What's Cool In Road Cycling

Comment: Taking Action Against Dopers

Fact: States in the US which have the death penalty do not have lower homicide rates than those which do not practice capital punishment. It’s proof the ‘big stick’ does not work. If forfeiting one’s life does not deter an individual from committing serious crime, what chance does the threat of a suspension have of preventing riders from cheating?

If you followed the recent Tour de France and its immediate aftermath, then it’s apparent that what I am saying is correct. Sinkewitz, Vinokourov, Moreni, Rasmussen (he wasn’t studying the flora and fauna, in the Dolomites), Mayo and now, Kashechkin. A two year suspension, loss of a year’s wages then a further two years of banishment from the Pro Tour; heavy duty, but not working.

What else can be done? First of all, let’s look at what counselling a new pro gets when they join a big team; “don’t take drugs, because if you do, we’ll fire you and you’ll get clobbered with all the other UCI sanctions, sign here to say you understand!” But what else can they do?

1. The UCI should conduct a presentation at every Pro Tour (and the bigger budget Pro Continental) squad’s pre-season training camps explaining what drugs and techniques (eg. blood doping) are practiced, what the side-effects are and how you will be caught. Ex drug-offenders should be sought-out to address the pros; “I took this and this is what it did to me,” not just physically but mentally and financially. This simple exercise would surely dissuade a large number of young pros from being tempted by the ministerings of ‘old-school’ soigneurs and riders. As part of the presentation, the UCI should explain simply, but concisely how testing works, how it is constantly being refined and that ‘intelligence’ is increasingly being used to catch dopers.

2. The UCI should commission a management consultant to carry-out a full review of drug testing procedures, to render errors and consequent “Landis” type affairs less likely.

3. It would not be feasible to go back on the current penalties for drug offences, these should stay in place. However, a reduction by six months to the two year ban and subsequent Pro Tour ’embargo’ should be offered to any guilty rider, who is prepared to undertake a paid lecture tour of schools, cycling academies, and juniors’ teams. The offenders would explain to the kids what they did, why they did it and why it was wrong. One of the victims of drugs in sport are the fans, it is they who have what should be magical memories plucked out of their minds and consigned to the trash can. A rider facing, disillusioned young fans would be confronted by the real consequences of his actions.

4. During their suspension, all riders should be counseled by a psychologist to ensure that the rider is dealing with their situation properly, in other words, facing up to the reality of their situation and not living in denial. The results of this on-going analysis should be available to any genuine future employer. This would help a team decide if the rider was genuinely reformed or likely to re-offend.

5. All team personnel guilty of drugs offences in the past – and bear in mind that there is at least one DS out-there who managed to get himself a lifetime ban from bike racing for doping – should undertake a course of counseling to make sure, to the satisfaction of the UCI that they have faced-up to the errors of their past and are unlikely to encourage riders in their charge to use illegal methods or substances.

Once these measures are in place, accept that riders will still be caught – human beings rape, murder and cannibalize each other, in that context, sportsmen taking drugs is not even on the scale. If all this talk of counselling sounds too ‘pinko liberal’, remember that the big penalties are patently not working and that counselling is highly effective for victims of all types of situations. If it all sounds too expensive and complex, remember that this is a sport where bicycles are placed in wind tunnels at the cost of thousands of dollars to get the best shape for the brake levers. And, if you don’t like my ideas, then what do you suggest? Just don’t say; ‘stiffer penalties’, we already know that won’t work.

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