|Alberto Contador press conference|
There have been other recent announcements made by the UCI involving other riders suspected of doping this season, but I can't keep track of them all because there are so many. Then there is the Floyd Landis thing from May and the subsequent grand jury investigation into whether or not other US cyclists have committed any crimes by doping. This obviously puts Lance Armstrong in the cross-hairs. I'm sorry that this may offend, but I believe Lance is as guilty as they come. And it's too bad, because the good he has done outside the sport is substantial.
Academically, I get doping - the second guy does it because the first guy did, and thus feels like he has no choice. And the first guy does it because he's afraid that if he doesn't, the second guy will. Add to this that sponsors pay big money for one thing - results. It's a pressure cooker.
I guess what I don't understand is why it can't be cleaned up. Actually, I think I do understand, but I hope I am wrong. The UCI is engaged in a game of political double speak. Doping is wrong - it runs contrary to everything we as a society believe about sport. But doping is OK - Epic battles up the roads of the Alps and finishing sprints in excess of 70 KM make for good TV and happy sponsors.
I'm caught up in my own game of double speak. I cringe every time I read a new report of doping. Yet I am watching the World Championships as I write. And I watched every second of the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana this year. As much as I am against doping, I can't get enough of the excitement of cycling races.
I don't know where this is all going. Cheating is nothing new - cyclists used to jump trains at the Tour. And the UCI is compromised, that's for sure. Yet since I generally distrust the typical "World Organization for X" anyway, I could make an argument that WADA is fighting back more to make a political point than to affect change.
Why do the doping scandals play out like a bad James Bond movie when in baseball stories like this pass through the news cycle and are left for debate by sports talk radio hosts when it's time to debate Cooperstown nominations? My guess is that this is because cycling as a whole has managed to make itself guilty before proven innocent. Because too much has happened already. So why don't we call it like we should see it? I'm all for due process, but how about harsher punishment - Is two years enough? "Life" sounds good to me.
I don't know the exact mechanics of the relationships between the UCI and the Pro Tour teams. But I do know this - an issue even remotely close to a cycling doping scandal would never be allowed to get this out of hand in the NBA or the NFL, especially if it was this endemic. And by the way, I don't see much evidence of declining attendance, diminishing revenue and lack of commercial opportunities in these two leagues.
This issue is way more complicated than a ten or eleven paragraph blog post, and I'm no expert anyway. But I've been a sports fan for years and nothing "dirty" that has come out of sports bothers me like the dirt coming out of cycling. Maybe it's because I am a little more bought in to cycling, but this all leaves me with a sense of unease I won't get the next time I see a picture of Jose Canseco, that's for sure.