The State of Shock

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The clip above is from the film Casablanca. When the police swoop on Rick’s Café, the police chief Renault expresses his shock to find gambling happening on the premises, using this breach of the law as a pretext to close down the bar. But only after he picks up his winnings.

Beware of people expressing shock at Riccardo Riccó’s situation this morning. Not we aren’t entitled to feel shock. It’s more that if someone within the sport expresses shock, we should also be asking “what were you doing before?” to ensure they are not modern day Captain Renaults.

For example if CONI and the UCI express surprise – Pat McQuaid has said he is “furious, shocked and saddened” – how often were they testing Riccó this winter given his history and reputation? If Vacansoleil express surprise, who did they appoint to coach Riccó after Aldo Sassi died and what checks did they do prior to signing him and whilst he was employed by them? Remember Quick Step sidestepped Riccó like he was toxic.

These questions are easier in hindsight, the UCI and CONI for example don’t have unlimited resources to track Riccó’s every move. But still, was Riccó a priority case? Certainly a team that preaches “zero tolerance” for doping needs to demonstrate the resources is applies to achieving this goal otherwise it could appear that they simply have a low tolerance of bad headlines which is a very different game. Similarly, when some call for a life ban of Riccó, it feels like they want to escape the story, not fix the problems. Maybe they want to get rid of Riccó, not doping?

Finally, let’s remember the Italian could have got away with it if not for the storage problems: he hasn’t been caught doping, it is only thanks to bad luck that he’s been rushed to hospital. It’s like a bank robber escaping from a heist only to drop a gold bar on his foot and require hospital treatment.

Tip of the iceberg?
Yesterday saw Danilo di Luca return to competition, finishing seventh in Majorca. He’s made similar promises to become a new man but frankly who believes him. Sorry if this is cynical but in the background lurks the findings from Operation Galgo in Spain that athletes are self-administering blood transfusions. Others are probably doing exactly the same as Riccó, only without storage problems.

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{ 6 comments }

Hewey February 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Maybe he should have employed Floyd to ensure his fridge stays at the right temperature.

Ola February 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm

You're quite right when you're saying that neither UCI,CONI or his team don't have the resources to track Riccó's every move, (which, unless they employ a 24/7 surveillance team, start bugging his home and telephone, install hidden video-cameras in his home and car and be willing to break a lot of laws in the process, couldn't have prevented this autotransfusion.) But you're overstating it when you claim that any less AND a verbal condemnation of Riccò equals a not-so-dedicated team, UCI and CONI with just a low tolerance of bad headlines.

Touriste-Routier February 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

If all this proves to be true, I plan to market a "Ricco Refrigerator" for those that like their beer cold, but not too cold.

But more seriously, perhaps the UCI needs a system akin to the parole officers in the US, whereas after a prisoner is released, they are monitored for a while. Perhaps convicted offenders serve their bans, and are subject to targeted testing and monitoring for a period as opposed to just immediately going back into the random pool.

ColoradoGoat February 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Honestly,

only lifetime bans will work. Clearly a 2 year ban for younger riders is more just an excuse to get more training time in. Ricco is only 27 years old.

You need to put the fear of god into the riders. Secondly, all riders should be banned from riding if they hire or use a doctor involved with a former doper or team involved in doping.

You also fine the DS's and Teams $100,000 each time a rider of their is caught doping. You need to make the disincentives to dope such that the people running the teams, the riders and doctors all do not want involvement with doping.

Unfortunately, you have so much pressure for success in the Pro ranks, that everyone either takes a blind eye to their riders (at best), or puts so much pressure on the riders, that they have to know they are going to cheat.

It is very similar to the issue we have in the United States when it comes to college recruitment for football and basketball. The pressure to win is so great, that the coaches and athletic departments feel they have to cheat to compete.

This is a simple risk-reward issue, and no one is willing to just finally lay down the gauntlet and essentially give the proverbial "death penalty" to anyone caught doping.

Back in the late 1980's, a University called Southern Methodist University was caught cheating to an extent so severe that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) handed down what they referred to as the "Death Penalty". The SMU football program has never returned to form again. But you know what, that blatant cheating (literally paying amateur athletes to play football at SMU) no longer occurs in College Football.

Cycling should learn somewhat from the NCAA (although – the NCAA should learn from itself as well). You need to scare the "sh*t" out of these guys so they do not cheat.

jza February 9, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Will somebody please explain what Sassi had to do with keeping Ricco clean? You don't 1-2 Zoncolan with hugs and happy thoughts.

Like Cus D'Amato and Mike Tyson. He might have been able to get him to play nice, but you can't change what he is.

bikecellar February 10, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Perhaps a power cut? Yes a lot of hypocrisy about. We have come so far but still have a long way to go. The system is not protecting the foolish.

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