Why do cyclists AND other sports people dope ? Amazingly given the amount of coverage drug taking in sport gets this topic is rarely covered. Until this question is given serious consideration many anti-doping efforts will fail. The simple answer is that they are cheating b******s who will do anything to win, but that really is just the tip of the iceberg.
Yesterday the news broke that USADA has launched a new investigation into Lance Armstrong and he is immediately banned from competing in Triathlons. The media went wild with yet another huge cycling doping scandal. David Walshe was given more airtime on morning Ireland than any economist and cycling was once again dragged through the mud.
Do I think Lance doped ? yes. Do I think more than half the peleton in any of his tour winning years doped ? yes. Do I think that more than half of the Spanish soccer team that ran rings backwards around the Irish team tonight have doped ? yes ( Think Operation puerto ). Will over half the athletes in next months Olympics have used a product that would have tested positive in a dope test at some stage in the past 4 years ? most likely !
Dopers are portrayed as people who are morally bankrupt and having no respect or consideration for anyone other than themselves. Cycling is seen by the general public as the sport with the highest percentage of dopers so does that mean that cyclists are the most morally bankrupt sportspeople ? I can’t remember any tabloid headline relating to a cyclist having multiple extra marital affairs or being involved in drunken brawls outside any seedy nightclub, unlike some other sports people.
Of all sports people cyclists tend to live the most monastic lives due to the amount of time spent training and racing. The reason cycling is seen as having the highest percentage of dopers is because it has the highest number of dope tests and is doing more than any other sport to combat the problem. It is 10 years ahead of athletics in terms of testing and enforcement.
Cycling is not an easy sport. To become a top professional takes more than talent. There needs to be a hunger for success and not many other options in life other than to make it as a cyclist. Many have only two choices, minimum wage in a factory or becoming a pro cyclist. How many people can honestly say that given the choice between making enough money to have a comfortable life afterwards with the help of performance enhancing drugs or being ‘honest’ and having a very basic life on minimum wage that they would not be tempted ?
Most anti doping programs tend to revolve around catching sportspeople who use drugs to cheat but perhaps this is not the place to focus the majority of attention. If the Gardai want to stamp out drug use in an area they try to clamp down on the drug dealers and importers first. This is where anti doping programs should place more of their efforts. This is a positive part of the Armstrong investigation with team doctors and coaches being implicated.
Any sports governing body will be made up of people involved in that particular sport. People with many friends and acquaintances within the sport. No governing body is going to be impartial enough to enforce an anti doping program 100%. Perhaps outside agencies with absolutely no ties whatsoever to the sport or to the pharmaceutical industry should have total control over the anti doping procedures.
Cycling is a beautiful sport and one of the few where there is now a huge stigma attached to being caught doping within the sport itself. It is in a position to be a world leader against doping. Let’s hope that the bigger picture is taken into account rather than just focusing on a few of the personalities involved .