Canadian Cyclist


October 31/13 15:03 pm - Editorial - Apologizing is More Than Just Saying You Are Sorry

Posted by Editoress on 10/31/13

As most of you reading this will already know, Ryder Hesjedal - Canada's only Grand Tour winner - admitted yesterday that a decade ago, when he was a mountain bike racer, he used performance enhancing banned substances.  [see Daily News- Rasmussen Suggests Canadian MTBers Hesjedal, McGrath & Sheppard Doped]

He issued a statement confirming this after allegations made by Danish cyclist Michael Rasmussen in his upcoming book Yellow Fever were revealed by the Danish publication Politiken.  His team, Cycling Canada, and the anti-doping agencies for Canada (CCES) and the U.S. (USADA) also released statements, deploring the acts, praising him for coming forward, and pointing out that it was outside of the Statute of Limitations.

The media all had a brief frenzy over it [I and others were invited onto TV and radio to discuss it, as usual] and now, 24 hours later into the media cycle, it is basically over - the last search for news items I did shows nothing newer than yesterday.

So that's it?  A brief mea culpa, a shrug of the shoulders and we are done?

We seem to have reached a point in our society where issuing an apology is all it takes for complete rehabilitation.  A Senator takes financial assistance they are not eligible for, a government staffer pays off monies and the government tries to pretend it didn't happen (then throws individuals under the bus), brokers in a financial institute make massive gambles with other people's money, and athletes in a variety of sports cheat.

Sorry, sorry, sorry sorry .... now can I get back to what I was doing before?

I'm not trying to pick specifically on Ryder here, nor Michael Barry before, nor a number of other athletes caught up in the same boat.  What I am pointing the finger at is what seems to be a disturbing trend:  get caught doing something wrong, make a public apology in a completely stage-managed fashion, don't engage, hunker down and wait it out.

It is too professional, too 'cost-of-doing-business'.  There is no acknowledgement of the people hurt - other athletes, sponsors, fans - no explanation, no responsibility, no attempt at atonement.  No sense of visible or physical contrition.  This is not an apology, it's a public relations campaign.

Here's an example:  When the USADA Reasoned Decision came out last fall, including all the names of athletes who had given testimony, we received [along with many other media outlets] simultaneous e-mails from a law firm containing statements by George Hincapie and Michael Barry.  Other than swapping out names, they were identical, and contained a short, succinct summary plus an apology.  Neither athlete would do interviews.  Ryder's admission followed an almost identical script.  Neither athlete has provided further explanations of what led them to cheat and lie.

That sounds pretty harsh, but what else are we left to go on?  I've known both Michael Barry and Ryder Hesjedal for years, I have respected them, and I expected better.  I would have hoped for some sort of understanding of what led to these decisions, why they felt compelled to follow the paths they did.  That understanding would certainly have helped me believe and accept their apologies.

In fact, I feel that they owe it to me if they want me to accept their apologies.  They have represented my country and my sport.  They accepted the cheers and support - both tangible and intangible - from the fans who came out, the local amateur race organizers from when they started, the local businesses who first sponsored them, the teams that ran on shoestring budgets, the provincial and national sports organizations ... all of these deserve more than a quick 'Sorry'.

I requested an interview with Ryder, and I received (from the team's communications department) a stock reply that Ryder was doing no interviews because of the 'ongoing investigation into cycling'.  Really?  USADA didn't even include his name in the Reasoned Decision because they decided it had little to do with the Lance Armstrong investigation.  This sounds more like a convenient excuse for not having to actually explain himself.

In some ways - and it pains me to say it - I have more respect for the likes of Tyler Hamilton and David Millar.  They at least gave me an explanation of what led to their actions.

So, sorry Ryder, sorry Michael, I don't accept your apologies at this time.  You need to earn my forgiveness.


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