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October 12/12 10:31 am - Forgiveness Does Not Come Easy - An Editorial

Posted by Editor on 10/12/12

On Wednesday, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released the long-awaited 'Reasoned Decision', detailing the results of their investigation into Lance Armstrong that led to the sanctioning of him on a myriad of charges, including using banned substances and orchestrating a systematic program of doping.  Included in the roughly 1000 pages of documentation were affidavits from 11 former team mates of Armstrong, among them Canadian Michael Barry.  Subsequently, Barry and others released statements admitting that they had doped.

As expected, within the hour I received telephone calls from radio and television media asking for my comments and opinion on the situation.  I obliged with statements that 'it is disappointing but not surprising', that it shows that cycling is working to clean up our sport, that cycling is not alone with a doping problem ... blah, blah, blah.

I'm getting tired of this.

Tired and angry that cycling is the poster child for dirty sport, and especially that we are beginning to see athletes emulate politicians by confessing their sins, professing that they deeply regret their wrongdoings and then making a new career as the Reformed Ex-doper; writing books, giving speeches, and back working with athletes and teams, with all the zeal and conviction of an former smoker or alcoholic.

Please do not misunderstand me:  I firmly believe that riders such as Michael Barry were under immense pressure to dope if they wanted to stay in the pro ranks, and I also believe that many do feel guilt about what they did.  (Some of them, such as our new Olympic men's road champion and a former Tour winner who runs a ProTour team, clearly are not in this category)

But let's keep in mind two points:

1.  They cheated.

2.  They kept quiet about their cheating until literally forced to admit to it.

This second point is key.  The 11 athletes named in the USADA report who provided testimony are all at or near the end of their careers.  Most said that they felt bad about what they were doing and stopped at some point.  However, none of them felt so bad that they didn't keep racing (including representing their countries at events such as the Olympics and world championships) and accepting sizable salaries, sponsorship monies and the praise of fans.

I've read pretty much every book out there by ex-cyclists that delves into their doping actions, as well as following the investigations into doping by authorities.  In all but two cases that I can think of (and I recognize I may have missed some), no athlete came forward without threat of legal actions or sanctions.  The two that I know of who came forward of their own volition are Paul Kimmage, a former pro that wrote A Rough Ride, and Jerome Chiotti, who admitted to doping when he won the 1996 mountain bike world title, and renounced his title (something the UCI had great difficulty dealing with).  For these two I have some respect; the rest still have to show they deserve it.

I do want athletes to come forward and admit to cheating, and help clean up our sport by shedding light on illegal practices and the people behind them.  However, it is not enough to say 'I'm sorry, I did it', and then just move on with their life, a life that often still includes cycling after an amnesty or token penalty.

There has to be meaningful consequences, consequences that let individuals know that saying sorry isn't enough.  And I'm not just talking about sanctions by authorities, I'm talking about words and deeds by you and I - we are often too willing to let transgressors off the hook because we know them, because they are a 'good guy'...

I want them to know that they let me down, and that forgiveness doesn't come easy, and that it will take actions beyond saying 'I'm sorry' before I am willing to accept them back into the cycling family.

You hurt me and my family.


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