Bay, and the Last American Cycling Fan Who Thinks Cycling is Clean…
Lee Rodgers is a former professional road racer on the UCI Asia Tour circuit now racing MTB professionally around the world. His day job combines freelance journalism, coaching cyclists, event organizing and consulting work. You can keep up with his daily scribblings over at www.crankpunk.com.
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