The Madness of Zero Tolerance

Lawrence County

I don’t know much about Lawrence County in South Dakota but I bet they have a drugs problem. The idea of “zero tolerance” sounds good, no? But in fact the risk is that it only entrenches a problem rather than addressing it. Only forget narcotics, this is a cycling blog so let’s think EPO and steroids.

Team Sky have announced they will comb through their rider and staff list and ask them to sign a document stating whether they have had any past or present involvement in doping. It sounds right but could end up achieving the opposite of what’s needed, leaving the cheats in place and the team looking stupid.

Start with the obvious. If someone has avoided being caught do we think they will confess when presented with a pledge to sign? If they’ve been wiring money, transfusing blood and lying to their mother then a Sky-branded investigation might not flush them out.

There’s no incentive to step forward today. Should someone emerge with evidence to link them to doping in a few week’s time, they’re doomed but at least they’ll banked another month’s salary. So clean rider and arch-cheat alike will sign up to the declaration. This just leaves Sky with a mess, they told the world about pledges and investigations but risk a scandal.

In fact we’ve been here before. In the wake of the Puerto scandal, the UCI tried to get riders to sign up to a pledge called “Riders’ commitment to a new cycling“.

I do solemnly declare, to my team, my colleagues, the UCI, the cycling movement and the public that I am not involved in the Puerto affair nor in any other doping case and that I will not commit any infringement to the UCI anti-doping rules. As proof of my commitment, I accept, if it should happen that I violate the rules and am granted a standard sanction of a two-year suspension or more, in the Puerto affair or in any other anti-doping proceedings, to pay the UCI, in addition to the standard sanctions, an amount equal to my annual salary for 2008 as a contribution to the fight against doping.

Over 600 riders signed up but again if it sounds nice it doesn’t stand up. If a rider had managed to avoid being caught in aftermath of the Puerto investigations they’re not going to say “whoah, I cannot sign this because I am secretly involved with Puerto”. No, if they’ve been lying, avoiding detection in anti-doping controls and all the other deception then one extra signature on a sheet of paper is no worry, hey it’s just an autograph for the guys at the UCI. Worse, a cheating rider can even boast of signing this declaration to show the world just how clean they are, all whilst lying.

Which brings us to the second point, the matter of law. The UCI’s pledge included a promise to pay “my annual salary for 2008” if rousted. Pause for a minute. The full pledge is one sheet of paper and in no way resembles a binding contract. It doesn’t mention under which law the contract is governed, it doesn’t define salary and so much more. As such it is worthless, a PR stunt but one that could be exposed within three seconds. Hilariously the UCI actually went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to get Alexandr Vinokourov to pay up a year’s salary but lost. If you think I’m being a bit harsh on the UCI here, here’s the CAS verdict:

The Panel concludes that the “Rider’s commitment for a new cycling”… constitutes an action directed to the public, the media, sponsors and the Tour de France organizer in order to regain public credibility and esteem for the sport of cycling

There’s also a second point of law to consider. If someone did dope in the past should they lose their job today? I depends if someone has hid this news before. When Team Sky “investigated” Michael Barry before he lied to them so when he confessed recently he had to go. But what if a team had not asked a rider or member of staff before? Take Levi Leipheimer who was sacked from Omega Pharma-Quickstep a couple of days ago after his admissions of doping were made public. Only he didn’t confess to breaking the rules whilst a member of the Belgian team, only to offences years ago when he was employed by other teams. Now in an ideal world Leipheimer would have been ejected from the sport years ago… but pro cycling and idealism? Leipheimer’s past was not hidden, it was an open secret that he was working with Dr Ferrari for years after leaving US Postal and even the UCI knew what he was up to, they just could not stop him. Perhaps there’s more to the story but until that’s revealed, ll the decision by OPQS does is incentivise tomorrow’s cheat never to confess because a mistake that’s been buried for a decade could come back and cost your job if you suddenly decided/are forced to do the right thing.

Another area of “zero tolerance” to explore is recruitment. New Swiss team IAM Cycling are building an exciting project for the future. In order to avoid being sucked into the vortex of dopage they say they won’t hire anyone with a scandalous past. Again it sounds good but in fact it just means they could hire a rider who has successfully avoided being caught for years. If a rider is then caught then the team looks stupid. Instead it should be saying “we’ll offer everything support to help riders compete clean”, from training to nutrition to the legal edges like mountain training camps or even team-branded altitude tents.

Whether it is Team Sky, Omerta Pharma-Quick Sack or new kids IAM Cycling, “zero tolerance” sounds good but it’s probably not the solution. There’s a grey area in the sport because for years riders and managers have got away with doping. This isn’t to say we get tolerant though. I don’t think Alexander Vinokourov should be given a big management job. I don’t want to single him out but he’s a handy example since he was caught blood doping in the Tour de France and has employed the services of both Dr Fuentes and Dr Ferrari. We should be intolerant of people like this.

So what do you do?
Let’s understand that written pledges are PR gimmicks. The CAS laughed at the UCI’s pledge, people are questioning Team Sky’s approach. Instead let’s admit that people make mistakes in the past but we can support them today. If people made the wrong choices at the wrong time, help them to make the right choices today.

The obvious exemplar is Jonathan Vaughters and his band of zealous anti-dopers. Before you leap to the comments, yes several riders are currently suspended on the team. But that’s the whole point. Riders like David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde have confessed to doping in the past but have since committed to cleaning up since they joined the Garmin team. The same is true for David Millar. And Thomas Dekker is the most provocative example. But as much as this team gets praise, let’s not forget the others.

In the late 1990s a team camper van belonging to FDJ was raided and vials of EPO were found sitting in the fridge. They belonged to a high profile rider on the squad. The sponsor was horrified but sat down with team manager Marc Madiot and agreed they’d fund the team so long as they kept it clean. No pressure for results, just the support to do it right. There are others too.

Transparency is the answer here. Teams should be open, welcoming journalists day or night. Now this doesn’t mean anyone can walk in all the time but if a few writers want to spend a week on Tenerife’s Mount Teide getting bored senseless watching riders log data into their powermeters then great. British journalist Lionel Birnie was “embedded” with the team for the 2011 Dauphiné. Team Sky in particular can win the PR battle with all their talk of rider support and sports science, if only they’d put this ahead if investigations.

Similarly the UCI could improve things here. It could publish its bio-passport data under anonymous names so those interested could review the data to look for patterns, effectively crowd-sourcing the job. Especially if coupled with a lot more testing we would have a valuable database to review. This is only one suggestion, it does not fix things but it helps. Similarly the UCI could try to learn from a scheme run in nearby Lausanne University. Called Windop, it was funded by WADA to help those caught find some redemption and recovery. Again it doesn’t fix everything but it breaks with the repressive stance and helps riders who are caught to come back, perhaps with a new attitude.

We know doping exists and should not tolerate it. But a zero tolerance policy risks being one that’s intolerant of people who got caught. As recent events have taught us, riders can complete a career of doping without detection. Therefore zero tolerance has the reverse effect, it incentivises extra deception.

Team Sky are caught, they are trying to do the right thing all whilst other teams don’t appear to give a damn, other teams merit much bigger scrutiny. But it feels worthwhile to point out how internal investigation will only the catch the obvious cases whilst others can got to ground.

Beyond Sky there are ideas for all. Instead of paper pledges we need structural ones. Instead of written statements by riders, a progressive team should be getting written statements… from journalists in their columns who praise them for the openness, whether sharing power data, discussing haematology or allowing full access to training camps and race hotel rooms. Paul Kimmage has done exactly this with Garmin. The good news is that this is all within the realm of the possible. It costs next to nothing and a small effort here can transform Sky’s PR from catch-up to leadership. Cynically it means the media wolf-pack heads off in search of others.

Finally none of this will clean up the sport. But let’s just start by admitting that zero tolerance and written pledges are a nice idea that actually risk backfiring.

131 thoughts on “The Madness of Zero Tolerance”

  1. Garmin’s policy is just as much a PR gimmick as Sky’s.

    Let’s face it their policy amounts to “OK so you doped in the past, that’s fine and we’ll all keep quiet about it until you’re implicated by someone else, then we’ll support you”. Omerta anyone?

    Not sure how that moves cycling forwards. And for every Thomas Dekker they give a second chance to there’s a Dan Lloyd without a contract, or a neo-pro not even getting a first chance

    • I agree that it’s PR but it wins. Like I say, Dekker is provocative and does take up a spot that could be held by others but perhaps if he can be seen to do it right and tell younger riders that it’s possible to ride without EPO then he can help even if this is imperfect.

      • Does Garmin’s approach not tell riders that if they dope and get caught, it’ll be alright. Just cry a bit and say how sorry you are, from a broken home, bigger boys made me do it etc, and Vaughters will give you a job afterwards. It hardly sends the message that if you dope and get caught, you’re finished.

        • Let’s be clear here, these guys joined Vaughters team because they were essentially trying to escape from the doping culture that was so prevalent in the sport that few escaped it. The message we need to be sending is that if you doped in that period and come forward, you will get some leniency, but if you don’t and are later found out to have been lying then you will be out.

          The same applies to those doping from now on – there is no excuse to dope in the current climate and therefore there should not be any leniency.

    • Having teams race today without the use of PEDs isn’t a step forward? Or do you believe that all teams are currently racing without PEDs?

    • I count 45 across the management of the 18 Pro Tour teams, guys who had positive tests back when they raced, or just plain obvious links (ie. DS on T Mobile).

      That’s a lot of empty team cars at races…

      The solution isn’t getting sanctimonious and wildly sacking everyone. But clearly it’s not the riders totally to blame.

  2. Absolutely. The Sky line I find illogical. They demand the riders and staff all come clean, whilst in the same breath say anyone admitting to drug involvement will be fired.

      • Better to bolt it now and develop a generation of clean riders. They have always been clear on that line and it comes from their sponsors.

        Seriously I despair at some of the comments on here. At least they are trying which is more than the UCI has ever done.

        • Supposing your employer said “Right, we’re going to do interviews of all staff and we will be asking if anyone ever used recreational drugs. Those who lie and are later proved to be lying will be fired. Those who confess in the first instance will be sacked immediately.”

          How many confessions do you think they’d get? Sky’s approach is to reinforce the Omertá and lets forget about rehabilitation. Dumb.

      • You must see your own hypocrisy here. You praise Garmin but surely, more than most teams, they welcome and support those that have cheated. Would they be bothered about someone with a dodgy past? Clearly not.

        • You’re missing the point. It’s not about whether they doped, it’s about whether they feel genuine regret and sincerely want to race clean. Garmin supports those riders who feel that way. They wouldn’t, however, be signing Valverde would they?

          • Martin, I understand your sentence that states “it’s about whether they feel genuine regret and sincerely want to race clean.” I have read very similar statements on many blogs and websites. However, exactly how does one go about measuring or quantifying “feeling genuine regret?” It’s far too easy for these racers that once doped to continue racing late into their pro careers and then later come clean while proclaiming how sorry they were and how they had no other choice but to take the drugs.

            I am so tired of how these ex-dopers are constantly pontificating on how to do good for the sport or how they have so much experience/wisdom to give back to the new batch of riders. It’s disgusting. The bans are weak and the deals made with the ex-dopers and current dopers are even weaker. David Millar and Alexandre Vinokourov should not have been allowed to represent their countries in the Olympics, the boys from Garmin should not be allowed to race again, Hincapie should stay away from promoting junior racers, etc. Their careers have been lies until they were either caught or forced to confess.

          • Jason, I think it’s fair to say that some of these guys should have confessed earlier, but of course they all saw what happened to Frankie Andreu and he didn’t even directly implicate Armstrong. Now that Armstrong’s power is waning, they feel like they can get away with speaking out without having their lives made hell and their careers wrecked, although the knee-jerk reactions of some teams might be justification for some to keep their mouth shut.

            I don’t think you can ‘measure’ or ‘quantify’ genuine regret. At some point we have to take their word for it, but usually if guys are not genuinely sincere, they make very ambiguous statements or denials – think Valverde and Vinokourov for instance. Also, don’t just blame the riders. They’re really just the guinea pigs for a massive culture that makes a river of cash for the likes of Michele Ferrari, the UCI and Nike. The bans are weak I agree, but the riders aren’t responsible for that either.

            Not forgiving people who doped in an era of almost ubiquitous doping as y0u suggest, is just too black and white and unforgiving for me. It’s easy for you and I to sit in front of our computers and rant about dope cheats, but what decisions would we have made as naive under-23 bike racers trying to make it in the cutthroat world of pro cycling?

            As for David Millar, I’m astonished he gets so much criticism. This is a guy who constantly reminds us that he is a reformed doper and is willing to take the shit for that. I think that’s laudable. I don’t agree that they ‘pontificate’ as you suggest. I don’t find what Millar and JV do to be self serving at all. They merely love the sport and want to do their upmost to make sure no-one is confronted with the corruption that they faced.

            Author Jeremy Whittle said in his book that he had concluded that blaming the likes of David Millar for doping in that environment was akin to blaming factory chickens for getting fat. So I would say there has to be some forgiveness, but I agree there also has to be a consensus as to where to draw a line in the sand. Unfortunately, the governing body of the sport doesn’t seem willing to do they, so why single out the lab rats in this analogy?

            We’re all a bit hypocritical, because we all want exciting races, but seem to forget just how tough the sport is. The sponsors are hypocrites too, pretending they didn’t know what was going on. See the Cofidis affair for an example of that, in addition to the recent Rabobank announcement.

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  4. I agree broadly with your point here. I cannot help but interpret OPQS sacking of Leipheimer not as an overt promotion of omerta but as a way to drop a significant salary so as to have more funds for Cav. In the end, the effect may be to silence potential admissions by riders but I disagree with Travis Tygart that this was the intended aim of OPQS.

      • I am not sure this is about “ditching an aging rider” as much as it is about UCI points. Of course Leipheimer was hired to get results on a team with no established grand tour leaders, but it was also for his UCI points. At the end of 2011 when they hired Leipheimer, Quick Step was the 18th ranked team in the UCI World Tour with 383 total points. Only 18 teams are eligible for Pro Team status – meaning that Quick Step teetered on the brink of relegation. So points were important to the team and Leipheimer had accumulated 158 UCI World Tour points in 2011 and 41 points in 2010, which he brought with him to OPQS.

        Today OPQS is ranked #4 in the World Tour with 1162 points, and Leipheimer had 75 points in 2012. So yes, Leipheimer is not getting any younger, but his 2012 points are in line with his historic numbers, and he was still the 68th ranked rider in the world and able to score valuable points for his team. However although his new doping ban will expire before Paris-Nice 2013, the ban means that he can’t score points for his team any more. So from the perspective of OPQS, Leipheimer’s points are no longer essential to its survival at the highest level of the sport, and he cannot accumulate new points.

        • I think my point about not scoring points when returning from a ban is in error – If I am not mistaken, the ban must be for at least 2 years, so Leibheimer will be able to accumulate points upon returning from his 6 month ban.

    • Absolutely, it was nothing more than expediency on the part of Lefevre (shall we go into HIS doping past???). And they still employ Dr Jose Ibarguren Taus…Not much sustained questioning of that employment policy in the media, social or otherwise, is there…

  5. This reminds me of one of the questions asked of applicants for US Department of Defense security clearances: “Do you associate with any group that advocates the violent overthrow of the US government?” I can’t imagine anyone ever saying yes to that question.

  6. The approach of ‘fess up and we fire you, lie now and if it turns out that you’ve lied again we’ll still fire you’ is not condusive to getting the truth.

    On the other hand, I really could do without the unquestioning worshipping and fawning over Saint Vaughters and Holy Dave by social media and by the Taliban of Twitter (as coined by Ken Bob Pryde), and Garmin being held up as ‘a guiding light through all this darkness’ (David Millar, last night). Give me a break from such sanctimony.

    • So what’s the better model. Head in the sand like Sky? Just plain not caring and continuing to promote doping at Katusha and Astana? JV has his faults, but I admire the business plan. You can say that none of them came forward before to admit doping, but if these guys didn’t now (see Livingstone), then we’d still be in the dark ages. Plus he basically resurrected Wiggins career. You must be happy about that? Plus you have to respect JV for stepping away from a big contract at CA. He’s not Bassons, but he’s not victimless either.

    • Sanctimony? Sanctimony?
      You mean the kind that a bunch of website commentors provide from their office desks about how everyone who ever doped should be piled into a railroad car and sent to a work camp?

      At least the Garmin guys are attempting to build a new reality with the current dearth of clean riders. Can’t but commend them for that, can we?

  7. I agree the whole piece except for publishing biopassport data. It’s not as easy to interpret data as that pirate speak guy makes it out to be. Sure, it may flag that the UCI is protecting a few riders. But it will also make everyone into faux experts on blood values.

    Instead, maybe they can open the data to recognized experts and researchers. Transparency through peer review (of a sort)

    • Yes, it can be made available to curious experts. Ivan Basso asked people to register to review his data. And if published anonymously this could help protect riders. But with more frequent tests there would be a reduced change of odd data standing out.

      • But how anonymous would it really be? If you publish every data point with the date of test it wouldn’t be very hard to pick out the GC riders of the grand tours. They’d be flagged by # of test clustered during a GC. And process of elimination could get you a pretty good idea of who it is from there.

          • It’s a very dull and pedantic point, but it is unethical and borderline illegal in many, many countries to publish this sort of (medical) data without the consent of the person that is being tested. Even anonymised (or pseudonymised) research is problematic without explicit consent.

            One could argue, of course, that all cyclists should be forced to give their consent, or that withholding consent is a flag in itself, but it’s a slippery slope.

            Collection and presentation of the data, on the other hand, is a problem so trivial that it’s barely worth the time needed to discuss.

            Finally, and this is a truly pedantic note, this would be presented as pseudonymous data, not anonymous. If it was anonymised, then it would be pointless, as any irregularities that were caught couldn’t be identified back to an individual.

      • But how anonymous would it really be?

        If you publish every data point with the date of test it wouldn’t be very hard to pick out the GC riders of the grand tours. They’d be flagged by # of test clustered during a GC. And process of elimination could get you a pretty good idea of who it is from there.

  8. On the other hand the sport’s governing bodies better be aware that the scope of Lance Pharmstrong’s following is such that inactivity could see the marginalisation of the sport. Their fear of somebody else eating their lunch will no longer be relevant. There will be no “lunch”.

    I agree that ‘zero tolerance’ is stupid but something big has to be done and fast.

  9. Very interesting post – need to make the activity “not legally safe” ?
    1. caught during career – immediate life ban and felony conviction
    2. retired : caught by post testing say 5 years later using new technologies , felony conviction.

    At the moment its a slap on the wrist as the riders do their bans, pick up their pay checks still and sponsors don’t care obviously, or if you are Contador delay until you only have a small amount of time left anyway; its not a meaningful deterrence.

    • Felony conviction? Are you suggesting that all riders then get convicted in a US court? How is that going to work, for the Astana boys for example?

      • Dunno – at the end of course it needs some inter national body to mandate like IOC and work with governments to follow. Like make doping equivalent to fraud – a criminal offence in most countries. If as it seems we are about to get a whole load of other sports tainted as well as cycling , maybe the fact that it is seen as a cancer on all sports would allow WADA/IOC to step in. Pharma-wise god knows what’s down the track , but my guess is the testing will never keep up, so there needs to be a clear line in the sand and that’s usually a legal one. Or if thats impossible , immediate life bans for first offence. At the moment its a joke.

  10. Lets face it: they guys who have admitted to doping are either retired or about to. This too is cosmetic. Has everyone forgotten the doping products found on BMC’s bus before Evans great win? Even all these new “revelations” on Lance, Hincrpie, etc… — that anyone, anyone with a bit of honesty knew about — reek of previous scandals where — after a big media brouhaha — nothing much was done on the actual racing scene.
    Yes, lets forgive the riders who admit to doping — if not it’s going to be business as usual — good point inrng.
    But by ignoring the fact that — of course — Contador, Evans, and yes Wiggo are extremely likely to have doped, we are still being hypocritical! What are we waiting for? Another federal investigation? The UCI to actualy do something? The journalist class to actually investigate popular and recent Tour de France winners? Ha-ha. Right now cycling ‘journalists’ are piling it on the fallen (easy prey) — that they did not bring down. Morally cycling journos are the equivalent of Hyenas. But we already knew that.
    The more things change….

    • Good points, Oliver.
      About the best we can hope for is that the performance margin between cheaters and clean riders has grown to a manageable size.

      The striking thing about the LA testimony is how routine it all was. There are dozens of riders implicated in the LA materials, from Puerto to Ferrari to Freiberg. It truly appears as if the were all doing it. And that aint’ gonna change overnight.

      • Yup. And given the totality of circumstance the overwhelming possibility is that I am right. You see, you still rely on getting caught as the arbiter of weather or not someone doped.
        If we have learned anything from the Lance saga is that you can cheat the tests, the hyenas (journalists), the public, the sponsors… Even Contador was not supposed to be in trouble for his doping if the UCI had its way.
        We need to get real: to win the Tour you have to dope: it a physiological reality. So yes, that includes Evans (with his bus full of EPO) and Wiggo (with his ridiculously hypocritical teamPR). Of course they doped.
        I cannot believe folks still believe the last Tour winners are clean. Sounds like the folks who screamed their heads off Lance was innocent. The more things change…

        • Yeah Oliver. It’s physiologically impossible to win the Tour without doping. Cos you’re a physiological expert and anti-doping authority aren’t you?

          What would be the point of holding the Tour de France if it’s only possible to win it by cheating? You’re essentially saying that they must be guilty because they’re cyclists.

          I’ve never heard such stupid and cynical bollocks in my life.

          And your evidence for Evans bus being full of EPO is what exactly?

          Here’s a fact: Even with their better nutrition, bikes, training methods, science etc, none of the Sky team including Bradley Wiggins would have been in the top 30 in the 1996 Tour de France. If you want to insist that’s evidence of doping then there’s no help for you. Go and find another sport. Weightlifting perhaps.

          • One clear recollection I have of Evans which keeps coming back to me amidst all of this doping talk is when I watched him race as a junior for Apollo in the Australian Mountain Bike series at Mt Majura in Canberra (around ’93/’94). Halfway through the race he had already lapped the field – from the gun, the race was for second.

            Of course, this does not really inform whether or not he has doped during his career but at least it shows that he has been elite since day one. Around this time he was evaluated by the Australian Institute of Sport who had spotted him as a future talent and, so the story goes, his test numbers were off the charts.

            Oliver/Larner – unless either of you have any special information, none of us can be definitive about whether Cadel or Wiggo doped to win their respective Tours. We can look at the available data and listen to what they say about riding clean but that still doesn’t get you there.

          • I’ve heard that kind of aggressive bluster many many times. Substitute the name Armstrong to your Evans or Wiggins. The names change, the hypocrisy remains.

          • To Oliver below, it’s you with the aggressive bluster – “of course they doped” and other sweeping statement nonsense.

            You have ZERO evidence for this. And you have ZERO qualification to say so.

            Far too cynical for me, and I’m pretty cynical.

          • I thought it quite amusing and ironic (but will he get it?) that Larner’s angry ‘response’ below (you have ZERO proof, etc…) sounds suspiciously like ex-UCI Pres. Heins V. SMS to a paper about Lance
            “there are many, many stories and suspicions, but no trace of PROOF. There is not. LA was never tested positive, even by USADA”.
            Perhaps Martin is Heins’s beard? 😉 Either way, its odd that we still don’t realize that the system is still rigged so as to not be able to ferret out cheaters absent a police investigation or a federal one — how hard is it to figure it out? Impossible for some who in turn become objective allies of the dopers and the UCI. Unbelievable.

          • Oliver, the UCI being corrupt doesn’t equate to Bradley Wiggins doping. You have Zero evidence for that assertion other than your insistence that it’s “impossible to win the Tour without Doping”. Which is simply a stupid statement.

            If it were impossible, wouldn’t we have heard it from one of the major anti-doping guys by now? Michael Ashenden? Anne Gripper? Don Catlin? We haven’t because it’s just your dumb, ill-informed, ignorant statement.

            I’m curious as to why you’re here if you’re so cynical about the sport? Myself, I think I’m cynical enough and I actually have a good track record of writing against doping.

            I agree with your implied statement that the UCI is not doing enough and is compromised and I’ve commented before on forums like this that it took a Police investigation to shake up Festina, Puerto, Padua and several others. Again though, that’s not the fault of Cadel or Wiggo, and it doesn’t implicate them in doping.

            Hein and Lance on the other hand have zero to do with ME. Verbruggen is claiming that there is no evidence against Armstrong – I read the research of Walsh and Co years back and saw enough to convince me then. To say after the enormous USADA investigation that there is no evidence is a sign of a man living on another planet. Whereas with Wiggo there is nothing but insinuations by association – i.e. because he’s a cyclist and didn’t rant loudly enough about his opposition to doping this year.

            For the record, and this isn’t the first time I’ve written it in public, I believe both Verbruggen and McQuaid should be forced to resign and the UCI needs a thorough shakedown.

            So don’t be associating me with Hein Hitler, and don’t compare Wiggo to Lance either.

  11. The Sky policy, while working unintentionally to support omerta, is predicated on the same logics as the British Olympic Associations life-time ban for drug cheats that was over turned because it conflicted with the WADA code. It was also seen as unfair as other countries allowed athletes who had served their bans to compete. Brailsford was made to look silly over Millar and the Olympics he risks looking very silly again.

    It’s a knee-jerk reaction created in a moment of crisis to try and placate a braying and often overly sanctimonious press that like nothing more than a scalp or two. Policies designed in this sort of environment rarely work.

    • I’m sure this is Sky and not Brailsford – but he who pays the piper etc. Sky, due to their Murdoch connections have to be very, very careful to avoid any adverse publicity and this is their attempt to manage that risk. I guess, also they are fairly confident of their riders given the number who have come through UK cycling, for which they will have comprehensive data and with the retirement of some of the more risky elements.

      • You are probably right, perhaps I shouldn’t pin it on Dave, it sis the kind of policy arrived at by committee by people who ave absolutely no idea of what it looks like at the coal face so to speak. But it doesn’t mean the policy won’t backfire. They open themselves up to looking like even bigger fools further down the line as and when a rider or member of staff is found to have a past. Crisis management rarely produces good long-term solutions. What the whole sport needs right now is good long-term solutions, but of course how you square that with corporate interests interested in the here and now profit margin and public perception is the problem.

        • and the coal face has done what about the problems up until now????

          exactly sweet Fanny Adams. The cycling fans are as bad “Oooo Merckx he was the greatest” blah blah, time to start over again.

          • To be fair that wasn’t my point, my point was about making decisions in a board room based on no actual experience of the sport or its history. If you want cycling to start all over again and you want to clear everyone out of cycling who has any past association with doping then fine that is your position – it personally wouldn’t be mine (and no I am not an apologist for doping) – but that is something that would effectively require a complete disbanding of most current teams and the UCI. As it stands at the moment and this is really the point here, one team’s policy is pretty pointless in a situation with no effective overarching leadership from the governing body.

    • That it’s based on the BOA life-ban means that it’s not a knee-jerk reaction, but a clumsy attempt to make a well-established (although as you say discredited after the WADA ruling) one-size-fits all policy work.

  12. I guess a ‘zero tolerance’ policy can work if you apply it from the start. There has to be a very strong incentive not to dope. If your contract states you have to pay back all of your salary from day 1, plus the expenses the team made for you, there’s no ‘cashing another month’s salary’. It will probably deflect the cheats to other teams, but then if this type of contract becomes mandatory for being allowed in World Tour races that would help.
    Just rambling along, there must be a ton of legal hurdles in the way.

  13. It is a meaningless PR-trick to dupe as many as possible. Can’t see this change anything at all. If it does bring staff or rider changes I will be highly surprised. This is just creating problems for themselves if someone should at some stage be implicated in some dodgy business.

    If an office employer issues a statement witch every employee need to sign, stating that any employee that has at some point past, present or is planning in the future to nick stationary will have to say so and if found guilty will lose their jobs. No fu*kin’ way I would admit anything when that dick Tim and his wh*re of a wife Mia took all of the supplies needed for their weddings table cards from the stationary cabinet. The cards even had the firms fu*kin’ logo on them! And John that little prick. He uses paper clips like he’s running some kind of smelter in his shed. No way I’m saying anything regarding operation post-it! You’ll hear nothing from me!
    Er, where do I put my name?

  14. Does this all mean that Brailsford has hired riders and staff before without asking them if they have ever been involved in doping? If he has not, why not? And if he has, why would they admit it now when they know they will lose their job?

  15. Regarding that photo – I grew up just outside of Lawrence county in Rapid City – not sure where/how you found that but from what I remember, as far as drugs are concerned, there used to be a bit of a meth problem in that area. Lawrence county also contains Deadwood, the gambling/wild-west town as shown in ‘Deadwood’ on HBO which is prone to get a bit out of control from time to time.

    There used to be a time trial race each year up Spearfish Canyon Highway which is a beautiful ride, not sure if it’s still going. Lots of great riding on and off-road in that part of the world.

    and for the record, I think Sky’s policy is terrible. We get nowhere with that kind of thinking.

    • While Lawrence County does not have a “high” rate of drug convictions (more in line with the rest of the state), Deadwood’s history may play a part. However, to me the more telling statistic is actually the conservative nature of the citizenry, and the kind of sheriff they would elect.
      As a side note, the judge who closed the last brothel in Deadwood (in 1980), passed away earlier this month.

  16. Isn’t there some positives to such a policy? If you are a fantastic neo-pro looking for a team – then at least you know that if you join a “Zero-Tolerance” team that you won’t be bullied and strong-armed into a team doping culture.

    Would anyone like to compile a list of current Team Manager’s and DS’s with * next to their name? These people shouldn’t be in the sport. Period. How is that for Zero Tolerance?

    • I’m not sure. Our neo-pro can probably make a good career at Garmin or FDJ who are both run by convicted dopers. Or he could go to another team run by someone who was never caught but where the management probably don’t care too much.

    • See above, it’s pretty much every team that has ex dopers on the team car.

      The only ones who aren’t ex dopers, have overseen teams with lots of doping controversies though. Guilt by association maybe, but if you put the DS’ or Team Manager’s name in Google with “doping” or “drugs” it’s surprising how many results pop up…same with doctors etc.

      If we crack down on the riders, nothing will change from the last scourge.

      It’s team management that needs some checks, rules, etc. An amnesty to start, then 2 strikes for the DS when his riders test positive, etc. might help.

  17. I do think any zero tolerance stance at this point will be unhelpful. Faced with truth or the sack, then surely, as the article points out, even if a rider gains one month’s extra pay, then that would be better than an immediate sacking.

    Strong centralised leadership is required. The problem of the past cannot be dealt with individually. For instance, QuickStep have dismissed Levi and Sky will do the same, yet Garmin may hire these riders as they are not adverse to hiring the like.

    Surely a 6 month amnesty is the answer, with all teams being told they have to do this. Riders will get a 6 month ban, the same as the others who have confessed. This will start from the moment they confess, they longer they leave it the chance is they will miss the more important races. But they can remain on the team.

    After this period then all teams are told to sack any riders who are caught, and stringent bans enforced, maybe increasing the current 2 years ban to 3 or 4 years. Riders may be hired to ride after this.

    I do think any doper should have a level of punishment. It is their personal choice and I don’t buy into the theory that every rider doped to prevent their dreams being squashed. Some just wanted to cheat.

    I also think there needs to be decisions made about ex-dopers moving into management, as this is a much more influential position.

    As for journalists and transparency, I find this hard to take. I think there are only a very minority who are truly in the business for the good. Most are in it for their own careers. Consequently, why should any teams, or anyone, be at their mercy. A governing body should have this role.

  18. Why are ex-dopers allowed as managment i cycling?
    Get rid of the Riis’,Vinokourovs, Aldags, Zabel and others who was on top of the world a decade ago, made millions in prize money and salary, have “come clean” and blaming that it was a different time back then.
    Why was Bruyniell threated different than Riis? Why wasnt Riis fired from his team(i guess i probably owns it, but that traces back to his prize money) ?
    It is as much of a managment problem as it is a riders proble.
    Lets say that the UCI denies ProTour license to a team that has managment that has been involdved in doping, maybe this could help?
    Another interessting reading of the USPostal team case is that none of the riders are admiting to doping after 2007, thats 5 years ago….a lot of blood have gone through the veins since then.
    I dont believe that all of the have been clean since then.

  19. Not sure what is the right thing to do for Sky here, and it’s probably not entirely within Brailsford’s control.

    However, Sky’s announcement that they are asking staff to re-affirm their commitment is in many ways a straightforward employment issue.

    Presumably riders and staff have already signed a contract which says they haven’t doped and have lied if this isn’t the case. If found to be lying they can expect their contract to be terminated (in my profession if you lie on a job application then you can expect to be fired if you are found out – it’s fraud)

    None of this helps to encourage people to come forward or sort out the wider doping issue in cycling but Sky’s approach is just their way of managing what’s in their span of control at the moment.

    We are sadly missing a coordinated framework for managing riders and staff who want to come forward and make a voluntary confession and as usual any credible leadership from the UCI. As Sally points out above, teams that are at least trying to do something (sometimes ham-fistedly) are subject to the self-propelling and pretty boring Twitter narrative, meanwhile the rest of the world tour teams carry on as if nothing is happening.

    Leadership is required on this and I can’t see where it’s coming from.

    INRG – agree with your comments on transparency. And thanks for the brilliant blog which is a much-needed oasis of common sense.

  20. It’s called CYA, cover your ass. That’s all it is, pure and simple. Just like all the BigTex sponsors now claiming they no longer “sponsor” BigTex while continuing to support the cancer charity. We’ve heard all this s__t before, remember post-Festina? Think about THAT one for a minute: they so wanted to forget about that mess and proclaim cycling cleaned up they anointed BigTex in 1999 as the savior of cycling, going as far as hushing up the positive steroid test that should have had Tex tossed out for a couple of years. These folks want “business as usual” to continue but prefer the public think something’s being done to clean up the sport. Will the public buy it once again? The only example that makes me optimistic for the future (at present) is that a guy generally regarded as CLEAN won a very tough Giro this year. Pro cycling’s got nowhere to go now but UP…but it’ll take new leadership and real commitment to clean sport to get there.

  21. What a mess has been created by a complete lack of leadership and governance.

    It will take sustained, long term policies and oversight to navigate a way out of this now. These are the reprecussions of a ‘sweep it under the carpet’ short-termism practiced by everyone involved with the governance of cycle-sport.

    I’m glad the likes of Sky and Garmin come under this level of scrutiny and questioning. It only throws into sharper relief the teams who operate under very limited media and official oversight; Katusha, Astana? Unless they are compelled forcibly to shape up and comply who is bothering to investigate them.

    I really enjoyed the Vuelta this year, but its hard to have faith in that podium.

    I have faith in the young crop of riders who now see the seediness and corruption at the heart of the guys who came before them. Amazingly they are the ones leading the way in the sport exposing the laziness and greed of the old men at the top.

    It’s going to take someone with a real stomach for a fight to sort this out. Who are they and where are they going to step out from?

  22. To me the Sky thing sounds like a legal disclaimer:
    “Team Sky shall not be taken responsible in any way in case a rider was found guilty of doping but failed to inform Team Sky or did provide wrong information to Team Sky.”

    If we would remove everybody involved in doping during the EPO days, we would have a lost generation, similar to the situation in Germany. Usually after a (civil) war amnesty is the only way to get things started again. Never the less I would not mind to see some of the big fishes hanging.


    Dr. Ko

  23. Tovarisch and christafano aluded to this above but this is clearly Sky as sponsors trying to get a mass message out to the general public when cycling is finally hitting the mainstream in the UK – Tour de France, Olympics and Armstrong have given cycling unheard of airtime in the country this year. Your average Daily Mail reader will glance at something like this and be reassured while the teams staff and indeed anyone who has watched cycling for any length of time realise it’s complete and utter nonsense.

    A message forced on to management for the consumption of the masses. A short sighted one at that given the far greater potential for more damaging revelations subsequently. Having said that Sky still have a long way to go before they bottom out alongside Nike…

  24. exploring sky’s zero tolerance;

    it is stated zero tolerance to doping applies to ALL staff, so i want to know whether recreational drugs come under this statement too. Or, is Sky tolerant of recreational drugs?

    if a member of staff is found in breach of this zero tolerance policy, but they were significant in say recruiting riders, would that make those riders contracts invalid?

    Zero tolerance of this kind is an idealistic nonsense, and the sooner DB realises it, the better…..

    Also, and on a slight tangent, how is a zero tolerance/no needle policy practically enforceable when needles are used for legitimate (testing) purposes?

  25. While I generally agree with your criticism of Team Sky’s “anti-doping pledge”, the reappropriation of the phrase “zero tolerance” is curious. “Zero tolerance” has generally referred to a prohibition in the war on drugs. Similarly, for the most part, anti-doping is essentially zero tolerance prohibition.

  26. Zero tolerance is the best policy. Really this is a question of a broken labor system. The riders need a STRONG rider union that protects them from the “old dopage machine.” They need and should earn a 35-40% points on the TV revenue of the major races. The riders should license themselves and then start their own F1 type of League with an international calendar and let the UCI fade away, how can they be trusted anymore with even the youth of the sport much alone a professional athlete ? The future is in content. Current broadcasts are ancient. Look at NASCAR were a fan can subscribe to a in-car feed of their favorite driver or team? The future is in social media and fantasy cycling…as well as power data, nutrition, and bicycle technology to fuse it all together and advance the sport. I would have a conference with the top CEOs of the world who have a love for the sport and ask them to provide the capital interests in starting a new F1 type of Cycling League screw the OLD DUSTY ass broken bloody needled system.

    • El, you raise some interesting ideas but it seems to me NASCAR is long past it’s sell-by date, with dwindling TV interest from network broadcasters and cars on the track with no sponsor advertising while few bike races (except for LeTour) make any real profits. Players unions in other sports have opposed dope testing and remember how long the pro cyclists whined and staged sit-down protests against wearing a hard-shell helmet? Meanwhile, it takes the budget of small country to field a competitive F1 team and how many truly competitive cars line up on the grid on raceday? I’m far from sure this is the direction I’d like to see pro cycling go, no matter how bad it might be at present.

  27. Isn’t the label “doper” a slippery, slick term of art? Not to be too bound up in semantics. But it is a many shades of gray versus black and white. Consider a rider flagged using a banned substance that is “okay” if the rider has a therapeutic use exemption. Otherwise, are they a “doper?” I think Ludo Dierckxens won a Tour de France stage that was revoked because he was taking a medication that was not necessarily considered “dope,” however, he did not declare it. Then he was sent home. Okay, I realize the “dope” that predominates is fairly clearly not “therapeutic,” e.g., HgH, EPO, testosterone, masking agents, and the like. ‘Just saying that labeling riders either “doper” or “not-doper” may not be as easy as the running commentary makes it out to be.

    • My complaint about the word “doper” or “doping” is that it is fairly neutral as a label. Almost like the riders are poor horses. You could even argue it sounds a little funny, a bit dopey, stupid. Being labelled a “doper” (essentially a victimless crime) I don’t think triggers the necessary revulsion amongst devotees and the more people it happens to , the more the label is losing its power. Coupled with the facts that suspension is almost turning into a 6 month training holiday for some riders, makes the situation worse. I think we need to start using “dope cheat” more and make the word “cheat” mean something by immediate life bans. Even better as I posted above, legal sanctions. No one has the same warm fuzzy feeling about Marion Jones do they cause she was busted by the feds and did time. She’s a felon and that counts.

  28. Reinforcing the Omertá

    It was clear to me that Sky’s promise to fire anyone who had a doping past was pretty stupid. What’s the incentive to change? I posted as much on their Twitter page. No-one is going to convince me that Sean Yates never doped and never saw anything at Motorola etc. Especially not Sean Yates. But why the hell would he confess now?

    The worst offender though is Omega Pharma Quickstep who are insulting my intelligence if they want me to believe they have sacked Levi Leipheimer for stuff that happened years ago rather than because they wanted to save money with which to pay Cavendish’s salary. What’s the betting if Cav was staying with Sky that Levi would still have his job? Did they sack Tom Boonen for recreational Cocaine abuse? I don’t think so.

    There have been a fair few confessions in the cycling press in recent days, but I’m more interested in the non-confessions. For instance, while I’ve always felt their attitude showed that Jens Voigt and Stuart O’Grady were pretty opposed to doping, I’m not convinced with their claims that they never even dabbled – particulary since we’ve heard all those claims before from You-Know-Who.

    In addition, it’s high time we saw some confessions from Team Managers and other non-riding staff such as doctors and soigneurs. Riis has rather forced himself into a corner because he didn’t confess to his post-career incitement to dope in his press conference in 2007, but only to his personal competitive career misdemeanours. Don’t expect that to go away Bjarne…

    Finally, I find it pretty ironic that Team Sky are engaged in this ‘Zero Tolerance’, unforgiving ‘battle’ against corruption and drug abuse in cycling, considering where the money comes from. Who is more crooked and dishonest than the Murdoch family?

  29. The hypocrisy of pro cycling’s riders and management just keeps on giving….

    Does anyone recall that Mark Cavendish roomed with Michael Barry while at HTC-Columbia? Guess he doesn’t have to answer their questions now.

      • “You’re assuming Barry told Cav what he didn’t tell Sky management about what he did at US Postal?”

        And more.

        I gave Mr Barry et al the benefit of my doubts until I read their affidavits. Needless to say I’m very disappointed in all of them.

        I’ll remain a healthy cynic regardless if guilt by association should or should not apply.

        • Exactly my point David. It’s an assumption with ZERO evidence.

          Why the hell would he tell Cav? He didn’t even tell Brailsford originally. And even if he did tell Cav, so what? That makes Cav a doper? Being on the same team and sharing the same hotel room as someone does not constitute guilt by association. Do you think Bassons never shared with anyone on Festina?

          The fear against speaking out occurs in day to day life, never mind in the mafia-type Omertá in professional cycling.

          What you’re being is an UN-healthy cynic. There really are some daft comments on here.

          • If I had suggested the events of this past week happening I would have been labelled daft too.

            What evidence did I or you have that all this was going to occur?

            Hopefully we have reached a critical mass and a wholesale house cleaning occurs.


          • David, the events of the past week didn’t surprise me at all. The basic bones of the allegations, testimony and circumstantial evidence around Armstrong have been in the public arena for at least 6 years. Even though the Federal investigation had been stopped it was obvious that it wasn’t going to just go away.

            My point here, is that you comparing the massive volume of evidence against Armstrong (which was always going to erupt sooner or later) with weak, guilty-by-association comments about Cavendish is just not valid.

            I find it very unlikely that Barry told Cav much if anything. Even if he did, he would probably have discussed his past only in confidence. That doesn’t make Cavendish a doper, nor complicit in Michael Barry’s misdemeanours.

            Not all cyclists dope. Even in the worst period in the sports history, they didn’t all dope. So let’s just stick to facts here and not assume they’re guilty because they shared a hotel room with someone who used to dope 7 years ago.

            On the other hand, I share your hope about critical mass. A lot of people wanted to ‘move on’ from the Lance stuff, but my view is that his ‘legacy’ still had too strong a grip on the sport.

            Maybe a few teams and the UCI need to come crashing down. Wouldn’t be a bad thing in the long run.

  30. We risk throwing good people out and retaining bad ones with any kind of “one size fits all policy”. Seems to me we need the equivalent of intelligence-led policing, and then the kind of community law enforcement where the friendly neighbourhood copper has a quiet word in someones ear “Bjarne (for illustrative purposes only you understand) time for you to step aside, I’m sure you understand”.

    But who do we trust to do the policing? Dick Pound the other day pointed out that nobody knows cycling like the UCI, if (and it’s a big if) they could just start to act with integrity, transparency and that other thing, yeah I remember, honesty.

    • The Australian media is already doing that, it’s a massive witch hunt from the uneducated leeches that call themselves journalists in Australia. Even some ex athletes from other sports are throwing big lumps of granite from their glasshouse. Case in point, Stephen Hodge resigned as Vice President of Cycling Australia. No better cycling advocate in Australia, who I heard say with conviction that he never wanted any Aussie kids t have to dope if he could help it.
      After racing for Once the guilt finally got to him, but he is one person who could confess under an amnesty, and clearly do good things.
      David Millar is a fantastic advocate, and a good example of what I am talking about. But if. Was up to all these hanging judges he wouldn’t be in the sport.

  31. Question: Although the French teams are not without their problems (see recent AG2R rider busted for EPO and an FDJ rider for not taking care of his whereabouts), they don’t make a big deal (marketing campaign) about their cleanliness. And no French teams are mentioned on La Gazzetta’s outing of Ferrari related teams today. My guess is that they’re pretty clean with out all the brouhaha that these other teams make about doping. General thoughts?

  32. I think you’ve missed a key point here and that is the power and influence of sponsors in this whole equation. No doubt team management are making these quick decisions in order to try and reassure sponsors that their team is ‘under control’ and has a low risk of exposing the sponsor’s brand to bad publicity. After all we’ve seen the usual result of large doping scandals on teams, sponsors more often than not drop them like a hot potato.

    I think there is a large economic aspect at play, just as much if not more than ‘doing the right thing for cycling’

  33. Poor Sky. Damned if you do.. damned if you don’t. My assumption is that there are a number of people who have already been identified as needing to be fired. In an attempt to put a positive spin on things before they sack those people they announce this policy. After sitting down with every individual there is unlikely to even be one name added to the list they already have. However they can then announce that certain people haven’t met their high standards and are leaving the team. Doing it that way gives a better impression to the general public as to how they are run. It will also mean that press articles on the inevitable sackings will have a different tone than if they just announced today that riders x y and z have been cut.

  34. can’t believe that rider’s pledge from 2008. The UCI takes your money to cover up doping, and if you refuse to pay they take your money when you’re caught! Could those thugs be any more transparent?

  35. Holy contradiction Batman!
    You rightly criticize Sky’s document as pointless because of course a rider eager to keep his job is going to claim not to have doped. Then you say the paragraph quoted below about Garmin and call them “zealous anti-dopers”. Calling them proven cheaters and liars would be a more appropriate. Of course, eager to keep their jobs, the riders say they are “committed to cleaning up the sport”. At least the Sky riders are innocent until proven guilty. These Garmin riders are proven liars and cheaters. Applying critical thinking selectively harms the sport.
    “The obvious exemplar is Jonathan Vaughters and his band of zealous anti-dopers. Before you leap to the comments, yes several riders are currently suspended on the team. But that’s the whole point. Riders like David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde have confessed to doping in the past but have since committed to cleaning up since they joined the Garmin team. The same is true for David Millar. And Thomas Dekker is the most provocative example. “

  36. I think you’re missing the point here… The goal of sky doing this is not to convince the riders to come clean, but to appear to be actively combatting doping, and also probably to setup some sort of financial compensation if one of their riders are ever found out…

  37. Instead of empty pledges, I’d love to have Team Sky explain the following clearly:

    1, Bobby Julich – Is he, as seems VERY likely, Rider 4 from Hincapie’s statement. Has he already been fired/suspended?
    2, Sean Yates – We all know he’s in the photos with the guy Hamilton fingered as Motoman. What’s the story? Has he been fired/suspended
    3, Michael Rogers – He’s admitted working with Ferrari. Fired or suspended yet?

  38. From Rabobank:

    “We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport. We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future”

    Are sponsors going to start leaving the sport in droves? – unless teams commit to a “zero tolerance” policy – regardless of whether it is a PR exercise or not.

  39. In all this the elephant in the room is the UCI. Whatever problems the sport faces sits with the body expected to show governance, leadership and vision. So called ‘clean’ teams are still being expected to operate to the best of their ability, in a corrupt system, where teams continue the habits of the past. I know, you know and of course the UCI knows this.
    Maybe the departure of major sponsors, sad that it is, is what is required to force changes at the top of our sport. Without this change I don’t expect many of the current problems to be resolved for the long term future.

  40. I think its time to redo the structure of the pro cycling. Aligning the teams with nationality will at least put the accountability back onto the cycling federations. A nation that is caught doping doesn’t get to complete in the Olympics and gets a complete roasting from their national support base. It would be a lot more effective in ensuring compliance. I don’t know what you do with the UCI, they shouldn’t be overseeing anyone. I know it’s pie in the sky but I just can’t see the cancer been removed with the current model. I’m just going to ride my bike, they can do what ever they like.

  41. So after the initial thought that zero telerance was fair, it does appear that if you don’t learn from the past you are doomed to repeat it. So instead of only using data to uncover cheats, which works sometimes but obviously there are ways around it, as evidenced by certain individuals. BUT let’s focus on what did work, riders talking about themselves. Yes I suspect that some riders only came forward because they had no choice but it worked. So here is my proposal to the UCI, WADA (which are now interested in looking at amnesty):
    So riders talk to each other independent of which teams they are on.. but they all share info and details. So set up a process to allow riders to come forward for the next 3 months, if a rider admits doping then their suspension starts at 1 year, if they provide substantial details, ie. how they doped, WHO they also know doped, doctors involved, etc… full details, then they get reduced to 6 months as per Garmins riders. If they only provide some details then 9 months.
    BUT if other riders name them they get a full 2 years. A centralized database needs to be developed and monitored. I bet towards the 3 month deadline some riders will get nervous, and start questioning if they should come forward. Yes riders will get sacked, but as it has shown most are allowed to re-enter the sport if they admit to wrong doing.
    Going forward past this 3 month deadline the rules need to be setup to completely discourage any doping min 4 year ban for individuals, 10 year for a DS or manager, all for first offences.
    Wada needs to set this up and administer the system, hire retired cops to investigate it, pick a country where doping is not criminal as to make it easiest for the riders to come clean, and then we might get to see how far this web is truely tangled.

  42. Clear thinking as always, Inner Ring.

    I understand the anger many people feel at being duped, ignored, or (worst) bullied into silence. But the zealots urging a zero tolerance approach have missed something. That something is the messy, ambiguous, disorganised, error-ridden business of being human – the stuff that goes hand in hand with the joy, excitement and surprise of everyday human existence.

    Of course people who break rules or cover up offences or protect offenders should be sanctioned. But we also need to show compassion, not hatred and vengeance, for people who we discover are, disappointingly, human after all. There must be a chance for rehabilitation.

    Absolutist thinking about how to fix cycling – whether it is the zero tolerance desire to obliterate offenders from the cycling world or the desire to obliterate the UCI and build some entirely new governing body – is pure idealism. The real human world just cannot be ‘fixed’ by idealism.

    In this regard I’m reminded of a quote from the Czech writer Milan Kundera in his book The Farewell Party. He describes the desire for order as “a desire to turn the human world into an inorganic one, where everything would function perfectly and work on schedule. … the desire for order is a virtuous pretext, an excuse for virulent misanthropy.”

  43. I would like to see a post on the staff members by team (past and present) who have been implicated as part of systematic doping or who have been accused by convicted, confessed dopers. I can think of at least one staff member, who left a staunchly “anti-doping team” to work with a now implicated doper. Makes me wonder if the staunchly “anti-doping team” are in fact the “systematically doping under permissible limits” team i.e., with staff who know how to gauge doses and practices so as to avoid detection currently. Do Team Sky have any such staff – is the question this latest PR move – makes me wonder?

    Remember, we still do not have blood doping detection in place. When that technology arises, the latest revelations will look like the tip of an iceberg, I predict. An iceberg that can take out titanics like Rabobank. Rabobank, the bank, have likely seen the tip and properly turned about. Good for them! I’d like to think it takes moral courage to do so but in reality, it is a better financial decision that still shows decisive leadership.

    I do not want my sport to be further harmed, but in discipling one’s kids, for example, it is sometimes best to “hurt” them (a time-out not a beating) so they will not be further harmed by their own bad or unsafe or unseemly behavior, behaviors that do not reward in the long run.

    The only way to truly change things is to change the enforcement governance from an equivocating, hesitant, self-contradicting organization to one with clear commitment and willingness to live out the consequences. It really does have to get worse to get better. Living with the getting worse is the discipline which athletics is supposed to inspire. Like someone sick with cancer, the treatment may be worse but the hope of life makes it worth it. None of us can escape this idea. We all have limits to suffer for a potential reward.

  44. Sorry, I’m very late to this party. And also I really enjoy your blog – thank you for writing so regularly and interestingly over the years. However, fundamentally I really think this post makes no sense at all – in fact it actively contradicts itself. The best example is when you say:

    We know doping exists and should not tolerate it. But a zero tolerance policy risks being one that’s intolerant of people who got caught. As recent events have taught us, riders can complete a career of doping without detection. Therefore zero tolerance has the reverse effect, it incentivises extra deception.

    So. We shouldn’t tolerate doping. Because it’s bad presumably. Right. But if someone dopes and gets caught, we shouldn’t be intolerant of them, because that incentivises them to deceive us about their doping.

    Can you not see the contradiction in this? Either we tolerate doping or we don’t. And if we don’t, then by definition there is an incentive for dopers to keep quiet about their past. Of course – if you are a cheat – then you are likely to lie about that, both at the time, and in future. And unless you legalise doping – which I don’t think you are arguing for – then this is simply a function of banning a particular behaviour; it will go underground. Unless you’re suggesting we don’t tolerate cheats if they get caught at the time, but if they get it away with it for a while, then that’s alright?

    So the question for teams is what you do about that. Imagine if Sky were doing nothing, would that create incentives for riders to come forward, of their own back – really? (And as side note, do you think if Sky did nothing then cycling fans would sit back and say ‘nice, Sky not doing anything in response to all this crap, great, that will actively undermine a culture of omerta’?)

    Or if Sky said they would investigate, and anyone who admitted to doping in the past would be given understanding, a pat on the back, a nice cup of tea and told not to do it again – what would that really achieve, except a barrage of innuendo about being soft on doping, no smoke without fire, etc etc (and also think about how many cycling fans really believe that Hincapie has been clean since 2006, or Liepheimer has been clean since 2007 and so on).

    Now clearly Sky’s approach may not encourage riders to confess (although that said the choice between admitting now, negotiating a pay off, and trying to get a job with Garmin/someone else in the off-season is probably more attractive than getting summarily sacked without recompense, so I wouldn’t imagine it’s such a no-brainer as you suggest). But what it might do is insulate Sky itself against future revelations both legally and in pr terms – ie we’ve done due diligence, if people cheat and lie then they cheat and lie – which is probably Sky’s intention. And really is that a bad intention? Of course, what remains to be seen is what comes out of the process, and whether they take the due-diligence seriously or not.

    Anyway, thanks again for the blog, even if I don’t always agree with your logic!

    • Thanks for the comment, if every thought the same it would be boring and worse, groupthink can be a dangerous thing.

      I suppose my point is that doping is wrong but we need to understand the problems here, people rarely had a free choice in the matter. The system was at fault, some riders have taken individual decisions but often it is decided/imposed/suggested by the team or indeed since everyone else was doing it, the rider felt compelled. Understanding these motivations and incentives is helpful whilst we try to prevent it happening in the future.

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