Making sense of the recent bad news is difficult, but in its wake are some fundamental questions worth asking: Has the Omertà finally been broken? Where are the European national equivalents to USADA? Why bother drug testing if they can be beaten by so many, for so long? Do those who have confessed to doping have any place left in cycling? How do we know the sport is any cleaner now?
Dealing with these lasting issues hurts, but only because we allow it. Like any relationship, the more you emotionally invest in it, the more you expose yourself to higher highs, but also lower lows. I personally feel betrayed, so my way of transcending this dark chapter is to ignore what’s happening in the Pro peloton, and instead focus on sporting integrity.
Where is the joy of sport? Surely it’s not found in a ‘winning is everything’ attitude- we see where that’s gotten us. Now is our cue to avoid superimposing our own aspirations and expectations onto the leaders of cycling because, quite simply, they are not like us. Instead, let’s take inspiration from the characteristics of winners. Voeckler, Voigt and Hoogerland, for example, all demonstrate the style and panache shared by the greatest men in our sport. Let’s leave the lesser men, with their hubris, greed and power-wielding, behind. It’s still OK to dream big, to dream of Tour de France glory, and its mythic beauty. Just get there in good standing.
For me personally, riding is a tiny capsule of intimacy in an otherwise hectic world. It’s about friendship, respect, courage, sacrifice, going to your limits and then going further, adventurousness, and perseverance. It is a reflection of the complexity and beauty of the human condition itself. These qualities are not always apparent, but they are there. And it’s within you to see it.
Forgiveness will come, I’m sure, but it’s a question of timing: those who sinned need to be prepared to ask for, and deserve absolution, while those sinned against need to be prepared to grant it. Do we give confessed dopers a second chance? A chance to rehabilitate and redeem themselves?
It seems strange to say this, but I actually owe Lance Armstrong a debt of gratitude. Without USADA’s Reasoned Decision, proving beyond reasonable doubt that he doped, I wouldn’t be thinking these thoughts to being with. Ironically, it’s acting as a crucible, and out of it is emerging the core reasons why I love this sport.