Surely it is time for doping cheats to be banned … for good?

Two more high profile professional cyclists have tested positive for doping during a time when we are led to believe that there has been a change to the culture in the professional peloton.

I have to say that I believe in the changes.  A zero tolerance policy from teams like Sky and Orica Green Edge feels a harsh approach but has helped restore confidence in the integrity of leading teams.  With the doping debate more open and honest than ever, the tide has turned against the omerta culture that has been so widely reported and young cyclists are now empowered to speak out against drugs in the sport.

It is no longer the norm for riders to receive a medical bag after each stage in a Grand Tour.  The concept of athletes

Your victory means nothing, Mauro

Your victory means nothing, Mauro

using needles to self administer “vitamins” dished out by shady “doctors” is alien to riders coming in to todays professional ranks.  And with these changes must be shift in the peer pressure and social norms that made it acceptable to use performance enhancing drugs because “everyone else is doing it”.  I suppose my point is that if the culture has changed, then all the excuses we have heard from Tyler Hamilton and others in cyclings doping generation are no longer valid.

So having normalised a “clean” culture, how can anyone possibly excuse Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio for their postive tests for EPO?  No. I don’t mean excuse them because I don’t see or hear anyone doing that.  What I think I mean is this.  How can those riders ever contemplate coming back to this sport now that they have bought it in to disrepute again, just after it has hauled itself to its knees after the darkest days any sport has ever seen.

Regardless of talent, work rate, experience or commercial value, these riders mustn’t ever be allowed to pull on the garishly coloured  lycra of a professional cycling team because of the damage they could do by being accepted back in to the peloton.  Young, clean riders need to see a zero tolerance of proven, malicious dopers.

This zero tolerance approach of course brings in to question the validity of the tests and the impact of the detected substance.  Does a positive test for traces of metolazone (a diuretic named in the 2013 WADA banned substance list) constitute the same gravity of offence as a positive test for EPO?  Probably not, so is a tiered punishment system required?  But that approach is undermined by the fact that some substances are taken to mask the traces of other performance enhancing substances.

What if some of these performance enhancers really can be accidentally ingested through contaminated beef?  Should

Clenbuterol Cows!!

Clenbuterol Cows!!

athletes lose their career for traces of banned substances that could enter the food chain without their control?

It’s because of the ambiguities in every case that WADA, the UCI or whoever wants to take control, should have a proper hearing panel that reviews the evidence with the opportunity to finish the careers of the dopers.  It shouldn’t be “three strikes and you’re out” because Di Luca doesn’t deserve three bites of the cherry.  If a rider is clearly guilty of doping to improve their performance (and let’s face it, why else would they be taking EPO?) they should not have the opportunity to cheat in that sport again.  In the words of (a younger) Bradley Wiggins: “You are a bunch of cheating b******* and I hope one day they catch the lot of you and ban you all for life”

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Head says Froome, heart says Wiggins

So with Wiggo now out of the Giro early with a chest infection, he’s now got 6 weeks to recover and train for the Tour de France.  As a minimum I’m expecting him to play a key support role but with 6 weeks to prepare, surely Sir Brad has got the opportunity to get the all important “numbers” right to once again lead Team Sky in July?
I wouldn’t like to be in Chris Froome’s shoes right now. After months of speculation, the needle had just swung his way after Dave Brailsford said Plan A was Froome for the Tour and Wiggins for the Giro, will that still be the case in a months’ time?
Leading out Cav

Leading out Cav

The logical approach would be to stick to Plan A and provide Froome with the world’s best domestique to support his attempt at winning the Tour.  But the romantic in me really wants Wiggo to defend last year’s victory and go all-out to win again in Paris.  Back-to-back victories would put Wiggins up with the greats and show that he has got the ability to continue 2012’s “Golden Year”.  Just writing this, I am getting goose bumps thinking about his victory punch whilst wearing yellow at the end of the last time trial and what a fantastic day I had watching in Paris as he led out for Cav on the Champs-Elysees.  And this is the 100th Tour – taking in every great climb (sometimes twice) against every great climber in the world.
 
Plenty of Hills

Plenty of Hills

Let’s face it though.  It’s because there is more climbing and less time trialling than 2012, that Froome should be number one.  Froome is outstanding in the mountains and has already shown in Romandie this year that he has got the ability to kick away on the slopes, whereas Wiggins is best being supported at a constant high tempo.  I don’t think Team Sky will be allowed to dominate on their own terms this year – even with Wiggins and Porte as their super-domestiques.  With the return of Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez, the peloton is likely to be shaken up with regular attacks in the mountains.  So my brain is telling me Froome has to be the man to lead Team Sky this year because he can deal with the opposition better.
 
But I’d love it to be Wiggins …..

Simpson and my Giro Tee

imageI was hooked as soon as I saw the limited edition Simpson Giro T-Shirt last week and ordered one immediately.  It looks good doesn’t it?

Just as I had started to wonder when it would arrive, I got an email from Terry at Simpson magazine telling me of a short delay.  When he knew I wanted to show it off after riding to Skegness this weekend, I got an email straight back to tell me he had arranged a special delivery for today and wishing me a good ride tomorrow.

A personal touch and a great recovery from a little blip means I now feel like I have had a brilliant service and am already a fan of the magazine despite having only read their blog!

The top is now safely packed in the car for Mrs G to bring over to Skeggy and I’m looking forward to posing about in it during the Cup Final tomorrow afternoon.