Life's Not Fair
Stuart O'Grady and Erik Zabel discovered a harsh life lesson.
lie to try and cover up the first lie, no one believes you. Would any rational person think that O’Grady only tried it once and never again? You know you don’t.
To clean up cycling do we need to completely “clean house” and show zero leniency to those who have a dirty past? Is a truth and reconciliation period the way to draw a line in the sand and allow us to put the past behind us?
As with a lot of problems there’s no one way to solve it. Looking at O’Grady’s situation what did he have to gain by admitting before the French senate list became public that he was dirty? Nothing! If he had copped to his past doping infractions he still would have lost his position with the AOC and his reputation still would have taken a hit. Maybe he would even have been fired from the Orica-GreenEDGE team. Basically the same would have happened to Zabel. Instead they rode the wave of their tainted professional victories until it crashed to shore. But before the crash, they earned Classic wins and Tour de France green jerseys, along with the cash bonuses that went along with them. There’s no way anyone can take away the money and past glory from either of them.
So is a truth-and-reconciliation committee the way to go? Again, what would be anyone’s incentive to admit to past doping infractions if he or she has gotten away with them so far? That rider could face termination from the team (as in the case where Team Sky managerial staff members lost their jobs), derailed endorsements, and the public shame of admitting to cheating. That is a lot to ask of someone.
Realistically, an amnesty program isn’t going to work because there are a few riders from the EPO generation who are still involved with cycling - either as riders or members of team management. They have no reason to step forward just because the International Cycling Union (UCI) promises they won’t take away their victories. A confessed doper, who is still part of the bike industry, will lose a lot more than a classic win from the 1990s - he’ll lose his reputation and quite possibly his job. From the viewpoint of an EPO-generation-rider it’s better to keep quiet and hope you can slip under the radar.
For now we will continue to see riders’ names leaked out to the public. Quite frankly when we see a new name, don’t act surprised because they swore to us a few years ago they were clean. And please don’t say that it took a lot of guts for that rider to admit to cheating. It didn’t. Chances are they would never have told anyone unless they were about to be publicly ousted and they are in spin-control mode.
The history of professional cycling was dirty before the 1990s and there will still be elements of doping in the future. That can be said of every sport. Baseball is looking at several doping situations as is track and field.