Friday, 10 February 2012

Cycling and Drugs

Here we go again!!!

The drugs debate in cycling continues to rumble on. It must be said that whether you support Alberto Contador or you don't. The speed at which the final decision to ban him was made is farcical.
I am no different to many in believing that the sport of cycle as with all sports should be a drug free. Unfortunately, the rewards such as win bonuses, sponsorship fees, equipment, team position and hugely lucrative lifestyles all pull on the mind of riders and sportsmen and women when it comes to making the decision to take drugs or blood dope.

The amazing thing in cycling is that often fellow pro's and ex-pro's support those convicted and banned. Not in a manner that condones drug use but in an "I can understand" way.  Whilst the Public Boo's Contador at last years Tour many pro's and ex-pro's nver questioned his inclusion.  As was the case for Lance Armstrong.  Despite the amount of so called evidence and old friends queing up to drop him in it after his career e was never convicted on evidence and is still held in high astem by a huge amount of pro's and journalists?

As a sportsman I cannot understand why they do. I still believe in the work hard ethic to get what you want. I guess though that is an idyllic view held by those not good enough to enter the arena at professional levels. I am not naive though and the pressure just to maintain a riding contract let alone winning and playing at the elite’s top table must be beyond immense. The temptation to seek help, even though illegal must be like having the Devil offering the burning depths or salvation above?

The Tour de France itself is 3 weeks and over 3000km of cycling. Including huge ascents and riding up to about 200km a day. This is hard racing for men with barely 5% body fat, whose food intake is so closely monitored to ensure weight to power ratios are maximised. There is no margin for error.
Add to the fact that the sports history is littered with banned cyclists. How does the current crop know their rivals are not taking and that they will never have the advantage by cycling fairly? Andy Shleck is likely to be promoted to the winner of the 2010 Tour. However, 18months after the race has finished, how do you think he feels? It will feel a very blunt victory and the reality being most people will still remember it for his missed gear and Contador winning. He will also have missed out on all the benefits such as sponsorship deals and revenues received as a direct result of winning. Those opportunities are now gone as Cadel Evans hold the current crown.  Will he ever win the tour and feel the extasy of the win?  If he knew his rivals were doping could you have argued if he did the same?  It would be a difficult argument?  Victory and what comes with it is a much bigger lure than the simple knowledge you have done it the right way and drug free?  no one remembers second place?  My old friend wo canoe fro Great Britain had a Moto "second place is just the first loser".  Thst is the attitude we are daling with and why these guys are the top of their sport.

I once read a story regarding a Pro cyclists (he wasn't named) who for many years worked as domestique. He admitted after his career to taking performance enhancing drugs simply to ensure he held his place in the team. If he was seen to slacken off he would have lost his ride and his livelihood. Was he proud? NO. Did he see it as a necessary evil of the job/Sport he did, Yes!

I believe performance enhancing drugs in sport is wrong. However, before we criticize and castigate those who do we should look deeper into the reasons behind the riders who feel they need to use these substances to perform. I do not believe it’s always about money and victory.  Sometime its simply having a carer, ectending a career or just bing part of the team

I believe the culture needs to change in cycling so that the need to dope is reduced. Longer contracts for teams and riders would increase job security. Those who dope to win will always be part of professional sport not just cycling. The job of catching them will become increasingly more difficult. We need to find a way of descouraging there use. 

Bans should remain in place, lifetime bans for repeat offenders. Once can be seen as a mistake, twice is blatant stupidity! Teams caught aiding should be kicked off the circuit for up to 2 years. Go heavy on the cheats but let’s also try and understand to solve the issue long term.  Cyclings reputation has improved but bans obviously are not a deterent and substance use still appears to be part of the sport.  It won't be going away so we need to educate and understand as well as us eth stick.  In life the carrott often ha a bigger response 

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