Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cycling Update: Is It the End?

Back in 1998 the cycling world was rocked by the investigation into doping inside the Festina team at the Tour de France.  The most prestigious French team during their country's most prestigious cycling event.  There was a lot of talk about doping, but until this bust in 1998 it was hard to have any sense of how serious it was.  Well now 14 years later we may be reaching the end of an era in cycling where doping ruled and moving on to an era of clean racing.

With the USADA publishing the results of their investigation into the US Postal team they have exposed to the public just how wide spread doping practices were in a way that has never been done before and may have helped to close a chapter on a troubled time in pro cycling.

For years the international cycling federation, UCI, has talked about setting up amnesty for anyone who will come forward and confess to past doping.  The idea has been that it would get everything out in the open, it would expose all the people that have been involved in managing doping practices, and it would allow the sport to move forward from that point without any talk about such an ugly time.  If they are ever going to make this move the time is now.  Not sure Lance Armstrong would actually confess to anything, but it would certainly be one way for him to potentially keep his 7 Tour de France victories.  As it is now he stands to have those wins nullified and in fact the current plan is to simply blot out every result as though they never happened since every runner up to Lance in those 7 Tour's at a time later was busted for doping.

The amount of data the USADA has dumped on the public about the doping practices is a bit stunning.  The big hit to Armstrong is of course George Hincapie.  Lance Armstrong's usual defense against such allegations is to call everyone a liar, but this is something that will not fly for the vast majority of US cycling fans.  They really like and respect Hincapie and he, more than anyone else, is someone people will believe is telling the absolute truth.

Of course if you're a US cycling fan this is a real blow.  The decade from 1998 to 2008 was the best decade for US pro cyclists and now all of their success is sullied.  One thing that is very interesting from all the rider testimony is just how rough the doping was on them emotionally.  Not only were there concerns about their health, etc., but also the strain it put on their personal relationships.  The other stunning piece from all of their testimony was just how cocky and brash Armstrong was about the whole thing.  He comes across as a not so nice guy to say the least.

As for me, a fan, I'm certainly ready to leave all of this behind and hope the UCI will come out with an amnesty plan and be done with all of this and move forward.  I'm saddened that essentially every US cyclists that made it to Europe during that time frame was doping, but I'm happy that they were willing to come forward and admit to everything at this point in their lives.

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