Wednesday, 10 October 2012
The Only Reason I Hate Sport
In 2004 when I was 22 I came 76th at the sixth round of the mountain bike World Cup in Calgary Alberta. UCI points were awarded to riders who came in the top 75 and my goal for the race was to earn at least one UCI point so that I could race a World Cup again the following season. I missed out on my goal by one placing. The guy who won crushed the field by more than three minutes, and after making the trip to Canada from Europe he admitted it was a bad decision. Not because the flight was long or anything, but because drug testing was more stringent in North America and he got busted for doping after the race.
Obviously this guy could have beaten me down into 76th without dope and I'm not saying that I would have placed 75th had he been clean, but hearing that I raced against a doper made me feel disappointed. Doping in mountain biking is much less common than in road racing, in fact that's one of the last doping stories I think I can recall from mountain biking, but it still left a sour taste in my mouth.
I think something that most people don't realize is how doping in sport doesn't affect the top ten riders as much as it affects the riders who are trying to break into the sport. The rider who came second in Calgary was probably super pissed off that the guy who beat him was cheating, but he was also probably being paid $500k/yr to race his bike. Doping cases in the media also deter sponsors from wanting to contribute to the sport, so lesser riders suffer again at the expense of one cheater.
I don't see how dopers or cheaters can be given second chances in the sport as well. Once someone has cheated and used drugs to make their body stronger, how are they not stronger when they compete six months or a year or two years later? With EPO their blood obviously doesn't have the same ability to carry oxygen, but they are used to faster speeds; they are capable of pushing their body further; their heart and muscles are stronger from having been able to train at a much higher volume and intensity than someone who didn't cheat. As far as I'm concerned, Basso, Millar, Mancebo, Zabriskie, Barry, Hincapie, Armstrong, Landis, Hamilton, Filip Mierhaeger or anyone who has been caught cheating in sport should be stripped of all their accomplishments, all of their money, and never be allowed to participate in a race ever again.
If someone gets caught cheating in a casino, trying to take money from some wealthy billionaire, they are hauled away and thrown in jail. They'll never be allowed in another casino again.
How is doping any different? Doped riders are cheating and taking money away from other dirt-poor riders who are trying to gain sponsorship and progress in the sport; people who are super motivated and sacrificing possible careers for hard-fought athletic success.
I currently compete in National and Provincial level races, with an occasional international race thrown into my schedule, and I know that I have raced against riders in the past year who have taken substances to help them race faster. It's sad, but there are riders who have nothing to fall back on if their bike racing doesn't go to plan. I know with Armstrong being caught and with the sport 'cleaning up' it looks like things are changing for the better, but considering the fact that riders are only admitting guilt when caught and returning to the sport six months after getting busted, I think penalties should be much harsher. Dopers should be ousted. They should be boo'd loudly. They should bring shame to the country that they were born in. If it were up to me I'd suggest that stealing from a casino would be put on par with stealing from fellow athletes, and the old adage 'cheaters never prosper' would always hold true. This is how I think we can change the reputation of our sport.
I apologize if this posting seems like a rant, and I realize that I might look like an unsympathetic jerk by writing this, but I'm disappointed that more non-doped pros haven't expressed their disappointment in having their results compromised because of cheaters. Obviously this blog posting read daily by over twelve people (eight of them being my mom) isn't going to be the start of this change, but I feel that voicing my opinion can be a good example for others, no matter how few.
I consider myself a positive person and absolutely love bike racing, but for the sport of cycling to really change I think that penalties need to be harsher. I don't ever want to race against a cheater again, and although I want to beat everyone I race against, I respect my competitors enough to want them to never race against a cheater either.