So much has been written and spoken about Lance Armstrong over the past few days that there is no point in me rehashing any of it here. Let’s just say that there is no doubt whatsoever that he had the biggest budget for the ‘best’ doctors and coaches who enabled him to have the ‘best’ doping program of his time. He was a professional athlete from the age of 16, would probably still have won had it been a level playing field and he was a bit of a bollix.
On a positive note he raised 500 million dollars for the fight against cancer, spent some of that on himself, but for a while did give hope to cancer sufferers and their families. For 12 months after my own father died from cancer I too wore a yellow elastic band. I also saw more than one person reading ‘It’s not about the bike ‘ in the chemo ward. He was a beacon of hope for cancer sufferers, a beacon whose light has now faded.
Cycling has long been a whipping boy for the problem of drugs in sport. There is now an opportunity for all sports to get off the fence of tut tutting across at cycling and join together to usher in a new era. There is only one way to eliminate drugs in sport and it is the hard way. It will involve throwing out the baby with the dirty bath water but it would be worth it.
In an ideal World of zero doping in sport there would be a 100% zero tolerance policy across all sports. Any doping offence or even an offence of working with a banned coach or doctor would result in a lifetime ban from competition and coaching. This would mean that someone taking a cough bottle without realising that it contained a banned substance would receive a lifetime ban. This sounds extreme but if a few ‘innocents’ were hard done by it would still be much better than a few ‘innocents’ who currently compete clean loosing their contracts at the end of each season due to a lack of results against doped competitors.
Al Capone was imprisoned on tax evasion charges after the authorities could not gather enough evidence to convict him of multiple murders. Al Contador was given a 2 year ban for a minuscule amount of clenbuterol. This was a nod in the right direction. It is whispered that to fail a dope test is to fail an intelligence test. The authorities seemed happy to get whatever they could on Contador. He is currently the best rider in the World. One day watching him attacking in the Vuelta was better than the entirety of this years Tour but he is a convicted doper and should not be there.
Contador would not be alone in his exclusion form dope free sport. Johan Blake has tested positive for a banned stimulant in the past. Usain Bolt is working with a Mexican pharmacist formerly called Angel Heredia who changed his name to Angel Hernandez after being heavily involved in the Balco affair. Tennis player Raffa Nadal was implicated in Operation Puerto. The list goes on and on.
In cycling a quarter of the peleton and half the cavalcade would be gone including David Millar and team Sky’s Sean Yates, Shane Sutton and that dodgy ex-Rabobank doctor. Nico Roches’ new team manager Bajrne Riis would be gone too.
Altitude tents would be banned as the temptation for an athlete who does not have a few thousand to buy one to spend a few hundred on epo which has the same effect is too great.
All anti-doping testing would be centralized to just one independant sports body. No person who had been a member of any sporting body or the OCI could be part of it and there would be absolutely no link to any of the pharmaceutical industry either.
This may all sound unrealistic and extreme but so is winning the lotto.
A man once went to Lourdes and prayed every day to God to help him to win the lotto. After two weeks spending hours on his knees at the Grotto praying as hard as he could he eventually looked up to the Heavens and asked ‘Please God, why won’t you help me to win the lotto?’, to which a thunderous voice from the heavens replied ‘How am I supposed to help you win the lotto when you won’t even go out and buy a lotto ticket ?’
Asking for drug free sport may seem as unrealistic as expecting to win the lotto, but if each and every sports fan doesn’t ask for it and do something about it, it’s never going to happen !