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.