17 November 2010

Do we all think doping is cheating or not?

I have watched far too many Spy Movies 

Interpol sounds serious. Today I read the headlines that Interpol has been pulled into the doping investigation against Lance Armstrong. A team of US representatives including FDA Agent Jeff Novitzky, U.S. attorney for the Central District of California Doug Miller, and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygar have descended upon the corridors of Interpol to gather additional evidence. Somehow the US Food and Drug Administration does not create the same intimidation factor as Interpol. I am picturing interrogation rooms, men in suits with high tech devices, and assassins. All to take down Armstrong. 
Once I finished with the Hollywood high-action scenario, I realized that Interpol is involved simply because this investigation is crossing borders, chiefly US, French, Spanish, and Italian borders. They are scouring the earth for evidence against Lance Armstrong, and they will likely come up with something. What exactly and how they will be able to charge Armstrong with a crime on US soil remains unclear. I understand they are investigating him for financial fraud and perjury, but is doping in France a crime in the United States?

In recent months I have become more and more discouraged about seeing a resolution to the problem of doping in professional (and amateur) cycling. Honestly I am not exactly sure what the problem is and what the correction should be. By this point I am one who believes doping to be quite pervasive. Still people are working hard to eradicate doping. They are clearly failing. Biological Passports and the 'Riders’ commitment to a new cycling agreement were recently shot down as possible solutions. They turned out to be a distraction from real action and a big waste of time. 

We need real economic penalties. Teams don't seem to be penalized for rehiring previously sentenced dopers, certainly not when individual rider points can be added to overall team points when deciding ProTeam rankings with the UCI. Directeur Sportifs (managers) are not penalized when contracted riders under their tutelage are found to be guilty, but meanwhile have secured race wins. Riders are clearly not penalized when they are able to come back after a 2 year suspension and easily step back into sponsorships and team contracts. Even the Organizers of bike races eagerly invite recently accused dopers. Is there any reason not to dope? Health? I fear a twenty year old is going to struggle to relate to health concerns.

Do we all think doping is cheating or not? Quite frankly I am wondering if we are talking about cultural differences. Do the Spaniards justify doping, the Italians, the Americans? Think about it, is doping part of enhancing the training process, or part of accommodating better recovery, or is doping cheating in competition only? Isn't the short term glory and financial gains worth the risk? And does the health of the athlete get lost in the wake of all these other incentives to use drugs. Dopers Suck - at what specifically? I think we all need to decide why doping needs to go and decide on one clear solution.

So far targeting the athletes has not worked, targeting the teams is not working, targeting the sport might be the answer. It occurred to me this morning, that Lance Armstrong will very likely spend some time in jail and his reputation will more than likely be tarnished. But more importantly, if he is found guilty of doping and his titles are taken away, he will take with him much of the history and integrity of this sport for the past decade. Increasing numbers of citizens will look upon the sport of professional cycling as a farce. As a non sport.

I agree with the argument that by now most cycling fans have decided to accept or not accept the reality of doping. Fans have made their peace with it by now. Still continued damage to the sport would be tragic. It would take years for the sport to recover from the reverberations if Armstrong is found guilty. Will the fans and the Sponsors hang in there?
Photo by: PedalDancer.com
Recently Ettore Torri, Italy's anti-doping prosecutor for the Italian Olympic Committee said, "The longer I'm involved in this, the more I marvel at how widespread doping is. And I don't think it will be eradicated. Because it just evolves continuously. There are new substances coming out that can't be tested for. As long as doping is a viable economic option, it's always going to exist," he said. "It needs to be made so that it's no longer worth it economically."
Maybe it is time for the Sponsors to take a new approach.

Additional reading (recently in the news) - riders getting off Scott-free as numerous agencies work together:
Of course Lance Armstrong has never tested positive to date for performance enhancing drugs, and he has been tested for years, and often. But imagine the impact if Lance Armstrong is found guilty of doping; the history of the winner of the yellow jersey of the Tour de France could look something like this:
2010 Alberto Contador - DOPER
2009 Alberto Contador - DOPER
2008 Carlos Sastre -
2007 Alberto Contador - DOPER
2006 Floyd Landis - DOPER  / [Operation Puerto]
2005 Lance Armstrong - [DOPER]
2004 Lance Armstrong - [DOPER]
2003 Lance Armstrong - [DOPER]
2002 Lance Armstrong - [DOPER]
2001 Lance Armstrong - [DOPER]
2000 Lance Armstrong - [DOPER]
1999 Lance Armstrong - [DOPER]
1998 Marco Pantani - DOPER / [Festina Team doping scandal]
1997 Jan Ullrich - DOPER
1996 Bjarne Riis - DOPER
Here he is: 15 years of the Tour de France and the only winner could be Carlos Sastre (who likely ingested PVC plastics through this pacifier anyway. (We've heard the twin excuse, the tainted beef, next will be the pacifier plea - at least he has proof)
Previous related posts by PedalDancer.com:
Doping Investigation Maybe we should take this seriously, Friday, August 13, 2010 
Armstrong's ratings are plummeting The more I know, the more I am concerned Friday, August 20, 2010