Doping is more than just Postal
It's 2013 and time for harsher punishments.
share of doping drama. During the 1999 Giro d’Italia, Marco Pantani got the boot from the race. The 2001 and 2002 editions saw the yearly tradition of police raids continue with more riders ejected from the Giro. But let’s fast forward to the latest, yet oldest doping story we now have in cycling, Operation Puerto. This is “The Walking Dead” of doping cases. No matter how many times it appears to be dead, it rises back up to take another bite out of people.
Operation Puerto dates back to 2006 and was the code name for a Spanish police operation against Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Turns out he was involved with doping about 200 professional athletes - including cyclists, tennis and soccer players. Now after many stops and starts to Operation Puerto several professional cyclists have given testimony admitting to doping. Remember, back in 2006 doping in Spain wasn’t illegal - now of course it is. However, a workaround to this troubling lack of enforcement is that Dr. Fuentes is being tried under the law of endangering public health. Like mobster Al Capone who went to prison for tax evasion rather than the many murders he was suspected of, “endangering public health” is the only option they could use that would stick.
Riders are giving statements regarding their involvement in Operation Puerto. Some have been quite revealing. From Jesús Manzano, who admitted to having used a long list of doping products, to Joseba Beloki and Isidro Nozal who both refused to give the court permission to analyze their DNA so it could match it with the DNA in the seized blood bags. Yeah, nothing suspicious about that. Move along people, there’s nothing to see here.
In addition to the US Postal team doping we have the Rabobank team’s organized doping. Perhaps naïvely I have written that team-wide organized doping was a thing of the past, but after talking to a few people, reading more evidence and rider testimonies I’m no longer that hopeful. The Australian government uncovered doping which the Australian Anti-Doping Agency (AADA) claims has ties to organized crime. I suspect Armstrong’s only remaining non-stripped record (Best Doping Program EVER Award, which I hear came with a nice plaque and coffee mug) might be taken from him. Geez, the poor guy can’t even call himself the best cheater anymore.
Now we’re left deciding if truth and reconciliation is a good way to figure out this doping quagmire. The problem with truth and reconciliation is that while getting that sense of guilt off your chest, in some countries doping is a criminal case and those who admit to taking Performance Enhancing Drugs may be prosecuted. So truth and reconciliation might sound good, just not that practical in the real world.
The opposite measure could be we start 2013 at ground zero, realizing we can’t make up for professional cycling’s dirty past no matter how many panels, breakaway leagues, and independent commissions we cobble together. We can only move forward and those who are caught from here on out face a first time ban