mid-century maunderings for men who know better

Mineral Water

Many would say professional cycling has been delivered the coup de grace.

A laggard UCI has finally accepted the USADA finding that Lance Armstrong used illegal performance enhancing drugs and  be stripped of all palmeres post 1999. Former head and current honorary head of the UCI, Hein Verbruggen has been accused of operating a cover up that protected Armstrong and his teams. Former professional, (now unemployed) award-winning journalist Paul Kimmage has been sued by the UCI for defamation for suggesting this. Such is the outrage at the UCI’s appalling attempt to stifle criticism and investigation, that a crowd-funded site opened up for people to donate to, so the journalist could defend himself against the behemoth. It reached the $US90,ooo mark (very quickly) and the UCI has dropped the suit. Kimmage has now decided to counter-sue. Unfortunately among the names he claims to act on behalf of are those former cyclists McQuaid called scumbags, men like Floyd Landis.

Pat Mcquaid, the president of the UCI (while his mentor, that great Oz, Verbruggen occupies the chair as honorary president) was never convincing when he spoke of being pleased that the dopers have been outed. He seems suspicious of testimonies and apparently unable to accept the truth of what happened, admittedly under another’s watch.

Imagine his first day of work:

“Well Pat, you are aware that as president, you must uphold and protect the UCI from slander, defamation and libel.”

“Yes, to be sure, but you are still president also.”

“Honorary president my boy, a mere figurehead. You will represent us to the world. Of course you understand that people are out to get you now.”

“You mean the press?”

“Yes, among others. Digging things up etc”

“Well there’s nottin’ is there? I mean nottin’ like a cover up or misplaced test results, phone records, e-mails, text messages, recorded conversations with your man in the US?”

“Perhaps you would like to step inside this soundproofed vault where we store the sensitive materials so we can discuss the matter further.”

It is a shame that Kimmage is such a nice guy. To associate with Landis shows a misplaced faith in the humans that will bring no honour to what is an honourable cause. To speak about Landis in the same breath as Bassons and Obree does Kimmage no credit. Kimmage was the first to speak out against doping in the peloton and earned himself far more opprobrium than any former cyclist has had to endure. Given the amount of scorn and hate he has had to deal with one can only presume that a good nature is a necessary carapace against people like Armstrong and his henchmen.

Speaking of crowd-sourced fighting funds, Landis has yet to return the donations to the Floyd Landis fairness fund (this August, a US federal court gave him three years to repay $US450,ooo to the 1,765 people he defrauded), pledged by those who believed in his denials, prior to his eventual admission that he had indeed doped. Tyler Hamilton initially claimed some bizarre unborn twin was responsible for his tests showing positive, before he too eventually confessed. Now they seem to be portraying themselves as heroic whistle-blowers and victims of bullying. USADA has gone after Armstrong only. All those men that were part of his system have been given token punishments apparently in return for testimony.

While smoothmodernist has expressed an empathy with cyclists who find themselves in a position where they resort to illegal practices, this does not condone the snivelling gutless behaviour of those that would proclaim their innocence until it is completely impossible to refute the evidence, then turn informer. There is no honour in denial followed by confession when the evidence is irrefutable.

In a way McQuaid is right. He is an Irishman. The last century has seen that country infested with informers to an extant rivalled only by East Germany. To many Irishmen, the informer is a coward and a disgrace consigned to the lowest circle in hell. Those men who sheltered under the umbrella that their team and the UCI provided and who, on being caught turn around and peach on their team mates are scum. Cheating is one thing, but to enjoy the benefits, then implicate others in a plea bargain is despicable and dishonourable.

Men like Kimmage and Frankie Andreu, and, to a lesser extent, Jonathan Vaughters and Bjarne Riis are to be respected, because they weren’t caught, and chose not to continue to benefit from illegal practices, putting their hands up when they could easily have gone undetected, in order to contribute to a clean sport.

McQuaid is in a difficult position. His natural instincts appear to lead him in a direction that would not be politic as head of the UCI. Like FIFA, ICB and the Grand Prix, the UCI is something of a personal fiefdom. It is beholden to nobody. It runs the sport. smoothmodernist likes the idea of a non-government organisation administering a particular sport, but when it starts to resemble the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (like the IOC) then it is hard to see how it can be justified. One idea is that the government bodies that fund the sport in countries like Australia withold funding until they are satisfied the ruling body is genuine and resolute in running a clean, honest sport.

The Australians, Matt White and Stephen Hodge will likely not have a job in Australian cycling in the future, having admitted to doping as racers. Many have testified to their unimpeachable integrity in their non-racing roles in Orica-Green Edge and Cycling Australia. The tumbrels will continue to lurch toward the market square and Australian cycling will lose more experienced hands as the year rolls on.

Since the first smoothmodernist entry in August, cycling has undergone a massive upheaval and it isn’t over. Gazzetta Dello Sport has published an account of a massive 30 million euro money-laundering scam that implicates professional teams and will surely see criminal charges ensue, unlike the Armstrong case.

From the lofty promontory that smoothmodernist occupies, it appears that once again drugs aren’t the problem. Transparency, honesty and a governing body that is not interested in the integrity of the sport is the problem. People will always cheat, whether it is to avoid tax or win a race.  A top down upheaval that sees the sport governed by an organisation that is interested in integrity and not its own glory is a necessary step on the way to encouraging the best in human behaviour rather than excusing the worst.


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