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Good.
By Tom Demerly


I say “Good” about this Tour de France drug scandal and I’ll tell you why.

The Tour de France specifically, and cycling in general is obviously a dirty sport. Men are cheating to win. They are cheating to survive in the sport. While you can debate the morality and ethics of using performance enhancing drugs the fact of the matter is the current rules forbid the use of specific banned substances and practices. If you use those items or training techniques, you are breaking the competitive rules.

In sport, unlike in the rest of life, we do enjoy the ethical luxury of black and white. You break the rules, you cheated, you should be sanctioned. We need to keep that ethos in sport. Unlike love, war and business sport remains the last bastion of fairness and honor- until someone lies and cheats, then they ruin that too.

So I say “Good”. I am glad the Tour de France and the teams in attendance have been heavy handed in their recent treatment of athletes. The new attitude toward doping is zero tolerance, and the departure of Vinokourov’s entire team, the removal of other riders with nefarious dealings or positive tests and the wholesale dismissal of Rasmussen despite his position in the race sends a clear message: If you are even suspected of doping you are out. Good.

 

Cycling won’t be healed over night. A culture of athletes who believe they can subvert the system and still cheat will continue. For a while, then they will be booted too. I hope they are cowering now. The Tour de France and their new Director Christian Prudhomme have shown they are strong enough in their convictions to act with lightening response. There is no due course, no gray area. Remember, Rasmussen didn’t test positive for anything. He simply misrepresented his whereabouts and wasn’t available for testing. His eviction from the Tour by his team shows this cavalier attitude won’t be tolerated by the Tour organization and by pro team management anymore. Good.

There is something nearly religious about our reverence for sport. When Rasmussen attacked Contador on the Col d’ Aubisque I actually did begin to cry because it was so wondrous, so perfect, so utterly magical and majestic. This is the stuff fiction is made of- the conquering hero. Eh gad, the man had been on his bike six hours and he still managed that incredible effort up the Aubisque. It was being sold to me as fact, but it was fiction. I was defrauded. While I am disappointed it was a snow job I am happy Team Rabobank booted Rasmussen on suspicion of doping. It means when we see an effort like that again it is much more likely we can be certain we are seeing the real thing- something we can believe in. Something to inspire us.

I’ve read opinions on forums and in newspapers that the Tour de France is ruined. No, I say this is a new beginning. This is the rounding of the bend toward a new Tour with new cyclists who train hard and long, eat carefully and maintain a strict regimen. And when they turn a pedal they do it with honor as fine sportsmen. We are witnessing the rebirth of the sport of cycling and of the Tour de France. Right now it’s going through a necessary transformation that will purge the cheats once and hopefully for all. I am not naïve enough to imagine new riders won’t attempt to cheat, but I am confident enough to believe they will be apprehended quickly. The actions in this year’s Tour de France have shown this to be the precedent.

Odds are we haven’t seen the last of the drug scandals. New and old information will continue to surface as the purge continues. Each time it happens we can hold these incidents high as one more step toward a clean sport. I look forward to that and to rest of this Tour de France and the next. I say “Good”, let’s clean it up at get back to standing in awe of incredible riding.

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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