What's Cool In Road Cycling

Doping Battle Rages On

– By Bryan Melchionda
A century has past with great riders such as Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong suffering through some of the hardest battles of cycling history.

Now, the sport of cycling is battling its greatest threat – drug doping. On Tuesday, Dick Pound, Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), reiterated his concerns to the International Cycling Union (UCI) President M. Hein Verbruggen. The two have a long-standing history of outlandish remarks and squabbling cant. Pound was quoted, “Even the UCI president must admit there is a problem in cycling and that it has been going on for a 100 years.”

The sport of cycling is suffering not only from the utter arrogance and cowboy display of two highly publicized and prominent figures but from professional cyclist who seem to only wish to see prospects of embarrassment.

Earlier this week, Fassa Bortolo cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke was charged with possession of drugs and banned performance-enhancing substances and has been ordered to stand trial in a Belgium court in March, Cofidis cyclist Philippe Gaumont admitted taking banned substance EPO, and today, former Cofidis pro Marek Rutkiewicz was suspended by the Polish Cycling Federation over his suspected role in the teams ongoing drug scandal.

Instances of these are not the only detrimental part of the sport.

A press release by the BBC quoted Philippe Gaumont, former Olympic medal winner, as stating “I have admitted to taking illegal substances. What cyclist could say anything to the contrary?” and that the riders “are victims of a rotten system.” Gaumont also claimed that 90% of professional cyclists currently used or past used performance-enhancing drugs.

The cycling community can’t disagree with Pound. The current state of the cycling world has been scorned and the sport must recognize that the fight against doping is the concern of all.

WADA currently has over 140 sporting organizations falling under the World Anti-Doping Code. In fact today, FIFA, the worlds soccer governing authority announced the adoption of the WADA Code. This marks a major achievement for WADA. The UCI has remained removed from the Code, inherently stating that the two-year ban for an anti-doping violation is not just. The 03/03/03 press release goes on to state “the UCI’s view is that all humans make mistakes and that even one who commits a serious offence such as an anti-doping violation must have the opportunity to repent and to be reinstated at a time when he has a chance to compete at a comparable level.”

During a conversation earlier today, Frйdйric Donzй, Manager for Media Relations for the WADA, expressed his concerns with the sports current state. “Cycling has doping and we all know it”. Mr. Donzй was confident to state that he expects the UCI to become part of WADA’s initiatives prior to the next Olympic games. The integration of the UCI into the WADA would be a key accomplishment for Pound. Throughout the world, the UCI represents the interest of 1200 professional riders and 600,000 licensed riders and the implementation of the Code within the UCI would clean-up the sport.

The WADA and UCI must reach a formal outline and approach of how to attack the problem and both sides must unilaterally agree to the standards and the process. Until then, the sport will continue to weaken in the eyes of the fans and its members. Professionalism and integrity is in the hands of the riders, director sportif’s, and team sponsors. The common approach of “its not my problem, its not me” can’t do. A team is a team.

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