Doping – The Long Game

This year has seen some alarming news stories surrounding cycling and the dark art of doping, some more shocking and unbelievable than others. As we head towards 2013 and an off season that will surely be filled with more finger pointing and name calling, has the future of the professional sport been saved by the mainstream media splashing the men we once called our heroes, over the front page and exposing them to be what they really are?

Many people have heard of the ‘omerta’ of doping in cycling and if you have been interested in professional bike racing to any degree of the last 100 years you cannot escape the fact that performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) have played a part in almost every generation of the sport.  It has always been a sad state of affairs but finally, despite the attempts of some of our most senior-ranking governing body officials, the sport seems to be taking positive steps towards cleaning up its act for the safety and health of its riders as well as the sanctity of sport (although I’m sure similar articles were written following the Festina and Operation Puerto affairs!).

An argument I’ve regularly used to friends who accuse (maybe rightly or wrongly) cycling of being full of cheats is that the sport tests their competitors  much more vigorously than most other sports, resulting in the cheats being found rather than left lurking in the background with no fear of being tested and found out.  I for one, am proud that my sport chooses to be so proactive in the fight against PED’s, even if the hierarchy of the sport and some teams attempt to derail that at times.  The average cyclist/cycling fan knows a considerable amount more about the issues surrounding doping than many other sports fans because we have been slapped in the face with it so many times and have HAD to learn about it or else you lose touch and fall out of the loop.

But what about those friends of mine who once called cycling ‘dirty’ and ‘full of cheats’?  2012 has been a huge year for sport in general but particularly for cycling here in the UK.  Bradley Wiggins’ triumph at Le Tour and a hefty medal haul at the London Olympics for Team GB riders has resulted in cycling going through a British renaissance and thrust it in to the popular culture and consciousness of a much larger proportion of the population (not to mention a carbon road bike is now favoured as the new ‘go to’ toy for middle aged men in a mid-life crisis rather than the Porsche 911!).  All of this publicity has allowed the mainstream media to devote more column inches to cycling and publish the hardest hitting topics including cycling.  To me this can only be a good thing.  The more people who understand the sport and the troubled past we have gone through, the more likely we are to fight against those that want to drag us back down again.

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