The UCI can move swiftly. Yesterday it was announced that any form of injection is now effectively banned and punishable. Up to know, infusions, from pouches with a drip for example, were banned but there was nothing to stop the use of injections, where obviously several injections can amount to the same volume as a drip.
Several teams put the idea to the UCI, it was reviewed and within two months the ban has appeared. Who says teams and the UCI can’t co-operate?
Monte Carlo simulation
Once again it puts cycling a long way ahead of other sports. Just a few weeks ago the start of the Monte Carlo Masters final between Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray was delayed in order to allow the latter to have a cortisone injection because his right arm was sore. To make it clear, localised use of glucocorticosteroids is allowed in sports under certain conditions but here’s the new procedure for cycling, as recounted by cyclingnews.com:
In case of a local injection of glucocorticosteroids, which are subject to the Anti-Doping Rules and on the Prohibited List, the rider must rest and is prevented from competing for 48 hours
If he was a cyclist, Murray would not have been able to compete. That said I’m wary of comparisons with other sports and above cycling has a doping problem so let’s worry about that rather than what other sports choose to do. I don’t think it helps to finger point, that’s not my aim here. No, it’s the inverse, to say cycling is a long way ahead of other sports and I just wanted to use the Monte Carlo example. Note the UCI’s ruling is in conjunction with is the fruit of collaboration with the International Federation of Rowing Associations (FISA).
Whilst this is another step to clean up the sport, don’t expect change overnight. Team Sky’s Peter Kennaugh summed up one idea succinctly: “UCI banning needles….. they have also banned blood transfusions and EPO dosn’t seem to stop anyone“. I tend to agree, if some are racing around Europe with blood bags and more, often a criminal offence, the mere UCI ban on needles won’t stop determined cheats. But it does make things awkward for teams who have to account for any medicines.
Some riders might have legitimate grumbles too. They might be used to receiving some recovery aids, like vitamins, via injection. There’s now a change and some might fret about post-race recovery. Especially with the Giro. But that’s all about education. I’d like to see the UCI accompany the ban press release with a briefing note about the science involved to help convince riders that injections, whilst convenient, are not necessary and that it’s a small price to pay to help clean things up.
For the kids
Above all whilst everyone’s looking at this on the eve of the Giro, for me the message really needs to go to younger riders yet to turn pro. Surrounded by coaches and advisors, the simple message of “needles = no” is very obvious. I’m wary of saying a vitamin injection is the first step towards heavy grade doping but all the same it’s a clear signal that natural means, from nutrition to massage, are the way to go.
This is good news. But like so much of the doping, bans don’t really change behaviour. Rather it’s cultural. If this is to work, the benefits will be felt in five years’ time or more. I doubt it will change much overnight.