Cycling Needs An Amnesty? – Doping No More – What Do You Say?

“Just the other day I was speaking with a friend who is also a cyclist and we were discussing the Landis/doping issue and he told me how he would solve the problem. I convinced him to send me his thoughts in an email so I could share them with all of you. Tell me whether you think he is on the right track. We look forward to hearing your thought”.

Life In Prison Bars.

Now that the Floyd Landis doping hearings are history, it is becoming increasingly clear that regardless of the outcome, no one is going to win. Anyone in the cycling community who isn’t fooling themselves knows that a lot of professional cyclists rely on artificial enhancements, whether they use steroids, hormones, EPO, or transfusions. We’ve known it for a long time. It seems equally obvious that their teams either facilitate the doping or, at the very least, hide their heads in the sand. As unfair as doping is to cyclists who do not dope, the current terribly flawed, scattershot approach to testing, prosecution, and punishment will not solve the problem. Why? Beyond the evidentiary problems and other legal issues, doping has so permeated the sport that even harsh punishment has proved to be ineffective. As long as riders believe they need to dope to succeed, they will.

So what is the answer? In my opinion, to eliminate doping cycling needs take a page from the South Africa playbook and grant amnesty to everyone. That’s right. Rather than punishment, cycling needs a fresh, clean start. A blanket amnesty for all current riders is the only way to make that happen. However, amnesty alone will not work either. For it to be effective, the cycling federation is going to have to create a new testing regime objective enough to satisfy all parties, enabling the various authorities to institute punishments for future doping so onerous that riders and their teams will self-police. An automatic lifetime expulsion for riders who dope or cover up doping and multi-million dollar fines and automatic dissolution of any team whose member is caught violating the rules should do the trick.

Taking these steps may not completely end doping, but they will end the culture of doping, which is the real problem. So let’s remove Dick Pound’s self-righteousness, angry French people, and prosecutors looking to make a name for themselves from the equation, and do what’s necessary to restore the cycling’s credibility. By instituting an amnesty and fixing the broken testing regime, cycling can insure for ever more that victory in the Tour de France, Giro, and other great races are the result of superior athleticism, not chemicals.

Josh Futterman
Los Angeles, CA

Comments

  1. Rant says:

    Great idea. Seriously. I’m all for a blanket amnesty and starting over. And while they’re at it, making a serious overhaul of the anti-doping system, and the list of banned substances, too.

    – Rant

  2. catherine says:

    I agree with the idea of amnesty. What I struggle with is who to “punish.” Although the individual “choses” to dope, I think there are inhuman expectations placed on all athletes, but cyclists in particular, to perform at a exaulted level of perfomance and not fail without serious financial repercussions. These expectations are intertwined with sponsership, and thus dollars/euros. I don’t see why the sponsers shouldn’t suffer as well as the athlete/team/manager/etc. I know that’s a niave idea, but if you are making money literally off the back of someone else, shouldn’t the partnership include responsibility for ethical behavior by all parties?

  3. Josh says:

    Catherine,

    Thanks for your insightful comments. I understand your feelings about sponsors. If they are actively involved in team operations, then I agree. However, very few sponsors are. So punishing them would be both unfair and probably make it almost impossible for teams to secure sponsorship, which would clearly not be good for cycling.

    Sponsors spend millions of dollars supporting their teams. Dissolution of a team if the team leadership knows about doping and fails to take overt action should ensure that sponsors take steps to ensurethat the teams they sponsor remain clean.