Letters to the Editor

Doping culture

Re: “Call for change”

Dear Editors,

I was disappointed in the way which you oversimplified the Lance Armstrong scandal and cycling’s current situation in regards to doping and I was also alarmed at the number of factual errors in the article. Firstly USADA launched the most extensive investigation it has ever undertaken in this case, it was not based on ‘research and testing’ especially since the overwhelming majority of the evidence presented by the USADA is witness testimony, testimony of no fewer than 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates, for which they received reduced sanctions for their own confessed wrongdoings. Furthermore Armstrong is accused of blood doping and using EPO, not simply steroids, Armstrong is not only accused of doping but he also stand accused of drug-trafficking and running the most sophisticated, professionalised and systematic programme of doping within his Tour De France (TDF) winning teams ever seen in the history of sport.

The allegations of trafficking, bullying and Armstrong acting as a 'Kingpin' figure are the allegations which are the most serious and damaging which led to the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a professional cyclist. In fact these allegations were deemed so serious that USADA imposed punishments beyond their usual frameworks and remit, given the evidence against Armstrong was only related to a small period of Armstrong’s career, removing all Armstrong’s competitive results since August 1, 1998 and banning from all competitive sporting events for life under WADA rules .

The real issue with UCI is their failure to acknowledge their failings in this whole saga and to combat doping in cycling during its darkest days. There is no doubt there are numerous questions for UCI to answer and it is trying to use Lance Armstrong as a scapegoat for doping during the period of his seven TDF wins despite the fact in was endemic in the sport for many years.

The statements within this piece that I take most offense to is the fact you identify this scandal as a “more troubling trend in cycling.” The sport has very much turned a corner from the age of cycling which the scandal relates to and certainly is no reflection of the current state of cycling. Cycling is a far cleaner sport than it was in Lance’s Armstrong’s day. You also call for the UCI to commission tests for all of the other cyclists that “placed well in the Tour de France” ignoring the fact that in USADA’s report they reassert the fact 20 of the 21 riders on the podium in the Tour from 1999 through 2005 have been "directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations" and you also neglect to mention that all professional cyclists are tested regularly in and out of competition. Each year cyclists are subjected to the latest and most advanced tests for all kinds of doping, indeed the winner of the Yellow Jersey in the Tour De France is routinely the most tested cyclist not only within the race, but within any given season.

The UCI needs a change of governance, especially at the top, the same personnel that lead the UCI through the darkest era in cycling are still there to this day and allegations still surrounded some of those individual’s conduct in regards to Armstrong. I agree change is needed; however the larger culture in cycling has already shifted to that of a vehemently anti-doping culture. Riders are given ever tougher sanctions and many more are caught than were previously, doping is not as prevalent or as systematic as it used to be within teams. Riders, Staff, Teams, sponsors and all those associated with cycling are taking ever more tougher stances to doping and demanding that doping is the rare occurrence of an individual rider’s cheating and not the widespread norm within cycling teams that it once was.

Team Sky is a great example of this ever tougher approach which has been adopted by cycling over recent years. They are taking an absolute zero tolerance stance to any team personnel, rider or staff that has had any association with doping in their careers, making every one of its employees sign an oath declaring they have never had any association with doping in cycling this has seen a number of staff members leave their posts in recent days.

There is no question that cycling has suffered a hugely damaging and painful blow with the disclosure of the full extent of; the previously most decorated cyclist ever, Lance Armstrong’s cheating. Furthermore we have not heard the last of this story and I am certain more about this sorry state of affairs will come out with time, but I feel your piece was grossly unfair to the facts and circumstances within the sport. Cycling has come a long way since Lance Armstrong last stood on the top step of the podium along the Champs-Élysées.

Robert Hayes

Comm '13

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