What’s ahead for cycling?

25 Oct

In my mind there are two predominate issues occurring in the sport of cycling right now: Lance Armstrong and the future of professional cycling.

The larger population is focused on Armstrong in light of the 1000 pages of testimonies and facts in the USADA report. If you haven’t read the USADA report “Reasoned Decision” including the affidavits and other supporting evidence I encourage you to do so. As we used to say at work, “you can’t make this sh*t up”!

Armstrong fans shake down into two main camps: believers that continue to support him and those that did believe but can’t any longer in light of the mountain of evidence against him. My last post Armstrong’s Doomsday told you which camp I fall in to.  If you read my post Lance Armstrong from February of this year, you’ll know I haven’t been in this camp that long.

My larger concern however is for the sport of professional cycling. As a longtime fan, I want to go back to following the Tour de France and posting about it here, and following the many other races throughout the season. As it stands right now, I’m not sure I can.

As reported in my last post, the International Cycling Union (UCI) was complicit in the doping that occurred in the Armstrong era (including the more recent Armstrong years). Under the current leadership of president Pat McQuaid and “honorary” president Hein Verbruggen that will not change as evidenced in their press conference Monday October 22. At the heart of UCI’s complicity is the dual mission to both promote and police the sport. No agency or individual can both promote and police anything. It is a basic conflict of interest.

The international cycling community is pressing for new leadership within the UCI, most recently former Tour de France champion Greg Lemond in an open letter to McQuaid. At a minimum, the UCI leadership must go and their “conflict of mission” changed.

I hope that the move to clean house at the UCI will continue to build momentum and that McQuaid and Verbruggen will have no choice but to step down. I’ve wondered since they burned Armstrong will Armstrong turn the tables on them – he has enough dirt on them to do so. But then that would require he admit what he’s done and that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon although I don’t believe Armstrong will go down quietly. He’s just figuring out what his best strategy is.

Without the required change within UCI I see more of the same for cycling. We went through this in 1998 with Festina and now again. Both times the powers-that-be told us the sport is clean now and we must move on. Moving on without fixing the glaring deficiencies will just give us more of the same – been there – done that and don’t want to go through it again.

The credibility of cycling is hanging on by a thread – and that’s for those of us that are fans. The general public thinks cycling is a complete and utter joke. Armstrong has done so much damage it’s hard to pick the worst, but the damage to cycling’s credibility particularly in the US is one of the worst of his crimes.

For cycling to be a viable and respected sport, it must have strong anti-doping measures and the policing entity(s) to enforce them. As cycling’s governing body UCI needs to step up and make the necessary changes. Penalties must be tougher when doping occurs and no one gets a pass regardless of how big they are.

I want cycling to move forward, but only with the right players and system in place to ensure a cleaner more fair sport. Otherwise, if I watch cycling it will be with the understanding that what I see isn’t real – sort of like watching professional wrestling.

Come on cycling get your act together while there’s still time.

4 Responses to “What’s ahead for cycling?”

  1. Charles Farley October 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    The only real way to deal with the mess the UCI has created is a combination of what Greg is calling for, ie getting rid of Pat and Hein (and the rest of their family who are also involved in cycling) and to put in place an independent testing body that has got absolutely nothing to do with the UCI whatsoever.

    They’ve sat on enough cases in the past like Contador’s that only came out when the German lab got frustrated and felt they had no other option but to release the test results.

    All other major busts have come from law enforcement or government agencies.

    Not a good scenario.

    Pat and Hein should be worried tonight. Very worried.

    • Susan October 25, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

      Charles, Thanks for your comment. Good point that all other busts have come from law enforcement or govt agencies. Agree with the idea of an independent testing body. Saw something today recommending a one year ban for the team of any rider caught doping.

      I hope you’re right that Pat & Hein should be very worried.


  2. Kim October 25, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    I would love to see the sport of cycling be drug-free. I’ve always been curious though as to how much of an advantage the drugs give the cyclists. Is it a 5% edge, 15%, 50%? It has to be fairly substantial to take the risk and to do the harm to the body.

    • Susan October 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

      Kim, Me too, but I would settle for mostly drug free, and an honest and consistent anti-doping system that actually tries to catch and punish riders/teams instead of trying to cover it up. Don’t think we’ll ever have dope-free cycling or any other sport for that matter, but doping should be the exception not the rule like it has been. I think monetary sanctions would go a long way to cleaning it up and longer suspensions.

      Jonathon Vaughters with Garmin has written quite a bit about gains from doping and stated it is highly individual as far as amount of gain but all gain something.

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